We live close to the bottom of Solsbury hill.. yes that’s the one in the Peter Gabriel song. It’s official name is little Solsbury hill. While confined to our local area during the various lockdowns and travel restrictions it became a favourite little amble and clamber onto the trig point.
In January this year while walking up there with a friend, she said you must have scaled the height of Everest with the number of ups you have done.
So began the Solsbury hill official tracking of 56 ascents.
Clearly we have to start at sea level so it will take 34 ups to get to base camp at 5400m. Our house is at 30m and Solsbury hill summit is 190m so we figured net up (ignoring the odd down and up in between is 160m)
To make an ascent official there needs to be a record, obviously, so maybe I actually did more than 56 but only those with a pic or video clip counted. Also as we decided the first official ascent happened on 8th May 2020 (the first one of the first lockdown) there needed to be some way to remember when the ups had happened.
Don’t panic I am not going to post 56 pics or video clips.
August 7th ascent #14 and a timelapse sunset. Not long before we are reaching Lukla the start of the trek to base camp.
In the end the rest of August, September and October saw zero ascents so reaching the start of the main trek was rather delayed.
Lukla at 2850m was reached on Christmas morning (Ascent #18)
Cheating a little bit on New year’s eve as we had a fireworks show to do from half way up so we didn’t actually walk from the bottom but we made it to the top for some great shots of the show.
Base camp was reached on 6th March 2021
I made it to Camp 1 on ascent #38 on 15th March
The milestones coming thick and fast with Camp 2 at 640o m on the 17th March and Camp 3 on the 23rd and into the Death zone at Camp 4 on 4th April, way ahead of schedule to make the summit within the year of the first ascent on 8th May last year.
I summited on 18th April accompanied by some fellow mountaineers courtesy of the rule of 6.
Since then there have been several more ups but I have stopped keeping track. Seems fitting to close this blog entry with another birthday celebration and sunset one year on from ascent #2.
Despite it all 2020 had some amazing moments and all the pandemic craziness taught us cherish who you have, what you have on your doorstep and celebrate the little things.
So to honour all that here’s my 2020 highlights. Consider it a personal kick in the pants to stop moaning about the fact it’s January 2021 and spending some time in the mountains any time soon on some lovingly serviced planks courtesy of the other half (talking of cherish who you have) is looking like a remote prospect.
It started with a bang in Weymouth crewing for Sirotechnics fireworks on Fort North and miraculously ended with fireworks crewing for Northern Lights Fireworks in Bath, thanks to the amazing crown funding efforts of Michael Eades in memory of his parents and on behalf of the Royal United Hospital Critical Care Unit.
We got some brilliant Skiing in early season facilitated by the ability to hop between work locations thanks to Alpy Bus and Easy Jet … oh my how things have changed. I actually learned to enjoy the human powered up .. sort of!
Things were starting to go awry with tales of virus in China and how oblivious we were about what was to come squeezing in a sneaky weekend in Sainte Foy
The world was shutting down and we are still in Chamonix and insanely on what was to be the last weekend of the official season friends jumped on a flight for the weekend. They do have 3 kids though and rarely get the chance for some grown up slope time so motivation was high.
They shut the mountains that day and then flight traffic all but halted the week after and we found ourselves in Lockdown Chamonix style and home office was a little more exotic than expected.
I definitely had the best view from the home office ever!
We finally made it back to the UK after Easter to the UK lockdown and a riot of colour in the garden.
A purchase of a Bird feeder and some RSPB buggy nibbles as recommended by my bird loving sister and the new home office view changed to this.
The Starlings that hang out on the Church tower opposite found it a big hit.
The Blue tits like to surf
And this wee fella was so cute and fluffy
The 30dayswildphoto challenge for June thanks to the Cumbrian wildlife trust kept a few of us focused on the little things while on our lockdown sanctioned daily excursions and was great encouragement to stretch the legs during 6 weeks of furlough.
Solsbury hill saw lots of ups as did several of the local downs.
A couple of those glasses were to celebrate the big 50!
Exploring the local footpaths we discovered, in some cases re-discovered, the local hidden wild places and reminded ourselves what a beautiful part of the world we are lucky enough to live in.
and the garden is getting even more colourful
The 60 plus sunflower hatchlings are growing and some have been given away to new homes.
We even have our own Sunflower field nearby .. feels like the South of France
We entertained in the Garden, once or twice in the rain
We made it a little further afield to see friends down South and explored their local trails.
