Archive for the ‘Wales’ Category

Industrial Archeology   5 comments

P1040818

Sometimes a walk is about expansive views and wild mountain scenery. Other times it’s about exploring the history of our upland areas and how we sought to make use of it.  The area to the south of the Usk Valley near Abergavenny, bordering on the South Wales valleys has a rich industrial heritage. Looking for an easy walk on a spare Saturday me and TBF went to explore.

P1040775

Nice thing about this walk is there is almost no ascent, happy days! The car park at the Keepers Pond is just short of 500m so plenty of decent views as well. It’s a popular and very pleasant spot and we were lucky to grab a parking spot. We hadn’t expected much from the weather after a week of dreary grey skies but we were delivered a perfect spring day and many people were taking advantage

P1040776

Our first stop off was the massive disused quarry of Pwll Du – the Black Hole. The whole area is now a World Heritage Site, The Blaenavon Industrial Landscape, where coal and iron mining were once king. We were following the Iron Mountain Trail, very vaguely, and its well worth seeking out if you like this sort of thing

P1040778

The quarry is highly impressive and there are paths around its edges and in fact right across the exposed ledges at the top. It’s now marked as unsafe and whilst the younger me would no doubt have scrambled across, I decided, as I mentioned in my previous post, to let my sense of mortality prevail

P1040779

P1040780

The views were superb with hazy cloud filled valleys contrasting against a warm sun dazzling from a blue sky

P1040782

TBF seemed to be enjoying being my photographic muse for the day

P1040786

P1040788

After passing the Lamb and Flag pub (and regretting that I had no cash to purchase a cheeky beer) we extended the route for a circuit of the eastern side of Gilwern Hill. It was a little walked, overgrown and seriously boggy path until we diverted to a better one

P1040791

P1040793

There were rather large holes in Gilwern Hill, like somebody had come down to scoop out a hole and forgot to fill it in. I quite like these abandoned quarries and the landscape they leave behind. The old spoil heaps eventually grass over creating a bizarre landscape. Makes me hopeful that more recent efforts to despoil our wild lands will eventually recover. Or am being naively optimistic

P1040794

P1040796

P1040797

We wandered over the summit and past what seems to be the norm for these parts, a radio transmitter or whatever it actually is

P1040800

P1040801

This is a Balance Pond. The water once stored in the pond was used to operate a counter balance lift that raised and lowered trams through a vertical shaft cut into the face of Pwll-Du Quarry below. Interesting stuff

P1040802

P1040803

That took us back to the Keepers Pond but it was such a gorgeous day we carried on for a circuit of Blorenge, the oddly named eminence that overlooks Abergavenny. I like the cloud in the this shot, very reminiscent of Stingray from the puppet TV show of my youth

P1040804

A stop for a cuppa and snacks to recharge the batteries and onwards.

P1040808

More quarried areas and the fairly dramatic grassy overlook on the northern slopes

P1040811

Its one of my favourite spots in this part of Wales

P1040813

Photos don’t do justice to what an elevated and sheer drop there is. Something of a surprise that its not very well known and this edge in particular is always quiet

P1040815

P1040816

P1040819

We finished off the walk by traversing the summit of Blorenge. It’s a seriously soggy and boggy tract of moorland

P1040820

One final pose from TBF on the summit. The bloke in the background twice ignored my attempts to communicate a cheery hello. I always greet every walker I see when I’m out, and always return a greeting one when offered. Its rare not to get a response of some sort, even if just a nod. No idea what this joyless soul’s problem was.

P1040821

Back along the path to the car park and more transmitters. It was a glorious afternoon and I was happy to be out in sunshine. So happy I forgot TBF and left her a way behind in my solo reverie

P1040822

P1040824

And then we were back at the Keepers Pond and the car.

P1040825

I’d just thought we’d have a short stroll to pass a Saturday afternoon but it turned into quite a long walk, over 9 miles

Blorenge

Spring was here at last – well for one day anyway. It rained all day on Sunday!

Advertisements

Spring Interlude   12 comments

P1040632

The Beasts from the East seem to have had domain over the British weather this year with another one apparently on the horizon for Easter. How pleasant it was then for a walk that didn’t involve putting on goggles and burying my head in a waterproof. The rest of the family were otherwise engaged so a solo walk in one of my favourite parts of the Black Mountains.

P1040625

Parking was full in Capel y Ffin so I headed up the very narrow lane in the Nant Bwch valley. Where you reach open fell there is plenty of off-road parking. As I’d be walking back that way anyway it made no difference to the route. It was a glorious day and warm enough to ditch warm hats for a baseball cap to keep the sun off

P1040630

I dropped into the village having decided to do the route the other way around from how I’ve tackled it before.

P1040633

The best part of the route is a splendid path that traverses between the fields and the open fell. I’ve always walked this stretch at the end of the day when it’s in shadow. This time it was in warm sunshine and its an absolute pleasure

P1040635

Despite the number of cars in the village and on the valley road, I saw no-one. Not sure why I’ve never seen anyone on this path as it’s an obvious route and a joy to walk

P1040636

P1040637

P1040638

Lost in my own thoughts and in the views of fell and field I ate up the miles as the path slowly climbs onto the shoulder of Bal Mawr

P1040640

P1040641

P1040642

It was half past lunchtime when I reached the ridge so I hunkered down in a heather and horse manure filled hollow for lunch. The views across Ysgyryd Mawr and the Sugar Loaf, all the way to the Severn Estuary and the Mendips were extensive

P1040643

So began the long back along the ridge paralleling my route in the valley below

P1040645

P1040646

Its a fine ridge and the miles continued to roll by

P1040647

P1040650

P1040651

It was clear and sunny but the clouds were starting to fill in and it was chilly in the breeze

P1040652

Always hard not look self-conscious and concerned whenever I take a selfie

P1040654

The stretch that leads along towards the north edge of the Black Mountains escarpment is a bit of trudge and a boggy one at that.

P1040656

P1040658

Time for a brief rest while sun was out

P1040659

Once above the higher reaches of the Nant Bwch valley I cut off from the path across country and back down to the path home. It looked a little rough but I managed to thread together a mix of sheep and pony tracks that made a rather easy route

Vale of Ewyas

Quite surprised to see this walk ended up over 13 miles. My knees, feet and hips were feeling it by the end. A fine warm day before another spell of winter

Mini Beast on the Sugar Loaf   20 comments

IMG_3176

I was reminded by Facebook that on this day a few years back we were sat outside in the front garden soaking up warm sunshine and drinking a chilled beer. Yesterday was slightly different. Another cold snap was back – the Mini-Beast from the East apparently. Mr and TBF headed out for a brief walk on the Sugar Loaf.

IMG_3152

There was a light dusting of snow and it was bitterly cold.

IMG_3154

There were dark clouds and snow showers all around but we picked a lucky break in the weather. We had several sunny intervals and the snow only found us when we were back at the car

IMG_3156

IMG_3157

IMG_3162

Some of the views with dark clouds, bright sunshine and snow cover

IMG_3174

IMG_3178

IMG_3181

We sort spiralled around the summit to make a more interesting route. The long traversing path across the Northern slopes was plastered in ice and snow. All the heavy rain and wet ground from Thursday night was frozen solid. I should have taken my spikes

IMG_3186

The contrast between the sheltered South flank and the summit was staggering. Out of the wind you could have sat and had a break quite comfortably. A couple of yards away up on the summit I could barely stand up. It was as windy and cold as when were in Scotland a couple of weeks back

IMG_3190

The sun came out on the top and the views for a short while were superb. Ysgyryd Fawr taking pride of place

IMG_3194

IMG_3196

It was a day for a full winter wrap up

IMG_3197

IMG_3201

The paths were treacherous. Much easier to walk through the heather

IMG_3203

The storm clouds were gathering so it was time to quicken the pace and try to get back to the car before the snow storm hit

IMG_3205

We just about made it!

IMG_3208

Excellent couple of hours out in the wild winter that seems to go on forever. I had plans to head out again today. Another heavy fall of 6-8 inches of snow put paid to that. Gives me the chance to stay up to date with the blog .:)

 

The Beast from the East meets the Brecon Beacons   16 comments

P1040582

Nicking a blog title from the cold weather media frenzy is cheap and lazy I know but its 9pm and I can’t be bothered with trying to come up with anything original.

Another classic route. The round of the Brecon Beacons Four Peaks (Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn, Fan y Big) from the south, a circuit of the Neuadd Valley and its reservoirs. It was cold when we set off but we had no idea how cold it was going to get

P1040568

The sky was a sensational deep blue and the few clouds hugging the eastern slopes were soon burnt off. The approach road was glacial

P1040570

The walk across the dam of the lower reservoir is always a pleasure

P1040572

P1040573

The path up to the western edges is steep and I found it surprisingly hard work after my bout of flu. When we hit the ridge we felt the full blast of the beast

P1040576

The wind was ferocious and staggeringly cold. Its rare on a dry day, even in winter, that I don full fleeces and jacket with the hood up but it was essential. Even then my face was burning with cold

P1040578

P1040580

Luckily the views were spectacular and at least the wind was kind of behind us

P1040585

P1040587

P1040591

P1040593

P1040594

We’d made an early start and I was anxious where we would stop for lunch. I figured we could get out of the wind behind Corn Du as I thought the lower cols would be windier, funnelling the wind

P1040598

I was wrong. Even directly behind the summit the wind was just blowing, over and around the summit. We hid behind a couple of rock outcrops, stuffed our faces quickly and moved on

P1040599

The walk between Corn Du and Pen y Fan was straight into the wind. The cold was almost unbearable, one of the coldest 10 minutes I can remember in the mountains. I was starting to think that carrying on with this for the next few hours wasn’t all that sensible but as we reached the summit of Pen y Fan the wind abated quite significantly. For the rest of the day the wind only blew in gusts and at times it was relatively pleasant, almost warm. There was of course the usual crowd of seriously under-equipped people on the summit. Some people just have no idea how much difference there is between a sunny sheltered car park and a 3,000 foot summit exposed to an easterly winter wind. Trainers, jeans, exposed ankles, people carrying babies, they were all there. I walked away shaking my head

P1040603

90% of people climb Pen y Fan from the Storey Arms. Head off the summit in the other direction and calm and quiet is restored. The view back to Pen y Fan and over to Cribyn’s pointed summit and dark shadowed northern face were majestic

P1040604 P1040605

P1040607

I took the path along the edge of the cliffs to the summit of Cribyn. This flat grassy spot halfway up has been earmarked for a wild camp some day – just on a less windy and cold day

P1040610

P1040611

A brief rest on the summit and the off along the edge towards the col ahead of Fan y Big

P1040613

Another of my favourite sections of the Beacons edges

P1040615

P1040617

The col rather than being wild and windy as I thought was calm and benign so we stopped for a cuppa and second lunch. I was feeling pretty tired but I was convinced that Fan y Big needed an ascent and the views from its summit are exceedingly fine so the convincing wasn’t that hard

P1040618

In addition, the walk back from its summit above the reservoirs is far more pleasant than the long drag down the bumpy path to the car park

P1040619

The view back to the Four Peaks

P1040621

P1040624

Back to the car to warm up (heated seats were very welcome) and back for a very one-sided cup final to finish off a damned fine day. The beast was tamed for now.

Brecons Four Peaks

I’m off to Scotland at the weekend to take it on again – if I can get there!

Slow Return to Outdoor Life   18 comments

That nasty bout of flu stuck with me for three weeks and really hit me for six (I still have a nagging cough four weeks on). Last weekend I tentatively ventured out for a day outdoors for the first time since I got back from my ski trip. A short trip that I’ve done may times before but one of my favourite local walks

Hatterall

A decent weather forecast and the cold weather had been replaced by almost spring-like conditions

P1040559

P1040560

Through Cwmyoy village and my favourite wonky church

P1040561

Ysgyryd Fawr as always dominates the view to the south

P1040562

Wild ponies on the summit

P1040565

And the beautiful Vale of Ewyas to the north

P1040566

P1040567

We found a relatively sheltered spot on the summit for a bite to eat and a chat about TJS impending choice of University. When we set off the fickle British weather delivered a punch. The skies had gone very dark and within minutes it was raining, a cold slanting rain that replaced the spring conditions of earlier with a taste of winter. After a soaking, the skies cleared and all was sunny again

P1040568

The late afternoon views were rather fine

P1040569

P1040570

The Sugar Loaf

P1040571

And a dark looking Ysgyryd Fawr

P1040572

I particularly like the light in this shot

P1040573

P1040576

P1040577

Only 6 miles but I was completely wiped out when I got back to the car. Hopefully I can recover some of my lost fitness over the coming weeks now I seem to be over the bug. Always good to use an old favourite to start over

A Proper Dose of Winter   12 comments

P1040543

Back to reality after winter sun in Lanzarote. First weekend back and we were in the grip of a really cold spell. Time to hit the hills. We wanted somewhere a bit different so we took to bagging a summit in the Fforest Fawr area we hadn’t done before.

We parked high up on the road through the middle near the standing stone of Maen Llia. It was bitterly cold, frosty air and a biting east wind

P1040494-2

Luckily the pathless, tussocky terrain is hard enough work to keep you warm – a bit anyway

P1040495-2

There was a light dusting of snow on the highest tops and the views were superb

P1040498

Looking across to the Black Mountain

P1040501

Up on the ridge at Fan Dringarth it was staggeringly cold. In fact it was as cold as I’ve been in the mountains for many a year

P1040504

Not that I mind. I love days like this, clear skies and a cold wind is invigorating and makes you feel properly alive

P1040511-2

These are soggy hills most of the time but everything was frozen solid. A bit slippery mind especially where the wet grass had frozen solid on the way down from the summit of Fan Llia

P1040512-2

P1040518

It was definitely not a day for stopping. I wondered where we’d be able to grab shelter for lunch. Halfway round where the path drops to the road we found a surprisingly sheltered and sunny spot by a ford over the Afon Llia

P1040520

Even just about warm enough for a brew although TJS looked rather dis-chuffed at the protracted stop so I could have a cuppa

P1040521

P1040523

Second part of the day was to traverse Fan Nedd back to the car

P1040525-2

After  a sheltered lunch it seemed even colder once we hit the wind again. The walking in the crisp snow along the broad ridge was sensational though

P1040531

P1040532

P1040534-2

Winter days are still the best for me. Nothing better than the crunch of snow under foot and views like this

P1040538

P1040541

On the far end of the ridge we exchanged some very brief pleasantries with another hiker – it was arctic by now. I reckon taking windchill into account it was somewhere around -15C

P1040542-3

P1040544

P1040545

Even though it was still early, it was time to head down, too cold to linger and we’d had our fill of winter for the day

P1040548

The broad Senni valley opens up as you descend and its a real beauty

P1040549

P1040551-2

P1040555

A shortish route of around 6 miles but good one

Fforest Fawr

Cracking day. Cold day.

A Review of 2017   18 comments

I’ve read quite a few blog post in the past few days reviewing other peoples 2017 exploits. I enjoyed them so much I thought I’d do the same. Good excuse to look back through my photos and remember what we got up to. At my age I need help remembering stuff!.

Acutely conscious of the modern trend for these awful “round robin” letters you get at Xmas (we get one of these smugograms every year) I tried to select photos that bring back a particular memory for me so its more a personal, family introspection on outdoorsy stuff, than a blow by blow account of the year. As its based on my photo collection if I didn’t photograph it, it ain’t here!

January

We started the year off in Tenerife and New Years Day was spent on this rather splendid beach (the earlier part of the day was in the mountains but I cocked up the photos from that part of the day!)

IMG_2319

Returning to the British winter, a walk along the Cats Back in the Black Mountains with TBF, memorable for a cloud inversion after a very wet morning. A reminder that despite our travels we are lucky to have some stunning scenery on our doorstep

IMG_2314

A solo day out in the Brecon Beacons, the first snowy walk near to home and pretty much the only one with significant snow during the early part of the year (made up for it at the end)

IMG_0009

A glorious day out in the Black Mountains with TJS and a cooked breakfast on a cold Table Mountain. I like this photo though as it has Mynydd Troed in centre shot, my very first mountain climbed when I was about 10

IMG_2376

And my usual skiing trip (only a weekend this year) to finish off the month. Snow was a bit rubbish but we had a laugh nonetheless

P1291187

February

Another solo day on Fan Fawr in the Brecon Beacons. I remember this day for a very mild Friday afternoon (16C) and snow in the mountains 18 hours later

IMG_2408

A short walk with TBF on Hatterall Hill

IMG_2449

March

The first weekend of the month is always spent in Scotland with friends of long standing. A new location at Bridge of Orchy and a two out of three days were magnificent winter days. The walk along this ridge high above Rannoch Moor on the first day was superb

IMG_2523

Me and TJS also managed a cheeky backpack into the Black Mountains. Straight from work on the Friday for a one nighter in my new tent. Need to do more of these this year

P3251293

2017 is the year I rediscovered cycling – mainly to help my knee and also to be less of a lazy layabout during the week. The Hardman – a VERY keen and VERY fit cyclist caught wind and insisted we meet up in the Peak for a trip along a couple of the old railway trails. A cracking sunny day and I survived cycling with the Hardman!

P3261343

And we finally managed a meet up in the Berwyns with Uncle Fester after a few aborted attempts

IMG_2558

April

More cycling and solo trip through the Brecon Beacons on the “Gap” route. Cycling to over 600m was a first for me and I started to feel that I almost, might, actually enjoy cycling.

IMG_0671

Easter and a major backpacking trip with TJS to the Cairngorms. The weather was wild and windy but we had a couple of superb wild camps and TJS bagged his first Scottish 4000 footer

P4131365

I even coaxed TJF out for a bike ride along the Brecon and Usk canal

P4231533

May Day weekend was mostly in April. Mixed weather but we had a fine gaggle of friends on a hike around Greendale, taking in Buckbarrow and Seatallan

P4291564

May

No finer way to celebrate a birthday than a lunchtime hike. This one was on one of my local hills, Bryn Arw with TBF

IMG_2595

Followed by a weekend away in Cornwall. It almost felt tropical on the white sands just north of Padstow on one of our walks

IMG_2704

Whitsun weekend was spent with our good friends in Silverdale. The Sunday was a real winner with a long but easy stroll and a fantastic pub lunch. Weather was mixed the rest of the time but great company, many laughs and a chance to relax

IMG_2725

June

A different walk from the usual mountains. One of the small hills that overlook Gloucester and across to the Cotswolds. Not something I’d do every day but a nice change

IMG_2768

One of the highlights of the year was the long-planned backpacking trip with the kids into the Howgills. Despite poor weather we gave it a go and it was a huge success. The kids really enjoyed the adventure and I’m hoping they have caught the wild camping bug

P6101657

July

After the backpack trip I was out of action for a few weeks recuperating and resting after a minor knee op. Didn’t affect my water based fun though, a nice albeit far too long trip down the river Wye

P7091729

By the end of July I was back in the hills again (the knee op has been a great success I’m pleased to say). A fine evening stroll with TBF and TJS on Ysgyryd Fawr (we even took a cheeky cold beer to drink on the top)

P1000139

Another “local walk for local people” – this time Garway Hill where we reached the top, saw this nasty storm approaching and raced it back to the car. We won.

P1000151

Late July brings the annual camping trip to Towyn Farm on the Llyn Peninsula. We packed in lots of walks and beach fun in a very mixed few days of weather. My abiding memory though was this game of Kubb which was huge fun with both adults and kids alike taking it far too seriously and larking about in equal measure. A happy afternoon

P1000237

August

The big family trip of the year, a rail trip around some of Europe’s finest cities. An real change from our usual outdoor camping trips and it was real success. We all took took to the city life rather well you might say. One of my best ever holidays. A few photos that made me smile

One of the many fountains in Paris (we called this one the fountain of throttled fish)

P1000350

A monster thunderstorm in Turin

P1000550

My favourite seafront walk in Venice

P1000909

The Colloseum in Rome – of course

P1010063

Schloss Belvedere in Vienna (courtesy of an unplanned extra couple of hours from a very late train)

IMG_1238-2

The thermal baths in Budapest – “like taking a bath in a wedding cake”

P1020184t

A stroll along the Spree river in Berlin on a sunny Sunday afternoon

P1020495

And the railway bridge over the Rhine in Cologne

P1020608

September

Back to earth with a bump. A few days after the heat and sun of Europe we were walking in the Black Mountains in driving rain and cold winds!

P9100010

But there was still enough warm weather left for a round of the hills near the Talybont Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons

P1020704

October

A walk with friends in the Roaches on the dreariest day of the year (when everywhere else was sunny – I’m not bitter)

IMG_2382

More evidence of my new found cycling passion (probably too strong a word). A ride around the tracks of the New Forest while TJS took a look around Southampton University

PA140023a

And why settle for one trip to see major cities when you can do it twice. As a special treat for TJS 18th Birthday we spent a week in Barcelona. Probably my favourite city but despite all its famous sights, this little known hill and its view overlooking the city was my favourite spot

P1020859-2

November

After sunshine comes the reality of winter. A couple of cold but beautiful days. One in the Black Mountains on the Sugar Loaf and Crug Mawr

P1030499

And one of my favourite walks in the Black Mountain

IMG_2558

A delayed birthday treat weekend for TBF saw us in Padstow for a couple of nice meals and walks along the Cornish coast and Dartmoor

IMG_2653-2

December

And last into the proper depths of winter. The first snows saw me and TJS head into the highest peaks of the Black Mountains

P1030581

The day after saw the biggest dump of snow I’ve seen in my own backyard for many a year. Walks around my village in deep snow under crisp blue skies were wonderful

IMG_2831

The start of the Xmas holidays is marked with an annual get together of my University friends and their families. Always great fun but this year we could climb the hills in snow (rather than wet rain) and play at snowballs

P1030622

Finally coming full circle with a return to the Canary Islands to spend Xmas in Lanzarote and Xmas Day sunning ourselves on the beach

P1040068

Well I enjoyed looking through my photos, choosing a few and reliving a great year. Hope you enjoyed it too. All the best for 2018 🙂

%d bloggers like this: