Things now run like clockwork, day before Pods electrics are turned on from the mains, meaning the fridge was nice and cool for the milk, bacon etc., to go into it the night before. Groceries and clothes bags also packed up the night before ready on the kitchen table minus a few toiletries needed in the morning. Getting everything ready still causes a flutter in the tummy and excitement at taking Pod out onto the open road. We slept well, woke to good weather and a hearty breakfast and hit the road for 8am as planned. LadyB started the drive and once she realised we were rolling backwards towards a brick wall and changed our direction the day went extremely well.
The motorway was definitely in our favour, traffic was extremely light and the roadworks didn’t cause any delay. Heading through Birmingham on the M6 it was a little heavier, the speed across all lanes for the congestion was set to 50 mph by the Active Traffic Management system, including the hard shoulder. As this is something LB doesn’t come across very often and as no one else was using the hard shoulder as a running lane it took a little observation check and reminder before we moved over and in essence had the lane to ourselves.
Two hours after setting off we arrived at Frankley Motorway Services on the M5, after a bit of a leg stretch and a bite to eat we were back on the road within half an hour with MrB behind the wheel and just a few minutes after 12 we arrived at Brecon Beacon Caravan Club Site. We couldn’t have timed it better.
Checking in was easy enough and being one of the first to arrive there were a fair few pitches to pick from. Driving round slowly it was great to see very well maintained grounds with the biggest pitches we had seen yet. We also saw a small area set aside for campers, bit unusual as it’s a Caravan Club site.
We picked a corner pitch, we had plenty of room either side and we didn’t feel hemmed in nor overlooked at any point. When it came to levelling Pod off it needed only the slightest adjustment, the pitch was already level, one of the best we’ve been on.
Within 1 ½ hrs we had Pod the awning and porch up and the table set up for lunch, bliss. The weather was good too, sun was out and it was warm enough to sit and each lunch in shorts and t-shirts, you should expect that for August but this year so far hasn’t been one of the warmest.
The reason for picking this site was its close proximity to the Brecon Beacons and the hope weather permitting, of walking in them, so after lunch we had the OS map out and we planned our route for the next day, as the weather looked best for Saturday the plan was to tackle Pen y Fan from a less travelled path, we found our start point, a small National Trust car park and chose the path up Cefn Cwm Llwch to the top of Pen y Fan and then along Craig Cwn Sere over to Crybin to walk down Bryn Teg back to the carpark. Little bit challenging in places but looked achievable. Rucksacks were checked and all our safety stuff was in place ready, only thing missing, our packed lunch and that would be done tomorrow.
Across the road from this is a small information centre, plenty of leaflets and booklets on activities and sightseeing opportunities
Plenty of toilets and private vanity sinks, the shower cubicles were large with a small seated area and four hooks strategically placed around the cubicle, the showers themselves were powerful and hot, a blessing after a long days travelling or walking.
After dinner the sun was dipping out of sight behind the trees so we decided to go for a short walk and explore the area, a short path took us out onto the main road and after negotiating the junctions on the roundabout we found a footpath down to the canal which if followed took you in to Brecon, we didn’t plan on this as we had enough walking to do the next day. After a few minutes we turned back and on our gentle stroll to the site a barge passed through the tunnel under the roundabout and slowly passed us full of people laughing and enjoying the warm evening sunset with a glass of wine in their hands. Very picturesque.
Once back at Pod we had the obligatory game of scrabble (at which someone was slaughtered, again) with a wee scotch for one and a beer for the other, then off to bed snuggled up in Pod with the alarm set for 7.
Woke before the alarm and peeked out through a crack in the blind to see sunrise blue sky and dew on the grass, time to get a riggle on.
Breakfast eaten, packed lunch made and into the car and at the carpark by 9am, there were 8 cars there so it looked like we had picked a quieter route, as planned.
As this was a training area for the armed forces the cut out figure of a soldier stood on guard near the sign took us a little by surprise.
As we donned our rucksacks and took our bearings on the map another car arrived and out jumped a hyper collie followed by a man in running gear, we eyed him with curiosity not quite wanting to believe what we knew was going to happen. We were just about to set off when he along with his dog set off at a fair pace past us on our planned path. He gave a cursory nod and ‘hi’ as he passed, we returned the gesture and tried not to look too gobsmacked. All he had with him were the clothes on his back and the dog, he looked like a regular visitor so this was going to be interesting.
Within minutes we were at the bottom of a hill, the wind was blowing as we tackled the steep winding footpath. We followed it passing a stream to our left, stopping occasionally to get our breath and look back taking in the vast open farm land at the foot of what was the Brecon Beacons.
Only a few people were to be seen and nothing could spoil the view, it was incredible, especially when we reached the crest of the first hill to see Pen y Fan in the distance with Cribyn to the left and Corn Du to its right.
