20110821_MHW_Fan Frynych – Corn Du – Pen y Fan – A-Walk

20110821_MHW_Fan Frynych – Corn Du – Pen y Fan – A-Walk

20110821-30_Me (Gary Hadden) - Pen y Fan Summit by gary.haddenWhen : 21st August 2011

Who : The Midland Hill Walkers – Walking Club

Where : Brecon Beacons – Wales

Maps used : Brecon Beacons National Park Map – 2x extracts of some kind given to me by a fellow walker – but I think 1,25,000 OS Explorer Map Sheet No.OL12 Brecon Beacons National Park (Western Area) covers the walk.

Start Point : SN 952,246

End Point : SN 995,260 … Village of Lubanas/Tai’r Bull

Distance : Approx  20.5 km (12.8 miles) (by WalkJogRun Route Mapping and my Memory Map 1:50,000 National parks programme)

Approx significant heights : Climb-1 = 330m (1080ft) + climb-2 470m (1540ft)

Summary : A-Party walk with The Midland Hill Walkers; taking in a couple of tops in The Brecon Beacons National Park. A very strenuous walk as there was a good distance involved as well as over 2,600 feet of significant uphill sections (and equivalent downhill’s) – A great walk !!!

If you click on a pic’ and it should launch as a larger image on my flickr photostream. There are also another ten pics in the set on flickr not shown in this diary post.

20110821_Fan Frynych - Corn Du - Pen y Fan WalkAs with all MHW [Midland Hill Walkers] walks, the coach left almost dead on 7:00 a.m. which had meant getting up very early to be out of the house by about 6:25 for the drive down the A45/A46 to Kenilworth. Rather than go through all the blurb about car parks, timings, etc. please use this link to see my earlier posts about the MHW and the MHW own web-site.

Once out of Kenilworth, we headed off for the longish journey to South Wales, to start the walk to the south-west of the town of Brecon which gives its name to the region we’d be walking in : The Brecon Beacons National Park. 20110821-01_Approaching Blaenbrynich by gary.haddenThe B-party were dropped off first and the A party continued on to be dropped off a little later by the side of the A4215 … in the middle of nowhere really. I’d decided that, because I’d never been up Corn Du/Pen y Fan before and although it’d probably stretch me somewhat, I’d do the A-walk. Given a decent weather forecast, I wasn’t going to miss out on the chance today.

Once dropped off and ruck-sacks hoisted onto backs, we started off with a little road walking down a quiet lane (towards Heil Senni) for about half a mile until we reached a turn off to  Blaenbrynich. Passing the farm, the path rose up a vibrant green grassy field dotted with a multitude of yellow starry dandelions highlighted 20110821-02_Nr Blaenbrynich-Below Fan Frynych by gary.haddenby the sun. This was a lovely start to the days walking as a small group of us at the back of the group discussed the dominance of the English cricket team during recent test matches. Ahead of us loomed the steep northerly slopes of Fan Frynych, looking quite daunting, but our route picked up a farm track onto which we turned right, to skirt along the baseline of the hill. The gravel track rose quite steadily with Fan Frynych’s ridge 20110821-06_Afon Senni Valley from western ridge of Fan Frynych by gary.haddenabove us on our left and a wide rural view off below us to our right.

After about a mile, the track steepened considerably as it swung round to the south, the views opening up across the valley below; a patchwork of green fields, hedgerows and areas of woodland backed by the hills of The Brecon Beacons/Black Mountains; beautiful. As we rounded the nose of the ridge, we turned almost a full 20110821-08_Midland Hill walkers Sihouettes on Fan Frynych by gary.hadden180 degrees to continue our ascent and then another half-right to follow a path still uphill, but now rising up the broad ridge. We now had about a mile of steady climbing to reach the summit of Fan Frynych. As with a lot of mountains, the views from the ridge were probably better than the actual ground we were on, but the views, they were just spectacular – The shapely hills, mountains and valleys offset against a beautiful vivid blue sky with one or two fluffy white clouds were simply perfect!

20110821-10_Cairn on Fan Frynych - Pen Y Fan + Corn Du Behind by gary.haddenAs we crested the top of Fan Frynych (part of Craig Cerrig Gleisiad National Nature Reserve) we were greeted by the twin tops of Pen y Fan and Corn Du dominating the sky line across the wide Glyn Tarell valley. I have to admit that, at least to me, they looked a very long way away, considering I knew that was where we were heading. Being at the summit meant the next section had to be downhill, so taking a path swinging south we 20110821-13_Pool between Fan Frynych + Craig Cerrig Gleisiad by gary.haddendropped steadily over more grassy moorland, with views all around, to reach a wide saddle with one or two pools dotting the terrain. We then had another small climb to reach the crest of Craig Cerrig Gleisiad, maintaining the superb views, especially to our left where the ground dropped away steeply into the Glyn Tarell valley. The hill top became a refreshment stop allowing us to admire a 20110821-15_Welsh Ponies on Craig Cerrig Gleisiad by gary.haddengroup of hill ponies grazing the upland area for some time.

Once sated, we set off again with a long descent over grassy moorland in a generally south/south eastern direction. There was a path of sorts “on the ground” but not so distinct to spoil the feel of remoteness of the area; the sweeping hills and valleys all conspiring to give a wild feel to the walk – Lovely in good weather like today, but I’d guess could be quite intimidating in 20110821-17_Descent off Craig Cerrig Gleisiad on The Beacons Way by gary.haddenpoor weather. We were walking part of The Beacons Way now and the pace fairly zinged along given the downhill nature, easy-going terrain and absolutely no stiles. I really enjoyed the walk across here, even as we neared the busy A470 and Storey Arms Centre. There were obviously a lot of people down there, virtually none of whom were on our side of the valley.

20110821-19_Midland Hill Walkers climbing away from Storey Arms Centre by gary.haddenAs we neared the car park at Storey Arms Centre, I could make out our B-party contingent starting a steep climb up the side of a coniferous plantation towards Y Gyrn. We soon reached the car park, dodged the cars trying to find a space, and instead of following the B-party’s route we turned right down the side of the A470 (southwards) until we reached another area of car-parking set back from the main road. This was absolutely teaming with people, with fast food and ice cream vans and a toilet block. After the remoteness of the morning walk this was not a very welcome area to be walking through and I was quite happy when we all moved off. I didn’t envy the leaders trying to keep count of all of our party in amongst the throng.

The route turned left on a major path, soon crossing a rocky river (Blaen Taf Fawr) via a substantial footbridge and then immediately steepened as the wide made-up path headed uphill climbing towards 20110821-21_On long climb up Corn Du by gary.haddenCorn Du. The climb was well over a mile in length and apart from the obvious physical exertion needed, another difficulty was the number of fellow walkers, mostly now descending – it was almost like a game of slalom dodgems at times. Our leader gave us carte-blanche to take our own pace up the mountain, eventually to all meet up again just under the final summit climb onto Corn Du. I felt really quite relieved when I reached this point, as this was by far the hardest climb I’d done for quite some considerable time. I think it felt worse than it might have done because of the unrelenting gradient, there didn’t seem to be any respite at any point on the climb.

20110821-24_Final pull up onto Corn Du by gary.haddenPerversely, the final rockier, steeper climb up onto the summit of Corn Du somehow seemed easier; perhaps the short rest and then change in gradient were all that was needed for the final push to the top. The views from the top were absolutely stunning –  in all directions; especially to the north where the mountain dropped away, almost sheer, into the huge amphitheatre of Cwm Llwch.

20110821-25_On Corn Du-looking over Llyn Cwm Llwch by gary.hadden

20110821-27_Our back marker - Silhouetted on Corn Du by gary.hadden

20110821-29_Corrie or Cwm Face of Corn Du by gary.hadden

The next top of Pen y Fan was only a short distance away, reached via an easy descent to a shallow saddle and then another little climb, all following the edge  along the mountain top. The summit of Pen y Fan is marked by a pile of stones set in a wide circle leading up to a small national trust marker giving the height at 886 metres above sea level (that’s  2,906.8 feet) which I believe is the highest place in South Wales. It’s not every day you get to the top of a fantastic mountain with the weather to match and this just had to be marked by some group photo’s

20110821-33_Taking Photo of Midland Hill Walkers on Pen y Fan Summit by gary.hadden   20110821-32_Midland Hill Walkers - A-Party on Pen y Fan Summit by gary.hadden

20110821-36_Crybn + Beyond from Pen y Fan by gary.hadden

20110821-40_Obelisk + Pool below Corn Du by gary.hadden… and then after another short time drinking in the views, it was back over to Corn Du for the second time before dropping north westwards along the edge above the cwm to reach a small obelisk. From here we took a path now dropping slightly right and then arching further round to the right and then to the left in a large zig-zag above the dark waters of a small corrie lake “Llyn Cwm Llwch” (sorry mixing my Scottish and Welsh nouns for the mountain hollow …. or maybe you know this physical feature as a cirque?, from the French language!).

20110821-42_Descent to Llyn Cwm Llwch below Corn Du by gary.hadden   20110821-43_Descent to Llyn Cwm Llwch below Corn Du by gary.hadden

The route was virtually all downhill now, following the Cwm Llwch valley from the highland area and into more enclosed gentler farmland. I love being on the big wide open spaces of mountains where you can reflect on how small you are in the landscape and in the wider world as a whole (very philosophical don’t you think); 20110821-46_Dropping through Cwm Llwch Valley by gary.haddenI also when walking try to stay as high as possible for as long as possible, but, I also like the more intimate contrasting feel of dropping down to the tree line and pasture lands …. just as well really, as it’s gotta be done at the end of every mountainous walk at some point!

Anyway, the path reached the bottom of the valley, where, after a short distance on a farm track, rather than swing right to join a minor road we turned off left (continuing more or less 20110821-48_Afon Tarell near Libanus by gary.haddennorthwards) to cross a few fields, passing Llwynbedw on route, to pick up some minor country lanes, crossing the Taff Trail at one point (route map) and later the Afon Tarell (river) just before our finish at Libanus on the A470. The coach was waiting for us by the side of the road and after getting changed and a very welcome pint (or was it two?) in The Tai’r Bull Country Inn, it whisked us back up through southern Wales to the M5 and a 20110821-49_Mike de Courcey Coach - Tair Bull Inn - Libanus by gary.haddensnoozey journey back to Kenilworth.

A simply brilliant days walking! Strenuous? Yes … Tiring? Definitely! But brilliant none-the-less.

…. If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel welcome.

T.T.F.N. Gary


20110619_MHW_Maesyrychen Mountain + Horseshoe Pass Linear Walk– A-Walk

20110619_MHW_Maesyrychen Mountain + Horseshoe Pass Linear Walk– A-Walk

200110619-32_Admiring the view from Summit of Moel y Faen by gary.haddenWhen : 19th June 2011

Who : The Midland Hill Walkers – Walking Club

Where : North Wales – Esclusham Mountain and Maesyrychen Mountain, to the west of Wrexham and north of Llangollen.

Maps : Route noted as best possible after getting home and finding my old 1:50000 OS Landranger  Maps 117 (Chester, Wrexham & Surrounding area) + 116 (Denbigh & Colwyn Bay)

Start Point : Approx SJ 25,52 …. End Point : Approx SJ 20,45

Distance : Approx 21 km (13 miles) (by measuring wheel + map)

Significant heights climbed : 470 m (1545 ft) … see end of diary for details.

200110619-17_Crossing rough moorland - Maesyrychen Mountain by gary.haddenSummary : A-party walk with The Midland Hill Walkers – Starting near Four Crosses, Bwlchgwyn and taking in :- The Esclusham Mountain area [including The Pendinas Forest] ; Maesyrychen Mountain area [including The Ponderosa at the top of  The Horseshoe Pass] and finishing in The Eglwyseg River Valley, north of Llangollen.

Click on a pic’ and it should launch as a larger image on my flickr photostream. Or use THIS LINK to open a slide show of 24 pic’s.

As with all MHW [Midland Hill Walkers] walks, the coach left almost dead on 7:00 a.m. which had meant getting up very early to be out of the house by about 6:25 for the drive down the A45/A46 to Kenilworth. Rather than go through all the blurb about car parks, timings, etc. please use the following links to see my earlier posts about the MHW and the MHW’s own web-site.

Midland Hill Walkers Web Site  ….. My other MHW diary posts

Having left Kenilworth, we headed off to North Wales, eventually reaching our starting point and we all piled off to retrieve ruck-sacks from the coach’s hold. As I didn’t carry a map for the day, I’m not 100% exactly sure of where we started, but I’m fairly confident it was on either on the A525 or B5430 near to Four Crosses / Bwlchgwyn. If I had to say one way or another I’d probably plump for the B5430 at Tan-y-Bwlch.

