Eire…… Dublin, Cork, Kinsale, Old Head wild camp

After only one wild camp on Angelsey we headed for Holyhead and the ferry crossing to Dublin…..it would be my second ever visit to Eire and long overdue. In 1986 I had been part of a student exchange between Wolverhampton Polytechnic and Limerick School of Art and Design…..31 years ago…where did all that time go….It was the highlight of my degree course, and as an artist it is where everything began as a painter. Something clicked some sense….nothing I could ever put into words. The short time I spent at Limerick and on the field trip to Dun An Oir on the Dingle peninsula set me on a course to becoming a landscape and seascape painter. Finally having wanted to return to this place for many years we were on our way to renew friendships and to do some proper exploring……

The Ferry crossing was rough and fun…at least for me…..We stayed a few days in Dublin staying with my fab friend Tanya who I met 31 years ago on that student exchange to Limerick and visiting some art….

 

This image is of Tanya who did this fantastic art work of a bronze millennium sundial, Aaron  and me…..

We had such a great time with Tanya and seeing her fabulous artwork was so inspiring and this piece is my favorite

A few days, bottles of wine, late nights, laughter, memories and a wee bit of gardening as a thank you to Tanya for letting us stay we got the coach from Dublin to Cork….bikes and all…but chatting with Tanya and getting lost on the way to the coach pick up point…… plus delays on route left us arriving in Cork after dark and with no where to stay…..so anyway we decided to head to the coast and hopefully find a field to wild camp in, on the way though a car pulled over and this was so typical of the kind and hospitality of the people of Ireland throughout our journey. The driver asked where we were heading and offered to help us find somewhere….made some phone calls and then offered to drive us to a B&B place several miles away and up a long long climb and so panniers off……bikes semi dismantled and in the back of the car Aaron in the front with me squashed in too off we went. The chap was so helpful a painting will shortly be on it’s way to him in Cork.

The adventure continued as once we were settled in the B&B, and this was now about 10.30 pm I realised that after careful and repeatedly recounting the number of panniers I realised I had left a pannier by the roadside….a pannier that contained my very expensive 2 person Terra Nova Quasar tent…..so back out on the bikes and low and behold we find it. I cannot begin to say what a relief that was as the loss of that tent would have been a complete disaster……and then back we went for some much needed Guinness…..

Leaving Kinsale after the best fish and chips I have ever eaten

We where cycling the beginning of the Wild Atlantic way…..and it was stunningly beautiful and every person we met was so friendly. One lass who I wish I had taken her contact details suggested a part of this route called Sandy Cove……one of the best bike rides ever…..

And this was our first wild camp

Llanberis and Angelsey

On our way to Llanberis……

This was our campsite at Nant Peris, Llanberis…..

This was a terrific campsite – just down to Earth, no fuss, no  frills, inexpensive and so we stayed here for  several nights waiting for the weather to ease and allow us a good day to do some mountaineering. We were both looking forward to scrambling along the Crib Goch ridge…..if the rain stopped and the clouds cleared…..We also desperately needed to purchase new waterproof jackets and we had spotted a camping outlet shop, it became even more necessary as my well worn Keens finally started to fall apart…..

We also found a fab cafe….. Pete’s Eats you can check out their web site here

It’s a great place with great food and lot’s of it – just what you need for long days in the saddle.

When the clouds and rain lifted for the day we had a great day walking up Yr Wyddfa 3,560 ft, Carnedd Ugain sometimes referrred to as Crib-y-Ddysgl 3,494 ft and Grib Goch 3,028 ft….. a long day and our legs felt it. But the views were absolutely stunning……Crib Goch as always was a magnificent scramble

View from Carnedd Ugain

Tent life……

Sheep on Carnedd Ugain

Moody sunset

The following images were taken by me on the Crib Goch ridge…The best part of the scramble….exposed on both sides this is a serious undertaking even in good weather you need a head for heights and a good sense of balance. Far less crowded than Yr Wyddfa we still had to pass 6 or so people heading in the other direction….Just after these shots the weather started to charge….wind started to rise and clouds started to come in – blowing over the ridge faintly bluring the landscape around…..I was relieved that the weather held for Aaron and I, looking back Carnedd Ugain and Yr Wyddfa with it’s over crowded summit had all but disappeared in cloud…..

Looking towards Crib Goch from Carnedd Ugain…..

We took two days to cycle from Llanberis to Angelsey…..wild camping in the sand dunes somewhere on the south coast of Anglesey…..after Wales cycling across Angelsey was a a bit of a change….mostly flat and without the grand scale of North Wales…..But we did take a slight detour to find this…….

Bryn Celli Ddu

           

An amazing place…..

