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Monday, 18 March 2013

South Wales Backpack Part Two

a cefn yr ystrad cairn

The first night, beside the dam wall (as opposed to the flippin’ wall) of Brynmawr’s local reservoir in the company of a friendly black pony and a creaky bit of tin was a cold one. However, being so close to a centre of population and a bit of the Heads of the Valleys road, was probably responsible for the very nice DB radio reception. This, and Dawn’s orange chocolate drops, a 75 cl supply of loopy juice and a plastic milk bottle serving as a sleeping bag radiator, meant that the long hours of darkness which began at about half six, were passed in a reasonably comfy state. I was so toasty, in fact that if it hadn’t been for a visit from Mr Bladder about half nine I would probably still be there now.

brynmawrs reservoir and pylons

I didn’t manage to get away till nearly eleven o’clock. This concerned me about this much          ----><----    (i.e. not much) It was a nice day, sunny and frozen and all of the streams were completely solid. I passed the reservoir and got to a road which I followed on a parallel trod to it’s summit where I launched off over the heathery moor to find the trig at Blaen Onneu, a sub-Dewey (yes, I know…) at 541 metres – not difficult to find on a bright and clear day, but, I expect, a right bugger in the mist. This moorland is a paradise for anybody intent on practising their map and compass work and, indeed, a group of three soldiers turned up at the trig roughly at the same time as me – armed with maps and compasses and intent on finding their next target 2.2 kilometres away…. Basically, it’s a superficially featureless and relatively flat moor speckled with targets such as caves and shakeholes and little crags and hidden corners. The problem is, of course, that all the shakeholes look the same and there are very few linear features for a nice bit of handrailing. And I do ,like a nice bit of handrailing.

a big cairn somewhere

I left the top on a good path heading West, but after a while, considered that it wasn’t quite going in the right direction, so I left it. This was a mistake, cos the thing goes all the way across the moor. The next couple of hours were taken up “navigating” whilst never quite knowing exactly where I was. On a small top with a sheltering cairn, I sat and scoffed and bemoaned the lack of liquid water for a brew – all water was in small ponds and was frozen solid. And I noticed voices from behind a small ridge where, a few minutes later, I found the path I’d abandoned. So I followed it and it delivered me within a couple of hundred metres of the summit of this particular block Garn Fawr – a big cairn (you might have guessed by the name!) – this was the HuMP top of Mynydd Llangynidr, where it started snowing big time.

good navigating country

I descended to a minor road, which signs announced was “private” and on which a procession of quarry wagons rushed to and fro. The snow turned into a blizzard and I found a beck – alongside which, in the shelter of a  veteran hawthorn and a small gorse bush and out of sight of the quarry traffic and the shepherds calling up their sheep for feeding, I stuck up the akto and hid from everything.

Night two was a repeat of night one, but just a bit colder. I had to refresh the hot water bottle at one point, and the quarry traffic stopped at nightfall, and the little beck had turned to stone by half ten which I discovered whilst entertaining Mr Bladder once again by starlight.

cefn yr ystrad summit trig

I managed to get away by 10:15 in the morning. And stumbled up the frozen hillside of Cefn Yr Ystrad in bright sunshine. I found that sitting in  shakeholes eating jelly babies was the thing to do. In a shakehole, the sun was warm and I could close my eyes and pretend I was up Cefn yr Ystrad scoffing jelly babies in a sinkhole.

Last night’s weather forecast warned of heavy rain moving in. There was no sign of it just now, though, so I wandered lonely as a Dawnless eejit, visiting the several cairns up Cefn. I dawdled. It was too nice to be rushing about.

Cefn’s Western edge is a disused limestone quarry – or at least, its still in use for Welsh off-road biker boys doing wheelies judging by tyre tracks. I met some more horses and ponies. they seemed to be tame and a bit bored. I wandered Northwards for a bit and bagged a little Dewey – Darren Fawr, named after Darren, obviously…  A nice limestone hill with old grassed-over quarries for sheltering from the nithering wind and the spits and spots of rain….

bit fuzzy...... must be the scotch

I found another liquid beck in the upper parts of Cwm Callan, stuck up the akto and retired to the sound of rain on the flysheet. The night was much warmer and I found that if I stuck the earphone wire through one of the roof loops of the akto and kept a finger on it to keep it tight, I could listen to the DAB radio again (Programme about Pet Sounds for the info of JM who probably listened to it anyway)

It was still raining in the morning and I’d planned my route overnight. Basically, I wandered down to Pontsticill reservoir and followed the Taff Trail to Merthyr Tydfil. Most of this route is an old railway line, tarmacced for the convenience of cyclists, and mainly downhill. It rained most of the walk, which was about seven miles. As I got nearer to Merthyr, it got more like Halifax again, except that the people I met – who all spoke to me, occasionally commenting on how this weather was good for the legs or whatever…  had more musical accents.  Its not a bad walk, but the last couple of miles are industrial and there’s quite a bit of evidence of one of the local pastimes which seems to be to try to set fire to the vegetation – lots of burned patches.

ysgyryd fawr

I spent little time in Merthyr and got a bus almost straight away for Abergavenny where I got a bed at the Swan Hotel for forty quid. And that was the end of that. In the morning Abergavenny slowly emptied towards Cardiff where some kind of sporting event was taking place, so I went home. ( I did bag the little HuMP Ysgyryd Fach and visit the castle and museum whilst waiting for the train to Mancenion Piccadilly as well..) The castle and museum are free entry by the way and the chap in the museum guarded my rucksack. I’d counted the jelly babies and arranged them into a special order before I handed it over, obviously. Can’t be too careful where jelly babies are concerned, innit?

abergavenny castle

The Cefn Yr Ystrad ridge and it’s fat and flat eastern satellites is a beautiful and quiet oasis of peace occupied by skylarks and curlews and eeejits with maps and it leads the backpacker with more determination and even more jelly babies into the Brecon Beacons by the back door. And it’s one more Hewitt bagged for me. Less than a dozen left!

Not many pics, by the way as yet another of my cameras has decided it is now capable of making it’s own decisions about which function to provide, so I had to take out a battery to stop it turning itself on and off and the faff of putting it back in to snap a pic was , well, a faff. The it rained, so there wasn’t much to see anyway.

The whole jaunt was about forty miles by the way.



Dawn said...

Well done Mike

Alan Sloman said...

Buggering heaven, Mike.
(That's a joke, folks)
Nice trip, fella
Nice words too. Enjoyed that.

Laura said...

Yep - me too!

chrissiedixie said...

Looked nicely cold there. Glad to see you're looking after the Jelly Babies responsibly mind. Must look up exactly what a Dewey is sometime...

Keith / Fozzie said...

9.30 bladder call? I can usually go till 3am. Can I expect it to get earlier the older I get do you think?

Mike Knipe said...

Thanks each. Where is buggerring heaven. (Yes, I know, it's Brighton innit?)
Chrissie - have you not been here....?
Keith/Fozzie - 9:30 a.m. ! An attack of akto lassitude