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Brecon Bound

Image result for lorna doone filmA  0700  start from The Oak for 5 early risers, we must be keen.  First stop Llangurig, then south for the Brecon Beacons Mountain Centre near Libanus.  This is an excellent facility with a café, car park toilets etc, plus the food is good.  Here we met a most helpful National Park warden (related to the author! Ed) who pointed us in the right direction to visit the most beautiful and wildlife-rich National Nature Reserve known as Craig Cerrig Gleisiad and Fan Frynach.

0915 and off we go along the common towards Pyllin-brwnt before crossing several ancient meadows, (on the recce 4 weeks earlier these meadows were a mass of colour with every wildflower that was a familiar sight in the countryside pre C1960) breathtaking.  A quick sprint across the A4215, a step over stream and now for the serious business, a reasonably stiff climb for the next couple of hours on open mountain, a real delight to walk on ground that is dry underfoot but has a bit of give in it.

Plenty of pauses on the way up to admire the views back towards Brecon.  Unfortunately approaching the summit of Craig Cerrig Gleisiad we now had persistent rain, but not enough to spoil the day.  Chris spotted an overhanging rock about 10 metres below the cliff edge, we clambered down to the perfect shelter for lunch.  The cliff face is extensive, wild and steep, with panoramic views. Fortunately the rain eased and we spent a pleasant half an hour chatting and keeping an eye out for wildlife before continuing our walk along the cliff top, so many plants, over 500 species recorded.   Chris drew our attention to 2 lichen highlights:- Devil’s Matchstick and Fairy Cups (members of the Cladonia family.)  Having traversed the cliff we now looked down to the A470 where there were cars parked as far as the eye could see and across the valley a continuous line of people plodding up Pen y fan. What a contrast with this side, we met 2 other walkers all day.

Time now to retrace our footsteps for a gentle half hour walk before heading due west to reach the trig point on Foel Frynach.  So far so good, we now headed towards Craig Cwm Du, picking up the faint outline of a footpath that is only marked on early editions of OL12, our intention being to drop down to the hanging valley known as Cwm Du.  To add to our difficulties the heavens opened, however navigation was straightforward, just head for the base of the cliffs to our west and hope for the best.  Oh boy, were we rewarded, Cwm-du is a delight, hanging valleys are rare in the Brecon Beacons and this one is quite simply stunning, narrow sides, fast flowing stream, native wild Welsh Poppies, masses of Purple Saxifrage, too many Stonechats and Linnets to count and young Peregrine Falcons food calling from a nest on the cliff face.  The warden back at the Mountain Centre (related to the author! Ed) had informed us that a temporary village had been built here as a 17C Exmoor set for the film Lorna Doone.

All that remained now was a level, if rather long, walk back along a green lane and minor road to the common where we started.  Fortunately by this time the rain had ceased.  A walk of 10+ miles that will live long in the memory.

Thanks to Len Lewis for leading and for the report.