Archive for the ‘black’ Tag

I’ve been busy!   2 comments

I’ve been neglecting my blog for the past few weeks. What with being away in Pembrokeshire and Cornwall for holidays and, well, just being a lazy git I just haven’t given it the loving care and attention it needs and I can tell the general public are growing restless at the lack of surfnslide antics. Well some people, well a few, well one, my friend GM but I suspect he was being sarcastic.

Anyway while I get round to some major updates for my family holidays and a cracking trip to the Arans in mid-Wales, here is a quick report on another of my post work jaunts. It’s a little gem called Bryn Arw just north of the Sugar Loaf. It’s only 300m high but in the dozen or so times I’ve been up it I’ve never seen a soul up there. It’s only a short walk but it’s perfect for a half a day stroll or when the higher summits are in the cloud.

The first section is along the road. Having read the blogs over at Beating the Bounds and Rambling On, I’m trying to pay more attention to the wildflowers when I’m out walking. On this evening it really struck me not only how much variety there is in our hedgerows but how just looking a little closer can turn what I used to see as a road trudge into a walk of discovery. I found myself stopping every few yards to look at the various plants – and in this case – fruit by the roadside.

Wild Strawberry


It’s a short steep climb up on to the ridge with several options and a pleasant mile along a broad grassy ridge with views across the Ysgyryd Fawr, Sugar Loaf, Hatterall Hill and the rest of the Black Mountains

Ysgyryd Fawr

Summit ridge

Sugar Loaf

Hatterall Hill

The late evening light gives some great effects on the clouds and the weathered trees

Evening sky

Spooky tree

If you are planning this walk just remember that during July and August the bracken completely swamps the lower slopes and as the paths are little walked they can become hard to bash through.

The walk is a mere 3.5 miles and 850 feet of ascent but its quality not quantity.

Full set of Flickr photos here

Posted July 8, 2011 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Walking

Tagged with , , , , , ,

Ysgyryd Fawr May 2011   2 comments

Short post with some photos of an after-work stroll. while J and the kids were away in Pembrokeshire (post to follow). Ysgyryd Fawr is a prominant sight right across the Black Mountains and in its isolated position provides a quality viewpoint across the Black Mountains, the Forest of Dean, and across Herefordshire to the Malverns and beyond. Its diminutive size makes it the perfect candidate for a short mountain walk. It’s only 2.5 miles round trip to the summit with 1,00 feet of ascent so as I drove home the lure was irresistable and as I now keep my boots and pack in the car I took the 2 mile detour to the car park pretty much on a whim.

The bottom section is through the trees and the last time I was here on Xmas eve it was like the Cresta Run.


Once on the top the snow was fortunately absent but it was still unseasonably cool and windy but the ridge is absolutely terrific and a pleasure to walk along.

View across White Castle and the Forest of Dean

Summit Ridge

It’s a popular hill and I saw several parties on the way down but by the time I reached the top I had it to myself. The views in the late evening sun were as good as any I’ve had up here and I took time out to lie in hollow out of the wind and soak it in.

Herefordshire and across to the Malverns

There were some great views across to Hatterall Hill and the Sugar Loaf where I’ve been in the last couple of weeks.

Hatterall Hill

Black Mountains

Sugar Loaf

I headed back down the ridge with a real spring in my step – no better way to work off the frustrations of a work day – marvellous!

Flickr photos here. The photos are taken with my Nokia E7 phone – not too bad although it’s not keen on the dark foreground for these late evening shots

Hatterall Hill   2 comments

This is one of my all-time favourite walks in the Black Mountains. I’ve done it perhaps half-a-dozen times since I moved to Herefordshire in 2002. Whenever I’m stuck for an idea or struggling for choice this one always seems to win. I have numerous walking guides but this walk or a derivative doesn’t appear in any of them. I find this strange as it’s such an obvious looking circuit when seen from Ysgyryd Fawr as in this photo taken a few years ago:

Hatterall Hill from Ysgyrd Fawr

It’s a relatively short walk and having got lucky with a chance to leave work early I took my chance, parking at Cwmyoy village hall. After crossing the river and fields you come to the sleepy heart of the village with its ancient church, leaning tower and bent roof to the fore.

Cwmyoy Church

Cwmyoy Church

The views across the fields to Ysgyrd Fawr are top notch.

Ysgyryd Fawr

The walk goes past a small table-top hill created by an old landslip.

I must take an alternative route and actually climb this one day. For reasons I’m not entirely sure of I always do this walk in the same direction. If I reversed it I’d see the path up this little knoll on the way down rather than on the way up when I’m already above it. Lesson learned. In no time the path is high up on one of the arms of the valley and it’s an easy stroll towards the main ridge, passing some excellent views up the Vale of Ewyas towards Capel-y- Ffin and the Gospel Pass.

