Sandstone Trail, Cheshire, England – Part 2

In Late August 2017, I walked the Sandstone Trail in Cheshire Northern England. See here for part 1 of my walk.

Section 2 – Clotton to Hampton Grange 21.1km (13.2mi)

After a healthy breakfast at my B&B, I was dropped off back at the trail by my most insisting host. I headed out across fields that stunk of nearby farmyards. Then through a wheat field with the view of Beeston Crag ahead of me.

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For the next couple of kilometres, I marched across fields to eventually emerge onto the quiet Pudding Lane, named because someone on the road stole a large quantity of milk to be used to make pudding!? With Beeston Crag ever in front of me, I came down to a canal at Wharton’s Lock and crossed over on a stone bridge.

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And then soon after under a railway bridge.

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At the base of the crag, I followed a road up and around to the rebuilt entrance of the castle ruins.

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I paid to get in and entered to find a large open grassy section within the walls. There were plenty of people hanging around and eating lunch on the grass. I followed a wide path towards the upper section.

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I then came to another protective wall, this time the original, with its main section smashed in.

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Beyond that was another large grassy area surrounded by the walls. At the far end of the grassy area was the moat with a newly built bridge leading across and into the main castle ruins.

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The open area within the main castle grounds is quite large and the ground is very uneven. I sat and ate the lunch I’d brought with me enjoying the view. The views were almost 360º and definitely a good reason to visit. I can only imagine what the land would have looked like in the 1220s when the castle had been erected.

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Inside the main ruins, there is England’s deepest well.

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Beneath the castle crag, there are sets of caves that have long since been blocked off. After my visit, I left the crag and headed out to the south across fields and small roads heading towards the tree covered Peckfordton Hills. From within the trees, the top of Peckforton Castle could be seen although I was unable to get any closer. I later found out that some distant cousins had been married in this very castle not so long ago.

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The trail followed a road for a short distance before climbing around the back of the hills with a steep climb to the top. It climbs over to Hill Lane before heading south and across Bulkeley Hill where i passed several other walkers, both doing the hike and just casually walking their dogs. I stopped for a break at a viewpoint called Name Rock with many sets of initials scratched into them.

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I then climbed down the hill, crossed a small field then climbed up another hill, past an overgrown quarry and around the top of a cliff where smaller trails descended. Below there are a series of caves called Queen’s Parlour but as it is on private property it was not worth the climb to see it. I continued to a viewpoint and stopped for a look.

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I then headed up the trail to a monument with a very small viewpoint at a place called Rawhead, the highest point on the Sandstone Trail. At 227m, it’s not particularly high.

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I then crossed several fields belonging to Chiflik Farm and the associated animal dung that goes with it, until I reached the A534 highway and quickly crossed. For a short time, I walked along a road down past Bickerton Farm, on to Bickerton Church before beginning to climb Bickerton Hill. As I climbed I came to another viewpoint that looked out to the North…

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…then on past a place called Mad Allen’s Hole, where an old Hermit used to live. The trail then curved around to Kitty’s Stone. A memorial with poetry on it dedicated to someone named Kitty.

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The hill then dove down a dip before climbing the other side to Larkton Hill and another view point. The on to another Iron Age fort (there are six along the trail) called Maiden Castle, where again little more than the ramparts could be seen. The trail then headed down to a carpark where the Sandstone Ridgeline and the walk originally ended, although it is inaccessible if you don’t have a vehicle waiting for you. To make the trail more accessible, the end point was moved some 10 miles further south to Whitchurch, with its major train station. The trail continued around the base of the hill before crossing a field.
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The remaining 2 kilometres of the walk for the day I crossed the farm paddocks and walked around a race horse training centre before coming out on the road that would lead to my evening’s accommodation. While this B&B was accessible to the trail, it was some distance from anywhere to eat. I was able to borrow a bike and ride to the local pub 15 minutes ride away. While it seemed like a good idea, after a long day’s walk it was harder work than expected.

Part 3 – Hampton Grange to Whitchurch 12.9km (8mi)

The next morning, I set out from the B&B along the road to where the trail cut again across a series of wheat fields…

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And then again through a corn field where a hidden church could be seen above the corn.

