An Anglesey Adventure

After last year’s Spanish expedition we fancied something nearer to home but still fairly unexplored. So after much discussion we chose Anglesey for our annual getaway. Most of us had never been there and those who had confirmed its quality walking.

Heading towards the remains of a pumping engine on Parys Mountain

So off we went! Thanks to Shirley for finding us a nice hotel in Beaumaris, and to all 11 Stumblers who made it such an enoyable weekend. Especially pleasing that Chris & Vickie could come and that John & Gil came over from Buxton to tell us all about their progress in settling in to their new home.

The weather forecast had been pretty dreadful, with Hurricane Irma scheduled to land on top of us, but happily we only had to put up with overcast skies and a strong wind on the Monday.

No, this image hasn’t been recoloured!

Welsh Chris had encouraged us to visit Parys Mountain, so that was first on the agenda. And what a sight it is! Dating back to the Bronze Age, it’s the world’s oldest copper mine and was the main source of copper to the Roman Empire. Ancient volcanic activity had concentrated an extraordinary quantity and variety of valuable minerals here, resulting in a bizarrely coloured moonscape of abandoned diggings. So much to explore.

Gannets at Beaumaris

Sunday’s weather, and some Stumblers wanting to head home in the afternoon, kept us close to Beaumaris, with a delightful morning’s walk along the beach and back through bosky woodlands. We explored the remains of a castle first built in 1088 by the Normans to suppress the Welsh. Some hope; the islanders simply burned it down!

Monday’s gale-force winds deterred us from any serious walking so we drove out to visit the South Stack lighthouse, which is not only an interesting landmark but also an important RSPB reserve for a variety of seabirds. The nearby Ellin’s Tower houses an excellent birdwatching facility, with knowledgeable RSPB volunteers on hand and a number of telescopes for visitors to use.

South Stack lighthouse

With such good company, good food, good walking and interesting new places to discover, Anglesey 2017 was a really great adventure. Thanks everybody!

Discovering the Shropshire hills

There are many walking festivals across the UK each year, but until now we’d never tried any. And then we received an invitation from the Bishop’s Castle Walking Festival. Kelvin had been looking for another long trek to tackle, but hadn’t found any that really appealed, so the idea of five days’ quality walking in the Shropshire hills without having to do any planning seemed an ideal solution!

And so it proved. Five Stumblers – Kelvin, Sarah & Michael and John & Gil – jumped at the opportunity. But we really were parachuting ourselves into the unknown; we didn’t know what Bishop’s Castle would be like or whether we’d enjoy a festival of walking. We should have remembered that Stumblers’ Luck never lets us down!

First, the self-catering cottage we found was excellent; snug and homely and only a short walk from pubs, shops and restaurants. Second, Bishop’s Castle may be no bigger than Stilton but it is actually a town, not a village, with excellent amenities and some fascinating history dating from Norman times. And third – most important – the festival itself was well organised, with a selection of excellent walks, all well-led and with much of interest to discover.

One valuable aspect of the festival was the freedom it allowed to pick & mix from four different walks each day – some strenuous, others easy – so we could each plan our own preferred itinerary.

This was the festival’s 18th year so they’ve pretty well got the hang of it by now! Some walkers had apparently taken part every year since it started, which shows what a quality event it is. One important element is the various evening entertainments, this year ranging from a strenuous barn dance to a fascinating talk on the area’s wild birds by a professional ornithologist from the National Trust, no less. The Hog Roast on the Sunday was particularly fine – especially as our table won the quiz!

Altogether an outstanding experience which we would recommend to anyone wanting to discover the Shropshire hills in good company. Just bookmark the Bishop’s Castle Walking Festival website and watch for details of the 2018 event!

Bishop’s Castle 2017 in pictures