The plan all along was to hike to Cantilever Rock, a very well photographed stone on the Glyder Fach mountain in Snowdonia. It had been on my ‘to do’ list for years but I had never quite got around to it for one reason or another. We had planned to head up there early on Saturday morning, and I couldn’t wait; but by Thursday afternoon the plan was changing for all of the wrong reasons.
All week the weather forecast had been pretty good, right up until Thursday when the forecast changed to something more typical of Britain in May, cold in the morning, marginally warmer in the afternoon, sunny spells with a risk of heavy showers. A quintessentially British weather forecast for just about any time of year actually.
As soon as I saw that this forecast I began looking for an alternative destination for my weekend wander. The problem wasn’t getting caught in a heavy shower, I had gear that would keep my dry in all but the heaviest of downpours. The problem was the expectation I had created for a perfect adventure, or more to the point, the expectation that Instagram has given me when it comes to certain trips.
Like most people, I spend a significant amount of my working week ignoring those important emails, scrolling through Instagram and double tapping the seemingly endless photos of mountains, lakes and forests that make up my feed from all of the travel and adventure accounts that I follow.
I usually follow a similar thought process as I scroll through, triggered by the image in front of me…
“Oh look, Milford Sound. I want to go back to New Zealand”
“Wow, how blue is the water in those Canadian lakes”
“My next holiday has to be to Norway, no Iceland… no wait, the Dolomites”
Apart from adding places to my ever growing bucket list, Instagram often serves as inspiration for me to actually get out somewhere at the weekend, but the problem with Instagram is that it never rains in any of those photos and they are never anything less than perfect. Perfect blue skies, perfect sunsets, perfect auroras, perfect reflections. No ominous grey clouds in view, and definitely no gloomy overcast skies.
In a lot of ways, all of these photos have set an expectation for what an adventure should look like, but unfortunately, we don’t have that many blue sky days in the UK. My planned trip to the Cantilever and Cannon Stones in Snowdonia was never going to produce an epic ‘Trolltunga’ style shot, but I was definitely hoping for clear skies and a chance to take some good photos. That hike had been on my to do list for quite a while so it would be pretty disappointing to go there and be in cloud cover.
“I’ve waited this long, I can wait a bit longer” I declared and began looking for somewhere else to go. Glyder Fach could wait until summer.
With the help of Google and Instagram, I decided on Shropshire for the destination of my Saturday adventure. With the exception of a weekend camping and a mountain bike trip to Minton Batch several years ago, I have never really given Shropshire much attention. I’ve always thought that if I was driving for two hours to get to Shropshire, I may as well drive for another hour to get to the bigger mountains of Snowdonia
Feeling slightly guilty about cancelling the Snowdonia trip I saw Shropshire as a great alternative this time, and as I had barely seen anything of the Shropshire hills I had very little in the way of expectations.
It was mid-morning by the time we arrive at the Bog Mine car park, and just as we pulled in it began to rain. Typical. There were only a few other cars in the large car park so it looked as though there weren’t going to be many people around today. It was much colder than I had expected so I swapped my lightweight jacket for something with a bit more padding to keep out the wind and rain that looked set for the day. My brother, Dave, also added an extra layer and chose carefully between the selection of jackets that he had stashed in the boot of his 4×4. We locked up the car and walked over to the Bog Mine Visitor Centre which was a slightly confusing combination of tea room, gift shop, visitor centre and school hall. We had gone in looking for a leaflet or map of the hike we were about to do but hadn’t found one so we took a photo of the big map on the wall instead. We would have to go off that for navigation.
We were heading up to Stiperstones, a jagged ridge that ran across the top of the second highest hill in Shropshire. Dave had been here before, but couldn’t really remember it as it was many years ago and he had started the hike from a different point. We followed a country lane up towards the hill, missing the gate where we needed to join the trail and having to loop up and around on the road to get back on track. We saw a group of teenagers carrying huge backpacks walking down the hill in the distance, probably on a DoE expedition with enough supplies to feed a small army. Other than that group, there was nobody else around.
Luckily the rain had stopped by this point and although it remained grey and overcast, the air felt fresh and it was great to be outside.
It didn’t take long to reach the jagged ridges and peaks and we were soon scrambling and climbing up the rocks, taking in the views and taking photos on our phones.
We spent the next couple of hours walking from one tor to another, each unique rock formation giving us a mini challenge to scramble up to the top. Many of these peaks have names, Cranberry Rock, Nipstone Rock, Shepherds Rock and Devil’s Chair. I didn’t stop to look at the map to figure out which was which, it didn’t really matter.
Stiperstones is a great place to spend a Saturday, regardless of the fact that we were battered by the wind every time we climbed a tor, despite the fact that the clouds were dark grey and threatened a heavy downpour at any minute, despite the thermometer keyring on Dave’s backpack showing that it was only 6 degrees.
There was a part of me that regretted not going to Glyder Fach, I realised I would have had a great time there whatever the weather, but I was also glad that a quick Google search had inspired me to visit Shropshire instead.
My photos from the day show dark grey skies and are a far cry from the perfect images of adventure that I had spent the week looking at on Instagram, but that’s OK. These photos are just triggers for memories of a great day exploring somewhere I had never been before, and that’s the important bit.
Next weekend, when I’m planning my next adventure I will check the weather forecast, but only to help me to plan what gear to take, not to plan what photos I can take.
I’ll probably still spend a little bit too long looking at mountains on Instagram in the week, but I’ll try to remember that perfect photos don’t make perfect trips and perfect trips don’t make perfect photos, so I’ll go on adventures, whatever the weather.
- For more information about Stiperstones and the route that we took, click here