Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Beacons Way - Walk 4

Walk 4: Garreg Las

[map] [photos]

Monday, 8th May 2017

I arrived at the Llyn y Fan Fach car park at 11:30am. The car park itself is 1km beyond the end of the road leaving the village of Llanddeusant to the east, along a rough track that passes two farms.

Today's walk would be more like a "normal" walk up a hill. Starting from a car park in the valley, I was going to ascend a 635m hill, and then return. Simple.

The car park is quite popular with people walking up to Llyn y Fan Fach, but the walk up Garreg Las is much less well travelled. The car park itself is about 1km off the route of The Beacons Way, so I crossed the river (there's no bridge, but there are plenty of stones in it to aid crossing), and picked up a track that crosses Brest y Fedw and joins on to The Beacons Way route, which I then followed back down to the road. The official route follows the road into the village of Llanddeusant, but on the way out to collect my stone I followed the track to Gorsddu and then a footpath to Blaensawdde (which may be muddy after a wet spell), to emerge on the road below Gellygron. If you don't have pressing business in Llanddeusant you could use this short cut to avoid some road walking (although the views of Picws Du from the road are worth the extra walk). From here I was able to follow the official route back to the summit of Carreg yr Ogof and then to Garreg Las to retrieve my journey-stone...

From the twin Bronze Age cairns on the summit of Garreg Las the route continues along the ridge northwards over greener terrain, until you reach the rocky pavements and quarried outcrops on the summit plateau of Carreg Yr Ogof. There is a trig point here (585m - but not quite at the highest point). If you look at the aerial photos of the summit on Google Maps [link] the jaggies are not digital artifacts, the summit is actually like that.

Picking your way down through the remains of quarrying on the northern slopes of the summit (the entrance to the cave the peak is named for is at the base of a quarry about 100m north of the summit), you join a bridleway that leads down the grassy northern spur of the mountain towards the village of Llanddeusant. You leave the open hillside at a gate onto a green lane, and here is the first Beacons Way waymark we have seen in 17 km.

The green lane descends into the valley, and becomes a rocky track, and then a tarmac road. We cross the river by a bridge (with a commemorative stone marking its opening on 15th April 1929), and then the road climbs to the graveyard and church at Llanddeusant.

Follow the road leaving the village to the east, and after about 2km of quiet road walking the route branches right, back over the river (by a bridge opened on 11th February 1913, but recently refurbished), and then follow a stoney track by the river, which then begins to climb out of the valley up Brest y Fedw. At this point I returned to the car park.

Walk Distance: 15.1 km (9.4 miles), 4.4 hours.
Total: 4 walks, 71.9 km (44.7 miles), 19.2 hours
Beacons Way completed: 34.7 km (21.6 miles), 22.1%.

The next walk will also start from Llyn y Fan Fach Parking.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Beacons Way - Walk 3

Walk 3: The Black Mountain

[map] [photos]

The official route on this section was amended in 2016 to avoid the environmentally sensitive area of the summits of Pen-y-clogau, Pen Rhiw-ddu, Garreg Lwyd and Foel Fraith, and now follows a route that contours around the northern slopes of these. I've previously visited the 600m summits of Garreg Lwyd and Foel Fraith, so I was happy to stick to the official route, rather than the "old" route marked on my maps

This part of the route is available in Google StreetView [link].

Wednesday, 3rd May 2017

I arrived at the upper car park on the A4069 by The Black Mountain Quarries at 10am. It was windy, but sunny.

I set off to find my journey-stone. The paths on this section are faint and I started by following a track that left the A road a little to north of the revised path. When this ended I followed faint paths running in the general direction I wanted to go. The route is bounded to the north by a road, and descends to join it at the far end, so you can't go too far wrong (at least in fine weather). The faint paths wind through the remains of quarrying, and eventually lead to a descending green ramp that takes you down to the minor road below, before splitting off on a stony track to join a bridleway, which brings you back to the road, by a parking area and the small disused quarry where I had left my journey-stone. The stone recovered I continued eastwards on The Beacons Way...

I retraced my route along the bridleway, track, road and grassy ramp, and then tried to follow the official route more closely than my outward journey. I'm not sure it was worth it though - it's easier to follow the faint paths on the ground that are going in the right general direction, and eventually you will emerge on the A4069.

After crossing the A road, the route takes a track through the old quarries and passes through the abandoned quarry on the northern spur of Foel Fawr before leaving it behind on a good path that emerges from the extreme eastern end of the quarry. The path contours around the slopes of Foel Fawr and Moel Gornach and gradually gets fainter before joining a path that runs south towards the col between Garreg Lwyd and Foel Fraith. At some point you have to leave this path and strike out eastwards to keep on route, skirting the slopes north of Foel Fraith. I was glad to be crossing this area after a dry spell, as there were signs that the ground could get quite wet.

At this point the official route tells you to aim for a tree in a shakehole, but this is not visible when approaching from the west. I contoured around below the northern slopes of Foel Fraith before ascending the shoulder above Blaen y Cylchau to emerge in a small quarry. I stopped on a table sized block to have a break where the grass was scattered with daisies.

Setting off again I dropped down the pools at the col between Foel Fraith and the southern end of the ridge of Garreg Las, to rejoin the "old" route marked on my maps. Although I'm only 1h15m out from where I parked, the area feels quite remote. Just under a mile to the south west, across the Afon Twrch, lies Tyle Garw - reputedly the most remote summit in mainland Wales.

The eastern slopes of Garreg Las are a jumble of weathered gritstone boulders, but a small path winds up through them to the southern end of the ridge, and then faint paths run north through the rocks and crossing pavements to eventually arrive at the twin Bronze Age cairns at the summit of Garreg Las. The highest point on The Beacons Way so far (and a new 600m Welsh summit for my ticklist).

I left my journey-stone under one of the many thousands of rocks on the plateau, and hoped I would be able to find it again when I returned, then retraced my steps back to the parking area by the quarries on the A4069.

Walk Distance: 20.6 km (12.8 miles), 5.5 hours.
Total: 3 walks, 56.8 km (35.3 miles), 14.8 hours.
Beacons Way completed: 27.7 km (17.2 miles), 17.7%.

The next walk will start from Llyn y Fan Fach car park, beyond the village of Llanddeusant.