Archive for the ‘brecon beacons’ Tag

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

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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 🙂

A Breakfast Walk   12 comments

On a cold clear winters day the best time to be out is early morning. Having convinced TJS into an early start we settled on a route around Cwn Banw in the Black Mountains, one of my favorites. We were walking at just after 8am and it was a glorious albeit chilly morning at -5C

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The silhouettes of the trees are always something that fascinates me and this morning at the early hour was a great time to capture them

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The low morning sun also lights up the bracken and heather to very dramatic effect. It seems to glow with a warm deep brown contrasting to the frosty cold air

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The plan was to breakfast on Table Mountain (this allows the early start and is also a rather fine thing to do). Even though the air was cold even in winter the sun has a little warmth. What we hadn’t banked on was the surprisingly strong wind that turned the chilly air into an a more arctic feel

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Luckily Table Mountain has a terrace below its sloping flat top and we found a great spot in the sun but sheltered by the wind and overlooking the Usk Valley and the Brecon Beacons

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Is there a finer way to spend a winters morning than a freshly cooked bacon sandwich and cup of tea overlooking the mountains under a deep blue sky? Answers on a postcard please

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The pimple of the Sugar Loaf prominent in these parts as always

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We ambled back over the grassland of Table Mountain and then onwards towards the higher summits

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It really was most extraordinarily cold in the very strong wind. I would love one of those portable Kestrel weather stations but I estimated that with an air temperature a few degrees below freezing and the strong wind, the windchill must have been around -15C. We certainly didn’t stop!

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We summited Pen Cerrig Calch from where the views were equally magnificent

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Our goal of Pen Allt Mawr visible in the distance

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A long and bracing walk along the edges above Cwm Banw brought us to the summit where we found a little shelter to admire the views once more

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The views over Mynydd Troed and Mynydd Llangorse were especially fine from here

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A pretty decent sunburst shot with some vapor trails to add interest

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From here its always tempting to make a long round and include the main summits of the Black Mountains themselves. My knees aren’t really up for that at the moment and forecast was for increasing cloud through the day. No sense spoiling a great day so we plodded down the very fine and very frozen ridge of Tal Trwynau, pausing at the end for a final stop and snack in the sunshine

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These two photos show what its like to go hiking with a 21st Century teenager. Head always looking down at their phone, lest they miss a vital social media message.

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Over the fields and back to the car to finish a superb day out

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A Cold Day in Hell   10 comments

Well not exactly but I liked the title for the post. The rest of the family were otherwise engaged or just too lazy to make the effort so I went out alone to find some snow to walk on. The Brecon Beacons were calling and a ridge and approach I’d never done before. I set off from Llanfrynach (twice, having left my walking poles propped against a wall in the village) and headed up towards Gist Wen.

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The day started brightly but heaver showers rolled in as I climbed. Once clear of the trees I reached the first few patches of snow and the wind picked up

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There was a mix of stormy views and brighter skies but far too cold and windy to stop.

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By the time I reached the edge the snow was deep and crisp and even. Although there was a brutally cold wind I love walking in wild conditions so I was a happy chap

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There were a few fleeting views to keep my very brisk pace going. A proper wild wintry day to contrast the warm sunshine of our Xmas walks

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I stopped just below the summit of Fan y Big for a snack but it was way too cold to brew up. It was also a longer walk than I thought and time was pressing. I had to make a swift exit if I wasn’t to finish in the dark

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Whilst the day had been mostly cloudy, I struck lucky as that day drew to a close. The skies cleared enough to create some wonderful light effects and skies

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The illuminated clouds over the Black Mountains were especially fetching

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After dropping off the end of the Cefn Cyff ridge, I followed the paths across the fields and along the valley of  Nant Menasgin. Its a lovely quiet stretch along the river and meadows and back into Llanfrynach. I was weary and fulfilled as I reached the car in the fading light

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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

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