Archive for the ‘Black hill’ Tag

Madcap Backpack in the Black Mountains   8 comments


I’ve been making promises to myself to get out and do more back packing and wild camping. I read lots of blogs and trip reports about cracking trips, mostly short to take advantage of quality weekend time but I never seem to get around to it. That’s all going to change. Armed with a new tent and after a rushed packing/eating session we’d eaten tea and were out walking in the Black Mountains by 6pm


It was great to be out after work. Less than two hours after shutting the lid on my work laptop at home I was on my way up the Cats Back ridge


As we raced up the sun went down



The light was spectacular and of course at this time on a Friday we had this most wonderful ridge to ourselves



We hurried on past the trig pillar on Black Hill towards our intended overnight stop



I’d had my eye on a spot a mile so beyond for several years. A small sheltered area of grass just off the path. Its always been dry but after the recent snowfall and heavy rain it was very soggy. We managed to get the tent up and settled inside just as it got dark.

Also had a new tent to play with. Since the demise of my Quasar I don’t have a two-person tent (other than my Lightwave which is really for 3 people and is pretty heavy). Bring on the Nigor Parula 2. I’m pretty impressed as it’s amazingly light for a two-person tent (around 1.8kg) and fits my needs for two porches and an ability to sit up in comfort. I’m still getting used to its pitching subtleties (especially the porches to stop them sagging) but so far so good. It did pass my first major test in that the very light and thin groundsheet was pitched on some seriously wet ground without any water ingress. I should however point out that seriously impressive tents are seriously expensive!

Not the driest or flattest pitch but we slept well through a cold night.

We woke the next morning to a frosty and damp tent and glorious sunshine


I left TJS to snooze while I wandered about to soak up the scene. I can almost see our village from the top but it felt a world away up here.



I smiled as abundantly as the sun shone, and settled down for a hearty and not very healthy breakfast of bacon butties and jaffa cakes. TJS joined me eventually and we savoured the morning and a long leisurely feast


Packed and ready for the off we considered our route. It was only a one night outing as I’d planned some cycling in the Peak District the following day. Originally we were just going out to Hay Bluff before returning to the car via a round of the Olchon Valley. As the weather was so grand we decided to extend the walk by taking in Lord Herefords Knob and heading back to the car via Capel y FFin


The high level path along to Hay Bluff was superb


The views from the summit over the Wye Valley to the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountain even better




We both seemed untroubled by the heavier packs than we’d use for a day walk and made swift and easy progress to the summit of LHK.


The views were still superb but there was a very keen and very cold wind so we didn’t linger. Rather than walk along the Darren Lwyd ridge, right into the wind we opted for the Nant Bwch valley for some shelter


Its a lovely valley with a series of small waterfalls and grassy patches for a lunch stop. Make a decent camp as well although its only a few minutes from the end of the road



The Vale of Ewyas is one of the finest valleys in the UK in my opinion. A walk along it or above it as always a pleasure especially on a warm sunny day. Spring really did feel in the air down here



The downside of the walk extension was having to climb up, over and down one of the Black Mountains main ridges. Sheltered from the wind it was a steep and sweaty climb. I was beginning to think I should have brought shorts


That changed swiftly as we reached the ridge. We were exposed to the wind and thoughts of shorts turned to thoughts of hats and gloves. It was bitterly cold and we had to move quickly to descend the other side to try and reach shelter from the next ridge


Ample compensation was provided in the views across the pastoral Herefordshire countryside and the ridge we’d walked the night before




One last steep descent and one last final climb back up to the car completed a very fine short overnight adventure.


TJS hasn’t been out much recently and he really seemed to enjoy the trip and the long walk in the sunshine. He’s badly out of shape though and was stiff for the next day or so and struggling to keep up with the old man on the ascents. He does take over on the downhill bits but I have my bad knees excuse for that

First part of adventurous weekend for me. More two-wheeled outdoor action planned for the Sunday


Short walk along the Cats Back   12 comments

Back to a gloomy January day in the UK. Our first weekend home after the holidays really made us feel at home. Grey skies and seemingly endless drizzle. Well not totally endless as it did stop for a couple of hours allowing a quick dart up the Cats Back ridge in the Black Mountains with TBF


The weather changed pretty quickly from gloomy to a rather impressive interlude of watery sunshine and above the cloud effects



Any walk of this local ridge is a fine one, being one of the very few narrow (ish) ridges in south Wales. We were lucky to catch such an atmospheric interlude




As we reached the summit of Black Hill the lower cloud was starting to dissipate and the blue skies were being replaced by gloom again. We had thought of extending the walk but it looked rain was heading back so we did as well



