Saturday 21 October 2017

Black Mountains Part 3 Three Other Peaks


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…… 

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.


cumyoy three peaks

Thursday 19 October 2017

Black Mountains Part 2 You Can Probably Do Better Than This!


This is the second walk in the Black Mountains Trilogy Thingy. I have to be honest and say that this route could be improved significantly and I’ll point out some improvements which might be made. But y’see, I was a bit late getting out of bed and , as I reached the rather lovely table-top hill Pen y Gadair Fawqr, the weather, which had been grumbling and whingeing about having to get up so early, finally lost it’s temper and decided to give us a wetting. Just spite, really. But I terminated the joy of ridge-wandering for the less draughty options of a quick return to the car which was parked at the far-end of the route.

We began at a forestry car park in Mynyd Du Forest at Pont Cadwgan at SO267251. Just like the car park on the previous walk, this was temporarily occupied by a van containing some bleary hippies. Bless ‘em.


Walking in the forest on rights of way is often a bit hit and miss, particularly since forestry commission peeps usually ignore public footpaths and bridleways and provide forestry roads instead and, sometimes, often, in fact, these don’t coincide very well with the actual rights of way. In this case, the paths did follow the roads but, by way of interest, the lumberjack peeps (they like to press wild flowers by the way) (and hang around in bars) have put up signs indicating that no unauthorised persons were allowed to pass. However, this being a public footpath and, on the legal advice provided gratis by LTD, I came to the conclusion that as this was a right of way, I was, in fact, an authorised person. Not to be defeated by a legal argument, the lumberjacks had driven large vehicles across the route and churned it up somewhat. This must have played havoc with their high heels, I shouldn’t wonder. We tipitoed across without getting too muddy.


Thus, our route went by Fford-las-Fawr, which may be an outdoor centre, or somebody’s forest holiday hideaway, and up a steep bridleway out onto the open moor. An improvement may well be to head on another bridleway via Llwyn-y-brain and head up the shoulder of Crug Mawr via the Beacons Way path. Due to an attack of Bwrw Glaw Lassitude, I just didn’t think of this at the time. Dhuhhh…

The point is, that the first objective of our walk was, in fact, the summit of Crug Mawr, a Dewey with a trig point, an easy path and a fablious view. We did it as an out-and-back from the bwlch or bealach just a bit North of Dysgwylfa. (Get a map out!)


The main objective of the walk was, in fact, though, the outstanding unbagged Nuttall Pen Twyn Mawr. This is achieved by an easy path which goes along the crest of the vague, wide ridge. It’s easy underfoot providing you keep on the path, otherwise it’s a tussock-fest. As a summit, Pen Twyn Mawr is a bit underwhelming, to be fair, but the next top along the ridge, Pen y Gadair Fawr, looks quite a lot like Ingleborough and whispers to you seductively in the wind to draw you on to it’s gentle shapely slopes.


So, that’s what we did. The very same whispering wind had been getting livelier by the minute and, as we approached the summit cairn this breeze loaded itself with cold water and began spraying horizontally accompanied by a bit of a bluster. It was an easy decision not to press on to Waun Fach, which, if I remember correctly, is a bit boggy on the top anyway, but to head down, with the wind and spray at our backs, to the valley below. A nice, thin trod presented itself and we followed this all the way down to the Grwyne Fawr stream, crossed it by a footbridge and followed the road easily, damply and a bit grumpily back to the car. It’s a quiet road on a weekday anyway. I did notice an-almost-parallel bridleway which might have been more fun, but, honestly, I  just couldn’t be arsed and the potential for Forestry Commission Comedy Footpaths Department shenanigans put me off an exploration. The dog was wet anyway. The dog doesn’t like wet.

You might take a different view, specially on a weekend, bank holiday or when the kids are off school because the road might be busy. I saw no traffic at all.


But, judging by the number of rings of stones containing old campfires and the attempts at burning picnic bar-b-ques, old tents, general plastic litter and, even lager tins and bottles (it’s always lager, innit?), it seems that the usual users of the woods are a complete set of utter pillocks. (There may not be a sufficient number of the word “utter” here, so, feel free to add a few of your own) So a wet Tuesday in October may well be preferred timing for wandering in the forest. There’s a lot of camp fire parties. More than anywhere else, I would suggest. Do they not have tellies in Merthyr Tydfil, I wonder?

Apart from the moans, this isn’t a bad walk and, in better weather and with more determination and thought, several significant improvements could be made.

Me and LTD did 11 miles and 2300 feet of ascent.

pen y gadair fawr

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Black Mountains Pt 1 Red Daren and The Cat’s Back (I didn’t know he’d been away)

Me and Mrs Pieman and LTD have just had a fortnight in a cottage just about a mile inside Wales and it’s time to report fings wot appened on the Pieblog. But rather than just drone on interminably (with no end in sight) about wot-I-did-on-my-holidays by Michael A Knipe Class 3, I thought, that, instead, I’d just write up some useful information about three of the walks so that if anybody else just happens to have a spare day or two in the area they could follow one of these routes safely and with confidence, armed, perhaps,with a nice meat pie, some pickled onions in a little snack bag and a large banana for their lunch part way round.
This is the first one.
The idea was to bag an unbagged Nutall labelled (probably in error) Black Mountain South Top – clearly not a local name. I’d already bagged the other Nutalls/Hewitts on the ridge, but LTD hadn’t, so…..
There’s a car park on an excitingly steep and narrow back road just a bit to the left of Longtown, which is in England and, indeed, the walk starts and ends in England and hardly ventures into Wales at all, so there’s little need for the phrasebook or the passport. The grid reference of the car park at the start is SO298299 and from there a path heads off on a muddy/slippery zig-zag route up to the Welsh border where it joins Offa’s Dyke long distance footpath. The mud is red and isn’t properly fastened down to the World. Offa’s Dyke, though is paved or surfaced all the way to Hay Bluff and, in combination with the gentle contours, provides outrageously fast and easy walking for miles and miles and miles. Step off the path and you’re in heathery tussock land, so you might not want to do this. It occurs to me that a walk from Pandy to Hay-on-Wye using the Offa’s Dyke path would be a really fine expedition and not too taxing providing the wind is in the right direction. But we didn’t do this.
Progress, is remarkably straightforward and it’s unlikely that much in the way of navigation will be required. You may wish to pass the time creating little brain stories, or singing one of your favourite albums with all the tracks in the correct order and the guitar riffs at exactly the right pace. My choice on this occasion was the Beatles For Sale album, followed by Revolver and then most of the White Album, missing out the surreal stuff on side four, though I did do “Goodnight” as sung by Ringo.  LTD entertained himself by weeing on things and having several poos, barking at a pony and otherwise being in dateless-doggy-happy-brain-land. I wouldn’t want you to get the impression that this was a boring walk, though. Marching off over this fine Pennine  Welsh border landscape with nothing much to bother the intellect was fine stuff and just the thing to forget and worries about blood sugar, dicky tickers, gout and whether or not Mrs May will try to get the Irish to pay for their own wall.
So, we marched and sang and pooed and wee’d and ate a turkey and tomato butty and a large banana inside the Big Orange Group Shelter (it rained a bit) and we passed over Red Daren, Black Mountain (South Top) and Black Mountain itself and on to Hay Bluff where there was a very fine view indeed and where my camera batteries gave up and refused to allow any pictures.
We returned whence we came for a short bit and then turned off on a muddy path on the edge of the very green and beautiful Herefordshire’s version of Bocage, leading on to a very fine, narrow and long ridge known as The Cat’s Back. There’s a few rocks on here, but there’s no actual scramble. It was on here that I replaced the camera batteries with those in my GPS (I should have done this earlier). The Cat’s Back is quite wonderful and easy in descent.
The last few miles were through pastures via Blackhill Farm and on the back lane leading back to the start. Only one vehicle passed me on this bit.
The route is 13 miles with 2000 feet of ascent and is mainly very easy walking.
black mtn cats back