After a month of not getting out on the hills and mountains, something had to be done! A trip down to friends in Mid-Wales opened up the chance of a hill day, and ambitious plans were made involving either the Elan Valley or Brecon Beacons – however, the weather forecast for the weekend came as something of a reality check, with winds of 40+ mph gusting past 60 mph. Back to the drawing board then!
Back in 2010 we had done a short walk in Radnorshire (Powys) starting with a visit to the waterfall ‘Water break its neck’ – what a great name! The fall is spectacular in all conditions, but on this visit (December 2015) there was far more water than last time we were here. Still, we had come out for a walk, so it was a case of onward and upward. We left the swift flowing water and made our way up through Warren Wood to get out onto open ground.
Leaving the shelter of the wood it instantly became windier. A sheep skull on a metal gate looked like a tribal totem and an omen telling us to go back, but who believes that sort of thing? So, press-on we did. The area is mainly high moorland, with impressive deep-cut valleys known locally as ‘dingles’, but there was a sharp contrast between the views we had five years ago compared with this trip.
The higher we got, the less shelter there was from the wind, and to make progress it was a case of hoods up and heads down! The ground doesn’t feel particularly high, but a look at the map showed us to be at almost 600 metres altitude, the arbitrary height in the UK that determines if a hill is a mountain or not. Although the views suggested otherwise, the wind made it a wild mountain-like experience, and it was almost a relief to start to head down again.
The route back alongside Davy Morgan’s Dingle was almost all downhill, but we were now walking straight into that wind. Border Collie ‘Mist’ had the advantage of four-wheel drive compared with the humans, but we pressed on, finally getting some shelter from the wood as we got lower. If I make it sound like an ordeal it wasn’t really, in fact it was quite invigorating and helped blow away the cobwebs from the extra bottle of wine from the previous night! However, some people were having an ordeal, and not one of their choosing.
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As we made our way back down, we were unaware of the drama being played out in Cumbria, after the passing of Storm Desmond. Carlisle, Appleby, Cockermouth and Glenridding were hit particularly hard by flooding, the third time in ten years in the case of Carlisle.
Volunteers from the RNLI, HM Coastguard and Mountain Rescue were deployed to assist. My own mountain rescue team NEWSAR (North East Wales Search And Rescue) sent ‘Swift-Water’ trained specialists to help alongside members of OVMRO (Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Organisation), our neighbouring team in North Wales. Also in action were rescue teams from the Lake District and Peak District, all working together to help out.
For the people of Carlisle it was a case of “Here we go again!”
Text and images © Paul Shorrock with the exception of the Carlisle images