I’m writing this at the end of a chilled out day whilst waiting for my curry to arrive. I’ve only walked around Abergavenny town today, certainly not set foot on a hill. And that’s actually a good thing…
If I hadn’t taken a day out I reckon I could have jeopardised the rest of the trip and could have been looking at limping back to Lloegyr with my tail between my legs. Here’s what happened.
Day 1: Sunday 28th April
It took me 3 miles walking and over an hour to get to the start – because I wanted this to be a full coast to coast walk and so had to head down to Cardiff Bay. I then retraced my steps following the Taff Trail to Cardiff Castle which is the official start.
All around me were people out for Sunday afternoon strolls which seemed odd as it felt like saturday to me. The walk stuck to the Taff Trail all the way to the M4 and from Tongwynlais it was a climb up to Castell Coch just as it was closing. With light rain starting I headed up into the woods and started looking out for a suitably stealthy pitch, finding one in a disused quarry, complete with “this is not a play area” signs. I ended the day about 2 miles short of where I’d hoped to be, leaving me work to do the next day.
Day 2: Monday 29th April
Undiscovered in my “premium” pitch, I woke early and got on my way for 7:30 and then spent the next 2 hours passing near perfect pitch possibilities. Even the quarries were a cut above the one I’d chosen.
Mid morning saw me at the Dove Cafe in Machen eating the nearest thing to a full English available in the village – fish and chips, washed down with quotes from scripture and overly chatty staff. Well what do you expect when you use a cafe at the back of the church – an “alternative” church at that.
Nutritionally and spiritually refreshed I set about the slog up to the “mountain”, Mynydd Machen, a dizzying 362m above the waves, and despite the portents to the contrary, completely devoid of Hugh Grant and his measuring stick.
I felt I deserved a pint in Risca, and got a chance to meet more of the locals, although I thought I’d walked into a support group for the terminally unemployed, which didn’t encourage lingering.
The climb up to Twmbarlwm was slow and made slower by another local who talked so fast that I couldn’t work out whether he was brilliantly mixing Welsh and English at light speed in the same sentence, or had somehow eluded his carer. Fortunately, I managed to leave him sitting at the ancient hill fort, while I set about the next 4 miles across open moor.
After some scurrying around I eventually found a workable pitch above the disgustingly lewdly naned Cwm Lickey and overlooking the flesh pots of Pontypool.
Day 3:Tuesday 30th April
An orange glow lured me early from Monica’s embrace but I wasn’t in too much of a hurry because I wanted to time my arrival in Pontypool for when the cafés were likely to open.
With some effort, some contouring and some steep heathery descents, I regained the track down into town and went in search of a suitable eatery. Unfortunately, it seemed I’d walked into credit crunch central judging by the number of charity shops, carers help centres and cafés offering the works for just 3 of your earth pounds. I’ve nothing against cheap but this was too cheap. I headed for the most upmarket joint in town – Wetherspoons – where I was relieved of the princely sum of £4.19 for their largest breakfast. But it was good for the money.
It was the best part of 11am before I was climbing up onto the long ridge that leads, eventually after 8 miles, to Blorenge. Four and a half hours of solid trudge across featureless moorland got me there but not without cost in terms of foot ache. And to cap it all, Social Hiking didn’t register the peak (but thanks to Phil for fixing that last night during the hangout).
A, shall we say, “experimental” route down west and then north west from the summit led me to woods and farmland and the final hobble into Abergavenny in search of a B&B.
The first viable place I came across was the Swan Hotel, so I made the snap decision to take a room for 2 nights – which turned out to be a good call. I realised my feet needed some respite if I was to have any chance of successfully negotiating the next, tougher, section of the walk.
I spent day 4 mooching about Abergavenny, looking at the castle, restocking and generally resting up. And replanning – not the route so much as the timetable. Much statistical analysis of the mileages, ascents and speed of the first 3 days extrapolated to the harder next 3 day section led me to the conclusion that I should make it a 4 day section. With an unplanned rest day in the mix too this also had the advantage of arriving in Talybont and Storey Arms on, respectively, Sunday and Monday and thereby both hostels having a bed available. This leaves me with a flexible plan of 4 days walking (ie 3 camps) between Abergavenny and there and another couple of camps after on the way to Llandovery.
The plan feels good, my feet are better and I’m raring to go for the next stage.
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