Friday, 17 August 2007

Bloggers Brecons weekend

The arrangement within the bloggers community was for us to meet up at a certain sheepfold in the Brecons on the Friday night for a wild camp and then move on for a second night of wild camping.
With a bit of spare time on my hands and an increasing need for a break; my intention had been to travel down on the Wednesday. Having done nothing serious on the hill for some time it was therefore decided to put a few miles in.
Much checking of maps, railway stations and train times; finally opting to travel down on Wednesday morning. it appears there where only about two trains that would connect with London trains. Thus a run down to Swansea and then pick up a Shrewsbury train. Some five and half hours travelling.
Arrived at Llangammarch Wells late at almost four and to cap it all, the local shop, where I had been hoping to pick up a few extra bits and something to drink, was closed. A lady in the local book shop kindly filled up my water bottle.
As is normal, starting out with five days gear always takes time to settle down. Having got off the train stiff from travelling and thirsty did not help. Neither did the fact it was all up hill to begin with. Puffing slowly up in shorts and tee shirt, the sun was hot, half way, a stop for a drink and a handful of jelly babies to boost flagging energy levels. Up over Llethr Ddu and on to the Sennybridge artillary ranges. Despite have rung the range officer it was still a little daunting to see the red flags flying. There is a lovely long distance path runs along the edge of the ranges. One slight problem was that it had obviously been used by heavy vehicles and then leveled out again so that it looked like a ploughed strip. it was immeditely aparent that this was going to involve some tricky map reading. All sort of metalled roadways and tracks covered the area. It had been my intention to turn off on a footpath that was marked on the map. There was no chance of that. Thus swung off just beyond Tafarn-y myndd. Nothing to be seen on the ground except a possible bit of ruin and a bunker. A spotter plane that had been flying a grid square buzzed over me, turned a came over again. Came around to a guard post, a big, square brick building. Small arms ammuntion carelessly left discarded around the area. A new road had been bulldozed up through the forestry but I still managed to turn off where intended. However, my next turn off point had been obliterated. In theory I should have been on a footpath. In fact I was on a recently made dirt road that turned into a metalled road It was getting late and I was anxious to stop soon. Checking and rechecking the map I could see that I was on the edge of the range area. Finding somewhere to stop was not too easy. In the end I stopped just beyond a rifle range. Fortunately a clump of bushes hid me from the road. A sign on the fence close by was a tad disquieting,'imapct area, keep out'. The tent pegs where put in very carefully. Amost four hours of walking.
Thursday. A convoy rumbling along the nearby road woke me at five thirty. Not able to doze off again was thus packed up and under way just after eight. Almost imediately the map reading horrors set in. Tracks and paths marked on the map did not correspond to what I was seeing on the ground. My camp site for the night had been close to Gwibedog, a disused quarry. On the map a path was shown as coming through it and leading down to the road. Across from which was bridleway and another path branching off. This was not the case. Concious of the fact I was on military land I trod very carefully. There was a semblance of a path, littered with spent smoke grenades, (smoke orange, smoke white, phosphorous) Much spent ammuntion lying around too. This path ceased in a low, deep valley and a dank, tussocky marsh. The bridleway that was supposed to link up with was not to be seen. Thus much of the morning was spent stopping and starting. Constantly aligning the map to correspond with was actually was on the ground. Another bulldozed forestry track with machinery quarrying stone out of the ground, had me diverting again. Vehicles were busy in several places. Loads of white vans??? and trucks moved in convoy on a nearby metalled track. Passing a stand of trees something caught my eye. The muzzle of a gun pointing directly down the track I was on. A tank, low, squat and blending in nicely sat in the trees. As did a few armoured cars A few objects, like large apple crates layed out a small hill turned out to be targets. painted, helmeted faces peering out with sightless eyes. Clips of ammuntion, loose rounds, many still live, lay scattered everywhere. A shallow trench with a wooden box by its side. Nestling inside like prehistoric eggs, hand grenades. All primed and ready to go. Further around; and in the direction I wanted to head to, was a hive of activity. Trucks, lorries off loading portaloos, more vans. Deciding discretion was the better option. I detoured out on to the b road and came around by Dixies corner. In theory it should have been possible to drop down to pick up a bridleway through the forestry. However, after casting back and forward I ended up on a higher forestry track. All newly made up obviously in preperation for tree felling. By one o'clock it was hot and I was needing to pick up more water. A small stream bubbling down the hill side provided enough for my needs. Found a place to sit by the side of the track and just slumped down for half an hour. Had a few bits packed for a break but was not really interested. Downed a whole litre of water though. Tempting as it was just to lie and soak up the sun, there where still a few miles to cover. Came around by Gam Rhiw and in to some lovely decidous woodland. A track meandered through lush, verdant and boggy bottom land. however, the interlude was far too brief and soon it was back to the hard pounding of the stony, rolled forestry tracks. Coming down to Halfway and a short dash down the busy main road to pick up the path that led up the hill and around above Fergwm. Beautiful scenery, a lovely healthy looking bull grazed contently with his harem barely affording me a glance as I passed. Open vistas for miles. Despite the fact I was, by now, tired and my legs wearied, protesting at more uphill walking. it was still enjoyable. Following the lane leading up to Haford Fawr, buzzards mewed overhead. Just wanting to stop, I camped on the edge of the open moorland by cym y cadno. The water in it was brown and murky but it was all that was available. Just as I eased the sack off aching shoulder there was an almighty roar and I instictively ducked as a hercules aircraft did a low level fly past. He flipped over on one wing as he came around the side of the hill and I held my breath, waiting for the bang. A shepherd on his quad gave a friendly wave as he checked his sheep on the hill opposite. It seems I have a tad of heat exhaustion. Was unable to eat much of my supper and turned in early.
