The Black Mountains: Crug Hywel, Pen Carreg-calch and beyond

December 14, 2008 at 11:02 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment
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A wonderful winter’s day, crisp and clear with little wind. My plan was to do a loop taking in the five peaks on the western side edge of the Black Mountains, but first I climbed up to Crug Hywel and its iron age hill fort .Crickhowell from Crug Hywel

The stone remains of the hill fort are scattered across the broad plateau (hence the familiar name of Table Mountain) at the end of a long ridge of higher peaks. Across the valley, Sugar Loaf stands in isolation, while the limestone peak of Pen Carreg-calch rises to the north. Below the southern lip of the plateau, Crickhowell lies in the broad valley. The view is majestic and offers a thought-provoking context for the stone bones of the old hill fort. What must it have felt like to look down on the ancient settlement like this – either as defender or aggressor? Such remains typically lie on isolated hills giving a sense of remoteness and antiquity, but with little indication of the life they would have been tied to: communities, settlements, power, wealth and vulnerability. Soft hills and rounded dykes give only an impression of the value of such sites for defence and protection. On Crug Hywel it’s different, all those elements seem to rise out of the stones because you can feel the combination of vSugar Loaf from hill fort at Crug Hywelulnerability and impregnability that such a site provides.

Walking on up the ridge to Pen Carreg-calch the perspective shifts. From the ridge above the view is that of the predator, but also of the bare, naked animal on the moor, unwound of civilisation, or not inured yet to its comforts. The fort lies open to view caught between the peak and town lying safely below in its modernity and wrap of rural tradition. It was if layers of history and of security were removed, the hill fort with its bones of protection seemed to be a point between the hearth and the threatening wildness. Standing there, camera in hand, I felt I’d captured little or none of this but the context rippled through the clear winter’s day, washing over, leaving a sense of connection that could never be fully grasped.

The hill fort was obscured as I began the final climb to the summit of Pen Carrig-calch and these thoughts faded.  From the summit there was a clear view of the remainder of the ridge and the rest of a splendid walk taking in the peaks of Pen Alt-mawr, Pen Twyn Glas and Mynydd Llysiau. The normally boggy path in many sections had been turned into an crisp sheet of cracking ice. The sky remained clear and while there were a few walkers on the first peaks, by Pen Twyn Glas I was on my own.

There is an option to continue the walk on to Waun Fach and Pen Y Gadair Fawr, but the light was fading as I reached the pass, so I returned by the broad and easy path through the pretty Grwyne Fechan valley.Pen Allt-mawr

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