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A walk around Cribarth, Ystradgynlais and Cefn Mawr

May 10, 2015 · 6 comments

A wonderful walk though rugged moorland in the western Brecon Beacons National Park, taking in Cribarth, Cefn Mawr and a World War II plane crash site

Date walked: 7th April 2015

Distance: 15 miles

Map used: OS Explorer OL12  Brecon Beacons National Park

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Paul and I were due to meet at 1.30pm – late for a day’s walk, I know but Paul had to do a morning slaving away ministering to  the sick of the community. And the evenings are getting longer, though I was on a promise to Anne for Fish and Chips later.

This was Paul’s route on home territory and there were to be no refreshments. I popped up to the little cafe next to Craig y Nos Country Park to pick up a sandwich. They make them fresh. A pig was slaughtered, bacon cured, the cows milked, butter bread and cheese made, and in no more than 3/4 hour I had an excellent Brie and Bacon Baguette.

A  little path opposite the lay-by climbed steeply up the side of a disused quarry. A diversion sign threatened our planned route so we ignored it and climbed over a couple of fences and had a panting slog until the land flattened out and we had a fabulous view over the valley below.

view over the Upper Swansea Valley in the Brecon Beacons, photographed by Charles Hawes

Now that’s what I call a view

This was as perfect a day as you could hope for a day in the hills. We walked along  a  ridge called Cribarth, wild horses grazing below us.

wild horses near Cribarth in the Brecon Beacons, photographed by Charles Hawes

 Ahead, the bumpy ground had in the past been much worked over, quarrying limestone for the Iron works at nearby Swansea.

The views were glorious.

A trig point at a very modest 423 metres (1,381 feet)  required a pause for pics.

trig point on Cribarth, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

I think I need to talk to Paul about fill-in flash

From the trig point, the line of the old tram road on the ridge couldn’t have been clearer.

Tram road near Cribarth, Brecon Beacons National Park photographed by Charles Hawes

But if we needed any confirmation, on the ground was a stone showing the marks of waggon-wear.

Stone showing signs of tram wear photographed near Cribarth in the Brecon Beacons by Charles Hawes

Not very clear, I know

Paul is a local lad and has walked these hills many times but my aura was able to disturb his in-built GPS fairly quickly leaving him pointing in the middle of a field.

Walking near Cefn Mawr in the Brecon Beacons photographed by Charles Hawes

He points very well, I think

We decided to head for the Giedd Forest below us. The fence required a careful negotiation to avoid getting snagged on the barbed wire (more difficult for Paul due to his low centre of gravity)

Entering the Giedd Forest in the Brecon Beacons National Park,photographed by Charles Hawes

However, it’s easier for him to get under low branches

Inside the wood, a forestry track was thankfully not a rutted quagmire and satisfied that Paul had not got us lost again, we followed it downhill.

The Giedd Forest, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

Someone needs to get him a 1:25,000 map for Christmas

It was a very pleasant mile or so walking in the shade and with the sound of the Nant Cyw nearby.

The Giedd forest in the Brecon Beacons National Park,photographed by Charles Hawes

This was the last couple of weeks of the year where you can still see the lie of the land through the trees.

At the bottom of the track was a picnic area and bridge all very familiar to Paul as he used to entertain his children up here. He pointed to an easily missed and not much used footpath climbing the side of  valley and bid us take it. It sort of petered out at the top.

the edge of the Giedd Forest in the Brecon Brecons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

Does this look vaguely threatening?

We couldn’t see where the path went at the top. I imagined a yellow splodge on a tree to be  a way-mark. It proved to be bark damage. Then Paul saw a white one on another and declared that to be a sign. It was a fungus. We knew where we wanted to be but not how to get there. So we made it up.

A field of sheep with lambs got very excited about our arrival.

Sheep in field near Cae Mawr farm in the Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

They practically mobbed us as we passed through.

This led us to another field that required crossing a barbed wire fence with a pool on the other side, which we  managed without getting our feet wet.

Field near Cefn Mawr farm in The Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

Paul doesn’t trespass very comfortably

We were making progress. Eventually we arrived at a farm called Cae-mawr and since he was with stick, I sent Paul ahead to greet the dog. The farmer was an amiable chap.

“Where are you going” , he asked

“Cefn Mawr, and then back to Craig y Nos” said Paul

He looked at his watch, then doubtfully at us and said that we better get a move on then and invited us to go through his yard to pick up the path proper.  Paul was happy that we were back on track, and  a very nice track it was, too.

Approaching Cefn Mawr in the Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

No mistaking where we need to go here

Paul upped the pace and sped off; I reigned him in somewhat as I didn’t want to overdo it as I was about to head off for six days walking on Anglesey.  We were being serenaded by Skylarks which is always a delight.

Looking back, Paul was able to point out where they used to live and where the massive open-cast coal mine still operates.

View to Ystradgynlais from Cefn Mawr in the Brecfon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

A bit smoggy today perhaps.

Ahead were miles and miles of moorland, with outcrops of text-book jointed limestone….

limestone outcrop near Cefn Mawr in the Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

…..and littered with massive isolated boulders.

Isolated boulder near Cefn Mawr in the Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

This one improbably propped up by a much smaller version- see the bird?

