Archive for the ‘bal bach’ Tag

Vale of Ewyas Round   13 comments

The weekend when the scale of risk of the COVID-19 crisis was really beginning to hit home was also when winter ended and spring arrived. Back on March 21st, amidst closing pubs and restaurants and the first signs that the word “Lockdown” would become our new watchword, me and TBF went out for a couple of walks. The long, wet and miserable winter had us yearning for a walk in the sunshine.

We debated long and hard as to whether we should or not but with extensive local knowledge of the The Black Mountains we felt we could find a route that was easy, quiet and avoid any “crowds” or indeed any more than a handful of people. Having said that I’ve walked the Black Mountains extensively over the past 16 years and have never seen them “crowded” at any point. That is normally reserved for Pen y Fan and the popular routes to South Wales highest summit.

I even debated wether I should post about these walks, such was was my self-conscious worry as to whether I should have gone out in the first place. Two months later and I now feel that we were ok based on the circumstances at the time (it was the weekend before lockdown was formally put in place) and what we knew and practised diligently about Social Distancing.

We planned a route around the bottom end of the Vale of Ewyas, taking in the hill fort of Twyn y Gaer, Llanthony and back via Hatterrall Hill.


It was a gorgeous day, warm in the sunshine but with a very brisk and very cold wind. A day for stretching the legs rather than stopping.


Its a long plod up the road the the slopes of the hill fort but on top the views were wonderful. As per my plan to keep things low profile there was, as expected no-one up there as its a long way of what passes for the beaten track in the range.


On a calmer day it would make a wonderful spot for a long lazy lunch but the biting wind forced us to push on.


Its a long steady walk along the ridge to Bal Mawr where we planned to drop down into the valley before returning on the ridge on the other side.


We managed to find a sheltered spot beside a small woodland for a short rest.


The cairn and remains of some sort of burial mound on Garn Wen


Its a lovely walk down to Llanthony via Cwm Bwchel with views to the priory.


The priory itself was deserted as it was late in the day by the time we passed through. The path we followed avoids the car park and the main priory itself, heading around the back as it were.


We followed the Beacons Way back up to the ridge, a splendid gently rising traverse that I’ve not walked before turning this into a new favourite route.


This was before the clocks went back and this late in the day the light was starting to fade. We were also under pressure of time as TJF had informed us she’d gone out for the day to work without her keys and would likely be waiting outside on the doorstep before we got home!


It was a very brisk walk back down to the car on that basis. A really enjoyable walk albeit with a constant nagging doubt as to whether we’d done the right thing. In the event we’d seen less than 10 people across the whole six hour walk and we were diligent in making sure we stepped well away, well more than the stated 2m, on the couple of occasions we passed people on the path.


The Long Way Around   12 comments

Last time we had a weekend day seemingly without rain. I was on my own for the day so set out early (by my standards) for a long walk in the Black Mountains. I parked up at Pont Cadwgan and headed up the forest tracks deciding to add in Crug Mawr as an extra option due to the bright morning and the fact its a fine hill.


Not quite as clear and sunny as the forecast had indicated but dry and that’s what matters especially with the appalling 2-3 weeks of rain that followed.


Crug Mawr doesn’t seem to attract many walkers and I rarely see more than a couple of people up here or on the long ridge that comes down from the high points of the Black Mountains.


I has my first sit down for the day, actually quite pleased for the breeze as it had been a bit hot and airless on the walk up.


Onwards towards those high points I mentioned. This ridge is normally a pretty wet and muddy affair but it was bone dry. Likely it’s returned to business as usual in the meantime.


A spell of brighter sunnier weather drew me onwards until I reached Pen y Gadair Fawr.


Time for another stop as its a few miles along from Crug Mawr.


Next stop Waun Fach, highest of the Black Mountains. They have worked wonders in restoring the grassland up here. The path is now much less boggy and there are huge swathes of grass where once was just black bog. The Trig Pillar on the top used to be lost in sea of peat but now stands proud next to a path through the greenery. Sadly the plague of trail bikes are still leaving their trail of damage elsewhere. The National Park really need to more to do educate and restrict them although I’m not sure how.


