As my wife is from Brecon, we often return to visit family. Whilst she talks with her sisters about school days and long lost friends, I have the chance to slide out and walk in the Brecon Beacons. So when my wife suggested a trip over August Bank Holiday, I was a little sceptical about being able to find some quiet walks
The recent publicity about crowds in Brecon and around the base of Pen Y Fan especially at the Storey Arms, filled me with a sense of dread.
We were staying in a very nice self-catering cottage just outside Libanus. Fan Frynych separated us from the busy A470 – the infamous Brecon to Merthyr Road.
So it seemed an obvious walk to complete Fan Frynnych, Craig Cerrig some of the Brecon Way and some of the Taff Trail in a 10-mile circular, starting straight from the front door and along a well-made farm track. We (myself and Barney, my Border Collie) followed this track for about 2 miles. The track had a gentle incline allowing us to enjoy the views on either side. To the right the steep sides of Fan Frynch rising to a summit of 629m to the left beautiful views across the valley to Sennybridge and the hills towards Fforest Fach
We were accompanied by Peregrine Falcons and a shaggy herd of cows, who became more animated as we approached, indeed one bullock was starting to get quite aggressive, so remembering Paul Steele’s advice about dog walking near cows, I let Barney off the lead and he ran down the track, the bullock quickly lost interest. Thanks Paul for the wise words!
As we neared the Roman Road, we turned left and started the climb towards the summit. We came across mountain ponies, grouse and heather. We also had amazing views all around us – Fan Fraith, Fan Brycheiniog and Bryn Mawr– it was a “blue sky” day with no haze.
As we approached the top of Fan Frynch we met a lone walker. The first person we had seen since setting off.
We then turned to the right and walked towards the Craig Cerrig Gleisiad. This is an impressive crag, carved by a glacier some 18000 years ago. If you are on the A470, as you drive up from Brecon towards the Storey Arms you can see the crags from the bottom, indeed you can park in the layby and walk up following a couple of well-marked trails – The Under Cliff walk or the Bluestone walk. But we amused ourselves by looking down on the Mountain Rescue helicopter practising landing, pickups and take offs on the hillside.
As we walked along the edge we started to see the view towards Pen Y Fan. We now followed the Brecon Way towards the Storey Arms. This track followed the edge of the cliffs and has some vertigo inducing moments but is a lovely walk across streams and nearby waterfalls.
So far we had seen 6 people, but as we approached the crossing at the Storey Arms, there seemed to be hundreds of folk heading up to Pen Y Fan and milling around at the car parks, with parked cars overflowing onto the verges for a few hundred meters on each side of the road. We took the Taff trail back towards Brecon and very quickly had the path to ourselves.
This trail allows even more expansive views of Craig Gleisiad as you walk down hill.
After a couple of miles, you cross a well-made stone bridge and walk up a short hill. As you crest the hill you see a finger post point down through the field to your left. It wasn’t marked on my Garmin, but was marked on a new OS Map, so if you have older maps, be aware this map may not be marked, but the path allows you to “cut up” to the A470 and come out at the paths leading to The Under Cliff Walk.
We walked down to the river – Afon – Tarell and forded it. There is a bridge, but there wasn’t much water flowing so Barney enjoyed a cooling dip.
Be warned though, the walk up the hill is very steep but thankfully short and there is no well-defined path. This was the hardest part of this walk!
As we ascended the well-marked path toward the undercliff walk we took a right fork after the style and followed the path towards the spine of Fan Frynych. As you walk up the hill keep looking across at the view of Pen Y Fan. It was here, I thought there was a heat haze on top of the mountain, you could see the shimmer, but on looking through binoculars it was a line of people from Corn Du to Pen Y Fan!
As you cross over this hill you have two paths to choose from, both end at nearly the same point at Tree Lodges, the left hand path is a well-marked track and easy to follow. The right hand track starts out well but soon deteriorates into a single track path, used by the farmer to drive his herd of cows from the lower fields to higher pastures. The path is water logged, red clay and that mixed with a passing herd of cows does not make for a pleasant experience, even Barney was looking askance at me as I urged him on. I guess he knew a bath was coming.
We ended the walk as it started with Peregrines wheeling above us, the late summer swifts darting about, no noise and having the walk to one’s self. So if ever you find yourself in the Brecon Beacons on a busy weekend and you need somewhere to walk in peace and quiet, park up on the lane that approaches Forest Lodge cottages and leave the crowds behind.