[I suppose an apology might be in order here, to any Welsh speakers amongst you … I’ve tried very hard to get the spellings for the place names correct, but 200110619-01_Welsh Ponies + Flower Meadow-Nr  Four Crosses-Bwlchgwyn by gary.haddenplease forgive me if I’ve slipped up anywhere – my spell checker isn’t much help in this situation].

From here we set off generally in a southerly direction, on an easy if not very defined path across farmland, unusually for a MHW walk having a series of stiles to cross. The first pasture was really quite stunning, with a carpet of buttercups sparkling in the sun, enhanced with a group of Welsh ponies grazing contentedly. After a short rise we joined a rough farm track which wound its way through farmland (to my mind with a rather untidy feel about it), in a roughly south-westerly direction. Our stay on the track didn’t last long before we branched off to the right heading into tussocky, grassy, moorland to pick up the eastern edge of a coniferous plantation, [I’m gonna call it The Pendinas Forest or Plantation, after the name of a small reservoir within the dense trees]. 200110619-05_By the side of Pendinas Forest - Esclusham Mountain by gary.haddenThere was a rudimentary path to follow as we steadily climbed with open land on our left and the dark forest on our right behind a wire fence.

After about a kilometre of walking up the side of the forest, we reached and crossed a stile to enter the plantation grounds. This was a natural place to regroup as the trees had been felled here 200110619-06_Wooden Grouse Carving - Pendinas Forest - Esclusham Mountain by gary.haddenand a group of large wooden carvings in the shape of displaying male grouse had been erected as a sort of outdoor art installation. These made excellent seats for one or two of our party, prompting several ribald jokey comments in the line of “ooh look I’ve sat on a large cock”…. not by me I might add, I couldn’t possibly be so rude, either that or I didn’t think of the joke first ! ….. Once we’d all regrouped we picked up a wide forest track winding its way 200110619-07_Winding Path - Pendinas Forest - Esclusham Mountain by gary.haddenuphill through a large area of what can only be described as a kind of devastation. The trees here had obviously been fairly recently harvested leaving a tangled mass of stumps and mangled branches. In amongst the mess however was the next generation of trees, the tiny saplings a bright green 200110619-09_Baby Pines - Pendinas Forest - Esclusham Mountain by gary.haddenagainst the overwhelming greyness of the landscape. We had to keep our wits about us, not to mention eyes in the back of our heads, as there was a steady stream of mountain bikers using the same track, some coming past us at quite a lick.

After a while and at the top of the rise, our track headed into the forest itself. It almost immediately felt oppressive; the dense spacing of the trees creating a dark, lifeless feeling on both sides, but this was to improve a little as we emerged into a more open space at a cross-road of tracks. 200110619-13_Regrouping - Middle of Pendinas Forest - Esclusham Mountain by gary.haddenWe turned right here to start our descent to Hafod Bilston. The track narrowing as we went, now part of The Offa’s Dyke long distance footpath (we were now heading a little north of westwards).

Overall, we weren’t in the forest for long, but I can’t say I was sorry to exit the plantation, 200110619-15_Clwydian Range from Northern part of Maesyrychen Mountain by gary.haddenwhere we turned left on a good surfaced farm road, immediately starting to regain some of the height we’d just lost. We had again reverted to a roughly south-westerly direction, skirting the edge of the plantation on our left as we went; the views to our right over the River Alyn valley, across to the southern end of The Clwydian Range of hills, were by far the most interesting. 200110619-16_Crossing rough moorland - Maesyrychen Mountain by gary.haddenAfter about a kilometer we left what was now a track, branching right to head into rough moorland again. At times we were lucky enough to have a narrow path to follow, but at other times we had pure cross country terrain to negotiate (quite wearing having to push through the thick vegetation). This had the effect of spreading us out over quite a long distance before regrouping 200110619-24_Pushing through the Bracken - Maesyrychen Mountain by gary.haddenagain as we picked up a narrow but much more defined path rising up onto the Maesyrychen Mountain area. The name “mountain” sort of conjures up a false impression of the terrain, as there aren’t really any peaks of a classic mountain range; it’s more a description of a generally high mass of land.

The new path moved us along quite rapidly southwards to meet another wide track (below a radio mast at Cryn-y-Brain, off on our left). Rather than head upwards in that direction however, we turned right to descend to The Ponderosa 200110619-28_Harley-D at The Ponderosa - Top of The Horseshoe Pass by gary.haddenCafe/service station with its sprawl of car-park on the A542  (Horseshoe Pass) Road. The environs of The Ponderosa became our lunch stop. The Horseshoe Pass road is very popular with the motor-biking fraternity, and The Ponderosa becomes a natural stopping off spot for the bikers along with car motorists enjoying the scenic route. Although a noisy spot (plenty of bikes and cars on the road today), there were some super views out to the east over to Worlds End on The Eglwyseg Mountain.

200110619-26_Worlds End from Ponderosa - Top of Horseshoe Pass by gary.hadden

200110619-30_Ascending Moel y Faun - Above Ponderosa - Horseshoe Pass by gary.haddenOur route was now to continue on the other side of the main road and one by one we packed up for the climb to the summit of Moel y Faen where our leader said we’d meet up again before moving off en-masse once we were all gathered together again. The path was grassy and easy underfoot, but the gradient was enough to raise my heart rate somewhat, however the views from the top were well worth the effort.

200110619-31_Admiring the view from Summit of Moel y Faen by gary.hadden200110619-34_Contouring the hillside_Nr Clogau - Above Horseshoe Pass - Maesyrychen Mountain by gary.haddenLeaving the top was almost a wrench, but onwards we needed to go, which was a drop to a broad coll, and then, instead of heading up to the next top (Gribin Oernant/Moel y Gamelin) we took a left turn onto a narrow “single file” path descending gently to the south. There were again super views, out over Clogau Quarry, giving a glimpse of the Horseshoe Pass Road as it makes its big sweep around the hillside. The descent now got steeper as we dropped quite quickly into the Eglwyseg River Valley.

200110619-35_Clogau Quarry - Horseshoe Pass Road + Worlds End in the distance by gary.hadden

200110619-37_Descent into Eglwyseg River Valley - North of Llangollen by gary.hadden

200110619-39_Cottage - Eglwyseg River Valley - North of Llangollen by gary.haddenI’m a bit sketchy exactly what path we used to reach and cross the A542 for the second time of the afternoon, but I think it was near Pen-y-clwdd. What I do know, was there followed a short sharp climb to pick up another path heading south through some woodland and then a gentle drop to again reach the A542 (I think near Valle Crucis Abbey). The final part of the walk was to re-cross the A542 again and then head north along-side the main road to meet the coach at a pub – I’m pretty sure it was The Britannia Inn.

