20090517_Sugar Loaf Linear Walk
When : 17th May 2009
Who : My Sister Janet, Bro-in-Law Roger and I joined the Coventry CHA Rambling Clubs walk (http://www.coventrycha.co.uk/ )
Leaders : A-party leader : Julie (Sorry Julie, I don’t know your 2nd name) who stood in for Julian Stanley after he felt unwell on the journey down, B-Party leader : Richard Satchwell.
Where : Abergavenny, Sugar Loaf, Crichowell, Gwent, Wales
Maps I Used, (just because I like to keep track of where I’m Walking) : 1) A Really old 1:25,000 OS. Outdoor Leisure Map 13, Brecon Beacons National Park Eastern Area. 2) An equally old 1:50,000 OS. Landranger Map 161, Abergavenny and The Black Mountains.
Start + End Points : 281,153 to 215,184
Approx Distance : 8.5 miles, (about 13.6 km)
Approx Heights : Ascent = 2275 ft (693m), Descent = 2239 ft (682m)
Transport : The club hires a full size coach (Ken’s Coaches) and services of a driver for their Sunday Walks. I would imagine there’s car parking in both Abergavenny and Crickhowell and at a guess there is probably some kind of bus service between the two towns.
Summary : Fields and Lanes north of the A40 ; past Pentre Farm ; Mynydd Llanwenarth Ridge ; Sugar Loaf (Y Fal) Summit ; Mynydd Pen-y-fal Ridge ; Llangenny Bridge for Lunch ; Fields & lanes to Crickhowell ; River Usk @ Crickhowell.
I don’t go out with “the club” very often these days; family commitments, work, doing walks on my own, holidays, general gubbins of life, tend to get in the way sometimes. However, this walk kind-a jumped out of the programme as a “must do” especially when my sister (who goes out with the club more often than me) said she and my brother-in-law were booked on the coach. So I booked myself on hoping for some decent late spring or early summer walking.
However, as the date approached the TV weather forecasts became increasingly poor with tightly packed isobars and huge splodges merging into one almighty mass over South Wales for around mid-morning … It didn’t bode well! … However the coach set off from Coventry in the dry and we half hoped the forecasters had got it all wrong, although I still feared for a bit of a wetting!
As we left England and entered Wales the clouds began to look really ominous and from what I remember [I’m writing this some 5-months later] we travelled through some sharp squalls before the coach pulled into The Lamb and Flag pub car-park just to the west of Abergavenny on the A40(T) Brecon road. The coach emptied the A and B parties (leaving the C-party behind) and we all found our gear from the hold of the bus … surprisingly in the dry. However, I was feeling pessimistic so donned gore-tex over trousers and jacket there and then, figuring it’d be easier to don them straight away rather than half way up the hill side. The A+ B groups were to walk together for much of the morning, only splitting just before the planned lunch time pub stops.
In classic, time honoured, manner the walk started straight uphill, heading north(ish) to the left of the pub to climb a steep pasture field by the side of a long line of mature trees, a bright fresh spring green despite the greyness of the day. Not long afterwards we joined a minor road to continue steeply upwards, passing Pentre farm as we went. Periodically a cry of CAR! would ring out from either the front or back of the party indicating we all should step to the side of the road to let a vehicle pass.
As we climbed, extensive views began to open up over Abergavenny and the Usk valley. However, the views were somewhat muted and gloomy as a thick layer of cloud blotted out any semblance of brightness. The climb, combined with the conditions and being fully cagged-up certainly raised my temperature to the uncomfortable, despite having decent breathable waterproofs.
After a left turn in the road (near Pen-yr-hoel) and a touch more road walking, we then turned right up a track to then swing around to continue in a roughly north-westerly direction, still uphill but now heading across bracken clad heath/moorland. We picked up a broad green ride cum track, still rising, but now much more gently than before and now more westerly than northwards. Approaching a car park (above Llanwenarth Breast) we again did a quick right turn, a short sharp climb and then a left onto another broad track.
This track continued steadily upwards (on the very broad ridge of Mynydd Llanwenarth) swinging round in a huge sweep to the right through the surrounding moors, big and wide with sweeping vistas. The views unfortunately were cropped quite considerably ahead with the low cloud base obliterating our intended target – The summit of Sugar Loaf (Y Fal). The expected rain and wind had now arrived and the party got somewhat spread out. The conditions dictated that the A and B leaders put their heads together for a bit of a confab, where they decided to press on to the top. Soon afterwards a group of horse riders galloped into view on a track crossing ours, one of the horses skidding just in front of me as it tried to slow to a walk, an indication of how wet and slippery underfoot conditions had become.
