The Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons, photographed by Charles Hawes

A circular walk in the Brecon Beacons taking in Waun Fach

November 16, 2014 · 8 comments


The most perfect of walks in the Brecon Beacons: a beautiful day, stunning scenery, good company and a dead sheep. What more could you ask for?

Date walked:  8th September 2014

Distance walked: 10.4 miles

Map used: OS Explorer OL 13 – Brecon Beacons National Park

I chose this walk from a little book “Circular walks in the Brecon Beacons National Park” by Tom Hutton. Published 2008


September can offer fabulous weather and this was one such day. Sunny and with just a little cloud cover, warm but not too hot for a strenuous walk. I was meeting Paul at 11, at the car park at Blaen-y-cwm, allowing both of us a leisurely start to the day.

The approach to the car park is from a narrow road north of Forest Coalpit that is a three-mile delight, passing through the dense woodland of the Mynydd Du Forest before it comes to a halt at our meeting point. I had the edge slightly taken off my delight by a little anxiety that if either of us had taken the wrong road we were buggered.

As it was, Paul was waiting for me; he had not been there long and had also been worried in case he had got the wrong place.  So, hugs of relief all round.

Paul Steer photographed in the Brecon Beacons by Charles Hawes

I’ve never complimented him on that neat little beard

 After booting up and the statutory discussion of our route,  we decided not to follow Hutton’s suggested path to the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir (that didn’t take long, did it) but to take a higher path which took us initially through the wood. The path was as steep as it was dark. Which was very dark. So dark, in fact, that my camera gave up the ghost and so I offer this impression of Paul walking through the gloom.

Paul Steer in the Mynydd Du Forest, photographed by Charles Hawes

I think that this is the first black and white pic I’ve produced in 30 years.

 It wasn’t long until we emerged into the bright daylight.

The Black Mountains near the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir, photographed by Charles Hawes

It’s a bit much when a path just stops at a fence

 But we were not very confident that we had found a path. We hadn’t, but we knew where we wanted to be, which was about 300 feet higher up. We followed a sheep path and made our own through the bracken, all the while improving our view over the surrounding forest.

View over the Mynydd Du Forest, photographed by Charles Hawes

It’s always nice to know where you are even if it’s not in the right place

We were not the only ones making  their way to the higher track; below us a chap was following in our footsteps, poor fool.

View to Waun Fach in the Black Mountains, photographed by Charles Hawes

That grey bit in the distance is clear-felled forest

The lie of the land meant that we had no view of the reservoir below us but we were more than compensated by the emerging panorama.

Panorama over Waun fach, in the Black Mountains, photographed by Charles Hawes

When we did reach our intended track it was as easy to follow and as kind underfeet (though perhaps not as flat) as any more formal footpath.

View to Rhos Derion in the Black Mountains, Wales, photographed by Charles Hawes

The bump in the distance is Rhos Dirion

For the next three miles, Paul and I got into a deep conversation about climate change and the end of mankind (my conclusion: not necessarily a Bad Thing), and about the essence of the Christian doctrine (not something I am about to try to summarise). Paul also offered some very helpful comments about a thorny work issue of mine. Our discourse was interrupted by a gang of horses who drifted across our path.

Wild horses on the Black Mountains, photographed by Charles Hawes

I should have done a film clip and you could have seen what I am talking about.

They most definitely approached us and then a white one started having at go at the others for no reason that we could fathom. But then neither of us speak horse.

The trig point at Rhos Dirion was a good place to stop for a coffee.

Trig point at Rhos Dirion, photographed by Charles Hawes

713 metres: not Paul- he’s one and a squiggle

I effortlessly lept onto the trig point for my portrait.

Charles Hawes photographed on the trig point of Rhos Dirion, by Paul Steer

Some fill-in flash would have been useful here (look it up)

This was the most glorious of days and the gliders were making the most of it, passing us by with just a whisper.

Glider over The Black Mountains near Rhos Dirion, photographed by Charles Hawes

I’m sure it’s fun but I think I’d rather feel the wind on my face

This was about the half-way point of our walk and we turned  south-west from this point giving us new views towards where we had come from.

The Black Mountains near Blaen Grwyne fawr, photographed by Charles Hawes

And fabulous views they were,too.

We passed a cairn (possibly marking Pen y Manllwyn) where the land falls away steeply. In the near distance, across the valley, was the long ridge of Mynydd Troed; my map didn’t extend to the furthest ridge, so I might have remained ignorant of what that is called but Huttons book says that we are looking towards Pen-Y-Fan.

View to Mynydd Troed from The Black Mountains near Waun Fach in the Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

Walks like these make me realize just how much more wonderful countryside there is within striking distance of home

As we tramped along my attention kept alternating between the “inside”……

The Black Mountains near Waun Fach in the Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes
……and the continually changing but glorious views away from ‘our’ hills.

View to Mynydd Troed from near Waun Fach in the Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

We were heading south-east now, away from the precipitous edge of the hills and into their peaty interior. We paused only briefly at a big rock that sat in the middle of a peat crater, not realising that this was Waun Fach (2660feet),  the highest point of the days walk (though if I had made a quick check on the book Hutton describes it perfectly).

Waun Fach, The Black Mountains, photographed by Charles Hawes

“..It doesn’t really have a summit, just a flat stone laid in a boggy area of peat”- Tom Hutton

The more striking summit marking Pen-Y-Gadair Fawr was just a mile further on. Paul and I sat down and had a dispute about if this was Waun Fach until my GPS coordinates and a certain amount of browbeating convinced him that he was wrong (again).  I should simply have referred to Hutton: “Although 11 metres lower, it actually looks higher than Waun Fach due to its more sharply defined peak and perfectly formed cairn”.

Pen-y-Gadair Fawr, Brecon Beacons, photographed by Charles Hawes

I think he’s sulking

It was downhill all the way from here. And very steeply so.

Path from Pen y Gadair Fawr photographed by Charles Hawes

This first bit wasn’t that steep

This side of the Mynydd Du Forest had been clear-felled some time ago; our descent kept closely to the  ex-woodland’s edge. Paul forged ahead.

Waun Fach with Paul-25

I don’t enjoy steeply dropping paths at the best of times- all that hard work of climbing up being wiped out so quickly. But on such a beautiful day it was especially hard to leave the hills.

View towards Pen- Y-Gadair Fawr, Brecon Beacons, photographed by Charles Hawes

This is the view looking back to where we had walked down from

Having passed the felled area, there was a little rise as we followed a narrow path above a pretty valley that contained a tinkling stream and a handful of berry-laden rowans.  Impaled in the stock fence was the carcass of a sheep that had expired long enough ago to have lost the smell of death.

You know I go for the macabre if the opportunity arises

You know I go for the macabre if the opportunity arises

Eventually the path deposited us at the Grwyne Fawr river that flows out from the reservoir, the low sunlight beautifully illuminating the valley side.

Stream from the Grwyne Fawr reservoir in the Brecon Beacons, photographed by Charles Hawes

After such a perfect day’s walk it was all the more shocking as we walked through the woods back to the car park to pass a cartload of rubbish strewn about the place – even a discarded tent. That this isolated spot is  used by people to camp and party is understandable. It’s true that there were no refuse bins but why should the council send a lorry up a three-mile no through road when any considerate person would just take their rubbish home. It really was a very unpleasant finish  to the day to realise just how thoughtless people can be.

Waun Fach with Paul-32
To not end this on a sour note, Paul wrote the most super blog of his own about our walk, written as a poem. Do have a read; it’s rather lovely. Click on this to link to it.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Neil November 16, 2014 at 8:04 am

Looks and sounds like a lovely day out in the hills. Must do more walks in the Brecons. As you say, it’s on our doorstep. ( Hi to Paul 🙂 )


Charles November 16, 2014 at 9:39 am

Yes, it was a super day’s walk. And yes, will sort out a date with you to get out there.


Paul Steer November 16, 2014 at 8:20 am

It was a beautiful day with fabulous views captured so well in these photographs – I’m reading up on using flash! – Hello Neil – we’ll have to do another walk together.


Charles November 16, 2014 at 9:40 am

Thanks Paul. I should have set the flash up for you!


John November 16, 2014 at 9:46 am

Beautiful. A nice cheering walk (I need cheering today!). Lovely scenery. I get a feeling of deja vu when I see you sitting on a trig point, even without a red cone!


Charles November 16, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Glad to be of service! Back on the Coast path next week.


Anne Wareham November 16, 2014 at 10:19 am

Great post. Xxxx


Charles November 16, 2014 at 12:12 pm



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