Well that’s about it, apart from one last comment. The B party were taking the same route as the A party during the latter stages of afternoon walk, and we were half expecting to maybe catch them up near the end of the walk. Failing that we certainly expected the B’s to be sat enjoying a drink at the pub. But no, neither scenario came to fruition, nor could we imagine they’d got lost. It turns out they’d finished early, so had added some extra distance onto their route; I think they’d headed off down the valley in the direction of Llangollen and then made their way back up to the pub, to find the A team relaxing with a drink (or two), a good proportion of us were outside on the terrace, sat in the sun. The Bs were at pains to suggest they’d probably ended up walking further than the A-team, just for a change, and who could begrudge them that accolade.

Now that is the end, I hope you enjoyed my scribblings …. If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel welcome.

T.T.F.N. Gary

PS. ….. Break-down of significant heights climbed: (taken from reading contours on my 1:50,000 OS map, so only rough figures really, but a good indication of the day’s ascents)

1st rise = 150m (490 ft) … Tan-y-Bwlch to the highest point in Pendinas Forest.

2nd rise = 130m (430 ft) … Hafod Bilston to above The Ponderosa.

3rd rise =  140m (460 ft) … The Ponderosa to Moel y Faen.

4th rise =  50m (165 ft) … Crossing A542 up to Hendre.

Total heights gained = 470m (1545 ft)

Highest point = Summit of Moel y Faen at about 540m above sea level

The downhill bits were fairly straight forward, but there was one steep section dropping off The Maesyrychen mountain that my knees didn’t appreciate at-all.

T.T.F.N. again, Gary

20110227_Midland Hill Walkers – Wye Valley Walk – B-Walk

20110227_Midland Hill Walkers – Wye Valley Walk – B-Walk

20110227-58_Me at The Round House at The Kymin nr Monmouth by gary.haddenWhen : 27th February 2011

Who : The Midland Hill Walkers – Walking Club

Where : The Wye Valley and Forest of Dean on the England/Wales Border south of Monmouth.

Map : Ordnance Survey 1:25000 Outdoor Leisure Map no.14 – Wye Valley & Forest of Dean

Start Point : 537,051 + End Point : 505,125

Approx Distance : 16.5 km = just over 10 miles (by measuring wheel/map)

Significant heights climbed : 580m (1903 ft) … see end of diary for details.

Summary : B-party walk with The Midland Hill Walkers – Starting at Bigsweir Bridge and passing through St. Briavels ;  The Slade Brook Valley ; Wyegate Green ; Caudwell Woods ; The Valley Brook Valley ;  Astridge Wood ; Newland Village and Cathedral of The Forest ; Upper Redbrook ; Offa’s Dyke Path ; Naval Temple and The Kymin and finally across The Wye to Monmouth. 

If you just want to look at pic’s instead of reading my diray, please use this link …. clicking on an image launches a larger view or click the icon which will show the set as a slide show. 

20110227-08_Me myself yours-truly - Gary Hadden by gary.haddenThis was the 2nd Midland Hill Walkers outing of the year, but this was my first trip with them in 2011 having not gone out on the walk & annual club dinner in January. Please forgive me but I’m going to be lazy and use MHW as an acronym for the rest of this post. As with all MHW walks, the coach left Kenilworth almost dead on 7:00 a.m. which had meant getting up very early to be out of the house by about 6:25. Rather than go through all the blurb about car parks, timings, etc. please use these links to see my earlier posts about the MHW and the MHW own web-site … ( Some Information About The Midland Hill walkers ) … ( Midland Hill Walkers_Leamington Courier Article ).  

Having left Kenilworth, we headed off down the M5 all the way to Bristol to cross the River Severn and Mouth of The Wye, on the oldest of the Severn Bridges, crossing into Wales in the process. We then skirted around Chepstow to head up into The Wye Valley on the A466 as far as Tintern Abbey where the coach pulled in right next to the impressive ruined landmark. This was the start point for the A-party and I suppose just less than half of the walkers on the coach departed on the longer and more strenuous walk, leaving the B-walkers (me included this time) 20110227-01_River Wye from Bigsweir Bridge by gary.haddento travel further up the very pretty Wye Valley on the coach, closely following the river on the Welsh side until we reached a road junction near Bigsweir Bridge. 

This was our starting point and we all piled off to retrieve ruck-sacks from the coach’s hold. We set off for about a hundred yards or so along the A466 in Wales, to cross over The Wye by means of Bigsweir Bridge. The river was very full and certainly much less benign looking than I’ve seen in the past. I can’t really say much about the bridge itself as it was almost 20110227-02_Track rising from Wye Valley towards St Briavels by gary.haddencompletely shrouded from view because of maintenance works; the only point worth making I suppose, is that half way across we passed into England, leaving Wales behind us, at least for the time being. 

Not long after crossing the bridge, we took a right onto a farm track, which, after crossing Mork Brook soon started rising on the first climb of the day. Our leader decided to do a spot of leading from the middle (or maybe even the back?) of the group, and 20110227-03_Ivy fingers strangling tree by gary.haddenbeing up at the front asked me and the lady I was chatting to, to carry on until we reached Lindors Farm. The climb was steady but easy underfoot and we soon reached our designated stopping point and the party regrouped before moving on again, soon re-crossing the Mork Brook for a second time. A second stop ensued as we regrouped in some trees where the damp conditions allowed a vibrant growth of mosses, especially on an old stone wall which I thought was quite attractive in a scruffy sort of way. I also let my imagination wander a little likening the old climbing stems of ivy to distorted fingers strangling the host tree – like something out of a fantasy story, one could almost imagine fairies or miniature hobgoblins or other such creatures hiding away in the shadows and nooks and crannies … too much imagination? – perhaps!

