Pop-up footbridge

Access to the 2019 eisteddfod at Llanrwst in Conwy was made much easier by a magnificent footbridge which miraculously appeared over the A470 road alongside the site.

1 footbridge

The bridge over the A470

I was there for a walk organised by Ramblers Cymru.  As we set off from the maes and over the bridge we pondered how the money could be found for such a fine structure when it could not be found for much simpler bridges on public paths.  I hope that after the event it will be re-erected somewhere really useful, to enable us to cross a busy road.

This was the fourth eisteddfod walk staged by Ramblers Cymru.  The walk is a tradition which started in 1996 when it was led by the Countryside Council for Wales (but inspired by the Ramblers) and then taken on, with apparently less enthusiasm, by CCW’s successor Natural Resources Wales (NRW), until it practically fizzled out and the Ramblers rescued it.  It provides a great opportunity to meet and chat to people from other organisations in Wales.  I find it a valuable chance to catch up with news from Wales.

4 group

A brief chat on the walk

This year we were joined by Tim Jones, NRW’s executive director operations for north and mid Wales, friends from the British Mountaineering Council, and members of the Welsh Council Executive Committee and North Wales Area of the Ramblers.  I represented the Open Spaces Society.  We were sad to learn that Tim is shortly to leave NRW after 27 years with CCW and NRW.  We shall miss him; he has been a sympathetic advocate for public access and commons (as well as a regular attender of the eisteddfod walks).

The Ramblers Cymru director, Angela Charlton welcomed us and took the opportunity to plug the new Cambrian Way guide which had been published by Cicerone the previous day at an event in Cardiff.

7 Rebecca and Angela

Angela Charlton (right) plugs the new book, with Rebecca Brough, Ramblers Cymru policy and advocacy manager

Led by Denis McAteer we set off—over the megabridge.

2 footbridge

Over the bridge

In fact we had to recross the A470 further south to gain access to the wood, Coed Hafod.  We climbed to a point from which (if there had been no mist) we could have seen into the heart of Snowdonia.  As it was, we only saw the base of Moel Siabod and the Carneddau, but it was atmospheric.

3 view to Snowdonia

Moel Siabod on the left

We wound our way back down the hillside

5 walk

Heading down

and through the woods to Zip Wire Fforest for an excellent lunch before returning to the maes.

6 eisteddfod

The entrance to the eisteddfod

Posted in Access, Countryside Council for Wales, Natural Resources Wales, Open Spaces Society, Ramblers, walking | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

April ouzels

Every year I aim to do an early-morning walk up Tavy Cleave on western Dartmoor in search of ring ouzels.  This year I went on 28 April, but I have delayed writing about this until well after the breeding season so as not to endanger any which nested there.

I set off at about 6am from Lane Head.  I followed the path alongside the leat and soon after I rounded the bend into the cleave I could hear one calling, with its clear toots (three, sometimes four).

1 rounding the corner

Rounding the bend into Tavy Cleave

It flew across from the south and sat on a mossy rock.

2 ouzel on rock

Ouzel on a mossy rock

I also saw a cuckoo and whinchats in the places where I often see them.

Further up the valley, I came to the waterfall where Sylvia Sayer’s father, Richard Munday, proposed to her mother, Olive Burnard, in 1891.

2a waterfall

The romantic waterfall

Just above I could hear another ouzel calling

3 ouzel site

Ouzel calling-point

and then I saw him on the horizon, perched on the rocks.  You can listen here.

4 ouzel

Ouzel perched on the rock


On my way back down I saw the first ouzel calling from the top of a tree close to where he was before.  You can listen here.

5 ouzel in top of tree

The ouzel at the top of the tree in the foreground

It was a rewarding walk, and good to know that they were so active in the cleave.  Later reports from the RSPB indicate that two pairs nested in there this year.


