Chelmsford YHA Group


The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group

July 2017

The Mists of Mourne

Mourne Wall, Slieve Commedagh

When the ragged band had started their journey, the skies had been blue with a golden yellow sun beaming warmly on their backs. The track devolved from tarmac to gravel as they walked into the valley and the small farm buildings got further and further apart. The only constant was the wall – about 5 feet high and made of rounded granite boulders, warmed in the sun – which followed them to the trailhead. As the path moved from gravel to the rock and peat of the hillside, the skies started to grey and the air took on a clammy chill. The earthy mass of the mountain towered above them and wisps of cloud started to dance around the summit. Onwards, always onwards, the troupe were determined not be beaten by the elements as the cloud thickened and started to roll down the hillside towards them. The air cooled further and a steady rain started to rattle on their packs. Having dressed for a very different journey, the band paused and threw on coats and covers in an attempt to keep out the elements, but then pressed on. Always upwards.

The cloud swirled around them, forming a dense cloak of mist. It was no longer possible to see those at the rear of the group, so they halted the train and cowered under the shelter of the wall to wait. One by one shadows staggered out of the mist and threw themselves down at the base of the wall. Strength needed to be maintained, so food was retrieved from packs and consumed from wet hands under dripping brows.

A lone stranger emerged from the fog, "Enjoying the weather?" he asked. ""Thought we’d wait it out" one of the party replied. With a snort the stranger grunted, "Don’t hold your breath" and walked on. The misty air dampening his paces, it was soon as if he’d never been. The band looked at each other and then wearily struggled to their feet: it was simply too cold to just sit there and wait.

Deteriorating weather by Mourne Wall (Judy's photo)

Visibility had reduced to just a few feet. The band climbed with views no more enticing than the wet shadow of the figure ahead, feet sliding in the peat. Suddenly the path seemed to stop, there was no more up and huge rocks towered on either side like guardians to a secret world. The arrival at the pass was accompanied by a whistling wind, pushing round and between the rocks, urging them onwards to find some sort of shelter. Through the mist a narrow path could be discerned, winding around the base of the sentinel rock and on to the summit ridge. They followed it, turning up their collars to keep out the freezing wind.

Descending along the ridge, it was hard to make out the route in the swirling fog, then a towering castle of rock loomed above them: the path was found. Mist condensed around the weirdly twisted, grey rocks which led them on, downwards now, from tor to tor along the ridge. At the far end of the mountain the path became rocky steps, leading them downwards until, at last, they broke through the cloud onto the pass below. After hours of grey, eyes were filled with green and blue, a reservoir and the mountains beyond. They were saved.

Having never watched an episode of “Game of Thrones”, I’m not sure whether I’ve managed to capture the spirit of the wild landscape of Northern Ireland where much of the series was filmed, but I think I might spoil it if I say we finished the walk sunbathing at a very nice tea room. There were no dragons either. I think.


Walking with Giants

Giants Causeway

Our recent trip to Northern Ireland was split between two locations. The first was Newcastle, nestled at the base of the Mountains of Mourne. The second was at Ballintoy on the Antrim coast. We had good weather at both locations, but also some rain. However the best combination of scenery and weather was undoubtedly the day we walked from the Giants Causeway back to Ballintoy. The weather was marvellously sunny and views were clear after the rain. We started at the spectacular rock formations of the Causeway, which distracted us from the walk until nearly lunchtime. You might think that was the highlight, but once we left the crowds behind we were on the cliffs amongst the wildflowers and looking down on basalt columns below. Further along and you move from basalt into chalk country. You descend down on to the sands at White Park through chalk arches and then back through basalt pinnacles into Ballintoy Harbour. Unfortunately we were just too late for the tearoom, but otherwise the walk was perfect.

During our stay we had views all the way across to Scotland. The Mull of Galloway was certain, pretty sure we saw Arran and there was even a sneaky peak at the Paps of Jura. A couple of spectacular sunsets were the icing on the cake. When can we go again?

Please send any comments on these pages to Dave Plummer