Archive for the ‘hay bluff’ Tag
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
Sometimes a day starts with a little promise other than another day spent festering in front of a variety of screens. At least those screens have vibrant colours which is more than can be said for this weekend in mid-February when grey was very much the colour. By Sunday afternoon, enough was enough so I dragged TJS from his pit and told him we were going out. It was already after lunch so a short route was required.
Hay Bluff has the distinct advantage in this regard, being relatively small in stature but with a road over a 1000 feet up it. The snow of the previous week was largely long gone although there was the faintest glimmer of brightness to encourage us from the car.
I quite like the direct climb up to the top from the car park on the northern side in a masochistic way. It’s brutally, unremittingly steep so there is challenge and enjoyment in getting to the top as briskly as possible without a pause. At my level that involves matching the unremitting steepness with my own unremitting steady pace. TJS struggles with this concept and whilst he’s leaner and generally fitter than me (he carries less fat than me for a start!) I always beat him up on these steep slopes. Tortoise always beats the hare.
After a brief pause we headed off towards the Gospel Pass and suddenly where there was once grey there was now some blue.
Turning in to quite a nice afternoon and reward for the decision to head out. Not exactly springlike but a warm feeling of smugness at least.
We pressed on and included the eponymous Lord Hereford’s Knob in our day. By the time we reached the top the grey was back again so we didn’t push our luck any further.
A brisk walk back to the car, avoiding the long road back from the Gospel Pass by stringing together a series of sheep tracks rather than tarmac
A day that promised nothing delivered something
The final part of the Black Mountains New Year trilogy with me D and GM. Another promising day’s forecast meant that New Year’s Day was a mountain walking day. Another session of poring over the map led us to Capel y Ffin for walk taking in Lord Hereford’s Knob, an honourable 3rd place in the list of comedy mountain names.
7 Miles, 1,420 feet of ascent
It was clearly much colder than the past couple of days as we booted up and headed off.
Vale of Ewyas
Across to Waun Fach
Its a steep start to the walk heading over the fields, past Pen y Maes farm and along the path/stream to the bottom of the steep eminence of Darren Lwyd.
Stream/Path above Pen y Maes
G on Darren Lwyd
The bright patches of blue to the east were being replaced by dark brooding clouds to the west. Evidence of rain in the air was provided with a rainbow as we crested the ridge.
GM and D on Darren Lwyd
It’s a long plod up to LHK but you can massively improve the aspect by ignoring the main path and heading to the right to pick up the path along the cliffs. It gives some great views down the length of the Vale of Ewyas and up towards the Gospel Pass and Hay Bluff.
Vale of Ewyas
The main path is pleasant enough but can be a bit of a drag and the edge route is much more satisfying.
GM on Darren Lwyd looking to the Gospel Pass and Hay Bluff
D was behind for most of the way to the summit clearly suffering from 3 days walking and a late night to watch the New Years Eve fireworks on TV. Easy to forget he’s only 13 and still finding his feet as it were.
D struggling along Darren Lwyd
Sunlight shafts across the Black Mountains
It was blowing a gale on LHK. GM was planning to send the customary “I’m sitting on Lord Hereford’s Knob” text to his mates but it was just too cold so we headed down.
Father & Son on Lord Herefords Knob
Our original plan was to continue around the northern edge to pick up the long path along to Chwarel y Fan before heading back to the car. The dark clouds and D’s reduced enthusiasm pointed us towards a descent down into the Nant valley. This it turned out was an inspired choice. I’ve often wanted to explore but all too often have kept to the summits. We had a brief lunch tucked into the soggy heather and tussocks before exploring our way down.
Lunch in the Nant Valley
The valley is a steep sided with numerous side branches and waterfalls to sustain the interest. The path stays well above the stream but me and GM descended to it’s depths for a closer look. It would be a fine sporting route just to stick to the stream-side in drier conditions. There are even a few secretive small spots to throw a tent up although like all such places in the Black Mountains the sheep have also discovered them with obvious results.
Looking South along the Nant Valley
Looking north along the Nant Valley
The valley opens out lower down to reveal several cracking summer picnic spots by small waterfalls although they are pretty damp at the moment.
Waterfall in the Nant Valley
D makes his weary way down
Someone had even gone to the trouble of building a towering thin cairn right in the middle of the stream that seems to survive the floodwaters that must have roared down the valley in the past few weeks.
Rather than walk all the way down the road we took the side path that traverses the western slopes of Darren Lwyd to Pen y Maes farm, another fine choice and a great finish to the walk.
Traversing across the lower slopes of Darren Lwyd
Not out as long as we thought but still a fine day with a great mix of mountain and stream scenery to keep us entertained. GM headed home the next day. I offered D the chance for another walk – he declined 🙂
Now I’ve completed my French trip write ups I’ve got to catch up on my haul of posts since early September. Hard work this blogging malarkey; I need to get my blog-life balance sorted 🙂
In my current job I’m lucky to work right on the outskirts of Bristol near the Severn Bridges. Like the previous year I had grand plans for several evening walks on my way home from the office. However the dismal British summer put pay to that and I never had a chance. Way back in early September we had a spell of warm dry sunny weather (seems a very long time ago now). I was sat working at home as it happened and with a sudden snap judgement I shut my laptop down on a whim, threw some stuff together and jumped in the car for an evening walk. (This rather swift exit led me to forget my camera so the photos and video clips aren’t quite as good as usual as I had to use my phone).
3 miles, 700 feet of ascent
It gets dark a bit early this time of year so I headed up to the high grassy parking area above Hay-on-Wye for a quick jaunt up Hay Bluff. It was pretty much cloudless and the sky a dark clear blue. In a moment of madness I decided to see how quickly I could get up to the top, a short but extremely steep climb of 700 feet.
View north from Hay Bluff
Answer = 20 minutes causing me to arrive on the top with my whole body crying out in protest. I had the top to myself and the views were sensational.
Lord Herefords Knob (Twmpa)
Across the long ridges of the Black Mountains to the distant Brecons and the mid-Wales hills.
Vale of Ewyas
East from Hay Bluff
West from Hay Bluff
I’d had an idea that I could also make it across to the wonderfully named Lord Hereford’s Knob (or Twmpa to give it its Welsh name) but a long stop perched on the edge to admire the views with a fresh brew seemed a much better way to spend the evening in quiet reflection.
As I sat there it occurred to me that with a little more grip and a bit of pre-planning I could have put some overnight gear together and spent the night up here. There are enough small patches of grass to throw up a tent and so long as you are away promptly in the morning, no-one is likely to give you any grief.
Still it was a glorious evening and I contented myself with watching the sun set over the mountains.
Lord Herefords Knob (Twmpa)
I could pretty much see the sun moving down towards the horizon at pace so I thought it best to head down to the Gospel Pass where the road comes through from Llanthony and the Vale of Ewyas. Rather than walk along the road I managed to find a succession of paths that traversed the hillside between the road and the steep flanks of Hay Bluff. I got back to the car just in time to watch the sun set behind the Welsh hills.
Sunset on Hay Bluff
Much better way to end a Friday that writing my weekly reports 🙂
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