Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Favourite winter paddles for 'The Guardian' newspaper

I have been asked by the travel section of 'The Guardian' newspaper to write a short piece about one of my favourite winter paddling areas. I was given a limit as to the amount of words to be used, which proved to be quite a challenge.

I chose a wonderfully varied coastline that provides surprisingly sheltered paddling throughout the winter months.

To find out more, pop down to your local newsagents. The article will appear in this Saturday's edition (17th February).

Jim Krawiecki

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Ski Jimski - Fog Blog 2 (the sequel)

Cross Country Skiing in the Clwydian Hills.

On a misson to get out on our Cross Country Skis at least once this year, My friend Chris and I headed for the hills in search for adventure. My friend Maurice lives near Mold and he informed me that there was 6-9 inches and that he was having difficulty digging his car out!

Initially, the going was tough in the deep snow drifts. There's a single track road under here somwhere beneath my feet.

Its amazing to see that the Gorse is flowering in spite of, and in contrast to the freezing gloom. By this time the going was getting a little easier. Our ski technique was begining to tshow signs of improvement too.

Climbing over stiles proved to be quite a challenge....................

............. but the whole procedure was executed with grace, (pride remained intact for the most part) honestly!

Skiing in deep snow through the woods is simply idillic, but once we were out on the moors navigation proved to be quite a challenge.

On the final push for the summit of Foel Fenlli our technique was called into question as we did our best to make our way through the gorse and heather. Ooops! .............. I'm actually perfectly in control.

Chris on the summit, in the centre of the hillfort of Foel Fenlli. It was far too chilly to up there for long and there was absoloutley no chance of a view so we hurried back down. As we zig-zagged our way back down, we were hoping to avoid colliding with the snowboarders we had met on the way up. We could hear them calling to each other nearby. Every now and then we would see one appear through the gloom.

Time for a rest and a Brew! We found a neat little shelered spot between the wood and a large snowdrift. Perfect!

The final stages of the descent had its moments! The track we had struggled up at the beginning had been neatly smoothed by tractor traffic, creating a rough piste. I was quite surprised as I gathered speed at an alarming and uncontrolled rate. Fortunately, the snow on either side of the track provided soft crashlandings! Thanks to Chris Bolton for the Photos.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Fog Blog (part 1) - The Wyre Estuary

Several of us NWSKers went up to meet Peter, the old man of the sea, on the beach beside the leisure centre at Fleetwood. He had kindly offered to take us all out for a paddle on his local stretch, The Wyre estuary. The Fleetwood coast and the Wyre estuary set the scene for two vaguely significant events in recent sea kayaking history.

Photographer and round Anglesey record holder, John Willacy chased the English Channel record holder, Ian Tordoff to his victory here in the 2005 Seaquest race. A little a little earlier, the writer and historian, Mark Rainsley was stormbound upon these shores for almost a week. That particular episode was the inspiration for his article ‘Ennui’ which was very much on my mind as I paddled out into the cool gloom of a foggy winters morning.

The first task was to paddle on a bearing across the mouth of the estuary as quickly as possible in order to find refuge from any boat and shipping traffic that may have been entering or leaving the mouth of the estuary.

In the shallows of the upper reaches of the estuary the sandbanks were crowded with flocks of Oystercatcher and Lapwing. Once away from the sandbanks we got a feeling of paddling in a whiteout. The visibility was much reduced and there was no indication of where the horizon was. There seemed little point in paddling much further so we stopped for a short beak at the Wyre Estuary Country Park at Stanah for refreshments.

On the way back, local paddler Peter Roscoe told us stories from the estuary’s long history of salt extraction. The local maps show a great number of Brine Wells on the eastern side of the estuary.

Due to the continuing foggy conditions, we sneaked past the Stenna Ro-Ro ferry before she was anywhere near fully loaded before heading back to the beach beside the leisure centre.

Carneddau - above and below

Part 1 - The Conwy Estuary

A couple of weekends ago I drove off to meet some friends for some chilly sea kayaking. There was a big spring tide with high water shortly after midday so we had the option of either paddling round the Great Orme near Llandudno, or up the Conwy Estuary. On the day there was a sharp westerly blowing onto the beach at Llandudno's West Shore. The kitesurfers were making the most of the lumpy conditions and making plenty of good aerial moves.

We made an easy decision to change our original plan and drive accross to 'The Beacons' carpark beside Conwy Marina. The flood tide generates an exciting tidal stream that runs up to 6 knots between the marinas of Conwy and Deganwy. We played in the standing waves off the jetty before allowing ourselves to be swept along, upstream towards Conwy castle and the historic bridges. It can be an interesting ride with tricky water conditions because some of the larger mooring buoys become submerged by the powerful currents. Making contact with one of these buoys can give a nasty surprise, possibly followed by a capsize!

Once under the bridges and into calmer water we foundd time to relax and enjoy the views of the Carneddau, these are the mountains at the north-east corner of the Snowdonia national park.

The strong westerly wind began to funnel out of the Conwy valley giving us a stiff headwind to work up against. Eventually we found a nice sheltered spot for a brief lunch stop beside the bridge at Tal-y-Cafn. We couldn't stop for all that long because it was getting rapidly colder. We would be better of getting back into our boats and getting warm whilst paddling back to 'The Beacons'

We soon picked up the ebbing tide and with the wind behind us aided our swift return to where we had started. The end of the journey was not without entertainment. Mark gave us all a laugh whilst exploring whirlpools under the bridges beside the castle, a roll or two later and all was well, although I hear he needs a new hat and another pair of sunglasses.

Derek earned an astonishingly easy OBE by colliding with some moorings. There was a frantic struggle between folk to get to him quickly because it had been declared that the rescuer gets beer!

After getting changed, beers were duly exchanged at the recommended 'Mulberry' pub beside Conwy Marina.

Part 2 - A walk along the tops

The following weekend my brother Chris and I headed off to go in seach of fine views of the north wales coast and the Conwy valley and a strenuous walk on the Carneddau. We started from the A5 beside the Midland Association of Moutaineers' hut at western end of Llyn Ogwen. The walk up the side of the valley towards Cwm Loer is steep but rewarding because it gets you up high very quickly. Sadly once we arrived on the loer slopes of Pen yr Ole Wen, we lost all chances of getting a view due to hill fog and low cloud.

We carried on through pathches of deep soft snow accross the peaks of Carnedd Fach, Carnedd Dafydd and by the time we arrived at Carnedd Llewellyn we began to get a hint that the weather might clear.

Views finally became more promising on the ridge close to Pen yr Helgy Du. Once we had safely descended onto the resevoir access road all that remained was a gruelling 2 mile trudge along the A5 back to the car.