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I then continued across grassy paddocks to finally come out on a canal and Willeymoor Lock Tavern where I stopped for lunch.

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The remaining five miles was along the canal, which I marched double time, passing several sets of locks and canal boats before emerging into Whitchurch.

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I followed the trail through the streets to Jubilee Park and a Sandstone arch denoting the official end of the Trail.

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Overall

The Sandstone Trail is a great walk in Northern England, very accessible with great views of the land and of course, it’s central beacon the Beeston Crag and castle ruins.

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While it lacked easily accessible camping grounds, there were plenty of B&Bs to stay in and plentiful pubs and food opportunities along the way.

Until next time,

The Lone Trail Wanderer

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Sandstone Trail, Cheshire, England – Part 1

This month I walked in Cheshire, a fairly flat county in England that runs along the border of Wales and is just south of Liverpool in the Greater Manchester area.

The Sandstone Trail runs along a central Sandstone ridge above the Cheshire Plains and is said to be one of the first middle distance walks in England. It runs a total of 55km (34mi) from Frodsham in the north to Whitchurch to the south. I planned to do it over three days, staying in B&Bs along the way as camping grounds are fairly rare. The choice of this hike was because there is a major train station at both ends of the trail, so accessibility is easy.

Section 1 – Frodsham to Clotton 23.3km (14.5mi)

I left my B&B in Frodsham around 10AM and walked the short distance to the Bear’s Paw, the official northern Trailhead. It was once several miles to the south, but was moved to Frodsham to make it more accessible.

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I crossed the road and headed south past the train station. Unsure if there would be anywhere on the trail to stop for food, I stopped at an Australian cafe for a coffee and to buy a sandwich. I then continued along the road to an alleyway which had a moderately steep climb along it. Within five minutes of walking, I had already climbed more than during the entire Boudicca Way hike. At the end of the alley, I came out near the Overton Church.

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I continued up the hill passing houses until the trail led me onto the wooded slopes of Overton Hill and a steeper climb. I followed the switch back trail until I came out at a War Memorial.

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Beyond was a great view out across the Mersey Estuary with Liverpool in the distance. If the rest of the hike had similar views, I was going to enjoy this walk.

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After my brief photo stop, I continued on along the trail as it cut through the woods to the south. To my left was a fenced off golf course and to my right the occasional view out to Liverpool.

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The trail followed the edge of the golf course and descended on metal and wooden steps to a lower section of the woods. The trail followed a switchback along the cliff and past Jacob’s Ladder, a series of steps cut into the cliff that was the only way down a hundred or more years ago. As I walked I noted initials and dates cut into the cliff face, some going back as far as the early 1800s.

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The trail climbed again to arrive at another viewpoint looking West. I followed the trail further and saw story boards relating to an old Iron Age hill fort, so I followed a smaller trail up the hill to investigate. All that was left of this 3000-year-old village is its ramparts, a line of earth mounds in which a wooden wall had once been built.

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The trail continued, wending its way through the woods, up and down hills for some time through Snidley Moor Wood until it came out on a road. A hundred metres along the road the trail dove back into the woods and past a large clearing used for a scout camp.

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The trail then followed the base of a wooded cliff across grassy fields edged by nettles. Yes, I decided to wear my shorts again. I crossed roads and other fields, sometimes on wide grassy areas and sometimes on thick nettle covered paths. I followed a road for some time, walking along a footpath before it cut across another field to emerge near a B&B which had conveniently set up a little cafe on the grass. A great place for lunch. Then after a short walk through the village of Manley Common, I followed a path into Delaware Forest Park.

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The Forest Park is simply a forest with many dirt roads used mostly for cycling and horse riding. There are down hill cycling courses at various places and warnings to walk on the sides of the dirt roads. As it was summer holidays, there were plenty of families riding their bikes around.

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Forests aren’t my favourite places to hike as they tend to be wall to wall of trees with little else, and that is how I found Delamere Forest Park. Somewhere in the centre, there is Blackmere Moss, a flooded area like a small lake. However, there had been little rain over recent times, so it was not as flooded as I was hoping. I walked on to the south and crossed the Chester-Manchester railway line on a stonework bridge.

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A short distance later, the trail came out of the forest park onto a grassy field with another wood off to the right. After a couple of hundred metres, there is an alternative trail that leads up to the summit of a hill called Pale Heights, with great views in most directions.
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At the top, I took several panorama photos, from the Clwydian Range to the north, the Mersey to the east and the distant Pennines.

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I then headed south again through the woods and across the A54 highway. After a brief foray across more fields, I cut into the Primrosehill Wood, then out again and up a slight hill to the south.

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I cut along the top of the ridge and across some paddocks before coming over a stile in a field dotted with cow patties…

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…but there was a view I’d been waiting for all day for, my first sighting of the Beeston crag and the ruins of Beeston Castle.

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Much of the remainder of the day I crossed animal paddocks, where I avoided the ever-present cow paddies. Then, crossing a road, I was thrust into a corn field.

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Eventually after a long day of walking, I emerged at the A51 nearly Tarporley a short distance from my B&B. When I found it I headed inside and grabbed a shower before wandering down to the local pub for dinner and a well-deserved cider.

Next, Part 2 of my three day hike On the Sandstone Trail.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Boudicca Way, Norfolk, England – Part 2

I recently walked the Boudicca Way in Norfolk, England. See here for Boudicca Way, Norfolk, England – Part 1

Day 2 – Saxlingham Green to Gissing – 28km (17.4miles)

After a night in a tent and a B&B style breakfast, I packed up and headed out. I had planned for today to be the longest day of this walk, so thought it best I get started early. The trail went quickly through a field to a small lane then onto a major road for a hundred metres or so before diving back onto cropland.

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I started to see horses in paddocks as I walked and chatted to several as I went past, some coming to the fence to check me out. As I cut around a small copse of trees, I began to hear the highway ahead. I crossed another paddock and over the road where I could. I then walked between a pair of fields with horses and ponies roaming around before onto a small lane that again led to a rural road. I followed this to a small village before turning left and along for fifteen minutes to the large village of Tadburgh.

There is a pub on the far side of the township, and I was keen for a coffee, so I walked along the major road to it. It was closed. It seemed pretty standard for Norfolk not to find anywhere open that sold food. I sat on an outside seat and ate some trail mix before heading off again.

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I walked on again along tight country roads for some time, standing aside for the occasional car that came by. I turned right and headed onto farmland again along permissive lands provided for my walk. I crossed more wild trails fending off nettles with my walking poles. Over a major road,  I walked into more fields, passing some trees called, ‘Devil’s Wood’ then along a path to the village of Fritton. As I walked, I wished for a seat, and when I got to the corner there was one waiting near a phone box. I sat down and ate more of my trail mix. Again, like the other villages, there was no place to stop to buy any food, not even a corner shop to grab a snack.

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After a rest, I headed south with the threat of rain looming in the sky. It spat a little as I walked under a row of trees, but nothing more. Then it was back into farmland and across more wheat fields before heading south into Tyrell’s Wood, the first I was allowed to walk through. It seemed popular with dog walkers. When I got to the carpark, I took another rest, taking off my boots. Today my boots have been hard on my feet and ankles, and I could start to feel some strain on my Achilles’ tendons. So when I put the boots on again, I made sure to keep them loose.

Rain threatened again as I headed off again along country lanes. After ten minutes the rain finally came down. I was prepared for it and had brought a small umbrella with me. With it open, I stood under a large tree while a heavy barrage of rain came down for 30 minutes or so.

When it stopped, I headed off again and five minutes later had to cross a wheat field with a path cut through it. It was a little slippery, but the wet dirt had yet to turn to mud although my boots and legs got wet from the wet plants.

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I eventually made it to Pulham Market, a larger village with a pair of pubs close together. But time was getting on, and I estimated I still had another 2 hours to walk, so I didn’t want to stop for too long. I had no idea how far I had walked since leaving camp nearly 8 hours earlier, but my legs were growing sore and seized up each time I stopped. So I pushed on. My left Achilles tendon was still sore, so I tried to go easy on it, adjusting my boots again to give some comfort.

