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Sunday, 19 June 2011

Black Mountains Bagging Walk

camp on waun fach

It started quite well on Abergavenny Bus station whilst studying the timetable for the bus to Crickhowell, which, incidentally and a bit worryingly, bore no relation to the information provided on the internet “plan a journey” by public transport site. Anyway, this chap gets off a bus, wanders over to me and gives me his day rover ticket which effectively pays for my journey to Crickhowell. (A bus turned up by the way)

sign in the oak woods

At Crickhowell, I put the tent up and visit the Bridge End pub for an expensive but very nice steak and ale pie and some beer and return to the campsite where I’m invited to drink Guinness with a couple from Kent on a campervanning trip. So, it was a late night…

Wednesday is damp and drizzly but the local bakery does a cracking  Welsh full English and, replete, I set off up the Beacons Way to find the first drizzly mizzly hill of the day. The path climbs up through some very impressive oak woodlands which would pay a much longer visit than this fleeting glimpse from under a caggy hood.

pen allt mawr

I climb wetly up to the cairn on Pen Cerrig-calch and along the hillfog bound path to pen Allt-mawr and see nothing much. But the path is easy to follow and I think there’s a big drop down to the right… 

sugar loaflush welsh countryside

Then, as I descend a bit, the cloud suddenly lifts to reveal a green and lush Welsh border countryside below and a series of flat ridges going off into the distance. The little pen Twyn Glas is bagged and I meet what appears to be two gravestones..? – then Mynnydd Llysiau where I rest and completely redesign my route to take account of the duff forecast predicting gales and persistence in the precipitation precinct for Friday. I can finish all the hills by Thursday afternoon, in fact. And so, I walk past my planned camping spot at a sheepfold just below the ridge and plod on up to the top of Waun Fach, the highest part of the walk at about 810 metres.

boundary stones

A camping spot is found on some comfy bilberry on the edge overlooking a reservoir and I put up the akto and have a brew.

After a snooze, I walk off the 1500 metres South to bag Pen y Gadair Fawr and return to my obscure camping spot by retracing my track on the GPS (If the fog had returned, I could have had a problem finding the tent)

the pack waits

Overnight, it chucked it down and the breeze made the old akto fidget about like a toddler experiencing his first extended bout of bladder control. Luckily, no accidents of any dampish nature occurred and, after breakfast I found a path to the reservoir, crossed the dam and bagged Chwarel y Fan along a long and narrowish ridge in quite a strong gale. I make the pack wait at a cairn. It doesn’t seem too bothered.

ponies

Next, there’s a long and wide pony-populated ridge which goes for miles and miles up to the top of Rhos Dion, on the Northern edge of the Black Mountains and the walk from here to Hay Bluff over Lord Hereford’s Knob is a sheer delight. This would be a superb place for a fine set of wind turbines. Its such a shame to let all that windiness go to waste.

twmpa twmpa

So, Twmpa (L. Hereford’s Eminence) came and went and, indeed, I would recommend wearing a Jwmpa on this breezy nobble- and so did Hay Bluff, which turns out not to be a top at all, but a bit of a lump attached to Black Mountain. A walk along the Offa’s dyke path/Wales/England border brings the top of Black Mountain (which is fairly green by the way) underfoot.

Job done – I just missed a couple of borderline Nuttals which, frankly weren’t worth the effort of the miles needed for the bagging. So i didn’t.

underlooking hay bluff

I followed Offa towards Hay on Wye and, after a fierce and wetting rain/hail shower lasting all of six minutes, I put up the akto in a discreet and sheltered spot in a litle gorsey gully underlooking* Hay Bluff.

Another breezy night.

orchid more orchids

And, in the morning, under the threatening clouds I wandered along Offa’s once again through meadows of orchids and  oak woods and cow pastures into Hay on Wye where another proper breakfast was had.

hay castle

I camped on Radnor’s End campsite and ate and drank and shopped in Hay till the rain came at about 3:00 o’clock – very late. And with no note as to where it had been. I retired to the tent at about eight o’clock with a bottle of red, a tin of chicken curry and egg fried rice and a banana. What luxury, wot? Its nice being in a tent in the rain with a bottle of plonk and a loud MP3 player on shuffle. Simple pleasures….

Saturday was for the bus to Hereford and the long train trip home.

The walk was just 30 miles and 5500 feet of uphill contours. The walking, I must say, was joyfully easy going. A real blast, in fact. if it wasn’t so far away from home, I’d be doing a lot of walking around here. In fact, it occurs to me that a walk from Crickhowell, or, possibly Abergavenny, to Hay would be a cracking pre-TGO two or three day romp.

*I reserve the right to invent my own words by the way. I mean, you can overlook something when you’re looking down, so………

9 comments:

Alan R said...

Nice report with lots of grog and eats. Spoiled you are!
Splendid.

OWDBUM said...

great post...

Martin Rye said...

I must admit I have never considered walking there. Been to Hay visiting and strolled around the edge of town visiting hippies living there with a friend (another story for another time) . You might be right that it would make a good pre Challenge walk going there.

Mike Knipe said...

Slight Welsh accent detected there, Alan. peeps in Hay seem to talk with English accents, though...?
Owdbum - great name. I just put a link to your blog on mine. We could be on similar wavelengths...
Martin. Its cracking stuff. handy(ish) for you, relatively speaking in a non-marilyn bagging kind of way.

Tony Bennett said...

I recognise that first pile of stones under Pen Cerry whatsit. Christine and I ate out butties there last October in the mist and drizzle.

Jules said...

Looks like you had a good trip!

It is surprisingly good walking up there. I've only been a few times over the years, lastly about 2 years ago when doing the southern half of the Offa's Dyke path. In fact, the whole stretch between Abergavenny and Clun (and further west) would provide plenty of opportunity for a bit of eild walking.

aroundthehills said...

Mike, I had no idea that you were familiar with the works of Half Man Half Biscuit (Lord Hereford's Knob) .... or is the Twmpa Jwmpa rhyme just too good to miss?
I vote for a pre-Challenge Black Mountains wander next year.
Judith

Mike Knipe said...

Still some crumbs there, Tony...
Jules - it is indeed specially good walking. It needs to be nearer to Co durham, though..
Judith - Do you mean Twmpa Twmpa Your're Gonna Need a Jwmpa?
I refer you to my post of 31 May in which you can play the Werebiscuit's top hit "Tonight I'll be sitting on top of Lord Hereford's Knob" QED. A fine song. All of their songs sound the same, though...

aroundthehills said...

Oops, I think I may have missed a few issues of your esteemed organ. Thank you for spreading the HMHB word. I often sing their songs while I'm walking.... I mean who else has ever mentioned Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr in a song?