It may have been a short walk but it was a nice one all the same to liven up a typical January weekend

Posted January 25, 2017 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Wales, Walking

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Afternoon Stroll   4 comments

Back to mid-April and an opportunity for a short walk with TBF along The Cats Back


Another chance to play with the Panorama function on the camera. Still rather difficult to get right but its coming along


There was some bright sunshine but also dark stormy clouds




We got caught by one rather nasty hail storm as it bounced its way on us and through, but it stayed dry after that



The return along the Olchon Valley is a fine one. Alas the local hill plague that are trail bikes have found it. The path was one long line of rutted wheel tracks where once there was a grassy path. Every step I took just mad me angrier and sadder. These monstrosities are slowly destroying most of the paths in the Black Mountains. The damage in some places is heartbreaking and likely irrepairable. Its rare to walk in these fine austere hills without hearing their annoying waspish buzz and smell of petrol at some point. Something should be done about this but I can’t see what

Makes me very depressed now as I think about that walk down the path

Wet and Windy on Black Hill   10 comments

And rain it did. We had a day of solid rain and after another morning of it I was going stir crazy. 1pm it stopped and I reckoned I had enough time for a very quick blast into the Black Mountains. The nearest spot is Black Hill at the end of the Cats Back ridge so the plan formed itself as I only had a couple of hours daylight. I’ve done this walk and it’s derivatives many times before in many seasons so you can read about previous visits in May 2011, January 2012, July 2012, May 2013

This time I decided to walk up the road to the path at the head of the Olchon Valley and return along the ridge in the hope that the clearing weather would be at it’s best just as it was getting dark. It was dark stormy and very windy when I set off.

Olchon Valley, Black Hill, Cats Back

Olchon Valley, Black Hill, Cats Back

Now for reasons that escape me I had decided that trail shoes would be ideal for these conditions. Within 5 minutes I had reached a flood that filled the road completely. Being something of an agile sort I fashioned a technical route around by hanging onto a fence above the water. Being something of a clumsy sort I promptly fell off into the water. No need to worry about how waterproof my trail shoes were as the water was shin deep.

Olchon Valley, Black Hill, Cats Back

I squelched on safe in the knowledge that I had the answer to a question I’d posed myself as to what trail shoes are like in winter when your feet are wet. Answer = wet (and cold).

Olchon Valley, Black Hill, Cats Back

There were a few hardy souls out but in essence I had the mountains to myself. The streams were roaring to compete with the howling wind.

Olchon Valley, Black Hill, Cats Back

The photos show I hope the flavour of the afternoon, essentially very dark with the threat of storms in all directions

Olchon Valley, Black Hill, Cats Back

Olchon Valley, Black Hill, Cats Back

Olchon Valley, Black Hill, Cats Back

Olchon Valley, Black Hill, Cats Back

Still, after a couple of days indoors I enjoyed the bracing air and the sense of challenge from walking in wild conditions with light fading. I was back at the car before dark, glad to get my soaking trail shoes off and head home for the warm comforts and couch potato fulfilling activities that I’m best known for

Short and Sweet – Black Darren Jaunt   9 comments

A little postette and a few photos from a short walk I did with TBF and D a couple of weeks back.

Cats Back, Black Hill

Cats Back & Black Hill

L was off at the Pantomime (Oh yes she was!) so we took a quick dash to the nearest high level walk I know. I’ve posted about this walk before so you can read about it here.

Black Darren

The death of Autumn

Safe to say it’s a short, sharp and sweet stroll – or in this case very cold and windy stroll – up on to the eastern-most ridge of the Black Mountains, along Offa’s Dyke for a mile or so and then back down through an old landslip area to the car.

Black Darren

Snow shower

Sugar Loaf, Black Mountains

Sugar Loaf & Black Mountains

I’ve done this walk many times. It’s ideal for a short time span, an after work walk or a short weather window. You get a great reward of views for very little effort and the scenery amongst the wreckage of the landslip is fascinating. We were forced to wait out a snow shower in the car before we set off and although it was darker and gloomier than the forecast there were enough shafts of sunlight playing on the fields and hills to make splendid views.

