Try out your navigation skills with this Sunday Stroll! A walk with a difference, exploring both the effectiveness of your navigation skills and a wonderfully bleak stretch of moorland.
DISTANCE – 10kms (6 miles)
HEIGHT GAIN – 120 metres (600 feet).
START POINT – Roadside car park at junction of B4560 and Llangattock mountain road.
GRID REFERENCE – SO/157165.
MAPS – OS Explorer OL13.
A delightfully wild moorland walk with fine and extensive views in all directions. The going can be rough, there are few paths, and it is easy to become disorientated, especially in misty conditions. Please do not venture onto the moors unless you carry a map and compass – and know how to use them!
Although the warning above may sound dire, the moor is a great place to practice your navigation skills because no matter where you end up, as long as you head in an easterly direction, you will always reach the road. If you don’t know how to use a compass to head roughly east, perhaps you should not be considering this walk!
Cars can be left in the rough lay-by at the junction of the B4560 Beaufort to Llangynidr road (the highest B road in Wales) and the minor road to Llangattock and Crickhowell. Please ensure you secure your car and take all your valuables with you.
From the junction follow the B4560 uphill (south) to reach a rough track ascending to the right. This leads to a flat-floored quarry (158163) with an obvious cave entrance at its far end (there is also a deep pot-hole in the quarry floor, so take care!). Gain the moor above and to the right where the wild nature of the terrain immediately becomes apparent, head just south of west towards an obvious dome of higher land, then continue in a roughly westerly direction to a trig point (147159). In clear weather, you will see this on the horizon once you gain the high ground. If the visibility is poor, go to the north-western corner of the quarry and follow a bearing of 246°M for 650m to a small pool, then a bearing of 267°M for 550m to the trig point.
From the trig point, walk west along the obvious level path, soon passing a hollow rocky cairn where the path begins to descend, eventually reaching what appears to be a rough track crossing at right angles (this is, in fact, a buried water pipeline). The path continues on the far side, but soon becomes less well-defined, and it is easy to stray onto any number of sheep tracks which are soon lost amongst the bilberry. If you stay on the right path, however, it will take you to the Chartist Cave. If you lose the path and the visibility is clear, head roughly south-west making for the obvious flat-topped cairn on the horizon (Garn Fawr – 123151). If you cannot see this, you will have to resort to micro-navigation! Indeed, these moors are ideal for testing and honing your navigation skills, as there are plenty of small features around. If you get lost, just head east and you will eventually reach the road.
Chartist Cave itself is not at all easy to find. It is situated at the north-western end of a low outcrop about 250m north of Llyn y Garn Fawr, and is not obvious until you are close. If you miss the path, try to approach from the Llyn – it is inadvisable to approach the cave directly from the cairn, as people have been known to fall over the outcrop in which the entrance lies!
The cave is reputed to have been used by the Chartists around the time of the armed uprising and march on Newport, and there is a commemorative plaque set into the left wall of the entrance. Two passages lead from the large, sheltered entrance chamber, the one to the right soon closing down, the one to the left dropping into a maze of very old passages where cavers are trying to find the way on into what must be an extensive system. Please do not enter either of these passages unless you are experienced and correctly equipped.
From Chartist Cave, you have a choice of routes for the return journey. If it is a clear day and you want some panoramic views, head a little north of east to reach Blaen Cwm Claisfer (130160), then contour along the south-western slopes of the picturesque Claisfer valley eventually reaching a reasonable path which runs above a conifer plantation. Continue in an easterly direction skirting below the outcrops and quarry workings to gain a grassy tramway which leads to a rough car park (157170). Turn right onto the road and follow this back to the starting point.
Alternatively, walk south to Llyn y Garn Fawr (often almost totally dry in summer), then follow an easterly course across the wildest parts of the moor with excellent views in all directions.
This walk has been compiled by Kevin Walker: Kevin often visits this area on his navigation courses. Check out the details and see what else he has to offer here
Kevin Walker is a highly experienced mountain addict who has been running navigation and mountain skills courses for over 30 years. As well as training courses, private guiding and 1:1 coaching, Kevin has appeared on television and radio, and has written many books including Mountain Navigation Techniques (widely regarded as the standard work),Learn Rock Climbing in a Weekend (published worldwide), and Navigation – Finding Your Way on Mountain & Moorland, (published to critical acclaim in 2007). His most recent book, Undiscovered Wales, was published by Frances Lincoln (publishers of the Wainwright Guides) in March 2010. He also writes and publishes guidebooks under the banner Heritage Guides, and occasionally writes for the outdoor press. Further details are available online here.