Vale of Ewyas

The ridge was incredibly windy as it has been for several weeks so I had to drop down on the far side to get some shelter and admire the views over the Herefordshire countryside. In this photo you can make out Clodock Church which we passed by on our Longtown Lambs walk a couple of months back.

Looking north to Clodock

I headed down with cracking views across to Ysgyrd Fawr and the Sugar Loaf where I walked after work last week.

Sugar Loaf

Ysgyryd Fawr

One of the farm buildings high up on the slopes now sports a nice little poem on one of the Barn Walls

The lower fields were awash with buttercups although the hedgerows of the lane were surprisingly sparse in terms of wild flowers

Ysgyryd Fawr

First time I’ve actually clocked the walk so surprised to find it’s 6.2 miles and 2,000 feet of ascent. Feeling fitter by the day!

Full set of Flickr photos here

Post-work wind-down   1 comment

As I work in Bristol and live in Hereford, my drive home takes me either through the Wye Valley or past the Black Mountains providing ample opportunities to get a short walk in on the way home. I did this a couple of times a few years back so I thought it was time to revive the practice. I picked the Sugar Loaf, a prominent hill overlooking Abergavenny as not only is it a nice mountain, you can start from a car park at 1,000 feet! When I got there at 6pm the weather wasn’t quite as sunny as when I left Bristol but it was still pleasant. The views from the car park across the Usk valley and the Heads of the Valleys is great, and for anyone with smaller kids the area is great for a short walk with wide easy paths and expansive views.

Usk Valley and Blorenge from the Car Park

You can just go pretty much straight up and down but there is a much nicer route that heads across to the SW and W ridge. It involves some extra descent/ascent but it’s well worth it. The ridge is a pleasant stroll and the views across to the SW reaches of the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons are great.

Pen Cerrig-calch

Summit from the W ridge

The summit has a nice, rocky, airy feel and at 7:30pm you have the advantage of having it to yourself (it’s a popular summit).

Summit Rocks, Ysgryd Fawr behind

Summit, distant Brecon Beacons behind

I sat for a while on the top picking out other post-work walks like Ysgyrd Fawr, Bryn Arw and Hatterall Hill and watching a hot-air ballon rise up over Bryn Arw.

Hot-air balloon over Bryn Arw

Downside of being on a hill on a cloudy, windy evening at 7:30pm is that it’s cold and I was hungry so I headed down and past the usual groups of wild horses back to the car.

Wild horses

4.4 miles and 1,000 feet of ascent, not bad for an evening workout.

Full set of Flickr Photos here

A vist later in 2011 is posted here

Posted May 20, 2011 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Walking

Tagged with , , , , , ,

FA Cup Final Warm-up – Hay Bluff and Black Hill   4 comments

As part of my personal drive to get out more often, keep my weight in check and so protect my knees, I woke early and decided to head out for a half a day. My footy team Manchester City were playing in the FA Cup Final so I could do a brisk walk and still be home in time for a lazy afternoon in front of the TV to watch the match. I didn’t want to drive far so I headed to the car park at the foot of the ridge known locally as the Cats Back for a circuit of the upper reaches of the Olchon valley

The forecast was for a sunny morning with heavy showers for later in the day so I was out of the house and in the car park with my boots on before 8am. To say I was a trifle disappointed to see that the clouds were on the ridge and looking dark and threatening with rain in the air is an understatement. It was cold and windy which made my choice of shorts instead of trousers something of a schoolboy error. If the clouds continued to build I was likely to get a real soaking but seeing as I was here I thought I’d give it a go. The advantage of this kind of weather is an exceptional clarity to the light especially at this early hour.

Main ridge looking south from the car park

The car park is up at 400m and is a cracking place for a picnic (in warmer weather). There was no-one about as I set off, choosing to walk down into the valley before climbing up to the main ridge and then back along the Cats Back rather than face the steep climb back to the car at the end of the walk. The early morning views were stunning in particular this photo of tree in full bloom and a rainbow against the backdrop of the mountains.

As always I needed my mate ED to tell me what the tree is as I’m hopeless. I really must get a pocket, interactive or holographic version of him to take on walks with me – where is Star Trek Tech when you need it. Or a book!

The fields under the trees as I climbed out of the valley were still thick with Bluebells although dying off now. As you exit the trees you face a long raking climb right across the east flank of the main ridge.

The bracken was still just unfurling but it grows at an astonishing rate and to an equally astonishing height. Once you get beyond June it can be real barrier to the higher hills on the Black Mountains unless you stick to the popular paths. At times it’s like walking through a hedge maze but for now it was just a pleasant green addition

One of the other minor problems with these less-frequented paths is they tend to disappear as the gradient eases leaving with you a few hundred feet of heather, grass and bilberries to wade through. Finding them from the top is a matter of pure luck, another reason I chose this way round. By the time I reached the broad path along the ridge I realised it was very windy and very cold, time for fleece, gloves, hat and trousers – oh of course I’d forgotten the trousers – idiot. Still the weather had improved markedly and the black clouds had pretty much melted back.