Black Darren

Black Darren & views across Herefordshire

Cats Back, Black Hill

Shafts of Sunlight

It’s great that D is a real mountain man now and seems to appreciate the mountains even in the less than perfect conditions. I’m taking great pleasure from his ever-increasing confidence and appreciation of the mountain environment and sharing my passion for the outdoors with him. TBF enjoys it too of course>

Black Darren

End of the day

Enjoy the Photos and the Slide show

Cats Back once again   15 comments

Just a brief little postette of a walk that any regular readers of mine will know well now. The ridge of the Cats Back up to Black Hill doubles as the best and narrowest ridge in the Black Mountains and also the closest point of access to the hills to my home. I’ve been up here numerous times since I relocated to Herefordshire in 2002 and you can read about a summer trip last year and new year visit earlier this year for the full details.


This trip was a quick jaunt on a day of heavy showers with just me Jane and D while L was away on a Brownie trip to Warwick Castle. Jane is a supply teacher and has been taking a topic on the mountain environment at a local school for the last couple of terms. Part of this was a day trip to said mountain environment and I suggested the Cats Back and Black Hill as you start high and it’s a very easy walk to reach a significant point.


This walk doubled as nice afternoon in the fresh air and as a reconnaissance mission for Jane’s trip. She took a whole class up here a couple of days later and they absolutely loved it despite some wet weather. I guess many kids don’t ever get to experience the mountains (some were apparently rather poorly equipped :)) so it must have been a real sense of proper adventure for them, something us outdoor aficionados can often take a little for granted. While we were out there was another gaggle of kids making the walk so Jane got to see first hand what dragging a bunch of kids up a hill was going to be like


Anyway, safe to say we had a fine little stroll and we avoided getting wet and the sun even peeped out a couple of times. Just a couple of photos and a slideshow courtesy of Flickr to prove it

The Cats Back – no idea where it went   24 comments

The last part of our New Year walking trilogy. GM and S decided to stay an extra day so that meant another potential day in the hills. As before we were up late as the forecast wasn’t great but in fact the day looked promising with blue sky about and dark storm clouds over the Black Mountains. Me and GM decided to leave the kids and ladies behind and made a swift exit to try to make the most of the day. I’d been keen to show GM some of the best of what the Black Mountains has to offer so I chose one of my favourites, a round of the Olchon Valley to Hay Bluff and back over Black Hill and the Cats Back ridge. I’ve blogged this route before in the summer and you can read that version of events here

9 miles, 2,500 feet of ascent

When we arrived at the car park it was heaving with a whole mass of cars slithering around in the mud trying to grab a parking space. Luckily most people just head straight up the ridge and as we were heading the other way we would soon leave the crowds behind. It was much colder and still windy and as we prepared to set off we were hit by a heavy fall of sleet – nice!


Sleet to start

Didn’t last long mind and we soon had the lovely Olchon valley to ourself, picking up another of those long grassy paths up onto the main ridge.


Olchon Valley and up to the main ridge


Raking path to the ridge

As we hit the ridge I realised that a T-shirt wasn’t suitable attire what with a biting cold wind and ice particles in the air. The views were impressive with a bright blue sky out east and dark stormy clouds to the west…….


The clouds gather

Yes, the west where the weather predominantly comes from and we were suddenly enveloped in a biting cold snow shower. In a perverse kind of way I like weather like this. We were high enough up for the snow to be dry and it’s kind of exhilarating to be out in the storm. I tried to capture the mood in some photos but I’m not sure it does the whole vibe justice.



The main ridge makes for really easy walking and we made swift progress along to Hay Bluff without a pause with some stunning winter light to pull us along.


Golden winter glow

The summit of Hay Bluff was bitingly cold. We thought perhaps we could sit on the B&Q picnic table and chairs someone appears to have carted up there but settled for a rapid lunch in a drafty hollow. The views were tremendous but it just wasn’t a day for stopping and we started back along to Black Hill tracing a narrow path along the edge of the cliffs overlooking Cusop Dingle.


Above Cusop Dingle

As we reached Black Hill I pointed out the Satellite Earth Station a mile from my house that were lit up by the winter sun.


Home - well close enough


Pen y Gadair Fawr

The highlight of the walk is the Cats Back Ridge, narrow by Black Mountain standards with small rocky outcrops and a wonderful airy view over Herefordshire. Alas we timed our walk along it to coincide with a much longer, heavier and altogether wetter snow shower so we just romped back along it to the now empty car park.


Snow on the Cats Back

It was a cracker of winter jaunt, and I was pleased to give GM a flavour of the area on this and the other days. For me it was the end of happy period of increased outdoor action as I regularly skived off my dying job at Nokia to go walking. The next day saw the start of my new job and a proper 5 day a  week commitment. At least I still work in Bristol so come Spring I’ll be able to get out in the week after work again on my home

Big thanks to GM and S for making it another great new year, enjoy the slide show

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