Archive for the ‘Usk valley’ Tag

Wet and Windy in Westwood   12 comments


The weekend started out with a night out in Bristol with friends old and new from my Bristol connections. A cracking night out with plenty of laughs and a nice view from my hotel.


A very long and leisurely breakfast wasn’t quite enough to dispel a mild hangover so a walk on the way home was in order. It was a pretty grim day, dark, stormy and windy so I picked another new Marilyn to attempt between Usk and Chepstow, Wentwood.


It was chucking it down when I parked up in an empty car park at Cadira Beeches. I headed out with the wind howling through the trees above me but sheltered from the worst of it. 


Being a forested hill, views were a bit limited and when I did find a break everywhere looked damp and wet. The hangover was gone though!


I reached the summit to find one of the saddest and most neglected Trig pillars I’ve come across in quite a while.


I had some occasional glimpses of blue sky and sunshine through the dense forest.


The broad forestry track I’d been following degenerated into a muddy trawl. I’m becoming used to the idea that mud is a feature on these lower forested hills. A showery view over the Usk river valley.


After walking the length of the ridge I turned to follow a parallel track below the ridge to the south heading back towards the car.


The weather started to improve a bit with less rain, more flashes of sunlight but still with a howling wind above me.


Passing Little Oak and Foresters Oak before reaching a point called The Five Paths. I turned for the short walk back to the car and was greeted with a patch of expansive blue sky and bright sunshine.


Keen to try and get some views over the valley I struck out on a thin but exceptionally fine path through the woods. Whilst I didn’t really get any wide views the forest was a little less dense so I could at least sense the sky was clear and sunshine was up there, somewhere.


Some more muddy paths took me through a succession of wooded glades and paths before I was back at the car.


I was only planning a short stroll to blow out the cobwebs but I was enjoying being out and clocked up 6 miles in a couple of very blowy hours.


It would be a fine place for a walk in Spring or autumn when it might be a bit less soggy. Another new place discovered and I have to say I’m enjoying the new places the Marylin’s list is introducing to me.

Posted December 9, 2018 by surfnslide in Wales, Walking

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Biting Cold on Tor-y-Foel, Brecon Beacons   12 comments

Still catching up on past adventures and walks. Mind you looking at the weather we have currently this walk could have just have easily taken place today rather than back in mid-February.

The little hill of Tor y Foel sits just the other side of the Talybont Reservoir from the main summits of the Brecon Beacons. It’s caught my eye on several walks, mainly as the end point of a long spur of moor and forest. It would make a great start or endpoint for a long circuit from Talybont, up over the eastern edges of the Beacons and back over this long ridge to Tor y Foel, in effect a round of the reservoir. But that was for another day. This day was grey and cold so just a short jaunt for me and TJS. I’d spied a nice circuit taking in the top and returning along the Usk Valley Walk by the canal. Rather than try to park in the busy village of Llangynidr we opted to park high on the ridge and take in the circuit from there. Not sure why it should feel so odd to start high, walk down and then back up to the start point but it always does. Must be my synchronised and ordered mind 🙂

Tor y Foel

6 miles, 1,700 feet of ascent

The views from the lofty perch where you park the car would be superb on a sunny day but today it was grey but the cloud was off the tops so not too bad. It was however startlingly cold with a keen wind and temperatures below freezing making for a chilly walk.

Talybont Reservoir

Talybont Reservoir

A brisk walk to the top and the wind was even keener. It was as cold as I’ve been out on the hills for a while and we barely paused as we admired the summit and ran off to find some shelter. It was a nice summit with great views as its fairly isolated, need to go back on a warm summers evening after work to enjoy it properly

Tor y Foel

TJS on the summit of Tor y Foel

Tor y Foel, Sugar Loaf, Black Mountains

Tor y Foel summit, Sugar Loaf & Black Mountains behind

The wind was blowing through every clothing gap, chilling us to the bone as we walked and half ran down the ridge. The ground was frozen solid and there was a very light dusting of snow. Be a good slope to ski on as it’s grassy and steep. Probably should have gone out this weekend but I’m prepping for a cold and wintry backpacking trip to the Western Highlands over Easter so I’m keen to keep my gear dry

Tor y Foel

Descending Tor y Foel

There is a band of trees about halfway down and this suddenly and unexpectedly gave shelter from the wind. It was amazingly calm and nothing like as cold so we stopped for lunch. Despite the weather it was actually warmer than the lunch stop we had in the sun on Crug Mawr the previous weekend.

Tor y Foel


From there it was a pleasant stroll over the frozen fields to Llangynidr. Quite an unusual feeling to walk on firm ground rather than the boggy muddy mess of the previous few months

Tor y Foel, Llangynidr

Tor y Foel from Llangynidr

From Llangynidr it was onto the Monmouthshire a Brecon Canal. There were a few boats docked below the locks seemingly in for repair ready for the new season. Other than that there wasn’t a soul around so it was a very easy-going stroll along the banks of the semi-frozen canal.

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, Llangynidr

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal at Llangynidr

TJS had some fun poking holes in the ice with my poles

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, Llangynidr

Breaking the Ice

I was surprised that TJS had not seen a canal lock before so I had to explain how the boats use them and what a marvellous and simple invention they were at a time before true industrialisation. I imagine cruising along in summer would be a nice day out but it’s not for me. I’d prefer to walk along these old byways and on this day it was undeniably enjoyable, especially as we were out of the cold wind

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, Llangynidr

More Locks

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

Tor y Foel from the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

After a couple of miles the Usk Valley Walk makes a steady rising traverse across the fields back to the road where we parked the car. Unspectacular on such a grey day but all part of a varied day with some decent views across to the western Black Mountains and the Sugar Loaf

Black Mountains, Usk Valley Walk

Black Mountains from the Usk Valley Walk

All that remained was a walk back along the road to the car. Cold and grey but a fine walk to be repeated and you can have too much blue sky and sunshine

Autumnwatch – Craig Cerrig Gleisiad   6 comments

This was an autumn repeat of a longer walk I did last summer. The darker nights and colder days were fast approaching so I wanted to get the family out as much as possible before the winter arrives and the TV and Wii become a more attractive option for the kids.

Craig Cerrig Gleisiad

Craig Cerrig Gleisiad

I was after a short walk but the weather looked promising enough for a day on some loftier heights. This walk combines a high start with a relatively short walk into a wonderful corrie and around its edge with expansive views. Just the ticket.

Pen-y-Fan, Corn Du

Pen-y-Fan, Corn Du

It was lunchtime by the time we set off from the car park on the A470 and headed up the broad path towards the dramatic cliffs of Craig Cerrig Gleisiad. This area to the west of the main Brecon Beacons range is known as Fforest Fawr (The Great Forest), named for its status as a hunting ground rather than an expanse of trees. The area is a National Nature Reserve and within 5 minutes you are up into the heart of this wonderful and relatively little known cwm. On both occasions I’ve visited I’ve seen few people compared to the massed ranks slogging up the grinding bore of a path up Pen-y-Fan from the Storey Arms a mile or so up the road.

Craig Cerrig Gleisiad

L climbs the stile into the cwm

Craig Cerrig Gleisiad

D walks in Craig Cerrig Gleisiad

The path crosses a wall to a wonderful spot beside a tinkling stream where the full grandeur of the corrie is revealed. Sculpted by ice, it’s a home to several rare arctic-alpine plants such as Purple and Mossy Saxifrage. This is as far south as they are found in the UK and they don’t re-appear again until the high alps. The cliffs, rather than rocky are cloaked in heather and trees with hawthorn, rowan, mountain ash and whitebeams clinging to the steep slopes. Peregrine falcons nest on the cliffs joined by merlins and red kites. In the summer ring ouzels, skylarks and chaffinches fill the slopes with song and colour is provided with an array of butterflies that seem at odds with the higher altitude.

Craig Cerrig Gleisiad

D in Craig Cerrig Gleisiad

On this day of cold air and bright skies we didn’t see much of this flora and fauna but the views were awesome. There were some dark brooding clouds mixed with bright clear sunshine and an exceptional clarity to the light and the walking was a pleasure. There are a couple of paths that head straight up to the ridge but like my last visit I chose to follow the path that runs across the bottom edge (a little soggy but passable) to the far end of the ridge coming down from Fan Frynych.

Storey Arms

South towards the Storey Arms

This gives great views up into the dark recesses of the crags, back across to Pen-y-Fan and Corn Du and down over the Usk valley to Brecon and the Black Mountains beyond. Once on the ridge it’s a broad easy path up onto the broad plateau of Fan Frynych. We took advantage of a spell of sunshine to have lunch and a cuppa amongst the hollows created when stone was quarried from up here.

Fan Frynych

Lunch on Fan Frynych

Fan Frynych

North towards Brecon from Fan Frynych

From there it’s an easy stroll along the edge of the cwm towards what passes for the summit. The views across the Fforest Fawr and the Brecons were amazing, the dark clouds adding a sense of moody magnificence to the scene.

Craig Cerrig Gleisiad, Fan Frynych

Craig Cerrig Gleisiad from Fan Frynych

Craig Cerrig Gleisiad, Fan Frynych

Fan Frynych from Craig Cerrig Gleisiad

I looked across to the much higher bulk of Fan Fawr that I’d climbed the previous visit and wished I was carrying on – it’s a pleasant high-level grassy stroll.

Fforest Fawr, Black Mountain

Fforest Fawr and Black Mountain

As you start to head down the path hugs tight to the cliff edges giving some eagle eye views into the dark corrie below. We kept looking for the Peregrines or other birds of prey swooping and hunting amongst the cliffs but with no luck.

Pen-y-Fan, Corn Du, Craig Cerrig Gleisiad

Pen-y-Fan & Corn Du from Craig Cerrig Gleisiad

Pen-y-Fan, Corn Du, Craig Cerrig Gleisiad

D on the edge

The path descends back towards the main access path in a startlingly steep manner, causing some amusement for the kids at sliding around on their bottoms to avoid a more calamitous tumble. All too soon the we were back by the stream and onto the car, a great short walk over. As the weather chills it gets harder to entice the kids out onto the hills – have to leave them with TBF I suppose 🙂

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