Archive for the ‘Black Mountains’ Category

Winter is Over   13 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.

 

 

 

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

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Winter Was Here   12 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

Mynydd Troed

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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

A Dash Between the Rains   12 comments

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I’m catching up slowly and this walk was only 2.5 weeks ago. A horrid Saturday and a wet Sunday morning with a poor forecast seemed to condemn us to a weekend of domestic servitude. Sunday lunchtime arrived, clouds cleared and the sun weakly shone so we swiftly headed out for a walk.

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Hay Bluff and Lord Herefords Knob is always a good choice for a short notice walk as, like the Sugar Loaf you can park halfway up.

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Classic views across the Wye Valley right from the outset.

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And the usual leg burning, lung busting steep climb to the top of Hay Bluff

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Panorama from the summit

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What I wasn’t prepared for was the strong winds and significant drop in temperatures from the previous few days. A north wind meant that wearing shorts was not the best decision!

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After a couple of days of damp misty weather the winds had cleared the air and visibility was amazing in the clear sunny spells. We could see as far as Cadair Idris in the southern reaches of Snowdonia

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We didn’t linger on the summit for very long. It was cold and windy.

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And storms were approaching

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This one was definitely coming our way and I feared we were in for a fair old battering

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View south down to the Vale of Ewyas

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In the end we only caught the tail of the storm and the soaking was very minor as we walked back to the car

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Hadn’t expected to even hit the hills on this weekend so we counted ourselves fortunate to grab such a decent slice of wild and clear weather between the showers

Keeping the musical contribution going. A great track from a band who, with the passing of Tom Petty earlier this year, now have less surviving members than departed ones. The End of the Line for this post

Short Walk on the Sugar Loaf   14 comments

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A short day needs a short walk and this one is a local classic. Start high and a nice horseshoe around the southern flanks of the distinctive Sugar Loaf overlooking Abergavenny.

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Weather looked to have some promise when we set off but the clouds were quickly gathering with showers and drizzle cloaking the hills to the south

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Not sure what they use the rolls of bracken for (animal feed, fuel to burn?)

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Ever darkening skies

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Gorse still in flower

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Approaching the summit

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TJS on the summit

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We had some decent views and managed to find a sheltered spot on the top (it was exceptionally windy). The summit was remarkably windy for a cloudy and windy day. Many people seemed somewhat under-equipped, a poor decision as luck ran out and it started drizzling heavily as we left the summit and we got quite a soaking

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It stopped on the way down and we dried out a bit before we had to sit in the car for the drive home

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Decent stroll on a hill we know well, no need for navigational thoughts, just enjoy the panoramas and being outdoors in the hills and fresh air

Another Solo Wild Camp   18 comments

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Back a couple of weeks before the weather turned too hot to venture into the outdoors with a heavy pack, I took another Friday night out in the mountains. I wished for a bit of breeze to keep temperatures and insects at bay and certainly got my wish.

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A glorious evening of clear skies and warm sunshine. I chatted to a lady van-camping in the car park with her very friendly Jack Russell pup chewing my laces. No sign of the promised breeze as I set off.

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It was a hot climb through the fly infested bracken as I headed for a summit pitch on Pen y Gadair Fawr. Still no breeze and I felt that the midges were eying me up for a buffet supper

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As I crested the top, the breeze finally kicked in. Less a breeze than a very significant and very chilly wind that I was struggling to stand up in

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It would have made a superb summit camp, lots of flat thick grass but it was just too cold to enjoy the surroundings. I’d also hoped to pick up some water, figuring that at least one of the numerous springs that rise on the summit would be running. No such luck. I decided press on in the hope of finding a sheltered spot

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Trouble its a pretty exposed spot up here and the wind was roaring and grass is in short supply. The compensation was that it was cool and walking along a high level ridge in the late evening is a simple joy

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The bog cotton was giving everything an almost frost-like feeling. The photos can’t do justice to how beguiling it was

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They have massively improved the paths up here so I made swift progress over Waun Fach without ever finding a respite from the wind. I tried a few grassy groughs, but none were suitable

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Eventually I had to plunge a hundred metres or so down the Y Grib Ridge and found a sort of level pitch on a terrace of deep lush grass. What it lacked in comfort it more than made up for with a  superb sunset vista

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There was just enough wind to keep the insects at bay without it being too cold and I sat outside, read and drank many brews of tea before turning in well past 11pm

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Tough to tear yourself away from views like this

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I expected a blazing sun to cook the tent and have me outside early. I awoke at 8am with no sign of the sun. I was in the cloud again. Looking up was clear blue though and the sky was surely to clear and on queue as the water boiled for my last cuppa before I ran out of water, it did

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It was an amazing morning. The east wind had cleared any haze from the air and the sky between the wispy clouds was a deep azure blue. Pen y Fan and Beacons poked above the cloud and I thought of TBF on her 25 mile sponsored walk around the range. She was on Pen y Fan summit round about the time I too this photo

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I decided to walk all around the escarpment to Lord Hereford’s Knob and on a day like this it was amazing. It really puts a spring in the step to have views like this to accompany you and I covered the ground swiftly

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There were several D of E groups out most of whom seemed cheerfully incompetent, walking in various directions none which seemed to be the right one!