Onwards to the northern escarpment for a bite to eat before turning and taking the long route back down the other side of the Gwryne valley


This is looking along the ridge to Chwarel y Fan


It turned quite cloudy and cool for a while so my last stop on the top was a brief one.


I really like the ridge from here to Bal Mawr. Not narrow but airy enough to expose some grand views.


A close up shot of Llanthony and its priory.


Not sure what these trees are – flora and fauna are not my strong point – but they were all in flower all over the lower slopes and looked wonderful both from a distance and close up.


Just a matter of picking my way down to and through the forest and back to the car feeling weary and foot sore. Hardly surprising as my mapping software said 20 miles! As far as I’ve walked in a day for a very long time. I was quite pleased with myself.


Short Walk from Llanthony   2 comments

Clue is in the title. A short post about a short walk on a very grey and windy day before rain and storms swept in a couple of weekends past. The warm sunshine of the Malverns the weekend before was long gone.


I’d planned a short walk from Cwmyoy but there was some kind of Countryside “Event” on so the Barbour Jacket brigade were out in full force and occupying all the parking spaces. Always eager for a new route I parked up in Llanthony and plotted a new route on the fly.


Across the Honddu river and up onto the ridge to the west via Cwm Bwchel. Views of Llanthony priory as I climbed.


It was a wild and windy day and it looked like it could rain at any minute although it never did.


Not a day for stopping as at times I could barely stand up in the wind. Taste of what seems like the endless winds and storms to come. Bal Bach and Garn Wen quickly came and went.


I walked as far as I could stand the wind and then plunged back down into the Vale of Ewyas and out of the wind.


I was a much more pleasant stroll along the valley through Llanthony Wood and back into Llanthony itself.


A brief but very quiet wander (I saw not another soul other than near the priory)


Black Mountains Wander   4 comments

I like to think I’m a local expert on the Black Mountains. I’ve walked them many times over the past 14 years I’ve lived in their back yard and discovered most of their ridges valleys and paths. Occasionally I find a small section I’ve never walked before and have a hankering to tread on some new ground. So it was on this day in mid-March.

Having left TJF to fend for herself, me and the remaining Funster and Sherpa headed out for the day. Didn’t get off to a great start. TJS who is a teenager and therefore by definition, lazy and vague forgot his boots. He assumed I’d put them in for him despite the fact he’d seen me carry the boot bag out to the car and hadn’t thought to check till we were at the car park. He had to do what turned out to be a very long walk over some rather rough and at times very soggy terrain in his school shoes.

Anyway we headed up swiftly on to Bal Bach and Bal Mawr, the initial stretches of which fitted the “new ground” criteria for the day. It was a splendid day albeit a little hazy



We walked at brisk pace (to gain some distance between us and a large but friendly family group) along the most splendid ridge of Chwarel y Fan. Its one of my favourite walks in the Black Mountains



My idea had been a ambitious round of the whole Grwyne Fawr valley up to Lord Hereford’s Knob (still funny) and back. However it was clearly a very long way and we didn’t want to leave TJF on her own too long into case she slipped into an iPad or Netflix induced coma. I thought we might be able to take a shortcut across the Grwyne Fawr dam and indeed it was so. It involved crossing a seriously soggy stretch of ground to get to it


Well worth it though. A spot by the reservoir was a fine place for lunch. Sheltered and almost warm in spring-like conditions



Across the dam and off-piste across more lakes cunningly disguised as open moorland and mountains and back up to the ridge on the far side



There were still some patches of snow left over and it gave a very fetching contrast to the brown of the bogs/mountains and the blue sky



Indeed the snow patches near the summit of Pen y Gadair Fawr were nearly waist deep. I discovered this to my cost as I plunged in. I was wearing shorts for some stupid reason and it was mighty cold on my bare pasty legs


I’ve always avoided the ridge south from here over Pen Twyn Mawr. There was a huge blanket of dense coniferous forest right up to ridge that I thought would spoil the views and make for a rather boggy uninspiring walk. Now that they have cleared the forest the views are rather fine and there is a pretty good path most of the way




It was a long way though to our route back to the car. A very long way. My ageing knees and sore feet (I have Plantar Fasciitis in my right foot) were in some pain by the time I stumbled back down the path to the car.


Still it was a very grand day out and new views and ridges ticked, always a bonus

%d bloggers like this: