Archive for the ‘Brecon Beacons’ Category

Cycling with TJF   11 comments

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Having spent most of Easter either away or at work I hadn’t seen much of TJF so with the senior funster away I wanted us to spend some time together. She’s not big into hiking so I suggested a bike ride, expecting a negative response but she seemed quite keen. Having been introduced to the delights of the Brecon and Monmouthshire canal a few weeks ago I settled on that. Armed with a quality picnic we parked up at Llangynidr and set off

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Having described the route as “flat” TJF was a little miffed to find the first mile has several locks requiring you to actually have to pedal a bit! She survived the experience intact 🙂

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As before it was a lovely ride. Not as sunny as the forecast promised but good enough and we enjoyed a gentle ride, ducks under all the bridges and the feathered variety and their young on the water

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There is a tunnel on this section but alas for boats only

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We reached the pretty bridge where I’d paused on the previous trip and enjoyed a lavish picnic.

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TJS is looking pleased having just consumed a large slice of sugary lemon drizzle cake

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We took an amble down to the aquaduct over the River Usk to rest our weary butts (I’ve found cycling in the same position for more than 20 minutes is shall we say uncomfortable!)

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The views and the scene were very fine and I think TJS was enjoying being out in the sunshine

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A day for staying down in the valleys as the Brecons looked a little gloomy

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Time to return back to the car the same way. Just as enjoyable but both our butts were glad to see a comfy car seat

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Great to spend some quality time with TJF and she seemed keen to do more of the same. She is very much an adventure, water and cycling person while TJS is a hiking man. We have some holiday plans that suit both of them for this year, a bit of a departure from the norm for the family. More of that later in the year

Brecons Gap Route   8 comments

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Since I decided to give cycling another go I’ve had my eye on what looked like a rather fine round called the Brecons Gap Route. So named as it traverses the gap between Fan y Big and Cribyn in the heart of the Brecon Beacons. It’s a good deal tougher in the mountain section than anything I’ve attempted before but the weather was stunning so I figured I could at least give it a go. I set off from Talybont-on-Usk on a gloriously warm sunny day and headed off on the Taff Trail

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The first section was very rough and bouncy. The Taff trail follows the line of an old railway along the valley – at least that’s what I thought. Turns out the first couple of km follow an old bridleway and it was rough going but not too steep and I coped fine

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As it climbed the views began to open out across the Talybont reservoir

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I wandered onto the dam to take a couple of shots. Stunning I thought

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From there its a very long climb up to the pass above the reservoir. Never steep and by now on the old railway line the going was much smoother. They are clearing away the old plantation so the views were superb. Gave me an excuse to stop many times and admire.

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I passed a few people walking but no-one else on a bike. The Beacons Way follows this stretch and it reminds me why I don’t like following pre-ordained long distance routes. There is a superb high level route that would avoid this long endless trudge on foot, a few hundred foot up above on open ground. In fact the Beacons Way actually descends from where that path starts to pick up the Taff Trail and then climbs back up again to meet it a few km later. Why the route chooses to ignore an obvious high level path in favour of a forest trail is beyond me. This trail is ideal for cycling but not for walking. Each to their own I suppose but the D of E groups I saw seemed not to be enjoying the trudge even on this glorious day

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Seeing as this is the age of the selfie, here’s a very rare picture of yours truly enjoying another photo-rest excuse to stop

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From the high point of the road there is a speedy short descent before the trail curves around towards the main part of the Beacons. From here things get a little tougher

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The trail becomes extremely stony and rutted and while not steep was pretty hard work. I’m pleased to say that other than one short section that drops steeply in and out of a stream, I made it all the way to the “gap” (seen in the centre of the photo below) without needing to push or more importantly, falling off

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I have to admit I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. I’d done 15km and close to 500m of ascent and survived to tell the tale. More than that I really enjoyed it – never thought I’d hear myself say that about mountain biking

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I celebrated with a very lengthy stop to have lunch and a brew, chatting to other cyclists as they passed through (this a popular and well-known mountain bike route)

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The descent from the gap gave me my only problem. The first 500m or so is steep and very rough, more like scree than a path. After a couple of nervous attempts I decided discretion was best and pushed for a few minutes. This section really needs a full on, front and rear suspension bike (mine is just a hard-tail). I managed to negotiate my way down carefully. It was wild and bouncy and my bike was making all kinds of rattling noises but again I was very pleased to make it all the way to the road-head without falling off, albeit very much slower than the madcap people taking the descent at full throttle. It must be a hell of an adrenaline rush but if you came off you’d do yourself a really nasty one

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Once on the road its a very fast and steep descent all the way to valley bottom along peaceful wild-flower be-decked country lanes. A real blast. My route back to the car was along the Brecon and Monmouthshire canal. It was superb (and flat!) and gave an excellent last hours wind-down in more peaceful surroundings after the drama of the gap

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The canal has a small aqueduct over the river Usk

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This little bridge just after was picture perfect and I stopped for breather. Nice spot for a picnic I thought. More to follow in a later post

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From there it was an easy cruise along the tow-path. Wild flowers were abundant and the route busy with other cyclists and families enjoying a perfect spring day

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I think TBF would enjoy this part of the ride although definitely not the mountain section! I must fashion a route along the canal and back along the lanes of this quiet corner of the national park

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35km ride in total and a real classic – me, enjoying mountain biking, who’d have thought 🙂

Deep and Crisp and Uneven   15 comments

A reference to my surprise on seeing a clear blue sky day with a helping of patchy snow after waking up at 6am the previous day to go to work and finding a temperature of 12C and a day filled with mild patchy rain.

Solo again while the family did other stuff and a revisit to a surprisingly quiet corner of the Brecon Beacons. Surprising as it overlooks the busy A470 and the parking chaos of the summit of the road at the Storey Arms. On a good day there must be 200 plus cars parked up there ready for the pilgrimage to the summit of Pen y Fan. I parked up for my walk a couple of miles down the road with one other car. Local knowledge is a handy thing

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Craig Cerrig Gleisiad and Fan Fawr was my route. It was a wonderful crisp clear morning, icy puddles and frosty mud was underfoot. The path that traverses across the bottom of the corrie was delightful

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The bare trees shorn of their leaves always attract my eye and lens

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The views down the valley to Brecon and the Black Mountains was magnificent

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The path emerges suddenly onto the shoulder below Fan Frynych. Expansive views open out over the mid-Wales countryside

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Up on to the grassy moorland and the first few patches of snow underfoot

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The sky was dramatically blue and clear and the light through the trees was still catching my attention

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Up on the summit it was just magnificent. Such an exceptional clarity in the air contrasting with the pristine and untouched white snow

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Traversing over the summit of Fan Frynych was majestic. You just eat up the miles on a day like this

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Sticking close to the edge of the dark vegetated cliffs gives extensive panoramas

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But then you have to cross the vast expanse of open moorland to reach Fan Fawr. Its wet here. Very wet. Especially after a couple of days of heavy rain. There was lots of icy coverings but not enough to walk over without plopping in from time to time

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I consoled myself with the wonderful peace, quiet and isolation of this patch of wild land so close to a major road. I had it completely to myself

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I climbed to the summit without pause hoping for a sunny spot out of the wind. The views were still grand but the wind was keen. I was hungry and so headed down towards the main road madness

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I spotted a sunny patch that looked like it might be sheltered. It was perfect. Calm and sunny enough to deliver some warmth for a well earned lunch break and hot cuppa

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You can get a sense of just how many cars there are down by road in the photo below. As I’d I only seen a few people on Fan Fawr I assume all the occupants were on Pen y Fan. I had reminder of what kind of people frequent “the highest mountain in South Wales” on a sunny day. As I crossed the road there was a large group of brash noisy and spectacularly under-equipped people heading off to climb Pen y Fan (jeans, trainers and the like) – it was already after 2pm and its at least a 3 hour round trip to the top. One particularly irritating individual – lets call him Dick – seemed to love the sound of his own voice and humour and repeated the same line – loudly – over and over again to emphasis how side splittingly funny it was (something about how unforgiving the mountain was). I could still hear him from several hundred yards away. His companions all seemed deeply unenthusiastic about being “dragged out” but they started up the hill anyway. A complete contrast to the few pleasant and chatty people I’d met on the “other side” who were all entranced by a such a stunning morning. I think this little rant makes me a mountain snob but I don’t care