I had not been quite so far west in the National Park before, here on the edge of the area known as the Black Mountain. It was a revelation and a delight.  We plonked ourselves on a stone and had a quick bite to eat and a coffee but we needed to get on- we had a good 5 miles more to go. For several miles to the east and west of us were dozens of Shake holes (sink holes if your prefer), where the limestone rock has been dissolved by rain and underground water to create large holes in the ground.

Shake hole near Cefn Mawr in Brecon Brecons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

They are very difficult to photograph

Over to our right a now dry stream that had previously eroded out quite a steep-sided little valley was a marker that we needed to be thinking about heading East again.

Dry stream bed near Cefn Mawr in the Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

I guess in winter this might have running water

The marked footpath would have taken us a mile or so more northwards before turning back, but we decided to cut the corner and scrambled down and crossed the bed of boulders.

As we climbed up the other side we gave a wave to a couple of people who were wild camping upstream.  They ignored or didn’t notice us. I felt jealous of what was likely to be of an amazingly starry sky later; the Park is an International Dark Sky Reserve.

Wild Camping in the Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

Yes, I’d like to do this sometime

We didn’t really regain a path for a couple of  miles, relying instead on our impeccable sense of direction and some prompting to change direction from my GPS.

We admired ourselves….

Shadows in the Brecon Beacons National Park photographed by Charles Hawes

I’m the one on the left

…..and we admired some more sink holes….

Sink hole in the Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

… and we admired the landscape, getting ever more beautiful as the sun dropped lower and lower.

Brecon Beacons National Park near Cefn Mawr, photographed by Charles Hawes

As we picked a way though the boulders and changed sheep tracks we came across the wreckage of a World War II plane.

Wreckage of Wellington near Careg Goch in the Brecon Beacons,photographed by charles Hawes

This was a shock to me, but known to Paul. He regained a confidence that he knew where we were (Carreg Goch) and where we should go.  Which was most encouraging. I didn’t know at the time that there are quite a handful of wrecked aircraft in the area.

We spent some time walking around the wreckage and its adjacent memorial.

Memorial for crew of Wellington bomber near Careg Goch, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

The plane was  a Wellington and crashed on 20th November 1944 during night exercises, killing all 6 crew.

wreckage of Wellington Bomber near Careg Goch, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

It was strange and sombre experience walking around these hunks of metal, most of it aluminium, clean as if it had been scrubbed. I don’t think either of us picked anything up for closer inspection; perhaps it would have felt like disturbing a grave.

Looking at my 1:25,000 map it shows neither the crash site or a footpath, so perhaps it is understandable that Paul and I did a fair bit more scrambling around for a rocky mile or so until we came across a stile and a fence.

Stile and fence near Carreg Goch in the Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

Mind you, being up in the hills at this time of day was something special

This made Paul very happy indeed. It was after 7pm now, so I made a difficult call to Anne to say that Fish and Chips was off. She did her best to hide her disappointment. (Paul rather insensitivity told me later that he had had fish and chips that night.)

We were still quite high up and had to get round one of largest Sink Holes that we had seen that day.

Sink Hole near Carreg Goch in the Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

It was a wopper

As we began to drop down the steep hillside Paul began to gleefully tell me about the sociopathic farmer whose land we were about to enter, suggesting, despite the time, that we don’t go through his farmyard.

Near Craig y Nos, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

You can see the glee in his eyes, can’t you

It was just about dusk when we reached the bottom of the hill, the top of Fan Gyhirych on the opposite side of the valley, glowing orange in the last of the sun (Paul and I were up there in December 2013).

Fan Gyhirych, photographed from near Craig y Nos by Charles Hawes

It had been a fabulous day and a brilliant walk. Despite the lack of Fish and Chips (on my part).

 

 

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

mtngeekuk May 10, 2015 at 6:56 am

Have wild camped there myself. Called Sinc Y Giedd (not sure about the spelling!). The name is appropriate – although I’m guessing due to the other sink holes, our experience was of it being a cold air sink. When we were there, a lovely clear night, but falling to minus 9 by 9.30pm made for a chilly night. Our leader who camped up on the side suggested the following morning he was fine up there – I expect more to do with the super warm down in his sleeping bag, rather than camping position alone.

Reply

Charles May 10, 2015 at 5:56 pm

Interesting. Minus 9! Not there in the summer then. I’ll bear that in mind if I think of doing the same. .

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Anne Wareham May 10, 2015 at 9:54 am

Glad to see the sheep are back! But if you learned to navigate we might have less disturbed supper plans….

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Charles May 10, 2015 at 5:58 pm

Yes, well. we, like sheep, and all that…..(puts on sheepish face).

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Paul Steer May 10, 2015 at 1:47 pm

I’m glad you shared the responsibility for getting lost – but as it is my home turf I think I should take all the blame for Anne’s missed fish and chips – having said that the sandwich debacle did hold us up ! The threatening tree reminds me of Goya and his war prints of bodies and limbs strung on shattered trees. You took a lot more photographs than I did, wish I had got the one of you almost falling in the stream.

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Charles May 10, 2015 at 6:04 pm

I do try to be fair. But if you’d had a better map we would have seen that the path that we wanted out of the valley was a bit further up – not the one we took. On the other hand we’d have missed all that adventure. I’ve still got my bit of fleece. Yes, you owe Anne Fish and chips (even taking into account my baguette). I always take more pics than you.

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