Thursday, 23 September 2010


Snowdon is fun. It's a long way from Bristol though.
I'm so glad we checked the weather forecast before we went, and delayed our trip by a day, or it would have been a wet and miserable climb. As it was, most of the rain we came across fell mainly on the windscreen, and we were lucky to see the glorious view from the top of the mountain.
We set off from Bristol on Monday, finally reaching Llanberis at tea-time, and set about knocking on the door of all the BnBs we passed, almost every house on each road of this little village. All were full, or said they were, except for Glyn Afon, and it is lovely. Our tiny room was clean and comfortable, with no detail spared. We even had a teddy on the bed! In need of a decent dinner, we strolled along the high street, only to discover that our options were limited. Not wanting to eat takeaway in the car, we settled down in the Spice of Llanberis, just as the rest of the customers were leaving. The waiters watched us like hawks, whipping away our plates the moment we finished the last forkful, and were clearly pleased when we left, with nowhere to head but for an early night before the climb.
A trip to Tourist Information in the morning helped us to choose our route - up the Pyg Pass and down the Llanberis Pass. The Pyg Pass is fairly steep in places. Not quite on a par with the Inca Trail, this is not a bad UK equivalent, as I'd be lying if I said our heartbeats weren't raised! But no real problems heading upwards, and a sense of satisfaction at the top, where we stopped for hot chocolate.
The path down is easy-peasy. Or so it seems, as you follow the train more or less all the way back to Llanberis. However, after a morning on your feet, by halfway down it's hard to keep the news of your aching limbs to yourself, and by the time we finally, thankfully, reached our lovely guesthouse, we'd been on our feet for around 6 hours. I started to think that the three peaks challenge might not be such a piece of cake after all!
Remembering our difficulty finding places to eat the night before, we stuck a pin in the map of North Wales and headed for Caernarvon for dinner. It's right at the top near Anglesey and has a castle, so it seemed like a good idea. We ate in the Black Boy Inn, a cheap and cheerful choice, serving '70's baskets' of things with chips. I chose chilli, and ate far too much.
We'd intended to discover more of North Wales on Wednesday, but our haphazard approach to planning didn't serve us so well this time, and we spent much of the morning on the road in the rain, stopping briefly somewhere distant and unpronounceable for a wet walk along the beach, and in Aberystwyth for another.
By the time we got back to Bristol in the evening, we felt we'd finished a driving marathon, both of us tired and achy from our mountain walking and our sitting still. We'd driven through lots of pretty villages with tiny miners cottages, and as the hours ticked by we'd come to realise that North Wales is far from here. It felt further still to me, distanced by a total incomprehension of where I was most of the time, as I could not even say the name places in my head.
But now I've followed a smelly goat up Snowdon, I feel like it was a good use of three days away. It's important to be reminded that in life, happiness is not just about reaching the top, it's enjoying the climb.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Sunset in Somerset

Heading off at 6.30pm, we went for a wander around Chew Valley Lake in Somerset. It's huge and surrounded by woodland, where we spotted frogs, bats, birds and bugs. We walked to the hideout, designed for twitchers to watch birds or lovers to watch sunsets through spiderwebs. It looked as though the hills in the background were on fire as the sun set beyond, lighting the sky with orange.
On the way back to Bristol we decided to take a detour to Wells, as I'd never been before. It is a stunning city. I wish all the cars could be taken away so you could really feel as though you'd stepped back in time through 500 years. Walking around the cathedral, every shop, hotel and house is perfectly presented, with huge thick stone walls and intricate archways. This is the setting for the film 'Hot Fuzz', and I can understand how the film makers might have felt that there is a kind of scary closed community of people spying on one another here... especially when we came across the Police Community Support Officer taking obvious delight in pasting an unnecessary fixed penalty notice on the car windscreen.
We ate in Wells, and headed back in the blackness. The nights are drawing in, and an autumn feeling creeps alongside them.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Taunton to Bridgwater

A sunny Saturday in September. It would be wrong not to go outside all day long. On a bike. Along a canal. Stopping at pubs. In a group of 18 people. So that's what I did.
We took the expensive train to Taunton and met a crew of fellow enthusiastic cyclists. After stopping to stock up on sandwiches and pump up tyres we were off, caterpillar spotting, high-fiving, falling, whooping and stopping regularly for rehydration in the form of beer. Every couple of miles or so, as how else can you coordinate 18 people on bikes? Pubs make great markers along the way.
The ride from Taunton to Bridgwater is easy, flat, and just the right distance. Somerset in the sun. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.