Helvellyn from Wythburn Church

The path from Wythburn Church to the summit of Helvellyn is an old and well trodden route though it is perhaps now not as popular as the wide path via Grisedale Tarn or the more exciting but over publicised Striding Edge. In terms of variety and the beauty of the views though, this route to England’s third highest mountain is hard to beat especially if an old and little used shepherds’ track is followed. It is detailed in the Wainwright Guide The Eastern Fells though few people used it then and probably even fewer do today.

Beginning at Wythburn Church the path leads steeply up between tall pine trees with the river on the left; to cross a forestry road before leaving the sheltering trees for the open fellside above. The way ahead is never in doubt and soon enters a steep sided valley where the gradient of the path eases before climbing steeply up the right slope below crags. Soon the easy grassy slopes above are reached and the path again turns back around to the left with spectacular views northward along Thirlmere to where the prominent peak of Skiddaw stands in apparent isolation.

Soon after the steep drop offs to the left are passed a faint path leaves the main one in this direction and soon crosses a stream descending the western slopes of the mountain. The walker following this soon has the mountains to his or her self and is led roughly northward across easy slopes of tussock grass. The path fades in and out and it is apparent that it is rarely used, soon passing a large rock that makes a comfortable rest stop with views towards the hills around Wasdale and Buttermere away to the west. This is a tranquil place on a warm day and it is worth lingering before rejoining the rest of humanity on the summit.

The way up is found by continuing around the slope below small crags and once past them heading up the slope to the right over steep but not difficult terrain. As the path is faint and practically non existent in the latter stages, this route can not be recommended in poor weather but on a day of good visibility it is a joy to follow. Presently the main path is reached and followed left up to the summit at 3116ft or 950m above sea level – the third highest point in the Lake District.

After enjoying the views I returned by the normal path – remember to branch down to the right at the fork before Nethermost Pike or you will end up at Grisedale Tarn and wonder why you never passed it on the way up. In total it’s a climb of 2550ft or just under 800m and a distance of just over 5miles/8km in total.

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Wythburn Church at the start of the route

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Emerging above the forest with views of Thirlmere

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Thirlmere reservoir and distant Skiddaw in the North from just before where we leave the main path

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Looking back towards Coniston from the early part of the old shepherds’ path

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Looking towards the western Lakes with Great Gable Pillar and the Buttermere Fells prominent from the old shepherds’ path

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The first views over to the eastern side of the range with Striding Edge on the right

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The eastern side of Helvellyn from the summit with Catstycam and Red Tarn close by. Ullswater is the more distant lake

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Beautiful views north along the ridge towards Skiddaw and Blencathra from just past the summit

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The steep eastern face of Helvellyn with walkers by the trig point

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Not a bad spot for lunch before heading down – looking south along the ridge with Coniston in the far distance

 

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Cycling in Wales – The Mawddach Trail in Pictures…

The trail following the line of the old railway track along the southern shore of the Mawddach Estuary from Dolgellau to Barmouth, known as the Mawddach Trail, surely ranks among the best bike rides in Wales and is all the more appealing on account of its ease. If you ride all the way from Dolgellau it’s 9.5 miles or 15km each way but as our party included an eight year old and a five year old who had not long learned to ride; I figured that the 13 mile return trip from Penmaenpool on the A493 was plenty and both handled this easily. The main appeal of this route is the variety of views throughout which take in woodland, mountain and sea shore and finish with a spectacular crossing of the estuary on the wooden boards of the Barmouth Bridge… originally published at Travel Stories and Short Adventures

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The bridge at Penmaenpool where we started the Mawddach Trail

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The trail is suitable for all ages and the smallest one led most of the way

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The trail passes through patches of woodland as it heads west

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Across the estuary are the southern slopes of the Rhinog mountain range

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Distant views of the Barmouth Bridge

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Spurred on by the thought of the Bridge over the Sea

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A rest stop not far from the Barmouth Bridge

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The Barmouth Bridge in sight –  the surface is wooden boards – easy to ride on

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View of Cadair Idris from the Barmouth Bridge crossing

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Looking up the estuary towards Dolgellau from the bridge

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Boats in Barmouth Harbour and views to Cardigan Bay with Fairbourne ahead

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Coming into Barmouth on the far side of the bridge

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A Short Adventure in Snowdonia – part 2 – in the Eastern Glyders

The following morning after a night in the valley undisturbed by any kind of adverse weather, we set off once again in warm summer conditions, from the car park just behind the shops in Capel Curig. Away from the main A5 the Ogwen has probably changed little in the last hundred or so years and we had only a few lethargic looking cows for company as we trudged up the track that – before that highway was built – was the main route to Bangor and the coast. We were not though heading that way which would have taken us past yesterday’s start point and instead left the track after a cottage and a gate, to head left or westwards up into the rough tangle of country that makes up the eastern end of the Glyders or Glyderau range.

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The early part of the trail above Capel Curig

A path – faint in places – led us up through damp grassy gullies between grey outcrops of rock to finally emerge on the somewhat boggy plateau above where the view opened up of our objective Foel Goch ahead with the rocky peaks of Snowdon to the left and the high expanse of the Carneddau across the Ogwen to the right. The last time I was here it was winter and crossing this area had been a route finding exercise to avoid the wettest ground but in summer after a dry warm period it was much easier with much of the route being over springy turf and short heather. A number of faint paths or sheep tracks lead across here but the left or southern edge is the driest. We almost stayed dry but just before reaching the safety of the rising ground beyond the bog claimed a victory when I misjudged a long jump over a dank looking pool and went in knee deep.

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Our objective Foel Goch (left) and Gallt yr Ogof from the plateau

Shortly after this point we crossed a stile and the going became easier even though it was now uphill. Grassy slopes gave way to rougher ground as the wall was followed steeply upwards towards the rocky outcrops of Gallt yr Ogof above; the easternmost major summit of the Glyders that I climbed last time in rather different conditions. Back then by the time I had passed the top of the steep section I was walking in snow and the peaks ahead were hidden in grey cloud. Not so today and the sun beat down and served to remind us that there is little in the way of fresh water on this route which is unusual for Snowdonia. Today
too the views were extensive as we gained height with the deep green lowlands of Gwydyr Forest and the distant hills of the Denbighshire hinterland behind contrasting with the paler grey green of the high mountain country into which we headed.

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Snowdon seen from the edge of the plateau

The path bears gradually to the left over stony slopes climbing more gradually before turning right up a final steep section of stones that last time was a shallow snow gully – to reach the crest of the ridge where we stopped for a break with a spectacular view along the Glyder ridge ahead to Glyder Fach and Tryfan and much nearer; our objective Foel Goch.

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From the rest stop – Foel Goch, Glyder Fach, Y Garn and Tryfan

Now if you read the last part of this post you will recall that we climbed Foel Goch yesterday – partly true but that was another Foel Goch (the name means Red Hill) nearer the western end of the ridge and from here obscured behind Tryfan. I suppose that if Scotland can have any number of Ben Mores and Geal Charns then why not? These two are on the same ridge though!

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Finally the summit of Foel Goch looking onwards along the ridge

After a short break we headed on and just when we thought we were done with bogs, the sogginess was back with a vengeance. Wellies and perhaps a small boat would be a help in the direct crossing to Foel Goch and i became glad I didn’t attempt it in the bad weather the last time. The best route is to follow a faint path to the far side of the ridge overlooking the Ogwen Valley where a better path is picked up going to the left. This avoids most of the wetness around a small tarn. Climbing up to Foel Goch the ground became dry and stony once more and we were soon enjoying our lunch on the rocky summit which despite the glorious weather we had entirely to ourselves along with the beautiful views of this wild and little visited corner of Snowdonia.

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Heading back there is a beautiful view over Gwydyr Forest

We opted to head back the same way today though a nice variant would be to head on a little further to Llyn Caseg Fraith which affords a particularly photogenic view of Tryfan across its waters; and follow the heathery path down to the Ogwen below the East Face of that peak. From there the valley track on which we began can be followed back to Capel Curig and if you’re feeling energetic then head up to Glyder Fach before making the descent.

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Almost back – the rooftops of Capel Curig as we headed down from the plateau

If you missed part 1 it’s right here

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A Short Adventure in Snowdonia – part 1

The first day of our short adventure in Snowdonia dawned clear, sunny and warm as we left the campsite at Dolgam to head through the small hamlet of Capel Curig and into the Ogwen Valley which is Wales’ answer to Glencoe, such is the vista that opens up suddenly as you leave the woods of Gwydyr Forest behind and head into the wilds. Josh was with me on this trip and for a Father and Son adventure it seemed fitting to show him one of my favourite routes in Snowdonia – there are a few but this circuit of Foel Goch and Y Garn starting along a little used path is one of them!

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Setting out from Llyn Ogwen with Foel Goch ahead

A short while later we were heading up the path from Ogwen Cottage to the mountain tarn of Llyn Idwal in its spectacular rocky cirque and crossed the outflow to head right to join the constructed path to Y Garn. A little way after crossing a stone wall, a faint path led off to the right traversing steep hillsides to reach open ground with a view ahead to Foel Goch. (you can turn right and follow the wall but this way avoids some marshy ground and a short rock step)

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The Nant Ffrancon from where we left the main path

Soon we were back on a clear path which led across a short scree slope and up into a remote feeling valley high above the Nant Ffrancon and below the crags of Y Garn with the way seen clearly ahead and a sublime panorama behind to Llyn Ogwen and Tryfan. Soon the path dipped to cross a stream where we refilled water bottles for a warm day ahead and began the steep ascent to Foel Goch. This path zig zags up at first before becoming fainter on the heathery slopes above. As long as you keep going up you will reach the ridge which falls away in spectacular fashion on its eastern side with views north down past Bethesda to the coast.

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As the ridge is reached the craggy nature of Foel Goch is revealed

Following the interesting ridge upwards brought us to more level ground where we took the path as far as the fence. Here a right brought us to the summit though a more direct route may have been shorter. Either way the summit of Foel Goch feels like the end of things with the ground dropping away to the valley over 2000 feet down. Indeed from the road, this rugged wall looks impregnable and one would little imagine this field-like area even existed. We had our lunch on the edge overlooking the Nant Ffrancon as I did the last time I was here and like then we had the place to ourselves.

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Josh on the ridge with our next objective Y Garn beyond

The ascent of Y Garn involved retracing our steps back down along the fence and simply following the path up the long wide ridge beyond. There were more hikers on this peak – mainly descending from the other side and we soon reached the cairn marking the summit which is one of the Welsh 3000 foot peaks. The views from here are equally spectacular with the Glyders and Tryfan taking centre stage; the central part of the range which is accessible by continuing down along the ridge to Llyn y Cwn where a descent via the Devils Kitchen path is also possible to Llyn Idwal.

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The view from the lunch table – the Ogwen Valley, Tryfan and Glyder Fach

Today though we had opted for the steep descent of the East Ridge which was reached by retracing our steps a little way from the summit. On the first part some care is needed as it’s a bit loose so running is not recommended! Lower down though after some views of our whole route, a contructed path wass reached that led back to Llyn Idwal. By carrying straight on at the wall (the one we crossed earlier in the other direction) we followed a more direct route to Ogwen Cottage via an interesting rocky gully that emerged near the visitor centre.

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The summit of Y Garn with the route down clearly visible and the Irish Sea beyond

This isn’t a particularly long outing being around 9km or 6 miles but it is a varied and enjoyable one that heads through some of the best scenery in North Wales and as a Lad and Dad adventure it made for a great day out. The greatest joy was in showing my son one of my favourite areas and it was especially pleasing that he wanted to do more in the mountains around here. The route itself can be extended by continuing to Elidir Fawr or even as far as Carnedd y Filiast where I once sat on a winter’s day seemingly the only person for a hundred miles though when encouraging someone to love the mountains it’s probably best not to overdo things! Here’s part 2 of our short adventure.

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Sublime scenery of Cwm Idwal and the Glyders seen from the route down

 

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View of Tryfan and the Ogwen Valley from the route down

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The last part of the path down goes through this fascinating gully – Pen yr Ole Wen beyond

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A Walk in South Wales – Peaks of the Brecon Beacons

It’s hard to believe after all the recent snow and rain that little over a week ago I was enjoying this walk in wonderful Spring – almost Summer – conditions in the Brecon Beacons National Park which is a part of Wales I have barely visited. It was different to the rugged wilds of Snowdonia which I am used to but I’m glad I went and will go again as there are many more walks in the Brecons and Black Mountains that are well worth the long journey. For now though here’s a popular route to the highest point in South Wales…

From the idyllic location of my campsite at Cwmdu near Crickhowell I headed over to the equally beautiful but busier village of Talybont in glorious spring sunshine and followed the minor road along the reservoir of the same name up over the mountain to Taf Fechan Forest. From here begins the route to Pen y Fan and the other high peaks of the Brecon
Beacons.

The start of the walk passes below the Neuadd Reservoir

Having discovered that I could have driven another mile towards my objective – I had parked in the edge of the forest but it’s a nice walk so not to worry – I followed the left hand track to the old dam wall of the old or lower Neuadd Reservoir with beautiful views to the highest peaks of South Wales around the head of the valley, and crossed it to gain the open mountainside throgh a gate. The profusion of rhododendron bushes along here at nearly 1500ft indicated that I was further south than my usual destinations of Snowdonia or the Lake District and indeed this was my first time in the Beacons.

A wide trail led up the steep grassy slopes towards the crest of the ridge which revealed itself as the edge of a wide plateau, along which an easy trail led roughly northwards towards the summits. The first top was reached with surprising ease as the views southward towards Cardiff and the hazy distance of the Bristol Channel expanded to include the wild looking hills of Camarthen Fan to the West. From here a small dip followed by a short steep climb led to Corn Du; the first of the main summits of the Brecon Beacons.

Looking back towards the start from the first part of the ridge

Looking back towards the start from the first part of the ridge

Despite the glorious sunshine, a strong wind gusted over these high places and I had lunch in a sheltered dip just below the flat summit on the edge of the abyss overlooking Brecon and the low lying Usk Valley. It was a good spot, sheltered and unseen from above or below though most of the tourists (coming up the shorter route from the A 470 were headed
straight to the next peak Pen y Fan. That indeed was my next objective and a brief battle with the wind brought me the short distance to where they congregated around the large cairn marking bthe highest point in South Wales and southern Britain.

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Ahead along the easy ridge towards Corn Du and Pen y Fan

The views from here extend from the Bristol Channel and the Devon coast to the South while the northern vista leads far into Mid Wales though today the distance was somewhat hazy. Camarthen Fan which is really the western part of the Brecon Beacons lay to the West while the other way the line of the Black Mountains rose along the horizon beyond large areas of lowlands.It’s different to Snowdonia where you are usually surrounded by mountains as other than the immediate peaks of the Beacons the other ranges are a long way off and it gives a huge sense of space. One of those nearer peaks though is Cribyn just along the ridge and this was my next objective.

Pen y Fan - the highest mountain in South Wales from Corn Du

Pen y Fan – the highest point in South Wales from Corn Du

Heading down the steep ridge from Pen y Fan the crowds are left behind and one feels a sense of return to the wilds. On a sunny day like this the grassy ridge beween Pen y Fan and Cribyn is a wonderful rest spot with a small tarn – more of a pool really – and a good place to regain energy before the steep ascent to Cribyn. It’s a good path but is about
a 400 foot climb after an easy couple of miles. The path right from this col misses out Cribyn if you really can’t face it but it would be a shame to miss as it’s the finest of the 3 peaks despite being slightly lower. Here as on the ridge below, far from the day trippers, you can experience the peace of the hills once more.

The path continues on down the ridge again with no difficulties to reach the old Roman road that traverses through the Brecon Beacons from north to south so at the col – Bwlch ar y Fan – it’s a case of turning right and marching south as the Legionaries once did. I could have used a bike here but it was a pleasant enough if long trudge back passing a
small group of wild ponies along the way. The distance was only noticable once I reached the top car park and had to go the extra mile to Taf Fechan Forest but on a day like this I was not complaining.

The route from Pen y Fan continues over Cribyn

The route from Pen y Fan drops down to the col and up to the next summit Cribyn

Pen y Fan from the col

Looking back up to Pen y Fan from the col en route to Cribyn

Waun Rydd and Fan y Big from Cribyn.

Waun Rydd and Fan y Big from Cribyn The route heads to the obvious col and turns right to follow the Roman road

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Looking back to Pen y Fan from the summit of Cribyn

Heading down the Roman road at the end of the day with the hills behind

Heading down the Roman road at the end of the day. Beyond are the 3 peaks of Corn Du 2864ft, Pen y Fan 2907ft and Cribyn 2608ft

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The Colonel of Krasnoyarsk – an Exerpt

Editing the new story is almost done and it’ll be here soon but in the meantime here’s a random exerpt from “The Colonel of Krasnoyarsk” which is different from the free previews available at online retailers…

He watched two police cars pulling up outside the front of the house. Their blue lights were flashing but the sirens were silent. Two officers emerged from each car and began inspecting the front of the house. They hadn’t seen him. The distant rumble of another approaching train could be heard which gave Yuri an idea. Suddenly a crash was heard downstairs as officers kicked or forced the front door while Medev calmly shouldered his bag which was ready packed.

A second after the crash, a loud explosion followed almost immediately by another reverberated downstairs as the stun grenades he had secured to the door went off. They were meant as a surprise for anyone entering unannounced and they were followed three seconds later by the dull thuds of the gas grenades detonating. These were for anyone who hadn’t got the message the first time. Yuri knew no one would be coming up the stairs so, still calm, he opened the large window at the rear of the house and exited onto the flat roof just below.

There were shouts of panic in the still morning air but they were all at the front of the house and there was no way through short of climbing the high fence. There was no one waiting below. He ran silently across the roof, dropped his pack onto the grass and followed it down noiselessly, rolling over as he’d done in countless parachute landings. Springing back to his feet in a single movement he shouldered his bag again and ran to the back of the garden where he easily climbed the wooden fence hearing shouts from inside the garden as he jumped down the far side. The fence was of solid panels and six feet in height so his pursuers would only see him once they climbed it too. He sprinted the twenty or so metres to the railway and crossed the tracks turning to face the house.

The train would be here in less than a minute and he wanted it between him and anyone chasing him. A head appeared cautiously over the top of the fence and immediately ducked back down as Yuri’s shots splintered the top of the fence half a metre away. Medev was aiming to just miss, he had no argument with the policeman who was doing his job, as he
himself would have done but he did not want to be followed. It worked as no one else looked over the fence and here was the train.

He noted that it was heading south, back towards the City, otherwise he would have jumped onto one of the flatbed freight trucks. The massive diesel thundered past followed by a mile long line of trucks moving at little more than twenty miles an hour. That was a three minute head start he had and that was from when the police realised he was no longer there to shoot at them.

He was jogging quickly towards the river where he would take a motor boat from the small harbour area. As he ran he looked for a likely target. There would be time to start the motor and get clear but not for a second try. Then he couldn’t believe his luck, approaching the wooden jetty, its engine buzzing like a wasp, was a small seaplane moving at taxiing
speed towards where a man was waiting with a rope in hand to secure it to a bollard.

The train still rumbled noisily past behind as Yuri jogged out along the jetty over the Hudson River. With the noise of the train and aircraft, which was now alongside, the man didn’t know he was there until he was grabbed from behind in a judo hold and thrown back onto the jetty face down. Yuri pulled open the door of the plane and pointed his gun at the
shocked face inside.

