Archive for September 2015

Black (and White) Mountain Show   4 comments

Back into August again. With a day to myself I was off to try some new hills. Ive walked the Black Mountain extensively, its my favourite of my local hills but I’ve never been out to their extreme western fringes. It takes a bit of getting to but worth the effort as you can see. Unlike the dark stone of most of the South Wales mountains, the predominant rock is limestone (hence my attempt at humour in the title).

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

As they spread out east to west the summits are not easy to fashion into a circular day walk. Keen to avoid any ascent if I can. I parked up at the top of the mountain road from Brynamman to Llangadog and headed out east, eventually putting together a pretty fine ad hoc route that avoided any road walking

7.2 Miles

7.2 Miles

The limestone has been heavily quarried and the area near the road is a fascinating mix of old mine workings, quarries and levels. There is a historical trail around these features that would be a fine summer stroll. I pressed on past the Industrial Archeology theme park and out into the hills

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

I passed a few waterfalls and then it was into wild country along the Afon Clydach. A mix of tussocks, grass and bog but much easier to walk on than I thought. I spied a few potential wild camp sites but most of the area is a little soggy for such nonsense.

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

I’d brought supplies with me and managed to find a relatively sheltered spot to conjure up some bacon butties and cup of tea. The forecast had been good and up till I stopped reasonably sunny.

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

Of course as soon as I was set up the sun went in and wind picked up. For a few grumbling moments I thought it was going to rain such was the darkness of the clouds.

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

After some introspective moaning about fickle weather I ate heartily anyway and packed up. Within 10 minutes the sun was out again

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

I reached the top of Foel Fraith – well at least I think I did. Hard to tell on what was a very wide and featureless summit – and then followed the Beacons Way to Garreg Lwyd. It was marvellous, easy, high level strolling with these little known hills mostly all mine save for an old guy and his even older and blinder dog who took to following me instead of his owner for a while – bless him.

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

I wandered back to the road, crossed it and headed back up to the broad plateau to the west and the summits of Pen Rhiw Ddu and Pen y Clogau still following the Beacons Way.

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

Again the terrain was easy and untaxing allowing me clock up the distance pretty much without thinking. Views were expansive and a fine contrast between moorland and the green pastures of farming country to the north.

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

I passed through a lovely spread of heather in full purple bloom but I haven’t yet mastered the art of capturing such colours on camera.

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

To the west the magnificent castle of Carreg Cennen stood sentinel on its rocky outcrop. A castle well worth a visit when you are in the area.

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

I had thought that I’d have to walk back along the road to the car but I managed to string together a really rather fine selection of sheep tracks, traversing back to the top of the pass such that I didn’t walk on the road at all. Clearly the road is a playground for local boy racers who were busy trying to kill themselves and everyone else with some suicidal driving manoeuvres.

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

I was back at the car much earlier than I thought and the distance at just over 7 miles much shorter than I thought. A fine walk indeed at hills that reward a bit effort to reach them and explore

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Wild Swimming at Wolf’s Leap   2 comments

Nothing finer than a day lazing by the river during the long hot balmy days of summer. Summer, you remember don’t you, all that warm sunshine, endless blue skies, day after day. Well you would if you were somewhere else in the world! In the UK such days were few and far between but back in early August we got one that coincided with a weekend and we took off to mid Wales to investigate Wolf’s Leap

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

I found this place in the rather excellent Wild Swimming guide by Daniel Start. There are several in the series including one on beaches and one dedicated to the South West (more treats from that book in upcoming posts). Rather unfortunate that I picked the coolest summer for a while to buy it but I now have an endless list of new places to visit

It’s tucked away on the lonely roads that lead across the Welsh Mountains between Builth Wells and the Cardigan Bay coast. The valley approach is just superb and after a cool wet summer the hillsides were a deep verdant green with the bracken in full growth. The river is broad and shallow for the most part but halfway along it narrows, dramatically in one section, and tumbles over a series of small cascades into deep pools

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

After a little explore and some close-ups of the bog (the hillsides in this part are very soggy) we found the perfect spot. Flat expanse of cropped grass next to a huge deep pool where the river emerges from an extraordinarily narrow gorge.

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

A picnic rug was spread out and while TBF and TJF dithered I plunged in. The water was astonishingly cold but clear and refreshing in a brown, bog drained sort of way. The sun however was warm and the sky blue so it was great to be able climb out and warm up quickly. Eventually TJF and TBF got in the water (TJS is not really into this wild swimming thing) and enjoyed their very cold dip

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

All that exercise set us up for what we do best, eat. We gorged on a fantastic picnic lunch, fresh crusty bread, pate, chicken and cakes for afters. I can’t think of a finer way to spend a sunny day than lazing on the grass with a good feast in spectacular surroundings with the chance of cool swim thrown in

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

To keep TJS happy (he was getting itchy feet by this stage) we took off for a walk. The edge of the crags above the valley looked like a good route and so it proved. After a short steep scramble we were up on the edge where the view back down the valley were superb.

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

We followed a series of thin sheep tracks along the edge before scrambling steeply back down to the road to return to the Funsters. Memo to self: mid-Wales is not best suited to walking in sandals!

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

Time for another swim to cool down. This time I took my camera with me and this time the water seemed to have warmed up considerably. I swam into the heart of the narrow gorge for a subterranean adventure. It was amazing that a river 20 feet wide for the most part, here flows through a cleft only a couple of feet wide. My photos don’t really do it justice (I still had the settings wrong).

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

A cuppa in the sunshine before we had to pack up and head home.

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

abergwesyn, wolfs leap, afon irfon, esgair irfon, craig irfon, wild swimming, picnic

A cracking place for a lazy day and so far from anywhere that we only saw two other groups enjoying the facilities on such a perfect day. One for the future if we get a summer next year

Birthday Treats for The Junior Funster   4 comments

A bit of blog silence and now I’m behind all over again. A list of excuses, primarily I’ve been out and about on hols and suffered a major hardware failure with my Mac that needed a return to base to repair and a couple of weeks to rebuild the data as I’d been stupid enough not to take a full system backup 😦

At the end of our week in Towyn we bade Mark and his merry band a fond farewell and had a day to ourselves before we headed home. As it was TJFs birthday we’d arranged a treat. An adventure in the trees at Treetop Adventures in Snowdonia

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

The usual mix of dangles, straddles and in my case struggles but its a favourite of ours and we had a great time as always, although the course is shorter than the ones we’ve done in France.

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

The course finishes with a leap off a platform to the ground about 30 feet below which made my heart flutter a little when I stepped off the edge.

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

For the real adventurers they have an extra big leap of 100 feet called the PowerFan Plummet. I was tempted but didn’t fancy the climb up. Both the Funsters gave it a go though. TJF was calmness personified, she really has no fear of these things. TBF was more animated although her language was disappointingly clean (she has been known to shout expletives during such events!)

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach<

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

It started to rain while we finished up and proceeded to dump it down while we drove to and walked around Conway. We sought refuge in a fine chip shop for a hearty lunch and when we came out the rain had stopped. We took a walk down by the harbour to watch people crabbing while the seagulls stole their chips. We then walked back via the Town Walls.

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

If you’ve never been to Conway it has its very famous castle but the Town Walls are superb. You can walk around 3/4 of the town and they rise to an impressive height at the back of town giving some fine views even on this grey and wet day

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

We declined the castle this time instead opting to return to the beach for a last stroll before we went home the following morning. Apologies for more poor quality images due to camera incompetence

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

treetop adventures, powerfan plummet, conway, town walls, towyn, towyn beach

A fine week and top holiday, very mixed weather, nothing that you could call truly summery but some fun times with the old gang and the usual collection of fond memories. Next year may be a little tricky as we have to squeeze in a visit before our main summer holiday and when TJS gets his exam results in mid August. Seems amazing that when we first came here he was still in early Primary years and here we are entering his GCSE final year – they grow up fast!

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