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Keep The Red Flag Flying – Lake District Trip

It was with heavy hearts that we made lunches and prepared ourselves for our 1st days walking in the Lakes. We had arrived full of optimism, full of the hope that we could at least say goodbye to this coalition, even if it meant replacing it with another. We went to bed with Labour 3-0 up and at that stage it was a formality. Imagine our surprise when we woke up the score being 248-210 to the blues; this was not in the script. It was only going to get worse as the day progressed and at this rate we would need a plan.

First up though was a small matter of a walk to Borrowdale Hostel, approx. 10 miles away. Having opted to walk to the foot of Catbells we were soon envious of those who had chosen to take the Keswick Launch; the view across the lake was stunning. This would be the theme of this weekend, gorgeous views wherever we looked, regardless of the weather. We did have Paul, our trusted weather god, with us and this weekend would be a real test for him; we were hoping he could hold his seat long enough to keep us dry. After a small scramble up Catbells we were high up enough for a phone signal and news began to filter through, mostly bad & getting worse. The one shining light was that whilst all around us were losing theirs, we had at least managed to keep our leaders….

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At this point the group separated into two and as our group reached our lunch spot we realised that we could see the Promised Land of Scotland from the top of High Spy and it looked just as yellow as the polls had predicted. This was where we started to formulate the plan….

The downhill to the hostel was pretty hairy, the heavens opened just in time and we had to negotiate a steep slate quarry in the wet. Paul’s excuse was that he was already indoors so had no control over the clouds. The evening meal was to the usual high standards, the well-oiled RR machine springing into action to do what it does best – dinner & pudding! The Borrowdale hostel’s white wine wasn’t bad either, although a few bottles were required just to be sure. There was some debate about whether we paid for the 3rd bottle but hey….

Saturday morning came and the mood was no better really as we came to terms with five years of tory rule; plans were afoot though – we were not going to take this lying down. Yesterday we had a glimpse of freedom and we wanted more. I also noticed that some of our food supplies were dwindling more quickly than usual – almost like they were being stashed away for something??

Today we were heading to Honister and then depending on whether the weather god decided to end his work to rule, we would choose our walk from there. We had a gorgeous valley walk to the slate museum & café where we over-indulged on local carrot cake & homemade lentil soup whilst one of our party tried to sort out the luggage transfer – some people just don’t understand what it means to travel light. Next year we have got to bring less food.

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Whilst one group headed through the valley we decide to bite the bullet and go over the top, and we needed to escape from the helicopter overhead; we weren’t sure whether it was friend or foe, although at one stage I swear I saw Nicola beckoning us aboard. The weather wasn’t entirely on our side but again we didn’t have the god with us. We did however, have the Red Rope choir on hand and we were treated to renditions of various socialist songs, although with the weather we were having you could have flown any colour flag, it wouldn’t have mattered.

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While the choir sang on my time was spent struggling to make notes for the trip report, not helped by the tools provided by Red Rope which were not fit for purpose! I even wondered if I might need my union rep. (If there were still unions).

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The plan was to conquer Robinson today & I was very excited about this, I was even more excited at the top as we could definitely make out a path to the North from here. We started to plan our escape from the impending cuts to everything but in the end we decided to stick it out for one more day & go back to the others; it wouldn’t be fair to go without them (plus they had all the food). We were rewarded for our loyalty by another scrumptious meal back at the hostel. It was just as well that we ate when we did because there was a small kitchen-army preparing a malt loaf mountain and the smell alone was enough to put you off food for a month. The next morning it became clear what the food mountain was for; 2000 lycra-clad cyclists descended on the hostel looking for the toilets, malt loaf & bananas. It made a pleasant change to see men queuing for not-enough toilets!

It was also clear that the election result had upset Paul more than most as he was on strike while it was still legal to do so and we headed out in torrential rain & gale force winds. We’d opted for a lower level walk today and stayed in the valley which made a difference. It meant you were only blown off your feet when there was a gap in the hills. You know it’s bad when even the sheep have abandoned the fold and gone indoors. Still, at least it meant we could have a semi-sheltered lunch.

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There was something of a divide as we ate lunch & it seemed that some of our party may have been plotting something? We didn’t stop for long and we were soon back on low ground. The rest of the walk was less windswept and we headed to Derwent Water to catch the launch back to Keswick. It soon became obvious that the launch wasn’t coming as the lake was too choppy, although we heard later that the boats had been stolen & taken to Berwick to ferry the hundreds of people across the Tweed who had gathered there. The only other option was the bus so we trudged back up the hill and waited….. and waited…. and yes, there was a bus – phew!! Back at the hostel we realised that our day had been fairly uneventful compared to Gill & Adrian’s. Undeterred by the conditions Adrian had decided to swim for freedom and was carried away downstream by savage currents, he was expertly rescued by Gill who risked getting her map wet to save him – at least that’s what the grapevine said…
Dinner was expertly prepared as usual and we enjoyed a relaxed evening and planned the next day’s excursions. There were a couple of options – a morning walk, a launch trip on the lake or gear shopping – it was a tough choice and in the end we all decided on a mixture of all three. On Monday morning we packed ourselves a lunch and headed down to Keswick, although some people did seem to be carrying more food than others; our launch was definitely below the waterline.

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The trip across the lake was breathtaking, giving a different perspective of what we had previously climbed. As we reached the 1st drop-off some of our group were fidgety and very soon we realised why; they had decided to make a  break for it. We understood their reasons and knew they were heading for a better life in the North; we knew Nicola would take care of them. It also explained the squirreling away of food all weekend – I’m pretty sure that I saw malt loaf in Joanna’s rucksack. We waved them goodbye and wished them luck, we would miss them but we couldn’t blame them. They would be free there to visit libraries….

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As we headed back for coffee and the long drive home, it bought to an end yet another successful Red Rope trip. Once again we were spoiled with wonderful scenery at every turn, and overall we were very lucky with the weather, (thanks Paul). We had challenged ourselves with some of the toughest fells, and enjoyed the peace that these remote peaks offered. We managed some tough descents and rewarded ourselves with the usual high standard of food. And we managed all of this in the face of adversity, in the knowledge that we would go home to five years of austerity and change; we’d already heard that they were slashing weather-god funding.

What doesn’t change is the organisation of these trips, huge thanks go to Paul & Steve for ensuring the weekend ran smoothly, Naomi for organising the luggage transfer, Bob for being a very vigilant H & S rep (although the pencil was really heavy!) & of course to Gill for organising and providing the meals to energise us.

Rhinogs Trip

Redrope North Wales Trip

9th – 13th May

There were thirteen of us, most from West Midlands but with representation from Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes, Brighton and Nottingham.

The intention had been to explore the Rhinog range. These are relatively little known mountains and while not huge can be challenging. However the weather on high ground would have been a bit too challenging (50 mph winds, low lying cloud, hail, snow!) so the plan had to change.

Friday

We set out from the Cader Idris bunkhouse and drove to Barmouth. From there we caught the train to Llanbedr station and headed gradually uphill through the village and then woods to join the Ardudwy Way heading south. Great views back to the coast and of surrounding moorlands and dry stone walled sheepfolds. As we walked the mist descended and there was less and less to be seen and so we decided to eat lunch at the delightful Pont Fadog, a mediaeval pack bridge straddling a tumbling stream. There we discussed the options and the more intrepid group opted to climb back up into the mist. They were pleased with their choice as the mist was strangely spooky and atmospheric and actually cleared as they began their descent rewarding them with spectacular views over the Mawddach Estuary and mountains beyond. The last of the steep path was down through the rooftops of Barmouth.

The second group took a very pretty walk down a steep wooded valley beside a tumbling stream into Tal Y Bont and from there onto the beach to walk back to Barmouth. The sand was damp and firm so great for walking. The sea was wild and the sun even came out! So the second group were happy with their choice too.

From Barmouth we drove on to our next hostel at Llyn Trawsfynydd. This was comfortable and well equipped.

