Posts tagged ‘Radnorshire’

August 11, 2012

A Bongo in the rolling Radnorshire hills pt2 – Gwaunceste hill and the Hergest ridge

by backpackingbongos

The high point of the road that crosses the Begwns was a perfect place to spend the night in the Bongo.  I was undisturbed until the first of the early morning dog walkers appeared.  I had a leisurely fried breakfast before setting off in the van via a series of very narrow winding lanes.  The pass above the isolated village of Glascwm was full of large shiny 4WD vehicles, all lined up in a row.  Very odd considering there was no one about and it gave the area the feel of a Chelsea car dealership.

Gwaunceste, Colva and Glascwm hills – 11.3 miles with 710 metres ascent

I squeezed the Bongo onto the verge a little way down the hill and walked back up to take the track that contours across the side of Little hill.  The village of Glascwm looked idyllic tucked into the deep green valley below.

Once again these hills provided exceptionally easy going as a wide grassy track took me through the bracken.  It’s a shame that the bracken has taken such a foothold  in the area.  The hills are pretty much choked in the stuff, almost to their summits.  However I bet the area looks pretty spectacular in the autumn then it dies down and turns various shades of golden brown.

A less defined track branched off to the right, which I followed before a final heather bash to the summit of Gwaunceste hill.  I sat for a while next to the trig point taking in the views, especially those to the west.  A patchwork of rolling green fields finally giving way to the more austere Cambrian mountains.

I retraced my steps and continued on the track as it descended to the north.  The high ground of the Radnor Forest was directly ahead with its prominent radio mast.

Following the edge of the moors the ground dropped steeply to my left, the isolated moorland of Llandegley rocks visible across the valley.

The next couple of miles were a joy to walk as a bridleway slowly climbed above one of the areas many Mawn pools, before dropping down into a hidden valley.  The valley is not named on my map and it had the feeling of being totally cut off from the rest of the world.  A bowl amongst the surrounding moors, where there does not appear to be a natural way in or out.

I rested and had lunch on a fallen tree next to a moss encrusted drystone wall.  I was really enjoying being out on the hills that day.  Although they are pretty unspectacular they do have a real charm that is difficult to put a finger on.  As I was packing up the only other hikers that I would see all day passed by with a cheery greeting.  I continued east towards the stream that eventually flows out of the valley and forms Gilwern Brook.

I managed to lose the bridleway for a bit when approaching the stream, briefly floundering amongst the bog.  Back on course I found another well defined track which led to Pant-glas.  This ramshackled building has a real charm and I have to admit that I was rather jealous of its owners.  It appeared to be an isolated smallholding, complete with large greenhouse.  This is proper off-grid living with power being supplied by a couple of small wind turbines.  It looked like at some point it had been connected to solar panels.  Although it was clear that no one was at home I had to resist the temptation to have a nosy through the windows.  If the owners read this and want to gift it to Backpackingbongos, please get in contact!

The grassy track continued to climb, giving great views back across the off-grid dwelling to the extensive hidden bowl in the hills.

As I crested the hill onto the moorland plateau my day quickly went down hill.  Rather than go over it once again, those who have not read it can follow this link to Get off my access land.

I left the trig point rather pissed off to be honest, an enjoyable day had turned sour.  A narrow track through the heather soon turned grassy as it descended across Llanfihangel hill.  I sat for a while, the excellent views south not lifting my mood.

Another superb grassy path took me to a boggy col before a byway led down into the valley.  A convoy of trail bikes noisily passed me by, kicking up a huge plume of choking dust that filled all my facial orifices.  I wanted to shake my poles at them angrily but they had just as much right to be there as I did.  A climb through sheep pastures brought me back to my initial outward route which I followed back to the van.

I sat and relaxed for a while and made a coffee.  I was keen to bag Glascwm hill so set off in the opposite direction.  A track took me close to the summit which was marked by a tiny pile of stones.  I did a little victory dance and offered a finger to the gamekeeper who had spoilt my day earlier.  He had mentioned that this was on his patch.  All around me the clouds were beginning to boil and churn, lines of showers tracking across the surrounding hills.  A rainbow formed in front of me.

As I descended the heavens opened and I managed to get my waterproof jacket on just in time.  It was too late for my lower half and I got back to the Bongo a dripping mess.  After changing into dry clothing I drove the few miles to the single track lane that crosses Llanbedr hill.  An excellent spot was located just before the road plunges down into the Edw valley.

During the evening the van was buffeted by wind and rain, brief glimpses of the sun giving a faint promise of another sunset.  However it was not to be as a shower passed by just at the crucial moment.

It was another peaceful night except for one slightly alarming moment when I was woken at 3am.  I heard a slowly approaching vehicle with very load singing getting nearer and nearer, the occupants playing percussion by banging on the roof.  Thankfully they trundled by without stopping and I could hear them for several minutes as they crossed the moor.  I have a sneaky suspicion that drink / drug drive laws may not be strictly enforced in such rural areas!

I had another slow leisurely morning complete with fry-up whilst I decided where to hike that day.  I did not want to get home too late as I had work the following day.  I thought that the Hergest ridge would be a good quick option and it was in a homeward direction.

The Hergest ridge – 3.7 miles with 210 metres ascent

As I drove across the moor towards Paincastle I passed the same lot of 4WD vehicles that were lined up above Glascwm the day before.  Once again there was no one around, most peculiar.  Maybe there is a 4WD hill walking owners club?

I parked up outside the school in Gladestry and followed the Offa’s Dyke path steeply up a lane.  The walk to the summit of the hill was a simple there and back with superb scenery.  The lane gave way to a tree-lined track which led onto open country.  Once again the hill was infested with bracken but another superb wide grassy path made the going very pleasant.

Looking west into Wales.

The ‘forbidden’ Colva hill which I climbed the previous day.

Looking north towards the Radnor forest.

The steep and shapely Hanter hill.

The path passed close to the top of a steep valley, the views to the north and west being extensive for a relatively low hill.  If the rest of the Offa’s Dyke path offers scenery similar to this I would be keen to walk all of it.

I passed the unmarked high point of the hill and walked over to the trig point.  A truly excellent spot which I had thought would be crowded considering it was a warm and sunny summer sunday.  Instead I only had to share it with the numerous sheep and a herd of fell ponies.  The views east across the Midlands were only restricted by the summer haze.  If it was not for a lack of water it would be a great spot to pitch a tent for the night.

I soaked up the views for a while before reluctantly turning round and heading back down to the van and the drive home.

August 8, 2012

A Bongo in the rolling Radnorshire hills pt1 – Llanbedr hill and the Begwns

by backpackingbongos

North of the Black Mountains and to the east of the Cambrian Mountains sits a little know tract of hill country.  Between Hay-On-Wye in the south and Newtown in the north there is a long line of hills close to the English border.  These are gentle, whale back hills which culminate on the heights of Great Rhos and the Radnor Forest, just rising above the 2000ft contour.   This hill range does not really have a name, so for the purpose of these two posts I am going to refer to them as the Radnorshire hills.  Although Radnorshire itself was long swallowed up by the huge county of Powys.

Sandwiched between the heights of Great Rhos and the Black mountains is a large area of empty moorland.  Lush green valleys cut through the moors giving a contrast between the bleak and pastoral.  This area has been on my radar for years now but I have never really managed to put together a satisfactory backpacking route.  Although very remote in terms of nearby towns and villages it is a landscape dotted with farms and criss-crossed by narrow lanes.  Finding a hidden pitch and locating suitable water sources could be an issue.

The Bongo has been neglected recently and these hills looked like a perfect area for a spot of van wild camping.  The many high moorland roads with the potential to provide ideal spots to park up for the night.  My ankle was also playing up from a fall a couple of weeks previously so some short walks with a day pack would be ideal.  Due to the ankle, Reuben sadly had to be left at home.  I wanted to be able to use my Pacerpoles for support rather than being dragged along by a mass of muscle!

Llandedr hill and Red hill – 7.3 miles with 470 metres ascent

It was nearly 2.00pm by the time I parked the van and had finished a lengthy faff.  I had chosen to start the walk high up at 430 metres, aware that I may regret that most of the climbing would be at the end of the day.  However it was nice to start effortlessly with extensive views back across the English borders.

To the south sat a long line of high mountains, clearly broken down into three parts.  The whole of the northern escarpment of the Brecon Beacons National park filled the horizon.  I could make out the Black Mountains in the east, the Brecon Beacons themselves, and far to the west the Black Mountain.  I planned to spend the evening on a hill further to the south which is supposed to give one of the best grandstand views of them.

Llanbedr hill is a breeze to walk across, a wide track allowing swift progress.  This is excellent open country, empty hills rolling into the distance.  If you want thrills with your hills I advise you to stay away!

Gareg Lwyd is one of a few outcrops that break the landscape and provide a feature on this long finger of moorland.  It is a particularly attractive spot with a pool at the base of the rocks.

It was an excellent spot to sit, the rocks providing shelter from the breeze.  I watched a cyclist pass on the track I had walked, the only person I would see for the rest of the day.  I got so relaxed that it was a bit of an effort to get myself moving again.

A narrow path across rough ground took me to Cwm Lago where I picked up a path that contours across the northern slopes of the hill.

This path was simply a joy to walk with its sheep nibbled grassy surface, it almost invites you to remove your shoes and walk barefoot.  I floated along high above the Edw valley, the escarpment dropping steeply to a patchwork of fields.  Everywhere I looked there was a riot of every shade of green and there was a smell of summer on the warm air.  This played havoc with my hay fever!

I would have been happy for the path to go on for ever as it descended gently towards the valley.  Unfortunately it soon deposited me onto a steep minor lane.  I soon branched off towards Rhulen along another lane that was barely wide enough for a vehicle, the high hedgerows towering above me.  I was thankful for the shade they provided as I had lost the cooling breeze from the moorland heights.

I don’t normally get very excited about churches but the one at Rhulen is a bit of a hidden gem.  It’s a lovely old building and I spent a while nosing around its cool dark interior before utilising the bench in the churchyard.  There was a real feeling of time having stood still there, the hustle and bustle of city life felt far far away.

The road at the head of the valley turned into a track which gave an easy ascent back onto the moors.  At its highest point I headed directly for the trig point on Red hill.  The heather looked like a huge square had been mown into it, a curious feature but one I took full advantage of to get to the top.  Views to the north were restricted by the bulk of Glascwm hill but to the south the line of the Brecon Beacons revealed their full glory.

It was an easy yomp back down to the Bongo which I could see glimmering in the distance.  The wide grassy tracks across these moors mean that it is real hands in the pockets striding country.

I had noticed on my maps an isolated hill just to the south of Paincastle which stood out when I got back to the Bongo.  The Begwns are owned by the National Trust and I thought it would be an ideal place to watch the sun set.  I drove the few miles south, fingers crossed that I would not meet any oncoming traffic on the steep and very narrow lanes, which are rather lacking in passing places.

I parked on the common next to the road, a cracking spot with the Black Mountains looking rather special behind me in the sunshine.  A farmer came rumbling down a track on the hill opposite and waved as he passed, which I took as an endorsement for the spot I had chosen.  I sat and cooked dinner in the van, entertained by a young foal running about and making a right racket.

The Begwns – 1.2 miles with 60 metres ascent

At about 9.00pm I made the short ten minute amble up to The Roundabout, which is the summit of the Begwns.  The top itself is unmarked and hidden amongst some trees that sit within a large circular dry stone wall structure.  A large seating area had been built inside by the millennium project of Painscastle.  I would imagine that it would be a welcome spot to eat lunch on a wild windy day.

I wandered over to the trig point for grandstand views of Pen y Fan, the setting sun just beginning to give the sky a pinkish hue.  In terms of view versus the effort involved in getting to the top, this hill probably has the best ratio in the whole of Wales!  Isolated from other high ground there is an extensive 360 panorama and I wandered around for a while taking it all in.

Even the sheep appeared to be transfixed by the view and the setting sun.

I walked a little way to the west and watched the sun slowly sink below the horizon, a light show that I will never tire of.

With the spectacle over I slowly headed back down to the van, passing a group on their way up.  Sadly they had missed the sunset by a few minutes.  However the show was not over and the sky caught fire once more, turning yellow then orange and finally a deep red.  Magical.

I got back to the Bongo a happy man.  I had picked a truly peaceful spot and I was not aware of any vehicles passing in the night.