#solsburyhill56

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)

From sea level to base camp and to the summit = 56 x Solsbury hill from our house

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.

Ascent #1 – the first of a few zoom gatherings.

Don’t panic I am not going to post 56 pics or video clips.

Ascent #2 coincided with the big 50

Ascent #2 although i didn’t know that at the time

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)

A glorious Christmas morning trying to forget we were supposed to be elsewhere with family. Ascent #18 & arrival at Lukla.

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.

Ascent #19 more or less

Base camp was reached on 6th March 2021

Base camp on 6th March ascent #34

I made it to Camp 1 on ascent #38 on 15th March

Camp 1 15th March ascent #38

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.

camp 2 ascent #40
Camp 3 ascent #43
Camp 4 ascent #50 in the death zone

I summited on 18th April accompanied by some fellow mountaineers courtesy of the rule of 6.

Thanks for the loan of the flag – Ascent #56

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.

This time with a few more people for company.

That was 2020

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!

Les Roches Des Enclaves ski tour with visiting friends .. team white dot.
Plenty of hard earned turns post Les Grands Montets skin up.
A week in the deep with mates in Chamonix
A colourful line up in Pila in search of open slopes post epic storms in the Alps.

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

And some incredible powder all the more wonderful as it was completely unexpected

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.

Skinning up
Screaming down

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.

Difficult to complain about being stuck here though.
Early mornings to catch the sun pop over the Dru

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.

Tulips are running riot

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.

Solsbury hill sunset timelapse
There had been a glass or two of fizz consumed while watching the sun go down.

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.

Helping with winter preparations

I managed to get to see the folks down south while infections were low in between lockdowns and tier prohibitions.

The Badbury rings tree lined Avenue

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.

This is now planned to be an annual event.

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

The much explored Bathampton woods turned Autumnal

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.

Bath lost but it was an epic match.

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.

Come on 2021 …… bring it on.

Where have the days gone

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.

Sheltering from the elements
Wow an actual marked footpath

I recommend the Gilfach Nature Reserve some beautiful views to be had a nice upwards leg stretch.

And the Afon Marteg river is so picturesque

Day 12 round two of #30dayswildphotography .. movement

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.

Of canals and flowers and horned beasties

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.

June 8th

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

Day 8 … Flowers

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.

The swing bridge at Bathampton.

June 10th

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.

Day 10 … curves

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.

June 15th

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.

Day 15 .. The letter “C”

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….

In search of Battlefields

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.

Day 14 Landscape

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!

Time for a Bottom

The inescapable truth is if there are Downs there must be tops and bottoms so welcome to Chilcombe Bottom.

It’s a decommissioned reservoir turned mini nature reserve. I didn’t realise but Bath is surrounded buy hidden reservoirs and this one dates back to the 19th century.

You can’t see much of the water as it’s full of bulrushes and quite inaccessible but it is a rather lovely spot and at this time of year (middle of June) it was full of wriggling tadpoles.

Our Route to get there was up and over Solsbury hill

Day 13 .. Pink

Complete with wild Orchids and big fat thistles with little visitors.

Past my favourite footpath sign.

Then along up and over to the bottom

I think the sheep had been up to no good in this Christmas tree plantation

Love the ancient mile marker was clearly a well trodden path 200 years ago.

And more Orchids at the Bottom

Plotting the next Down tomorrow … Lansdown, home of some very fancy Bath architecture and a racecourse and another flipping Golf course.

Claverton Down

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.

#swanlings

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.

30dayswildphotochallenge

Exploring the local Downs

Living here for 30+ years you rather take for granted how beautiful the countryside is and don’t take the time to explore it. We’re always working or dashing off to apparently more exotic locations but having been furloughed for almost three weeks now as the bottom has fallen out of the airplane business me and the other half have pounded the local hills.

They call them Downs round here which I quite like. Dad says what happened to the ups but as any fellow skier will know (well apart from the nutters who prefer the skinning) it is all about the Down.

