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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.

Blog Archive

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Brecon Revisited (16-20 July) [Sixth Update 06/07/20]

Covid-19 Pandemic: 

Sixth Update 06/07/20
The Welsh Government has indeed lifted all travel restrictions within and into Wales, and is still maintaining that most accomodation providers will be allowed to open from 11 July after another review in a few days time (but not hostels, bunkhouses etc). Also almost all previously closed areas of National Parks are now open to the public. I will therefore over the next few days post daywalks for 17-20 July.

If you are considering joining these walks, please bear in mind though that the 2m distancing rule is still in force in Wales, that pubs and restaurants for evening nourishments will likely be far less easy to access in Brecon than they are in London, and that even the newly revised bus schedule valid from today doesn't quite have the same frequency as it had in normal times, ie we might face earlier starts or shared taxi journeys at the end of a walk. Also, maximum group size of 6-regulations will likely still be in place (and enforced on the walks if they are), facemasks on public transport/in taxis will be required, contact details will have to be given to the walk poster at the start of a walk (and before getting on the bus if a bus journey is involved in the morning). You may also want to check with your accommodation provider what if any breakfast they will be allowed to serve under the social distancing regime. All but one of the potential walks have no lunch pubs.
 

If you are happy with all of this, be welcome to join. 

Fifth Update 25/06/20
Now, would you believe it, it looks (fingers still crossed) as if this might really be happening. Following the Welsh Government's latest review, you will have read in the media that the next review due on 6 July will lead to the lifting of (most or all?) travel restrictions (incl. for non-Welsh incomers) and another review on 9 July (with effect on 13 July) to the re-opening of more hill areas and the opening of many tourist accomodation venues (but not hostels, bunkhouses etc).

See these links to texts on the BMC website for more details: https://www.thebmc.co.uk/welsh-restrictions-lifted-whats-different-for-the-outdoors; https://www.thebmc.co.uk/what-do-the-4-july-lockdown-changes-mean-for-climbers-and-hill-walkers.
The most interesting part of the text though is the link at the end of the first text to a map showing all the areas of the Beacons NP that are already open (at the moment just for the local population). These are basically The Black Mountain and The Black Mountains, but not the Central Beacons. So, even if none of the Central Beacons will get opened in July (which I doubt, they'll probably keep the Storey Arms car parks closed to keep the masses off Pen y Fan though), there are enough fully written up walks that can be done from Brecon for this to go ahead. Assuming accomodation is open and bookable and buses are running. More to follow after 6 July.

Fourth Update 21/04/20
Revised dates now set: 16-20 July.


Third Update 20/04/20
As the UK lockdown has now been extended until 7 May at least, this trip has now been postponed from its original dates 07-11 May into July, starting on a yet to be defined Thursday. This assumes of course, that by then we’ll be let out of our cages and into the wild countryside again by our Supreme Leaders…
 

As the Welsh Government has ordered all accommodation providers to stay shut until further notice, you should have no problem in cancelling or amending any existing bookings. Great Western Railway meanwhile have enabled cost-free changes or even cancellations of existing bookings, incl. for Advance Tickets booked before 23 March. For details see here: https://www.gwr.com/safety
 
Second Update 06/04/20
Due to Wales' devolved power to manage its own countryside access, the lockdown has unfolded a little more severely there than in England and Scotland. As of March 26, large parts of Snowdonia, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and the Brecon Beacons NP are closed to the public, including to locals. These closures will be reviewed every 21 days, with the first review due on April 15. [For full details of closed areas and paths (basically anything overly popular plus all high-lying Access Land, incl. most mountain tops), read here: https://www.breconbeacons.org/coronavirus-covid-19 ]
.

As a consequence, it is likely that this long weekend trip will be moved down the line soon after 15 April by some weeks or even a few months, with the intention of rolling over existing train and accommodation bookings. Accommodation providers should be amenable to amend bookings for no charge, certainly if they are then still under order by the Welsh Government to stay shut. Great Western Railway meanwhile have enabled cost-free changes or even cancellations of existing bookings, incl. Advance Tickets booked before 23 March. For details see here: https://www.gwr.com/safety 

Update 20/03/20
Whether the trip goes ahead will depend on government advice about the coronavirus situation nearer the time. Adequate notice will be given if the trip has to be cancelled or can be moved to another date, if the advice and the development of the pandemic allow it.
If you have booked accomodation and don't have the option to cancel for free, moving the reservation to another time might still be an option.
If you have booked Advance train tickets: Great Western Railway have today relaxed their rules and are now saying "You can also amend Advance tickets to an alternative future date without having to pay an admin fee".  

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Up to 4 days of walking in the westerly and central parts of the Brecon Beacons, while avoiding travel on the Bank Holiday and the weekend:

07/05 Thursday -- Arrival
08/05 Friday (Bank Holiday) to 10/05 Sunday – 3 out of these 4: SWC 278 Brecon Beacons Horseshoe (or possibly SWC 285 Fan Dance) from Storey Arms Bus Stop, SWC 279 The Black Mountain, SWC 307 Fforest Fawr Traverse and SWC 308 Bwlch Circular, each with a second option of a less tough walk: SWC 85 Pen y Fan and Corn Du, SWC 86 The Black Mountain (Short) and SWC 280 Henrhyd Waterfall (Bluebells galore). Exact sequence of walks dependent on bus schedules.
11/05 Monday -- SWC 306 Brecon Circular (from 5 to 22 km) and Departure

Public transport-based travel options are as follows:
·        Paddington – Abergavenny plus Bus Line 43/X43 from the bottom of Station Road,
·        Paddington – Merthyr Tydfil or Cardiff plus Bus Line T4,
·        Paddington – Neath (or Swansea) and Bus Line T6 from Neath Bus Station [5 mins away]. 

[Advance train tickets can already be booked on the GWR website!
For Abergavenny book trains to/from Newport (Wales), the connecting train is run by a different company and can be booked on the day.]

24 comments:

Sandy said...

Many thanks for posting this Thomas - I will be there; staying at the Old Castle Farm guest house, on the same street as the Beacons guesthouse but a bit further out of town.

Gabriella Palmano said...

I have just been obliged to cancel my trip to Vietnam (sob) so I may come on this after all..
Hence I’m just checking - is it all still going ahead and if so, who is going and where will everyone be staying ? I imagine Brecon or are there other towns / villages too ? Does one need to be on a particular bus route ? ( Would be coming by train .)
I’ve never been on a SWC holiday before so would be grateful for any feedback.
Thanks !

Thomas G said...

What's Vietnam compared to the Beacons, anyway?
People have booked (incl. me) and we're sturdy folk, so unless HM Government forces the country into complete lockdown, there will be people on those walks.
Brecon is the place to stay, and it's big enough to have a good variety of options to stay in, from b&b's over guest houses to hotels and inns. Only the youth hostel is quite a bit outside Brecon (on a bus line but not necessarily convenient for all walks), but we even had people stay there and go on the group walks on past trips.
The ways to get to Brecon are described in the post. Just make sure that your train out from Paddington connects well to a bus to Brecon (with a cushion in case the train runs late).

d2g said...

Hi all,

I hope you are keeping safe. I guess that it is difficult to answer but what are the prospects of this trip becoming a reality? I am thinking of coming along as I had enough of walking around the park for months.

Thanks a lot in advance.
Daniel.

Thomas G said...

Hi, Daniel.
At the moment the chances are not very high, as the last thing I heard the Welsh First Minister say was that he'd not expect the Welsh Tourism Industry to be open to any normal level for quite some time yet. But the next review by the Welsh Government is due in a few days time and we might be a little wiser after that...

Thomas G said...

Update: I've seen no fundamental announcements after the 18 June Welsh Government review other than that in the next one on 6 July they'll decide which travel restrictions and area closures will be lifted and then will review the tourism regulations on 9 July, with any changes likely to take place on 13 July [And indeed: some accomodation providers in Brecon are taking bookings again, 13 July onwards.] We might still get to go walking in the Beacons on the dates planned...

Thomas G said...

Post updated just now. Now looks more likely to go ahead than not.

Donal Flinn said...

Hi Thomas

I am interested in going on this trip. Can you let me know where everyone is staying so I can book it and the most suitable trains to get there from London.

Thank You

Regards

Donal Flinn

Thomas G said...

Hi Donal,
Thanks for your interest in this trip.
As is usual on these long weekends away, the walk poster does not coordinate people's accommodation, so I don't know where people are staying (or even how many are coming), but from past history: people have stayed in B&Bs, Guesthouses, Inns or the one or two hotels in town, depending on availability and budget. booking.com will give you a decent overview of the options (and a map of town), but you probably get the best prices by contacting the providers directly. For convenience sake, it is useful to be in walking distance to the bus interchange, as that is where all walks start. So, just make sure you are not more than a few kilometres from that.
As for trains, see the walk post. There are three principal routes to Brecon, all require a bus connection from the train. Make sure you have enough cushion to allow for train delays to still catch the last bus on the day and be aware that the bus station isn't always close by the train station (Abergavenny, Neath). bustimes.org gives you the bus schedules. There are no cheap Advance Tickets anymore (if there ever were under Covid), so an Anytimne Return does not commit you to a certain train, and you can also wait to book it until this trip has been confirmed as going ahead (ie hopefully in a few days time).
I hope this helps.

Thomas G said...

As per this update on the Brecon Beacons National Park website (https://www.beacons-npa.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/), all restrictions within the NP are now lifted, evidently - and surprisingly - including even the Storey Arms car parks (for Pen y Fan). The posted walks will still avoid Pen y Fan/Corn Du though, as that area will be crowded.

Thomas G said...

Public Transport options on the Thursday (based on the online information just checked, but no guarantees from my side!)...
P'ton - Abergavenny via Newport + bus 43/X43 from the bottom of Station Road: a Super Off-Peak Return is £77.30 w/o Railcard + bus fare; the earliest connection for that price is the 10.48, arrives 13.28, bus leaves 14.04, arrives Brecon 14.51. The connection for the 14.43 arrival is too tight. The 15.26 arrival makes the 16.01 bus, the 16.30 arrival the 17.16 bus and the 17.28 arrival the last bus at 17.46.
P'ton - Cardiff + bus T4: £83.60, earliest connection is the 11.48, arriving 13.39, bus leaves 14.05, arrives 15.53, then the same combo two hours later.
P'ton - Neath + bus T6: £90.40, the earliest connection is the 11.48, arrives 14.22, bus leaves 14.57, arrives 16.29, after that there is another bus at 17.27, arrives Brecon 18.29, but the trains arrive at 16.20 and 17.26, ie it's not a good connection at all.

Thomas G said...

5 walks now posted, not 4. might as well walk as much as we can, once we're there...

Stargazer said...

Do not forget to pack your swimming gear....I am sure we can find some good wild swimming opportunities....

Sandy said...

Stay Alert for mythological figures though!

https://folklorethursday.com/regional-folklore/folklore-welsh-lakes-legend-legacy-lady-llyn-y-fan-fach/

Anonymous said...

If I understand correctly, the plan (to do all these walks) is to travel on Thursday morning, and return on Monday afternoon ?

Thomas G said...

For doing all the 5 walks, yes. But in the past, people have turned up just for part of the programme, as it fit their schedule, or sat out a day in the middle to give their legs a rest.

Thomas G said...

Brecon with limited avails now for a 4 night stay, but many more if you split the search into 16-18 and 18-20 July, ie if you swap places on Saturday...

Thomas G said...

For an idea of the weather on the hills (as compared to in the town), as always check mwis.org.uk, updated every afternoon. The gist of the multi-day forecast for the Beacons just now: "Damp southwesterlies will continue up to the weekend, with low cloud, rain or drizzle affecting most western hills throughout. Through Friday into Saturday, a cold front will then drift southwards, [...]. Higher pressure then builds gradually northwards with substantially dry conditions for several days into next week." Temps on the tops: 9 degrees.

Anonymous said...

I spoke to the Castle Inn in Brecon earlier - if fine we should be able to order food and drink at their bar and they will bring it outside.

Rich

Thomas G said...

Cadwch eich pellter - Please keep your distance. Gwisgwch orchudd wyneb - Please wear a face covering.

Thomas G said...

All in, no rain and a few sunny days, so pretty good; transport worked fine despite much restricted capacity on the buses (thanks to the drivers); paths were mostly good to walk (thanks to the National Park rangers); options for food in the evenings were better than feared (Perfect Pizza, Brecon Tab pies, Gurkha Corner Nepalese, Fish & Chips, Thai etc); great company; no injuries. Can't wait to return!

Sandy said...

Many belated thanks Thomas for making this trip happen with Wales only just opening up. You did a great job helping us overcome the obstacles. We certainly got our money's worth with some full days back on the hills, and making the most of the unusual outdoor dining opportunities. Thanks for having a word with the weather gods too ;-) I hope the bus connections worked out.
All the best from Sandy

Anonymous said...

An interesting experience, holidaying in a time of COVID. Before departing, based on some comments I'd read online, I was a little nervous about the reception us down-from-Londoners might get, what with our accents and walking gear. Fears were unfounded, I think, as no one reported any hostility. With the SWC visitors based in various establishments across town, there were a variety of experiences as accommodation providers did their best (mostly) to work within the regulations set out by the Welsh Government. It gave some idea of what holidaying might look like for the rest of the year.

As well as enjoying the walks and the exceptional company, I'm glad I went and put a little money into the pockets of the B&B owners, the food and drinks businesses, local potters, and even the train companies. They can all do with as much help as possible at the moment.

Question: Why do I continue to schlep waterproofs and gaiters to Wales every year? Over 4 trips and a total of 18 or so days walking, I think I've only had to deploy them once. Where did this myth about rainy Wales come from? Haven't seen much evidence of it myself...and I've got the sunburn to prove it.

Karen said...

Meant to add my name to last comment...