I live near Hereford so many of my day trips out take me to the Black Mountains, the Brecon Beacons.
Below are my trips since I started writing my blog:
Also I’ve added a few pictures and brief descriptions for some on my favourite local walks from the past 12 months (before I started writing my blog) to give a flavour for this magnificent and sometimes under-rated upland and mountain region. The links to my full set of photos for each trip mentioned are on Flickr and are linked in the text. (All of my photos from the past 10-12 years are also up there as well). At the end of the page I’ve also added some links to photos of other walks in South Wales.
Chwarel-y-Fan ridge above the Vale of Ewyas – 8th January 2011
L was at the pantomime so J and D and me went out to the hills. Starting fron Capel-y-Finn, its a fairly short steep climb up onto the broad ridge coming down from Lord Hereford’s Knob (insert your own jokes here). From there it’s a short walk to the summit and then along the more defined Ffawyddog Ridge to the South. It was an extremely windy day but we barely saw another person. The ridge descends to Bal Mawr whereby you turn sharp left to head back North along a fantastic high level path above the vale that descends slowly as it goes back towards Capel-y-Finn. A lovely 6 mile and relatively easy circuit that I’m looking forward to revisiting on a warm summer evening when the views and the light would be stunning. All the photos from the day are here
Black Mountain – 2nd January 2011
These are a superb range of hills to the west of the main Brecon Beacons, possessing the same pronouced escarpments but none of the crowds. Me and GM had wanted to go ski-touring as we’d done the previous New Year but most of the snow that blanketed the area before xmas was long gone. The weather was grey and cold but there was a promise of an improvement which in the event never materialised but we had some clear views from the summits and a cracking walk. We parked up near the source of the Tawe river east of the range and walked into the lonely lake of Llyn-y-Fan Fawr. I’ve often thought this would be a great place for an overnight camp but running water is a bit scarce in the summer. We climbed up to Fan Brycheiniog and then took in the long escarpment edge over to Bannau Sir Gaer and down to Lyn-y-Fan Fach. Its an amazing line of dramatic cliffs and even though the weather was still grey the air was clear and the views amazing. We took a long lunch perched on the edge trying to pick out possible routes through the crags as we are want to do. I revisited the sad story of the last time I was here with J a few years ago and a farmer saw his dog killed when it tumbled off the cliff edge. It was heartbreaking listening to him sob as he climbed down to the find his companion. This time there were quite a few people withs dogs not on leads and kids running about oblivious to the danger. I felt extremely edgy at the thought of history repeating itself. Fortunately there were no more dramas as we picked up the faint path that runs back along the bottom of the cliffs all the way back round to Lyn-y-Fan Fawr. Its a long walk but but a really rewarding one in a little visited corner of South Wales. All the photos from the day are here.
Ysgyrd Fawr – December 24th 2010
On Christmas Eve, right in the heart of the cold snap, I finished work early and me and D went out for an afternoon stroll (he took some convincing to drag himself away from the Wii but I think he’s glad he did). Ysgyrd Fawr is a really prominent local hill above Abergavenny. We’ve climbed it many times as its only a short drive and a short walk to the top, but never in snow. It was a stunning afternoon, the trees were still heavy with snow and the low sun was creating some stunning light in the trees (taking our mind off the heavily trodden, well compacted, snowy path that was VERY slippery). About halfway up you emerge from the trees and climb the ridge to the top. Its a fairly respectable ridge and covered in snow if felt like a “proper” mountain, especially as the temperature had dropped well below freezing and there was a strong wind. Its isolated position gives expansive views and the nearest thing to “walking in the sky” that you get in South Wales. D was having great fun finding the deepest snow drifts but fading light and the bitter cold meant we couldn’t linger. Back down and home in time for mulled wine. If there is a better way to spend xmas eve then, well, you get the idea. All the photos from the day are here
Vale of Ewyas Horseshoe – 28th November 2010
“I’m off out for a short walk” I told J as I left the house. However it was such a glrious day I just had to hit the heights. After a slippery drive up to Capel-yFfinn from Lanthony on snow covered roads I headed off up the Darren Llwyd ridge up to Lord Hereford’s Knob (see -you’re finding it amusing now, don’t be ashamed) chased by a couple of over-eager horses in the lower fields. As is typical of the Black Mountains I didn’t see a soul all the way up, and including my long stop on the top. The views were amazing, one of those days when you don’t want to leave the summit and stop admiring the views. Fortunately my hairy top lip, grown to support the “Movember” charity was keeping me warm if not protecting my dignity. Its a pretty long walk along to the Blacksmiths Anvil on the Ffawyddog Ridge but the air was still and cold and it was great to be out in the clear frosty air, my favourite kind of day. Even found time to head up to the top of Chwarel-y-Fan before I headed down. The route off the ridge was like the cresta run, a frozen river of solid ice that caused me some anxious moments as my dodgy knee doesn’t support my bulk as well as it should. Down into the cold shade and home for brew. All the photos from the day are here.
Crickhowell Skyline, the western Black Mountains – 7th March 2010
Another to be filed under ” a short walk that turned into something longer”. Parked up a narrow lane above Crickhowell to head on a lovely rising path up to to Table Mountain. Not quite in the same league as its more illustrious South African namesake but impressive nonetheless. A result of major landslip of which the Black Mountains has many (normally called “Darrens”). I set off to Pen Allt Mawr but the weather was so glorious and springlike that after lunch on the summit I carried on along the ridge all the way to the summit of Mynydd Lysiau a superb easy angled ridge with few people and fabulous views across the Usk valley to the Beacons. I dropped into the Grwyne Fechan valley, scouting for a possible wild campsite. I have been promising D for a few years that I would take him out camping in the hills and I’ve been looking for a suitable spot remote enough to feel like a proper night out but close enough to the road so I don’t have too far to carry two people’s stuff. I’ve yet to find anywhere suitable especially with a clean water supply. There were a few possible spots in this valley but most of them seemed to double up as sheep latrines complete with unpleasent odours. As I walked back down I realised that the walk was pushing 12 miles in length, alot longer than I had planned and further than I’m used to walking. The valley is gorgeous, especially near the Tal-y-Maes bridge but I have to admit the last mile and half along the road was painful. When I climbed out of the car at home I could barely walk and my left knee was agony. It was the start of a year of pain that will hopefully be ended with a bit of surgery in March. All the photos from the day are here.