The Mountain Section is open to all members
of the club who like longer or more strenuous walks. We have 3 weekends away each year, 2 or 3 nights in the Spring & Autumn where trips typically leave on a Saturday morning and return early the following week. This enables 2/3 full walking days plus half-day walks on both travelling days. In the Summer the weekend is extended to 4 nights and sometimes 1 week holiday. Cars are shared and accommodation and meals are arranged in local hotels and B&Bs. Past trips have included the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia, Exmoor, the Peak District and the Isle of Wight.
So if you enjoy hill, mountain or coastal path walking, good company and fun along the way, then why not consider joining us.
See the Walks Programmes for forthcoming Mountain Section weekend trips.
A Happy Return!
I can’t believe it is so many years since Peter & I were on a Mountain Section weekend, but Lynda thinks it’s about 12! We couldn’t miss out on the 30th anniversary weekend, back at Brecon where we’d enjoyed a few visits with mountain section since we joined Reading Ramblers about 25 years ago.
We drove down on the Saturday due to a previous commitment that morning, and I was green with envy when I heard what a good day they had had climbing Pen y Fan, a mountain I well remember from many happy ascents, but not always with the good weather & views they had. Sunday dawned fair and I was rewarded with a wonderful day traversing Carmarthen Van – plenty of ups & downs leading to stunning views. Interest was added at the end as we investigated the works at the dam, then downstream watched fish jumping in the breeding tanks. Meanwhile Peter, concerned he may hold up the mountain goats, had enjoyed a small local top and part of the canal towpath.
Back at the Castle Hotel (a traditional haunt of Mountain Section) we again enjoyed a splendid meal cheerfully served. We were pleased that Mountain Section founder, Tony Harrison, had joined us for the meal, together with his wife Mary. AGM business afterwards led to plans for 2013 weekends in more exciting places.
Waking to a change in the weather on Monday, we were glad to have swapped the walks planned for Sunday & Monday because the low cloud and threatening rain would be better spent on the waterfall walk than up high in the clouds. This should have been the easy walk of the weekend, but the slithering on too much mud made it far more tiring than we had expected! The falls themselves were well supplied with water and I took far too many photos! The walk included an interesting track behind one of the falls, at a point where it seemed the river was flowing the wrong way – though a look at the map showed this was a side tributary. Those who opted out at the village half way missed the best views as we were then going upstream, and what’s more we got a little sunshine to sparkle on the water.
The celebration dinner that night, rounded off with cake and speeches, was a joy, especially when Tony and Rex gave some insight into the start of Mountain Section and its subsequent activities.
Tuesday promised to be an exciting day, because, though it was clear & sunny, the wind had got up and the planned route was to the heights. Sadly we missed out on this because during breakfast a return of my chronic back-pain necessitated a return home. I gather the others enjoyed it even though they sometimes had difficulty staying on their feet.
It was good to see that Mountain Section has maintained its more adventurous sorties to hill country. It has hardly changed – I only wish I’d been able to enjoy the whole weekend with the others.
Jackie Brown 28 Oct 2012
The river tumbles over charming
Swaledale Weekend 5th to 9th July
Swaledale is the northernmost of the Yorkshire Dales and, to many
minds, the prettiest. It is characterised by a patchwork of small
fields enclosed by dry-stone walling and dotted with imposing stone
barns, crowned with rolling moorland above. It boasts many hay meadows
resplendent with wild flowers and the fast-flowing River Swale adds
to the charm as it tumbles over a succession of attractive waterfalls.
Our party of eleven stayed at the Kearton Country Hotel in the
tiny village of Thwaite. This had been recommended by Tom Harrison
and surpassed all expectations. Not only was the accommodation comfortable
and the atmosphere friendly but, dear to Mountain Section hearts,
the selection and quality of the meals were exceptional. In addition
the hotel had a network of footpaths on its doorstep, including
the Pennine Way, enabling three of our five walks to start from
the hotel itself.
Notwithstanding the preceding heavy rain, our Thursday afternoon
walk led by Ralph Bicknell was blessed with sunshine. Appropriately
it began a long a stretch of the Pennine Way before turning down
to the attractive village of Muker. From here we crossed to the
opposite side of the dale and enjoyed extensive views until our
path was blocked by a beck in full spate. As though by magic, Ralph
discovered a footbridge hidden in the bushes and this allowed us
to complete our walk in perfect safety.
