If you live in the South West or the West Midlands, Brecon Beacons National Park is probably one of the most accessible mountainous areas to escape to on the weekend. It might not be able to compete with the height and scale of the other ranges of Britain, like Snowdonia or the Lakes, but it’s one of the greenest and most scenic, and it just so hap pens to be a personal favourite of mine. While it’s tempting to head further west to the highest mountain in South Wales, Pen y Fan, Jack and I opted to explore the Black Mountains, an area less popular with tourists, but equally as stunning and worthy of a visit. Our weekend hike started at Llanthony Priory in the Vale of Ewyas.
Built in the 12th century, the priory is a superbly preserved relic of years gone by, and, as we made the trek out of the valley and onto Offa’s Dyke Path, it only added to the majestic views below. Upon reaching Offa’s Dyke we meandered north, taking in the spectacular views across both England and Wales as we went.
After a short stint on the footpath, we ventured down to the village of Capei y ffin. From here, we headed up and over the western ridge of the Vale of Ewyas toward Myndd Du Forest. To the north, in the distance you can see Grwyne Fawr Reservoir, a popular wild camping spot, but we decided to hunker down in our bivvy bags in a more discreet location. Remember, if you plan to wild camp it’s important to entertain good etiquette. Seek the landowner’s permission when possible, setup after dark, leave before first light and never leave a trace.
The following morning we headed further south and made our way backup onto the ridge we had crossed the evening before, only this time we were surrounded by dense, low cloud. Taking care to follow the footpaths and having seta bearing for our checkpoint, we slowly made our way over to Bal Bach before descending back into Llanthony via a fantastic track that hugged the side of the mountain as it went. If you thought Llanthony Priory looked good in the sun shine, with the valley drenched in low hanging clouds, it takes on an eerie, atmospheric appearance, one that makes for a fitting end to a fantastic two days on the trails of the Black Mountains.