We’re thrilled to have a guest blog by Julie Bell from Simply Strolling to share with you today – walking Macnamara’s Road and a visit to Maen Llwyd Standing Stone – we hope you enjoy!
Walking in the Grwyne Fechan Valley is potentially my favourite valley in the Brecon Beacons National Park, well this week anyway! I love how the land rises up ahead of you to lead you to one of the most awesome views when you reach the shoulder just below Pen Trumau.
My trusty companions Max & Lottie making sure that we are on track……
Map needed; OS Explorer OL13
Parking area; SO230247 but park carefully as the farmer needs access to the track that leads from this parking area into fields.
Distance 15.75km, allow 5.5hrs.
Can be very boggy underfoot in wet weather, very boggy! Good paths on the tops though and on Macnamara’s road itself.
A walk that is full of a gradual pull for the first half, a lovely yomp across the top using the upland conservation volunteers new path, a steep descent to the standing stone and to the stream. A nice meander back to the car and a stop off to view the Hermitage as the gate was open!
Setting off from the car you follow the road, passing the ruined Hermitage on your right-hand side, until it becomes a forestry track, take the left-hand path, the stream will be on your left-hand side. You will eventually come out into a farm roadway where there are very often sheep grazing. Follow the well-defined path until you dip down towards Tal y Maes Bridge.
Cross the bridge, supposedly the most photographed bridge in the Brecon Beacons) follow what is known as Macnamara’s Road all the way to the col.
This is a legendary road supposedly built to enable one John Macnamara gain easy access from his estate, and wife in Llangoed Hall, to his mistress in the Hermitage in the beautiful Grwyne Fechan Valley. John supposedly won Llangoed in a card game in 1790 and proceeded to live a life inspired by his membership of the “Hell Fire Club” full of drunkenness and debauchery. He can to a sticky end, when, during a drunken coach race he was thrown for his coach on the col at Pen Trumau and he broke his neck. No one really mourned his death in May 1818 and his wife proceeded to turn the fortunes of the estate around. His son Arthur and wife Mary left the estate in the late 1820’s to concentrate on their other lands but not before Mary had a set of boundary stones erected in various places on the hills warning people that they were very much on her land!
The road is also a bridleway so don’t be surprised if you see Trekkers from the local Trans Wales riding school on the path.
Keep following the path until you reach Pen Trumau. On Pen Trumau you will see what looks like strange lines in the peat. This is known as the Woollen Line, placed here in the last few years to help peat and soil to recover and re-establish plant life on the hill after it was ravaged by a fire in the 1970’s. The area has never recovered its natural habitat and the wool was brought up having been seeded so that it would help to stop the erosion. Only time will tell how successful the attempt has been.
You are now going to follow the path that will take you to the highest summit in the Black Mountains, Waun Fach.
The views however from Pen Trumau are stunning and some of the best (on a clear day!) that I think you would see in the Brecon Beacons.
From the beginning of the well defined new pathway laid by the uplands conservation volunteers you will eventually come to the summit of Waun Fach, there used to be an upturned trig on the summit but this has been removed, the summit is now marked by a small cairn, just to the right of where the trig once sat.
Follow the path…… have look at the work that has been done to stop the peat erosion and the areas that they are trying to re-establish as bog. It’s a really interesting project that has had the vast majority of the work carried out by volunteers.
Your next summit is directly ahead, I always think that this summit looks like a 1960’s sci-fi ufo……. but that could just be me! The next summit is called Pen Y Gadair Fawr.
When you hit this summit do take a moment to drink in the views!
From the summit, you are going to take a track downwards to your right. There are a few lesser trodden routes down, take whichever puts less pressure on your knees! Your next stop will be at Maen Llwyd, my favourite standing stone.
Maen Llwyd is the highest standing stone in Southern Britain. If you looking at it from behind, so towards the col/shoulder below Pen Trumau you will see how the top of the stone is the same as the ridge straight ahead of you.
From the stone, you will basically follow the line of the forestry until you descend back into the bottom of the valley. At the river, the Afon Fechan, you have a choice, head back up onto Macnamara’s road or follow the river back to Tal y Maes bridge. On this occasion, we followed the river but I wouldn’t recommend this way on days after heavy rain as there would be areas that would involve wading through deep fast flowing water! We were lucky enough to spot dippers, pied wagtails, grey wagtails, wheatears & skylarks on this occasion.
When you reach the bridge retrace your earlier path back to the car.