With the snow starting to clear over the hills, it’s time to put on those walking boots and enjoy another wonderful Walk Wednesday!
So we asked, the great Kevin Walker for a special Walk Wednesday to get us warmed up for spring. Kevin Walker from Mountain Activities will be running a four day Easter walking break in the Brecon Beacons.
Today’s walk is a simple stroll from the National Park Visitor Centre to an iron age hill fort with panoramic views.
DISTANCE – 5kms (3 miles)
HEIGHT GAIN – 60m/200 feet
START POINT – National Park Visitor Centre (pay & display car park)
GRID REFERENCE – SN 877262
MAPS – OS Explorer OL12. OS Landranger 160.
This is a simple, straightforward walk across a high common, with excellent views throughout. Culminating in a short but steep ascent to an iron age hill fort, where there are truly panoramic views. Wide, well-defined, grassy paths predominate, and although these can be muddy after very wet weather, there is always an easy way around. Indeed, the area is ripe for exploration and there are several possible routes here in addition to the one described.
There is excellent parking at the National Park Visitor centre, well signposted off the main A470 in Libanus (just south of Brecon), and you have the added advantage that there are superb facilities in the Visitor Centre including toilets, information desk, displays, a shop and an excellent café.
1. From the far end of the Visitor Centre car park, where there is a good information board, a kissing gate gives access onto the common. Go through the fate and continue straight ahead along a wide, grassy track, ignoring the branch leading uphill to the left. To your right are stunning views of Corn Du and Pen y Fan, the two main peaks of the central Brecon Beacons, whilst Fan Fawr and Fan Frynach are over your right shoulder. Also visible in the distance, ahead and to the right, is the prominent north-west escarpment of the Black Mountains, a major landscape feature of the National Park.
Continue straight ahead along the main path, soon passing between clumps of gorse and climbing to the top of a gentle rise, where the upper reaches of Twyn y Gaer slowly appear as a low dome beyond the near horizon. In all but the driest weather, there is a shallow pool off to the right at this point, and it is worth stopping and looking back as the views along the wide valley of Glyn Tarrell are spectacular. Once you have gazed, continue along the path until you reach a narrow lane.
2. Go straight across the lane and continue along the path, soon starting a steep descent to another narrow lane, with the hill fort now obvious in front. Cross the second lane, then head steeply up on a wide, grassy path that leads directly to the top of Twyn y Gaer, where the obvious if scant remains of a ditch and rampart system indicate that this was once a hill fort. The views on reaching the top are as stunning as they are unexpected, with a huge stretch of the Usk Valley laid out virtually at your feet, and a 360° panorama. In front, you can see from Brecon (to your right) almost to Sennybridge (to your left), then your gaze swings in an anticlockwise direction across the distant Carmarthen Fan, past the lonely summits of Fforest Fawr, up the Senni Valley and back to the Brecon Beacons, which were behind you as you ascended. The panorama continues across the Black Mountains from Pen Cerrig Calch above Crickhowell, to Twmpa overlooking Hay on Wye, then on into the vastness of mid Wales.
Formerly known (in English) as the “Great Forest of Brecknock”, Fforest Fawr is a vast area of boggy, upland moorland, and high rounded summits, that was a royal hunting ground during the reign of Henry Tudor, and for several centuries afterwards.
3. When you come to leave the summit, start by retracing your steps, but almost immediately trend left along a path that descends diagonally towards a small pool by a tree on the slopes below, almost directly below the looming bulk of the Brecon Beacons in the distance. On reaching a wider path, turn right and descend to the lane, cross it, then follow the path that goes diagonally up the hillside ahead, heading towards some trees at the corner of a field. Ignoring the path taken on your outward journey, continue straight ahead on a slightly rougher path through a shallow cutting, with an old, earth covered wall, topped by a fence, to your right.
4. The stone wall improves and the fence moves behind it, then it swings away to the right. At this point, continue straight ahead, following a good, grassy path across the common, with excellent views along the Senni Valley towards Fan Nedd, Fan Gihirych, and the lonely uplands of Fforest Fawr. At the obvious fork, take the left hand path, then follow this as it curves slightly left, past a shallow pool on the right (possibly dry in summer), soon to reach a lane. Go straight across and head towards a low, grassy hillock directly in front, from where an obvious wide and grassy path heads slightly downhill, and leads directly back to the Visitor Centre.
Although very short and therefore perfect for families visiting for Easter, this walk gives a flavour of the type of walk that will be followed on Kevin’s Easter Walking Break. You can join him for a day or longer, and you are guaranteed superb walking in fantastic surroundings in the company of an enthusiastic, professional guide who really knows the area.