The wind was still blowing and just before we hit the next incline it whipped the hat off LB, she gasped as we stood fixed to the spot and watched it float away to land about 10ft away down the ravine. The hat had been on many adventures and wasn’t going to be left behind, without any discussion and with careful sideways steps LB crept down the hill to grab the hat and scramble back up before another gust took it further away.
We were now about to walk up the middle stage of the hike when LB started laughing and pointing up the hill towards a dog charging down the mountain closely followed by a man in running gear, it was our friend from the carpark. If we could have made him stand still we had a ton of questions to ask, such as how often did he run it? What time in? but that wasn’t going to happen so we were left discussing these and many others as we carried on up the path.
As we reached the last third we stopped and looked around. It took our breath away, it was beautiful, the deep contours and crevices in the mountainside along with the sumptuous green grass which clung on so easily, plus the blue sky made it look like something out of Peru and left us half expecting something akin to Machu Picchu to appear on the other side.
The last part was extremely steep and turned into a bit of a scramble, we were near but still so far away, people stood on the top looked like tiny ants along the mountains edge.
We were breathless as we clambered over the ridge onto an immensely flat top with a wind billowing over from Corn Du. It was incredible and a surprise as to how many people were up there, the flow from Corn Du and Cribyn was constant. Whilst taking it all in we were astounded to see an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair, he was surrounded by a group of young men and the chair itself was hooked up to a variety of ropes. They in truth looked shattered but what an achievement, it brought a lump to our throats. We took our turn and grabbed a picture and then found a place looking down on Beacon Way to eat lunch.
As it was only just past 11 O’clock we discovered we hade made better time than we expected, so we had a rethink on our route back. Our chosen route from Cribyn would have us back at the car sooner than we would of liked and as the weather was so good we wanted to spend as much time as we could on the mountains. We weren’t doing Fan y Big because that was Sunday’s walk, we discussed doing Corn Du but decided against this as we planned to tackle that and others on a return visit next year so we decided to extend our walk after reaching Cribyn and walk along Craig Cwm Cynwyn to the crossroads and from there follow the valley path down and round Bryn Teg back to the carpark.
The short walk took us to Cribyn and it was great to look back on Pen y Fan and Corn Du in the distance and then in the other direction our planned target for tomorrow Fan y Big.
The path was quite wide and full of rocks and boulders, this was hard on the feet as it was difficult to get a good foot hold. A few cyclists came whizzing by, no warning from most, our only warning the whirling of wheels on the the hard earth as they neared.
On a quieter moment as we walked along something to the right caught our eye, it caused a double take as it was either a very long legged fat sheep or a pony, it was the latter, thankfully. Welsh ponies roaming free and one with a foal, it was so nice to see as never been seen before.
It was at this point we were about to pass a middle aged couple with a teenage son and two very young Labrador puppies, she was heard to say “well if you won’t ask for directions I will” and lurched in our direction with an “excuse me”. We then spent the next few minutes answering their questions on Pen y Fan. No it wasn’t a short easy walk. No it’ll take longer than an hour. All these being directed from the woman as the man was doing his best to take it all in whilst nonsheaantly looking in any other direction. We then left them to continue their journey but not really sure they fully understood what lay ahead.
After dodging a few more cyclists we reached the road and were met by a younger couple who on spying the map in MB’s hand approached with an “excuse me”. Again the same questions and they were surprised to discover it wouldn’t be completed in an hour, we left them with the same information as the others and continued on our way down the hill.
As we were cutting across farmland we used the OS map to guide us and this path eventually led our tired sore feet to the now full carpark.
We had covered 13.91km in just over 5 hours. That apparently is 20396 of LB’s steps.
Back to the site we went and we couldn’t wait to get into those lovely hot showers followed by a beer and a mega fry-up in Pod.
With full tummies and plans for the next day we again got the map out, this time we were going up Fan y Big but from the opposite side.
Our chosen carpark was in Talybont Forest and from there a footpath would take us quite steeply up Beacons Way over Craig y Fan Ddu, round Graig Fan Las to Bwich y Ddwyallt, then along Craig Cwarell to Craig Cwmoergwm and ultimately to Fan y Big. From there a sharp decent to the same cross roads as yesterday but turn left to walk past
Upper Neuadd Reservoir and through Taf Fechan Forest to the road and carpark.
Our plans sorted of to bed we went and slept like logs in the fabulous Welsh fresh air.
Slept in till 8, more from need than planning. The weather wasn’t as good, we had a slight drizzle to contend with and had the feeling it would be in the for day.
Into the car we got and drove round to the other side of the mountains, we found the carpark easily and this had around 10 cars in. It was quite a small carpark but we found a spot for the car.
A young couple had arrived just before us and were giving the map and notice board some serious attention, they were dressed in casual summer gym clothing with soft trainers on and we presumed they were out for a run.