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The keeper of the colliery

The Ramblers’ trustees took some time out during our July weekend in Cardiff to visit the Llynfi valley north of Maesteg in Bridgend.  Neil Perry of the Ramblers’ Maesteg Group led the walk and other local members joined us, including Huw and Joanna Irranca-Davies.

Chris & Huw

Chris Hodgson, chair of Ramblers Cymru,(left) and Huw Irranca-Davies (right) by the statue of the Keeper of the Colliery

Huw is the Welsh Assembly Member (Labour) for Ogmore, having previously been MP for the constituency.  He resigned as an MP in 2016 to stand as an AM in the Welsh election.

He is a good friend of Ramblers: as minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from October 2008 to May 2010 he did much for us, in particular ensuring that the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 made provision for the England Coast Path, and securing the confirmation of the South Downs National Park.  After Labour lost the election in 2010 Huw became shadow environment minister.  Now as an AM he takes every opportunity to speak for Ramblers in the Senedd, just as he did in Westminster.

Huw and the other members of the Maesteg Group were proud to show us their patch.  It is the site of the former Coegnant colliery and Maesteg washery, transformed into woodland and meadows.  The operations here ended in 1981 and many of the workers were transferred to St John’s colliery, which closed in 1985.

12 Sign

Maesteg means ‘fair field’  It is in a deep valley.  The surrounding hills, which include commons and other access land, rise up to provide great opportunities for recreation.

11 Mynydd Bach

Mynydd Bach at over 420 metres rises above Maesteg

There are firm tracks through the Llyfni valley suitable for all users with great views.

14 Maesteg

Looking down on Maesteg

We met Chris Evans, chair of the Llynfi Woodland Group, who told us of how the group works with the Ramblers and others to improve access for all, benefiting the health and well-being of the local population and increasing people’s knowledge and appreciation of nature.


Chris Evans (in the yellow jacket)


We climbed to the statue of the Keeper of the Colliery, carved by Chris Wood from Newport.  With his beautifully incised face (Chris Evans would not tell us on whom he was modelled), the keeper watches over the valley from his commanding position.

13 Keeper of the colliery

The keeper of the colliery by Chris Wood

Huw has written about our visit on his website.

Only days after our visit I learned that the Llynfi Woodland Group had won the Keep Wales Tidy Green Flag Community Award.  Congratulations!

Huw's photo

All of us by the keeper

Posted in Access, commons, green spaces, Natural Resources Wales, Ramblers, Wales, walking | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Gate too twee

The draft minutes of Turville Parish Council, in the Buckinghamshire Chilterns, for 10 July 2019 record the following from the public question-and-answer session.

Question about a gate that has been put across the footpath leading up to the windmill
in Turville.  The resident does not like the design of it and feels it is not in keeping with
the area, she also finds it difficult to open and close.  Councillor Sants reported his fencing contractor had put up the gate when doing the rest of the work on Cobstones but
ultimately the gate belongs to the Wormsley Estate and as such any issues should be
addressed to them as owners.

Turville gates 1

The view south to the village

Good for the resident, I say.  The gate is more suitable for an urban park than the rural Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Turville gates 2

The view north to Cobstone Hill in Ibstone parish

The previous wooden structure needed renewing or just removing (as the footpath to the windmill is fenced in with no risk of stock escaping).  The refined ironwork is out of place, and impractical with its silly, fiddly catch which requires some ingenuity, and two free hands, to operate.  None of this complies with British Standard 5709 for gaps, gates and stiles—no structure is necessary here and the latch is all wrong.

fiddly catch

Fiddly catch

I hope that the Wormsley Estate (owned by the Getty family) can be persuaded to put this right, but I am not too hopeful.  It refused to pay for a gate in a fence across the Cobstone Hill access land.  I provided it through the Chiltern Society donate-a-gate scheme, complete with sign Libertas spatiandi: libertas cogitandi (Freedom to roam: freedom to think).