‘Get out, now!’ he shouted ‘And leave the engine running!’ The man did as he was told and scrambled out quickly, one leg slipping into the water. Yuri hauled him bodily clear of the river and deposited him by the other man. His expression said that he didn’t believe this was really happening but he did not try to fight.

Two policemen were now sprinting, weapons drawn, towards the jetty followed by two more just behind while the distant noise of sirens drew steadily nearer. Unhitching the mooring rope he calmly threw his bag into the stowage area behind the seats and jumped into the left hand seat. He knew how long the officers would take to reach him and their pistols would not be accurate at this range so there was no need to panic. They reached the jetty as he reached down to push the throttle lever forward. Engine roaring, the small aircraft began to move forward towards the shore and he turned the wheel-like joystick to the right as spray chilled his face from the open door which he pulled shut. With the water now staying outside he found the rudder controls and gained more control of the plane now accelerating away from the shoreline.

He had been trained to fly both conventional aircraft and helicopters and while he would never be a fighter pilot he could control most basic light aircraft though a seaplane was new territory. It would be fine once he found the windscreen wiper control.

The throttle was fully open and his speed was sixty miles an hour and rising, he pulled back slightly on the column and the water seemed less bumpy. As his speed increased, the vibration and noise changed and he was airborne. Watching the little aircraft shape on one of the dials he executed a wide climbing turn to the right then found the wiper control and
no longer needed the artificial horizon, he could now see the wide featureless expanse of the Hudson spread out below him like a lake. Ahead the grey sky promised rain as he flew northwards over a low road bridge with a central iron span far out in the grey water where a multi lane highway crossed to the far shore.

The altimeter passed 1000 feet and he eased the throttle back. There was more drag from the floats than on a normal aircraft but with some experimentation he soon achieved level flight cruising at about a hundred miles per hour just over two thousand feet above the river which became narrower as he headed north…

>>>Download the full story for $2.99 or less – choice of Kindle US/UK or Smashwords>>>

 

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The Time Bridge… a Short Story

Not so long ago I was asked by my seven year old son to write a story incorporating time travel, knights, a battle and a boy not so very different from himself. It was a challenge that took me as far from  writing about outdoor adventures as it did from the exploits of Yuri Medev but I enjoyed  it enough to think about doing another one soon.   The result was “The Time Bridge” which is five short chapters in a pdf file after the introduction which you can read here or download for free to read later. Let me know what you think…

Dan crouched down behind the large oak tree where he was out of sight of the path. He could hear the faint noise of traffic from the main road behind him as he strained his ears to hear where they were. He would be safe if he could get to the road. If only he’d waited at school for his mum he would have been all right. She had said that she would be just a little bit later than usual today and he’d thought he would meet up with her along the path. Even if his mum wasn’t there yet there would be grown ups; perhaps that man who walked his dog or the lady with the orange coat on her way to the corner shop. It was near but so were they; Darren Hall and his mates. They were somewhere behind and they were now shouting to him.

    “We know you’re there so you better come out… Yeah or else we’ll push you in the nettles.”

The bigger boys were between Dan and the road – between him and safety. They had seen him as he’d left the school gates and chased him down into the woods behind the school. Perhaps he should have carried on towards home but they would probably have caught him before he reached the road and there were those big nettle bushes by the path. He wondered where this path went. If he carried on down the hill he was bound to come out somewhere and he could make his way back up past the other side of the school along the main road. Darren and his bullies would probably have given up and gone by then.

His mum had always told him not to go by the main road as it was dangerous and some of the cars went far too fast but if he was careful… what if someone saw him though? Would he get into trouble? He could hear voices whispering somewhere behind him in the bushes; they were getting closer but had not seen him yet so he quietly left the shelter of the large tree and made his way as quietly as possible down the path worried that the older boys would hear his heart pounding. He was wondering where exactly they were when there was a shout behind him…

>>> Read the rest of The Time Bridge

 

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