Archive for the ‘Wales’ Category

Old Places – Sugar Loaf   11 comments

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It’s good having the prodigal son arrive back home from University and see him ambling about the house again. He was keen to head out for a walk on his old local hills. The forecast was ok but things looked deeply gloomy when we parked up but perked up no end as we climbed one of our go to favourites for a short day, the Sugar Loaf.

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We’d mistaken a bank of mist hanging on the lower slopes for the overall cloud base. we soon climbed through it to reveal atmospheric ethereal wisps of cloud at the halfway point as it were.

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It was cold and not much in the way of sunshine but good to be out after a dreadful wet day before.

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We had in mind a much longer walk than usual taking in a couple of the long ridges that fan out to the south having never walked them. 

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Views over to Ysgyryd Fawr, another go to favourite but lower down the list since they started making you pay to park at the bottom. 😦

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There is a very short rocky ridge on the top which I always enjoy and makes  for a great photo foreground.

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The summit was surprisingly quiet but we didn’t linger as the skies started to threaten rain.

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This led us to abandon our plan, instead finding a new and very pleasant route that traversed through fields and woods from one ridge to another. We rather liked the gnarly trees.

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A simple walk of around 5.5 miles but nice to find a subtley different variation on a grand mini mountain.

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It was also great to be out walking with TJS again, familiar territory, familiar company.

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Wet and Windy in Westwood   12 comments

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The weekend started out with a night out in Bristol with friends old and new from my Bristol connections. A cracking night out with plenty of laughs and a nice view from my hotel.

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A very long and leisurely breakfast wasn’t quite enough to dispel a mild hangover so a walk on the way home was in order. It was a pretty grim day, dark, stormy and windy so I picked another new Marilyn to attempt between Usk and Chepstow, Wentwood.

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It was chucking it down when I parked up in an empty car park at Cadira Beeches. I headed out with the wind howling through the trees above me but sheltered from the worst of it. 

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Being a forested hill, views were a bit limited and when I did find a break everywhere looked damp and wet. The hangover was gone though!

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I reached the summit to find one of the saddest and most neglected Trig pillars I’ve come across in quite a while.

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I had some occasional glimpses of blue sky and sunshine through the dense forest.

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The broad forestry track I’d been following degenerated into a muddy trawl. I’m becoming used to the idea that mud is a feature on these lower forested hills. A showery view over the Usk river valley.

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After walking the length of the ridge I turned to follow a parallel track below the ridge to the south heading back towards the car.

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The weather started to improve a bit with less rain, more flashes of sunlight but still with a howling wind above me.

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Passing Little Oak and Foresters Oak before reaching a point called The Five Paths. I turned for the short walk back to the car and was greeted with a patch of expansive blue sky and bright sunshine.

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Keen to try and get some views over the valley I struck out on a thin but exceptionally fine path through the woods. Whilst I didn’t really get any wide views the forest was a little less dense so I could at least sense the sky was clear and sunshine was up there, somewhere.

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Some more muddy paths took me through a succession of wooded glades and paths before I was back at the car.

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I was only planning a short stroll to blow out the cobwebs but I was enjoying being out and clocked up 6 miles in a couple of very blowy hours.

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It would be a fine place for a walk in Spring or autumn when it might be a bit less soggy. Another new place discovered and I have to say I’m enjoying the new places the Marylin’s list is introducing to me.

Posted December 9, 2018 by surfnslide in Wales, Walking

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Back to the Mountains – Cadair Idris   20 comments

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Time to head back to the bigger mountains. Settled and sunny weather days at weekends are a rarity at this time of year. MWIS was showing a potential cracker so I set the alarm for 6am and headed west. I had a hankering for a proper rocky mountain and Cadair Idris fitted the bill as my nearest option. Always eager to avoid parking charges I’d planned a new route to the top meaning I could park in the free lay-by halfway up the deep valley that lies to the SE of main ridge. 

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I was walking by just after 8:30. The skies were clear and cold but I wasn’t ready for was just how windy it was even low down. This was not a day for hanging about in bitter conditions. My route was to traverse around to the bottom of the NE ridge and climb to the summit ridge from there. I’ve only ever done the mountain by the classic route around Cwm Cau and always looked longingly at this approach. As I wandered around to the base of the ridge the views expanded as I ascended. It was a cracker of a day if exceptionally windy and cold.

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The lower part of the ridge is steep but there is a faint path if you can find it. From there it is a wonderful climb around a succession of rocky outcrops.

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Looking along to Mynydd Moel.

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As I crested the top of the first peak of Gau Graig the wind was ferocious. Strong enough to blow me off my feet a couple of times.

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Compensation was provided by sensational views. North across the Mawddach estuary to the Rhinogs and Snowdon, south towards Plynlimon, still swimming in the morning mists.

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The next stage of my route.

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I managed to find a small degree of shelter from the wind for a snack. Finding places to stop and shelter today was going to be a challenge.

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Onwards to the next summit and the walking was delightful if tricky in the gusting wind. Aview west across the Dovey Hills to the Arans

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Mynydd Moel is a superb spot with spectacular views across the Cadair range to the sea beyond and a deep sculpted corrie to the north east

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More sensational walking across the broad ridge and along the exposed edges towards the summit. 

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As I approached the summit I saw my first people of the day. I must have walked over 3 hours and several miles with the mountain all to myself. I guess this route gets few footsteps.

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I arrived on the summit, surprised to find only a few people there. Cadair is a very well known and popular mountain and on such a good day I expected more people until I realised my early start had me on the top just after midday, still a little early for the masses to have made it

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I tried a selfie and some panorama shots but I could barely stand in the wind. A view back along the ridge I walked up.

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The summit pillar to prove I made it!

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Llyn Peninsula in the background, Care Fadryn, my favourite small hill just visible on the horizon. I’m always pleased to see it.

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Cadair has a number of small rocky outcrops just below the summit where I found a reasonably sheltered spot for lunch and fresh brew of tea. A view from my picnic spot.

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And back to the summit. I wandered across to take in the view from the summit of Cyfrwy as the weather was so clear, I wanted to stay high as long as possible.

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Looking down to Llyn y Gadair where we’d camped earlier in the summer.

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A steep descent and re-ascent to Craig Cau followed where I started to meet larger crowds of people heading up.

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Its a superb spot with grand views down into the deep heart of Cwm Cau. I would have lingered but there was a large group sitting on most of the summit so I paused briefly and headed down.

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I managed to find a marvellous sheltered spot behind a rocky outcrop. Soft grass, a backrest and mountainous views now under deep and clear late afternoon blue sky.

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I sat here for quite a while just soaking up the sun (it was quite warm out of the wind) and admiring the views. It really is a fabulous mountain on a day like this.

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Reluctantly I headed down. It was still relatively early but I had a long way to go and had an idea I may, if I was lucky retain the sun even down at valley level.

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There were still lots of people heading up although possibly just to Llyn Cau at this point in the day. I managed to catch sun most of the way down through the trees.

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And it was still shining when I reached the valley floor.

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I still had a couple of miles to walk back up the valley to the car. There is wonderful path that follows the base of the valley with the main road high above so you don’t really notice its there.

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My timing was perfect with the sun shining directly along its length just before it set behind the flanks of the mountain. 30 minutes later and I’d likely have walked most of its length in cold shade.

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The views were magnificent. The sky deepening its shade of blue and the low sun bringing out all the autumn gold and brown.

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Looking down the valley toward the Tal y Llyn Lake

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And a close up zoom view to finish as I reached the car, still the only car there.

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A fabulous day on a big rock mountain that overlooks the coast on a crisp clear winters day.

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A long day of 12 miles with an early start and a few hours driving. I think it was worth the effort.

Winter is Over   15 comments

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Normal November service resumed – after a brief cold snap, mild, damp and grey weather has returned. Last weekend we had THO over for the weekend and managed a couple of walks. On the Saturday after a breakfast at Waitrose (I’m so middle class!) we took a walk up Crug Mawr at the south end of the Black Mountains.

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And, we had a new friend with us. This is Mac, THO’s dog and what a lovely little fellow he is. Extremely friendly and sociable it was a pleasure to have him on the walk with us. I’d forgotten how good it is to be accompanied by a dog on a walk. Set us thinking and talking about how and why dogs have forged such a close bond with humans from their wilder origins

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It more than made up for what was really a pretty dismal day. As you can see from the photos it was wet, dark and miserable in terms of weather, but company turned it into a fine outing.

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We didn’t linger long on the summit of Crug Mawr as it was really windy and, well, damp.

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At least most of the smaller tops were out of the cloud to give us something of a view.

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We stopped for lunch at the little church in Patrishow. Despite having walked past many times. I’ve never been inside so we put that right.

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It’s very old and whilst simple is lovely inside.

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The carved wood on the balcony was intricate and would not have looked out-of-place in the Sagrada in Barcelona.

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The odd skeleton picture at the back is apparently there to remind us of our mortality!

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We had lunch in the Lych gate in front of the Church, Mac scurrying around and begging for whatever food he could scrounge with his puppy dog eyes.

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We had plans for a longer walk but we felt satisfied with a walk along the ridge on the other side of the valley and down to the car

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It’s a fine ridge that see’s few visitors but not at its best today

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Crug Mawr

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We headed back to fester at home and enjoy and afternoon and evening watching TV and Mac make himself thoroughly at home in our house.

 

 

 

Posted November 8, 2018 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Wales, Walking

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Winter Was Here   14 comments

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Back a couple of weeks to a time of cold weather, frosts and snow. Time to pack away the summer rucksack, bring out the winter version and fill it with winter mitts, bothy bag and down jacket. Slight overkill for the Black Mountains but you can’t be too careful.

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Started off beautiful clear and frosty with a strong wind and a deep chill in the air.

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The walk along the ridge beyond Castell Dinas is excellent and referred to as the Dragons Back locally. Whilst that’s overstating things a bit, it is a very nice way to reach the main Black Mountains summit of Waun Fach.

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The views back to Mynydd Troed, our target for the second half of the day were superb.

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Looking along the ridge to Waun Fach.

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And down the valley towards Crickhowell.

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See, I told you we needed winter gear!

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Just after we left the summit of Waun Fach we were hit by a serious snow shower. Proper winter conditions in the air if not on the ground (the snow was wet and thin)

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There was a Mountain Marathon in progress with lots of people wandering about in shorts and Lycra in what was a blizzard and temperatures well below freezing with wind-chill. Definitely not the weather to be spending a night in a bivvy bag (or dressed in lycra for that matter).

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The snow melted pretty much immediately, the skies cleared and we found a nice spot behind a wall for lunch.

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I’ve walked this route many times as a shortish half-day but this time wanted to make a longer circuit.

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We picked a route off the hills and along the lanes down to the village of Waun Fach (not the mountain) and up towards Mynydd Troed (my first ever mountain ascent when I was ten for those that don’t know that story).

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There was a major fire on the mountain in the dry summer and you can see traces of it in the left of the shot below.

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And as we climbed up onto the ridge.

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But the scale of the damage wasn’t apparent until we were near the top.

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What used to be a dense covering of knee-deep moss and heather had been stripped bare by the fire. All that remained was the grass on the path which I assumed was fresh re-growth.

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In places there wasn’t even that and it looked desolate and bare. The plants up here are pretty resilient so I hope that in time it will recover.

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The weather had closed in a bit and there wasn’t much in the way of sunshine. We did get some nice sunlight streaming through the clouds over Llangorse Lake and the Brecon Beacons

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We didn’t linger on the top as it was ferociously windy and bitingly cold. We took our leave plunged down the steep NE ridge down to the car

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A good 12 mile stretch of wild winter walking

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I like winter walking and I enjoyed this very early blast of cold and snow. Pity the weekend just gone was back to typical November, all gloom and mild wet drizzle

Down By the Seaside   12 comments

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A weekend of storms, high winds and heavy rain put pay to a plan for a weekend with The Hairy Oatcake down in the Gower for some kayak surfing. Instead Sunday looked better so we planned a day out. High quality weather forecasts let us down as always and Sunday dawned just as wet and miserable as the previous couple days but we went anyway. After a lunch in Porthcawl the rain stopped and there was tentative sunshine. The waves looked especially promising and into the water we went

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It turned into a wonderful afternoon. Offshore winds created near perfect waves and eventually we were treated to abundant blue skies and warm sunshine.

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THO in action on the waves

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Taking a break under blue skies

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Hard to believe the torrential rain we’d driven down in a few hours earlier. Fickleness of the British weather never ceases to amaze me.

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After a cracking afternoon riding some of the best waves in many a year, time to return to the THO camper van for a brew

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And some fine late evening shots across the Bristol Channel to North Devon and along to the Gower

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Oh I do love to be beside the seaside (and on the sea)

Posted October 24, 2018 by surfnslide in Gower, Kayaking, Surf Kayaking, Wales

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Winter is Coming   17 comments

Just before the autumn deluge began, washing away all memories of the glorious first half of the summer me and TBF headed out for a walk in the Brecon Beacons. A walk tinged with sadness as the first one where we’d normally expect TJS to be with us.

We set off from Llanfrynach and I was glad I’d put the shorts away and felt the need for the gloves for the first stretch (hence the title of the post). In the end as the weather was so pleasant it turned into quite a long walk of around 13 miles.

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The first section is along by the babbling stream and small leat that I assume provides the village with its water supply. It’s a very nice section that I always enjoy.

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As you reach the open fields above, views open out to the main summits of the Beacons

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The sheep and trees made a nice foreground

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We decided to include Cribyn on the itinerary which involved some road walking and long trudge along an overgrown green lane to reach its open slopes

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From there is a long steady climb to the base of the very steep north ridge

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A view down from the summit of Cribyn while I waited for TBF to catch up

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Cribyn is a superb mountain with a sharp summit and expansive views all round

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The long edge heading east from the top is equally good and we’d hoped to find a sheltered spot for lunch. The wind had other ideas and seemed to find us out wherever we hunkered down

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We ploughed on to the almost as good summit of Fan y Big, still no shelter until we eventually found a small grassy terrace where we could take a break having walked pretty much non stop for 3 hours

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The edges from here are just a joy to walk, almost level walking with views to the distant hills of mid-Wales and Shropshire

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We descended what seemed to become an endless ridge back towards our start point. Having not been on that many long walks for a while we feeling weary by this point

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Before the steep drop down to the village this dead tree caught my eye

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We were tired an fulfilled after a long stretch, longest walk I’ve done for quite a while

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TJS would have enjoyed this walk I’m sure but he has his own range of mountains in the Lake District to explore now

Posted October 16, 2018 by surfnslide in Brecon Beacons, Wales, Walking

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