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I topped out on the Knob and where the panorama across the Wye valley is breathtaking

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Despite the glorious day I had this very popular and easily accessible summit to myself but it was still very windy and bit chilly. Added to the fact I’d not had breakfast and had no water pushed me onwards to resupply and take on calories

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I had to walk much further down the Nant Bwch stream before the water was flowing sufficiently well to be drinkable. I found a fine spot and set about making my bacon sandwiches and several cups of tea to re-hydrate

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I had thought about dropping down to Capel y Ffin and walking back over the ridge to the car. The fact that out of the wind it was still really hot had me thinking of a better plan. I retraced my steps back toward the edge and the curved off towards the summit of Twyn Talycefn.

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The strong breeze was keeping the skies clear and the temperatures perfect for walking. Much better to be up high in weather like this

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Looking back to the ridge I’d walked the previous evening

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I dropped down to the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir with an idea of a sneaky swim.

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I don’t normally like swimming in reservoirs as they do have their dangers but I found a stunning little spot on the banks and took a short dip without straying too far into the water.

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Another cup of tea seemed in order as I felt like I had the whole place to myself.

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Then it was a simple matter of the long walk back down past the dam to the car

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A nice easy angled path to finish the day with grand views back to the dam and the deep greens of the valley under the still totally clear sky

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Another superb one-nighter although I would have enjoyed a bit of company as I’ve done most of this years trips solo. 15-16 miles over the two days with the aimless wandering I did looking for a pitch and just enjoying being out.

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May be the last such trip for a while. The last couple of weeks have been just too hot and sultry for walking so I’ve been getting my exercise in the water with some wild swimming, more of which in future posts. Then its holiday time for me and the family as we head to Wales and France for some sociable fun with friends

 

Breakfast in the Black Mountains   14 comments

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A short post from a week or so back onto one of my nearest and dearest strolls in my local Black Mountains

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It was warm and humid and I figured another early start and breakfast on the hill might beat the heat of the day

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Wrong! Even at 9am it was sweltering hot on the steep climb up onto the ridge

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It’s a fine ridge however and worth the sweaty effort

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I walked briskly along the ridge hoping for a breath of wind to keep cool and have breakfast alone (without the company of insects)

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I passed the summit pillar in totally calm conditions but when I reached the grassy spot where I’d camped with TJS last year the was a gentle breeze and I set up my kitchen

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Bacon and Egg butty on the mountain

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I took in the circuit around the Olchon Valley but declined the out and back to Hay Bluff this time. Wild ponies kept me company from time to time

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A steep descent into the valley, brought a lighter tone to the gloomy skies

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And the short steep climb back to the car

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8 mile round trip and back in time for a short rest before joining the Funsters at Bredwardine for a cooling dip in the Wye

Cats Back

After Work on Bryn Arw   10 comments

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Its been a couple of years since I managed to take a walk on my way home from work. A spell of excellent weather in May prompted me to do what I should do all the time which is to keep my walking gear in the back of the car so I can take a hike whenever the weather is suitable. I have a range of short walks I can do on the way home and this is one of the best. A small hill, a short walk with fine views and always deserted at such an unusual time of day. I saw not a soul up here on such a glorious evening

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It was pretty much the perfect weather, time of year and time of day to be out in the hills

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The sky and the air clarity was exceptional. The sun at just the right angle in the sky to bring out the colours. The trees and fields that verdant shade of green that comes with late spring and the peak of growth

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Whilst I have a love of many place across Europe and beyond I often hear the comment that Britain is one of the most beautiful. Looking through these images its hard to argue with that

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Bryn Arw is also a fine viewpoint for many of my favourite walks a good number of which are my targets for post work stretches. Blorenge in the background below. Ysgyryd Mawr and the Sugar Loaf in the panorama above

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Garway Hill middle distance

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There is always time for a brew on a walk and even though I no doubt had an impatient TJS back home waiting for me to cook his tea, he could wait another 15 minutes!

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Selfie time

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Hatterrall Hill, another favourite

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I like using cairns as foreground in photos

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The Sugar Loaf, another classic after work target

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I think I’ve taken a photo of this tree every time I’ve done this walk

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And I think this shot as well. At this time of day and year the lushness and vivid green of these trees always makes me smile and get the camera out – or phone in this case

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After a long day stuck in a bland office this was a walk to really lift the spirits.

Bryn Arw

 

Posted May 26, 2018 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Wales, Walking

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