Gate on Cobstone Hill

I shall start by asking Buckinghamshire County Council, the highway authority, whether it has ever given consent under section 147 of the Highways Act 1980 for the structure here; if so it should revoke that consent on the grounds that the gate is not needed for agricultural use.  If consent was not given, and the gate is not mentioned on the definitive statement, it could be an obstruction which should of course be removed.

Postscript: I have reported the problem here and will track it (reference 190818986).

Posted in Access, AONB, Chilterns, Public paths, walking | Leave a comment

Around Cardiff Bay

In mid-July the Ramblers’ board of trustees had an away-weekend in Cardiff.  We stayed close to Cardiff Bay and I managed, in a day and a half, to squeeze in four walks there.  Two were before breakfast (with Chris Hodgson, Ramblers’ trustee and chair of Ramblers Cymru who is always game for a walk), and the other two were to Penarth and back, for supper.

As I described last year, Cardiff Bay is on the Wales Coast Path, with plenty of artistic interest.

6 coast path

Wales Coast Path waymark

There is the statue of Ivor Novello by Peter Nicholas in Roald Dahl Plass,

1 Ivor Novello

Ivor Novello

the Merchant Seafarers’ war memorial by Brian Fell near the Senedd

2 Merchant Seafarers' war memorial

Merchant Seafarers’ war memorial

and People Like Us, by John Clinch, celebrating the people who lived and worked in Tiger Bay.

9 People like us

People Like Us

There are also sculptures on nearby buildings, such as Equity, by J A Stevenson, on the old National Westminster bank on Portland House, West Bute Street.

10 Equity


There is a useful list of many of the artworks here.

On the way across the barrage to and from Penarth there are splendid views over the Bristol Channel, to Brean Down, Steep Holm and Flat Holm.

4 view across Severn estuary

Brean Down, Flat Holm and Steep Holm, across the Bristol Channel

We passed the new swift tower, from which emanated some screaming from the inhabitants (or was it a recording?), and I hope this will help to increase Cardiff’s swift population.

3 swift tower

Swift tower

My greatest joy was, once again, to see so many sand martins. They were swooping among the rocks on the barrage, and they seemed to be nesting in holes in the concrete walls of Mermaid Quay at Tiger Bay.

5 sand martin hole

Sand martins seem to be nesting in the hole just about the greenery

On our Sunday morning walk Chris and I walked past Mermaid Quay and on round the bay to the wetland reserve,

6 nature reserve

Wetland reserve

with a grassy patch where we had probably missed the bee orchids for this year.

7 bee orchid sign

We came to the sculpture of Cader Idris by William Pye (which used to stand outside Cardiff station).

Cader Idris wikipedia

Cader Idris by William Pye (credit: Wikipedia)

The jetty, with a view west across the bay, was our (reluctant) turning-round point.

8 view to Penarth

View from the jetty to Penarth

There’s plenty more to see.  I’ll be back.



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Turtle dove at last

In May I bemoaned the non-appearance of any turtle doves at Otmoor RSPB reserve in Oxfordshire.

Three months later I returned with my friends Marika Kovacs and Arthur Lee.  I realised that an August afternoon is not a good time for seeing birds, but it was lovely to walk around and there were plenty of lapwings, some reed and sedge warblers singing, and a family of bullfinches in the hedgerow.  We passed the notices about the turtle doves and a roped-off area where seed has been thrown down for them, but I knew there had been few sightings this year.



Just before we turned back to the car park I saw a dove on the telegraph wires, but it was against the light and I suspected it was a collared dove.  It flew off.  A minute or two later we heard the unmistakable call of the turtle dove.  Full of hope we retraced our steps to the oak tree, where I have seen them in the past.


The turtle dove was in the tree on the left.

There it was, its attractive brown feathers showing clearly.  I am sorry that the photo below does not do it justice.

TD circled

Turtle dove circled

So I have been able to give a tick to turtle dove on my list again this year.  On an unlikely August afternoon, Otmoor came up trumps again.