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I pushed on south along the road and then a country road that led onto more fields. I again cut across wheat fields and along grass verges hiding nettles until I reached another major highway. It was here I was to leave the trail to get to my accommodation another 5 miles away.

I walked through more country lanes, past houses and farms, through the village of Tivetshall St Mary to the remains of St Mary’s Church where I stopped for my final rest. I was just about to leave again when it again began to pour.

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Once it had finished, I set off but was again stiff. I crossed a railway bridge then followed a muddy trail across yet another wheat field and a grass paddock. One more road and I arrived at my B&B. My legs were sore, and I was knackered after a 10 and half hour day, nine of them walking. I looked forward to a shower and a walk to the pub for dinner.

After my shower, I could barely walk. Then because a local fete had been on that day, I discovered the pub was not serving food and delivery from Diss was going to cost me a fortune, so I resigned myself to eating trail mix again. But again, my host offered to cook me dinner. It was amazing. Afterwards, I watched some TV before collapsing into a comfortable bed.

Day 3 – Gissing to Diss – 10km (6.2miles)

Rain rain rain, all night long. It would be a short walk today to my end point where I was catching a train late in the day. My hosts told me I could stay as long as I liked, and I made a plan for when the rain stopped.

My host dropped me off back on the trail, and I waited in a pub for the rain to stop, but alas, it did not. The pub did not serve food on Mondays but could heat up a sausage roll for me. I eventually gave up waiting for the rain to stop and caught a bus to the train station in Diss where I hung out for several hours waiting for the train. Not the way I wanted to end the walk, but neither would be getting rained on and having to cross muddy fields.

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Overall
Honestly, while it was an interesting walk along roads and through paths across farms, there was not that much to the Boudicca Way. It was good exercise and got me used to a heavy pack again, but there were very few scenic views or places of interest. The difficulty finding accommodations and there being practically nowhere to eat made it a rather annoying trip. I’m glad I walked on this side of the country, but next, I will be off on what I hope will be a more decent hike, Cheshire’s Sandstone Trail.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Boudicca Way, Norfolk, England – Part 1

In 60AD, Boudicca (bow-de-see-ya) was a warrior queen of an ancient Celtic tribe in the region now known as East Anglia. After her husband’s death, her lands were usurped by the Roman emperor Nero, she was flogged, and her daughters raped. From this, she was chosen to lead an uprising against the Roman army, which left 80 thousand Roman soldiers dead and laid waste to three cities including Londinium, which would eventually become London.

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The Boudicca Way is a three day, 58km/36-mile hike that crosses the area where Boudicca lived, Iceni. It starts in the city of Norwich, England’s second largest city until the Industrial Revolution, to the market town of Diss.

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Day 1 – Norwich to Saxlingham Green – 22.75km (14.1miles)

It was an early start in London to get ready. I’d packed the night before, so I just needed to have breakfast and get to Liverpool Street Station for my train to Norwich.

After three hours I arrived and spent some time getting water and repacking. Then I headed out along the path following the app I’d downloaded, which would prove invaluable during my trip.

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The first hour of the hike was spent getting out of the city, crossing rivers and walking streets with endless cars everywhere. Finally, I passed through Trouse Newton and along a street that grew steadily thinner as I went. Towards the end of that road, I crossed a paddock where a henge had been. It’s now empty but for a circle of cleared ground.

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I followed another road and after crossing the A47 highway the trail went rural. I followed it through cropland freshly sprinkled with rain from earlier that morning.

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On the far side of the field, my feet were soaked from the wet plants. The worst was yet to come, as the trail lead alongside wheat fields it was thickly scattered with nettles, prickles and thorn bushes. Perhaps I should rethink always wearing shorts and would recommend anyone doing this walk to wear long pants. The sting of nettles goes away fairly quickly, but the scratches from the thorn bushes don’t. Trophies of hiking I guess.

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At Armishall I headed back onto a road and then along the wide stretch of grass between fields.

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I came to a T-intersection after being on the road for a mile and followed a side path to the site of the ancient Roman town of Venta Icenorum. The site is now just an empty field that had been dug up by archaeologists. I spent some time walking around it and reading the boards explaining how the Romans of 200-300AD lived.

