Archive for the ‘Vale of Ewyas’ Tag

A Dash Between the Rains   12 comments

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I’m catching up slowly and this walk was only 2.5 weeks ago. A horrid Saturday and a wet Sunday morning with a poor forecast seemed to condemn us to a weekend of domestic servitude. Sunday lunchtime arrived, clouds cleared and the sun weakly shone so we swiftly headed out for a walk.

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Hay Bluff and Lord Herefords Knob is always a good choice for a short notice walk as, like the Sugar Loaf you can park halfway up.

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Classic views across the Wye Valley right from the outset.

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And the usual leg burning, lung busting steep climb to the top of Hay Bluff

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Panorama from the summit

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What I wasn’t prepared for was the strong winds and significant drop in temperatures from the previous few days. A north wind meant that wearing shorts was not the best decision!

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After a couple of days of damp misty weather the winds had cleared the air and visibility was amazing in the clear sunny spells. We could see as far as Cadair Idris in the southern reaches of Snowdonia

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We didn’t linger on the summit for very long. It was cold and windy.

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And storms were approaching

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This one was definitely coming our way and I feared we were in for a fair old battering

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View south down to the Vale of Ewyas

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In the end we only caught the tail of the storm and the soaking was very minor as we walked back to the car

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Hadn’t expected to even hit the hills on this weekend so we counted ourselves fortunate to grab such a decent slice of wild and clear weather between the showers

Keeping the musical contribution going. A great track from a band who, with the passing of Tom Petty earlier this year, now have less surviving members than departed ones. The End of the Line for this post

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Spring Interlude   12 comments

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The Beasts from the East seem to have had domain over the British weather this year with another one apparently on the horizon for Easter. How pleasant it was then for a walk that didn’t involve putting on goggles and burying my head in a waterproof. The rest of the family were otherwise engaged so a solo walk in one of my favourite parts of the Black Mountains.

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Parking was full in Capel y Ffin so I headed up the very narrow lane in the Nant Bwch valley. Where you reach open fell there is plenty of off-road parking. As I’d be walking back that way anyway it made no difference to the route. It was a glorious day and warm enough to ditch warm hats for a baseball cap to keep the sun off

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I dropped into the village having decided to do the route the other way around from how I’ve tackled it before.

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The best part of the route is a splendid path that traverses between the fields and the open fell. I’ve always walked this stretch at the end of the day when it’s in shadow. This time it was in warm sunshine and its an absolute pleasure

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Despite the number of cars in the village and on the valley road, I saw no-one. Not sure why I’ve never seen anyone on this path as it’s an obvious route and a joy to walk

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Lost in my own thoughts and in the views of fell and field I ate up the miles as the path slowly climbs onto the shoulder of Bal Mawr

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It was half past lunchtime when I reached the ridge so I hunkered down in a heather and horse manure filled hollow for lunch. The views across Ysgyryd Mawr and the Sugar Loaf, all the way to the Severn Estuary and the Mendips were extensive

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So began the long back along the ridge paralleling my route in the valley below

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Its a fine ridge and the miles continued to roll by

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It was clear and sunny but the clouds were starting to fill in and it was chilly in the breeze

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Always hard not look self-conscious and concerned whenever I take a selfie

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The stretch that leads along towards the north edge of the Black Mountains escarpment is a bit of trudge and a boggy one at that.

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Time for a brief rest while sun was out

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Once above the higher reaches of the Nant Bwch valley I cut off from the path across country and back down to the path home. It looked a little rough but I managed to thread together a mix of sheep and pony tracks that made a rather easy route

Vale of Ewyas

Quite surprised to see this walk ended up over 13 miles. My knees, feet and hips were feeling it by the end. A fine warm day before another spell of winter

More Black (and Brown and Blue) Mountains   8 comments

Another weekend day off and another very plain an ordinary forecast that delivered much, much more.

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

“Mainly cloudy with occasional sunshine” said the forecast, so I lay in and got up late for a short stroll with TJS. It was 11 by the time we were walking having chosen a brief stroll along Chwarel y Fan above Capel y Ffin and the Vale of Ewyas. When we arrived the day was completely cloudless with a very keen breeze. With such good conditions we decided to lengthen the walk and include the valley of the Nant Bwch – it’s very fine as you’ll see.

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

A path that climbs the first few hundred feet of Darren Lwyd and then traverses under its south west flanks delivers you to the road head and into the valley. It’s a steep sided, waterfall filled, hidden treasure. On this late winter day, the browns and ochres were superb, highlighted by the blue sky.

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Its another of those parts of the Black Mountains I’ve not been too much. Despite living in the area for a dozen years now this is only the second time I’ve walked here (the previous time, a dark and gloomy January day). I think more visits for walking and chilling, picnicing by the river are in order

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Rather than head all the way to the northern edges we cut off off-piste up the shallow valley of the Nant Uchaf. I figured we might get some shelter from the wind for lunch, and it was so.

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

It was a rather boggy and somewhat tedious trudge up onto the main ridge from there but fun in its own way. Good for soul and for TJS a confirmation that there isn’t always a path where you want to go – and nor should there be of course

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

When we hit the ridge we hit the wind. Normally on a windy day you get gusts of wind with calmer spells. This was just a constant wall of wind at a strong and steady pace . It really was quite amazing. Not quite strong enough to blow you over but strong enough to make you lean most of the time to avoid that eventuality

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

You can see that from some of the photos

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

It was still such a fine day that we decided, after reaching the summit of Chwarel y Fan, that we’d push on down the ridge rather than return right to the car. The views were sensational and the skies still abundantly clear and blue

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Days like this really are too good to miss.It really is a most excellent ridge and like almost all of the Black Mountains pretty much deserted. It feels narrow and it is in a way as the crest sits a few feet above the sprawling moors

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

What I should have done is check the time before I made the call to extend the walk. It’s a very long way back to Capel y Ffin from the end of the ridge at Bal Mawr and we were supposed to be home for an appointment with a shepherd’s pie and a chance to see TBF acting her little socks off in a bit of am-dram. It was nearly 4pm at end of the ridge and we were clearly going to be late.

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

We hadn’t really stopped for a couple of hours due to the wind so we were footsore. It would have been perfect spot for a rest and watch the magnificent trooping of the colours on the mountains but we had push on at a pretty brisk rate to ensure we were home on time or at least close enough not to incur the wrath of the funsters, the senior one in particular

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

In truth we weren’t able to enjoy the gently descending and traversing path that returns to the village as much as we’d like. I’d forgotten just how far it is and it always seems further with tired legs and feet and the pressure of a ticking clock. Still the final views as the light faded were some reward for our pain and stress.

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

It was a long and tiring walk though, undertaken at a very brisk and relentless pace, good for TJS mountain skills, bad for my knees

12.5 Miles

12.5 Miles

All ended happily ever after. We weren’t too late, the funsters didn’t get stroppy, the shepherd’s pie was excellent as was TBF’s performance in Gaslight

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,

A short stroll from Llanthony Priory   8 comments

Still playing catch up with the blog. Been busy planning a major family trip for next summer so I’ve been neglecting my blogging duties. This one is from mid April after the cold weather from Easter had gone for good. Me and TJS stole an afternoon for a quick jaunt into the Black Mountains from Llanthony Priory

5 Miles, 1,250 feet of ascent

5 Miles, 1,250 feet of ascent

It’s a splendid spot situated in the fine Vale of Ewyas. In my humble opinion it’s one of the finest valleys in Britain and deserves to be better known. I’d neglected to pack my camera so the photos are taken with my iPhone. I know that people claim that phones take as good a picture as most compact camera’s but I’m not convinced. I rarely take photos with the phone but one thing I would say is that they are very handy fall-back for muppets like me who forget their camera when out walking!

Vale of Ewyas, Llanthony Priory

Loxidge Tump

Vale of Ewyas, Llanthony Priory

The climb to the ridge is through open fields, woodland and then up over Loxidge Tump and onto the open fellside. It’s been such a while since I did this walk and due to the limited photos I only have  a vague recollection of the finer points of the day. I do recall hearing birdsong near the ridge and thinking it was the first I’d heard this year and how perhaps winter was now officially over!

Vale of Ewyas, Llanthony Priory

Vale of Ewyas, Llanthony Priory

Vale of Ewyas, Llanthony Priory

Vale of Ewyas, Llanthony Priory

The stroll along Offa’s Dyke and down the ridge was as always pleasant and easy going. I’ve walked part of this section on many occasions from the opposite side to take in the Black Darren landslip (the most recent walk is here).

Vale of Ewyas, Llanthony Priory

Vale of Ewyas, Llanthony Priory

It was hard to imagine that only a few weeks previously the whole area was blanketed in snow. Despite it being a sunny day there was a chill wind blowing and we had to drop down to the NE slopes to find some shelter for the usual routine of packed lunch and fresh cuppa.

Black Mountains

Black Mountains

Black Mountains

We continued along the ridge towards Hatterall Hill and then turned sharp right back onto the Brecons Way. The path is another of those high level and gently traversing paths above the valley that I love so much. You can cover the ground with ease while still taking in the expansive views. The summit ridge is so broad that the views are a little restricted but on these paths the views are much more open and interesting.

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Vale of Ewyas, Llanthony Priory

Vale of Ewyas, Llanthony Priory

We chatted about the possible plans for our big holiday next year (more to follow when I’ve sorted it) and almost before we knew it we were heading over the fields back to the priory. A short day, but a good one – from what I remember anyway.

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Vale of Ewyas, Llanthony Priory

Crug Mawr and Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort   25 comments

I like to think of myself as a budding local expert on the Black Mountains having been exploring them since I moved to the area in 2002 and especially in the last couple of years. I’m always on the look out for new routes to get some new perspectives and experience a different flavour. After a comment exchange with James over at Backpackingbongos I came across his route on Crug Mawr and the Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort. The latter with its long low ridge towards the main Black Mountains summits has caught my eye several times without ever tempting me enough to scale it. Crug Mawr I never really noticed before so the route was confirmed. As always these days the budding mountaineer and walker that is my son, the Junior Sherpa accompanied me.

9 Miles, 2,300 Feet of Ascent

9 Miles, 2,300 Feet of Ascent

It was fairly cloudy when we set off from home and the start of the walk in Grwyne Fawr Valley was in dark woodland. As we set off through the forest there was a promising glimpse of blue above the canopy.

Grwyne Fawr Valley

Sun through the canopy

I’m not a great fan of forestry plantation roads but this one was fine with shafts of bright sunlight to lead the way.

Grwyne Fawr Valley

Pastures in the forest

We headed onwards through the trees to emerge at the buildings of Ffordd Las Fawr. James had mentioned that he stayed here with friends when he did the walk before and how fantastic a spot it was. It’s no longer occupied and boarded up but the charm of the place is still apparent. There was a sign at the bottom of the hill noting a planning application so hopefully someone will restore it to greater glory. For now I took some photos for James, dreamt of turning this into my home and moved on.

Ffordd Las Fawr

Ffordd Las Fawr

Ffordd Las Fawr

Ffordd Las Fawr

Ffordd Las Fawr

Ffordd Las Fawr

From here the route climbs steeply through the woods and boy are the trees dense here. It was quite extraordinarily dark. I was expecting fire-breathing dragons and ogres to lurch from the depths and take us for a snack. No such excitement but it was strangely eerie and unsettling nonetheless. I tried a few photos but it was just too dark. After passing through a couple of clearings we emerged on the ridge into bright blue skies and blazing sunshine, it felt almost springlike.

Crug Mawr, Black Mountains

Black Mountains from the ridge to Crug Mawr

Crug Mawr, Black Mountains, Hatterrall Hill, Vale of Ewyas

Across the Vale of Ewyas to Hatterrall Hill

All around was the desolation of cleared forest. I guess it will take generations, if ever, for the landscape to recover its former state. I’m really not a fan of the blankets of coniferous plantations that cloak large portions of our uplands but they seem to be clearing now slowly but surely. We turned and headed for Crug Mawr at the southern end of the long ridge that stretches from Waun Fach, the highest of the Black Mountains. As we approached the top the wind kicked in and it suddenly turned from spring back to winter. It was bitingly cold.

Crug Mawr, Black Mountains

TJS on Crug Mawr summit

The views more than compensated. All a round was blue sky and dark brown heather and bracken clad mountains. The summit is only 550m but it feels higher such is the feast of views spread out beneath.

Crug Mawr, Waun Fach, Black Mountains

Waun Fach from Crug Mawr

Sugar Loaf, Crug Mawr, Black Mountains

Sugar Loaf from Crug Mawr

I could have lingered longer but the cold forced us to move off and down the faint path along the slopes towards Partrishow . After a rather brief and cold lunch spot (it was one of those days when the wind searches you out wherever you sit) we headed down to the valley bottom again past the beautiful stone church of Partrishow.

Partrishow Church

Partrishow Church

Sugar Loaf, Black Mountains

Sugar Loaf

Time to head back up again and we followed a succession of green lanes and paths, twisting and turning this way and that until we finally emerged onto the open slopes of the Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort.

The top was surprisingly crowded with several families playing army and rolling about on the slopes of the old grass ramparts. It had clouded over a bit but the wind had dropped and we found a quiet sheltered spot behind a gorse bush for a snack. The long ridge stretched out before us towards Bal Mawr and the sun returned as we rested. The views were as excellent as I hoped.

Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Black Mountains

Black Mountains from Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort,

Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort, Hatterrall Hill

Hatterrall Hill from Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort

I was pleased to add another mental chapter to my book “Small Hills with Disproportionately Great Views” I checked the map and realised it was quite a stroll back to the car so we pressed on down the easy angled slopes and along the ridge. The first part was enclosed by forest and walls but soon opened out to a narrowing grassy ridge with superb views out to the NE over the Vale of Ewyas.

Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort

Twyn y Gaer Hill Fort

As the path climbs the ridge towards Bal Mawr, our route took us off on a quite splendid path traversing back above the Grwyne Fawr Valley. The skies had cleared again and we were treated to more spring-like sunshine and golden hillsides.

Black Mountains, Grwyne Fawr Valley

Black Mountains and the Grwyne Fawr Valley

Black Mountains, Grwyne Fawr Valley

TJS on the final leg

It really was a terrific walk this one and one I’d be glad to repeat in stages as a post work walk. All that remained was to follow the path down to the forests and back to the car. Quite a long day in the end at just over 9 miles, both me and TJS were a little weary by the end, both ready for our Sunday Roast when we got home.

A walk on the White side of the Black Mountains   10 comments

My temporary lack of work could end at any time such is the uncertainty so I’ve been trying to grab as many bonus days out as I can. A couple of days after my trip to the Berwyns I headed out again into the Black Mountains, this time with TBF for company.

8.2 Miles, 1,300 feet of ascent

8.2 Miles, 1,300 feet of ascent

The weather was grey and a little dreary looking but looked reasonably settled. Heavy snow had been forecast for the day after so I wanted to get out while I could. We headed for Capel y Ffin to take in a high quality route along the western side of the ridge enclosing the Vale of Ewyas. There was already a good covering of snow and the road in had a few interesting icy patches.

Chwarel y Fan

TBF plodding in the snow

As we set off from the car it started to snow, heavy enough for me to worry whether the roads might be a little more white when I got back. Never really amounted much though so there was no real worry. As with all cloudy snowy days there was a monochrome feel to the views so not much in the way of photographs. I needed some foreground to help and TBF was the only option hence her regular appearance in this post.

Chwarel y Fan

TBF smiles through adversity

Chwarel y Fan, Nant Valley

Nant Valley

The route climbs steeply up to a very nice grassy shelf about halfway up towards the summit and then climbs very steeply through the broken crags onto the main summit ridge. I descended this way in winter a couple of years back and it was like the Cresta Run, everything was just a long frozen stream. Took me an hour to descend about 300 feet. This year I had the ideal gear to tackle it – Microspikes. They hadn’t been much use in the Berwyns but here on steep icy frozen ground they really came into their own and made the ascent plain sailing. They really are rather handy little pieces of kit, easy to put on and take off, light and effective. I’m a convert.

Chwarel y Fan

Steep section on Chwarel y Fan

Chwarel y Fan

Cresta Run

As we crested the edge up onto the wide broad ridge the wind howled in and it was proper winter up there. Driving spindrift and icy cold blasts had us retreating into our hoods as we pushed on past the Blacksmiths Anvil and on towards the high point of Chwarel y Fan.

Chwarel y Fan

TBF on the summit ridge

Chwarel y Fan

Into the clouds

In better conditions it’s a cracking high level ridge. Not exactly narrow but airy enough to give fine views and  sense of height. It was no day to be hanging around though so we pressed on along the ridge and down towards the end of the ridge at Bal Mawr. I’ve said before that I take a perverse pleasure in wild and wintry days like this. If you treat it with the right approach and are well protected from the elements you can feel a real sense of invigoration – makes you realise you are alive. The Black Mountains are not especially high or remote but weather like this gives them an altogether more serious air. I was loving this little battle with the elements and I was pleased to say TBF was too.

Chwarel y Fan

“Not cold – no really its not”

There is a very short sharp steep section just after the summit of Bal Mawr, easy with spikes but TBF found it a little harder. We were soon at the far-point of the walk and picked up the cracking path that doubles back and traverses the slopes below the ridge we’d just walked and slowly but surely descends back to the valley. It had stopped snowing by this time and the weather brightened a little. The sun nearly came out as well and for a while it was quite pleasant.

Vale of Ewyas

Crossing the wild moorland above the Vale of Ewyas

Vale of Ewyas

Vale of Ewyas

We took advantage and stopped above the valley for a cuppa and some lunch, enjoying the peace and quiet of midweek day in the mountains (we didn’t see anyone all day). The path returns to Capel y Ffin along a path that stays on the open moorland side of the farms and fields. It’s a really nice path but today it was a mix of wet snow and slimy mud. That combined with the fact that we needed to get back to pick the kids up from school pressured us into a quicker pace and we didn’t enjoy it as much as we should. I was quite relieved when we re-appeared at the grassy shelf we’d crossed earlier and could drop back down to the car and head for home. The roads had completely cleared of snow so my worries of earlier were unfounded.

Chwarel y Fan

The ascent route

One of those days where the pleasures are less obvious but you don’t always need blue skies and sunshine for a fine day. Sometimes just a wild challenging walk in winter conditions with the other half will do very nicely.

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