 

 

Bala to Riverside to Beddgelert

Bala to Riverside campsite

Aaron: We left Bala on the 5th of August. As we set off, it was warm and sunny: perfect for cycling. toward the end of the day… not so much, with wind and rain. However, we did see the sea for the first time since entering wales (Severn Estuary) and the last time before that was leaving Cornwall, which felt weird. Below are images of the ride (I’d Include an image of the camp if we had one):

Bala Lake

                                 It’s not a great image… looked better in person

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Riverside Campsite to Beddgelert

Throughout the following days we had torrential rain, and terrific views through the mountains and forests on the ride to Beddgelert……reminding me constantly of the first cycle tours I did as a young teenager…..cycling through Cheshire, Yorkshire and Cumbria…..in the pouring rain. Good memories. Once we got to Beddgelert we decided to camp at a proper campsite to wash our clothes, ourselves, and dry everything out…..The rivers here were terrific, just sitting drawing and listning to the sounds of water and the forest…..

                                                             River near to the tent

River at bottom of Campsite

 

                         View from the inside of the tent

We had also run out of gas for our trangia stove and no…we could not find the right gas bottles to fit our trangia gas burner…..but the campsite had microwave meals for £1 in the shop and a microwave cooker for customer use, which solved our problem. They also had a log cabin with a TV…..and so we had our first TV dinner sitting in comfy chairs watching spiderman 2 on the TV……..an enjoyable if slightly odd experience.

 

Pistyll Rhaeadr falls – 4th Aug

On this ride we took a break from carrying the panniers – it’s a good way – setting up camp and then take a couple of days to explore and this day was another fab day…it seemed that every day we thought that’s it that’s the best ride ever and each cycling day surpassed the previous days ride. There and back put another 40.1 miles and a further 4402 feet of ascent…..to our journey

So this day took in a long gradual climb into  Denbighshire this in in itself was fab as my 5x great grandfather John Hankey was born in Marchweil Denbighshire in 1729. Another fab descent and a little further brought us to one of the 7 wonders of Wales….as they have come to be known. This particular wonder being Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfalls. Some of you may remember the Timotei shampoo adverts  in the 1970’s or early 1980’s……can’t quite remember. So this is where they filmed one of their adverts. Well anyway here are some images……

The climb…..

The weather was great, and I think that this was a first really warm and rain free day, though it did rain during the night, since the Somerset levels. A fairly busy road though, but as we were not carrying all our stuff we were flying along hardly noticing the climb, just stopping once in a while for some chocolate and the views. We new about the waterfall but had never seen it so we did take a pannier bag each with waterproofs, camera and sketchbooks, pens, pencils and watercolours etc.

 

Enjoying the sun…….

 

The descent…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…..was great fun… a long long descent, and then another 4 miles brought us to Pistyll Rhaeadr falls…..

Aaron: This place was absolutely stunning. It is easily my second favorite place that we visited along the tour. The sheer scale of it was immense. Right is a Panorama I took and constructed, and below are attempts to show the scale of the falls.

 

  Spoiler for next blog post

Celyn Brithion to Bala

At some point on a tour like this there is always the possibility of, shall we say…. being overcharged for the privilege of camping on a patch of grass…..I am sure it happens lots…..but fortunately only once to us on this trip…..and if we had known and had the energy to cycle just a couple of miles further it would not have happened at all.  Ah well it was only for one night…..but being charged £15 each was just ridiculous….tiredness and the threat of more rain overcame our best judgement on that occasion  and many other inexpensive campsites and wild camps have more than made up for that one poor decision on my part…..

Celyn Brithion on the other hand was a lovely place with many, many friendly chickens…. fantastic sky’s and seriously torrential rain through the night…

Celyn Brithion campsite

After Celyn Brithion and leaving a watercolour for the owners for such a friendly stay…..we had our first really serious climb….

but the bikes and our legs were prepared for it and the climb was exhilarating…. and here we paused to take in the view have a drink and just enjoy the experience. People in cars either waved encouragement, looked surprised or incredulous or even with sympathy……I always wave back and smile…..for me this is the fun part. For whatever reason, I know not why   ,….I love climbing mountains in the rain……

Aaron: (note) We paused many times on the way up, sometimes for a rest, and sometimes because the view demanded it! Below are the best my camera took (end note).

Some trees growing on a cliff

And always the reward is the fantastic views, splendid and unexpected waterfalls or rainbows, or the occasional Red Kite flying overhead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aaron: (note) Speaking of kites… (end note)

You can't see the Kite in this one but I like it anyway

 

Another pause to take in this spectacular place

Of course the other reward is cycling down the other side and today it was absolutely a fantastic descent….Quiet road and no cars at all…..

         

         

         

This was the most spectacular ride of the tour so far and to top it all we ended the ride by entering Snowdonia national park…..

