Archive for the ‘Grwyne Fawr Valley’ Tag

Winter on Crug Mawr   12 comments

It may not look wintry in the photos, but trust me, it was bitterly cold, ferociously windy and I was blasted by a couple of very nasty snow and hail showers.

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After yet more rain the Grwyne Fawr river was higher than I’ve ever seen it at the Pont Cadwgan car park where I start my walk to take in Crug Mawr. It’s another of my favourite walks when I need a shorter outing, here grabbing another short window in the foul weather. Sunny intervals and very heavy showers was the flavour of the day. As I strode out through the forest I noticed how tall the trees are in here, having looked up to admire some rare blue sky.

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Its a steep and dark climb through dense woods to summit ridge and I timed my arrival perfectly coinciding with a spell of clear skies and sunshine albeit very windy.

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A tumult of clouds whisked past in the sunny skies and there were clearly very heavy showers and squalls pushing through.

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It’s the big advantage of days like this when the breaks deliver a clarity to the air unmatched in other conditions.

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Taking photos from the top was a challenging task. The wind was blowing me off my feet and several images had to be deleted as they looked somewhat off kilter and blurred – natures inebriation.

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Not a day for lingering and I legged it off the summit lest one of those showers catch me in the most exposed spot of the walk.

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One of said showers tracking over Ysgyryd Fawr as I descended.

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This walk is perfect for a day like this. The beautiful old church at Patrishow sits at the halfway mark. It offers plenty of spots to shelter out of the wind which I did to have a cuppa and some lunch.

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A muddy descent to the road and back up to the ridge on the other side of the valley before I was blasted with a vicious hail and snow shower for 10 minutes. You can just see the melting remnants in the next couple of photos.

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This stretch of path that traverse across the flanks of the ridge used to be one of my favourites. I say used to be, sadly the trail bike plague has discovered it and churned large stretches into a muddy mess. I had walk up on the bank by the wall to avoid most parts. I’m not sure what the answer is here, it must be near impossible to enforce a ban. What I can say with certainty is that they they are tearing the Black Mountains apart with their selfish activity.

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The sun was out again and all was glorious once more.

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Well for a while anyway as more heavy showers raced across the sky.

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I tried a slightly different route to avoid a soggy section near the car park. All it meant was I found a different one. I’m learning quickly just to take each route as it comes, trying to avoid the soggy mess this winter has left behind is near impossible. Trail shoes and socks dry out eventually. Not a bad day, another one to file under “glad I made the effort”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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

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This is looking along the ridge to Chwarel y Fan

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

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

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A close up shot of Llanthony and its priory.

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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.

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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.

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Another Solo Wild Camp   18 comments

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Back a couple of weeks before the weather turned too hot to venture into the outdoors with a heavy pack, I took another Friday night out in the mountains. I wished for a bit of breeze to keep temperatures and insects at bay and certainly got my wish.

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A glorious evening of clear skies and warm sunshine. I chatted to a lady van-camping in the car park with her very friendly Jack Russell pup chewing my laces. No sign of the promised breeze as I set off.

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It was a hot climb through the fly infested bracken as I headed for a summit pitch on Pen y Gadair Fawr. Still no breeze and I felt that the midges were eying me up for a buffet supper

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As I crested the top, the breeze finally kicked in. Less a breeze than a very significant and very chilly wind that I was struggling to stand up in

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It would have made a superb summit camp, lots of flat thick grass but it was just too cold to enjoy the surroundings. I’d also hoped to pick up some water, figuring that at least one of the numerous springs that rise on the summit would be running. No such luck. I decided press on in the hope of finding a sheltered spot

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Trouble its a pretty exposed spot up here and the wind was roaring and grass is in short supply. The compensation was that it was cool and walking along a high level ridge in the late evening is a simple joy

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The bog cotton was giving everything an almost frost-like feeling. The photos can’t do justice to how beguiling it was

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They have massively improved the paths up here so I made swift progress over Waun Fach without ever finding a respite from the wind. I tried a few grassy groughs, but none were suitable

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Eventually I had to plunge a hundred metres or so down the Y Grib Ridge and found a sort of level pitch on a terrace of deep lush grass. What it lacked in comfort it more than made up for with a  superb sunset vista

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There was just enough wind to keep the insects at bay without it being too cold and I sat outside, read and drank many brews of tea before turning in well past 11pm

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Tough to tear yourself away from views like this

