Here’s a great Walk Wednesday from a lady bringing a whole new concept to relaxing breaks in the Brecon Beacons. A big welcome and a thank you to our latest Walk Wednesday contributor Sarah.
Sarah Maliphant runs retreats in the Brecon Beacons offering people the chance to slow down and recharge your batteries. She offers all sorts of amazing things to give you the chance to relax and get looked after yourself and we recommend a look at her website.
This week Sarah takes us on a tour of the Black Mountains to some of the most scenic hills!
DISTANCE – 9.2km (5.75 miles)
HEIGHT GAIN – 340m (1115 ft)
START POINT – Car Park at Gospel Pass
GRID REFERENCE – SO/236350.
MAPS – OS Explorer OL13. OS Landranger 161
DESCRIPTION: A peaceful route with easy start, huge valley views, a birds-eye view of Capel-y-ffin Monastery, one Black Mountains Summit – and if you’ve never been up Lord Hereford’s Knob (Twmpa) before, a very stunning reveal!
PARKING: Park at the Gospel Pass car park, north of Capel-y-ffin. From the north: Access from Hay-on-Wye, take Forest Road towards Capel-y-ffin. From the south: Access from Abergavenny, take the Llanthony Priory road off the A465 to Hereford, follow the valley road past Llanthony Priory, through Capel-y-ffin and up to Gospel Pass.
ROUTE: You know what it’s like at the start of a walk, getting your bearings, checking you’re heading off on the right path… Well, this one’s easy because for the first little bit you’re just going to follow the road: Head south down the Capel-y-ffin road enjoying the open valley views all around. You’ll have the Welsh Border and Offa’s Dyke path on top of the hillside to your left, and the Darren Lwyd ridge to your right… you’ll be walking back along the top of that later.
In fact the whole of this route is relatively simple to navigate, using the cuddly Darren Lwyd ridge as your guide. This is typical Black Mountains territory… smooth, wide ridges, peaceful valleys, huge views and tumbling streams.
After just over three quarters of a mile (1.3km) walking alongside the road, you’ll get to a cattle grid. Leave the road here, and take the valley path that runs parallel to the road, to the right of the cattle grid.
Head along the valley path, crossing little mountain streams, dodging the muddy bits or splodging straight through them (always gets my vote). After 1.3km you’ll find yourself by an old stone wall enclosure on your right, with what used to be Capel-y-ffin Youth Hostel below on your left – now Castle Farm. On most maps it is still marked as a red triangle.
Carry on following the path contouring along the valley for another kilometre until you reach the end of the Darren Lwyd ridge and you’ll get a panoramic view of Capel-y-ffin:
This is a lovely place to just gaze for a while. It’s mind bogglingly peaceful. Ahead you can see the little church of St Mary’s. It’s one of the smallest churches in Wales, and the only one I’ve ever seen where the front pew is occupied by Teddy Bears. On the hillside to the right is the old Capel-y-ffin Monastery (now The Grange Pony Trekking Centre) and behind that is the extremely cheeky ascent to the Twyn Talycefn ridge above the triangle of pine trees.
When you’ve drunk your fill of that view, turn around and look behind you. There is a little bit of Up to be done now. If you’ve been standing looking at the view pictured above, the path you want will be directly behind you, slanting up the eastern hillside amongst the bracken.
Follow the zigs and zags gently till you reach the nose of the spur, at which points the path dispenses with zigging and just goes straight up the nose. Steady as she goes, and you’ll reach a walled cairn first, then a little further up where the climb eases off, a big cairn: Another excellent reminder to pause and enjoy the 360 degree views.
You’re now on the Darren Lwyd ridge leading to Lord Hereford’s Knob (Twmpa). You’ll be walking along the top, heading back in the direction of Gospel Pass.
You’ve got about 3.7km of this broad ridge ahead, ending with the summit of Twmpa itself. So relax, amble along, enjoy.
There are huge views all around you. To your left, you’ll see the next couple of ridges of the Black Mountains – the Twyn Talycefn / Rhos Dirion ridge first, then the distinctive flat tops of Pen y Gadair Fawr and Waun Fach beyond that. To your right, the Afon Honddu flows along the valley fresh from its source at Gospel Pass, with the Offa’s Dyke path way up on the ridge above.
The grassy path drifts gently upwards as it heads for Twmpa. Towards the end of this section you’ll suddenly find yourself walking across sand – a virtual beach. Excellent for drawing smiley faces in.