As we continued upwards, still on the big right-hand sweep of the track, the conditions worsened, the cloud enveloping us, becoming driving mist and rain. Atmospheric you might call it, but not really very pleasant. A stiffish final rise brought us all of a sudden to the trig point at the top, where the party regrouped once again for a much needed but rather soggy rest and to, errrm, enjoy the views … well, all of the 20-30 feet or so we could see ahead, as the wind, rain and mist swirled around us. What a pity, as at 596 mtrs high the views must be brill’.
At least my new Pentax got a good testing of it’s waterproofness, despite being kept inside a plastic bag and inside my cag’ whilst not being used it did get a good wetting. It continued to work perfectly well except for the protective screw-on filter steaming up on the front of the main lens.
Our intrepid leaders then led us off, in a generally north-westerly direction to start with, and then almost due west as we quickly descended on another broad ridge (Mynydd Pen-y-Fal), emerging from the cloud base and eventually meeting an intake wall separating the moor from farmland.
This was where the A and B parties were due to split and go their separate ways. The A party were due to climb Table Mountain above Crickhowell, whilst the B party were to stay low level for the afternoon. The two leaders had another confab and basically offered everyone the choice; nearly all immediately choose the B-party option, not wishing to endure another hill top in the mist and rain.
Of the handful of hardy souls remaining there wasn’t a huge desire to do the second climb of the day so we kind of reluctantly (but understandably) decided to abandon the A-party route completely. We rejoined the B-party to follow the boundary wall south for a short distance, before turning right down a steep and slippery field.
The photo’s I took here have taken on a certain soft focus effect, a result of misting-up of the lens filter.
We soon picked up a lane dropping quickly down to the small settlement of Llangenny Bridge and “The Dragon’s Head” pub. Most of the party immediately disappeared into the pub … but I, along with Janet and Roger and one or two others decided firstly eto at our packed lunches outside (it had thankfully just about stopped raining). This is a club rule: your own food should not be eaten inside pubs if they serve food of themselves … it’s only right and proper, I’m sure you’ll agree.
When we did eventually enter for a pint, we found our colleagues all ensconced in a side room all tucking into their sarnies. The landlord had taken pity on the group and had VERY kindly allowed this to happen. I suppose in the process he must have sold much more ale, teas and coffees and in some cases puddings to the 23 of us than he might otherwise had done …. A happy and mutually beneficial arrangement agreed on-the-fly, excellent. After about an hour or so, we all emerged not into rain, but dry and slightly brighter conditions. There were even some shadows suggesting at a hint of sunshine. Could we be that lucky ?
A steep climb away from the pub on a minor road brought us past a cottage delightfully clad with a wisteria vine in full bloom and we splashed on through some pretty large puddles from the mornings downpour. It didn’t take long for the leaders to realise they’d missed the path by the side of the cottage and we back-tracked through the puddles again to pick up the path to rise above Graig wood.
Although still stormy, the cloud had broken up somewhat and its base had risen considerably, allowing the hill tops to emerge into view (this, as it happens, included table mountain, making it feel that we could have done the A-party walk after-all) … isn’t hind-sight a wonderful thing …. Oh for a crystal ball. A gentle decent now followed through flowery pastures and a minor road with super views over the River Usk, to emerge into Crickhowell.
We’d finished well ahead of time, and the leaders quickly contacted the coach driver (who was with the C-party) to arrange as earliest a pick up as possible. After which, most of the group headed back into Crickhowell, to find a tea shop for refreshments.A small group of us however, decided to walk down to and along the banks of The River Usk for the remaining time, which gave some good views back to the town underneath Table Mountain. Weather-wise it was by far the best time of the day and we even started to dry out … well at least a little.
A good walk to stretch the legs and make the heart rate rise a little. It’s just a pity the weather was somewhat less than ideal, making the views that could be seen a tad “flat”, and the views from the top of Sugar Loaf non-existent! Many thanks to the leaders who did a sterling job given the less than ideal conditions.
I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….
Next walk = 20090620_Bilton and Dunchurch Circular Walk.
Links to the pubs mentioned :
The Lamb and Flag, Abergavenny : http://www.lambflag.com/lambandflag-contact.html
The Dragon’s Head, Llangenny, Near Crickhowell : They do not have a web-site, but they can be contacted by : Email : firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone : 01873 810350
For more info on the area, I guess The Crickhowell Information centre would be as good a starting point as any, and maybe better than some : http://www.crickhowellinfo.org.uk/