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A Perfect Spot for Supper

We were on our way up the South East side of Pen y Fan when we stumbled upon this lovely spot. While the kids tried their hardest to get wet, we cooked tea and brewed up and considered making camp. It was the perfect spot really but by the time the last dog walkers had disappeared from view, the sun had dipped behind the mountain and the midgies were out in force so we pressed onto higher ground and made camp near the the summit of Fan Y Big. Still, it wasn’t a bad spot for supper.

On the way to Pen Y Fan

Pen y Fan 2018

After almost a day in the car and a 12 month delay, we had reached the base of our objective. Pen Y Fan. We had tried to climb this peak in the Brecon Beacons the previous year and were met with torrential rain and gales so we ran away to find some waterfalls instead. This time, in the midst of a glorious summer, we had to be luckier with the weather, right?

We planned a rather ambitious route rather than a straight up and down from the nearest car park, after all it was a long way to come for one mountain. So for us it was to be 4 named summits, forests, a reservoir, a historic town and a canal tow path over 2 or 3 days and around 28 miles.

Traffic had hindered our journey and the drive which should take 3 and a bit hours, resulted in a 7 hour car ride. We managed to get to Talybont on Usk around 3 pm and decided to crack on, get up into the woods and find a spot near the reservoir to camp. Once along the tow path and up through some hedgerow lined trail, we joined the Taff Trail which would lead us around the reservoir. We made good progress for the next couple of hours along the wide, flat gravelled trail which I’m guessing is focussed on cyclists, dodging a couple of vans throwing up dust as they serviced the bunkhouse accommodating some Naval Cadets (who kindly refilled our bottles).

Happy Hiking Kids

If you know our kids, however, there’s only so much wide, flat trail they can take before getting a little weary so we made a decision to leave the Taff Trail at the first opportunity, following a little track down the hillside to the back of the reservoir and onto the road for a mile or so where we found a lovely spot to have a little supper and a paddle in the stream.

We pressed on, along the road and picked up the Beacons Way on the south east side of the mountain. We started climbing steadily as the sun was dipping below the mountain, and the kids, Isaac especially, were getting thoroughly tired out. Considering they were up and about to catch a ferry at 6.30am and they were now on the side of a mountain at gone 10 at night, they had done really well. Fortunately we found a really good, flat spot to throw the tarp for the night, and while the long grass was a bit scratchy and tickley, it was fine for us.

Fan Y Big Wildcamping

Actually fine doesn’t really cut it. That was the most perfect night for wildcamping ever. Think about it, make a list of every thing you want for a wild sleep out. On a mountain, flat spot to sleep on, warm, dry, clear sky and stars, no dew and a super moon! Oh and Mars visible to the South (ish). We all fell asleep stargazing and by the morning we had all wriggled out of the tarp and were just sleeping in the grass, cowboy style. Perfect.

We woke up with the sun (about 4.30ish) and slowly packed everything away before starting to climb what turned out to be probably the steepest section of the trail (or it was morning legs) before stopping for a porridgey breakfast and some coffee. With our bellies full we started making our way to our first summit, Fan Y Big, going slightly wrong for a bit and recovering soon enough but now the early morning sunshine was disappearing behind a wall of unforecasted grey.

Tagging the top of Fan Y Big and dropping down into a bit of a saddle we decided to bypass Cribyn because of the impending downpour and to be honest, a cup of coffee felt much better than another fairly steep climb. We picked up the trail which took us around the back of Cribyn, dodging some ponies, and onto the climb of Pen Y Fan itself. Half way up this section we were buzzed by the helicopter practicing its landing on Cribyn before flying right by us, banking steeply and giving the kids a wave.

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The kids really enjoyed this little section and before we knew it we on top of Pen Y Fan, albeit 12pm already, and looking at Corn Du for our 3rd summit of the hike. Then the clouds burst and visibility reduced to next to nothing so we decided to get out of Dodge and off the mountain. It was the lightning that made our minds up really. We dropped off the northern trail leading off the summit and headed downwards through the rain, which by now was persistent and would be for the rest of the day, and headed for Brecon.

Basically we decided to cut off an eight mile section of our planned route, back on the Taff Trail, and see what the weather decided to do. It would have been an uncomfortable night for the kids in the tarp, on wet ground and persistent rain so on arrival in Brecon, Hazel found them some hot chocolate and I jumped onto a bus back to the car. When I came back to pick them up they were soaking wet in the play park, but very very happy.

Ok, I know we didn’t do what we had planned but we still climbed 2 mountains, slept under the stars and a super moon and hiked some 21 miles in just over 24 hours and if that’s not an adventure, I don’t know what is!!

Brecon Beacons 2017

Previously posted separately from my phone in the little blue tent but now all parts together plus some thoughts on the trip as a whole.

Day 1.

After a quick visit to see the grandparents in the shire, we’ve crossed the border and are camping in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

We left around noon and headed for Brecon where the canal and a pair of Canadian Canoes waited for us. Now, I’ve not really paddled before apart from a little mess around at the beach but Hazel was pretty proficient in her youth so for once, she was our leader in this new adventure.

With Evan and I in one boat and Lil and Isa with their mum in the other we headed out along the water. It didn’t take long to get the hang of it but a brief lapse in concentration would often see the boat not quite facing the right way.

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After picking blackberries from the bank and possibly scrumping a few early apples we finished the afternoon racing through the last few bridges back to the canal basin. Shoulders aching we headed for the play park and some doughnuts.

As I write (for the first time from the phone) we’re settling down in the famous old blue tent, at a lovely campsite in the national park. We’ve had noodles for tea and tomorrow we’re heading for Pen y fan and later on we’ll go looking for the bat cave. Apparently the Dark Knight was filmed nearby so I expect we’ll be chasing the Joker around the Brecon Beacons most of the evening.

Day 2.

Oh the rain! It was dry when we woke up, we had a porridge breakfast and headed into the mountains for Pen y Fan, Corn Du and Cribyn. However by the time we pulled into the car park at the bottom of the hill it was bloody awful. Now we’re not usually fair weather hikers but today we made an exception.

We headed off for the Four Falls Trail nearby, a nearly 6 mile loop which at times turned into some light scrambling (for us at least) and takes in, as suggested, four waterfalls. The weather improved for a moment as we hiked but then got steadily wetter and wetter but not as damp as we got when we managed to go behind the curtain of one of the falls, a first for the children and Hazel.

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Later on we found another little hike to the waterfall which was in Batman Begins or the Dark Knight. Isaac was especially excited to find the entrance to the Bat Cave but he’s made me promise not to reveal the location incase the Joker reads Just up the trail.

Back at the campsite we’re the only ones left. I think everyone else has gone somewhere drier but we’re warm and cosy in our little blue tent.

Day 3.

It’s quiet up here. I’m sat on top of Pen Allt-mawr just above Cwmdu. It’s 8:45am and occasionally the sun is peaking through and lighting the valley below and its innumerable shades of green.

I’ve been selfish and come out on my own and left everyone else sleeping. Some of our family joined us yesterday and it’ll be great for the kids to play with their cousins later and for Hazel to spend time with her brother but sometimes I just need to climb a big hill.

I left camp and followed a footpath for a bit before jumping onto some sheep tracks. It was hard going but after an hour I’m here and very pleased with myself. A 700+m hill before breakfast can only be good for the soul. If I head back down now I might get some porridge, or I could just sit for 10 more minutes.

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Postscript

After getting back down to camp I found that there was no porridge. There was however, bacon and sausages so that was quickly devoured. As our companions were recovering from an epic charity hike in the Cotswolds the previous weekend we just went down to Crickhowell for a wander along the river and the canal. It was a nice gentle stroll which included a stop in the pub which was a real treat. We’re not really ones for pub stops, neither of us really drink and the kids aren’t fussed so I was slightly surprised to be called back after walking past the place without evening noticing its existence. The kids played nicely with their cousins and we managed about 6 miles of gentle riverside walking.

I feel we have unfinished business in the Beacons, we didn’t get up any sizeable hills together but hey, there’s always next time. We did go kayaking for the first time and the waterfalls were a real treat so we can’t complain. Considering the weather I think we made a really good fist of 3 days in the National Park.