…Cool woods

The evening before, we had visited the stunning Ridge of Capard.  It was late afternoon when we got there, and we simply ran out of time to fully enjoy the area.

Throughout our walk along the Ridge I had been telling Mum about the beautiful Glenbarrow falls in the valley below us, and the curious rock formations at Flat Rocks…and the satisfaction (for me!) of getting to the top of the steep section half way around.

With all this in mind, we gave more thought to planning our day trip out, and giving ourselves as much time as we felt we needed.  With our morning chores done, and with our sandwiches packed, we headed for Glenbarrow.

We had a very quick diversion to Cathole’s Falls…we’d seen the signposts on our travels the evening before, and this was another place that I’d never visited.  Once again, I mentally added this location to the never-ending list of places I want to come back to, but today we had other plans, and so after a short wander, and a little toe-dipping, we hit the road and pressed on to Glenbarrow.

I had waxed lyrical about the peace and quiet of the Glenbarrow area…and with it being mid-week I fully expected us to be the only ones there.  But TWO coachloads of schoolchildren soon dissuaded me of that idea.  Filled with the excitement of nearing the end of term, and the end of their school year, they were enjoying a day trip out.
Oddly though, and perhaps fortunately (if I’m allowed to say that?), they were loading up onto their coaches and heading away to their next destination…so we would have peace and quiet on the trails after all.

Ireland was still in the grip of a mini-heatwave, and it was ridiculously hot.  I suggested to Mum that we walk as far as the falls, and see how both we and the dogs were coping with the heat, before we decided whether to carry on or turn back.  The trail from the car park to the Falls was mostly through tree cover.  Once we pressed on from there we’d be heading towards trail sections that were in the open and afforded little shade for us to rest and cool down in.

We weren’t hunting for Geocaches this time, so we came across Flat Rocks much quicker than I’d remembered rom before.  With proper boots on this time I had much better grip on the wet rocks too.  Dolly loved being able to paddle in the shallow river sections on the rocks, and the moving water gave us a great opportunity to safely water the dogs without using up our own water resources.

Dolly on Flat Rock

The Falls themselves looked significantly different due to the lack of recent rainfall.  We found a path that almost allowed us to get into the river bed, up to the base of the Falls.  No way we could have done that on our previous visit.  I was saddened to see that a relatively recent visitor had deemed it appropriate to throw their banana skin into the falls.  Would it have been SO difficult to take their rubbish back home with them?  Judging by the freshness of it, it hadn’t been there long.  Perhaps the culprit would do well to remind themselves of the principles of Leave No Trace.

Spot the banana skin...

Spot the banana skin…

The dogs were coping well with the heat, the woods had done a great job in keeping us cool, and so we pressed on.  I wish I’d taken more photographs of our day out, but sections of the path ahead had been so muddy as to be almost impassable the last time I’d gone up here.  However, this time they were rock hard and bone dry, quite a contrast!  And much easier to walk across!  At the bottom of the dreaded ‘steep section’ we stopped to water the dogs.  Knowing that once past this spot we would be going steeply uphill, and out under the glare of the sun.  I also wanted to talk to my head about going up this steep section.  It IS only short, but it is steep (even the map calls it steep!) and I find the uneven steps at the beginning of it to be real leg-killers.  Imagine my delight at getting to the top of the section without stopping!  I won’t say I wasn’t puffing, panting, bitching and moaning…but I got up there, and I didn’t stop on the way.  And for me, that’s a small victory!

The steps to Hell

The steps to Hell

We found a tree to hide in the shade under whilst we watered the dogs, watered ourselves, got my breath back, and then we carried on along the trail.  I swear my stride had a little bounce of confidence in it, as we walked along. Smug isn’t the word I’m looking for, but I was more than a bit chuffed that I’d faced the dreaded ‘steep section’ and got  to the top relatively easily!

I had explained to Mum about the last time we did this route, and how I thought we’d taken a wrong turning.  If she was willing and up for it, I wanted to try to find the correct route, but it might a fool’s errand and it may involve turning back and re-tracing our route, back to the path that I knew would take us back to the car park.  Arriving at the junction where the route arrow points straight on, but the route map suggests we should turn right….we turned right.  And we walked.  and we walked some more.  And then we walked a bit further.  And then I got out my OSI map, and tried to work out where we were.  Where I thought we were heading, and how closely the OSI map, and our current position, correlated with the loop route map I’d snapped on my camera phone.  Fortunately my navigational skills learnt during my time with the Venture Scouts didn’t let me down.  I know I’d need a refresher course in Navigation to get myself out of trouble in the fog on a hill top…but on a clear sunny day, with fairly easy landmarks to distinguish, I soon pinpointed exactly where we were and which direction we were heading in.  By my reckoning, at the next left curve there should be a path off to the left.  I promised Mum that if there was no path, I’d give up on finding the ‘correct’ route, and we turn back and stick to the route I knew

The track started curving to the left,  The trees to our left were coming to an end, and the land ahead was opening up to be flat heathland.  And there, hidden in the undergrowth on our left, was an ‘easy-to-miss’ finger post with a route arrow on it….bingo!  Between two trees there was a narrow path taking us into deep, dark woods…we were getting hot and sweaty at that point, and those cool, dark woods could not have been more welcoming!

Deep, dark woodland path...

Deep, dark woodland path…

I was confident this was the correct path, but reassured Mum that even if it wasn’t it was heading in the right direction, and I would ensure we got back to car park…getting lost on the New Forest, just me and my horse, and finding new ways to get home had been a favourite hobby in my youth, and had given me a reasonably reliable sense of direction!

It was downhill all the way.  Steep in some sections, rough in others.  We required our poles a few times to negotiate some awkward sections, and I wouldn’t fancy it if the ground was wet or slippery…indeed Dolly and I had words a couple of times to ensure she wouldn’t pull me off-balance in her enthusiasm to explore & sniff at the limit of her Flexi lead…but it was deep, dark, silent and magical…and reminded me of exploring long-forgotten areas of the New Forest.

Soon enough, the path brought us along side a fence, which in turn dropped us down to the forestry barrier, taking us down the lane back to the car park.  The car park was empty, so I moved the camper van in under some trees, and opened all the doors to cool it off, whilst we enjoyed mugs of hot tea (humans) and bowls of cool water (canines).

I was delighted that I had got up the steep section, which had so frustrated me on my previous visit, much more easily.  Some of that was from my head knowing where the end of the ‘up’ bit was, and also, I hope, because my fitness is improving.  I was also pleased that we had also found the elusive correct trail, so the distance on my Runkeeper app corresponded more closely with the trail length on the route map, and I’d got to walk through some fabulous dark forest.
I wonder would I be brave enough to do the same forest section, in the dark…hmmm…maybe a Halloween Night Hike….well, I do get a perverse joy in deliberately scaring myself sometimes! Yet another “I want to do that” to add to my mental list.

We had enjoyed a really lovely walk, in a beautiful area, on a really hot day, and made the most of the gorgeous cool woods.



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