 20110227-04_Mossy Stone Wall - Nr Lindors Farm by gary.hadden

20110227-05_Lower Meend - Wye Valley - nr St Briavels by gary.haddenMoving on was still uphill and the track became a metalled road passing through the scattered cottages of Lower Meend. We’d probably been steadily climbing for about a mile now, and rather than ease off, the slope steepened as we left the minor road onto a narrow path forcing us all into a single file line and after a another steep pull upwards we emerged onto a larger road where a regrouping was in order, the steep slope and single file walking had spread us all out over some distance. This gave the opportunity for a chat with my sister and bro-in-law (it was them who’d introduced me to the club in the first place) whilst we enjoyed the contrasting sights of wide views out over The Wye Valley and the much more intimate snowdrops lining the path side.

20110227-14_St Briavels Castle Moat + Walls by gary.haddenWe now had a section of road walking (still uphill) to enter the village of St. Briavels. The village is dominated by a remarkably well preserved moated Norman castle now a youth hostel. It was originally built as a hunting lodge for King John in 1205 on the site of an earlier stronghold; its towers were added as part of the Ring of Stone around Wales. I’ve stayed here once before (many years ago) with the Coventry CHA Rambling Club and always thought I’d like to stay again – which is actually going to happen this year as my wife, son and I are booked in during the summer for a couple of nights (really looking forward to it). 


20110227-12_Outside St Briavels Castle by gary.hadden    20110227-10_Mossy Stone Wall - St Briavels Castle by gary.hadden


20110227-15_St Briavels Church in St Briavels Village by gary.haddenWe walked around the perimeter wall, almost making a full circle around the castle before heading through the church yard to join a minor road heading north out of the village.

The roadside verges were scattered with snowdrops fairly shining out in the sunshine. There are some things that give your spirits a lift and this certainly came into that bracket. We now had a period of descent, at first on the road and then on a farm track (picked up at Andrews Corner) to drop down Mork Hill to Cross Slade Brook on a footbridge at Mork Farm.

20110227-16_Roadside Snowdrops - St Briavels by gary.hadden

20110227-17_Track into Slade Brook Valley - Nr St Briavels by gary.haddenThis now marked the start of the second climb of the day, on another track … this time starting steeply. Our rise was enhanced (if that’s the correct word) by the sounds of a party of clay pigeon shooters down in the valley below but we soon left this behind as the gradient eased to 20110227-19_Snowdrops at Wyegate Green by gary.haddenreach Wyegate Green, a very small group of houses by the side of a minor road (Stowe Lane). Once again, the slope had spread the party out somewhat and this became our next place to regroup, with enough time for a refreshment stop. I found a branch on the road side hedge to hang my ruck-sack to be rewarded by a large drift of snowdrops naturalising in the field/hedge margins – a perfect setting by being slightly unkempt and on the whole out of sight from the road. 

20110227-21_Descent through Caudwell woods into the Valley Brook Valley by gary.haddenWe’d now completed the second climb of the day and now continued north on the road more or less on the flat and soon joined a footpath heading down the side of a couple of fields to reach a narrow strip of woods (part of Caudwell Wood). The route now started to descend much quicker as we passed through the trees to very soon re-emerge into the open, to some super views out over a very pretty valley sweeping past in an arch below us.

 20110227-22_Enjoying the view over the Valley Brook Valley by gary.hadden

20110227-24_Descent into the Valley Brook Valley by gary.hadden    20110227-25_Descent into the Valley Brook Valley by gary.hadden

20110227-27_Descent into the Valley Brook Valley by gary.hadden

20110227-33_Approaching Astridge Wood by gary.haddenThe stream in the bottom of the valley is called Valley Brook, so our descent was basically into The Valley Brook Valley which is a bit incongruous really. The sun had really come out at this point and the crossing of the fields (diagonally left) down to the stream was really very pleasant walking. A little rise past Birt’s Cottage brought us onto another track and very easy walking heading north in the valley bottom for a short distance. We then branched half right on a faint footpath leaving the track diagonally rising across a grassy field heading for the corner bounded by woods. This was a lovely sun trap and perfect for when our leader announced this was to be our lunch stop. There were some super views from here both up and down the valley. A walk through here in the autumn I thought would be absolutely stunning when all the trees abound in their colourful glories. 

20110227-35_Obstacle Course in Astridge Wood by gary.haddenOnce appetites were satisfied and legs rested, we raised our sacks onto backs and set off again, and in keeping with the profile of the walk it was time for another uphill stretch; heading diagonally up through the trees of Astridge Wood on a broad path.

The steady climb would have been very straight forward except for a good number of fallen trees blocking our way and all at a very awkward height – too high to step over, too low to easily duck under; the impromptu limbo dancing raising quite a few mirthful comments and resulting laughter.

20110227-38_Approaching All Saints Church - Newland Village by gary.hadden

Once out of the woods we continued upwards to reach the outskirts of the village of Newland, soon taking a left turn into the aptly named Savage Hill … the tarmac lane really was quite steep (I liked the ornamental piglet in a garden half way up) and there was a target to aim for at the top; the large tower and pinnacles of All Saints Church, also known as “The Cathedral of the Forest” [The Forest of Dean that is], dating back to the early 1200’s.     

20110227-37_Piglet in the daffs by gary.hadden

I figured there must be loads of photo’s of the whole church out there on the world-wide-web, so I decided to try and pick out a few pic’s of what I hoped would be more intimate details; although I did end up with the common shots of the stained glass windows from the inside and the large stone cross in the church yard. 

20110227-39_Ridge Tiles - All Saints Church - Newlands Village by gary.hadden

 20110227-44_All Saints Church - Cathedral of the Forest - Newland Village by gary.hadden   20110227-41_Side Door - All Saints Church - Newland Village by gary.hadden

20110227-42_Stained Glass - All Saints Church - Newland Village by gary.hadden   20110227-43_Stained Glass - All Saints Church - Newland Village by gary.hadden

20110227-45_All Saints Churchyard - Newland Village by gary.hadden

20110227-46_Mud - Farm in Newland Village by gary.haddenAfter a while, we set off again, crossing the church yard and then heading further north on a road leaving the village. After just a few hundred yards we took a footpath on the left (just past a farm and opposite a white washed cottage) and immediately had to brave muddy tractor tracks – and the mud really was very deep!


20110227-47_Mud - Farm in Newland Village by gary.hadden

There now ensued a relatively level period of walking following the edge of several fields before starting to descend across a tilled field towards Furnace Grove/Swanpool Woods. My boots felt about twice as heavy by the time I’d crossed this last field. After passing through the narrow strip of woods the path then headed quite quickly downhill across a grassy field to join a road near Upper Redbrook, just after passing the end of Mill pond in the valley bottom. It took a little while to regroup again which gave time to enjoy the light shining through some fluffy seed-heads by the road side.

20110227-50_Bridleway-Upper Redbrook by gary.haddenOn the other side of the road a finger post pointed up a path steeply rising away from the road … the signpost was depicting a horse and carriage which is pretty ridiculous really considering the steepness, narrowness and roughness of the byway. Crossing the road here had taken us back into Wales and onto part of The Offa’s Dyke Path. Perhaps the Welsh are extremely adventurous when it comes to horse and carriage driving! 

20110227-52_Ascent on Offas Dyke Path - Duffield' Lane Track by gary.haddenThe path was really quite steep for a while but the rough path joined a lane/farm track becoming wide and much better underfoot. In fact it’s of a size to warrant its own name – Duffield’s Lane. Although I was starting to feel a little weary in the legs, I decided the best way forward was to get my head down and just work hard. This seemed to work well and as the gradient eased (although still rising) my stride lengthened and my pace quickened. The sun was shining, the views were good and the track ahead inviting and somehow from being almost at the back of the group I found myself right at the front ; a quite enjoyable blast up the hill. 

20110227-54_Naval Temple - The Kymin nr Monmouth by gary.haddenWe were basically walking up the crest of a broad ridge and just as the track was about to descend into Harpen’s Grove Wood [just below Upper Beaulieu Farm], we branched right to instead skirt the edge of the woods, still rising quite steadily. The path emerged onto a metalled road to reach the monument of Naval Temple. To my eyes a rather odd construction and one that had obviously seen better days. I’m sure the historical message and importance is genuine with Britannia perched atop the roof top arch but I couldn’t help thinking it needed a bit of loving care and a little something extra to stop it looking more like a glorified bus shelter rather than the glorifying temple of its name. According to a National Trust web site, the Naval Temple was built by public subscription in 1800, this Georgian structure is unique in its commemoration of the British Navy and sixteen Admirals in particular, who won important victories during the late 18th century. 

20110227-56_The Round House at The Kymin nr Monmouth by gary.haddenIn contrast to the run-down look of the Temple, the next building just up the way was perfectly pristine in its white washed finery – The Kymin Tower or Round House. This is a circular, Georgian banqueting house built in 1794 by local gentry for use as a small, private dining club. Lord Nelson and Sir and Lady Hamilton had breakfast here in 1802 (description from the NT web site). 

20110227-57_View over Monmouth to Sugar Loaf from The Round House at The Kymin by gary.haddenImpressive as The Round House is, even more spectacular were the stunning views out over The Wye Valley and the town of Monmouth and way, way beyond; in the distance, Sugar Loaf could be made out in the sunny haze out to the west. Such was the highlight of the sights here, I’d have happily ended the walk there and then, but the coach was parked up in Monmouth at least a mile away, so off we set for the final descent of the day, steeply dropping through Beaulieu and Garth Woods to meet the minor Kymin Road which continued to drop, meeting the A4136 before crossing The River Wye for the second time in the day. 20110227-61_River Wye from Wye Bridge - Monmouth by gary.haddenGiven The Wye has a habit of flooding; I couldn’t help thinking the static caravan park just upstream look particularly vulnerable! 

The final stretch of the walk was through the centre of Monmouth to find the coach in a car park over-looked by the Monnow Bridge Gate. This is a stand-out feature where a massive fortified stone gate house is built bang in the middle of the arched stone bridge spanning the River Monnow, both dating back to the 13th C. 

And, there ends my diary of The MHW B-party walk in and around The Wye Valley and The Forest of Dean – A bit in Wales and most in England. 

20110227-62_Monnow Bridge Gate - Monmouth by gary.haddenBreak-down of significant heights climbed: (taken from reading contours on my OS map)

1st rise = 200m (656 ft) … Bigsweir Bridge to St. Briavels.

 2nd rise = 120m (394 ft) … Mork Farm to Wyegate Green

3rd rise =   80m (262 ft) … Valley Brook to Newland

4th rise = 180m (591 ft) … Upper Redbrook to The Kymin.

Total heights gained = 580m (1903 ft)

Start height = about 10m Above Sea Level and finish = about 20m ASL ….. Therefore, there were almost as much down as up, but none of the downhill bits were really taxing. The majority of the ups were on good tracks and paths, so didn’t present a problem. 

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….  T.T.F.N. … Gary.

Next walk = 20110320_MHW_West East Traverse of Peak District, Another Midland Hill Walkers walk – The concluding leg of a series walks across the Peak district.

20091115_MHW_Llyn Celyn to Pentrefoelas Walk

20091115_MHW_Llyn Celyn to Pentrefoelas Walk

When : 15th November 2009

Who : The Midland Hill Walkers – Club Walk

Where : North Wales, Starting near Llyn Celyn (near Bala), Just inside the Eastern fringes of Snowdonia and then walking north to Pentrfoelas (on the A5, just outside Snowdonia)

Maps : OS Outdoor Leisure Map no.18 – Snowdonia Harlech & Bala Areas showing part of the national park (vast majority of walk)  …. and/or OS Landranger Maps No. 125 (Bala + Lake Vyrnwy) and No.116 (Denbigh + Colwyn Bay Area) cover all of the walk. 

Transport : Coach Hired by the walking club.

Start Point: 894,401     End Point : 874,514 

Approx Distance : 12 miles, 19 km

Heights Gained : Difficult to say as lots of undulating ups and downs but something in the region of about 1500 ft (about 460 m) of significant ups spread over about four rises during the day.

Summary : A rather damp linear walk in a part of Wales I’d only ever driven past before …. Very interesting countryside despite the weather which was less than ideal.

More photo’s to follow with the text in a while or visit my flickr set for pic’s on their own. 

This was the second walk I did with The Midland Hill Walkers (The 1st was Goyt Valley to Peak Forest in The Peak District). It meant an early start, leaving my home before 6:30 in the cold and dark of a Mid-November Sunday morning for the drive down the A45+A46 to Kenilworth to meet the coach that the club hire for the day. I’m finding it hard to believe this is over a year ago now but it’s still fairly fresh in my mind (helped by my set of photo’s and having marked the route on my maps soon afterwards). 

Using a coach has various advantages, in that there are no long tiring drives either side of the walk; the leaders can organise a linear walk (which I think can give a sense of journey, that a circular route maybe can’t) and very often there’s a pub at the end of the walk for a relaxing drink before the journey home and a bit of a snooze. Obviously if you like company on a walk then a club using a 50+ seater coach gives plenty of opportunity for a chat …. but if the thought of 50 people in a long trail across the moors and hills is a bit much, don’t worry as there’s always an A+B walk, and the numbers generally split pretty much down the middle. 

I was feeling reasonably fit at the time and opted to join the A-walkers for the day (probably about 15 or 16 of us in all on this walk) and we alighted from the coach onto a side road about 3 or 4 miles north of Bala on the A4212 at Ciltalgarth. This was very near The National White Water Centre (Canolfan Tryweryn) which uses the outflow river from the reservoir Llyn Celyn a little further to the west. We didn’t head down the side road though, instead having a short stretch of road walking on the main road (heading back towards Bala) and then crossing to head up the hillside northwards and then picking up a small stream near Tyn-y-Bont. This wasn’t the easiest of starts as the ground up by the stream side was wet and boggy, the rocks were slippy with moss and overhanging tree branches often made stooping down a necessity but eventually (not long really) we emerged into more open farmland. 

After the closeness of the little stream area, it was good to get some views out over the Afon Treyweryn Valley …. well the views could have been better, but what was lost in extensive panoramas was made up for by the moody atmospheric conditions – It was quite stormy looking, at times almost turning the vibrant welsh greens a monotone shade of grey. 


I believe the leaders’ original plan was to head up and over the hill of Craig y Garn and possibly Bwlch Graianog and Craig Ddu. However when reconnoitering, this proved a difficult route (fences etc baring the way) and so a slightly different way was required; this included rising up out of relatively kempt farmland to head into rough grass moorland. We’d had so much rain over the preceding days and weeks (well most of the year really) that the ground was very soggy as we climbed to a small rectangular stand of trees on the flanks of Craig y Garn. We caught a very brief glimpse of Lyn Celyn in the distance backed by Mynydd Nodol and Arenig Fawr further away.


The stormy clouds occasionally parted to give a glimpse of blue sky and we were treated to some lovely sunbursts in the distance – it’s an old cliché but every cloud has a silver lining and the rays of sunshine breaking through certainly lit up the gloominess, in particular an area of hills off to the east were lit up most attractively. 


Once we’d passed behind the small wood we promptly started to lose much of the height gained as we picked up a route through Maesgadfa farmstead and then down to the smaller Nant Hir further down the hill. Our route then took a combination of tracks and paths across farmland … I got the impression that farming here could be quite hard but that could be because the very damp conditions both underfoot and from up above, this was highlighted by the awkward crossing of a small rill we had to cross near Beudy Ty-Canol, it wasn’t so much the stream itself that caused problems, more the soggy rough ground either side that forced us to hunt a little for a crossing point – I was glad I was wearing gaiters! 

Soon after that, as we approached Pentre, amazingly a patch of blue sky appeared overhead, somewhat lifting the gloom as we headed over to Hafodnwydog. We’d pretty much been heading north to this point but our route was to take a left turn (westwards) to head away from the farmland back up into rough moorland – very rough moorland. The path on the map heads pretty much straight up to a shallow col between the hills of Craig Ddu and Craig yr Hafod, initially crossing a sort of natural bowl. This proved impossible to cross however due to the extremely boggy ground and we had to make a wide detour finding some higher and less boggy ground at first following the line of a wire fence northwards (the lichen covered wooden posts testament to the wet conditions here) and then swinging west and south through the moor in a big semi-circular loop across Cyfiau. This way was extremely tiring having to wind our way through large mounds of moss, course tussucks of grass and wet boggy patches. Somehow I ended up at the front of the party, probably aided by my long legs clearing the ground easier than my fellow walkers (an advantage of being over 6’ 4”). 


 It was quite a relief (at least speaking for myself) when we reached a rough stone sheepfold near to meeting the path again and quite near the col mentioned earlier. The walls of the sheepfold afforded a little protection from the elements as we had a short stop for some refreshments (tomato soup from a flask and a cheese sandwich for me – yum!). Once restarted, it only took a few minutes to reach the top of the rise and then start a descent into the upper reaches of the wild and remote feeling Hesgyn valley. The path swung northwards again to meet a track contouring above the small Llyn Hesgyn (lake). The path was easy to follow but was somewhat waterlogged and at times felt like I was splashing through a shallow river. This didn’t last long though as we swung right, rising out of the valley to skirt the top of Llechwedd Du (hill) and then about a mile descent to reach a minor road at Cadair Benllyn. It was here that we crossed out of The Snowdonia National Park although you wouldn’t know it unless you had a map with you. 

The weather by now had brightened a bit, but had dropped in temperature quite considerably as the cloud cover lifted and broke up a little. Depending on which way you faced it looked either bright and sunny or stormy and angry, almost two days worth of weather all at the same time. The earlier adage of every cloud having a silver lining was even more apt now. 


The way ahead now was very straight forward taking the minor road northwards and all downhill for about a mile to reach the small settlement of Ty Mawr Cwm by the side of the Afon Ceirw (river). It was here that we settled down for our main lunch stop. This turned out a little longer than ideal as our leader headed off ahead to try to suss out a slightly different route to the one pioneered. On our leaders return, we set off (still on the original route) heading for Cappele (farm). There was one very short sharp climb as we left the Afon Ceirw and after our lunch stop my legs really didn’t want to do this …. I don’t think I was the only one either.

However, we soon reached more level ground and then had to negotiate a rather awkward fence baring the right of way (without stile or gate) which was what our leader had gone searching for an alternative for. There was no other route, so we had a bit of clambering to do to cross the obstacle but once over we were easily able to skirt around the farm meet another minor road and then head north again rising and skirting around to the west of Moel Eglwys before another track joined our path to take us to another minor road  to the east of Garyn Prys. 

The gloom had returned again and was unlikely to get much better now that day was giving way to the early dusk of Mid-November. The next ¾ of a mile or so was on the road passing several places that I probably couldn’t begin to pronounce properly, but I’ll note them here (just to confuse my computer’s spell checker) … Brynffynnon; Bryn-hyfryd; Bryn-dedwydd and Hafotty-bach. 

It was just after Hafotty-bach that we again left the road to head west on a bridle track, across country skirting under a sizable wooded area, pitch-dark against the stormy skies, to reach Gilar and then onwards to zig-zag on farm tracks to Plas Lolyn. Gilar had a somewhat fortified feel to it, the drain pipes on the gatehouse sporting the date 1623 giving an indication of the age of at least a part of the farmstead …. what might those walls have seen over the best part of 400 years of history ? 