Friday’s walk led by Rex Dixon proved the only wet walk
but this did not dampen our spirits. We made our way across fields
to Keld to join Wainwright’s Coast to Coast path. Heading
up into open moorland we passed several ruins of old lead mines
abandoned in the nineteenth century, causing us to reflect on the
harsh existence the miners must have had. At the former Blakethwaite
Smelt Mill, we again encountered a small beck transformed into a
raging torrent. Undaunted Rex quickly produced Plan B to take us
down to Gunnerside and a welcome café, which sheltered us
from the worst of the showers. From here we followed a path through
the beautiful Swaledale valley and happily our hosts were on hand
to take care of our wet gear.
In stark contrast Saturday was dry and sunny and we drove over
Buttertubs Pass to Hawes in neighbouring Wensleydale. From there
our walk, led by John Ledger, took us up to Wether Fell and an impressive
Roman road. We then descended to Marsett in the little known valley
of Raydale and, after lunch by a peaceful beck, continued alongside
Semer Water (one of only two natural lakes in the Dales). Shortly
afterwards two well-placed benches provided a welcome break while
offering splendid views across the sun-lit dale. Refreshed we completed
the climb back to the Roman road before making our final descent
to Hawes and tea and cakes at the Herriot Hotel.
Sunday’s walk led by me was a more sombre affair being mainly
across moorland under a leaden sky. Beginning at Keld we rejoined
the Coast to Coast path but headed westwards across some very squishy
ground to a remote farm at Ravenseat. From here we trekked up and
over moorland, stretching as far as the eye could see, until we
reached our objective the famous Tan Hill pub. This is the highest
pub in England at 526 metres and, after satisfying our thirst, we
walked along the Pennine Way back down to Keld.
Our final walk on Monday morning led by David Sayer contoured
round the eastern flank of Kisdon Hill before joining the Swale
near Kisdon Force at Keld. We then headed southwards alongside the
Swale and, after an enjoyable riverside lunch, returned via Muker
to our hotel. This very scenic walk provided a fitting end to a
varied programme of walks.
Our thanks go very much to Lynda for all her meticulous planning
and hard work and also to our walks leaders and drivers who helped
to make this such an enjoyable weekend. Thanks must also go to the
local weather. Despite torrential rain all around, we managed four
out of five days walking in the dry!
Mountain Section weekend on the Isle of Wight 17 – 20 March 2012
Leaving early on a damp Saturday morning to catch the ferry from Portsmouth, the horizontal rain and spray on the motorway the further south we drove did not bode well for our afternoon walk. However, by the time the ferry landed at Fishbourne the rain had stopped.
After the short drive to Shanklin our 17-strong group had a quick picnic lunch in the hotel and 15 of us then gathered for the afternoon walk of just over nine miles. Although remaining overcast, there was only one brief shower, and the route gave excellent views from Sandown over the south-east of the island and in particular to the aptly named Red Cliff and Whitecliff below Bembridge Down. Proceeding inland, we stopped by the little church at Newchurch, and discovered that the churchyard was bright with hundreds of daffodils – a joy to see, they lit up the grey afternoon. En route back to Shanklin our path took us across the Isle of Wight airfield where a notice encouraged us to duck to avoid low-flying objects.
Arriving back at the hotel our hosts had thoughtfully put buckets of water and brushes outside for the cleaning of boots and inside the front door an area of plastic sheeting where thirty duly scrubbed boots were neatly lined up awaiting the next day’s walk.
Having enjoyed our first excellent evening meal, we retired to the armchairs with coffee or stronger refreshments.
We awoke on Sunday to a cloudless sky and the prospect of a sunny day’s walk ahead. One or two early risers had already been to the beach and back before breakfast. After a hearty meal we eagerly anticipated the first whole-day walk. In the morning our high-level footpaths offered superb views across the whole island, the cliffs of St Catherine’s Point gleaming in the sun. Passing near the impressive baroque ruin of Appuldurcombe House we walked through Wroxall and over Stenbury Down, returning via the Undercliff. Here we had sight of the renowned Botanic Gardens – the microclimate of the Undercliff allowing subtropical and exotic plants to flourish, the collection said to be unrivalled anywhere else in the UK. Continuing through the Victorian town of Ventnor, heavily defended from further landslips by substantial seawalls and large quantities of rock armour on the upper shore, we arrived back at our hotel to enjoy another excellent evening meal.
Monday dawned, and not a cloud to be seen, and today we drove westwards along the scenic coastal road to Freshwater Bay. Here we had close up views of the cliffs seen from a distance yesterday, glistening white in the morning sun. Proceeding via Freshwater and Norton, our path meandered by a pretty wetland area reminiscent of the Fens. Stopping for lunch on Headon Warren, a NT heathland reserve, good views were had of Hurst Castle across the water. Hurst Castle was one of Henry VIII’s chain of forts intended to discourage invaders to our shores. Walking around Alum Bay, we lingered to wonder at the multi-coloured sands which make up the cliffs, and then on to the impressive sight of the Needles with the lighthouse at the end of the last chalk stack. Then, after inspecting the Tennyson Monument on Tennyson Down, it was back down to Freshwater Bay where some of our group were overcome by an irresistible urge to partake of tea and gateaux before the drive back to Shanklin.
For our last walk we explored the east of the island, through Brading and via Brading Marsh to Bembridge windmill and then a picnic on the seashore near Bembridge. Returning via Whitecliff Bay and Culver Cliff, it was then back to Fishbourne to catch the ferry home. Ten of us then proceeded to Southsea where an excellent meal rounded off the holiday.
Many thanks indeed to Lynda for all the meticulous planning involved, our walks leaders Dave, Bob, Vyv and John and last but not least our drivers, all of whom contributed to another successful and enjoyable weekend. The visit to the IoW was a ‘first’ for at least one person (the writer) and also the voyage across the water to get there!
Mountain Section weekend in South Devon 9 – 12 March 2013
We all arrived at Hope Cove in time for the first walk on Saturday afternoon, despite various changes to route due to a closed section on the M5. The walk took us to Soar Mill Cove, where we enjoyed a sheltered stop before following the spectacular coast path around to Bolt Tail headland. From here we had our first good views of Hope Cove - and our first exposure to the biting east winds which were a feature of the weekend’s weather.
That evening we enjoyed our first taste of the excellent meals served by the Cottage Hotel, which definitely justified the activity to build up the appetite for the next meal.
Sunday morning started wet and windy. We parked in East Prawle and walked through the rain to the lost village of Hallsands. By this stage, the rain had stopped but as we joined the coast path we felt the full force of the wind. We followed the coast path around Start Point then on to Prawle Point. I think the coastguard at Prawle Point must have thought he was seeing things as our group hung on the fencing, bent over as we made our way around the headland in gale force winds. The last leg of the walk was quite tame after this as we made our way up the hill back to East Prawle.
A little white terrier joined us at East Prawle and stayed with us around Start Point, but then disappeared on the stretch to Prawle Point. The same dog was later found curled up, clean, white and fluffy on a seat in the pub in East Prawle!
We awoke on Monday to howling winds and a light snowfall that even turned the beach white. As a result the start time for the walk was delayed until 11.00 a.m. We decided on a walk from the hotel as it appeared that the roads were icy. We opted for a route taking in South Huish, East Buckland and an estuary walk on the east side of the Avon, meeting the SWCP at Hams End. We returned to our hotel via Thurlestone sand with a small diversion as the coast path was blocked by a recent cliff fall near Beacon Point. Some afternoon sunshine spurred us on as we looked forward to another fine evening meal.
Due to the continuing cold and wind our planned walk on Dartmoor for Tuesday had to be revised. A walk from Salcombe taking a loop inland then returning along the cliffs was decided upon. This turned out to be a very enjoyable walk through hamlets with chocolate box thatched cottages and then on to the cliff path. The clear sunny weather ensured spectacular views despite the bone chilling winds.
We were all grateful to Chris for suggesting this beautiful area and recommending the Cottage Hotel. The hotel staff were friendly and helpful and the food delicious. Thanks are also due to John, Rex, and Dave for successfully handling last minute changes to routes due to the weather and landslips on the coast path. Once again, thanks to Lynda for the fine organisation.
This was my first trip with the Mountain Section. After some apprehension it was good to feel part of this fit and active group. The walking was challenging at times but somehow you override this when enjoying the countryside, good company, and great venue.