Down 1 – Charmy Down May 31st 2020

It was an old Airfield back in the day and now it’s just a big old open grassland.

This is the old runway .. an ex army pal was pretty sure you wouldn’t get a lancaster bomber down in one piece on that these days

Our Route was more or less past the bottom of Solsbury hill, up a ridiculously steep road parallel to the A46 up to Charmy Down, across the old airfield past some prettily backlit cows and cow babies,

down the other side through what would have been the most gorgeous garlic flowery drop a couple of weeks ago.

Then along to Monkswood Reservoir, all fenced off so not very picturesque, along the valley occupied by lovely long horn cows, need to go back there with the Nikon or Olympus and a longer lens as seemed a good idea to keep our distance .. they were very pointy horns.

Then up to and over the A46. The farm there has built 2 giant minion statues which had attracted the attention of passing motorists .. how odd ..

This looks flat but it was crazy steep.

Found an innovative garage construction

Then along to Wooly, a bit of a bonus up and past more curious cows

The A7s and the 12 to 24mm had a fine time out and about too.

Finally home to the light of the Petzel Duo S head torch (it is soooooo bright). Not bad given we didn’t start until 7pm ish. I do love these long evenings.

Thank you FATMAP for helping us to not get lost.

The next Down on the list is Claverton.

A day of two hills and two cameras

And a major milestone reached

We were supposed to be spending a few days in the French Alps with my morning and evening view being the Dru but we are nothing if not adaptable these days so breakfast in bed then off to Browne’s Folly .. hill one .. then plans for socially isolated birthday party on Solsbury Hill via zoom with a bottle of the most amazing pink bubbles on the planet.

A lovely surprise of delivered flowers from my entire family, masterful organisation skills of sis number 2.

My new acquisition (pre birthday) of preloved Sony A7s mark II did a nice job of capturing these don’t you think.

Bacon and egg butties in bed courtesy of number one fella.

Then off for a wander to test the new toy and exercise the faithful D850 and my fav lens Nikon 135mm F2 Defocus loveliness. I bought it on a whim a couple of years ago and it always amazes me.

Bath is surrounded by hills and out the back window of our house we look across to Browne’s Folly. It’s perched on the hill above Bathford. Apparently was built as a marketing stunt for the stone they used to quarry there by Wade-Browne. There are some interesting remains of the old stone mine, some long buried ordinance casings, a gorgeous woodland and the pointless tower.

If you are feeling brave and have a head for heights you can climb up the unguarded steps inside.

The site is of special Scientific Interest and looked after by Avon wildlife trust https://www.avonwildlifetrust.org.uk/nature-reserves/brownes-folly

Aaah the lovely 135mm F2 ….. but my goodness it’s a heavy combination to lug about.

Made it home via the canal and these fluffy guys

#swanlings
#swanlings

We’ve been checking in on them on and off since these shots were taken. They are much bigger and still all 7 of them. Mum & Dad are doing a great job.

Home in time for a quick cup of tea and some socially distancing visitors armed with birthday gifts then off up hill number 2 for bubbles, Friday night Zoom and Sunset.

It was blowing a gale but the bubbles courtesy of Billecart-Salmon were so delicious and the sunset was a stunner.

Tomorrow we will hang the Dru. It was painted by my incredible niece https://www.instagram.com/shonainatimi_art_/ as it has been occupying the living room floor since December.

Local Pointy bits on VE Day

Not that pointy or that high but Little Solsbury hill of Peter Gabriel fame was looking lovely covered in buttercups, daisies, clover and dandelion clocks.

Got to stay round the edge at the moment as there are Skylarks nesting.

Fantastic views of Bath and a lovely sunset and a zoom with locked-down friends while we we out for some fresh air and exercise.

enjoying the portal to other worlds … she looks like me 45 years ago.

Some nice shots with the little Olympus EM5. It has decided to stop letting me turn it off or on for that matter. I have to take out the battery. A common bug apparently according to the interweb. I did a firmware update but no change.

Spurred me on to buy myself an early birthday present …. But that’s another story.