This was an autumn repeat of a longer walk I did last summer. The darker nights and colder days were fast approaching so I wanted to get the family out as much as possible before the winter arrives and the TV and Wii become a more attractive option for the kids.
I was after a short walk but the weather looked promising enough for a day on some loftier heights. This walk combines a high start with a relatively short walk into a wonderful corrie and around its edge with expansive views. Just the ticket.
It was lunchtime by the time we set off from the car park on the A470 and headed up the broad path towards the dramatic cliffs of Craig Cerrig Gleisiad. This area to the west of the main Brecon Beacons range is known as Fforest Fawr (The Great Forest), named for its status as a hunting ground rather than an expanse of trees. The area is a National Nature Reserve and within 5 minutes you are up into the heart of this wonderful and relatively little known cwm. On both occasions I’ve visited I’ve seen few people compared to the massed ranks slogging up the grinding bore of a path up Pen-y-Fan from the Storey Arms a mile or so up the road.
The path crosses a wall to a wonderful spot beside a tinkling stream where the full grandeur of the corrie is revealed. Sculpted by ice, it’s a home to several rare arctic-alpine plants such as Purple and Mossy Saxifrage. This is as far south as they are found in the UK and they don’t re-appear again until the high alps. The cliffs, rather than rocky are cloaked in heather and trees with hawthorn, rowan, mountain ash and whitebeams clinging to the steep slopes. Peregrine falcons nest on the cliffs joined by merlins and red kites. In the summer ring ouzels, skylarks and chaffinches fill the slopes with song and colour is provided with an array of butterflies that seem at odds with the higher altitude.
On this day of cold air and bright skies we didn’t see much of this flora and fauna but the views were awesome. There were some dark brooding clouds mixed with bright clear sunshine and an exceptional clarity to the light and the walking was a pleasure. There are a couple of paths that head straight up to the ridge but like my last visit I chose to follow the path that runs across the bottom edge (a little soggy but passable) to the far end of the ridge coming down from Fan Frynych.
This gives great views up into the dark recesses of the crags, back across to Pen-y-Fan and Corn Du and down over the Usk valley to Brecon and the Black Mountains beyond. Once on the ridge it’s a broad easy path up onto the broad plateau of Fan Frynych. We took advantage of a spell of sunshine to have lunch and a cuppa amongst the hollows created when stone was quarried from up here.
From there it’s an easy stroll along the edge of the cwm towards what passes for the summit. The views across the Fforest Fawr and the Brecons were amazing, the dark clouds adding a sense of moody magnificence to the scene.
I looked across to the much higher bulk of Fan Fawr that I’d climbed the previous visit and wished I was carrying on – it’s a pleasant high-level grassy stroll.
As you start to head down the path hugs tight to the cliff edges giving some eagle eye views into the dark corrie below. We kept looking for the Peregrines or other birds of prey swooping and hunting amongst the cliffs but with no luck.
The path descends back towards the main access path in a startlingly steep manner, causing some amusement for the kids at sliding around on their bottoms to avoid a more calamitous tumble. All too soon the we were back by the stream and onto the car, a great short walk over. As the weather chills it gets harder to entice the kids out onto the hills – have to leave them with TBF I suppose 🙂