Oswestry area

When: 28 – 30 November 2008

Present: Keyna (organiser), Shaun, Alan, Claire, Dave W, Paula, Sarah, Bruce, Richard N, Adriana, Phil, Tracy, Anthony, Tarinee, Rhoda, Bob, Belinda, Will

Location: The Engine House, Nantmawr Quarry, Shropshire/Wales border

This was a new destination for the Club, and considering the heavy fog which characterised Friday evening’s journey, we were thankful to be leaving the A5 at Oswestry rather than carrying on into the depths of North Wales. Most people found the bunkhouse with minimal problems, and settled in for a few drinks around the huge table, appreciative of the warmth of the pot-bellied stove and mildly confused by the stuffed squirrels on the wall tapestries.

Saturday dawned cold and crisp. After Keyna’s “team talk” and description of the route (“we’re going to pop up this peak, then pop over here, and pop up that peak…”), we were on our way before 9am, driving around to the village of Llandrillo to start the walk. The scenery on the drive was wonderful, as we dipped in and out of low cloud – then, as we set off into the hills, we swiftly got above the cloud that had sunk low into the valley and had the perfect day for winter hill walking: blue skies, crisp underfoot, and no wind. We stopped at a large stone circle for refreshments before the long uphill to the first peak: Cader Bronwen (770m). En route, the frost beneath our boots became snow, and we had a very cold lunch at the top.

Approaching Cader Bronwen.

The ice man cometh.

Silhouettes at the top of Cader Berwyn.

From there we walked along the ridge to Cader Berwyn (827m), which had fantastic views across to Tryfan, Snowdon, and the rest of the Snowdonia range, and then across to Moel Sych (827m). This route was partly boarded, which gave some respite to our legs after tramping through undergrowth. The way back down was slippery in places and as we got lower, boggy and interspersed with a few river crossings. Llandrillo was hidden by the clouds throughout, but we finally rediscovered it at dusk, having walked 18-19km.

Saturday evening was a gastronomic extravaganza. After Sarah made a couple of vats of mulled wine and Bruce served it up, the menu involved two kinds of soup with garlic bread, four types of pasta, chicken cacciatore, asparagus, and salad. We then took a breather before the choice of apple crumble, chocolate tart, or macerated oranges. Anthony ran the kitchen with impressive efficiency, serving courses on the hour and keeping our salads separate from our pasta, and the cooking was a great team effort from him, Claire, Belinda, Dave, Paula, Tarinee, Shaun, Rhoda, Tracy and Richard. Bob project-managed the washing up (which seemed to involve delegation to Alan who looked very fetching in a striped pinny), and Phil was in charge of feeding wood into the stove. Richard’s friend Liz, who lives in the area, joined us for the evening and contributed local cheese and Jenga, both of which were popular.

Teamwork at the river crossing.

Waiting for dinner.

The dining table.

Sunday was also cold and clear. The walkers, led by Richard, set off from the bunkhouse just after 9am to head northwards along the Offa’s Dyke path and then cross-country back to base for pasta leftovers.

Meanwhile the bikers, Keyna, Dave and Shaun, started by defrosting their car windows in -4 degrees for the short drive to Llangollen. Well done to Shaun for planning a great route: starting down the canal, which had loads of little boats with wood stoves going – why weren’t we somewhere warmer?! Then up up up a little mountain road for miles and miles. Switchback after switchback in bottom gear – at least Keyna was. The boys might have been doing sightly better. We had to stop and walk our bikes across ice a couple of times which was right across the road.

When the road broke out into an open mountain pass, we headed off down the Offa’s Dyke route. Puddles iced over, boardwalks with snow, loads and loads of thick frost over everything. A bit technical but no-one actually fell off. Down onto some specially prepared mountain bike trails then into the hills again. Across farmers’ fields, over gates, carrying the bikes a little through very muddy bits and finally back down to a lovely winding road that followed the river back into Llangollen. 46kms down and a very welcome shower and late lunch back at the bunkhouse before everyone headed for home.

Sarah Davies, Keyna Garner

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