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Just Add Nature

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

It’s 7am on a Saturday morning, the alarm is going and the hills are calling me. Rolling out of bed weary eyed and a little fragile from the drinks of the night before I’m up and eager to leave the house but first COFFEE! Although I usually drink decaf it’s still a huge part of my morning routine, without it I don’t feel like the day has really begun.

The smell of freshly ground coffee and the sound of the steamer frothing the milk is like therapy. This Saturday morning was a special one, me (Titch) and two friends were setting off on a two day trekking trip. Coffee drunk, granola eaten, bag packed and dog in the van ready to go and pick up one of two friends.

Driving into the Welsh hills was both relaxing and exciting knowing that for the next two days I’d have nothing more than the rucksack on my back, the binoculars round my neck, Bentley (the dog) and my two friends. Disconnecting from the usual fast pace of life and running a business isn’t just a luxury but necessary for my sanity. It’s a chance to disengage from the usual stresses and reconnect with nature, I always try to take a pair of binoculars with me. On this occasion I took my Opticron Traveller 8x32 which for me is the perfect balance of lightweight yet bright and with a super wide field of view I use them to help me find the next style or reference for route navigation.

The Welsh hills have an abundance of nature and a vast array of different habitats including bogs, open rocky hills, dense and open forests giving homes to squirrels, voles, insects, moths, butterflies and a variety of birds. Setting off from the car park we were mostly greeted by other walkers although their rucksacks looked noticeably smaller and lighter, perhaps they were day hikers? And sheep, lots and lots of sheep, Wales is obviously known for the number of sheep and they are scattered all over the Welsh hills. With a dog that loves to play with anything that moves it’s a little difficult to navigate so keeping him close is a must.

We set out from the car park at Cwmorthin waterfall heading up towards Llyn Cwmorthin where we turned right before the lake and up towards the slate mines of Blaenau Ffestiniog. This is where we were first greeted by Skylarks singing away but as I find with most things I could hear them but couldn’t quite get my bins onto them. The skylarks continued to sing and we found a great spot for lunch on top of a rock with enough flat spots for a stove to cook some noodles. Lunch was followed by a long walk up to Caernarfon and taking on the hills of Nant Gwynant towards the end of our day. Although it was nearing the end of our first day the sun was still beating down on us making the climb up long and very sweaty. Reaching a plateau we decided to pitch our camp here by a small lake which was the perfect backdrop for a night under the stars. The evening was stunning with Kestrels, buzzards and a red kite all visible floating on the last of the day's thermals seeking out their dinner. While raptors soared on the thermals, the skylarks were back and this time I could see them dancing as the sunset. As much as I’d have loved to sleep out in the elements it was a little blustery, meaning you needed the shelter of a tent and the warmth of a good sleeping bag, bonus for me was a dog shaped hot water bottle that thankfully enjoys a snuggle.

We started day 2 early and the sunrise was muted by some slightly ominous looking clouds, thankfully they never produced any rain. We started the day with a short descent to join the path that we had been watching others tackle the night before. On we trekked after the summit and onto our next hill, Cnicht; a steady climb that we could really make-up time on and admire the beauty of yet more kestrels hovering on thermals at the summit. Clearly the day had warmed up just like the day before. We made a poor decision for the descent of Cnicht meaning we were scrambling down the face using small edges for footholds and guiding the dog down big slab sections to finally get to the point where it became more of a walking trail rather than the scrambling we had just been exposed to.

Cnicht was the final big hill… Until we reached our final hill which thankfully we weren’t scheduled to summit and instead managed to skirt around it at around 450 metres with a large reservoir to our right which showed off yet more birds but with blisters plaguing my heels and fatigue in the legs I didn’t take too much time to get my bins on them. Descending off we were faced with some steep grassy sections but this is where I was glad I had my binoculars I was made up that I could finally see the van in the car park probably only a kilometre or so away but our path meant we would still cover another 2.5km at least and most of this was down steep descents without any opportunity to stop and admire the view.

We finished the day around 4.15pm and covered over 25 miles of walking with 1 crazy dog, 3 lads and a craving to connect with nature. My advice is take your binoculars, disconnect and get out into nature. It will feed your soul and relax your mind even if the walking takes it out of you physically.

Binoculars used: Opticron Traveller ED 8x32

Species seen: Buzzard, Kestrel, Red Kite, Sky Lark, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Robin, Bluetit, Grey Squirrel, Sheep and so many insects and butterflies that I’m yet to learn about.

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