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I then headed back along the roads to the crossing and went the other way for four miles, passing small wooded areas and more crops.

I stopped at Shotesham for a Cider at the local pub only to find out I was too early for dinner. This was a stroke of bad luck as there had been no other food places along the way. This was also the closest food place to my accommodation, which was still three miles away. After a long day on the trail, I did not relish the idea of walking 3 miles each way to get dinner, so I resigned myself to simply dining on my trail mix in my tent.

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I walked on through fields of corn and wheat, past more woods to finally come out at my accommodation, the wild camp site. It turns out it was actually a B&B that was trialling wild camping in their extensive back field. I would get the use of a cottage’s bathroom and kitchen while only sleeping in my tent. Sheer luxury for a campsite. When my hosts discovered I’d missed dinner at the pub, they insisted on cooking me some scrambled eggs. A touch of the East Anglian hospitality I was to see more of during the walk.

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I chatted with my hosts and drank a glass of wine. They were lovely and interesting people. But after my long day walking I was looking forward to a shower, to get my tent pitched, and head to bed.

Boudicca Way, Norfolk, England – Part 2

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Lands End, England – St. Ives to Penzance, Part 2

A four-day hike around the toe of England – Land’s End, Cornwall. See the first two days – St. Ives to St. Just.

Day 3 – St. Just to Treen – 18.5km (11.5 miles)
Stage 3 overall was moderate with only a couple of difficult climbs.

As we had walked a mile past St. Just the night before to the YHA, we were already a mile ahead of schedule for the day. After breakfast, we checked out and headed along the gully to Gribba Point with a view back along the coast to Cape Cornwall. Ahead of us, the coastline stretched away as the trail cut across the cliff tops and only descended into a river gully once.

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We climbed our way back up the cliff and around to the rocky Aire Point with White Sand Bay growing ever closer.

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Beyond Aire Point, the trail grew more sandy as we came down into Whitesand Bay with Sennon Cove settlement on the far side where we aimed to find lunch. We watched surfers in the bay as you crossed a small amount of sand before climbing around the cliffs towards the town. On arrival, I found a fish and chip shop and a pub to enjoy a relax and an ice cold cider.

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After lunch, we headed up the cliff and the final kilometre to Land’s End, the westernmost point of England’s mainland. We walked briefly through Legendary Land’s End, a tourist mall, before pushing on in the heat.

The way around the coast was mainly across the tops of the cliffs with only one climb down into Mill Bay and back up the other side. From here it was rolling hills all the way around to Gwennap Head, the southernmost point of the Land’s End peninsula.

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We stopped for a break at the lookout at Hella Point before climbing down into Porthgwarra, a small village with a beach nestled in the rocks.

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Further on we were warned of a cliff slide near St. Levan, so walked cautiously but found nothing of concern. We could soon see Logan Rock ahead, our end point for day 3.

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We came to the top of the cliff over looking Porthcurno beach where there is a natural Open Air Theatre, but after a long day in the sun, neither of us felt like paying the money and lugging out bags up and down the cliff to see it.

At the top of the cliff on the other side of the beach, it was only a fifteen-minute walk to our accommodation, Treen House B&B and its host, the lovely Claire.

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Treen House B&B is only 50 metres from the local pub, but up a hill. After the day’s walk, it was perhaps the hardest walk we had to make.

Day 4 – Treen to Penzance
The initial part is ‘difficult’, going quickly to moderate, before ending on an easy walk along roads.

We left the lush comfort of the Treen B&B and walked along the road down to Penberth. As it had for the previous three days, the sun beat down with only a soft breeze to cool us as we climbed one of the few cliffs left on this coastal adventure. We descended into a gully, ascended the other side to walk along the cliff and then down towards the community of St. Loy Farm, where we finally had some shelter from the sun through a small tree reserve.

Past the community, we had to for the first time rock hop along a beach for about fifty metres before heading up Boscawen cliff on the other side.

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For the rest of the morning, we walked along the tops of the cliffs on a fairly easy route towards Lamorna where we came around the cliff to find a cosy little village nestled into an inlet. The heat was pretty sweltering, so we stopped off for lunch and a cold drink. We then continued around a rocky cliff, up Kemyel Cliff and passed alongside the Kenyel Crease Nature Reserve where we started to see more civilisation.

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We hit roads not long after at the township of Mousehole only a handful of miles around the coast from Penzance. The remainder of the walk had us following the main highway along the coast. We stopped for an ice-block to cool us down before pushing on. Many people catch a taxi or bus from Mousehole as it is all road walking, but we decided to finish on foot. The concrete under our feet was hot, and you could feel it through your boots as we pounded the pavement.

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After an hour on the road, we finally made it back to our accommodation in Penzance and dropping out bags off at the car, we headed to the local pub for a well-deserved cider.

Overall
The four-day hike from St. Ives to Penzance is an excellent and moderately difficult walk, made harder by the beating sun at this time of the year. It’s an experience and finding the little hidden away golden beaches and peacefulness of the trail, it was overall a good time. At no point would I have considered it severe difficulty as I have seen mentioned online, and only barely strenuous because of the constant heat.

The Trail Wanderer

Lands End, England – St. Ives to St. Just, Part 1

It’s been some time since I’ve put on a pack and headed out on the trail. I’m now living in London in the UK and decided to get out and see what England had to offer.
After some deliberation, my brother and I settled on a four-day hike around the toe of England in Cornwall, called Land’s End.

This is my first full coastal hike on what I’m told is the best scenic hike in England. At 66km or approximately 43.5 miles, I  split it over 4 days, plus a day to get to and from Penzance, our starting point.

Transport
Land’s End is around 300 miles from London. To get two of us down there by plane or train is very expensive, and we didn’t fancy 9 hours on a bus. This time it turned out far cheaper to hire a car.

Accommodation
There are camping grounds around Land’s End, but we decided to go ‘glamping’. So we booked backpackers and B&Bs to ensure we got a hot shower and soft bed after each day of walking. If you do this, it is best to book a fair time ahead to ensure you get a room, especially in summer when it’s most popular. Also note, most accommodations have late checkout and 5 pm check-ins, forcing hikers to walk during the hottest part of the day.

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The day before our walk, we drove down from London, a five-hour trip. We stayed the night before the hike in Penzance and would be staying at the same place at the end of the hike. This was so we could leave the car securely parked for the duration of the walk.

Day 1 – Penzance to Zennor – 11.5km (7 miles)
This first stage of the hike was the hardest but thankfully the shortest. While it is listed as ‘severe’ and ‘strenuous’, I would consider it closer to ‘difficult’, especially in mid-summer under the constant sun.

We left the car outside out accommodation and bought train tickets to St.Ives, taking only 10 minutes and delivering us to the trailhead in style.

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On arrival in St. Ives we found the small town to be set between picturesque gold sand beaches, something not normally associated with the UK. In the blue skies and hot sun of mid-summer, tourists and beach goers swarmed the small town.

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We started the walk with a tour of ‘The Island’ on St. Ives Head giving the above views out across the town and beaches. On ‘The Island’, St. Nicholas Chapel, also gave a picturesque view.

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We walked around The Island and then along Porthmeor beach on what was to be the easiest walk of the day. Then, a short climb around the cliffs as he headed towards Clodgy Point.

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The initially wide sandy trail weaved through long grasses and short bushes that did nothing to protect us from the constant sun. While there was a very light cool breeze, it did little to alleviate the heat.

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The trail crossed the top of the cliffs, ascending and descending through rocky gullies that lead down to precarious crags. As we headed towards Pen Enys Point, we left the sandy beaches long behind us.

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This section of the coast is perhaps the most desolate part of the region except for the occasional Foxglove flower dotted here and there. After two hours, we’d left the touristic day walkers behind leaving only the occasional other hikers.

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We pushed on in the heat, following the South West Coast trail around cliffs that just didn’t seem to end. As we made our way past Mussel Point, we found a lone park bench sitting in a short bend on the trail. After hours of hard climbing in the sun, we sat down for a well deserved 30-minute lunch.

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For the rest of the afternoon, we slogged on, climbing across various rocky outcrops until Zennor Head came into view. From here the climbs became longer and steeper until we came over a ridge to see a farm building on the edge of the village of Zennor.

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This announced the end of the first day. We headed along a road towards the small village where we could finally down packs and enjoy some shade. We found our way to the Tinner’s Arms, the only pub in the village, and relaxed on the grass under umbrellas enjoying cold drinks until our accommodation, Zennor Chapel B&B opened.

Day 2 – Zennor to St. Just – 18.5km (11.5 miles)
Stage 2 had some difficult parts but was overall fairly moderate.

From the window of our room, we could look out to the coast and even watch a family of rabbits play on the lawn. After a refreshing night’s sleep in comfortable beds, we went down for breakfast and picked up our prearranged packed lunch.

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We walked out of Zennor in the late morning. The weather was similar to the day before, cloudless blue skies with only the slightest breeze. Without even that slight breeze, the day would have been a lot harder.

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We set out along Carnelloe Cliff with the memories of the previous day still heavy in our minds. But unlike the end of the first day’s with its constant ascents and descents began fairly flat and skirted around the tops of the cliffs. Today we started to see more nettles on the trail and as we both wore shorts we were forced to get used to that constant stinging sensation. We could have worn long pants to avoid this, but in the heat, no thanks!

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Out first distant target was a jutting set of rocks known as Gurnard’s Head. As we walked towards it, the climbs began in the heat of the day. After an hour we walked past the rocky peninsula and climbed the Treen Cliff on the far side. We found a set of rocks on the far side with a luxurious cool breeze and stopped for a break.

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A distance marker pointed us to Pendeen Watch, a lighthouse atop Pendeen New Cliff. We set that as our lunch break point and marched on. The trail, in general, became smoother with less climbing as we followed the clifftops, but the nagging sting of nettles continued. Early in the afternoon, we crossed the Tregaminion Cliff to see the golden sands of Portheras Cove below us. On the other side, we could see Pendeen New Cliff, although no lighthouse yet.

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But as we neared the beach, Pendeen Watch did became apparent. We descended into the cove and walked briefly on the sand before climbing the other side. Near the top, a switchback trail descended the hill to a road which climbed again to the lighthouse. We stopped for a well-deserved rest and to eat the rather abundant lunch we’d been provided.

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From the lighthouse we could see chimneys further along the trail, marking the entrance of the Levant Mining area. The afternoon sun beat down on us for perhaps the hottest day of our walk. As we entered the mining area, there were far less grassy trails and more gravel. This didn’t help with the heat.

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We struggled on as the water in my pack began to grow warm. We were able to find a small shop as part of a museum in the ruins of Britain’s largest tin mine. We purchased a bottle of cold water each and drained them in seconds.

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Feeling a little more refreshed, we pushed on along the cliffs to Kenidjack Castle ruins where we got a view of Cape Cornwall and the edge of St Just, our stopping place for the end of day 2.

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With our target in sight, our strength’s began to wane, and we staggered into central St. Just, a thriving town which after a couple of days in the ‘wilderness’, had far too much traffic. On arrival, we discovered our accommodation was a mile further on from the town. We rested for ten minutes before pushing on to the YHA Land’s End and a welcome shower.

Next, the final two days of our hike, St. Just to Penzance.

The Trail Wanderer

Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Central Plateau, New Zealand

Mount Tongariro is one of several volcanos in the middle of New Zealand’s North Island. It’s the northernmost of the three volcanic cones just to the south of Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake.

Mount Tongariro is also the location of one of the most popular hikes in New Zealand: the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This is a 19.4 kilometre hike that climbs over the Tongariro massif, past the summit of both Tongariro and Ngauruhoe.

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Map is © Copyright Tongariro Alpine Crossing Please visit that site for more information.

A group of us decided to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing towards the end of the season. We made arrangements and drove down from Auckland on Friday night with the intentions of climbing early Saturday morning. The four-hour drive turned into five and a half as we left during Auckland’s rush hour. We arrived late in the evening and bedded down for the night with alarms set.

A Bad Start
When we awoke on Saturday Morning it was raining and didn’t look pleasant. We went for breakfast and waited to find out if the we could still do the walk. The answer came back a resounding no. The rain and strong winds meant the mountain was closed. All we could do was hang out for the day and hope for better weather on Sunday.

What Tongariro should look like, apparently…
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Ominous News
We were up and had breakfast early on Sunday but the weather still didn’t look great. The mountain was still not visible from our lodgings and when our driver arrived he had bad news. He believed the mountain was again closed and wouldn’t take us, leaving us a little downhearted. We asked the owner of the lodge and he was unconvinced. He rang another driver who confirmed the mountain was in fact open and would take us up.

We were driven to the trailhead in the rain with trepidation, but with the number of other vehicles heading up, it seemed others would also be braving it.

Trailhead – Mangetapopo Carpark – 1100m
We began at the Mangetapopo carpark in a slight drizzle. There were no views of the massif or much else due to the low cloud. The trail was a mix of mud, stones, wooden platforms and people. There were hundreds of others doing the track with us. If this many were doing it on a bleak day, who could guess how busy it would be on a clear one.

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The walk was easy and for the first seven or so kilometres we barely noticed the 250m climb towards Soda Springs. I walked in a quick dry sports singlet, my hiking zip-off shorts and boots. The drizzle was constant but not heavy and I was fairly warm. Others wore long pants and full Gore-tex jackets.

Soda Springs – 1350m
At Soda Springs there is a warning sign: STOP! Are you really prepared? It suggested it was going to get difficult and to turn back if you weren’t prepared. As I waited for my group, I watched several people get to the sign, stare at it for a while and then turn back. With the drizzle picking up I put on a rain poncho over my singlet and began the climb.

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It became more rugged, with a rough dirt trail and steps weaving up the side of the mountain towards South Crater. The drizzle continued and the climb became more a little more difficult, but not by much. After a while of steady climbing we began seeing people returning along with trail with warnings of how bad it was higher up.

With the constant drizzle and the warnings I was tempted to turn back. Why do a climb when you can’t see anything the entire time? You climb for the views and the experience, but the only experience would be a wet cloudy one. I put on a jumper under my rain poncho and we continued on.

South Crater – 1650m
We climbed onto the area described as South Crater and out of the wind. With visibility around 20m we walked on the flat for a while, happy for the rest from climbing.

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Red Crater – 1886m
After the mud flats of South Crater we began up the ridge and discovered the wind that had been putting everyone off. It was blowing an absolute gale and you could see the drizzle sweeping over the ridge into the cloudy nothingness. I was not surprised people had turned back but since we’d come this far it seemed silly to head back. We pushed on, dodging between rocky outcrops so as not to be blown off.

We reached the top but couldn’t see anything so just kept walking, beginning the plunge down the other side, some members of our group going arse-over-tit on the slippery silt.

Emerald Lakes – 1730m
The small Emerald Lakes would have been amazing to view from higher up but they only appeared out of the gloom when we were 10m above them. It was still good to see something other than dirt, rock and rain. By now we were completely soaked, we continued on down.

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Not far below the Emerald Lakes we came to the Blue Lake covered in the same clouds.

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Ketetahi – 1456m
After several switchbacks we finally emerged from the clouds to see the Ketetahi Hut. The drizzle let up but the wind did not. We stopped briefly for a snack before pressing on.

For the next part of the trek we were in open ground along a winding trail. Since a great many people had turned back, we only saw two other groups on the way down. Then having spent much of the day hidden in clouds we finally got some views. Lake Rotoaira appeared and we even got the occasional glimpse of Lake Taupo beyond.

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Ketetahi Car Park 800m
With 4km to the car park the trail dove into rainforest and grew warmer. We crossed a river on a wooden walkway and eventually arrived at the trail’s end after what seemed a lot longer than 45 minutes the sign had suggested.

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Overall, due to the weather, out Tongariro Alpine Crossing was disappointing mainly of the lack of views. In the rain and cold, the hike didn’t feel overly difficult. It took us only 5.5 hours of the suggested 8 hours and of the 2.5 litres of water I took with me, I came out with more than 2.

Perhaps it would have been more difficult in direct sunlight, but I’ll have to come back another time to see. Maybe the next time I’m in New Zealand.

The Trail Wanderer