Saturday

One group walked from LLanbedr but this time north along the Ardudwy Way, peeling off to walk back to the Trawsfynnyd. A challenging walk, entailing lots of bog negotiation.

Another group walked around Llyn Trawsfynydd, a man made reservoir created in the 1920s. This was approximately 10 miles, including a long, long footbridge in a hail shower, some minor road walking, forest walking both pine and broadleaf, moorland, bog (mercifully not too much), a massive and dramatic dam and, when the cloud cleared, wonderful views of the Moelwyn, Arenig and Rhinog mountains,.   There is a disused power station on the shores which at times looked like a castle, at other times disappeared into the landscape and only when close up looked like power station. We took a diversion to see the Roman remains at Tomen y Mur and thought sympathetically of those Roman soldiers, used to the warmth and sun of Italy, garrisoned in this bleak and windswept outpost.. Despite experiencing hail, heavy rain, light rain, sun and thunder we had a great day.

In the evening half the group went to see a Welsh male voice choir concert in the local village hall, which they enjoyed very much. The rest of us went for a short evening walk.

Sunday

One lone adventurer, being an experienced and expert mountain walker set out to walk 14.5 miles to Bryn Gwynant Youth Hostel. As she walked the rain set in and continued relentlessly for the next six hours, forcing her to eat her lunch in a convenient bus shelter. The rest of us softies took various options combining walking and buses. One group set out from Tremadoc with an initial steep scramble up and then a gentler ascent with the hope of reaching Beddgelert or Aber Glaslyn. However we were defeated by increasingly heavy rain and descending mist and resorted to taxis, buses and tearooms. A breakaway group cut across to Aber Glaslyn falls and walked from there. The third group caught the train from Porthmadoc to Aber Glaslyn Falls and then followed a beautiful wooded walk to Bryn Gwynant via Nantmor.

Monday

Our last morning and finally the sun was shining! One group walked to Aber Glaslyn Falls and picnicked on the shores of the river. The other group took the slightly shorter option of walking into Porthmadoc via the new LMC hut under construction, just outside Beddgelert, which was very impressive. Then sadly time to return home.

Highlights –

Food Superb! Evening meals planned, purchased and cooked (well, supervised) by Gill. Breakfast and lunch foods all planned and provided by Liz.

Aber Glaslyn pass – where the river tumbles through a wooded gorge.

Bryn Gwynant youth hostel! What a place to arrive at on a cold, wet evening. It’s a huge Victorian mansion on the shores of Llyn Gwynant with vast picture windows overlooking Snowdon, truly stunning views and a toasty drying room!

Excellent company and conversation!

Male Welsh Voice Choir concert

Thanks to…

Norm – health and safety, despite unfortunate accident, hope ankle improved

Everyone who collaborated to make the trip run smoothly – sorting the logistics, packing up the food each day, sorting out travel arrangements on the way there (herding cats way easier I’m told!), planning walks.

 

 

The Cake Walk – Red Rope West Midlands – The Lizard

With the West Midlands weather god in our midst we had high hopes as we headed to the Lizard for our annual trip. Our accommodation was perfectly arranged for us to walk hostel to hostel, our luggage transfers arranged, our meals meticulously planned, all we needed to do was walk and hope for good weather! Our weather god duly obliged from the start….

Start of the cake walk – Lizard Trip 2014

Having spent the 1st night in accommodation a stone’s throw from the biggest military helicopter training centre in Europe, RAF Culdrose, it was obvious the next day that they had their eye on us, or more accurately, their chopper. Someone had obviously warned them that the Socialists were coming as we had an escort for most of the 1st morning. We were obviously very careful, the only thing that they could have possibly overheard was our washing-up rota for the weekend; we whispered all of our plans for a revolution….


Despite the intrusion we set off towards the coast path and having played “first to see the sea” along the lanes we were soon rewarded with our first sight of our constant companion for the next three days….

It was soon apparent that there were two main themes for this weekend, breath-taking scenery with huge blue skies, crashing waves and sunshine, and cake! Lots and lots of cake!! Sponge cake, fruit cake, tea-loaf, brownies – you name it, we ate it, in fact had the military tapped in they would have heard nothing more sinister than how best to get a decent consistency for a Victoria Sponge!!! (Thank you Elizabeth’s Mom).

We did, however, earn the cake – walking at least 10 miles per day on some of the most strenuous sections of the coast path was not to be under-estimated. On the 1st day alone we needed at least 2 coffee and cake stops. We did manage to walk past a café at Mullion Cove without stopping but soon realised the error of our ways and stopped for lunch.

The Lizard YHA was definitely worth the walk, perched between the lighthouse and the most south-westerly point the outlook was stunning, if not a little breezy!! The evening meal was as good as ever and the after dinner entertainment was worth waiting for – seems our weather god doubles as a yoga instructor!

We did pay the price for his moonlighting the next day though as we headed out from the Lizard, our first real weather! After heeding a warning from the coast guard to head inland as the cliffs were too dangerous in the wind we soon rewarded ourselves for being so sensible and health & safety conscious by having coffee & cake in Cadgwith!! The weather didn’t disappoint us anymore and as we moved on throughout the day the views continued to stop us in our tracks with our lunch stops being very carefully chosen to optimise our surroundings…….

That afternoon saw our first major incident of the trip with two of our party almost being washed away by a huge freak wave at Kennack Sands. Fortunately the rest of our group were on hand to assist with what could have been disastrous….Well, after they had finished their ice cream and laughing! When I say freak wave…..

Not to be outdone by the Lizard, Coverack YHA had views to die for from every window and once again food to match. As usual at dinner time the well-oiled machine that is a WM Red Rope trip kicks in – 3 chefs & 3 washer-uppers (?) each night to ensure that the wonderful food is matched by service & organisation that military helicopter pilots would be proud of. Sadly, there was no after dinner exercise class but we more than made up for it with more cake…

In the daylight Coverack showed what a cute fishing village it was and once again the weather was on our side as we headed into our final day. The scenery was to be very different, less rugged, and greener and we were heading down to river level all day long. We left the cliffs behind, passed through quarries, crossed fields at sea level, went elegantly over (or under stiles) and passed the halfway point of the entire SWCP. The views were no less stunning and still had us stopping in our tracks to admire them, this was scenery that never become boring…

Of course we did all this and still managed to find a café amongst the spectacular surroundings which provided a welcome break. It even provided a much needed input of bacon for the much outnumbered meat-eaters in our group!!
We also managed to make new friends there, although I suspect it may have been cupboard love, Freddie had obviously heard about our cakes…

As we headed towards Helford and a taxi back to the start there was a real sense of achievement & of a journeys end. We had enjoyed three very different days, from the rugged precipitous cliffs of the first day to the wooded valleys at river level today. We had definitely seen the very best of what Cornwall had to offer, both with the weather & the scenery. We had taken the worst the Atlantic could throw at us outside the Lizard lighthouse and then paddled in the creek the next day. We spent a fair amount of time putting jackets on, taking jackets off and putting jackets back on again, all of time wearing sunglasses. We passed through cute fishing villages, walked along paths where the cliffs dropped away beneath our feet, and strolled on sandy beaches, but most of all….

We ate cake!!!

Exmoor Trip

Exmoor Trip 8th May – 12th May

As a first timer on one of these breaks I was slightly apprehensive but needn’t have worried.  The walks were varied and just challenging enough, scenery beautiful, weather fine, company excellent and I was immensely impressed by the food.  It was all planned, bought and brought with us so that breakfasts and lunches were generous, healthy and versatile (thanks to Liz).  Gill planned and supervised the cooking of the superb evening meals – even the apricot and ginger crumble, parts of which may have been floor flavoured after a minor mishap (but we’re all still alive so that’s ok).  We all did our bit and sub teams took turns to prepare and clear up. It was not only efficient but good natured and collaborative in true Redrope style!  As everyone had a role and we all did our bit I won’t name all the names just say thanks to everyone for making it such a good break!

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