Monday, 27 May 2013

Just a Perfect Day

Occasionally, just occasionally everything comes together!

Anyone with any knowledge of North Wales will know that the weather there is unpredictable at best. Twice I've started up Snowdon in fine weather, just to find it all close in before reaching the top - I've yet to see any view from there. So far I've refused to take the train but it may yet come to that.

So a sudden decision to head for Wales for the Bank Holiday weekend paid dividends. Sunday dawned warm and sunny with a forecast of good weather for the rest of the day ( the less said about the forecast for the next day the better!)

So Cader Idris beckoned. I haven't climbed this since I was a child and my dislike of climbing mountains is legendary but it needed to be done.

A rare sight of Cader Idris where the summits are not hidden by cloud!

We were staying at Y Bala so it was a bit of a drive. 

The path starts with a steep and rocky ascent through remnants of ancient oak woodland. This was very steep and very hard going and after the first 600ft or so I was pretty sure I wasn't going to make it to the top.

This is the Nant Cadair falls. I'm afraid I was  in no condition to appreciate their beauty at the time...

Just starting to see Cwm Cau. Pretty rough going here.

I was distracted from the climb by the antics of a pair of ravens performing acrobatics overhead. Very welcome by this point.

Llyn Cau. The path was about to get very steep as we climbed the ridge but it did level out a bit after a short while. This was still very hard work but we were sheltered by the ridge from the wind - which was a mixed blessing as I was getting rather hot.

Close to the lower summit of Craig Cwm Amarch there are some stunning drops. I really wouldn't want to do this in bad weather. 

 The views though are quite stunning. Definitely worth the climb.

Unfortunately though this is not the high point. We had to descend into the col and then back up to  Penygadair the highest summit of Cadair Idris.

This was really hard work. The path such as it goes over a boulder field and it is a real scramble in places.

The Penygadair summit is 2930ft above sea level.

The views were worth it - just. It was pretty busy up there as it was such a lovely day. There was also a warden - must be a cold and lonely job on a quiet day. Today through he had plenty of visitors. There is also a bad weather shelter. Not that we needed it but I'm sure it very welcome if the weather turns bad.

At this point of course the only way is down and we continued along the horseshoe along the wide grassy ridge and down. Down was quite as taxing as going up. The path was extremely steep and rocky and I was more concerned with staying upright than taking pictures. Despite taking car though I did manage to sit down once- hard.

The weather couldn't have been more perfect for a climb up the mountain. This morning though Cader Idris looked very different - much more like its usual self!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Cadair Idris

But not until tomorrow. ..Still in Wales and I'm hopeless on a Smartphone!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

I'm a culture vulture!

Something a little different  - mainly because the picture's I took today need some work. I don't normally Photoshop the images on here but there are a couple that cry out for a bit of "tweaking" and I'm too tired. So these are a selection of pictures I took on Saturday at the famous Ashmolean museum in Oxford at the start of a few days away.

It's been years since I visited Oxford. It's a bit too far away really for a day trip and too close to want to spend the money on an overnight stay but this was a planned weekend away with some friends in the Cotswolds so we had some time to kill.

There is no real theme to these- these were just some images of items within the museum that I particularly liked.

A corner finial on a sarcophagus in the form of the falcon, representing of course Horus. All four corners had him sitting guard.

These were quite amazing.  Recovered from a tomb in Abydos, these models were intended to provide for the pharaoh in the afterlife.  All the detail of baking, brewing and even slaughtering is here.

More than anything I've seen before this really brought to life the day to day routine of the ordinary ancient Egyptian.

And more on the same theme.

Moving further back in time, some casts of skulls of early humanoids.

An iron age cauldron - love how it's been mended with an iron strip riveted to the side where the iron has worn thin with use.

And of similar age, a raven's head.

This was my first visit to the Ashmolean and I will certainly want to go back. I find a lot of the staging in modern museums frustrating. The emphasis seems to be on presentation rather than the objects themselves so sometimes there seems to be very little content to actually see. The Ashmolean seems to have struck a better balance.  Plenty of exhibits, all clearly numbered and referenced with the descriptions but the presentation still feels fresh and modern.

