New Year in the Black Mountains (pic heavy)

  • Hey Guest, For sale we have Hultafors Outdoor Knives with Firesteel PLEASE LOOK HERE for more information or use the Pay Now button in the sidebar

Harvestman

Bushcrafter through and through
May 11, 2007
8,656
4
52
Pontypool, Wales, Uk
I always like to do a solo winter camp in January and this year it happened to be convenient to do it over the New Year holiday. Personally, I can't think of a better way to see in the new year (well, actually, I can, but the twins turned me down again...), so on 31/12/11 my wife took me up to the car park at Grwyne Fawr in the Black Mountains, and promised to come back and collect me 2 days later.

Beech woodland next to the path leaving the car park.
6628046371_70e9f847f6_z.jpg


The path is actually the line of an old railway, one of the highest in Britain in its time I think, that connected a thriving industrial revolution village at the site of what is now the car park, to the dam at the top of the valley. In the pic below the dam is just visible to the left of the clump of conifers. You can see the line of the railway along the hillside.
6628048025_45b6a9da4b_z.jpg


The dam itself. Usually there is no water cascading down it, but with the rain we have had it was in full flow.
6628049543_29f198d7d4_z.jpg


The hillside behind the dam is the base of the highest peak in the Black Mountains, Waun Fach, although it never emerged from the cloud. It isn't much of a peak anyway, just a very high cotton-grass bog.
6628052155_ec76d1964c_z.jpg


Inscription on the dam. Apparently the reservoir was intended to supply water to Abertillery, for industrial use. A long and complicated series of pipes was needed, quite a remarkable bit of engineering for the time.
6628053837_17b7eaa875_z.jpg


At the other end of the reservoir is the quarry that was used to obtain the stone for the reservoir. This was my destination. I ended up camped to the extreme left of this picture, at the cliff top. The shot is taken more or less directly into the North-Westerly wind that was blowing.
6628056059_6a37beb8e1_z.jpg


Grwyne Fawr Bothy, according to the fisheries bailiff that I met on the way up, the smallest in the UK. Picture taken after I had left the track, gone down the steep slope (without falling as I usually do there), and made a rather hair-raising crossing of the river that resulted in nothing worse than wet feet. The usual stepping stones were decidedly under water. The bothy was intended as a my fall-back position in case of difficulty, but it turned out to be occupied by a couple of lads armed with a lot of alcohol and a single firework (which from the sound it made at midnight was an utter flop :lmao:)
6628057597_f4a56e00e6_z.jpg


My camping spot for the night. Not as hazardous as it looks, since there was plenty of space to the right of this pic. What you also can't see is the campfire full of rubbish left by previous campers and all of the damaged and mutilated birch and hawthorn trees that had obviously been hacked for firewood. I did a bit of a tidy up but there was more rubbish than I could handle.
6628059277_e15a905712_z.jpg


The view from my chosen spot. You can see the weather closing in.
6628060775_61c18aee82_z.jpg


Set up. At this point the shelter was fine, but I had to use rocks to hold the tarp as pegging points were at a premium.
6628062387_ac43042a66_z.jpg


Set-up by the following morning. The wind shifted around more to the west in the night, and increased strength, so I had to improvise with my back-up tarp in the dark as my original shelter had become a wind tunnel. Lots of wind flap, but it worked, although the big tarp tore slightly on one of the rocks :(. Clingons yet again proved very handy for quickly joining two sheets together, and I recommend them to anyone.
6628063963_496e92c877_z.jpg


That morning (Happy New Year!) a view of the bothy, over purple moorgrass.
6628065609_a49924b223_z.jpg


I took the decision to move camp given the wind change, so went back across the river (stepping stones visible again) and back down to the dam, and then angled up across country. I'm heading for the extreme left corner of the block of conifers, where there would be good shelter. The railway track is to the right, where the two walkers are. In the background is Chwarel y fan, the highest point in the old county of Gwent.
6628067501_e3af2f7156_z.jpg


Reaching my destination it was so still there was mist lying! I set up a small tarp and cooked up some lunch. First use of my turned hornbeam plate. Note the seasoned apple wood that I took along specially because of the weather.
6628069225_be3dbf78a1_z.jpg


After lunch, I decided to set up camp, whereupon it hammered down, which is my excuse for this appalling bit of tarpology. Cunningly pitched on sodden mossy ground, on a slope, for maximum discomfort.
6628071743_32f80e0ff3_z.jpg


The other end. Yes, this end fell down in the night as the wind shifted back again, but the DD XL tarp is so big it didn't matter, because I was at the other end. Not the most comfortable night ever, as I'd managed to get my down sleeping bag wet, so it didn't insulate well, but I was ok. Getting dressed the next morning into cold wet clothes was horrible though.
6628073421_09085237d6_z.jpg


Never mind, this was the view back up the valley a few minutes after sunrise. Absolutely glorious - I was laughing just for the joy of it. The view only lasted a few minutes more as the sun rose and the shadow contrast disappeared.
6628075011_a29f4aeefc_z.jpg


The other reason was cold that morning. A clear night had led to frost, and I was camped just above the frost line. This is the view directly across the valley to the second-highest (and easily the best) peak in the Black Mountains, Pen y Gadair Fawr (meaning peak of the chair, or something like that). Just about the windiest place I know of, but the views are incredible, and it is one of my favourite summer camping spots.
6628076933_3a0b9bdb32_z.jpg


And finally, down through the forestry to wait by the river for my wife to pick me up, which she duly did. Lots of people arriving to go up the path to the dam, from pensioners with sticks (and a pair of pensioners who walked faster than I do and looked super-fit) to families with little children just able to walk. It is a popular spot because of the good parking and easy gradient paths. Worth a visit if you have never been there.
6628078719_4878587040_z.jpg


All in all, a really enjoyable trip, despite a few 'interesting' moments. Thanks for looking.
 

Shewie

Mod
Mod
Dec 15, 2005
24,259
21
45
Yorkshire
What a nice looking part of the world, I need to get to Wales one day

Thanks for sharing the piccies, looks like a nice little trip.

How did you manage to get your sleeping bag wet?
 
Last edited:

Harvestman

Bushcrafter through and through
May 11, 2007
8,656
4
52
Pontypool, Wales, Uk
How did you manage to get your sleeping bag wet?

Combination of not packing it up properly when I packed up after the first night, so it got wet from rain soaking though the rucksack as I walked (rain at my back) and then when I unpacked letting it make contact with sodden mossy ground. Mainly the head end affected, and not totally soaked, but a nusciance.

I learn something every trip, even after 25 years.
 

mwnci

Member
Oct 24, 2010
29
0
Afan, South Wales
What a great area, thanks for sharing. Given me some motivation there, I had been putting off going out for a night or two because of the weather. Think the wife might loose me for next weekend!

Sent from my HTC Desire HD using Tapatalk
 

Harvestman

Bushcrafter through and through
May 11, 2007
8,656
4
52
Pontypool, Wales, Uk
Lovely, just out of interest do you know Llanthony Priory?

Oh yes. Now I'm not a religious man, but I can see exactly why someone would choose that spot to build something to the glory of God. Fabulous spot. Useful little cafe there too if you happen to be walking along, and the ruins are almost as good as Tintern Abbey in my opinion, and with much better access.

The Black Mountains are probably my favourite 'wild place' and they happen to be on my doorstep, so to speak.
 

Kepis

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 17, 2005
6,355
1,281
Sussex
Oh yes. Now I'm not a religious man, but I can see exactly why someone would choose that spot to build something to the glory of God. Fabulous spot. Useful little cafe there too if you happen to be walking along, and the ruins are almost as good as Tintern Abbey in my opinion, and with much better access.

The Black Mountains are probably my favourite 'wild place' and they happen to be on my doorstep, so to speak.

Reason i ask is i know the family who own Court Farm next door and can remember my dad getting quite drunk in the bar at the priory (in the crypt) and then trying to stagger back to the farm house where we were staying with the owners son in the pitch black, can also remember the fun we had walking up Sugar Loaf and picking billberries
 
Feb 15, 2011
3,860
0
Elsewhere
WOW ! some stunning photos there, that dam is very impressive. Looks like a fantastic place to walk a camp, ..................



But 7 sausages for lunch ?.........they do look tasty though :D


..Haha........get yourself a proper tent, a synthetic sleeping bag & a rucksack liner for your next solo outing ;)


Thanks for sharing....
 

Harvestman

Bushcrafter through and through
May 11, 2007
8,656
4
52
Pontypool, Wales, Uk
WOW ! some stunning photos there, that dam is very impressive. Looks like a fantastic place to walk a camp, ..................



But 7 sausages for lunch ?.........they do look tasty though :D


..Haha........get yourself a proper tent, a synthetic sleeping bag & a rucksack liner for your next solo outing ;)


Thanks for sharing....

I was definitely thinking about the many virtues of tents during the second night.

Whaddaya mean 7 sausages for lunch? there were 8 in that pack when I started :rolleyes:. I was only going to eat 4 and keep the rest for later, but it didn't work out that way. I was hungry! What impressed me was some walkers passed me during their meal, and their two big dogs came over to investigate but stayed 6 feet or so away, despite the sausages. Nice to meet well-behaved dogs and their owners.
 

Harvestman

Bushcrafter through and through
May 11, 2007
8,656
4
52
Pontypool, Wales, Uk
Never seen a deer up there. Ever. Wrong habitat for fallow, being all conifer, and I don't believe there are any red deer on the moors. Just sheep and ponies.
 

Joonsy

Native
Jul 24, 2008
1,483
0
UK
Hi Harvestman, would you know if you can walk across the top of that dam shown in the photo, i know the dam but have only seen it from a distance, was wondering if there is a walkway across it for future walks.
 

Hultafors Outdoor knife for Sale

We have a a number of Hultafors Outdoor Knives with Firesteels for sale.

You can see more details here in this thread OUTDOOR KNIVES The price is £27 posted to the UK. Pay via the paypal button below.