EXPLORING THE AMAZING LLANGATTOCK ESCARPMENT
If you’re ever around Crickhowell or in the south east part of the Brecon Beacons national park then this weeks Walk Wednesday is ideal for you.
Here’s another walk by the man that knows everything and anything about the Brecon Beacons, Kevin Walker.
The skyline to the south of Crickhowell makes for a surprisingly exciting, fantastically panoramic, yet relatively straightforward walk.
DISTANCE – 8kms (5 miles)
HEIGHT GAIN – 300 metres (1000 feet).
START POINT – Roadside parking by cattle grid.
GRID REFERENCE – SO/185169.
MAPS – OS Explorer OL13. OS Landranger 161.
A stunningly scenic hill walk exploring the multiple delights of Llangattock Mountain and the Llangattock Escarpment to the south of Crickhowell. The plateau area can be very confusing in misty conditions, so it is advisable to carry map and compass, especially if you intend to visit the Witches’ Pool.
From Crickhowell, cross the famous bridge over the Usk, and turn left then immediately right into Llangattock. Go through the village, pass a large roundabout on the left, then turn right onto the road signposted to Beaufort, almost immediately crossing the canal via a very hump-backed bridge. Continue for just over 2kms to reach a cattle grid, and park on the far side, on the rough verge to the right.
1. Walk up the rough track opposite the parking area, soon reaching a more open area. Head directly towards the cliffs above, but almost immediately bear right onto a reasonable but deteriorating path that gently climbs towards the far end of the cliffs, eventually reaching a grassy shelf – the remains of a tramroad. Carefully follow the rough, loose path that climbs around the far end of the quarried bay to reach the top of the cliff, then trend to the right up any of several indistinct paths to reach a broad terrace above a line of low outcrops.
2. Follow the obvious path that climbs gently up the left end of the slope. The view at the top is totally unexpected, and will almost certainly stop you in your tracks! The magnificent Llangattock Escarpment stretches away in front, and the strange “perched bog” of Waen Ddu appears almost at your feet, over 150 almost vertical metres below! Follow the cliff-top path until just before it starts to descend into a shallow valley, then take the right fork, away from the edge, and continue past some crater-like shakeholes, and up onto the plateau.
3. The incredible flatness of Mynydd Llangatwg soon becomes apparent, and the eerie Pwll Gwy-rhoc (the Witches’ Pool), appears in front and to the left. This place gives me the creeps every time I visit! Trend left on the path along the edge of the bog, soon reaching a huge crater – a swallow hole formed where the surface rocks have collapsed into an underground cavern. In wet weather, two streams disappear into this crater, the water immediately disappearing through the boulders, to reappear in the cave system below. Follow the path around the right side of the crater, descend to the peaty bed of the usually dry pool beyond, then continue through the shallow valley to regain the edge of the escarpment. Turn right along the cliff-edge path, with stunning views across the Usk Valley to the Black Mountains.
4. In front, on the far side of a narrow but deep and steep-sided valley, is a large cairn above a boulder field. This is your next objective, and your current path goes all the way around the head of the valley to reach it. However, just before the path veers to the right along the near-side of the valley, you might like to detour to the left, onto a broad promontory that juts out from the main escarpment. This is arguably one of the finest viewpoints in the National Park, and a great place for a break. Break over, regain the path and continue around the head of the valley to the cairn.
5. Follow the right-most of the two paths that head east from the cairn across the level moor, soon passing a small shakehole on the right and entering a large area of bracken, at the far end of which lie some old, shallow quarries. Make your way through these, then descend the continuation of the path, steeply at first, into the broad valley beyond, soon reaching the top of a much larger quarry. Take great care here as the drop is large, vertical, and sudden! This is Pinnacle Bay, part of the huge Pant-y-Rhiw Quarry, and is a popular rock climbing area.
6. Turn right along the quarry edge, then trend left and down to meet a broad track. Turn left along this and trend down right towards a wall. Follow this to the left, then descend again to reach a wide, level track – an old tramroad. Turn left, and follow the sometimes rough but mostly green and level tramroad along the base of the Llangattock Escarpment in impressive surroundings. After about 1500m, at a sweeping right-hand bend, the path brushes against a rock buttress in which are the several entrances to Eglwys Faen, a well-known local cave. There is an unexpected drop just inside the entrance in the cliff (be warned!), but the main entrance is more accessible, and lies a short distance up the zigzag path on the far side of the buttress.
7. Continue along the tramroad for a further 300m until, just where it disappears around a left-hand bend, a waymarked but narrower path descends to the right. Follow this down into the valley, go left at the next fork, then enter a section of ancient woodland on a rough, bouldery path. The difficulties soon ease, and Waen Ddu, the dome-shaped perched-bog, is only a short distance further. Either cross or go around this to the left, climb the steep path on the far side, then trend left and thus back to the start.
This is one of the walks followed on Kevin’s fabulous walking breaks, further details of which are available at www.mountainacts.co.uk. An extended version of this walk is described in his book “Undiscovered Wales”, and more information about this fascinating area can be found in the Heritage Guide to the Llangattock Escarpment, available from local gear shops and information centres.