Walk Wednesday: Historic Aircraft Crash Site in the Brecon Beacons #Vampire

AIRCRAFT WRECK #1 – VAMPIRE VZ106

The Brecon Beacons rugged mountainous landscape and its frequently changing weather conditions, has had an influence on human errors in the national park over the centuries.  Now and again the Mountain Rescue are called out for lost and ill-equipped hikersand other emergencies.
These attributes have also been problem for aircrafts who have lost their way.  Over the past century there have been as many as five aircrafts crashing onto the mountain ranges.  From a Wellington and Lancaster bomber to as recently as 2010 when a small light aircraft found itself flying close to the peaks of Pen-y-Fan.

So this year Kevin Walker Mountain Activities has decided to put on a topical walk called “Lest We Forget” which take place on 30th June, 6th July, 24th October and  11th November (Armistice Day).  Profits from these walks are donate to RAF Battle of Britain Wings Appeal.  

So here’s one of the walks in more detail by Kevin Walker himself.

It’s a stiff sojourn past the highest lake in the National Park, to the isolated site of a crashed Vampire, where there is a considerable amount of wreckage.  Allow 3½ hours.

On the approach. The Staircase path is obvious in the top left of the picture. KW©

DISTANCE – 8kms (5 miles)
HEIGHT GAIN – 450 metres (1500 feet).
START POINT – Roadside parking on mountain road between Glyntawe and Trecastle.
GRID REFERENCE – SN/852216.
MAPS – OS Explorer OL12.  OS Landranger 160

DESCRIPTION:
This is quite a wild and rugged walk, starting by climbing open, boggy hillside to reach a beautiful, hidden lake, from where a good path leads to an obvious saddle.  From here, an intermittent path leads across open hillside towards the crash site, which, although tricky to find as it is in a slight hollow, is fairly obvious if you approach it from above, as described.  The path across the hillside is easy to lose, and map & compass are recommended on all but the clearest, most settled days!  The site itself is extremely difficult to find in poor visibility.

More seasoned walkers may like to extend this walk by visiting the summit of Fan Brycheiniog, which adds an additional 1½kms and 80m of ascent.  Allow an additional 45 minutes.

PARKING:

From Glyntawe take the mountain road, which leaves the main A4067 almost opposite the Tafarn y Garreg inn, towards Trecastle.  Follow this for about 2kms to reach open hillside, then continue along the narrow mountain road through a wild valley for a further 2½ kms.  Park in any of several rough lay-bys on the left, beyond where the stream meanders close to the road, and towards the base of a wide, shallow valley that descends from the left.

ROUTE:

The Staircase climbing the hillside above Llyn y Fan Fawr.KW ©

The route starts as for my previous Walk Wednesday to Llyn y Fan Fawr, as follows…
Your route lies along any of several ill-defined paths that lead up the shallow valley, the best running fairly close to the right bank of the main stream in the valley.  Depending on where you parked, your first test may involve crossing this stream, and wherever you parked, you will need to do this eventually, but it is rarely a problem as there are several good crossing points (although no bridges!).  Keep climbing, heading in a general westerly direction, either following vague paths or wandering across the pleasant if sometimes boggy hillside.  Take time to pause and look back as you climb, for the views towards Fan Gihirych and the distant peaks of the central Brecon Beacons improve with almost every step.

Distant view of the crash site.KW ©

Keep heading towards the highest point on the ridge in front, and you will soon begin to make out a well-defined path leading diagonally from left to right up the steep slopes in front, reaching the top of the ridge at an obvious saddle.  Your objective is to gain the base of this track, which lies alongside the stunningly beautiful Llyn y Fan Fawr, which remains hidden until you are almost upon it.  Arrival invariably results in gasps of admiration!

Vampire VZ106.KW ©

Gain the diagonal path (known locally as The Staircase), and follow this up the steep slopes to arrive at the obvious saddle of Bwlch Giedd.  The path to the summit of Fan Brycheiniog is obvious, swinging right and heading alongside the escarpment edge, but your route to the crash site lies in the opposite direction, along an ill-defined path that heads just west of south into the wilderness of the Black Mountain.  Follow this path as it starts to descend into the valley of the Giedd, but keep left alongside the west-facing outcrops of Fan Hir (i.e. with the steep rock outcrops climbing to your left), soon crossing the blunt spur of Cefn Rhudd to reach the upper reaches of the Haffes valley.  The crash site is on the eastern slopes of this valley, near a gully, and is best found by keeping to high ground offering the best view down into the valley.  The site is at NGR SO826201, and obvious once located.

Vampire VZ106. KW ©

There is a lot of wreckage here, and it has been laid out to resemble the original shape of the aircraft, which adds a definite poignancy to an already atmospheric site.  The crash occurred on 9th October, 1953, during a training exercise in low cloud cover, and resulted in the death of the pilot.

Llyn y Fan Fawr.KW ©

Return to your car by retracing your steps along the outward journey, perhaps detouring up the path beyond Bwlch Giedd in order to visit the summit of Fan Brycheiniog.

This is one of the sites visited on Kevin’s “Lest We Forget” walks, the profits of which are donated to the Brecon RAFA Battle of Britain Wings Appeal.  It is also often visited on his astonishing walking breaks.  Check out what else Kevin has to offer at www.mountainacts.co.uk

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5 Responses to Walk Wednesday: Historic Aircraft Crash Site in the Brecon Beacons #Vampire

  1. Stunning walk Kevin. Must check out this crash site sometime! The Wellington Bomber memorial above Caerfanell valley always gets me, very touching.

    • mountainacts says:

      Thank you, Alexis. It’s definitely worth a visit – very poignant. …and I’m planning to do a Walk Wednesday blog about the Caerfanell Wellington within the next few weeks – so watch this space!

    • Kevin Walker says:

      Thank you, Alexis. This site is definitely worth a visit – very poignant. As it happens, I am planning a Walk Wednesday blog about the Caerfanell Wellington within the next few weeks! Watch this space!

  2. missmadaboutravel says:

    Gorgeous walk, Kevin. The history behind it definitely adds poignancy to the already beautiful landscape of the area. Very moving xx

  3. Kevin OSullivan says:

    I did this walk with Kevin W. A great walk in a beautiful and remote area of the Brecon Beacons. The crash site is a poignant and very visible reminder of the sacrifices of our young servicemen on our behalf. This is a walk on the wilder side of the Brecon Beacons that is both rewarding and worthwhile!

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