ADDENDUM - And that's a wrap. I'd much rather have found a pub on the way that served lunch, or was even actually open - but still found a lovely outdoor cafe to sit outside in Abergavenny and recover before facing the 2.5 hour drive back to London. 85km in five days on a nice circular stroll. Hopefully I'll try another wild camping trip this year, but I doubt I will be so lucky with the weather and the variety of scenery again.
ADDENDUM - One amazing part of this canal that is quite hard to capture in a photo is how staying flat meant it crept further and further up the side of the valley. By the afternoon we were quite high up and there was a steep drop on the left that you can just about get a sense of in the 1st pic from the trees, or from the slope of the bridge in the 2nd pic.
ADDENDUM - canal boats! This is the first time I've ever felt remotely jealous of those smug canal boat holiday makers as they puttered past sipping a cup of tea and NOT lugging a 20kilo rucksack. They all looked as surprised as me by the lovely September weather. The third pic canal boat is abandoned and listing. Very forlorn.
ADDENDUM - I stopped writing once I reached the canal. I was tired and became a bit goal focused. But the canal was stunning so I kept taking pictures and pretty much every one was amazing. Here are just a few from the morning. I was most thankful that water and shade kept it cool in the growing heat. It was 27 Celsius by midday at least.
First shot was from the evening before. Then this morning I took the exact same shot twice more as the mist slowly peeled off the valleys. I'm heading down exactly there now, but I reckon it will all be gone before then. Today I walk down to Llangynidr and then take the Usk Valley Walk along the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal back to Abergavenney. It's long (27k or so) but all flat. I should be home for tea.
Everyone I show this campsite to says it looks like the Shire from Lord of the Rings. I think maybe that just means Peter Jackson shot all his Shire scenes near dusk. It is idyllic though. Except the soil is full of rocks.... The tent pegs were a devil to get in the ground. Also... you can clearly hear the A-Road threading through the valley below. I'm camping the closest to civilization so far this trip. And I really need a wash.
In the 1st pic on the left you can see where this mornings hike picked it's way between the tree line and the moors. The second pic is the way ahead on a lovely downhill moorland trail towards the tiny village of Bwlch. I'll need to find a campsite in the next hour, but I'm confident the perfect spot will present itself before I get off the moors.
After a delicious local cider ("Made with Black Mountains Yeast") and two hours collapsed in the parasol shade of a lovely yet strangely quiet pub back garden I am back on the moors. Only this time I am out of the Black Mountains and into the Brecon Beacons proper ("Cefn Moel" apparently). It's my final evening and I am supremely confident that I will find a lovely campsite and have a great evening.
It's been a lovely morning traversing the slopes beneath "Pen G;och-y-pibwr". The whole time I've been just above the common land boundary, so I've had the best views simultaneously down into the countryside and up into the moors. Weirdly there are farmers out harvesting the wild ferns and turning it into some sort of hay. I did not think this was a thing. You can see the cut fern waiting to be bailed in the second photo. I'm hoping to get to a pub for lunch soon...
I defeated the ferny bog side tour and am back on a marked trail. It's still not quite the day 3 Beacon Way trail I'll be following for the rest of the day, but it's close. My pack is chafing again, but it's a lovely hot day and it's hard not to smile at these views I'm starting to get of the route ahead today - snaking around the side of the final ridgelines in the Black Mountains.
I left the main path in an attempt to avoid climbing down to Crickhowell and then immediately climbing back up. The traverse across the hill was marked on my paper map but was barely a sheep trail and cut through several bogs and has left me feeling quite stranded in a forest of muddy ferns. Nevertheless, it's a glorious day and this rock is lovely, toasty and warm so I'm chilling for a few minutes and not worrying about it. There's also a nice view back to Tabletop Mountain.
Some shots from the top of Tabletop mountain. Seconds before I got to the top I was sweating, but the top is so exposed and the winds are so gusty that I immediately had to put a jacket on. It's not quite as "tabletop" flat as it looks but it's still a lovely spot and those are great views of the major valley running up from Abergavenny towards Crickhowell into the Brecon Beacons proper
Climbing toward tabletop mountain and what should be the final peak of the beacon way day 2. Despite cooking porridge and heavy night of 🍺 this was a record early start for me. I've got striking camp and cooking breakfast down to a lethargic two hours. The 1st photo is looking back to the final hill I climbed the day before, the 2nd is looking south into the valley. Crickhowell is just a little to the right of frame.
My first attempt at outdoor porridge was not a total suçcess. Boiling water isn't quite enough to instantly cook quick oats. Mulberries, coconut and cinnamon were nice condiments but it was still missing something stronger. At least the pan was still fairly cleanable. One dry and one wetwipe did the trick.
INTERLUDE 2/2 - I drank 4 pints of local ale with the four wild camping hikers then they set off for Crickhowell to lager up in an Indian restaurant that they figured they could later sleep behind in a field. I tottered off in the other direction towards the Black Mountains valley I pointed out earlier and somehow found a perfect secluded spot with no effort at all. In deferrence I heated a dehydrated chicken curry on the stove before drunkenly falling into my tent.
INTERLUDE 1/2 - That was it for Saturday 12th September! The pub didn't have food (a detail An American Werewolf in London got right about British hospitality) but I ended up sitting with the hikers I spotted eating lunch earlier in the day. They were also wild camping and we got to chatting shop. Their approach is very different. Their nightly camp preparation is drinking enough wine/vodka/rum to sleep wherever they lay their bivvy bags. But unlike me they'd also got clean swimming in the river
Climbing down into my final valley for today. Somewhere still behind the hill, is the pub I'm heading for. I'm going to veer off the Beacons Way very shortly. Where it heads straight down and up to the Table Top Mountain in the top right hand corner I will keep hugging the hill for a little longer.
wilderness Travelogues - mostly in mountains, occasionally through post-industrial wastelands. Civilization posting here :- https://twitter.com/caoilte_oconnor/
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