Fan Brycheiniog and Bannau Sir Gaer

September 16, 2009 at 10:14 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment
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Black Mountain is the confusing name given to the area enclosing the impressive range of hills that lie at the western end of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The high points of Fan Brycheiniog and Bannau Sir Gaer are as impressive as any part of the Brecon Beacons.

Brecon Beacons from Fan BrycheiniogI started from the car park opposite the Tafarn-y-Garreg pub (which seems to be closed at the moment). The walk starts with a strenuous but gradual climb up grassy slopes and the escarpment edge to Fan Hir. The summit is unmarked but the views across the Brecon Beacons are impressive, with the grey forms of Pen Y Fan and Corn Du in the distance. The path then follows the escarpment edge and the climb to Fan Brycheiniog. The summit of Fan Brycheiniog, the highest point in the walk, is marked by a trig point and a sturdy stone shelter. It is then worth following the path around the ridge to the lesser peak of Fan-Foel for more fine views back along the escarpment and out to mid-Wales. The impressive ridge of Bannau Sir Gaer also becomes clear now, with Llyn y Fan Fach lying below. It is a stiff climb up to the highest point – Picws Du – the ridge then follows around to Waun Lefrith. Llyn y Fan Fach is associated with a legend of the Lady of the Lake, which then links to tales Bannau Sir Gaerin the Mabinogion.

Though this is the remotest part of the park, there were more walkers on the peaks than I usually see, but even these few faded away once I’d moved on from Bannau Sir Gaer and for the rest of the walk I was totally alone.

I went on, following the Nuttall route, to Garreg Las. Crossing the moorland I disturbed a snipe that took off out of the grass with a cry of annoyance more than alarm. Garreg Las, with its two huge cairns,  is a rocky outpost that marks the change into a limestone landscape of rocky outcrops, shake holes and swallow holes (and the caves of Dan-yr-Ogof). This is a long loop back – the walk is around 14 miles in total – but gives a fine end to the walk, particularly on a fine September day with the sun finally beating through the clouds.

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Fan Llia to Fan Gyhrirych

May 30, 2009 at 9:17 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment
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This was a long trek across Fforest Fawr, a place of serene isolation. I followed the Nuttall route across four peaks – Fan Llia, Fan Nedd, Fan Fraith and Fan Gyhrirych – with a long loop back through the path of an old railway, a nature reserve and Sarn Helen, the Roman Road. A total of 16 miles. It was a beautiful warm day that really felt like early summer but the long stretch back took a toll on stiff muscles.

I started from the attractive Afon Llia car park – leaving the car-bound picnickers to enjoy the river – and climbed steadily up over grassy slopes to the summit of Fan Llia, with its views across the valley to Fan Nedd and back east to Fan Fawr and the Brecon Beacons. After dropping down into the valley, to the ancient standing stone of Maen Llia, there is a much tougher climb up to Fan Nedd. The summit is hard won but gives wonderful views over to Fan Gyhrirych, the Carmathen Fan and back across Fan Fawr to Pen y Fan and Corn Du.

The next stage descends from Fan Nedd to Bwlch y Duwynt and then follows a clear track with a detour for Fan Fraith and then up the slope to Fan Gyhrirych. From the summit it’s a steep descent down the grassy slopes to the road.

There is then a gentle walk along the trace of an old railway line on the Cnewr Estate until you come to quarry works. You then cross the Ogof-Fynnon-Ddu Pant Mawr National Nature Reserve. This was a lovely return leg on a fine late spring evening but by now my leg was aching badly and I was regretting not bringing more water. The final stretch was along Sarn Helen, the ancient Roman road, and thoughts of soldiers marching this same path almost two millennia ago provided a welcome distraction as I hobbled back to the car, 8 hours after starting, tired, sore and thirsty but very happy.

Fan Fawr

April 20, 2009 at 10:00 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment
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A beautiful spring day, so took the chance explore the quieter side of the Brecon Beacons. I walked up from the A470 to Fan Frynych then across to Fan Fawr, before looping back  across Y Gyrn. It was a stunning day – with bright sun all the way.

The first part of the walk is a gradual ascent through a nature reserve. I had meadow pipits, wheatears and ravens for company and two kites circling above the summit of Fan Frynych. From the summit the moor then stretches over Craig Cerrig-glesiad with constant views to Pen Y Fan and Corn Du on one side and to the western peaks of Forest Fawr on the other. As walk across the moor, you can see the slopes of Fan Fawr ahead, like an immense green wall. It’s a straightforward climb but very steep at times and the knees started to ache near the top.

At the summit there are views over the A470 to Corn Du, with the Taff reservoirs stretching out down the valley and Brecon and mid-Wales hills to North, while the empty expanse of Forest Fawr lies to the west. I cut down to Storey Arms – which was relatively quiet – and then across Y Gyrn and back down to the start. I was careless about the path down Y Gyrn so ended up heather hopping down the steep slope – not recommended and unnecessary but no harm done. Then down the drovers’ road and across the stream to reach the start. About 9 miles in total. The quietness of  Fforest Fawr is hypnotic – will be back to do the other peaks soon.

Fan y Big and Waun Rydd

March 15, 2009 at 10:00 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment
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A 10-mile walk taking in the the escarpment from Fan y Big  across to Waun Rydd and then out to Allt Llywd. A fantastic early spring day, with clear skies all the way and apart from a sharp wind on edge up to after Waun Rydd, it stayed warm all the time.

As it was a Sunday, the car parks were busy and there were a fair few people on Fan y Big but I was on my own with the ravens once I get out towards Waun Rydd. Had lunch in peace on the crest between Fan y Big and the Waun Rydd escarpment – with wonderful views over the valley below.  On the walk from Waun Rydd there are great views over to Pen Carrog-Calch, Crickhowell and Sugar Loaf, with the Black Mountains further out.

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