A great day out - and if you are looking for lunch I can highly recommend that dining room at the top of the museum. Not cheap but the food is out of this world.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Visiting the Giant's Grave at Melcombe Bingham

Dorset this week - selected mainly as the weather maps showed this as being the nearest location that was expected to have only light rain rather than a deluge. Yes the fabulous British summer weather returns...

More precisely  Melcombe Bingham and the Giants Grave. This was a walk of two parts - the first a quick run up the hill to find the pillow mound and "gravestone" and a second longer walk starting in the village but going in a completely different direction.

So first the Giant's Grave. This is the "headstone" at the end of a long low pillow mound ( medieval, not prehistoric  but constructed to provide a home for rabbits and a cheap source of meat). To be honest the mound is very hard to see so I am more or less taking this on trust.

Not the most exciting of menhirs but nevertheless it has a quaint story attached. The giant in question lost a stone throwing contest with a neighbouring giant and died of disappointment!

So back to the centre of the village and a steep climb up the other side of the valley. Spring has been very late this year so the path sides were thick with both spring and early summer flowers. Red and white campion. cowslips, primroses, vetch, violets and many more.

The wind and rain had set in by now and it was very exposed at the top of the ridge. The views would have been fabulous if we'd been able to see anything but low lying grey cloud. Oh well.

We could see the ditches and lines of the barrows at the top - this is taken looking along the top of one of them.

Coming down from the top it was a lot pleasanter being sheltered from the wind  and we carried on to find the Dorsetshire Gap

This was quite magical. A mysterious meeting of 5 trackways which cut deeply into the landscape. This was the hub of Dorset from medieval times to the 19CE.

All around is evidence of    of prehistoric and medieval settlement: hilltop cross dykes, barrows and an incomplete iron age fort.

I could have stayed here a lot longer than we did but it was time to take the upper track and start to head back to the car.

Stopping of course to admire the bluebells in the wood and to pick some of the wild garlic which was everywhere.

 What goes down though must come up and there was a short climb back up on to the exposed ridge to enjoy the wind and rain again... 

Still we were rewarded by the sight of a dew pond which made the climb almost bearable. I was glad though to drop down into the valley again and take the farm track along the bottom back to the car.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Beltaine at Butser

Firstly an apology for the picture quality. I decided to travel light with just the Sony Cybershot but it went flat on me and we had to resort to the mobile phone camera. That'll teach me!

Anyway  - not much to say so on with the pictures

Plenty of live music to get the visitors dancing. "Reckless" were playing when this was taken.

The venue is the reconstructed Iron Age village and this was a display of some of the plants and spices available then*

* I've been subsequently told that this is actually a display of Anglo Saxon medicines - sorry Pamela!

Some demonstrations of traditional crafts. This one was flint knapping. Flint is all over the hillside so he had plenty of raw material to work with. He was making some lovely spear and arrow heads.

A traditional besom broom maker - although he was using wire to wrap rather than the traditional willow withies. Lots of children were channelling their inner Harry Potter and he was doing a roaring trade in child sized brooms - he sold a fair few adult sized ones too and sold out of his supply of staffs very quickly.

 A view of some of the iron age buildings.
 An interior shot. Most of the buildings were in use and had a central wood fire. There was nowhere for the smoke to escape so the occupants must have been pretty well kippered. My eyes were streaming very quickly in some of the smaller huts.

As well as the live bands we had Mummers to entertain us...

Butser is known for its burning of the wicker man - so here he is. All that is missing is Edward Woodward or we could be on Summerisle.

A close up of his head - not quite sure what the parasol is all about though.

Wishes could be written on pieces of paper and tied to the wicker man to be carried up with the flames.

He was stuffed with straw to help him burn - you can see some of it here.

 As the light was beginning to fail the dancing really got started. Helped I'm sure by the real ale and cider tent!

And the moment we'd all waited for.  The raffle was drawn and the winner was allowed to light the sacrificial man. Here the blaze is just starting to get hold of his legs.

Now fully ablaze - you can almost see all those wishes being released!

I think a great evening was had by all.
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