Unfortunately until I can dry my camera out, I wont be able to post any pictures of this weekend’s meet in the Beacons! However, I can give a report as such of what we did……..
I managed to get away early-ish on Friday but got distracted and sidetracked in Brecon by shopping for camping food and browsing outdoors gear. Brecon itself is a lovely busling Welsh market town a stones throw from the central area of the National Park. As such it has quite a few outdoor gear shops but nothing on the scale of Ambleside or Keswick but then generally the area is much more genteel and less fraught as it doesnt have the same visitor numbers as the Lakes. For that I am actually quite thankful as I think too many tourists whether they be walkers or casual holidaymakers would spoil the feel of the town and the area. I have to mention a favourite little shop that I frequent in Brecon and that is Crickhowell Adventure. They also have a shop in Crickhowell itself as well. Always packed to the rafters with kit both useful and diverse. Jeff tries to cater for a wide audience of walkers and campers and so manages to have things like Innov8 shoes and Terra Nova tents in stock as well as other good quality gear and not just “the usual fare” of mainstream outdoorgear shops……nuff said. He hasnt got a website yet but I believe he is having one made for later in the year and hopefully this will mean more business for him.
After this mini excursion (one buff and lots of high carbo foodstuffs later), I then drove to the campsite at Grawen which was to be our base for the weekend. I was met by Mrs Pugh who is the archetypal Welsh farmers wife of legend. Full of vim and vigour, a lovely smile and keen to talk about anything. 15minutes later I managed to make my way to the camping field (head buzzing with information and good advice) where I met Gary. Because of a slight mix-up, I hadnt packed my Laser Comp and brought instead the Six Moons Lunar Solo for general duties and a tarp if we managed to get a wildcamp in. This was the first time I had used the Lunar Solo in anger and will do a separate review of it at a later date. Because it is designed to take a hiking pole (which I dont use), I resorted to using a cheap multisection steel pole I picked up from millets. A measuring tape, a hacksaw and 2minutes later and I had the pole set to 45inches as per the instructions. The erection of the Lunar Solo is very very easy and quick. I was up and away in about 2minutes flat. I will review this tent more fully another time but I was actually quite pleased with its performance
Gary and I had time to kill whilst waiting for Jill to turn up so we had a bit of a laugh pitching our “alternative” shelters as well.
Gary’s main tent was a Akto and his second tent was a Golite Shangri-La 1 with optional floor. The Shangri-La 1 is a great little shelter that actually is reasonably cheap. If I had one observation about it, it would be that it need side panel tie-outs to give it a bit of extra stormworthiness. I pitched my cuben fibre tarp with tie-out lines at 3/4 maximum length so that I had a high flatish profile.
Not long after this Jill turned up, took one look at our mini tent show, rolled her eyes and proceeded to pitch her “ancient” Wild Country tent that could have been an Illanois but I really cant be certain. Jill then proceeded to explain that she didnt “do” gear and as long as it was functional that was good enough for her to the point of not even having a stove of any description (speechless mode). Obviously Gary and I exchanged pained expressions accompanied by shaking of heads and sucking of teeth. Because of it we christened Jill “The Anti-Gear” which she seemed quite proud of. After all that we decided that a pub supper would be an excellent choice and I volunteered to be Des. Driving around the fringes of Merthyr we were struck by the stark reality of the fact that within the space of 2 miles we passed 3 closed down country pubs. A real shame. Eventually we found a pub that was both open and welcoming and even agreed to cook us food although it was way past last food orders. Filled up with good honest Welsh pub grub we went back to the campsite and proceeded to quaff a reasonable amount of single malt before retiring to bed.
The next morning brought the sun out to play even if there was a patchwork of clouds in the sky. So far the forecast was being true to its word. Kate and Mal then turned up as we were polishing off breakfast and after brief introductions, we got down to the serious business of deciding where to go for the day. In the end, it was decided to do part of the Tommy Jones walk up the North ridge of Pen-y-Fan and then down the other ridge past the memorial obelisk. It was warm but with a fresh breeze, and the dappled sunlight created patchwork patterns on the surrounding hills.
Pausing only briefly at the summit we made our way to the flanks of Corn Du to have a spot of lunch. One of the things to remember about this area is that you can get mugged by the local sheep as they have become both tame and bold in their quest for sandwiches and crisps. We managed to eat relatively unmolested and then continued on our way down the Cwn Llwch ridge pausing to inspect the Tommy Jones memorial stone and pay our respects to a young life lost on the mountainside. And that was that. A short 7 mile circuit but with a 2000ft climb from car to summit. The day had passed really well and to be honest we probably spent as much time pausing to talk and point things out and enjoy a joke or two as we did actually walking.
The evening was then given to another trip to the pub for an evening meal, a few beers and yet more talking. This time I wasnt Des. 🙂 After that, back to the campsite for a dram of malt again and bed. The Sunday forecast was looking dodgy and we decided to make our plans when we got up and actually saw what the weather was like.
It rained from early on Sunday and then all day. Kate made her apolgies and left early as she was helping the SARDA guys to train their dogs in search exercises in the Beacons. Gary looked at the sky and decided that his 5 hour car journey was best taken at a leisurely pace in the rain and Jill decided to visit relatives in the Wye Valley which turned out to be a village about 10miles from my house. That left Mal and I. Rather than be beaten by the weather we decided to do a short walk around some of the spectacular waterfalls to be found in the southern edge of the Brecon Beacons. With all the rain that had been about in the past 2 weeks the waterfalls were bound to be in good spate and so it turned out to be the case. We did a 4 mile round trip to view 2 waterfalls and inparticular Sgwd yr Eira which has recently been reopened to allow people to walk around the back of the falls. Needless to say Mal and I did this and got thoroughly soaked and in the process killing my phone!
Having done all that we made our way to the car and I drove Mal back to his house in Dinky Poos (a rather amusing alternative and very locally used name for the small village of Dinas Powys) .
I then drove home through horrendous weather on a motorway at crawl speed wishing I had driven back through the valleys instead. All in all a great weekend with really great company. Ok, so no wildcamp but enjoyable nonetheless and I look forward to the next one