Walking Wednesday: Table Mountain, Brecon Beacons National Park

This week’s walk suggestion is a nice and easy 3.5 miler from the esteemed David Thomas, Director of the Crickhowell Walking Festival.

Table Mountain Easy up and Straight down!

Table Mountain by David Thomas, Crickhowell Walking Festival

This is a different way of climbing Table Mountain – the flat topped hill that overlooks Crickhowell. The route up is not too steep but the return is more direct and quite steep. The total distance is 3.5 miles (6kms) and with 1000ft of ascent you need to allow at least 2.5 hours for the complete walk, but you will be rewarded by great views of the Usk valley.

To get to the start take the Llanbedr Road out of Crickhowell (by the Shell petrol station) and follow this road for 1.5 miles to a right turn into Llanbedr village. You can park in the village, but the best parking is in the lay-by at the turn.

Start by walking down the hill to Llanbedr village and turn left by the Red Lion pub (limited opening hours). Follow the narrow lane between high hedgerows until you come to a gate on your left leading to a farmhouse and another on your right into an open field. The gate to the right has a way-mark for a public footpath on it, so go through the gate and along the track.

Ahead you can see the tops of the mountains that form the Grwynefechan Valley – the distinct flat topped mountain is called Pen y Gadair Fawr and beyond is the flat mound of Waun Fach, the highest peak in the Black Mountains. To your right on the hill you can see a recently planted deciduous wood and some buildings with a wind turbine mast. This house is not connected to the mains electricity and generates its own using wind and solar power.

Just along the track you will come to a hedgerow with the track going on ahead to a house, but your route is to the left – you will see a post with a way-mark on it near the hedge along the right hand side of the field. Cross the field heading for the far corner to a gate, through the gate turn left along the side of a small stream for 20 yards or so to a stile onto a lane. Turn right along the lane (watch out for traffic, this lane is busier than the earlier one).

A couple of hundred yards along the lane you will come to a house – Green Cottage – and just before it, a track leading up the hill. Take this track. It is fairly steep, so take your time. It meanders between two high hedges and in places is nearly totally enclosed. Every now and then there is a gap with stunning views down the valley.

Eventually, you will come to a gate ahead of you opening out onto the open hillside. Take a breather here as you will be climbing steadily for the next half an hour!  Turn right up the track and after 20 yards or so, at the junction, turn left. The track rises through the bracken revealing more of the scenery around. At a fork, take the right hand route, more steeply and keep going up until the ground levels out. Ahead of you, you will see Table Mountain outlined against the sky with a rocky outcrop on its right flank. Just head for it! There is a small track which takes you up onto the flat summit.

The views here are great – ahead of you is Crickhowell and you can see the bridge where there used to be a ford, which this hill fort was built to protect. To your right, in the distance, you can see the bulk of the Brecon Beacons with the Glanusk Estate nearby. To your left the pinnacle of Sugar Loaf can be seen and behind you all the Black Mountains, with Pen Carreg Calch being the summit nearest you. It is interesting to think that in geological times Table Mountain was fully part of Pen Carreg Calch and that it has actually slipped down the slope you are now looking up!

Now turn left and go down the slope of the hill fort, towards the distant Sugar Loaf, and you will find what used to be the main entrance on the left, now a pile of stones with a pathway through. Below you can see Llanbedr and closer up the hill, a couple of barns. Head for these either very steeply straight down the slope or using one of the many paths that zig zag down the hill. You reach the barns – actually a bunk house – after passing through two gates and then you follow the concrete track down to the lane. Turn right along the lane to your start.

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