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I headed down the Taff trail to head back to car. Once Dick, and his friends were out of earshot all was peaceful again. Its a rather nice walk with good views down the valley and across to the crags where I’d been in the morning. A nice change of scene from wild moors and mountains to something more pastoral

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The little sting in the tail, a very steep few hundred feet back up to the road, made me work for my supper

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A short day – I was done by 3pm – but it was more than enough to enjoy a spectacular morning and some wild untamed land no more than 20 minutes walk from the road

Paddling over Mynydd Llangatwg   6 comments

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A repeat walk with TJS of a short hike I did last summer on a very similar day. The edges of of the Craig y Cilau escarpment are very fetching in summer when they catch the sun (the are in permanent shadow in winter). The autumn colours were again superb and the views across the Usk valley to the Sugar Loaf are always especially good from up here

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Scrambling to the top of the eroded and now grassed over mine remnants is great fun, gives a certain miniature mountain arete sort of vibe

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The old tramway beneath the limestone cliffs gives a wonderful level stroll. Despite its majestic appearance it seems to be completely off the radar and we rarely see more than a handful of people up here

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I’m especially fond of this grassy (and boggy) meadow with its views back to the escarpment. Its certainly better than trying to tackle the wooded slopes higher up from my last visit

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Time for the contrasting second half of the walk. Up above the edges and on to the expansive grassland behind the escarpment

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There is a summit of sorts where we paused for a snack before heading into the wilderness

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Being Limestone scenery there are a couple of seriously big sink holes up here

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We headed over to the lake of Pwll Gwy Rhoc. Last year the area was a little boggy but bearable. This year it was a lake everywhere. Trail shoes were a bad idea. By the time we reached the lake shore my footwear was at maximum saturation point

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I had my swimming stuff with me but TJS had a look that said he didn’t want to hang around in a cold breeze in the middle of an expansive bog waiting for his dad to take a dip. We just pressed on through more bog and sat on the edges for a late lunch so I could wring the brown water out of my socks before heading back to the car

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Back to Winter in Brecon Beacons   4 comments

I’m done now with being smug about our holiday in the sun over Xmas. What was needed was some proper winter weather, snow, clear blue skies and all that. Not done too bad since the wet and windy first half of the winter.

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This is a walk me and TJS have done many times. Whenever there is snow we always to head to the high Brecon Beacons to take full advantage. The amount of snow caught me out on the drive with the roads completely covered to the outskirts of Merthyr and a very slippery drive up to the car park

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The round of the main high summits of Pen y Fan, Corn du and Cribyn from the south is a fantastic outing if you can look past the crowds on Pen y Fan. It was a glorious morning, cold, clear and crisp.

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As soon as we started the climb the snow became quite surprisingly deep. Very hard work on the steep slopes up to the ridge

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Even harder work along the ridge trying to find the spots where the snow was hard or less deep. Some of the drifts in the peat hags were a few feet deep.

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The forecast had been good for the day but a heavy bank of cloud was moving in fast and we had a few nice sunlight effects before it disappeared for the day

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As we approached the summit of Corn Du the crowds became almost unreal. Most of South Wales seemed to be walking up Pan y Fan from the Storey Arms. Never understood the popularity of this route even allowing for the fact that its on a main road. There are several fine ridges onto the summit and yet this is a dreary boggy trudge.

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There was the usual mix of seasoned walkers and seriously ill-equipped people in wellies, trainers and fashion boots. It takes a real effort of will to tell myself that everyone should be encouraged to explore the mountains and crowds like this are a price probably worth paying if people are out in the mountains rather than festering inside watching TV (something I never do obviously). Just not all at the same time! 🙂

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Once we were on Pen y Fan it became clear there was some kind of challenge walk in progress. Again there were a mix of serious looking walkers and fell runners and lots of people who looked like they wished they had stayed home and festered in front of the TV

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The north face of Pen y Fan also seemed to be in condition for winter climbs and there were several parties in the steep gullies and on alpine style ridges between

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Many people seemed to be out on the slopes to go sledging. Lots of people were dragging sledges around and some people had snowboards, skis and even a converted skateboard (he spent a lot of time on his ar5e in the snow). I later learned that all these people had caused chaos on the main road by parking on the verges. The police ticketed hundreds of people and it was a big local talking point for a few weeks (until more interesting stories about a cat stuck in a tree and the price of silage pride of place)

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Even though the weather had turned very grey we took in Fan y Big as well. This avoids a long trudge back down the track and extended the snowy walking experience

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Quite a contrast with the warm sun and clear skies of Tenerife but to be honest, you can’t beat a decent walk in the snow with a couple of thousand people 🙂

Sunshine after the rain (and before plenty more)   4 comments

As I was saying in my last post, the weather since November has been universally appalling. Well apart from one weekend anyway. At some indeterminate point in those dark days the weather chilled, deposited a little snow on to the mountains and the sky cleared just long enough to enjoy it.

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I did this walk with TJS earlier in the year and, keen to introduce TBF to the charms of Fforest Fawr we headed there again.

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The route is described in detail in the other post so I’ll let the photos do the talking – mostly.

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The mountains were shrouded in cloud for the first couple of hours and we wandered about in the gloom on Fan Gyhirych with some tantalising glimpses of the Black Mountain

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As we descended the blue skies and sunshine the the forecast promised arrived and we were treated to some superb views. This was more than ample compensation for the incredibly soggy nature underfoot, 2-3 weeks of ceaseless rain, wet, thawing snow and summer boots (yes, I know, poor decision) makes for very wet feet.

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Lunch in a slightly less boggy spot was followed by a climb to top of Fan Nedd where a spell of heavy rain that the forecast hadn’t promised hastened our descent and cut short the day

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Short and sweet but a splendid day nonetheless. The appalling weather that followed made me rather glad I’d made the effort. In this most awful of winters, any day not characterised by ceaseless rain is a good one

Just a Mynydd……   2 comments

Well here’s a first, writing up a blog post the same day I did the walk. Never see the like of these days again once my summer hols kick in next week.

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Another supermarket breakfast and another day in the hills to follow. This one a very similar trip to one we did with GM a couple of winters back. This time a more detailed exploration of Mynydd Llangorse and its far western ridge.

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11.5 Miles

We parked up in Cwmdu and headed across the fields taking in the sights, sounds, smells, scratches and stings of the bracken

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mynydd llangorse, mynydd troed, cwmdu, llangorse lake, black mountains, brecon beacons, cockit hill

mynydd llangorse, mynydd troed, cwmdu, llangorse lake, black mountains, brecon beacons, cockit hill

Small in height but large in area, Mynydd Llangorse is a wild upland heathland. Off the beaten track we had the whole mountain to ourselves save a few ponies and couple of cyclists

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mynydd llangorse, mynydd troed, cwmdu, llangorse lake, black mountains, brecon beacons, cockit hill

It’s a place to clock up long walks and we ticked off the miles as we strode on to its broad summit. The views across Llangorse Lake to the Beacons were very fine indeed.

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mynydd llangorse, mynydd troed, cwmdu, llangorse lake, black mountains, brecon beacons, cockit hill

After a brief rest on Cockit Hill we were off up Mynydd Troed, slightly higher but packing a mighty wallop of a steep slope to the top. The Bracken that clothes the lower slopes in these parts gives everything a stunning verdant hue. Much more pleasing on the eye from a distance than when you are bashing through it at close quarters

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mynydd llangorse, mynydd troed, cwmdu, llangorse lake, black mountains, brecon beacons, cockit hill

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We headed off down the fine summit ridge before a session of the aforementioned bracken bashing on the lower slopes mixed in with a healthy smattering of nettles and head high thistles. Why I insist on wearing shorts round these parts in summer I’ll never know

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mynydd llangorse, mynydd troed, cwmdu, llangorse lake, black mountains, brecon beacons, cockit hill

We concluding the day with a long plod down the knee-jarringly hard minor lane that skirts the eastern slopes of Mynydd Llangorse but the sun was warm and the views stunning

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An uneventful day of easy walking on two of the quietest mountains in this wonderful range I call home

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