After a very little research on “the web”, it turns out the grade-II listed farmhouse was built c.1600 as the seat of the High Sherriff of Denbighshire … part of the farm is still a 500 acre working hill farm and part is now a Holiday Home and it’s their web site  that also informs me the gatehouse is no longer used as entrance but still houses the original gate. 

Dusk was now really drawing in and I’d hardly taken a photo’ since our lunch stop, and from here I might as well have put my camera in my rucksack for the final mile or so on a combination of paths and roads into Pentrefoelas (by far the largest place seen on the walk all day) and the end of today’s walk where we met up with the B-party and the coach. It turned out towards the end of the B-teams walk that they’d had to ford a swollen stream (they’d been unable to find a suitable crossing place) and they’d all ended up with their boots full of water and rather wet trouser legs to finish in Pentrefoelas a little before us. 

Once changed into drier and more comfortable clothing, some headed up to a pub further up the village on the A5, whilst some of us chose the nearer Tea Rooms …. Well, the description Tea Rooms doesn’t do anywhere near justice to the small establishment, which turns out to be a well known (or even famous) chocolate shop called simply “The Riverside Chocolate House and Tea-room”, selling delicious homemade chocolates of all descriptions as well as a superb hot-chocolate drink which I enjoyed considerably. A superb ending to a rather strenuous day’s walking. 

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….

Next Walk = 2010 … to follow.

The Midland Hill Walkers – Photo Links

The Midland Hill Walkers

Photo Links.

I know they’ll be out of sequence chronoligically with all my other walks diarys (but I guess that doesn’t really matter) but I’ve now set up several sets of photo’s on Flickr for walks I’ve done with The Midland Hill Walkers over the last year or so. This includes both A and B walks depending on how I was feeling on the day.

If you click on the highlighted links, this should launch you straight into the sets as a slide show (hopefully anyway) … if they don’t work please let me know.

If you prefer to see individual pic’s, please use this link to go straight to my Flickr photostream and then navigate to the walk set you’re interested in.

To my fellow Midland Hill Walkers :- I hope you enjoy re-living the views and spotting yourselves and friends.

An over-all set, doesn’t split the walks out at-all = Midland Hill Walkers











Individual sets :-

October 2009 Goyt Valley to Peak Forest – A Walk (Peak District East West Traverse leg-2)







November 2009Llyn Celyn to Pentrefoelas – A Walk (Near Bala, Wales)







March 2010Stroud Green – Vinegar Hill – Painswick – B Walk (Cotswolds)











April 2010Peak Forest – Castleton – Mam Tor – Kinder Scout – Ladybower – A Walk (Peak District East West Traverse leg-3)







September 2010Stinchcombe Hill – B Walk (Cotswolds)











October 2010Clun to Knighton via Llanfair Waterdine – A Walk (Shropshire + Wales)








December 2010 – Cleeve Hill – A Walk (Cotswolds)







20090517_Sugar Loaf Linear Walk – The Leaders Blurb.

20090517_Sugar Loaf Linear Walk – The Leaders Blurb.

When : 17th May 2009

Who : Coventry CHA Rambling Club

The following is a copy of the info sheet each of us received to read on the coach, during the journey from Coventry to Abergavenny; allowing us to decide which level of strenuosity we would want to do from the three options on offer.

Now is probably as good a time as any to give a link to The Cov’ CHA’s website. It’s not a big complicated site and all the important information is straight forward to navigate around … http://www.coventrycha.co.uk/




Leaders – A-Julian Stanley. B-Richard Satchwell. C-Neville Russell.














A & B WALKS – Start their walks together from the car park of the Lamb & Flag pub a little outside Abergavenny Town. The route for both parties climbs behind the pub to lane which rises steeply 600’ to meet the slopes of Mynydd Llanwenarth. _ Grand views should begin to appear. – Following the ridge of Llanwenarth the route climbs more gradually to a height of 1400’ where a final steep ascent brings the walk to the summit of Sugarloaf at 1955 feet.

A & B parties descend together to meet a boundary wall where the parties separate.

A PARTY – Continues to descend along bridleways and lanes to follow a small river to the village of Llanbedr, The Red Lion and lunch.

After lunch the walk follows a lane a short distance then climbs steeply through fields to the summit of Table Mountain at 1481 feet. From here the route is all downhill through fields and lanes to Crickhowell where there will be time for refreshment before meeting the coach.

B PARTY – Continues to descend along the route of old green lanes to the village of Llangenny, The Dragon pub and lunch. After lunch a short steep climb brings the walk to a footpath and direct route between fields to Crickhowell where there will be time for refreshment before boarding the coach.

C PARTY – Start their walk from the coach park in Abergavenny. The walk follows the River Usk west for two miles to just beyond a dissused ferry crossing. (This first section has a few yards of erosion which with a little assistance can be by-passed). From this point the walk turns north through fields and lanes to cross the A40 and ascend a sunken lane. The lane is likely to be wet but soon arrives at a farmstead, a good track and views over the valley. The walk follows the track and a couple of fields to arrive at a lane and vineyard. The vineyard has a shop and café and allows unguided tours. The route now follows narrow lanes and attractive residential areas back into Abergavenny where more refreshment can be found.

Please be back at the coach for 5.15. — The coach will leave at 5.30 to pick up A & B walkers and return to Coventry.



When the leaders put the above info’ sheet together, especially the last paragraph, I’m sure they didn’t really expect what the weather actually threw at them. Their task didn’t get any easier when Julian Stanley the (A-leader) became unwell on the journey down and was unable to lead the walk … Julie [sorry Julie, I don’t know your second name] took over and joined Richard Satchwell (the B-leader) to take us up and down Sugar Loaf. The few pic’s avove are from the actual day.

 I’ve posted a diary post of how the walk actually panned out … if you want to have a read the following link should hopefully take you straight to it ….


I hope you enjoyed my scribblings …. Next walk = 20090620_Bilton and Dunchurch Circular Walk.


Links to a couple of 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 : thedragonshead@gmail.com or 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.


20090517_Sugar Loaf Linear Walk

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 semi wooded area to our left was covered in bluebells a very welcome bit of colour given all the greyness we’d been in for quite some time.

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.






Eventually the coach appeared, we all climbed aboard and off we headed for home with a chat and a snooze and we were soon back in Coventry to pick up cars and drive home.

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 : thedragonshead@gmail.com 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/