Waun Fach and Pen y Gadair Fawr

I strode on briskly (too cold to do much else). One of the nice things about the Black Mountains is once on the ridge it’s pretty flat so you can lose yourself in your own world and just plod or motor on as the mood takes you. Between admiring the view and reliving the many routes I’ve done in the area my mind wandered all over the place from the usual work problems, to planning the upcoming holidays and of course how the game was going to go later.

Looking south, Ysgryd Fawr and Sugar Loaf in the distance

Almost before I knew it I was at the point where you can decide whether to turn right and start heading back over Black Hill or extend the walk to take in Hay Bluff. I was feeling pretty chipper so decided to do the extra bit.

Looking north to Hay Bluff

Well worthwhile as Hay Bluff is a cracking viewpoint over the Wye valley and across to the Brecon Beacons.

Lord Herefords Knob and Brecon Beacons from Hay Bluff

Wye Valley from Hay Bluff

Still too windy to linger so I immediately started heading back. Just after I headed off towards Black Hill I suddenly felt weary and found a sheltered spot for a rest and snack. Checking my GPS tracker I realised I’d done 6 miles straight in a little over 2 hours – no wonder I was knackered. As I set off I was overtaken by several fell runners, then more and more and more. It was clear there was a bit of race or event on, confirmed by the presence of a couple of tents and some people with clipboards on the path. I was going to stop and ask them what it was all about but they were all busy checking people in and recording times etc so I pressed on. As I continued towards Black Hill I came across an excellent sheltered spot for a campsite tucked away next to the path, an excellent place for an overnight stop although you’d have to carry a load of water up. I reached the trig point where the sun came out again and the views were great.

Black Hill

You can even see my house from here (well nearly). The photo below is of the Madley Satellite Earth Station and I live about a mile to the left in this photo.

Madley - nearly

To finish the route you walk down over the Cats Back – what passes as a narrow ridge in the Black Mountains. Not exactly Crib Goch but an airy walk with wonderful views over Herefordshire and back across the Black Mountains. Its a short walk and easy climb from the car park, so I’ve been up here several times in all seasons. The kids like it as there are plenty of rocky bits to scramble about on. L was up here last week on her Longtown adventure trip.  I took loads of photos to try and capture the sense of the ridge so hope the one’s I’ve chosen do it justice.

Cats Back Ridge

Cats Back Ridge

Cats Back Ridge

Looking across to where I’d gone up you could clearly make out the blueish tint of the bluebells in the meadows I walked through on the way up. I tried a photo or two but it didn’t show through. The weather had held off for me and it was almost warm as I started to head down.

Olchon valley

When I reached the car I was surprised to find that the walk was a few yards shy of 9 miles (I thought it was about 6) with 2,500 feet of ascent that I’d done in about 3.5 hours. Not bad!

Full Flickr Photo set here

Time to head home for a well-earned brunch of Mexican scrambled eggs and then settle down for the cup final.



Days don’t get much better than this!

Posted May 14, 2011 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Walking

Tagged with , , , , , , , , ,

Longtown Lambs   4 comments

As part of my recovery program from my knee op I decided to drag the kids out on a walk. It was a lovely warm spring day so we decided to take stroll round the local village of Longtown. It’s a walk we’ve taken a few times, nice and easy for the kids with plenty of wild flowers and great views up to the main ridge of the Black Mountains – and this time we hoped we weren’t too late to see some spring lambs.

The route is below and I’ve created the map for free using a combination of some GPS Sports tracking software on my mobile, Bing Maps which now has OS 1:50,000 and 1:25,000 maps and some freeware screen capture software. I’ll put a post/page up to describe how it works so any of you budding walking bloggers can add maps and routes for nowt. Not quite as clear as using proper map software but not bad for free

The walk takes you from Longtown village down to and across the Olchon Brook. From there it’s a pleasant stroll over fields, stiles and streams towards the main ridge. It only ascends about 100m so easy with the kids. Both D and L were thrilled to see that the fields were filled new lambs and plenty of “aaahhhh” moments.

D & L, Black Mountains behind

Spring Lambs

The walk then crosses the fields down to the lovely old church at Clodock where we had a leisurely lunch in the Churchyard in the sun.

Clodock Church

Clodock Church

D & L with a healthy lunch of crisps and biscuits

The walk then follows the river Monnow (where we saw a horse rolling around on the bank and then back through the fields to Longtown.

That's how scratch that itch...

It’s a perfect family walk with lots to see and do and neither too far or too steep. Combined with a sunny aspect and views up to the Black Mountains it’s perfect for lazy day out. Flickr photos here

Posted April 5, 2011 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Walking

Tagged with , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: