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Walk from Garn Fawr to Strumblehead

Our friend Paul was renting a small cottage in Trefin on the Pembrokeshire coast this week with the intention of  doing some walks and taking some photographs for a story he was hoping to do, so we decided to go and help him. Paul used to work together with John  doing wedding photography. Paul continues the business, now that John has retired, at www.wessexweddings.co.uk

We met Paul and his dog Ben at the cottage in Trefin and started the walk at Garn Fawr a short drive away. Garn Fawr is an Iron Age hillfort situated on a craggy outcrop of the west end of the Pen-caer ridge. It is a short walk up to the summit of this craggy outcrop from which there are superb views over the bay to Strumble Head and Pwllderi. From there it is a rocky steepish descent down to the coastal path. Paul had to be careful because Ben always had to be in the lead and was upset when he wasn’t. We soon passed a brick building, one of an aligned pair, which were used for carrying out tests on  low level air to surface vessel radar. The other building, located at Strumble Head is now used as a bird observatory. Apparently there are also the remains of a two man coast watchers hut from the first world war.

The walk towards Strumble Head was very pleasant weaving in and out of little hillocks and a mixture of gorse and heather. From the cliff edges we could see Choughs doing their aerobatic display and hear seals on the rocky islets. We even saw House Martins which must have just arrived from their long journey from Africa. There are several rocky  inlets and small bays along this route one in particular, Porth Maenmelyn caught our attention. This is a small wild cove with steps cut into the cliff face apparently cut, about a hundred years ago, by an engineer working on the construction of Fishguard harbour and wanted his own private access to this cove.

Strumble Head
Circular walk at Strumble Head

To  open this walk in Google Earth click here.

After passing the light house at Strumble Head we continued further along the coast path until we reached a white holiday cottage owned by the National Trust where we turned inland. We followed bridleways which, considering how drive the weather had been, were quite muddy because they had been churned up by the horses. Probably this is not a walk we would do in the winter. We passed the smaller iron age fort of Garn Fechan on the way back to the car park at Garn Fawr.

lighthouse at Strumble Head
The Lighthouse at Strumble Head

After finishing the walk we drove back to Traeth Llyfn where John took some sunset photographs on the beach. As dusk fell on a perfect day we walked back to the Sloop Inn in Porthgain for something to eat before driving home.

Sunset
Sunset at Traeth Llyfn © John Burton
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Working on the Land

Since arriving here in Carmarthenshire last November we’ve been taking our time to decide what to do with things. We do not plan to actively farm our smallholding but to get the land back into shape before perhaps letting the pasture for sheep, creating some more woodland and harvesting the wood from our established woodland.

hedge
The Newly Cut Back Boundary and Repaired Fence

During January and February John spent some time with our adjoining neighbour cutting back the overgrown branches and mending the fences as the existing posts were breaking off. During March we have had such a long spell of dry warm weather that we started cutting up the timber and burning the brash.

chainsaw
Liz 'poses' with the Chainsaw (Wot no protective trousers or gloves?)
fire
John Gets the Fire Going (eventually!)

We did get quite distracted watching the Buzzards and Red Kites circling above us in the valley.

house
Our House Down in the Valley Below
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Circular Walk to Barafundle Bay Near Stackpole

Barafundle
Circular Walk Barafundle Bay

To open this walk in Google Earth click here.

We decided to explore more of the coast so drove down to the Stackpole estate owned by the National Trust on the Pembrokeshire coast, between the villages of Stackpole and Bosherton. We started our walk at Stackpole quay, a delightful little bay now used by fishermen and pleasure boats. There you can find tea rooms and toilets. We then walked along the coastal path to Barafundle bay. This walk takes you along high cliffs which are a haven for seabirds and occasionally choughs can also be seen here.

danger sign
Perhaps a tad dramatic!

Barafundle Bay has the reputation of being one of the best beaches in the UK. To be honest we thought it pleasant enough but not fantastic – but then we are not ‘beach people’. It is accessed from the path by some steepish steps and is  certainly very sheltered and has beautiful sands.

Barafundle
Barafundle Bay

The exit from the beach is up some more steps through a lovely wooded area.

Trees
Trees at Barafundle Bay (John's photography goes 'arty farty')

The walk continued along the cliff edge to Broadhaven beach where we turned inland to Bosherton Lakes, also known as the Lily Ponds locally. To reach these lakes we walked across the Stackpole Warren Dunes. These lakes were created by the Earls of Cawdor between 1780 and 1860. The lakes occupy 3 narrow valleys which were carved out by glacial meltwater in the carboniferous limestone of the area. They are important for the wildlife found there which includes otters, bats, birds and many wild flowers. It is also an important Stonewort area. Stoneworts are a type of green algae occurring in freshwater and may become calcified. Many British Stonewort species are under threat due to water pollution as they are very sensitive to nitrates and phosphates.

Spring Flowers
Spring Flowers by the Lily Ponds

It is a beautiful area to walk around the lakes passing through many wooded areas.  The walk back to the car park was across farmland and we went past the site of a standing stone but were unable to see it as it was hidden by a wood.

Back at the car park we had tea coffee and cake in the tea rooms (pretty rock and roll huh?) before heading home.

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Alpine Tractor AGT 850

When we moved here we were hoping that we could use a normal second hand tractor like an old Massey Ferguson 35 or 135. Failing that a small 4 wheel drive might have been suitable. However, our land (17 acres of pasture and 6 acres of wood) really is very steep. The farmer who used to own it told us that he had had a few ‘incidents’ with a tractor on the land! John thus decided that buying the special tool for the job (even with the extra cost) was the better part of valour! Working a tractor on steep hills is one of the biggest causes of fatalities on the land and he has no plans to shorten his retirement unnecessarily.

AGT 850
At least the brakes work!

This led us to undertake a lot of research an eventually we settled on buying an ‘Alpine tractor’. This type of tractor with it’s low centre of gravity and with the engine weight over the front axle is very popular on small hilly family farms in Italy and Switzerland. They are not used much in the UK and indeed many farmers have advised us not to buy one as ‘they are an unknown quantity’. Actually their mechanical simplicity was a plus point for us in that any decent mechanic should be able to repair it without needing to plug his computer in or have access to the service error codes.

The downside is that they are very expensive (for what they are) and second hand ones do not come on the market very often. Thus our new AGT 850T was delivered today. This is the ‘non articulated’ version of the tractor; i.e. it does not bend in the middle (although the two axles can pivot in the horizontal plane for better traction). We’ve also specified wider and lower tyres and set them as wide as possible to give maximum stability. The engine is a 48 hp Lombardini engine. It has 12 gears and a shuttle box. The driving position is reversible so that you can swing the seat and controls round to face the other direction. This means that you can face forward with some implements. It has a single and a double spool valve on the hydraulic side of things.

As there is not much user information on the internet we are hoping that this blog will become a little review over time. As we use it more we will add information and give details of it’s performance and reliability etc.

Anyway we unloaded the red tractor today and  after filling it up with red diesel John took it for a spin up some of our ‘lesser’ slopes. It seemed to cope with things pretty well. We’re hoping to get a pasture topper, transport box and set of chain harrows in due course.

Another reason for choosing this tractor is that we will need to get up into our wood to start pulling out fallen trees. This tractor will hopefully be ideal for working in such an environment on the side of a slope. A number of people use them with a forwarding winch for extracting wood out of forestry land.

As said we’ll keep the blog updated with how we get on with this machine.

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Corofin Festival 2011

After our trip to London to Ecobuild the day before we set off for Ireland. The Stena ferry for Rosslare left at 2.30pm so we had to leave at about 11 am as we needed to pick up some food for the journey as we did not want to pay ferry prices. The drive to Fishguard only takes about one hour and a half as the roads are pretty good. We were quite surprised how pretty Fishguard is. Stena actually own the ferry terminal the rest of the harbour is a small fishing port surrounded by a small picturesque town and beautiful coast. The railway station stops quite close to the ferry terminal making it convenient for foot passengers. We  met some people who had travelled from Bath with only one change at Cardiff.

The journey to Ireland is about three and a half hours. The England v Ireland cricket world cup was on live so that passed the time. Ireland won!

The drive the other side to County Clare is about three hours. We got off the ferry at about 6.20pm and were in Peppers Bar by about 10pm. Peppers is a famous music pub in Feakle. As it was a Wednesday evening we were expecting a session but it was very quiet as everybody was at the festival in Corofin. We went on to our friend’s B+B Clondanagh Cottage near to Tulla. Clondanagh cottage is situated in peaceful countryside on a donkey farm and overlooks Clondanagh Lake. Dorothy is an amazing hostess and she and her husband Michael and their two children make you feel very welcome. The B+B is very cosy with lovely bright rooms and super ambience.

Dorothy certainly spoils you with her lovely breakfasts which set you up for the day.

Irish Breakfast
Full Irish Breakfast at Clondanagh Cottage

The area is famous for the fishing being in the East Clare Lakelands. Dorothy, who herself is a keen fisherwoman, can give advice and hire out tackle and provide a boat for Clondanagh lake where there is private lake frontage.

McGlynn
Arty McGlynn one of the Best Guitarists in Trad Music Playing at Corofin

This area is also very famous for Traditional Irish music which is the reason we started to visit. We decided to go to Corofin festival this year as this is the first opportunity we have had (a big advantage of being retired). Corofin is a small village just on the Burren only about a 45 minute drive from Clondanagh Cottage. Corofin together with Tulla and Feakle are hugely important in the traditional music of Clare (and Irish music in general). If you want to hear the ‘real thing’ as opposed to a tourist pastiche this is the area to come.

Mick Leahy
Mick Leahy Playing with John Blake and Lamond Gillespie at Corofin 2011

The festival itself was excellent. It is quite small but very well organised. We had specifically gone to see Lamond Gillespie, John Blake and Mick Leahy of Traditional Irish music of London and Humours of Highgate fame. They rarely play together and were brilliant giving a lesson in how to play traditional music – perfectly together without being over the top – letting the music speak for itself. True masters.

In fact there was excellent music the whole weekend. We will certainly go next year as well if we are not travelling.

The Burren is  a karst landscape area in Northwest Clare and is famous for its biodiversity and it’s archeological sites. As we were exceptionally lucky with the weather, dry sunny and quite mild for the time of year, we decided to explore a bit more of this beautiful area and take a few photographs. We eventually found, the very well preserved dolmen, Poulnabrone (well we didn’t have a map!). The name means the hole of sorrows. John managed to take some good photographs at sunset.

Dolmen
Poulnabrone Dolmen © John Burton

We had a quiet day on the Saturday, when John helped Michael building some sheds that Dorothy is going to use for fishing tackle and then went to at Macks Bar with the Healy brothers later that evening. They were brilliant as usual.

On Sunday we had to come home as there is a lot of sorting out to do  with the house alterations. The journey back was all right. We managed to find a 24 hour Tesco in Clonmel which is useful to know about for a break, especially if we ever used the late ferry. The ferry arrived on time, in fact, it may have been early.  We arrived home at about 1-30am.

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A Walk From Porthgain to Abereiddi on The Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Porthgain walk
Circular Walk from Porthgain

Yesterday was one of the nicest days we have had for a while so we decided to go for a walk choosing a coastal walk because of the possibility of mist in the mountains.

To open this walk in Google Earth click here

This walk is slightly further north on the coastal path than the previous one and is about 45 miles from our house. Porthgain is a pretty village that was once a granite quarrying area and industrial harbour in the early 1900s. At the beginning of the walk we walked past the brick hoppers on the south side of the harbour and climbed some steep steps at the side of white building to reach the coastal path. The brick hoppers were used to store crushed granite before it was shipped. There are many ruined quarry buildings to explore at the start of the walk.

beach
Another view of Traeth Llyfn

We then continued along the path with the watch tower at Abereiddi in sight. Along this first section are high dramatic cliffs.

beach
The Beach at Traeth Llyfn

We then came across the tiny beach at Traeth Llyfn which is reached by some steps. This is a stunningly beautiful remote beach with sand and rocks making it ideal for some photographs and a very pleasant lunch stop. There are very strong currents in the sea here and apparently it can also come in very quickly. It is a spectacular spot.

We then continued onto the Blue Lagoon (Ed. looks more green in my photo – John!) where there are very steep cliffs. The Blue Lagoon was formed from an abandoned slate quarry which was filled with seawater through a breach in the outer wall. This area is popular with coasteerers and divers. The beach at Abereiddi is accessed by a winding path. The is a large car park here and just inland  a group of houses built for the quarry workers but abandoned in the early 20th century after a flood. The ones that remain are presumably holiday cottages. There are ruins of old buildings around the Blue Lagoon. The rocks of Abereiddi bay are easily eroded Ordovician slates and apparently there are fossils of graptolites in the rock. We will have to have a look next time we go there.

blue lagoon
The Blue Lagoon

We made our way back to Porthgain by an inland route following the yellow footpath arrows. There is a lovely view of the valley up to Llanrhian which was carved by glacial melt-water during  the last ice age.

The total distance walked was 4.5 miles. We did not time ourselves as we had several stops for taking photographs.

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A Walk up Pen y Fan

Pen y Fan is the highest peak in the Southern UK at 886m.This walk was based around the info on the BBC Wales ‘Weatherman Walking‘ series. The walk described there is a slightly longer version of our walk.

To open this walk in Google Earth click here.

Pen y Fan Walk Map
Pen y Fan Map

We started the walk from the car park in Taf Fechan forest walking along the road for a short way and the along a track at the side of the forest. The track then gradually ascends  around Neuadd Reservoir towards Cribyn. After a while you have a choice of  ascending Cribyn or contouring around the side before starting up to the summit of Pen y Fan. The summit is marked with a stone cairn. Unfortunately it was surrounded in mist obscuring the views.

Pen y Fan from Cribyn
Pen y Fan

Then continue south west where again you have the option to go up to Corn Du before continuing in a south easterly direction along the ridge. Eventually after the reservoir there are two steep descents, we chose the second along side the wood. Note that this area can be boggy and the steep descent tricky in icy conditions as we discovered. We then followed the track back to the car parkWe were walking for about 4 hours including stops and covered 8.5 miles. Unfortunately we forgot to take a memory card for the camera so have used a royalty free photo!

 

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Buying A Tractor

As part of John’s research into tractors which would be suitable for use on our steep hills we decided to go up to the LAMAS show in Newark which was on the 19th and 20th January so that we could look at some of the options.We travelled on the 18th taking a picturesque route through the Brecon Beacons and then the border country to see John’s mother first. We then went on to Nottingham after stocking up with supplies from Waitrose in Newport,  as we do not have a Waitrose locally. Our son Mark and his girlfriend Emma kindly put up with us for one night. It was good to catch up with their news and be introduced to their pet tortoise and King snake.It was an early start the next day so that we arrived at the show at 6am before the traffic had built up. We had our early bird full English breakfast before having a look round the show at some very expensive pieces of machinery. It was worth the trip as we ordered an Alpine tractor at a special show price. Hopefully it will do the job nicely.

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A Walk on the Pembrokeshire Coast Porth Clais to St Justinian and Return

This was the first dry pleasant day for a few days so we decided to go for a short circular walk on the Pembrokeshire coast. The drive down took us through St Davids the smallest city in the UK which is quite picturesque.

Porth Clais Harbour
Porth Clais Harbour
Porth Clais to St Justinians Walk
Porth Clais to St Justinians Walk

To see this walk in google Earth click here.The walk started at Porth Clais, which is a small rocky inlet, from  which small fishing boats sail. You can park in the National Trust car park, but be aware that you have to pay during the season. Walk down from the car park to the harbour then take the right hand track up past some old lime kilns. From there we walked along the coastal path towards St Justinian. The track is very well marked  and this section is quite easy with only a couple of short steep ascents. Throughout the walk there are fabulous views of several rocky inlets and quite a wild sea as we had previously had very rough weather.There were several small rocky islands providing good nesting sites for birds and just before St Justinian there is a good view of Ramsey Island which is a RSPB  reserve. See www.ramseyisland.co.uk for more information.We left the coast at Justinian and took a short walk along the lanes, which at this time of year are very quiet, back to the car. It is possible to avoid most of the road by walking across the National Trust land but there are some very wet areas that are best avoided in the winter.The walk is 6.5 miles in total and takes about 3.5 hours with a stop for lunch

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The Black Mountain, Brecon Beacons

Today we walked to the top of the Black Mountain which is to the west of the Brecon Beacons National Park and should not be confused with the Black Mountains in the east of the same Park. Rising to 802 metres (2631 ft) Fan Brycheiniog the summit of the Black Mountain is the third highest top in South Wales. It is a great walk only 35 minutes drive from where we live. The weather was crisp and bright (mostly!). It is approximately 9.5 miles and we have included the details of the walk below.

 

View from The Ridge of the Black Mountain
View from The Ridge of the Black Mountain

 

Black Mountain Walk Map
Black Mountain Walk Map

To view this walk in Google Earth click here.

To reach the start of the walk leave the A40(T) at Trecastle and head south west to Llanddeusant. Then follow the signs to Llyn y Fan Fach. The road turns into a track which turns right over a cattle grid just before the water works/trout farm, proceed along the side of the river and park on the grass verge just by the information sign. (Grid ref. SN 798238). Walk along the track through the valley past the old water installation that is, I think, now a trout farm. As you walk up along the cascading waterfalls views of the cliffs of Bannau Sir Gaer appear ahead. Follow the main track to the right, turning up hill when you reach the resevoir. You follow the track up as it makes it’s way around the western side of Llyn Y Fan Fach and up to the top of the cliffs.When you get to the western side of the lake and almost to the top of the cliffs it is worth stoping to enjoy the view. Below is the lake, Lyn y Fan Fach, while stretching off into the distance are the cliffs of Bannau Sir Gaer with Fan Foel stretching out to the north.

It is now a case of following the ups and downs and in and outs of the cliffs until you reach the trig point on Fan Brycheiniog, the top of the Black Mountain. Below the cliff is another small lake Llyn Y Fan Fawr. This is another good spot to stop and admire the excellent views, especially towards the Brecon Beacons in the east. At this point there are several options for you to choose from for the return. You may prefer to retrace your footsteps and return to your car following the route you walked out on. Or you may choose to carry on a bit further along the cliffs to the “Staircase” which descends the cliffs to the southern shore of the lake. You can then follow the base of the cliffs (this can be boggy) back to Llyn Y Fan Fach.

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