Thursday, 15 October 2015

West Gloucestershire and South Herefordshire Marilyns

Walk summary
Worcestershire Beacon
beyond farm buidings near Jones Coppice on Seager Hill
Just a short 3 day peak bagging trip to Herefordshire as part of my rehabilitation from back injury and gentle reintroduction to hill walking.
Original plan was just 5 walks; 4 short single summit ½ day walks and a longer 2 summit, full days walk for the final day following this schedule:-

  • Aconbury Hill                    1.29miles, 55.85m ascent
  • Garway Hill                       1.94miles, 104.64m ascent
  • Worcestershire Beacon      1.61miles, 178.03m ascent
  • Wapley & Shobdon Hill    6.24miles, 403.78m ascent
  • Ruardean & May Hill       12.47miles, 830.12m ascent
My focus is still to complete the Welsh Nuttalls along with climbing Pillar Rock to complete all 443 English & Welsh Nuttalls. And despite missing 6 months this year, still hope to complete on or before my 60th birthday. However I am determined this time to not do too much too soon and am therefore restricting attempted peaks to the lower less remote summits. The Marilyns of area 38B:West Gloucestershire, Hereford & Worcester ideally meets this criteria.
That was the plan. The reality was the evolution of a more obvious bagging strategy. That is to park as near to the hill as possible without the hidden agenda to walk a minimum mileage or indeed devise a circular route. So today I ended up visiting 5 Marilyns over 4 separate walks, walking 7.1 miles and ascending 432 metres.
You are somewhat forced to followed this strategy for Nuttalls and Munros however I have always felt guilty about short walks to the less remote peaks, where very often a road passes over the summit or if not - very close. Well one positive to come out of being unable to go into the hills for 6 months is a more pragmatic attitude to route planning. Another positive (or is it a negative?) it has awakened me to the idea of another list to complete. That is the 1556 British Marilyns. A monumental endeavour that was only achieved for the first time in October 2014. To break down the elephant the interim objective is to qualify for the MoHF (600 Marilyns) and to close the objective - before my 65th birthday. That combined with chipping away at the Marylins should keep me occupied after completion of the Nuttalls.
Peaks visited
Nuttalls (254E - 443E&W)
Hewitts (179E - 316E&W)
Marilyns (175E - 1550E,W&S)
Aconbury Hill (72E - 144E,W&S)
Garway Hill (73E - 145E,W&S)
Ruardean Hill (74E - 146E,W&S)
May Hill (75E - 147E,W&S)
Seager Hill (76E - 148E,W&S)
Deweys (181E - 422EW&S)
HuMPs (444E - 2975EW&S)
Aconbury Hill (128E - 220E,W&S)
Garway Hill (129E - 221E,W&S)
Ruardean Hill (130E - 222E,W&S)
May Hill (131E - 223E,W&S)
Seager Hill (132E - 224E,W&S)
Historic County Tops (49E - 93E,W&S)
W: Wales. 
E,W&S:England,Wales & Scotland

Other walks on this trip
15th West Gloucestershire and South Herefordshire Marilyns
16th North Herefordshire Marilyns
17th Hergest Ridge & Bradnor Hill & Bredon Hill

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 15 October 2015
Walkers - Steve Smith

-  Lucksall Caravan and Camping Park
Start Point - Various. See maps below

Finish Point Various. See maps below
Total Duration - 3hrs 06mins 
Overall Average pace - 2.29mph
Total Distance Walked - 7.10 miles
Total Height Ascended - 431.85 metres

Aconbury Hill
Walk start point in Village Hall car park near phone box
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GPX can be downloaded from
1.40 miles, 62.42m ascent.
First walk of entire trip and therefore first real hill bagging walk since Gyrn Moelfre & Mynydd-y-briw last April. To say I was apprehensive would be an over exaggeration, however I was conscious of not over doing things or getting anywhere near fatigued, which in the past, I feel has contributed to setbacks and slow recovery. Anyway the plan was to walk back along the road past the chapel to warm up, rather than heading straight up hill from the car park, then follow the footpaths up and round to the summit/trig point, then return straight down through The Warren and back to the van. Other than a short excursion to the Aconbury Hill Fort near the summit, the walk unusually went exactly as planned. Well at under 1½ miles it would have been embarrassing if it had not .

As for the fort, had I not known it was there, would have missed it buried in undergrowth. Apparently it's origins date back to Roman times with more recent action during The Civil War, finally being pressed into more a peaceful application by the Royal engineers in 1884 for the Ordnance Survey.

Garway Hill
Unexpected directions on signpost near Sun Farm and Garway Hill.
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GPX can be downloaded from
1.59 miles, 95.38m ascent.
Driving towards Garway Hill start point I was already contemplating going straight up and down to the summit rather than the planned extended circular walk.  More as an attempt by me to be sensible and not do too much too soon. The fact I was wrestling with this idea confirms how hard I was finding it to act 'out of character'. Even walking from the van and heading to the common land boundary I was still thinking the circular route was preferable. However when I head my phone bleat half way up Garway Hill and realised the battery had died, meaning I had no map or means of tracking my route I decided a return by the ascent route was in order. After all what is the point of walking further if you cannot verify the route? More importantly I was "mapless". Yes I know going out in the hills without a paper map. I knew I could remember the route I had gone up, even if a pea souper descended, but finding a planned route without a map would have been difficult.
Ruardean Hill
Ruardean Hill summit area.
The highest point looks to be at the base of the electricity pole
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GPX can be downloaded from

0.03 miles, 5.05m ascent.
The original plan was top save Ruardean and May Hills for the final walk  of the trip to confirm strength and fitness. But it was 12 miles and having seen Ruardean Hill is right next to a road I decided to bag this one as a drive past.
It was past lunch time when I arrived so parking on the side of Highview Road, next to the flag pole and opposite the trig I noticed the trig was enclosed within a fence protecting the reservoir. Oh well will have to claim this one by getting as close as I can. So I cross the road and walk all of 5 yards to claim the summit.
After photos and logging I get back in to the van and start eating my dinner, whilst looking out of the window I look left and see the flag pole is higher. What do you do? Well after lunch I got out of the van again and walked 5 yards to the flag pole and just to be sure walked to the electric pole, again 5 yards away that looked a bit higher. Then just to be sure again tried to walk round the entire perimeter of the reservoir. The bonus was a hole in the fence which allowed me to gain access to the trig and do a proper bag. Yes I know very sad, but that is how it is.

It was at this point I abandoned the original plan to walk all the planned routes and bag 6 of the area 38B Marilyns and do the most direct routes possible and bag 12 of the 13 38B Marilyns, leaving Worcestershire Beacon for a later date when I return with the wife to claim what is The Historic County Top of Worcestershire.
May Hill
May Hill trig point.
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GPX can be downloaded from
1.50 miles, 106.52m ascent.
Before leaving Ruardean Hill I checked the map to find the closest road access to May Hill, programmed the SatNav and drove with a new focus. May Hill had originally been planned as part of the 12 mile route with Ruardean Hill. Instead I was now driving which seemed far more sensible.
Arriving near May Hill the hardest part was finding suitable parking especially as I was beaten to a layby near High Meadows bungalow by someone arriving literally 30 seconds before me. Eventually I found off road parking just opposite May Hill Farm, slightly extending the route but much more space reducing risk of scratching the side of the van.
Following Wyvis Way all the way to the summit, the high point seems to be amongst the trees planted for the Queen's Silver Jubilee.

From the summit, inspite of my new plan I still could not bring myself to return along the same ascent route. Instead I continued SE along The Wyvis Way then turned sharply right through woods along the south slope of May Hill. The whole walk was only 1.5 miles so this concession to my conscience was not physically costly and allowed me to fit in a circular route.
Seager Hill
Worcestershire Beacon
beyond farm buidings near Jones Coppice on Seager Hill
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GPX can be downloaded from

2.58 miles, 162.48m ascent.
Seager Hill was the 5th Marilyn of the day and was going to be the last hill of the day. Not very often have I managed a 5 Marilyn day. In fact the last time was up in Scotland on The Tyndrum Handful. A far more exhausting day, but even-so considering this was my first full days walking for 6 months I was definitely feeling tired and not feeling guilty at all about taking shorter route options.
I had planned this route on the fly at lunchtime after changing trip objective, so I was not too surprised when my access point to the hill was barred by a locked gate. Walking further along the road I found a field boundary not barred by a locked gate, but adjacent to an open gate. Further more it would have taken me to the summit ridge. However half way up I hear a booming 'pseudo friendly voice from behind "Can I help you". I turns round and explain I am 'lost' trying to get up on the ridge. "Well you can't get that way it is private land". "How can I get up on the ridge then?" I ask meekly. "Walk along the road and you will find a footpath". I know the one I thought the one I saw on the map earlier!. "OK thank you very much I say.
Along the road there were other tracks but all where barred by a locked gate. Something of a feature in this area.
Once up on the ridge the track along the top seemed easy to follow, until I came across another locked gate. The marked path through the woods was invisible and overgrown so I continued quickly along the summit ridge trig and then onto the summit. It was not until I was on the way down my phone battery gave up for the second time that day and once again with no map had to find the easiest path down which ended up bringing me to the other side of the original and locked gate as chosen for planned access point. 
While I would never go into the high hills or more remote hills without a paper map, the fact my phone /gps device is playing up now is a timely reminder to get it sorted out for when I start on the Welsh Nuttalls again sometime, I hope,  in the very near future.