Dad: How about going wildcamping this weekend?
Dad: We can go into the Black Mountains
Daughter: Aww fab
Dad: Right, lets get packed
Daughter: Ok, I’ll help
Dad: off we go before it gets dark!
Daughter: Cant wait
Dog: What, in the dark, outside and everything?!
Dad: Yes, but there will be biscuits
Dog & Daughter: yay!
Ok, so not quite like that but you get the gist 🙂
I have been promising Ella a wildcamp for ages and since Barney is now 12 months old I figured it was time to do it whilst the vestiges of summer are still around. I looked at the forecast for Friday and it was very favourable for the evening and through all day Saturday. Where to go? I briefly thought of the Western Beacons, but for a first time camp for both dog and daughter I decided on a safer bet. The Black Mountains.
I had decided to do a relatively short walk-in but to great spot, with superb views and a water source nearby. I could have gone uber safe and been near to Abergavenny, but in the end I plumped for the Nant Bwlch valley. This valley runs off the side of the Honddu valley (which in itself leads on up to Gospel Pass). We headed off in the car, passing through rain squalls along the way and me looking nervously at the sky. I just hoped that we would pass through it all and be ok for the walk-in and more importantly the camp overnight. We wound our way up from Abergavenny to Llanthony and then passed beyond it, much to the surprise of Ella. “What, further?” she said. We contiued along the road to Capel-y-ffin and then branched off onto what I soon reflected was the epitome of a single track road. After a few miles, we parked the car in a layby and set off, Ella and I carrying rucksacks and the dog carrying a smug grin on his chops.
With the weather being in the balance (I could see clouds and mist on the escarpment we were heading for), I was of a mind to stop short and camp somewhere deeper in the valley. On the path we were taking, to our left, was patch of grass, flat and smooth next to a small waterfall and meandering stream. Ella said that it looked nice and deciding to play it safe (a wind was getting up even down this far in the valley) I asked if this would be a good place to stop for the night. A squeal of joy confirmed that it was. The dog just looked at me with a “does this mean I am about to be fed” look on his face. Choice made we backtracked slightly and surveyed our campsite for the night. The grass patch on the upper point of the site was flat and able to take about 2 tents and was right next to the stream. I carefully looked for the optimum spot so that the tent wasnt on any visible or prominent stones.
The tent went up in about five minutes. One thing I love about the Terra Nova Solar Competition 2 is that it is really easy to pitch. I havent given this tent an airing for absolutely ages as I normally take the Laser Comp for just me, or a tarp. I’ll do a review another time, but suffice it to say it was a great choice for the three of us, if a little snug.
Next thing was to put all the sleeping gear in the tent and organise everything thing else (clothes, torches, food, and for a small panicky moment whilst I looked for it several times, the stove). That done, it was time to have tea. Being a wildcamp, especially being Ella’s first one, I had opted for easy food. Noodles, bagettes, fruit and welsh cakes 🙂 The dog had his food but looked hopefully at me whilst cooking and then eating our special feast. The big brown eyes won out and he had a bit of cake and some bread as well as his normal food.
That done Ella wanted to play “British Bulldogs” which is hard to do with just two of us, but we managed. Then we decided to include Barney and he ran rings around us….literally. By now it was starting to get dark, so we decided to retire to the tent and chat, with Ella playing on her notepad as well. Barney found a spot between us on the sleeping bags and curled up. We drifted off to the musical sound of the stream tinkling over rocks nearby. Although we fell asleep quickly, we both woke up a couple of times in the night. Otherwise we slept well, the nightime temperature being mild and the wind dying down from earlier. At one point during the night, I found that I had grown a dog on my face but he soon shifted back to the bottom of the tent again.
Morning brought sunshine and warmth right from the off, as per the weather forecast (I love it when its right, especially in the mountains!). Ella and I woke up around 7, but decided to snooze for an hour before getting up and having breakfast. All three of us then found private spots to do our ablutions before packing up and setting off for the escarpement and my original wildcamp destination. A lovely late summer morning walk found Ella and I walking and talking about everything and anything. Barney was just happy trotting by our side, sniffing and attempting to pee on just about every blade of grass he passed. I kid you not!
We finally made it to the top of the Rhos Dirion escarpment between Rhos Dirion itself and Twmpa. The views from here are truly stupendous and today didnt disappoint. Its been a favourite spot of mine for as long as I can remember and best of all its relatively quiet.
Ella also loved it and was permanently glued to her notepad taking photos and videos. Barney ran around like a mad thing, occasionally stopping to allow the ever increasingly strong wind to ruffle his fur in delight before bounding off again. Ella and I sat down for a short while just taking in the views before we decided to start back down the valley again and head for the car.
We backtracked our morning route, passing quite a few wild ponies in the process. Down in the valley we spotted a tent tucked away not 1/2 a mile from where we had made camp the previous night. We looked at each other and sniffed dainfully, insisting that our campsite was much better than theirs.
Chatting away, the time flew by and we soon found ourselves in view of the car. It was still there (good) and we all made it back without having been wet, miserable or hungry (all things very important when you are a 10year old girl or a dog). The drive back was all about planning the next trip. Ella was so excited and had thoroughly enjoyed her first proper wildcamp (bothying doesnt count apparently). She declared that she wanted to go back to the same spot the next time and I had to agree it was a rather special place. The dog just looked at me before curling up in a ball and falling asleep as the two humans in the front of the car talked on and on about the next trip