Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Beacons Way - Walk 2

Walk 2: Carreg Cennen Castle

[map] [photos]

Sunday, 23rd April 2017

I arrived at the Car Park at Carreg Cennen Castle at 9:50am. My first objective was to walk back along the route towards Bethlehem to find my journey-stone. This took me about 30 minutes, but the stone was still there. And so The Beacons Way continues...

The route passes through fields towards the farm of Cilmaenllwyd, and detours around to the west of the farm by a well marked route on a well made track that doesn't appear on the official route mapping, or on my OS maps. Either way you end up at Castle View Farm, from where you follow the road to the car park at Carreg Cennen Castle, with the castle itself looming on the skyline perched atop a green hill.

Just beyond the car park there is a café/shop and you can pay to visit the castle ruins (dogs allowed on leads), but that wasn't my reason for being here today (although apparently there is an interesting cave that provides the castle with access to a well, which can be explored with a torch). Instead the path skirts below the castle mound and then descends through Coed y Castell wood to a footbridge over the Afon Cennen.

The route crosses another footbridge and then uphill on a stony track to join a farm track which cuts diagonally across the slope. Here you see why the castle was positioned where it is. From the north it appears to be at the top of small green hill, but from the south you can see that it is perched on the edge of a 300ft limestone cliff.

We exit the farmland at the entrance to Brondai farm and emerge onto a tiny road (with grass growing in the middle) that runs through the open hillside of The Black Mountain. As we have entered Open Access Land the waymarks disappear and we're on our own when it comes to route finding.

The little road winds through a landscape of pillow mounds (marked on the map as Beddau'r Derwyddon, which means Druid's Graves, but they are the remains of medieval warrens used for rabbit farming). Just beyond a cattle grid, we leave the road by the remains of ancient enclosures. There is a faint path which contours it's way across the hillside, avoiding shake holes. In the middle section it's easy to lose the path, but it becomes better defined as it crosses a stony stream-bed below a pronounced gully on the hillside. The path becomes a track which joins the minor road.

Although you are only navigating by yourself for half an hour, it is probably best to tackle this section where there is good visibility (and if you can manage it, after a prolonged dry spell).

I left my journey-stone in a disused quarry by the road, then retraced the path to Carreg Cennen Castle (where the car park had filled up).

Walk Distance: 17.8 km (11.0 miles), 4.4 hours.
Total: 2 walks, 36.2 km (22.5 miles), 9.3 hours.
Beacons Way completed: 17.9 km (11.1 miles), 11.4%.

The next walk will start from the Mountain Road Car Park on the A4069 by Herbert's Quarry.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Beacons Way - Walk 1

I've decided to do The Beacons Way - a hundred mile walk across the Brecon Beacons National Park.

I'm doing the walk in the opposite direction (from Bethlehem to The Skirrid) to most descriptions for a variety of reasons. Partly because I know The Black Mountain least, so I wanted to explore that area first, partly because as I progress along the route I will be getting closer to home, and also because last year, when walking on Hatterall Hill it struck me what an enticing finishing post The Skirrid makes. And surely Bethlehem is a place of beginnings.

Also, to make logistics easier, I have decided to split the walk into several manageable segments that will allow me to do walks of about about 10 miles (16 km) from a single start point with a dog. Mostly this means doing the route one way, and then retracing it in the opposite direction to return to the chosen parking spot. Which means I'll end up doing the route twice, once in each direction, and turns a walk that is just under 100 miles into a walk that is just under 200 miles.

Any of my walking chums who would like to join me for any of the walks are welcome to get in touch.

Walk 1: Carn Goch

[map] [photos]

Saturday, 8th April 2017

I arrived at the small car park below Carn Goch just before noon. At Carn Goch there are two Iron Age hill forts, the larger of the two is reputed to be the largest Iron Age fort in Wales. But before I visit them I have to return, back down the road to Bethlehem, to find the carved oak bench that marks the start of The Beacons Way (for me, in most descriptions this bench is actually the end of The Beacons Way). I took a photo of myself, Teasel and my "journey stone" (this is a marked pebble, which I will carry along The Beacons Way and hide at the end of each walk to ensure it makes a continuous unbroken journey from the start to the end of the route) on the bench, and then set off at 12:30pm.

The route follows the road out of Bethlehem, along a farm track, and across some (slightly soggy in places) fields to come out on another road by a chapel. We then follow this road to the car park at Carn Goch. Here the route enters Open Access land. The route is way-marked on footpaths across farm land, but where it crosses open country you are on your own, so it's best to know where the route goes on a map and how to follow it on the ground. (Note that the official route, created in 2005, was revised in 2016, and so differs from the route given on some OS maps. I'm following the route as given on the website).

The route follows the ridge of Carn Goch, passing a stone monument to Gwynfor Evans (the first Plaid Cymru MP) erected in 2006, and three stone benches, before arriving at the smaller of the two Iron Age forts. Drop down to the gap between the two forts (here I had my lunch in the shade of a small tree), and then ascend to the larger fort encircled the remains of its massive stone wall. Leave the fort at it's north-eastern edge and follow a path down to the minor road below, which passes Garn-wen and becomes an enclosed track traverses diagonally the slope below Trichrug.

Reaching Bwlch y Gors, the way-marked path crosses a very wet boggy area to get to a stile, but it is drier to continue along the track to a gate, and then follow a different track on the other side of a wall to arrive back at the stile. The route follows the edge of a field, and then enters the wood of Carreglwyd. A good path through the wood drops down steeply to a forest track and follows this to exit the west side of the wood, where it becomes a track along the edge of some fields (which are wet in places) below the ridge of Carn Powell.

The footpath emerges at a crossroads and follows the road toward Trapp, past a couple of forestry plantations, the second one marked as Helgwm on the map. It was here that I planned to end the first leg of my walk, but I didn't find anywhere obvious to leave my journey-stone, and the onward path seemed to cross a marshy field, so I thought it best to get that out of the way, so I set out across it, and as we reached the far side the way became drier. Crossing a ladder stile brought us into a drier field, containing the remains of an old quarry, and at the far side of this field, by the stile into the next field I left my journey-stone in a pile of stones, and returned back to the Carn Goch car park.

Walk Distance: 18.4 km (11.5 miles), 4.9 hours.
Total: 1 walk, 18.4 km (11.5 miles), 4.9 hours.
Beacons Way completed: 9.1 km (5.7 miles), 5.8%.

The next walk will start from Carreg Cennen Castle.