Date walked: 5th December 2012
OS Map: Explorer OL 13
Distance: About 9 miles
Starting point: Car park at Keepers Pond (OS map names it as Pen-ffordd-goch Pond), a half a mile north of Blaenavon. Map reference SO 254 107. There are no facilities here and no car park charges.
Terrain : The starting point is around 1581 feet up and the highest point of the walk is only about 60 feet higher. The ground varies between firm stone and grass paths and very boggy and quite rough parts across the moor.
I had planned to follow a route from Kevin Walkers excellent “Undiscovered Wales: 15 Circular walks” which explores some of the rich industrial archaeology of part of the Blaenavon World Heritage Site. That was still my intention when I set off around the left hand side of the blue-black Keepers Pond, his book in hand. The views north and west were stunning and this was the brightest of blue sky days and the visibility was excellent. But it was also very cold – 3 degrees according to my car. The wind chill factor was certainly making it feel freezing and there was frost on the ground and ice on the puddles in the path.
I was glad that I had put on my Damart long johns beforehand and had a fleece gillet under my outer fleece and a windproof jacket in the bag in case I need another layer of protection. But it felt exhilarating to be high up with such amazing views and in the full, if not very warming, sun. Walkers route was going to immediately take me down to Pwll-du, which I could see was in the shade of the hillside which produced a big “no” in me so I made an instant decision to stay in the sun and carry on this wide gravel path which climbed north east along Blorenge’s western flank.
In the distance, my first sight of snow this year on the top of one of the higher peaks of the Brecon Beacons National Park (one of you is bound to know which it is).
And then as this now short grass path turns east, Abergavenny was revealed below and the view straight ahead is to The Skirrid.
Almost at the most northerly part of the hill was this extraordinary series of bumpy mounds and this rather ugly little building, the function of which remained a mystery (maybe I missed some explanatory board).
Blorenge’s summit of around 1840 feet is only a straightforward half a mile or so from this point but I had “bagged” that peak on another walk at the begging of the year so I was quite content to keep to the obvious wide grass path that continued east through the bracken and heather covered hillside with the sun straight ahead.
The wind was whistling in my ears and high above me the throbbing, insistent noise of the engines passing jets also made themselves heard. I began to think of a word or words to describe their particular drone but was defeated. I came back to this challenge (and failed) all afternoon; their vapour trails kept grabbing my attention as they streaked the blue skies. Every so often I came across a lone tree that had germinated somehow in this rather challenging of habitats.
The path drops down to a very narrow asphalt road and I was quite happy to follow it for just short of a mile back up to the twin masts that stand at Cefn y Galchen, passing a stunted holly and then a little lay by where the explanatory board had been replaced by graffiti and the signs urging you to take home your rubbish had been ignored by at least one person.
A finger post before the masts points to a swath that has been cut through the heather and heads south-east. This is rough and very squelchy walking and at times my boots went right into the soft mud or disappeared into the mossy mounds (this stuff isn’t moss, I know, but I don’t know what it is.)
The views remained wonderful – on the one side over the Usk Valley…..
….and on the other to the unmistakably landscaped and terraced hillside on the far side of Blaenavon.
Looking back this is a view of Blorenge’s rather under-stated summit.
Here’s another of those isolated trees with a view back to the masts.
About two miles from the masts the path drops gently down to another single track road that goes to Blaenavon . The view over the valley below is now shielded by a conifer wood. Thanks to Ian (see comment below) I know what fate befell Tunus.
Googling on H.T.I.D brings up “Hardcore til I die” and I am none the wiser. But Ian (see comment below) offers some insight.
Blaenavon’s houses (at least the ones I saw) could not be said to be of great architectural interest, being mostly very functional looking bungalows or plain terraces. A park of remembrance was deeply moving though, its four sides lined with gravestones mostly the late C19th. I could have spent the rest of the afternoon slowly reading their poignant and sometimes banal inscriptions and admiring the intricate work of their creators.
As I stood by this more recent stone a passing group of three men told me that this was the only war grave in this field but couldn’t tell me why Private Allcocks memorial has been placed here.
From here, and heading up though a small housing estate I found an “official” route which took me along the back of this most easterly boundary of Blaenavon and over a stream to climb up some bumpy wet and muddy ground that was dotted with iron clad hatches their purpose a mystery. Perhaps something to do with Welsh Water- I passed a pond and then their fenced off compound and headed for the B4246 just over to the left. Near the point where it joins that road leading to the masts this tree caught my eye. It wasn’t by the roadside and the flowers were fresh. Another mystery.
The Keepers Pond car park was just another 100 yards up the road. The sun was low in the sky now and the light even more beautiful, so I wandered about taking more photographs.
I could see a great opportunity for getting a shot just as the sun dipped behind the horizon. The wind was picking up and it was rapidly getting desperately cold, but at such times when the light is about to be lost or has just appeared photography becomes exciting as you look and compose and move around to find that special shot.
I think I got it. There could have been others. This wasn’t the last of the day.
How different the view would have been when near this pond stood a massive noisy smoking forge. And the valley below was a hive of industrial activity.