Category Archives: camper van

Brecon Beacons

Last week I spent a couple of days in the Brecon Beacons. It’s the first time I’ve been there. I took my camper van and based myself at Pencelli, which has an excellent campsite. The facilities were first class and I had a pleasant hard standing pitch with electric hookup.

I had intended to do a two-day backpacking trip with an overnight stop at Llyn Cwm Llwch but the weather on the first day was dire, with high winds and heavy rain, so I spent a lazy day in the camper van.

The next day, the weather was much improved, so I did a day walk, shortening my intended two-day plan slightly, shown below.

Distance: 27.9km, ascent: 1,255m

click to enlarge

From the campsite, I took the minor road to Llanfrynach.

On the outskirts of Llanfrynach, I took a footpath along the Nant Menasgin. This was unexpectedly beautiful, as hopefully the pictures below show.

For future reference, there were a number of decent spots for wild camping, well away from view. The next section was across some fields, with well signposted paths but inaccurately marked on the OS map. Then it was along some back roads.

The only incident of note was that the road passed through one farm-yard where there were four muzzled dogs (three collies and a small Doberman) which circled around me barking furiously and tried to “bounce” me. Fortunately, I’m used to dogs so I just walked on quickly ignoring them and they lost interest as I got beyond the farm buildings. Considering the road is part of the Three Rivers Ride bridleway used by horses and cyclists, I was surprised that the farmer had allowed loose dogs on the road.

Just after the road turned north, I left it to follow a footpath over fields to Plas-y-gaer. I then turned south-west following a sunken lane to below Allt Ddu, where I decided to stop for an early lunch, sheltered by some convenient gorse bushes.  After lunch I climbed on a good path on the western side of Allt Ddu and then on to Cefyn Cwm Llwch, the ridge that leads up to Pen-y-Fan.

Once on the ridge, I was exposed to a strong wind, so I swapped my windproof for my Paramo Velez smock. The clouds were clipping the top of Pen-y-Fan, making it look brooding and forbidding. However, the track up is very straightforward and presented no difficulties.

Unfortunately the low cloud base meant no views from the summit of Pen-y-Fan.  However, on the descent, I was below the clouds and was able to take some decent photos of Cribyn and surrounds.

From Cribyn, I could look back to Pen-y-Fan and Corn Du, which were now clear of clouds.

After Cribyn, I walked along Craig Cwm Cynwyn to the col before Fan y Big.  There were horses grazing on the path up to Fan y Big, so I decided that I didn’t want to disturb them and I took a short cut around to Craig Cwareli.

The views back to Pen-y-Fan were excellent with the sun and shadows, but difficult to capture in photos because of the strong wind. I wished I’d taken a tripod!

Once I’d descended to Gist Wen, I was a bit more sheltered. On the way down I encountered another group of ponies, some with foals. I gave them a wide berth to avoid disturbing them.

After crossing some fields, I was back on to a lane and then down to Pencelli. All in all, it was a very good introduction to the Brecon Beacons.

Advertisements

Jump start battery

Not much going on at the moment, but I thought I’d blog this idea. I hadn’t taken my camper van out for a while. A couple of weekends ago we’d been away at a wedding and when we got back, a neighbour said the van had been making an odd noise. When I checked it, the battery was flat and I’m guessing that something in the electrical system had been making the noise in the process of the battery going flat.

The next day, I called out the AA. To be on the safe side, I got them to replace the battery in case running it down had compromised it. I wonder whether having a third party immobiliser puts an extra strain on the battery. In future, I will take it out for a short run every week to make sure the battery is charged.

It got me thinking as to how I might cope if I had a flat battery in the middle of nowhere and there was no phone signal. So, I investigated a battery jump start kit. After a bit of internet searching, I found the Car Rover jump start battery. It’s got a decent combination of battery storage (26,000 mah) and peak current (450A). It comes with a jumper kit plus a load of gadget charger plugs which you can use for phones etc. It can be charged from a normal 240v wall socket or a 12v car socket. There’s a charge meter as well in figures rather than LED lights. It comes in a handy case for storage too.

I’ve not had a chance to test it. I rather hope I never need to! However, it seems a worthwhile bit of insurance and I’ll take it in my car for long journeys too.

Disclaimer: purchased with my own funds. I have no relationship with Car Rover or Amazon other than being a customer.

More Camper Van Paraphernalia 

I’ve now had three trips in my camper van. I’m extremely pleased with the van itself. The only downside is that it’s a bit thirsty on fuel. I guess that’s no surprise being four wheel drive with a three litre V6 engine. It’s very nice to drive though, with decent acceleration for a heavy vehicle. 

I’ve been looking for a couple of compact deck chairs. I looked at some Helinox ones but balked at the price. However, I found some almost identical ones on Amazon for a third of the price, so I took a punt. I don’t really like buying cheap copies, but I have to say, these are decent quality. They are decently comfortable to sit in and fold down really small. For a camper van the size of mine, you have to be careful not to have bulky gear otherwise it eats up the storage space. If you’re interested, look up Moon Lence on Amazon and you’ll find them. There are actually even cheaper chairs, but none on Amazon Prime. 


I was so impressed with the chairs, that I bought a folding table as well. Again, I am impressed with the quality. It will certainly be civilised to be able to sit outside quaffing a (non alcholic) cocktail and munching a few select morsels. This table no longer appears to be available, but the are similar ones around. 

Next up is a hose. I’ve not bothered to use the on board water tank as it’s a bit of a fiddle to fill and I’d rather use a 6L Platypus container for drinking water. However, it might be useful to have some running water for washing etc. If you’re on a campsite, you’re going to need a hose to fill up the tank. I’ve been looking at normal hoses, but they are quite bulky. You can get flat hoses, but they are a bit of a fiddle to rewind. Enter the XHose, which I spotted in Robert Dyas. The XHose stretches to three times its original length. It seemed a good solution, so I’ve bought one. I’ve not tried it out, but it looks ideal for occasionally using on campsites. I bought the 50ft one. It’s quite compact for storage. 


Lastly, before my last trip I bought a cheapo windscreen frost protector from Amazon marketplace. It’s a bit like radiator insulation. It lasted one trip before the wind trashed it. Amazingly I found a dedicated screen protector on eBay for an Alphard . It’s much better quality, so hopefully this one will work. It’s not padded, so it won’t insulate, but it should protect from frost, which is primarily what I wanted it for. 

Cat Bells

For the second day of my brief Lake District visit, the weather was a little less “breezy” and some of the snow had melted, so I decided to visit Cat Bells. I’d not been to Cat Bells for about fifteen years. Although one of the more modest fells, it has superb views and the weather conditions looked good for a few photos.

dsc02883

From Braithwaite, I followed the A66 back to Keswick for about 500m, using the parallel cycle way until I came to the footpath heading south towards Little Braithwaite across the fields.

dsc02887

From the bridge at Little Braithwaite, there is a delightful path along Newlands Beck to a minor road that leads to Stair. From Stair, I took the lane to Skelgill.

dsc02891

From Skelgill, there’s a track which contours around the base of Cat Bells heading south. The low angle of the sun and the snow made for some good photos, even for a poor photographer like me.

dsc02894

After a few hundred metres, there’s a track that gently climbs the flank of Cat Bells towards the col with Maiden Moor.  This is not marked on the 1;50,000 map but provides excellent walking and superb view of the fells to west of Cat Bells (Causey Pike, Sail and Ard Crags).

dsc02898

Although there was a light covering of snow and ice, the gentle incline of the path made it easy.

dsc02899

Even from this distance, you could make out the zigzag path up Sail (a bit of an eyesore IMO).

dsc02900

Before reaching the col, there was a grassy path which cut straight up to the southern end of Cat Bells. Once on the ridge the snow was a bit thicker, but the views opened out all around.

dsc02903

To the south-west, Robinson and Hindscarth looked quite alpine.

dsc02904

To the north, Skiddaw and Blencathra were magnificent with plumes of cloud flowing from their summits.

dsc02908

The blue of Derwent Water contrasted with the green lushness of Borrowdale.

dsc02910

To the north-west, I could see the snow-clad hills of the Scottish Southern Uplands.

dsc02911

Descending the north ridge of Cat Bells was a bit tricky with the snow and ice, but it afforded wonderful views across the northern end of Derwent Water.

dsc02915

Back down in Newlands, I reversed my route back along Newlands Beck. I arrived back at the campsite mid afternoon. While it wasn’t a long walk it was wonderful for the views. Cat Bells has to have some of the best views in Lakeland.

dsc02919

Coledale

Last week I took our daughter back to Manchester Uni, so it was an excuse to steal another couple of days in the Lake District using my totally brilliant Wellhouse Toyota Alphard camper van. I parked myself at Scotgate campsite in Braithwaite, which I’ve used on numerous occasions.

dsc02866Not surprisingly, there weren’t many people at the campsite.

dsc02868There was plenty of snow on the hills and a chilly breeze so I decided a saunter up Coledale would be a pleasant diversion.

dsc02870The mine track made for easy walking.

dsc02873In the shade it was perishing cold!

dsc02877I’ve never been to Force Crag mine before. It’s being restored by the National Trust. The wind almost blew me off my feet, so goodness knows what it was like on the tops.

dsc02879It was too cold and windy to hang around so I turned round and walked back the way I’d come.

dsc02869Back down the valley in the sunshine, it was quite pleasant.

dsc02880It was nice to get back to the warmth of the van for a late lunch. Luxury!

Keswick C&CC Campsite

img_1966On my recent trip to the Lake District, I stayed at the Keswick C&CC campsite. In the past, I’ve stayed at the Scotgate campsite in Braithwaite, but I thought I’d give the Keswick site a go instead. The big advantage of the Keswick site is that it’s only a short walk into Keswick itself and there’s a good Booth’s supermarket close by. It’s also a bit cheaper than Scotgate if you’re solo and a C&CC member (which I am).

img_1970Not surprisingly, it’s really well setup for camper vans, with excellent hard standing pitches and electric hook ups. There’s a good amount of space between pitches too. When I was there, there weren’t many vans, so I could park myself well away from anyone else. The downside was I parked myself well away from the shower block, which was a bit of a mistake!

img_1988The shower block facilities were pretty good, with a good number of shower cubicles, sinks and toilets. A second shower block was closed, but would be needed if the site had more occupants. The facilities were not quite up to the standard of Scotgate, which wouldn’t shame a hotel. Unlike Scotgate, WiFi is not free and you have to pay extra.

img_1973The camp site is in a wonderful position between the River Greta and the shore of Derwent Water, with beautiful views across the lake towards Borrowdale. The drawback with its position, however, is that there is a risk of flooding. For this reason, vehicles and tents are not allowed to be unattended overnight in case there is a need to evacuate.

While I can understand this requirement, for me, it’s a bit of a deal breaker. It would prevent me from doing some backpacking and overnight camping in the fells. This probably means that I’ll be going back to Scotgate if I want to do backpacking trips. Fortunately, for this trip, I’d only intended to do a couple of day walks.

img_1986The site is open to both camper vans and tents and welcomes backpackers too. The warden and staff were very friendly and helpful. Overall, it’s a really nice place to stay, just a shame you can’t leave your van overnight.

More details here: Keswick C&CC Campsite

(Please note there’s a second, smaller C&CC site next door, Derwentwater Campsite)

High Spy and Maiden Moor

At the end of last week I spent a couple of days in the Lake District before collecting our daughter from university. I based myself in Keswick at the C&CC camp site in my camper van. Unfortunately, on the first day, the weather was poor with the tops under clag and high winds, so I mooched around Keswick. 

On the second day, the weather improved a bit and the forecast was a bit more optimistic, so I decided to do a day walk up the Newlands valley to Dalehead Tarn and then back over the High Spy/Maiden Moor ridge.

img_2004

From Keswick, there’s an enclosed footpath across fields to a rather impressive suspension footbridge to Portinscale. Spurning the attractions of the hotel and cafe in Portinscale, I followed the road south to Fawe Park, where I cut over the hill, through a wood, flanked by rhododendrons, where a number of pheasants were wandering aimlessly around the woods.

img_2008

Then I followed a good path past Lingholm and over Silver Hill, past a field of Llamas, which was a bit of a surprise. Emerging from the woods into a rough field, Cat Bells loomed ahead of me. I toyed with the idea of reversing the walk and going over Cat Bells, but the forecast was for improving weather in the afternoon, and the photographic opportunities were likely to be better heading back to Keswick, so I continued with my plan to walk along Newlands.

img_2015

After reaching Skelgill, I followed the bridleway that skirts along the flank of Cat Bells along the Newlands valley. Newlands is one of the prettiest Lake District valleys. Even when the weather is not very good, it still looks beautiful. The clouds were still thick over the fells and provided some moody pictures.

img_2023

Just above Little Town, there’s some mine workings. I noted that there’s some decent wild camping spots there, amongst the levels. The wooden bridge across the beck had been washed away, but it was easy to cross on the stones. If it was in spate, you’d have to go down to the road to cross.

img_2030

Beyond Little Town, the valley, narrows, enclosed by the slopes of  Maiden Moor on one side and Scope End on the other.

img_2034

After the end of the fields, there’s another mine spoil heap, Castlenook Mine. Thus far the weather had been OK with only the odd spot of moisture in the air. Amongst the spoil, it was relatively sheltered, so I decide to sit down and have some lunch. While it was tempting to dawdle a bit, the prospect of losing daylight by four o’clock meant I had to push on as it was already well past midday.

 img_2037

Just beyond the mine, the path begins to contour up the fellside. Ironically, looking back there were some patches of blue sky, but over Dale Head the cloud was the cloud was thickening.

img_2040

Tantalisingly, as I reached the waterfalls, it looked like the cloud might lift. Frustratingly, just as I reached the beck before Dale Head Tarn, the clag came down.

img_2044

I wanted to take a quick look at the sheepfolds by the tarn to check whether they might be good for camping (they are), but I was dismayed to find excrement and tissue paper left by one of the walls.

img_2045

By now, it was nearly two o’clock and I knew I had to get a move on to make it along the ridge and down to the valley by dark. As I ascended the slope towards High Spy, the wind picked up and it started to rain, scuppering my chances of good views of Derwent Water and Keswick.

img_2047

Even with poor visibilty, it was easy to follow the path and eventually, the summit cairn of High Spy came into view. Behind the cairn, I sheltered from the wind, putting on my overtrousers.

img_2049

Every so often the mist would lift briefly, to reveal the path ahead. I bypassed the summit of Maiden Moor, as I’d been there before and carried on to the col before Cat Bells.

img_2053

Very briefly, Cat Bells emerged out of the clag for a photo opportunity, before disappearing again. I decided not to bother to go over Cat Bells as I only had an hour more of daylight at most and took the track down to Skelgill.

By the time I got to Skelgill, dusk was falling. I reversed my route of the morning, although I bypassed Fawe Park, using a track. By the time I was at Portinscale it was fully dark and I had to find my way back to Keswick by head torch, eventually getting back just after five o’clock.

Total distance for the day was about 15 miles with 828m of ascent, taking just under seven hours.