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This Week's Walks - Archive

Please see the Saturday Walker's Club This Week's Walks page.

This is an archive of walks done by the Saturday Walker's Club. You should only need to use this page if the SWC website is down.

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Friday, 13 September 2019

Abergavenny or Crickhowell Trip: The Black Mountains (mostly) – 4 Days of Walking -- More detailed individual posts to follow

Arrive in Abergavenny any time before 10.50 hours Friday 13th of September; either by car, or by train [Paddington – Newport (Wales) + Newport – Abergavenny] [plus bus for Crickhowell: Line 43/X43 from the bottom of Station Road or from the Bus Station (see the Sugarloaf Walk’s pdf for a route description)]. To get the best prices you may have to book separate tickets Paddington – Newport (Wales) and Newport – Abergavenny (this can be booked on the day as the price is always the same), as these lines are run by different operators.  
Advance Train Tickets are now on sale for the outbound and return journeys to/from Newport.

The Walks, based on the current bus schedules (picnic lunch on all but one of the walks): 
·     Friday 13th  of September
This walk leads from Llangynidr village up along a tight valley, the Cwm Cleisfer, and onto the open limestone uplands of Mynydd Llangynidr, initially along a lane then through pastures, in the latter stages with some difficult-to-find-and-negotiate paths near the transition to the open moorland. Mynydd Llangynidr is a basically treeless undulating mountain of open limestone uplands with numerous depressions, shake holes and pits, as well as many ancient cairns (burial mounds) dotted across the moorland. You climb to the source of the Cleisfer, a perfect picnic spot, and then across the scarred landscape (map and compass come in handy) to the Chartist Cave, arguably one of Wales' most important historic monuments. The Chartists were a 19th century working-class movement for political reform and this cave is where the local group met and stored weapons before the Newport Rising of 1839.
You cross the top of the moorland hill and descend to a remote road by an active limestone quarry and pick up a former tramway for transporting goods to the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal to skirt around the rim of the picturesque wooded Crawnon Valley. A stretch along a ridge high above the Talybont Reservoir is followed by a descent through lush pastures back to Llangynidr. To complete the walk, cross the Usk River and ascend to Bwlch on the other side for a return bus. 
10.50 Bus Line 43 from Abergavenny (11.10 Crickhowell), arrives Llangynidr 11.26. Return buses from Bwlch (Line X43): 17.21, 18.21.

·     Saturday 14th  of September
This route at the south easterly end of the Black Mountains area in the Brecon Beacons National Park starts with a steep ascent onto an Iron Age hillfort site and on to Hatterrall Hill, and then follows Offa’s Dyke Path and the Beacons Way across Hatterrall Hill and the largely heathery – but in parts boggy – open moorland of the dramatic Hatterrall Ridge with fine panoramic views from this natural boundary of a ridge up along the wild, lonely and beautiful Vale of Ewyas (the valley of the River Honddu and the easternmost valley of The Black Mountains) and across the South Wales mountain ranges to the west, and over the plains of the Welsh/English borderlands to the east, on a good day all the way to The Cotswolds and the Malvern Hills.
A dramatic descent at the start of the return leads down into the Vale of Ewyas with a bird’s eye view of the fascinating ruins of Llanthony Priory, the remnants of one of Wales’s great medieval buildings, and to lunch at its cellar bar or a nearby pub.
The return down the glacial valley between steep ridges offers fantastic views to the Sugar Loaf and Skirrid mountains near Abergavenny, some old oak woodlands, river meadows and plenty of waterways streaming down the hillsides. A memorable highlight is Cwmyoy village, both for the ascent of the superb viewpoint of a crag above the village and for the renowned crooked church, bent and twisted due to the still active landslide on which it was built.
09.35 Bus Line X3 from Abergavenny, arrives Penbidwal, Pandy Inn 09.51. From Crickhowell take the 08.11 to Abergavenny (leaves time for breakfast in Abergavenny). Return buses: 17.10, 18.07, connecting to Crickhowell at 17.50, 18.50.

·     Sunday 15th  of September
From the pretty town centre of Abergavenny walk up the iconic Sugar Loaf mountain, initially steeply up through lush pastures and ancient oak woods to Twyn-yr-Allt, a former settlement on one of the lower foothills of the Black Mountains. From there continue along the mildly undulating treeless plateau to Deri hill, covered in whimberries, bracken and gorse before turning steeply up the barren easterly flank of Sugar Loaf through the upland heathland, to the summit ridge of the southernmost peak of the Black Mountains, with superb panoramic views (in good weather) across South Wales and South West England.
Descend gently down the heather and gorse-covered flanks and continue along the gentle ridge of Mynydd Llanwenarth to descend more steeply through the large ancient oak wood of Deri Fach into St. Mary’s Vale and along the spring-fed Nant Iago (stream) to tea at the superb Sugar Loaf Vineyard’s Café and Tasting Room, before re-tracing the outbound route through the town centre.
Sugar Loaf is an immensely popular destination. The chosen route avoids paths from and to popular car parks, preferring quieter paths, while providing for a mixture of environments and views in all directions.
09.30 Start at the Train Station, group passes Bus Station at 09.40.
From Crickhowell take the 09.25 (Bus Line X43) to Abergavenny, arrives 09.39 at the Bus Station. Return buses to Crickhowell: 16.15, 18.15.

·     Monday 16th  of September
From the centre of the rightly popular town of Crickhowell, within minutes you rise up steeply (with an 12% average gradient) for 3 km – mainly through pastures – to the excellent viewpoint that is the eponymous Iron Age hillfort site of Crug Hywel (or Table Mountain), which gives its name to the town and towers above the Usk Valley. You ascend further up the flank of the main mountain range above the town to Pen Cerrig-calch, the first of three high tops along the ridge. Continue to the slightly higher second top, Pen Allt-mawr and down to the third top, Pen Twyn Glas. The further descent now follows the easterly spur of the range with a gentle gradient and some fantastic views to the valleys either side and out to Sugarloaf/Y Fâl. A short stretch of road walking is followed by a re-ascent up to the col between Table Mountain and Pen Cerrig-calch and then follows the Beacons Way contouring the hill for a while before dropping down to town through the ancient woodland of the Cwm Cumbeth, with the bubbling Cumbeth Brook never far away. The route finishes through the heart of Crickhowell past most of its tea options.
Shorter walks, descending back to town on westerly loops from either Table Mountain, Pen Cerrig-calch or Pen Allt-mawr, are described.
An out-and-back extension to Waun Fach, the highest top in the Black Mountains, or a variation past it and down its main easterly spur, are shown as map-led walks.
10.00 Bus Line X43 from Abergavenny, arrives Crickhowell 10.20. Return buses: 16.41, 17.31, 18.31.

p.s. for a mountain weather forecast for the area we’ll walk in, either check our very own website on the respective walk’s page, for example here, or try the ever reliable Mountain Weather Information Service and their forecast for the Brecon Beacons here. There are also live webcams at the Brecon Beacons National Park’s Visitor Centre, available here.

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