Aaron: Chickens!

26th July…..on our way to Gigrin farm

Another terrific day cycling…..and as a bonus we came across and rode through some historical country. In all we only cycled 13.6 miles with 571 meters of climbing. Mostly on cycle tracks and minor roads so traffic practically non existent……

Here we rode over a bridge built by James Watt…..

we did not realize at the time but there somewhere in the wall is a plaque commemorating this but we did not see it…..

Aaron – But we did manage to see the Gibson Watt mansion (Lower right)

                                                                       The bikes on a bridge over the River Wye

At this point we were only 4 miles from the Red Kite feeding center at Gigrin farm….. Soon after this we had another stop right by the river where Aaron very excitedly spotted 3 Kingfishers flying low along the river Wye

Aaron – To clarify, 3 separate kingfishers rather than a group of three. Unfortunately neither of us managed to get images of the kingfishers. But no image I have seen does the colour of their feathers.

And this was our first sighting of Red Kites….at first we both thought they were Buzzards but the call was wrong…..as was the tail. It was really quite a special moment……seeing for the first time in my life Kingfishers and Red Kites…Quite wonderful.

And then this……arriving at just the right time to see the Red Kites being fed…….This was towards the end of the feeding……at about 4pm…..but we cold not believe how many Red Kites were in the air…..

Aaron – We arrived just after the feeder had left, but most of the kites were still in the air, circling for the remaining food.

 

Aaron and I did manage to capture some extraordinary images like this one…….We spent 3 nights here and got to see the feeding on two occasions…..

Aaron – I like this image because it illustrates the skill that such birds have in flight. It was amazing to see the Kites crowding the air but never crashing.

Wild camp 24th July and Disserth 25th

Heading into Mid Wales

Artist – Well this day the weather was wonderful, a slight breeze but really hot. In the end we decided on a short ish ride today, 19.5 miles and 644 meters. Just before Lower Chapel we spotted a likely spot to stop for the night…..a gem of a place…at the corner of a field, the field suddenly dipped down to this secluded dell-like place, lot’s of long grass and shade from the sun and right next to a small river…..

Though there were plenty of insects, but here is the camp……

 

Wild Camp 24.6.17

Aaron – The night was full of the sounds of the river and many owls, and we were fortunate not to have any rain, so we woke to dry outer flysheets. As the camp was in a dell there was no wind to speak of, so the insides of the fly-sheets took a while to dry (I had to take mine out of the dell and into the sun to dry, and get away from the insects). Once everything was dry and packed we headed for Disserth campsite.

 

1 of 7 red kites seen on the way to Disserth Campsite

 

Aaron learns to skim stones

18.3 miles and 548 meters of climbing brought us the Disserth Campsite. Shortly after we left, there were 7 red kites in the sky, which we stopped to photograph (we took too many to show here, so I chose the best). The weather was similar to the day before, with some ominous clouds towards the end of day. The campsite was bordered by a river where dad skimmed stones and I threw stones into the water trying to skim them……

Dad – Sorry had to cut in here……not quite true as Aaron Learned almost straight away….

One other thing…the septic tank……a veritable mound of potential unspeakableness looked almost as though it were about to explode…..smelt like it too….poohie

Wet……Wet…..Wet…. leaving Bristol. 20th-23rd July

This was our first really wet ride…..not heavy rain, just that fine mist that is determined and relentless…..I kind of like it…..saying our goodbye’s to Carol and Steve we headed to Avonmouth, where we stopped off to get a few extra supplies for tea  and crossed into Wales over the first Severn bridge crossing…by this time, the drizzle had turned serious and the crossing fun though it was….was windy and wet, for a bit of company we had met a family from Scotland also cycle touring also having a lot of fun. I have some video of the crossing that I’ll share at a later time when I get a bit more of a chance to continue making a film.

We stopped by Fedw forest and made a wild camp in torrential rain…..I hasten to add that all our stuff remained dry in our panniers but we were soaked.

This turned out to be a very strange camp…..once sorted out, with both of us changed into dry clothes and food on the go….. it seemed a great place…Until both in our tents there came these strange sounds from the copse of trees we camped by……sort of creaking  and the snapping of twigs….it did not sound like people though and at first I thought it was a badger, but I was not sure…..asking myself….Badgers….do they eat tree’s….. I think not and with that thought there was a really strange, and extremely loud retort which could only be a tree collapsing. But there was nothing to see and over the next hour or so similar retorts and branches breaking….It was spooky and it was getting dark. On walking around I finally caught sight of the tree as another large branch broke off…..Mystery solved…..But we were both glad it had happened during twilight, and not in the middle of the night….that would have been just too spooky…..We have never witnessed a collapsing tree before…..very odd….

The next day came with showers and sunshine and by mid day we were dry and packed and on our way.

