All good leaders walk their routes before leading a group. And this was what we did last week in preparation for my leading the last walk of the Crickhowell Walking Festival, and what a treat laid in store for us...
Starting at The Kestrel Inn, on the A40 between Crickhowell and Bwlch we walked down through Upper Gaer and Pen y Gaer on to the footpath that takes you up a beautiful old byway which snakes through ancient coppiced trees towards Tre-graig. I almost missed the entrance to this path as it was shrouded in overhanging trees, almost like a secret entrance to another world. At the entrance was a fallen tree which must have been over 300 years old and the patterns were mesmerising. I soon realised that Tony and Barney has escaped up the pathway and were very responsibly clearing dead wood to make it more passable.
We soon opened back out on to fields and made our way up towards the farm where the path markers directed us up on to a small roadway where awaited a very handy layby for a quick drink of water. It also gave us a chance to take in the first of the views. From here the path entered the National Park Boundary and we snaked up a well kept route up on to the open grassland on the Brecon Beacons.
Another stop was needed here for me to shroud my son in my new Berghaus Extrem Micro Down Jacket as he was feeling the bitterly cold winds which were coming straight at us from Mynydd Llangorse summit. Once he was suitably warmed up we took a moment to look over a that iconic view over the Pen y Fan which was enveloped in snow. It was literally breath taking, especially as at that moment a lone Red Kite flew low and slow over the top of us.
This walk was a chance to GetOutside of course, but was also a working walk as I am leading this very walk for Crickhowell Walking Festival. Having got in touch with them late last Autumn they were pretty much all organised with lots of superb walks so my opportunities to lead were looking slim, that was until David realised there was this one little gap - The Kestrel Inn Walk. I was in! So, on this recce it was important that I kept checking the map, taking in landmarks, key features and importantly get out points should the weather turn on us. This was where the OS Digital Subscription came in to its own. Not only was I able to plot the route prior to the walk on my PC and do a fly through on the 3D aspect, but I was able to print off a custom map AND have it on my phone. This meant that we could keep a close check on the route, make adjustments and also engage Barney in learning his next steps of map reading.
The walk took us on a gentle rise up towards, but not quite to the summit of Mynydd Llangorse (I have already decided this will be an optional addition to the walk depending on the fitness and willingness of the group). Just before the final rise you can see down in to the beautiful valley Blaen-y-cwm. A steep ascent dropped us down in to this inviting enclave where there were birds everywhere and even, as we approached Blaen-y-cwm-isaf a sighting of our first lamb of 2018. The excitement was overwhelming! Well, for me anyway (I have always adored sheep....).
The path then joins a small road which winds down the valley with views down towards Myarth and sneaky peaks through the Pen Y Fan. The temperature at this point had risen significantly, it was bitingly cold on the tops and we skipped merrily along knowing that a drink at The Kestrel Inn awaited us. Sure enough a very warm welcome awaited, we had, I hasten to add, got permission to park our van in the car park prior to walking, so please do this too! The landlord was so amenable that he got the kitchen to make Barney his very own, handmade chips. Just brilliant.
A really lovely walk, it gives you wonderful views over Llangorse Lake over to Pen y Fan. If you want to 'bag a summit' you can walk up on the Mynydd Llangorse and then retrace your steps back down Blaen-y-cwm. There is a real mix of classic Brecon Beacons National Park landscape in this walk which is very accessible to people of reasonable fitness. So, if you are new to the area and want a taste then this is a perfect walk which has the added bonus of finishing in a pub! So go on, go for it, #GetOutside and enjoy.
Click on the map below to take you direct to the walk on the OS Maps Online site...