Camping at the disused quarry of Cwr Blaen-dyffryn in the Brecon Beacons in south Wales

Cambrian Way Day 9: Crickhowell to Cwr Blaen-dyffryn quarry

September 4, 2016 · 10 comments


Date walked: July 5th 2016

Maps used:OS Explorer OL 13 (Brecon Beacons National Park Eastern Area) and OL 12 (Brecon Beacons National Park Western Area)

Distance: around 12 miles

Guide book: Cambrian Way by A J. Drake 7th edition


The three (Paul, Neil and me) of us had decided that if we had a good forecast it was time to try a two-day walk and to camp out. Neil was ill-equipped for such an adventure so I lent him my  40 litre light-weight rucksack and, to save further on weight  he decided that he would bivvi rather than use a tent. He didn’t have a bivvi bag so my Uncle’s Gore-tex bivvi bag was also lent; he didn’t use either in the end, declaring them both to be too heavy.

Our starting point was Crickhowell and since we met around 12, lunch was first taken in one of the excellent cafes. We met a photographer friend of Pauls (very nice guy) in the cafe who gave Paul a copy of his book; this was duly returned to the car before we set off. Every ounce counts.

At the bridge over the River Usk Neil directed that a picture should be taken.

Bridge at Crickhowell, photographed on the Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

Not a very good picture, but needs must

In fact I took two.

Cambrian day 9-2

I prefer this one

The river crossed, we had a brief debate over which route to take to the canal, Neil ruling that we take a slightly longer one than was strictly necessary, but was compliant with the Guide Book . But then the most direct route would have missed out a very pleasant half a mile by the canal side.

Cambrian day 9-4

The ducks couldn’t be arsed to move as we went by

And we also would not have seen the large lime kiln.

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There was no mistaking the bridge that we needed to take to cross the canal, as the Guide refers to the protruding stone steps in its side.

Neil, does love to have his picture taken

Neil, does love to have his picture taken

After a brief flat section, the path began to climb steeply up the side of the hill, following an old tramway; periodically the worn stones were clearly visible.

Perhaps Paul has spotted one here.

Perhaps Paul has spotted one here.

At around 1,000 feet someone had placed a bench for the breathless to enjoy a fine view over Crickhowell.

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We pressed on, wading through quite thick bracken on this little walked path.

Paul anxiously scanning the foliage for ticks?

Paul anxiously scanning the foliage for ticks?

We reached a much more popular path at around 1200 feet and headed West, following, still, the tramway through these old quarries.

Pause to indulge Neil's vanity

Pause to indulge Neil’s vanity

The path takes a narrow ledge which had been cut into the limestone face. The Guide refers to a cave called  Eglwys Faen (do click this link – it takes you inside) above the path; Neil took a little track up to it for an explore…..

Cambrian day 9-19

…..whilst Paul and I enjoyed the view.

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The Guide would have had us descend near here to meet the Llangattock-Blean Onnau Road. I rather fancied that we could continue upwards. My comrades took a little persuading, but agreed that it looked like a path.

Cambrian day 9-22

Paul would make a very able sheep

It proved to be more suited to sheep that humans and necessitated a bit of scrambling.

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Yes, we are nearly at the top, Neil

To be honest, it was a wee bit hairy but my companions were very uncomplaining, and we did have a great view when we reached the top.

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Paul looks positively youthful don’t you think?

At this point the sheep would appear to have disagreed about where to head for; no obvious path continued westwards but we picked our way though tracks and stony outcrops for a mile or so without too much difficulty….

Cambrian day 9-26

…. me, leading the way and encouraging my friends with claims but little proof that something, if not someone, had taken this route before us.

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No, honestly, this is definitely a path

Neil was up for heading across the moor as a short cut, but Paul and I persuaded him that the easier and more Guide compliant option would be to join the road to Blaen Onneu.

Cambrian day 9-29

Note that Neil is taking the more sensible path

It was only half a mile or so of road walking but some idiot drove far too close to Paul; I am not sure he realised just how close.

At Blaen Onneu (hardly a place at all – just a road junction) we left the road and climbed  onto the Mynydd Llangynidr moor;

Cambrian day 9-30

We could make out a path of sorts, though none is shown on the map

the Guide cautions careful navigation here and the map declares it to be an area of Shake Holes (depressions in the surface caused through rock being dissolved by rainwater). And indeed it was. In poor visibility these might have proved quite a hazard.

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We, however,  were enjoying the most perfect of late afternoon light.

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A glimpse of Merthyr Tydfil – perhaps best at a distance

About a mile from Blaen Onneu we passed the only Trig Point of the day (1,774 feet). Stop for Selfie.

Apologies to Paul for face obstruction

Apologies to Paul for face obstruction

It was around three miles of wild moorland of Mynydd Llangynidr.

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Somewhere to the north of us was the Chartist Cave where arms were stored for a subsequent attack in 1839 by these erstwhile democrats on Newport. The Guide refers to a well-worn path leading to it, but somehow we missed it and so you, dear reader, missed out on seeing it, too. So here’s a picture of some horses instead.

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We began to descend gently and to think about where we might camp.

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We dropped down to a road that comes up from Trefil and used to serve nearby quarries.

Cambrian day 9-39The sun was really getting quite low now and I was very taken with a patch of thistles by the roadside.

Cambrian day 9-40


The only traffic we found were a group of girls on bicycles heading down to the village and a lunatic in a car that had heard that Paul was fair game today.  A few hundred yards up the road was a difficult to read plaque.

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To save your eyes, this says that it is No. 12 of the Aneurin Bevan Heritage Trail and that his ashes are scattered in the vicinity

This rough road swung round  to the west …..

Look how long the shadows are

Look how long the shadows are

……and then presented us with a beautiful view over the Crawnon Valley.

Actually this was taken a hundred yards off the road.

Actually this was taken a hundred yards off the road.

Behind us the road fizzled out at the disused Cwr Blaen-dyffryn quarry face.

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We agreed that this was the perfect camping spot and began to explore the grassed over lumps and bumps. Paul claimed a spot overlooking the valley which I thought a little precarious.

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I have an irrational fear of rolling over the edge in the middle of the night

I chose a nice flat spot with a protective bump between me and the steep-sided valley, though Neil, as you can see, decided to dice with death for his choice of plot.

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With tents pitched, it was time to have supper and enjoy the sunset.

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What a tidy camper I am

Well, it would have been but Paul didn’t have any supper (you are shaking your head, I can tell), so I gave him one of my several pork pies. And with a flourish I produced 6, one-glass bottles of wine. Neil refused my generosity; I think Paul had two. A camp without wine is like a rabbit without a hole. Pudding was chocolate, natch.





As the sun disappeared  it seemed as if the clouds were forming most unusual shapes. Paul quite wrongly interpreting them as contrails.

Cambrian day 9-52


Cambrian day 9-51

That was a great day’s walk. Night night.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

John Kingdon September 4, 2016 at 1:04 pm

I’ve got to to be honest, Neil does a far better point than Paul! Beautiful rugged scenery. Given the distance between tents, did you have baked beans round the campfire with the pies and wine?


Charles September 4, 2016 at 2:37 pm

Yes, but then he has had more practice. Years more. I wanted to be sufficient anti-snoring space around me. BTW I have updated the post cos I had left out a Trig Point pic!


Neil September 4, 2016 at 1:43 pm

Great read and pics 🙂 That was a lovely days walk !!! And the stars that night were amazing !!!


Charles September 4, 2016 at 2:38 pm

You should have taken a night time pic of the stars for me to include!


Paul Steer September 4, 2016 at 5:38 pm

It was a fabulous walk and an amazing view from our camp. 3 small bottles of vino and a pork pie – what a generous man you are !


Charles September 4, 2016 at 5:41 pm

Did I give you three! Surely not.


David Marsden September 6, 2016 at 6:39 am

A delight to see a part of the world I don’t know at all – for no good reason either as it is obviously stunning. You’ve definitely thrown down the wild-camping gauntlet, Charles – I haven’t done so for years. Perhaps it’s time – especially with mini-bottles of wine. D


Charles September 6, 2016 at 5:48 pm

We must get you over to Wales sometime. There is so much to enjoy. Honestly I am a bit of a wimp on the camping front, but occasionally it is good fun. I also had a small hip flask (Paul had a swig of that, too if I remember rightly). I tell you, my pack was a lot lighter the next day.


Kev the Yank September 6, 2016 at 12:27 pm

Grace ESPECIALLY likes the part about the mini-bottles of wine!


Charles September 6, 2016 at 5:49 pm

Ahha, she likes a tipple! Does she have other vices?


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Copyright Charles Hawes (2012)