In some strange way we had made a tentative plan to meet up with a good friend of mine and Julia’s back when we were studying for our M.A. in fine art at Cardiff and somehow with bad signal and a dodgy mobile…….I had dropped it into my cup of tea a couple of days before we left St Just…we met up at a great place called Crickhowell just 26.8 miles down the road, the next day, and were treated to a glorious sunset……good conversation and some well earned beer…..

someone fly fishing

Reflections

Sunset

It was lovely to meet up with Donna again, and to meet her husband Gareth….reminiscing about that shared house and the weekend long drunken games of Risk, learning to snowboard……fun times and good memories. So we were now in Wales and heading North……

In my mind I had a difficult choice when planning this part of the tour…..I have never been cycle touring in Wales and I was completely torn between the route I had planned which would take us North along the coast….or to head diagonally North through the heart of Mid Wales……Now a few glorious days later we are on the edge of Snowdonia national park and I am so glad I changed the route at the last minute. Cycling through mid Wales has been one of the best cycle touring journeys of my life…..Steve and Carol back in Bristol had mentioned the Red Kite Feeding center at Rhayader…..I have always wanted to see Red Kites, and so that was it……. we were on our way to see some Red Kites…….

 

15th July Ashclyst forest to Staple Hill Copse and on to Bristol

After Ashclyst all our devices were pretty much out of charge…..I had tried to source a compatible portable power bank in Penzance and had managed to find a likely looking doodad at Argos but…… it was out of stock. there were however two at Cribbs causeway in Bristol so I decided to reserve both thinking that as we would be staying in Bristol for a couple of days with our good friends Carol and Steve it would be no problem to pick them up……with that plan in mind we did manage to charge our gps along the way at Hemyock and Drayton so that we could log our ride North…….And the point of all this is that for this stage we have no photo’s…..

I do have some more sketchbook work to share though……

Sunset and dark sea

Sometimes the watercolours can be quick and sometimes they may e something I work on for several days, but not constantly……it’s really about allowing the paint to dry properly before continuing with the piece. and as we cycle North after  makin each camp the sketchboos come out and the work continues reflecting on experiences days or even weeks ago. In this way the work maybe informed by the memory of the experience……

Bedminster is a great place and now seems to be something of a street art capital with a festival of street art that happens every year, By the time we got to Bristol we were just lucky enough to view most of last years work before preparations for this years street art begin…..So here are some of my favorite examples……

Well it was great fun wandering around Bedminster again, spending some time with Carol and Steve….as usual great food and terrific conversation. In the end we stayed for three nights….had a good wander around the docks……and shared some fab memories with Aaron.

We lived for 5 years in Bristol and I remember cycling past the Mathew as it was being built on my way to teaching on Foundation at Weston Super Mare……so of course we had to have a wander around the Mathew as well….and there was another tall ship docked too……never found out where that came from or where it was off too next…..

The Mathew

Another Tall ship docked.

On the way to Bristol I could tell I was starting to have some problems with my break pads and of course taking all the minor roads and off road trails and tracks we had found meant no bike shops, by the time we got to Bristol I could hear metal grinding……BIG OOOOOOPS !!!!!!

I was just hoping that there was no damage to the disks…..and having changed the pads to softer organic pads they are working perfect…..But I did take an image of the worn pads…..

And finally for today here are two images of watercolours done along the way….

15th July Marazion to Ashclyst

We had no real rush to leave Marazion, our train left Penzance at 13:07 so we slowly packed up and did some last minute wandering around Penzance to pick up a few odds’ n ends, Caught the train to Exeter and headed off for a fairly flat ride, it was a relief to leave the busy roads of Exeter behind and pick up the minor road towards Ashclyst Forest……from now on it would be minor roads and off road trails all the way to Bristol…..in all about 20% off road and maybe 1% A roads…..and the rest minor roads…..

Map of first ride today…..

And this is a map of or second ride today….

10.3 miles. 747 ft (227.686 meters)

So this is where we ended up…..making camp

Wild Camp 2

And for lunch pasta and pesto……yum

This was a perfect place to camp, way out in the sticks miles from anywhere, and the scent of the forest was wonderful….absolutely quiet….though later in the night we were both woken to the sounds of Badgers, foxes and several owls…..

And most important is that whatever we brought with us we took away with us…….This is absolutely the rule and it is the essence of wild camping. When we leave the camp……it is as if we had never been there……to walk the Earth lightly…..

Next day after packing we continued our journey North…….

Once camp was set up and we were fed we talked about the day and thought about tomorrow’s route, how far we might travel, between us we have a kindle with our favorite books to read and I had plenty of sketchbook work to think about…..

Marazion

Sketchbook

Sketchbook

Crescent Moon after sunset