Friday. Picked up from where I had left off yesterday. A stunning sunrise, awsome. Was away by nine. lost the track but headed in the direction I wanted, heading up to the crest of the ridge by Pen y Bylchau. What a horrible site, by the Usk reservoir, below me, where the path should have been, was a large, ugly, scarred landscape. A great swathe of ground being ripped open to lay a new pipeline. Machinery snarled and growled, dumper trucks scuttled back and forward. thus it was I stayed on the ridge; which was more pleasant anyway. Even there blocks of ground have been ploughed for new forestry growth. Again, tracks and paths marked on the maps proved hard to find on the ground. it meant constant checking to pick up the track that would lead around by Fedw Fawr. Some fantasic spots for a future wild camp. Overhead red kites performed a constant arial ballet. Across the road to pick up another track and around by Nant Goch, a sad, deserted ruin. All the while, good views, buzzards, red kites hovering overhead. The soil, a deep, rich red, the valleys dotted with pasture land and hay meadows. native trees in rich deep greens. For a moment the path vanished, cut off by a field of cearal crop. Picked up on the other side. A combe, deep and blissful shade, damp, allowing the rich growth of mosses. A little used, ancient sunken track led between small fields. Pausing to check over a sheep that was obviously in trouble and then moving at a much quicker pace down to Llanddeusant. Over an hour spent before I managed to flag down a local farmer and report the sheep to him. Some of the houses in the village obviously did not belong to local people. Big signs, no trespassing etc, gates with padlocks, places that had had money lavished on them. One with several classy cars in good condition scattered around a court yard. the place has changed since I last came by there. My orinal intention had been to pick up the Brecons way and miss out coming over the tops around by Bannau Sir Gaer. However, trying to sort out the sheep problem meant I was half way up to the track that leads up to the lyn. Paused briefly to have a cuppa. An enterprising shepherds wife was doing farmyard teas. Ok, it was expensive, £3:50 for a well made, large cheese salad roll and a mug of tea. However, I do not grudge them that. If it helps out local folk, fine. Heading up the ridge towards the top, the weather had broken, thick cloud and drizzly rain. A couple heading down looked in a sorry state, he was in trainers, shorts and tee shirt and she was in a brief halter top and shorts. Once on top I aimed off for the sheepfold. here I threw a wobbly, put it down to tiredness, lack of concentration or just sheer daftness. For some obscure reason I was suddenly convinced I was off track in the clag and headed back up the hill to my last known reference point. Stupid because in fact, as I found later, I was bang on target. For some reason I had another sheepfold in mind. Coming around the ridge line to drop off by Llyn y fan fawr. From there I headed down to Glyntawe. Checked out the camp site just in case anyone was there. Checking the map I could see where I should have been. by now though I was done, knackered and bone weary. having noticed a few tents in a field just by a pub on the main road, I asked and promtly got the tent up just in the last of the fading light.
Saturday. A very relaxed and quiet day. just a slow amble up to Lyn y Fan fawr. How long and tedious it had seemed coming down the previous evening. Now though there was plenty of time in hand. indeed, I stopped on the way up for and just enjoyed the scenery and communed with the sheep!?
Was back at the Lyn by shortly after one and finding a comfy spot, settled down and spent some time people watching. Most said hello, on the way past, except on couple. the guy just gave me a dirty look and carried, on she just ignored me. To my amazement a troop of scouts came by. the total anti thesis to backpacking light. these guys where carrying huge cooking pots. I counted at least four. There was also a guitar. One had an axe, sheathed I was glad to notice. Enough tent gear to start a refugee camp and dressed in jeans and heavy clothing. No wonder some looked as if they where on their last legs. Keeping an eye on the far side of the lake I spotted a lone figure seek out a rock and settle down I had a suspicion it may have Darren. A group of people where gathering close to the lake. One broke away and walked across. Looking at him there was something that said 'proper hill walker' Obviously he had dropped his pack with the group but this looked like a guy who knew his way around the hills. Speaking to him I found out he was Mike. A relief for me as I was starting to worry a little. Some familiar faces, some new ones. Everyone is welcoming and friendly. there is a sense of cameradery in that we all have a common interest. Certainly everyone has their own points of view concerning such things as lightweight backpacking, but, at the end of the day; it is that love of being out there on the hill. Freedom to wander, to pitch where we may,away from farmland and the such, obviously. Tents and tarps going up, everyone finding their preferred spot. More folks arriving, stoves being lit, brews being made and then supper. Bob and Rose with new toys, the bush buddy. The evening settling down to cheerful banter and conversation. Unfortunately, after having to do my own medical bits, I felt too tired to move and so opted out a tad. The wind began to rise a bit during the night accompanied by rain. So I was glad I had made sure the hex was well peeged down. At some point the wind swung so that it came from the other direction. By morning we where in thick clag with rain. it did nothing to daunt anyone but some of us opted to head down towards the road. These are really my own personal views and comments. mybe some will have seen things in a different light. Looking at the gear I was carrying weight wise it was not too bad. With four days food and fuel I was carrying an average of around 24lb. The hex is slightly heavier but it is still light and provides loads of space. Also, one of my personal foibles is that I carry a spare set of clothing for travel. It is just me, but I hate travelling looking like I have done four rounds with an angry hedge and lost. So, spare footware, travel skirt and sandals. Also, because I need to spend some time sitting doing nothing, a book is thrown in too. A fair mileage too. On rough average 75+km. Probably nearer to 80.

1 comment:

John Hee said...

ah the joysof walking on ranges - evry foot step an invitation to hear sonething go BOOM!
;-)