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After a bit of a wash out on our last walk on Pierces Castle we were headed a bit further afield this week. The Sperrins was the destination with a Sawel and Dart loop the planned route (Sawel coming in at number 8 on the list of highest mountains in Northern Ireland).
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15 of us met in Draperstown for the journey up to the start point on the Sperrin Road. With everyone accounted for, we made our way up to the Sperrin road to begin the walk. After a bit of negotiation to make sure everyone was parked safely and off the road in the limited parking area we set off on our way, crossing the fence and heading up the first part of the walk to meet the fence which takes you to the top of Sawel. After not too long we noticed that 15 in Draperstown had become 13!! Rule number one: make sure you have everyone there to start the walk! Thankfully the other 2 members arrived about 10 minutes later and we set off on our way.
A usual walk for us in 2020 has consisted of either high winds, rain, fog or blizzard conditions, or a combination of them all, so it was quite pleasant to watch the bands of rain pass by in the distance with just a few droplets and a light breeze where we were. As we made our way up to the start of the first real climb it soon became apparent to everyone why I had asked them to bring spare clothing. The start of the walk up Sawel is very boggy and a few of us including myself found ourselves taking a step forward and ending up into the top of our boots.
After about 30 minutes with me taking a constant ribbing about almost leaving two people behind we were past the worst of the bog, and as we steadily gained height we realised we were in for a real treat with the views, the moisture in the air magnifying everything, with the Foyle Estuary, Lough Neagh and Binevenagh being the first landmarks coming into sight.
We reached the trig point on Sawel on the hour mark and to say the views were something special was an understatement. As we took in the 360 view we had the Antrim Hills, Slemish, the Mournes, Errigal, and Muckish in Donegal all in sight. Nothing short of amazing. It was also time for lunch so we found a sheltered spot from the now increasing winds and took 20 mins to refuel.
Next stop was Dart which, with its rocky outcrops and cairn, was more similar to our usual walks in the Mournes. We dropped down off Sawel descending about 150m, and again were met by the lovely bog that we had become accustomed to on the walk. After some careful negotiation and a few shouts as again people found themselves stepping into mud over the boot level, we reached the top of Dart – again, the views were outstanding.
A short stop for tea and we were off again. The intention was to do a loop walk, but on seeing a sign advising that no walkers were allowed we decided to retrace our steps back up onto Sawel, so back up the 150m we had just came down. Reaching the top of Sawel again we took a short break at which we noticed Sawel had been written in the quartzrite stone beside the trig point. It was a pretty uneventful walk back down apart from taking in the views, and of course and Alan deciding that he would take a slightly different route to the rest of the group, after which he found himself up to the knee in the bog we had started off through.
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Everyone really enjoyed the day, so much so that I have been tasked with finding us a few more walks in the Sperrins for next year. So watch this space. Where next? We are back in the Western Mournes – Finlieve is the plan, but as always we will aim to take in a few of the lesser-known peaks in and around it, too.
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