And when it was allowed headed to Wales to see family.
I managed to get to see the folks down south while infections were low in between lockdowns and tier prohibitions.
What was supposed to be a friends 50th birthday celebration by way of running the Marathon Du Medoc (yes I know crazy people) turned into the Marathon Du Mendip and this was the resulting souvenir.
A surprise fireworks show on the Thames for Sirotechnics fireworks was a unexpected bonus and some compensation for a missed trip to Monaco for an international competition.
And a few days in the Lake District when it was ok to go to Cumbria and the campsites were open was something to celebrate.
The trips up Solsbury hill became a regular thing whatever the weather
And two more fireworks shows came our way. One celebration of life where we hope we provided a fitting send off.
One for Bonfire Night with a socially distanced watch from your garden event for Batheaston Scouts.
We finally got to see what ended up being the only live Ruby with a crowd at the Rec since the virus took over our lives.
There has been many hours spent socialising by video with virtual pubs, wine tasting as an excuse to get merry with friends and share meals from a distance and Christmas was far from the traditional family gathering but it was a gloriously sunny day.
We did get to blow stuff up on a very chilly New year’s eve. Always good to top and tail a year with a bang.
It’s nearly November and I haven’t posted anything for a while. The world is still in deep trouble with the virus with no end in site.
Back in the Summer when we could head across the border and back freely we enjoyed a couple of lovely visits with the other halves Brother and Sister in-law who are embarking on their next big adventure escaping the rat race and setting up a new home in the absolute middle of Wales.
The goal of our visits is typically a bit of wandering about on some less trodden paths, some good relaxing company and some watery photography is always a bonus. Rain can be almost guaranteed.
The Cambrian mountains are beautiful but can be bleak and there really isn’t much in the way of actual bonafide paths but the payoff is you are probably the only people up there.
I didn’t have the tripod so had to make do with a handy rock or two.
And who wouldn’t want to spend their days here ..
For most of these shots I was lugging around the Nikon D850 replacement for weight lifting in the gym but my preloved Sony A7s is really impressing me. I got it mainly for video but the stills are just stunning .. ok not quite D850 stunning but they do have their own very pleasing character.
Even though I told myself I would just stick with the one lens … well who was i kidding … I acquired a 90mm F2.8 macro and ok not done much macroing with it yet but it does do well with amazing light.
The Elan valley dam and reservoir network is a short walk away and thanks to the amazing rain in August the upper dam was overflowing.
I have never seen it like this before and the engineer in me is sneakily impressed with what was done 100 years ago. Clearly the environmental considerations would be different now, but they are rather grand.
There are lovely walks around the reservoirs complete with bonus waterfalls if you can track them down.
We came across this spooky wookland
while trying to find a particular one, we failed by the way,
but we did discover this on our wanderings.
I really like the Black and white versions .. somehow the textures really pop.
Next up the glory that is Banbury Rings and its famous tree lined avenue followed by destination the lake district. Oooh and excitingly some fireworks photography in epic locations.
We’ve been enjoying the local area alot, especially not getting in the car very much, but was really about time we braved the world beyond where our feet could carry us.
The conspirators were selected and the scene was set for a gathering. The logic was who had the biggest space both inside and outside which would allow us some attempt at social distancing.
It also transpires our friends live in a lovely part of the world near Portsmouth so even despite the less than amazing weather a small local meander was on the menu.
Our route took us through corn, broad-bean and wheat fields with some lovely poppies hiding out and the Olympus EM5, equipped with M.Zuiko ED 12-100mm f4 IS PRO Lens, came out for the day and yes the on off switch is well and truly kaput. Although I have discovered that taking the SD card out and popping it back in wakes it up after auto shutdown which saves the faff with the battery.
A little bit of yellow hammer stalking
There is a wine producer on the doorstep. Honestly I have never been that convinced by english vino collapso mucho gulpo but the vines looks pretty gorgeous.
The final leg introduced us to the Texel sheep who were rather disconcertingly friendly. One of my companions even got an up close and personal kiss.
And to complete the sheep exotica some freaky Soay who we not at all friendly.
I feel I have now demonstrated sufficient sheep identification skills that I deserve some kind of sheep spotter qualification.
We finished up in the village of Hambledon with it’s lovely church and more importantly an open pub to wait out the short rain storm .
