The other day LTD was mentioning that he thought that the hills peripheral to the main Black Mountains group were much more interesting, pretty , and less boggy than the..er… main..er…
I expect he was thinking about The Skirrid and Sugar Loaf and not at all about Hatterall Hill, Graig and Gaer.
We parked prettily in the car park of the Queen’s Head at SO311221, just a bit North of the Stanton International Communications Hub (phone box and post box). There’s a £2 charge for the priviledge, but, it seems, at 10:00 am on a Sunday morning, nobody available to collect it. Its a reasonable fee, though and I posted £2.10 of LTD’s Autumn spending money through the letter box. I didn’t have the correct change. I would be really grateful if nobody actually mentions this to LTD by the way.
Narrow and steep lanes, occupied by a veteran and friendly farm collie, who accompanied us up one of the hills till she was greeted enthusiastically by a collie pup at a farm entrace, took us to the foot of Hatterall Hill where we followed the Offa’s Dyke path up past a fine hillfort, the trig point and, finally, the summit. There were at least four walking groups out on the hill today, one of whom were apparently disoriented close to the summit of the hill and whom I met later on, still a bit lost and asking me for directions. I couldn’t help much but it did cause me to reflect on the pleasure to be had out of incompetence in the navigation department. Incompetence is one of my great strengths, it has to be said and the wonders of trying to get ground features to match the map is one of life’s great joys, as well as the subsequent explorations of unexpected places.
After lunch in a sun-trap on the heathery ridge of Hatterall Hill, we descended quite steeply to bag Hatteral’s main pimple – one Graig or Y Graig, which, of course, means “Crag”. I should expect. Graig is much more interesting than it appears on the map and I was lucky that somebody was climbing up it just ahead of me as the path is a bit vague and not obvious. It’s easy enough, though. This lass turned out to be an immigrant from That London, an artist and who was walking her pal’s two pet dogs. We had quite a chat and we pontificated about how such a rocky lump should appear on the side of Hatterall Hill, not coming to any firm conclusions although it was noticeable that it would provide a really good lookout point. She described a descent route to me, which I tried to follow but, as it got uncomfortably steep and craggy I retreated back up the hill to find a more civilised way down. My advice is to get down the way you came up. Keep it simple.
Onwards and downwards we went through the village of Cwmyoy where I met the discomfitted walking group again and where the church tower appears to be falling over. Some more lanes lead to a bridleway climbing the Very Lovely Gaer – which, it seems, means a castle or a fort. I deduce this because there’s a fort on the top. Pleasant green paths through the bracken lead easily to the top and wend far away to the North leading enticingly to the bigger hills.
Returning to the Queen’s Head is a simple matter of descending a long lane.
I think LTD was right. These hills are much more interesting and friendly than the big, high, heathery lumps to the North and the rambles through woodland, pastures and meadows in between are specially nice.
There’s a map below. Its about 9 of your Earth miles and with 2500 feet of ascent. I did slightly more due to some kind of time/space continuum problem which occurred on Graig. I don’t like to talk about it.