Post image for Three peaks in the Brecon Beacons: Corn  Du, Pen-y-Fan and Cribyn

Three peaks in the Brecon Beacons: Corn Du, Pen-y-Fan and Cribyn

February 23, 2014 · 15 comments

Date walked: 4th January 2014

Distance: around 8.5 miles

Map required: Ordnanace Survey  OL12 – Brecon Beacons National Park, Western Area. I get all my maps from Dash4it. They are well discounted, and delivery is free and fast.

Nearest shops/toilets at Pontsticill

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The forecast suggested that this was going to be a blue sky day – the first for weeks in what has seemed like the wettest winter that I can remember. And so it proved – a day to be in the hills. My map of this part of the Beacons is already well annotated from previous walks. I have climbed Pen-y-Fan before, the memory laced with excitement at being blasted by bitter winds on its exposed plateau.

My route was taken from Tom Hutton’s little book “Circular walks in the Brecon Beacons National Park”, and starts from near the Neuadd Reservoirs. He grades this as “moderate”  walk (I’m not sure that I will be brave enough to try his “strenuous” suggestions.)

The approach road after Pontsticill follows the banks of the eponymous reservoir, continuing by the Pentwyn Reservoir and then runs through the dark Taf Fechan Forest; it would be difficult to imagine a prettier drive on such a day.

This is a popular spot for both family outings and serious walkers and the car park was nearly full when I arrived.

The approach road to the Lower Neuadd reservoir, Brecon Beacons national park, photographed by Charles Hawes

From the car park I re-joined the road, which comes to a halt at the decrepit remains of the Filter House.

The Filter House at the Lower Neuadd reservoir, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

It’s  a shame that this fenced off ruin hasn’t been found a new use  but with a building so isolated any re-use might prove very intrusive;  use at night, could threaten the Beacon’s dark sky status.  Hutton would have the walker start by taking the very gently rising track on the East side of the Upper Neuadd reservoir and tackling the walk in an anti-clockwise direction. Intuitively (meaning I had actually failed to register this) and in-keeping with my contrary nature, I took the opposite way.

From the filter House I walked down to the weir at the end of the Lower Neuadd reservoir.

Weir at the Lower Neuadd reservoir, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

This waterfall becomes the Taf Fechan

This little reservoir was constructed in 1884 to provide water for the then booming town of Merthyr  Tydfil but as the demands of the coal and iron industry and its workforce outstripped supply a further reservoir was built above this.

From the reservoir I began to make my way up the steep and boggy slope on the western side of the valley.

Path ascending on the west side of the Neuadd reservoir, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

This climb is about 750 feet  over half a mile and a good puff by most people’s standards.  I passed one lithe young man who was busy texting and a family whose young ones were doing better than their slightly podgy parents.

View over the Lower Neuadd reservoir, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

Towards the top I found a gully where the top soil had been washed away and was grateful for the firmer footing of the bare Red Sandstone, though it still became a scabble at the top.

Corn du and pen y fan walk-7

At the top of the climb the path  runs at the edge of  the massive escarpment. It was wet but firm and no standing water was deep enough to be a bother.

Path above Neuadd reservoir leading south from Corn Du, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

A cairn provided a photo opportunity for a group of friends and a marker for the path but I had no difficulty following the well walked gently rising route on mostly even and solid rock.  As I climbed, so the view opened up.

View of the Upper Neuadd reservoir from path near Corn Du, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

The day was all about views and the stupendous beauty of  this most dramatic of landscapes. And, as always, what brought all this to life was the play of the light on land, casting deep shadows on some hillsides and highlighting others.

View east over Brecon Beacons from path near Corn Du, photographed by Charles Hawes

After about a mile the path follows a ridge and the views open up to the west, providing a glimpse of the Bristol Channel.

View south west from path near Corn Du, Brecon Beacons National park, photographed by Charles Hawes

The breeze today was light even at 2,400 feet but on the ground the coarse reeds lying flat revealed that up here the wind is usually more challenging.

Brecon Beacons National Park near Corn Du, photographed by Charles Hawes

 The path, sometimes very stony, sometimes flat and looking like it had been laid by hand…..

Path on ridge approaching Corn Du from the south, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

…….continued to rise to 2,700 feet before dropping down to a walkers crossroads called Bwlch Duwynt.

Corn Du, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

The Beacons Way comes down from Corn du and descends east to join the A470 (though the road is hidden from view).  For those who can’t be bothered with this lesser of peaks, another path heads straight for the superior Pen y Fan and another avoids the Cord du summit by taking a more northerly route. 

Corn Du, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

I joined those wanting to enjoy Corn Du’s particular charms, the path as carefully laid as any quality garden path. The last few yards take the form of a rough stone staircase made for us by those seeking to make this very steep climb easier and wishing at the same time to limit, perhaps, the extent of our  wearing away of the hillside. 

View over Upper Neuadd reservoir from Corn Du, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

At 2,864 feet the views were pretty spectacular and many people were circulating the edge of its flat, anvil shaped summit to enjoy them in all directions.

view from Corn Du, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

And some were just in too much of a rush to take in the views at all.

view over Upper Neuadd reservoir from Corn Du, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

I sat for a while out of the breeze to have a cup of coffee and my lunch (a banana -I had intended to pick up a sandwich but never stopped) and to enjoy the sight of the reservoir.  Despite the sun and the calm it was still pretty cold up there; the stiff tufts of rough grass were encased in ice .

Frozen grass on Corn Du, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

Pen-y Fan’s summit is only a quarter of a mile of so away and to claim it required  a little descent and another quite steep bit before I enjoyed the full glory of its 2,906 feet- the highest point in South Wales. 

View from Pen-Y-Fan, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

The cairn marking its peak was being treated like Everest’s summit with people queuing up for their trophy snaps.

Summit of Pen-Y-Fan, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

All a little absurd, but entirely understandable and on such a beautiful day there was almost a sense of euphoria amongst the blessed congregation.

Pen-Y-Fan, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

 I sat for a while and ear-wigged conversations. One man was being very erudite to his bemused girlfriend about the difference between true north and magnetic north. Another couple were chewing over the latest Sherlock Holmes episode (one of the best programmes in years IMHO). A girl pronounced with a sense of pride that her heartbeat was at 65. I checked mine -108 – my pride being informed by having got there at all. And having got there, what joy!

View from Pen-Y-Fan to Cribyn, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

On such a day what better place to sit and take in the beauty of the world?

view over Upper Neuadd reservoir from Pen-Y-Fan, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

The path to the  diminutive 2,608 feet of Cribyn is part of The Beacons Way. It is very worn and very steep and it also has been stepped in places by the thoughtful people from the National Park to make the clamber less difficult. It is steep going down and steep climbing back up again.

Cribyn from Pen-Y-Fan, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

And in the dip in between the peaks is a permanent little pool that held Cribyn’s summit in its still, cold water.

Cribyn,Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

I moved pretty slowly on the upward climb. A man walking marginally faster than me and carrying a large pack informed me that the stepped surface had been put in place since he had walked it last 25 years perviously. I guess that it is inevitable that with popularity comes change and as part of that process comes a certain taming of the wild.

View to Pen y Fan and Corn Du from Cribyn,Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

Cribyn’s summit presented another view of the Neuadd Reservoir , the late afternoon sun adding a little mistiness in the surrounding hills to make it picture perfect.

View over Upper Neuadd reservoir from Cribyn,Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

From Cribyn I carefully picked my way down the steep slope to the col known as Bwlch ar y a Fan (or more prosaically, “The Gap”).  The going down is always harder than the climbing up but I was finding both quite an effort by then.  Ahead was the next challenge, the path climbing nearly 400 feet to the next summit – Fan-y-Big. 

View to Fan y Big from Cribyn Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

The sun was about to drop below the horizon and most people ahead of me decided to take the track that leads from The Gap back to the reservoir.

The Gap road below Cribyn, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

I’d had a fantastic walk and the best of the day so I followed suit, my attention kept being drawn to the light shining through the trees at the edge of the reservoir ……….

View over Upper Neuadd reservoir from The Gap road, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

……..and back to the summits, where I had walked, glowing in the warm light and getting encroached upon by the racing shadows.

View to Corn Du, Pen-y-Fan and Cribyn from The Gap road below Cribyn, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

View to Corn Du, Pen y Fan and Cribyn, from The Gap road,  Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

Just as I was nearing the car park the light was thrown onto my side of the valley, catching the tops of the trees and the rising moon.

Woods above the gap road near the Neuadd reservoir, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

A mile or so back down the road from the car park a cafe had been signposted so as I put my bag in the boot I had a vision involving tea and cake. Sadly, The Old Barn tearooms were closed so I displaced my tea fantasy to one at home with Anne.  And that might have been that except that as I drove back though the woods the light on the reservoirs was extraordinary, making perfect reflections of the hills  and demanding much stopping of the car and hopping over fences.

Reservoir above Pontsticill, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

Reservoir above Pontsticill, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

 Reservoir above Pontsticill, Brecon Beacons National Park, photographed by Charles Hawes

I’m a slave to my art.

All the photographs on this and most of my other posts were taken on a Canon  compact and were processed from Raw files. High resolution files and/or prints of up to A3+ size can be produced on request. Email me for costs at Charles@veddw.co.uk

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Neil February 23, 2014 at 8:14 am

What a beautiful looking day. Can’t say I envy you on a good many of your walks, but that one looks an absolute delight. I just love the still reflections in Lakes and Tarns n such…. Always magical…. The views look lovely. Definately a soul nurturing experience, I think.

🙂

Reply

Charles February 23, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Hiya. Yes, a fab day. Not had a better one since. Am well fed up with the rain and dreary skies.

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Paul Steer February 23, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Charles, what a beautiful day that was. I love the flattened rough grasses image, the wave forms sculpted by the wind, almost an Andy Goldsworthy that is full of potential, this sort of thing gets the creative juices flowing. Also love the image of the moon above the trees. We are so fortunate to have such a landscape on our doorstep.

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Charles February 23, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Nature imitating Art? Mind you, its all in the composition, don’t you think? So much more to see and explore. I had thought I might go back to the coast this week but didn’t fancy days of leaden skies and squally showers, so instead have been working on walks from Salisbury.

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Lynds Jennings February 23, 2014 at 2:41 pm

What a beautiful day you had on that walk. It’s cheered my grey,gale scoured,rain washed day,up a treat ! Beautiful photography as always ,glorious ,thank you.

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Charles February 23, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Thanks Lynds. I was so lucky, considering the weather that most of us have been having since.

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John February 23, 2014 at 9:05 pm

I wonder! Do those that pass you when you have stopped to take a photograph wonder whether production of the camera is merely a foil for taking a breather on the way up? Though, for my part, I would say please continue to take those breathers.

I wonder, though, if I am alone in noticing that, of late, you have let the camera do more of the walking. Hop back to your first walk on the Coast Path from Chepstow and compare the words to pics ratio with more recent walks. Even facilities now only warrant the occasional cursory mention (presumably Anne’s lost interest?).

But like most of your posts, this brings back memories. In this case of touring the Pontsticill pumping works as (would you believe) part of my local government qualification course in the 70s. The abiding memory is of the works supervisor proudly showing off his multi-thousand-gallon tank of something or other and his chemical aroma (which was strong enough to be noticed outside during his introductory welcome). And of the pillock who suggested a management team bonding exercise of walking to the top of Pen-y-Fan in the evening for a picnic, forgetting that we would be walking down again in pitch-black darkness after consuming a few cans of lager and such and everyone needing to hop over the non-existent fence!

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Charles February 24, 2014 at 2:34 pm

I don’t know what they think…I guess it must vary. No one seems to have minded yet so I’ll just carry on.

I did think that this post in particular would be very picture orientated as the views and subject were so compelling. I did make a decision to move away from the facilities references for the Pembrokeshire section as it is so well documented, though I do always give my opinion about any that I use, I think. But I’ll try to look out for some toilets for you as I continue up Cardigan Bay.

Thanks a lot for the Pontsticill comment. That’s great. I reckon I’d have been up for a night time party on Pen-Y-Fan and a torch-lit return so you can be glad that I was not in your management team.

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julia February 24, 2014 at 8:15 pm

Best set of images yet Charles. Nothing like a good crisp winter’s day – and you had a decent walk too – ah, the elixir of life – grab it while you can.

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Charles February 25, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Thanks Julia! 🙂 I wish that there had been a lot more crisp winter days. Now Spring is just around the corner and I feel deprived.

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Martin February 28, 2014 at 6:15 pm

Wonderful stuff, that island on the reservoir looks good for a wild camp, just need to pack a lilo into the old rucksack ; )

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Charles March 2, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Nice one. I hadn’t thought of that.

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jan millington March 6, 2014 at 8:54 pm

I loved this, thank you. The photographs of the reflections in the water, at the end, were stunning. And I agree with Paul Steer’s comment about the flattened grasses; the quality of textures you’ve caught, is beautiful.
The winter has been so wet, I’ve missed those crisp winter days; and this description, and photos, has almost made up for my lack! That sky!

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Charles March 7, 2014 at 6:33 pm

Thanks Jan. And thanks for commenting. It’s always nice to have a new person drop by. Yes, that was just about the most miserable winter I can remember. Lets hope Spring doesn’t follow in the same vein.

Reply

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