March 15th and 16th 2020 Chamonix. It was supposed to be two days of a little bit of up but mostly all about the down with a couple of good ski friends who’s snowy hols are typically punctuated by corralling their three kids.
March 15th went according to plan with some fluffy then crunchy then slushy descents of the GM and a sneeky up to get over the back. For once I wasn’t last as our friends were somewhat hampered by their down hill boots .. hurrah!
These were some of the best powder turns of the season.
In the run up to the weekend the resort was rife with rumours of the hills being shut at the weekend as the French nation braced themselves for some critical measures to manage the new coronovirus which seemed to be spreading fast among the population. Our friends came out on friday evening in any case. The lure of some kid free adventuring was too great to resist.
The GM had signs up suggesting skiers to reduce the numbers of people in individual cable car bubbles but no-one was taking it all that seriously. Looking back on it now it seems difficult to believe we were so blasé.
The Dru even popped out to wish us a happy evening.
Sunday morning dawned and everything was shut. I guess sense had prevailed in the end although it didn’t feel like it at the time. So a slightly lazy start and a nice walk up towards Argentiere as far as Le Lavancher and back in time for a glass of Rose in the sunny sunny garden and Alpy bus or was it Easy bus back to GVA. Amazingly despite somewhat chaotic scenes at Geneva Airport our friends made it home to the UK safe and sound .. more or less .. but that’s someone else’s tale to tell.
I was supposed to be flying to Spain for work that week direct from GVA but that was looking altogether dubious as Spain seemed worse off than France and then off to Germany the week after .. Hmmm
And that was the start of the take each day as it comes, several easyjet flight shenanigans and wondering exactly how long we’d be “trapped” in Chamonix. Well there are worse places to wait out the apocalypse.
We’ve done lots of ups through the Bathampton woods which cover the north side of Claverton Down during our local lockdown inspired wanderings . It’s also the site of an old mine so some of the trees are curled around and over the stone scars left by the mining operations. Some have done a wonderful job of reclaiming the land once invaded by human efforts to exploit it. Some parts appear a bit like a rather un-exotic Cambodian temple.
It can be a bit tricky to find compositions as there is just so much to distract the eye and it is quite hard to find clean images. I’ll probably look back on these in the future and cringe as their muddledness.
The old caves that remain are now all locked off to protect the bats that have made their homes there and to prevent too many Darwin awards being handed out to ill-advised explorers.
The trees are those amazing gnarly kind covered in moss, lichen, ivy and what look like jungle lianas. I wouldn’t try swinging on them mind you.
I’m on a quest to get the perfect sunburst through the foliage and have collected a few nice lens flares but still hunting a pleasing star.
And pretty sure some of the trees are mythical creatures.
One of my favourite parts is a clearing scattered with ancient ywe trees. Apparently rather unusual as so many english ywes were chopped down to make longbows to see off various invaders (probably mainly the french) back in the day.
We’ve been up there in a a variety of weathers and different light conditions and there is always something to catch my eye. These shots are a mix of Sony A7s II 12-24mm f4.0 and Nikon D850 24-70mm f2.8. I should take a tripod up next time on a sunny day and get a couple of timelapses.
I am rather looking forward to autumn. Should be some great colour come October.
In this post you’ll find an odd collection of snaps from our June lockdown wanderings which don’t get a post on their own. Not that they weren’t just as wonderful as the others but I was clearly less inclined to snap away.
Back up Claverton Down on the hunt for Day 8 (instagram #30dayswildphotochallenge)… flowers. The lure of the daisies was too much and even though the weather wasn’t up to much the attraction of the flowers and fresh air was enough to get us moving.
Mission success with these .. thanks to the Sony a7S and the 12-24mm f4
We then looped round the back of the university, past the American Museum and down the steep hill to the canal through the village of Claverton.
Found some stunning wild iris growing on the edge of the woodland
and enjoyed the last mile or 2? back along the canal.
Just North(ish) of Bath is a lovely collection of villages and this trail wandered up and around and down Solsbury hill through Northend then onto St Catherine. Then up a crazy steep, cutting round Charmy Down and back down to Swainswick.
Found massive shrooms to keep me amused on the second steep up. How annoying is it when you are out with the D850 and the 105 macro and the mushroom is so massive it’s impossible to find a good composition.
And the ferns which live in the St Catherine valley which can be a bit dark and damp and rainforesty at times were fabulously curly.