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I expected a blazing sun to cook the tent and have me outside early. I awoke at 8am with no sign of the sun. I was in the cloud again. Looking up was clear blue though and the sky was surely to clear and on queue as the water boiled for my last cuppa before I ran out of water, it did

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It was an amazing morning. The east wind had cleared any haze from the air and the sky between the wispy clouds was a deep azure blue. Pen y Fan and Beacons poked above the cloud and I thought of TBF on her 25 mile sponsored walk around the range. She was on Pen y Fan summit round about the time I too this photo

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I decided to walk all around the escarpment to Lord Hereford’s Knob and on a day like this it was amazing. It really puts a spring in the step to have views like this to accompany you and I covered the ground swiftly

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There were several D of E groups out most of whom seemed cheerfully incompetent, walking in various directions none which seemed to be the right one!

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I topped out on the Knob and where the panorama across the Wye valley is breathtaking

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Despite the glorious day I had this very popular and easily accessible summit to myself but it was still very windy and bit chilly. Added to the fact I’d not had breakfast and had no water pushed me onwards to resupply and take on calories

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I had to walk much further down the Nant Bwch stream before the water was flowing sufficiently well to be drinkable. I found a fine spot and set about making my bacon sandwiches and several cups of tea to re-hydrate

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I had thought about dropping down to Capel y Ffin and walking back over the ridge to the car. The fact that out of the wind it was still really hot had me thinking of a better plan. I retraced my steps back toward the edge and the curved off towards the summit of Twyn Talycefn.

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The strong breeze was keeping the skies clear and the temperatures perfect for walking. Much better to be up high in weather like this

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Looking back to the ridge I’d walked the previous evening

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I dropped down to the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir with an idea of a sneaky swim.

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I don’t normally like swimming in reservoirs as they do have their dangers but I found a stunning little spot on the banks and took a short dip without straying too far into the water.

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Another cup of tea seemed in order as I felt like I had the whole place to myself.

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Then it was a simple matter of the long walk back down past the dam to the car

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A nice easy angled path to finish the day with grand views back to the dam and the deep greens of the valley under the still totally clear sky

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Another superb one-nighter although I would have enjoyed a bit of company as I’ve done most of this years trips solo. 15-16 miles over the two days with the aimless wandering I did looking for a pitch and just enjoying being out.

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May be the last such trip for a while. The last couple of weeks have been just too hot and sultry for walking so I’ve been getting my exercise in the water with some wild swimming, more of which in future posts. Then its holiday time for me and the family as we head to Wales and France for some sociable fun with friends

 

White on Black   16 comments

Last week, winter arrived in the UK. Temperatures fell and so did the snow. Time to get up early and head out for some winter walking. Me and TJS were off into the Black Mountains for a walk over its highest summits in the hope there would be some snow. There was!

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The drive up the long valley of Gwryne Fawr was very snowy, pleased I took the 4WD and not the small car! The car park was covered and there was deep powdery snow everywhere. Splendid

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We decided to head up the valley first and return over the tops as I prefer a steep descent rather than the other way around

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There was a watery blue sky and some weak sunshine and it felt great be walking on snow. Despite the first snowy weekend there was hardly anyone about

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The valley has a reservoir and dam and it’s always further up here than I remember

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We found a lower path right along the shore that was rather nice and we hoped would take us all the way to the bothy for a look-see (I’ve never been in)

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The path became narrower and much closer to the lake. With all the snow there was a distinct possibility of a slip becoming a rather wet and cold one!

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Eventually the path vanished altogether and we gave up on the bothy and headed back up to the track

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As we reached the northern escarpment of the Black Mountains the wind picked up and we matched with an increased pace. There were a few stretches of path improvements, likely due to the serious damage trail bikes have been doing up here. Even with a covering of snow you could see their tracks. Hopefully the damage can be repaired but it will cost a fortune.

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We reached Waun Fach – highest point in the Black Mountains – paused, and quickly moved on. The skies had turned grey and it’s a pretty bleak spot

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We pushed on towards Pen y Gadair Fawr which despite being more prominent and always looking higher than Waun Fach is actually 30 feet lower. We found a sheltered spot for lunch among the snow-filled groughs

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We’d made very quick time, we were earlier than expected and it was only a short steep drop back down to the car. We’d had our fill though, experienced some winter walking in the snow so were happy. Time to head home for a hot drink and a hearty meal

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Waun Fach

10 miles and 1,900 feet of ascent (courtesy of a high start) in just over four hours including stops. Impressive (for me!)

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

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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

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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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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

Crug Mawr One Year On   4 comments

A repeat of a walk I did with TJS at the same time last year. This time he was off on a school trip to France and TJF was in a actting workshop. Me a TBF had a few hours to complete a walk before we picked her up. It was something of a brisk walk to make sure we got back in time to pick her up but it’s a fine walk. This year we stopped in the churchyard for lunch. There is a full write up at the link here so I’ve just included a few choice photos and slideshow for this version

Crug Mawr, black Mountains, patrishow,  Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Vale of Ewyas,

Crug Mawr, black Mountains, patrishow,  Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Vale of Ewyas,

Crug Mawr, black Mountains, patrishow,  Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Vale of Ewyas,

Crug Mawr, black Mountains, patrishow,  Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Vale of Ewyas,

Crug Mawr, black Mountains, patrishow,  Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Vale of Ewyas,

Crug Mawr, black Mountains, patrishow,  Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Vale of Ewyas,

Crug Mawr, black Mountains, patrishow,  Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Vale of Ewyas,

Crug Mawr, black Mountains, patrishow,  Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Vale of Ewyas,

Crug Mawr, black Mountains, patrishow,  Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Vale of Ewyas,

Crug Mawr, black Mountains, patrishow,  Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Vale of Ewyas,

Crug Mawr, black Mountains, patrishow,  Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Vale of Ewyas,

Top of the (local) world – Waun Fach, November 2013   8 comments

TJS had been hassling me for a “proper long walk” as we hadn’t been out together for a couple of months. We had a decent looking day so I took him on the the promised long route, a round of the Grwyne Fawr valley, taking in the highest summit in the Black Mountains, Waun Fach, the local high point.

10.5 Miles

10.5 Miles

It was perishing cold and windy when we set off but with blue skies overhead.

After a steep start through more of the dark, primeval forest that cloaks the lower slopes round these parts we emerged blinking into the bright sunlight. The summits were shrouded in clouds but there was clear sky elsewhere so I was confident it would clear later and so it proved.

Grwyne Fawr Valley

Grwyne Fawr Valley

Across the soggy slopes up onto the ridge at the Blacksmiths Anvil. The views across the Gwyrne Fawr reservoir and dam were especially fine.

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From here the long broad ridge proceeds endlessly but easily over Twyn Talycefn to the Trig Pillar and un-named point overlooking the northern escarpment and Wye Valley. It had pretty much cleared now and it was a fine day.

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Grwyne Fawr Valley, Pen y Gadair Fawr

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TJS is into his third year at High School now and is choosing his GCSEs. We chatted long about his options and the time was flying by. It’s really enjoyable to share these big days with him, and chance to catch up and talk as I’m out most of week working so glimpses of my kids are fleeting

We needed some lunch and pressed on looking for shelter. Unfortunately this area seems to be plagued by motocross riders and the damage was extensive turning what used to be a decent path into a 30m wide mess of ruts and mud. Quite why they have to come up here when there must be endless muddy farmers fields they can churn up I don’t know. They can have no idea of the damage a single bike can cause in seconds let alone in greater numbers. If the pattern continues many sections of these great hills will become irreparably damaged and impassable.

We wandered off piste and found a sheltered little spot on the western side overlooking Mynydd Troed where we’d walked last new year. The sun was already low in the sky with the short days so there was no time to linger. Low sunlight however means stunning views, highlighting the autumn browns to great effect

Black Mountains

Mynydd Troed

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Onto the broad summit of Waun Fach, the summit of the Black Mountains. Not as boggy as I remember it but a wild a lonely place nonetheless. TJS was pleased to reach the high point of his local hills.

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Waun Fach

Waun Fach, Pen y Gadair Fawr

Over more soggy ground to Pen y Gadair Fawr. It’s more prominent than Waun Fach with a distinctive flat top and always looks higher from wherever you see it. I’ll have to take the word of the OS that it’s 1m lower 🙂

Pen y Gadair Fawr

The way was enlivened by another motocross rider, spraying mud lavishly as he went, appalling and heartbreaking in equal measure.

The sun really was setting fast and the light streaming through the clouds was grand.

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Clee Hills

We’d done all the hard work though and it was a simple matter of plunging down the slopes to the road to get the car.

Brecon Beacons

TJS got his wish – a 10.5 mile walk possibly the longest he’s done. He keeps pace with me know so it’s only a matter of time before he’s waiting for me to catch up 🙂

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