TABLE MOUNTAIN (Crug Hywel)
Kevin Walker Mountain Activities the saviour of Walking Wednesday is back with a bang. Here’s an excellent walk up to the historic Crug Hywel (Table Mountain), where the summit was once entirely taken up by an Iron Age Hill Fort. So to discover this historic mountain peak, here’s a great guide to the walk.
It’s a straightforward and relatively easy hill-walk with lots of interest and stunning views.
DISTANCE – 7 kilometres (4 miles).
HEIGHT GAIN – 350 metres (1150 feet).
MAP – OS Explorer OL13/Pathfinder 161.
START POINT – Crickhowell Car Park.
GRID REFERENCE – NGR SO/219183.
A great short walk to the iconic Table Mountain, suitable for a Sunday constitutional or a sunny afternoon stroll. Overlooking Crickhowell to the north, Table Mountain was once an important hill fort, and its Welsh name, Crug Hywel (Hywel’s Fort) has become anglicised to Crickhowell.
Cars can be left in the “pay & display” car park in Crickhowell, well signposted off the main road (A40) at the Abergavenny end of town.
The Iron Age hill fort of Crug Hywel is set in a commanding position and must have been an important and powerful settlement – try to imagine what it must have been like to attack it as you climb onto its strangely flat yet sloping summit! To be technical, it is a bivallate enclosure with an inner rampart that appears to have been stone walled, with six, roughly circular building platforms. Crug Hywel means Hywel’s Fort, and according to local tradition, the Hywel in question was Hywel Dda, also known as Hywel the Good – one of the most important people of early Welsh history.
The grandson of Rhodri Mawr (Rhodri the Great), Hywel Dda was born towards the end of the ninth century, and by about 942AD he had claimed the title “King of all Wales”. He is also credited with creating Wales’ first formal legal system, a unifying force in an often troubled land, and one that remained intact until the Act of Union with England in 1536. However, although this is an imposing hillfort and is obviously an important site that may well have been used by Hywel Dda, the fortress itself predates him by over a thousand years, and its origins are lost in the mists of time. Additionally, and despite what many of the locals might tell you, it is now generally accepted in scholarly circles that the Hywel referred to is not Hywel Dda after all, but Hywel ap Rhys of Morgannwg, who lived around the same time (c 830 – 886AD).
Take the alleyway from the far (western) end of the car park into Standard Street. The name is believed to commemorate the fact that in 1485, Sir Richard Evans mustered 3,000 local men here under his standard before marching in support of Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Local tradition has it that the men drank to their success at the nearby Bear Hotel before setting out – and this would be a great place for you to toast your success once you have returned from Table Mountain!
Turn left down Standard Street, and then turn right along the main road, soon passing The Bear Hotel and carefully negotiating a very narrow section of pavement. Walk past the Shell Petrol Station and cross Llanbedr Road, then continue along the main road for about 500m to reach The White Hart, just before which you turn right up Pregge Lane. Follow this lane uphill for about 200m to reach a narrow footbridge where you turn right onto a rough track, which leads past houses on the right, to an obvious path junction. Turn left and follow the narrow and sometimes overgrown path between high hedges, climbing gently and meandering around several sharp bends. The path eventually reaches a gate where it merges with another coming in over a stile on the left, then swings right along the right side of a delightful wooded valley – the Cwmbeth Dingle. Continue up the right side of the dingle, eventually emerging from the woodland without too many difficulties at a gate leading to a pleasant meadow. Cross the stream (not usually a problem), and follow the faint path along its left bank.
At the far end of the meadow, the stream runs between stone walls and the path goes up the stream – literally! This only lasts for a short section (you can negotiate it without wet feet in all but the most inclement of weather), and the path soon bears left away from the stream and continues between walls to an obvious sheepfold.
Leave the sheepfold via the opening on the right (upslope), and follow the wall and obvious path up to the right onto a terrace where there are the scant remains of some old rifle-range butts. From here, a good path leads onwards, keeping fairly close to an ancient stone wall to the right, soon reaching the top of the ridge ahead where it is a simple matter to gain the sloping, flat summit of Table Mountain with its ancient fortifications. The views from here are superb in virtually every direction, and it is worth walking right around the top of the “walls”.
Exploration over, it is best to leave via the old “gateway” through the ditch and rampart system on the eastern side of the mountain, and then descend via any of several routes to reach a good path leading down to the right. This path works its way around the southern slopes of the mountain, eventually reaching a gate and stile giving access to an often damp track through the woods. Climb the stile and walk down track beyond, soon reaching a stile on the left. Cross this, and descend the left side of the field beyond, cross another stile and descend the left side of the next field, then cross yet another stile (or go through the gate which is often open) and follow the left side of the final field to reach a stile leading to a sunken track between hedges. Follow this track to its end, go through the gate on the right, and continue straight head and into the farmyard. Turn left and walk down the farm road to reach a lane, where you should turn right.
Carefully follow the lane (it is surprisingly busy and there is no pavement!), bear left at the Y junction, then continue past houses to a T junction, where you turn right. Go straight on at the mini-roundabout, and you will shortly reach an alley on the left that leads back into the car park.
If you are in no hurry to get away, just before the alley, on the right, is The Courtyard, home to a variety of excellent local suppliers including Debs Kitchen, where you can buy amazing Welsh Cakes (amongst other delights), and Black Mountain Gold, also known as Chocolate Heaven, the workshop of an award-winning Master Chocolatier! Alternatively, if you ignore the alley, continue to the end of the road and turn right, you will pass the excellent Crickhowell Adventure shop, and reach the wonderful Bear Hotel – a great place to recover and “rehydrate” after your walk. Enjoy!
This is another walk followed on Kevin’s popular walking breaks. Check out what else he has to offer at www.mountainacts.co.uk