Check out this lovely fella of the sheep exotica family. He or she? gave us a proper hard stare as we took a wrong turn through his field. My Sheep identification skills are rather poor so I think it’s either a Manx Loaghtan or a Hebredian .. answers on a postcard please.
We are very fortunate to have lots of exploring options on our doorstep. Not least the Kennet and Avon canal. It stretches from Bristol and the River Avon to Reading where it joins up with the Thames.
The part which runs through Bath is proper lovely with a very eclectic collection of houseboats ranging from the super posh bling beasties to some gorgeously characterful ones and a few which you wonder how they are actually afloat. Hmm idea for a photography project perhaps.
Several of our walks either start or end up on the canal but on the 15th we just wandered into town along it’s length.
The Sydney gardens part has all these wonderful bridges and tunnels which when the water is still it makes for some great reflections. The a7S does them justice I think and at this point I am wondering why I am lugging 2 cameras around with me especially as one is the D850 house brick with bonus brick of the 105 macro.
We ended up in Victoria Gardens where we found a yummy display of poppies, daisies and cornflowers. What a pity day 8 flowers was last week.
Love a poppy shot and finally the 105 gets a look in….
It’s a Sunny day in June and we are allowed to meet up in groups of 6 for some outside adventuring. Socially distanced of course.
So where to go .. Claverton Down … check, Banner Down … check, Although not sure I told you about that one yet. Charmy Down … check. So Lansdown it is.
Landsdown is the home of some of the most iconic Bath architecture of the Circus and the Royal Crescent designed by John Wood father and Son partnership but we were after much earlier historical sites of note.
Our timing was perfect after waiting for a short downpour to end and off we went towards the village of Woolley with the plan to loop up and around and end up on the Landsdown Battlefields. On 5 July 1643 this was the scene of a punch up between one time friends Sir William Waller and Sir Ralph Hopton respectively a Roundhead and a Royalist. Neither fella actually won it seems.
Back to the route … a short steep up, down and along to Woolley past lovely flowery fields.
Left turn up what is apparently one of the best running descents in Bath if you are in to that kind of thing as a couple of my companions are.
Past another pretty flowery vista.
And up onto Landsdown and the Monument in memory of Civil War Commander and Royalist Sir Bevil Grenville who was one of the casualties at Landsdown as the head of a force of Cornish Pikemen. Not sure why he warranted a monument built 100 odd years later but it is a strange curiosity.
There are some flags marking the battle locations which conveniently mark our route.
We then popped out adjacent to the Landsown Golf course and the route gets more popular and busy with Sunday afternoon walkers.
There is a group of brilliant sculptures near the Golf course cafe which was serving from a table outside. I need to pop back up there with more time and fewer people and find out more about the Artist. This was my favourite piece an I managed to catch a snap with no intruders.
It seemed appropriate for the battlefield and today’s grim times. Although difficult to be too depressed on such a beautiful day.
Incredible views across to Bristol and looking out onto to the Kelston Round.
Then through the race course, past Beckford’s Tower and round the nose of Landsdown to skirt back down to our starting location … you can just see the roof of our house from here.
Wow that was a long one. We waved goodbye to our companions .. no popping in for tea or coffee sadly .. maybe soon .. fingers crossed!
Well apparently Charmy Down is now nationally famous for its illegal raves according to the BBC … So today we can talk about the next one which is probably most famous for hosting the University of Bath in all it’s 70’s architectural monstrosity and the building frenzy that has kept it growing ever since I graduated from there too many years ago to count.
We recently re-discovered the ancient woodland which climbs up the Bath City side and pops out at Sham Castle.
It seems the well to do residents of Bath in times gone by had a penchant for building pointless edifices either to show off or improve their views.
I have fuzzy memories of summer evenings up here from Student days
We then braved a golf ball to the brain with a dash across the golf course which also occupies the top of the Down and after complaining about the ridiculous waste of a beautiful open space for a privileged few to enjoy had to beg forgiveness as at least they have kept a wild part full of amazing grasses and daisies and other wildflowers.
There are a few different walking routes up here so I expect we’ll be back to explore the woods again.
Today was a quick trip up and down with the return route taking us along the Kennet and Avon canal.
The Swanlings have grown up since our last encounter and Dad has got quite feisty. Well who decides a good place to put the kids down for a nap is on the canal towpath .. honestly!
How many other downs to go?
Oh I also joined a little distracting photo of the day instagram fun courtesy of the Cumbria wildlife trust. A little lockdown exercise & local exploring incentive.