Posted in Birds, walking | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Celebrating Jerry’s life

The saddest thing about the event on 20 July to celebrate Jerry Pearlman‘s life was that he was not with us.  He would have loved it.  Seventy people from across England and Wales, including Jerry’s family, gathered at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s offices in Bainbridge, in the heart of the national park, to remember Jerry and the many facets of his life.



David Butterworth, chief executive of the national park authority of which Jerry was a member for 18 years, conducted the informal proceedings and spoke of Jerry as his mentor.

1 At NP office

The gathering

He recalled many amusing occasions with Jerry, who could be relied upon to speak fearlessly in defence of the national park.

Jerry was honorary solicitor for the Ramblers for more than 30 years.  He practised as a lawyer in Leeds for 60 years, and while his firm was involved in routine matters, Jerry took on cases in defence of public paths, common land and access to open country.

2 Paddy


Paddy Tipping (Ramblers’ vice-president and former Nottinghamshire MP who led the access campaign in parliament) told us how Jerry drafted the bill which became the Countryside and Rights of Way Act.

He said that Jerry would be leading us now on the Agriculture and Environment Bills, and would recognise the importance of ensuring that agricultural subsidies won public access.


Keith Wadd (Ramblers vice-president, and vice-chair of its West Riding Area), commented that Jerry always said that the law was a tool designed for Ramblers and we should use it to get paths open.

Colin Speakman told us of plans to create a Jerry Pearlman Way, between Jerry’s home in Alwoodley in Leeds and Harewood House, one of his favourite walks.

Janet Davis (for 30 years a rights-of-way policy officer at the Ramblers), recalled the many cases in which Jerry had been involved, ‘since time immemorial’, and the difference he had made for path workers.

I talked about my work with Jerry over 37 years, and mentioned Jerry’s exposure of the iniquity of landowners  who claim inheritance tax exemption in return for giving public access but then fail to do so, or keep it secret.

3 Debbie


Debbie Hougie (Jerry’s younger daughter) rounded off, telling us how their family holidays marked the various cases in which Jerry was involved, often taking in a visit to a blocked path which was a current issue.

She spoke of Jerry’s love of the Yorkshire Dales, the dilapidated cottage in Stalling Busk which he bought in 1965 and his battles for his beloved national park.

After an excellent lunch provided by Humble Pie, we drove to the car park on the north-east side of Semer Water in Raydale, close to Bainbridge.

5 Kate and Janet Davis

With Janet Davis at Semer Water

4 Semer water

Semer Water









Many of us then did an anti-clockwise walk around the lake, a route which Jerry knew intimately.  As Debbie said, he would have been pointing out all the things we didn’t notice, explaining all the landscape features and expounding geomorphological theories on the placement of the stones.

6 leaving Semer water

Setting off

Our route took us along the lane to Marsett, where we crossed the common and followed Marsett Beck before joining Busk Lane for a steep climb to Stalling Busk.

7 Marsett

Marsett common

When we reached Stalling Busk, two-thirds of the way round, we stopped at the Raydale Preserves tasting room for tea and chat.

8 tasting room

At the tasting room

I bought a jar of Raydale chutney with a drawing of Semer Water on the lid.

10 raydale preserve

Raydale chutney

We passed Bell Cottage where the Pearlmans live.  It boasts a blue plaque, organised by Jerry, to celebrate the Ramblers’ access committee’s weekend in August 1996.  It met in the old school room, in glorious surroundings, to discuss access legislation  (although when we got home, we discovered it had been rather too much blue-sky thinking).


The plaque

And so we headed back down the slope to the lake, past the ruin of the old Stalling Busk chapel.

9 old chapel

Chapel ruins

It was a good day, and lovely to be together with Jerry’s family and friends, remembering a unique man in his own landscape which he fought to save.

Posted in Access, Memories, National parks, Open country, People, Ramblers, walking, wild country, Yorkshire Dales | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment