Archive for the ‘Black Mountains’ Category

Industrial Archeology   2 comments

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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

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

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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

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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

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

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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

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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

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

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

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Its one of my favourite spots in this part of Wales

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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

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

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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.

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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

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

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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

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

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Spring Interlude   12 comments

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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.

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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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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

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Its a fine ridge and the miles continued to roll by

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

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

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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.

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Time for a brief rest while sun was out

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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

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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

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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.

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

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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

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

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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

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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

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

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It was a day for a full winter wrap up

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

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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

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We just about made it!

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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 .:)

 

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

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

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Through Cwmyoy village and my favourite wonky church

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Ysgyryd Fawr as always dominates the view to the south

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Wild ponies on the summit

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And the beautiful Vale of Ewyas to the north

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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

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The late afternoon views were rather fine

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The Sugar Loaf

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And a dark looking Ysgyryd Fawr

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I particularly like the light in this shot

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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 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!)

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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

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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)

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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

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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

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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

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A short walk with TBF on Hatterall Hill

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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

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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

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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!

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

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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.

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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

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

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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

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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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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)

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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.

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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

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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)

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A monster thunderstorm in Turin

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My favourite seafront walk in Venice

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The Colloseum in Rome – of course

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

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

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

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And the railway bridge over the Rhine in Cologne

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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!

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

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October

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

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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

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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

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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

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And one of my favourite walks in the Black Mountain

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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

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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

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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

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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

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

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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 🙂

White on Black   16 comments

Last week, winter arrived in the UK. Temperatures fell and so did the snow. Time to get up early and head out for some winter walking. Me and TJS were off into the Black Mountains for a walk over its highest summits in the hope there would be some snow. There was!

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The drive up the long valley of Gwryne Fawr was very snowy, pleased I took the 4WD and not the small car! The car park was covered and there was deep powdery snow everywhere. Splendid

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We decided to head up the valley first and return over the tops as I prefer a steep descent rather than the other way around

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There was a watery blue sky and some weak sunshine and it felt great be walking on snow. Despite the first snowy weekend there was hardly anyone about

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The valley has a reservoir and dam and it’s always further up here than I remember

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We found a lower path right along the shore that was rather nice and we hoped would take us all the way to the bothy for a look-see (I’ve never been in)

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The path became narrower and much closer to the lake. With all the snow there was a distinct possibility of a slip becoming a rather wet and cold one!

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Eventually the path vanished altogether and we gave up on the bothy and headed back up to the track

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As we reached the northern escarpment of the Black Mountains the wind picked up and we matched with an increased pace. There were a few stretches of path improvements, likely due to the serious damage trail bikes have been doing up here. Even with a covering of snow you could see their tracks. Hopefully the damage can be repaired but it will cost a fortune.

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We reached Waun Fach – highest point in the Black Mountains – paused, and quickly moved on. The skies had turned grey and it’s a pretty bleak spot

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We pushed on towards Pen y Gadair Fawr which despite being more prominent and always looking higher than Waun Fach is actually 30 feet lower. We found a sheltered spot for lunch among the snow-filled groughs

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We’d made very quick time, we were earlier than expected and it was only a short steep drop back down to the car. We’d had our fill though, experienced some winter walking in the snow so were happy. Time to head home for a hot drink and a hearty meal

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Waun Fach

10 miles and 1,900 feet of ascent (courtesy of a high start) in just over four hours including stops. Impressive (for me!)

Back to Winter   12 comments

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Well, that’s enough of city breaks for 2017. Time to get back to main feature of the blog namely out and about in the mountains. The weekend after our Barcelona trip and a decent Sunday forecast had us out in the Black Mountains. I’m always looking for a different take or a new route having explored the area extensively since I’ve lived in Herefordshire. I’d done both of today’s summits many times before but never on the same walk.

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A late start, possibly because I saw that the forecast was improving, more likely I just stayed in bed too long

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It was a cold and windy day with showers scudding over some of the tops. As ever though, sunshine and showers delivers crystal clear clarity to the air and the views

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The Sugar Loaf is a fine mountain I’ve been up many times but this is only the second time I’ve been up from the east side

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The views from the way up and the top were superb

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Not a day for dallying on the summit in an icy wind that I’m sure would have dropped as snow if we’d been caught in a shower

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We pushed on down with several mountain bikers on their way up. Too steep for me and a bike I have to say. We had a few drops of rain but nothing much and the skies cleared magnificently afterwards

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The last few leaves were still clinging to the trees as Autumn faded away

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The steep roads onto the open hillside of Crug Mawr warmed us up sufficiently to take in a short stop for a cuppa and a bite to eat. A grand view along the Grwyne Fechan valley to enjoy

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We didn’t linger long as it was pretty cold and we still had long way to walk and the sun was going down

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As we approached the summit of Crug Mawr the sun was turning the mountains a deep golden brown

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It’s the best time to be on the mountains, late in the day as the sun sets. No-one around but clear skies and gorgeous contrasts picked out by the low angled sun

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We briefly enjoyed the summit panoramas before heading off into the approaching darkness

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The price to pay for these views was a long walk back along the lanes to the car. TJS was not best pleased by this turn of events and castigated me for my poor planning in having to walk in the dark. I tried to inform him that hiking is not an exact science, that we were well off the hills before it got dark and our reward were some stunning views. He wasn’t placated by this and stomped off to the car. If he’s going to carry on hiking with his old man he better get used to this as I often linger on hills in winter to make the most of  day and end up coming down in darkness

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A long walk in the end of almost 12 miles but a good one for the future. Most of the road walking could be avoided on valley paths but not a great idea trying to find stiles and gates in the dark. Winter was back, sunny cities a thing of the past. I love my city trips but my heart will always belong to the mountains

 

Posted December 5, 2017 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Wales, Walking

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