We pulled on our rucksacks loaded with food, water, alternative wet weather clothing, whistle, bivvy bag, silver heat blanket, map AND compass and began to walk towards the path highlighted on the map when the young lady mentioned moments earlier walked over and asked if we could suggest a route to Pen y Fan.
After explaining it was over the far side and a good few hours away they didn’t seem deterred so advise and route were passed and gratefully received. We did wonder how they would cope with the deteriorating weather and poor clothing choice but the decision was ultimately theirs.
Rain started to fall, not particularly heavy but it was constant, the beginning of our chosen route was extremely steep and slippy but after yesterday’s walk it wasn’t a shock to the system. Once we reached the top it flattened out some what onto Beacons Way. Off in the distance we could see two figures clad in waterproofs and carrying huge rucksacks, they had clearly been doing a spot of wild camping, this was on our agenda for the future, didn’t know when, maybe one day when we can leave Pod for the night.. if ever.
We had been going approximately 3 kilometres when a short distance in front of us we spied a wet soggy looking couple with a suitably matching soggy looking dog, as we were about to pass they gave the obligatory nod of the head and low and behold asked for their location on our map. This was given and a discussion began on where our path was taking us, he was appropriately dressed with walking boots on, she was similarly dressed but with trainers on.
With a wry look on his face and a tilt of the head he freely informed us that she did indeed possess walking boots but hadn’t wanted to wear them, from the look on her face she was now regretting this decision. We remained diplomatic, wished them luck and continued with our walk leaving them to their discussion.
We hadn’t travelled more than 200 metres when charging and shouting from behind we turned to see those two waterproof clad figures not more than 2 metres away. What were they shouting.. a request for directions !
This was now becoming a running theme and we were having problems grasping it. Whilst we would never leave anyone in dire straits surely there has to be some personal responsibility, appropriate clothing ? map ? or were we over prepared ? if that’s such a thing. But no matter, we gladly gave the requested directions to Pen y Fan and continued on our journey.
The rain was getting heavier and our trodden path was becoming muddy, narrow in places, footing had to be watched and we had to forgo the view. It could only be taken in by stopping and this we loved to do or what was the point of being up there. Even with the rain the view as far as the eye could see was spectacular.
As we reached Bwich y Ddwyallt we decided to stop for lunch, just as we tucked into our butties the heavens opened so food was put to one side whilst we donned our waterproofs, once on we demolished our food and made the decision to press on to Fan y Big. At this point we looked back to see an umbrella bopping along in the distance but we didn’t hang around to see who it belonged to.
As we began walking the clouds were beginning to move in below but we could still see Fan y Big and behind her Cribyn, Pen y Fan and Corn Du.
The next stretch the rain continued to fall, the clouds moved in below and silently creeped over the lip of Craig Cwmoergwm covering us in wisps of mist but by the time we turned and began to climb towards Fan y Big we had passed through it.
People were passing us in a variety of clothing, some prepared, others in mud covered plimsoles and soaked woollens, even wellies made an appearance. It wouldn’t of surprised us if we’d seen flip flops.
Eventually reaching our target we spotted the dive board, plenty of walkers were taking it in turn to stand on its edge, MrB included. The only view available was out to Brecon as he nor anyone else dared to look down.
From here our next path took us down to the crossroads, this was very precarious. The stone path had been lade in a zig zag pattern but as it was sodden it had to be taken with great caution, to slip could have sent one of us on a painful slide down the mountain.
On reaching the bottom the rain had turned to drizzle but it didn’t dampen our spirits, we had achieved what we had set out to do and still had a fair way to go.
The next part of our trek began to gradually take us down and past the reservoir, as we looked back low cloud had blocked Pen y Fan and Corn Du. We turned and continued to walk through the forest and we eventually reached the road.
Tired feet trudged the road and on turning a bend we were grateful to see the carpark not too far away. We had done 14.59km in just over 5 hours. 21396 of LB’s steps.
Once back to the site those glorious showers massaged tired shoulders and aching legs. If this sounds like we’d submitted ourselves to torture it isn’t the case at all. Let’s face it there’s nothing better than a hot shower after a long day walking in tremendous countryside and clean fresh air.
After eating and once tucked up in Pod we reflected on our two days walking and everything had gone according to plan. We decided we were appropriately prepared as the weather can be unpredictable and we just hoped those we had met on the way up got to where they wanted and home again, incident free. Brecon Beacon site was a firm favourite of ours and we would definitely be back.
Monday morning arrived and it was time to pack up again and head home. The rain was back and refusing to allow us to pack the awning away dry. It wasn’t too much of an issue, more of an annoyance, once home we are fortunate enough to have a garden to stand the awning to dry in.
The same route down to Wales was taken in reverse, MrB began the drive and we hit the road just after 11am. We swapped again at Frankley Services, traffic was heavier and the ‘stop start’ took control for a portion of the journey but by 4.30pm we reached home and were grateful to be met by smiling faces and a huge cup of tea.