The Forest of Dean.

Away Days



Away Days - Out of the Forest.

A Black Mountains Ramble - The Walk Proper.

By now we had settled down into a steady walk. The air was balmy and the sky a pleasant blue over all the sky. From our little bit of height we could clearly see Table Mountain ... and that was all. There were no other mountains visible - just a quite straight path up a fairly easy hillside. I called a pause whilst I shrugged out of my jumper and packed it in my day-sack along with my spare jumper, thick anorak, waterproof overtrousers, and stormproof overjacket (it pays to be prepared, I am told). On we strode. Skylarks lofted themselves up high and then sank melodiously to the grassy slopes. 'What a wonderful way to spend a Birthday,' I thought. Almost simultaneously with the thought, the wind picked up a shade from the left and puffy clouds arrived real tout de suite. So, back on went the Jumper.

After a while our path started to veer to the left a shade and then a little later on a bit more to the left. I became aware of a geological feature. The feature was what looked remarkably like a cliff-sort-of-thing and it was definitely in the way. I glanced nervously at Pavel ... "Contour Walking" I had stipulated. Surely this wouldn't count as a contour ? This looked definitely like actual 'hands on' stuff. I felt a bit like Frodo Baggins in 'The Hobbits' and wondered how I could let Pavel know that I couldn't actually climb vertical cliffs any more.

Before I could summon up the courage to let Pavel know of my fears we had met another path which swept in from our left and off to the right and had we turned away from 'the Cliff' and were on a flat plateau of tufted grass and heather. On the skyline there were a couple of Welsh ponies cropping the grass. The overcast grey sky had cleared and blue skies became the thing. I was thinking of taking off my jumper when Pavel said. "I think we'd better put on our rain gear." Looking about at the perfect weather I was perplexed. He pointed over my shoulder, towards 'the Cliff' and way, way in the distance there was this iddy biddy little grey thing.

Well, Pavel was the qualified Mountain Guide - I was just the baggage being taken up the hill. He was putting on his overtrousers. I took off my day-sack and took out my wet weather gear and put it on. Do you know, I had just started to pull the zip up when the first juicy drops of rain plopped with a loud splat on my jacket. "Wow !" I said, "Now that was real timing." Pavel smiled. Within minutes we were battling against a stiff breeze as we passed by the triangulation point on top of Table Mountain. A bit further on I saw a circle of stones with a hollow in the middle. "What's that ?" I asked 'Oh, that? That is a sheep fold - In Welsh its name is "pile of stones". '  Was Pavel making a Joke, I wondered.

We had one fairly stiff bit of climb up from Table Mountain onto the ridge that led to Sugar Loaf and then, once again it was along a fairly easy track, a bit stony in places and boggy in others ... I was 'Contour Walking' - I was very happy. We got to the top of Sugar Loaf, the sun was out again. We stopped and had a bite to eat and a cup of tea and continued our way. Eventually, Pavel called another small halt and asked me what I wanted to do. As far as I was concerned we could walk like this all day ... but, of course, we also had to walk back. So, we decided to go on for another hour and a half and then, irrespective of where we were, we would turn round and get back to the Hotel.

Once more the weather did a lightning change as the man upstairs with the bucket of water followed us round and sent a couple of sharp showers and then some drizzle onto us. But nothing could dampen my spirits - Pavel, too, seemed happy and we talked as the poem says, 'of many things.' I was so enthusiastically engrossed in our chat that on one particular bit, when we were quite close to the edge of the escarpment, I really should have been paying attention. I took a step forward, looking at Pavel as I spoke and trod on ... nothing. Down I went with a whoosh and did a complete forward roll and almost managed to get to get erect as part of the roll. But not quite and so, somewhat lugubriously, I clambered to my feet. That put an end to the chatter on my part and I started paying attention once more to what my feet were doing.

Strangely, following this small incident, my camera refused to take any more pictures. But shortly afterwards we turned round and made an incident-free journey back to the Hotel and a welcome bath, a cup of tea and a hot meal. A birthday to remember - I recommend it !

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