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WRC Wales!

November 16, 2010

Last weekend we traveled to Wales to see the final rounds of the WRC. We headed for the classic Fourways Crychan stage, which made use of both asphalt and gravel roads this year and is situated near the Epynt military ranges. At 25km in length this is one of the longest stages on the WRC and also perhaps one of the most grueling: wet slippery gravel and asphalt, pot holes and track-side ditches all add to the hazards to make it a real test for both driver and car. I decided to take the quattro to the event as it hadn’t seen a decent run for a couple of weeks and I thought it quite appropriate that the quattro, which so revolutionized rallying should show up here. The drive up was faultless and when we arrived we were clapped at one point by a small group of rally fans who looked like they’d been camping the night. Found a great parking spot in the middle of the viewpoints and made our way to the popular hairpin corner halfway round the stage. the crowds were pretty thin on the ground, perhaps due to the weather conditions that had prevailed the previous day. We had a trackside seat and here are some photos from the bend:

We went to every viewpoint along the way and also ‘explored’ the forest away from the usual spectator areas, which was much more exciting. The highlight was probably Petter Solberg in his Citroen C4, who finished 2nd place in the Wales Rally behind Loeb. Solberg runs the team as an independent outfit (as opposed to a works team) but may well find it difficult to raise funds for next season as getting enough private backing to keep a WRC team going is always going to be difficult. We wish him luck as he is such a superb and committed driver and a real bastion for the sport of rally driving.

Already looking forward to next years WRC…

The Peak District

October 15, 2010

Our first holiday for a year saw us off up to Staffordshire for 4 days to explore the delights of the Peak District. We stayed in a wonderful dog-friendly B&B called Hay House Farm, just outside the village of Ipstones. This gave us excellent access into the national park from the South West via Leek and Buxton.

Castleton and Mam Tor

Our first walk (approx. 6 miles) saw us begin in the town of Castleton at the head up the Hope Valley. Castleton is one of the pricicple tourist centres of the Peak District mainly due to the multitude of both man-made and natural attractions nearby. One of those attractions is Peveril Castle, founded in the 11th century by William Peveril, an illegitimate son of William the Conqueror. The castle is heavily fortified, being surrounded on three sides by sheer cliffs.

Our walk took us up out of the town past Peveril Castle following the almost perpendicular sided Cave Dale before topping out at the head of the dale. We then continued across wild and open country, dotted with the remains of abandoned lead mines, before heading North towards Mam Tor. Unfortunately we were accompanied by very low cloud so the normally magnificent views from Mam Tor were nowhere to be seen. From Mam Tor we headed along a superb ridge walk towards Hollins Cross, before heading rapidly downhill and across the fields to return to Castleton.

That evening we enjoyed the great hospitality, open fire and excellent food at the Red Lion in Waterfall. And not forgetting the excellent selection of real ales too!

Derwent Edge

The start of our second walk (around 7 miles) took us to the National Park Recreation Centre on the banks of the Derwent Reservoir. From there we headed past the enormous wall of the Derwent Dam. The Derwent was damed at the end of the 19th century in order to provide water supplies for the expanding cities of Derby, Nottingham, Leicester and Sheffield. In he even the Derwent is the middle reservoir, being proceeded by Howden Reservoir and succeeded by Ladybower Reservoir. The result is one of the largest man-made areas of water in Europe. The walk continued around the edge of Dewent before heading steeply up through Hancock Wood to the top of the moor, offering fabulous panoramic views of the both the reservoirs below and the moors beyond them. We then headed across flat but wet moorland towards the summit of Lost Lad (names after a shepherd boy who died of exposure here), before heading across to the summit of Black Tor. From here we continued towards the fantastic rock formations of Derwent Edge, with equally impressive views on our right hand side as we traversed the rocks.

From Derwent Edge we then headed back down towards Ladybower Reservoir and followed the edge of the water for a while and returning back to the car park. As you round Ladybower you can see the remains of Derwent Village, which was drowned in 1943 when the waters were damed.

In the evening we visited Thornbury Hall, an indian restaurant, for a superb meal and some excellent hospitality and attention to detail. The ceiling in the restaurant is dotted with hundreds of tiny lights which make it look like a star-lit sky and far from being tacky, it lent a certain air of sophistication to the venue.

On our last day we walked through the lovely Crowgutter Woods, an RSPB nature reserve, all the way down to the Caldon Canal and along to Consall Station. It was great way to finish our break before braving the Sunday traffic back to Wiltshire.

Three Cotswold Walks

August 14, 2010

Have been on some fantastic walks in the Cotswolds recently and thought I’d share three hightlights.

Bibury to Coln St. Aldwyns

This walk starts off in the popular tourist destination of Bibury and heads East out of the village to follow the Coln Valley as far as Coln St. Aldwyns, before returning West back to Bibury via the grand Bibury Court Hotel. This walk combines a little of everything: open fields, woodland, rivers, dry stone walls, and picturesque villages. The round trip is about 7 miles.

Sapperton Loop

This starts out from the church in the village of Sapperton and follows a mostly steep ‘up and down’ route on the outbound before returning to Sapperton along the disused Thames and Severn Canal. This walk includes a glimpse of the Daneway portal to the Sapperton Canal Tunnel. The canal tunnel was opened in 1789 and closed around 1910, and up until 1811 was the longest canal tunnel in Britain at 3490m (just over 2 miles!).

Sherston to Easton Grey

This walk starts in the centre of Sherston and heads East out of the village, going out as far as the lovely Easton Grey,  which includes withing it’s Parish the celebrity escape of Watley Manor heath spa and wellness resort. The walk then heads back South along the Fosse Way before returning to Sherston for a pint at the Rattlebone Inn (prince Harry’s local!).

More walks to follow….