It’s hard to believe after all the recent snow and rain that little over a week ago I was enjoying this walk in wonderful Spring – almost Summer – conditions in the Brecon Beacons National Park which is a part of Wales I have barely visited. It was different to the rugged wilds of Snowdonia which I am used to but I’m glad I went and will go again as there are many more walks in the Brecons and Black Mountains that are well worth the long journey. For now though here’s a popular route to the highest point in South Wales…
From the idyllic location of my campsite at Cwmdu near Crickhowell I headed over to the equally beautiful but busier village of Talybont in glorious spring sunshine and followed the minor road along the reservoir of the same name up over the mountain to Taf Fechan Forest. From here begins the route to Pen y Fan and the other high peaks of the Brecon
Having discovered that I could have driven another mile towards my objective – I had parked in the edge of the forest but it’s a nice walk so not to worry – I followed the left hand track to the old dam wall of the old or lower Neuadd Reservoir with beautiful views to the highest peaks of South Wales around the head of the valley, and crossed it to gain the open mountainside throgh a gate. The profusion of rhododendron bushes along here at nearly 1500ft indicated that I was further south than my usual destinations of Snowdonia or the Lake District and indeed this was my first time in the Beacons.
A wide trail led up the steep grassy slopes towards the crest of the ridge which revealed itself as the edge of a wide plateau, along which an easy trail led roughly northwards towards the summits. The first top was reached with surprising ease as the views southward towards Cardiff and the hazy distance of the Bristol Channel expanded to include the wild looking hills of Camarthen Fan to the West. From here a small dip followed by a short steep climb led to Corn Du; the first of the main summits of the Brecon Beacons.
Despite the glorious sunshine, a strong wind gusted over these high places and I had lunch in a sheltered dip just below the flat summit on the edge of the abyss overlooking Brecon and the low lying Usk Valley. It was a good spot, sheltered and unseen from above or below though most of the tourists (coming up the shorter route from the A 470 were headed
straight to the next peak Pen y Fan. That indeed was my next objective and a brief battle with the wind brought me the short distance to where they congregated around the large cairn marking bthe highest point in South Wales and southern Britain.
The views from here extend from the Bristol Channel and the Devon coast to the South while the northern vista leads far into Mid Wales though today the distance was somewhat hazy. Camarthen Fan which is really the western part of the Brecon Beacons lay to the West while the other way the line of the Black Mountains rose along the horizon beyond large areas of lowlands.It’s different to Snowdonia where you are usually surrounded by mountains as other than the immediate peaks of the Beacons the other ranges are a long way off and it gives a huge sense of space. One of those nearer peaks though is Cribyn just along the ridge and this was my next objective.
Heading down the steep ridge from Pen y Fan the crowds are left behind and one feels a sense of return to the wilds. On a sunny day like this the grassy ridge beween Pen y Fan and Cribyn is a wonderful rest spot with a small tarn – more of a pool really – and a good place to regain energy before the steep ascent to Cribyn. It’s a good path but is about
a 400 foot climb after an easy couple of miles. The path right from this col misses out Cribyn if you really can’t face it but it would be a shame to miss as it’s the finest of the 3 peaks despite being slightly lower. Here as on the ridge below, far from the day trippers, you can experience the peace of the hills once more.
The path continues on down the ridge again with no difficulties to reach the old Roman road that traverses through the Brecon Beacons from north to south so at the col – Bwlch ar y Fan – it’s a case of turning right and marching south as the Legionaries once did. I could have used a bike here but it was a pleasant enough if long trudge back passing a
small group of wild ponies along the way. The distance was only noticable once I reached the top car park and had to go the extra mile to Taf Fechan Forest but on a day like this I was not complaining.