After four hours in the car, we pulled up by the Cornewall-Lewis memorial in New Radnor, and I couldn’t wait to get out of the car and escape David’s not very satisfactory attempts at navigation. Not that that was an end to it – with his final geography GCSE paper in a few days time, I’d given him a copy of the map for the walk so he could do some “revision” on this “field trip”. I’d also attempted to lure him by the promise of some interlocking spurs and upper river courses. None of these had as yet engendered much in the way of enthusiasm, though.
We faffed around for a bit while I solved the puzzle of getting into the packs everything we’d failed to before leaving home, and then headed up the delightfully named lane of Mutton Dingle. The boy was complaining almost before we’d left the tarmac – he’d grudgingly accepted the geography part of this exercise but not the exercise part of the exercise. A wooded path led us up and around behind Knowle Hill and the start of the climb through the wood proper.
Tracks in forests never seem to quite match what’s marked on the map, and this was no exception, our course ending up being a gradual spiral up the hill that brought us to the foot of Whimble. I left the still moaning teenager by the stile – a stile with additional wire protection in front, making it a delicate exercise in balance and nerve – and headed up the spine of the hill to claim the first bag of the trip.
Back down below we followed the fence upwards and struck right through a field of sheep to the small grassy mound marking the summit of Bache Hill amidst a sea of heather. Now we could see ahead to the rest of the walk, and now my skills in deception were really put to the test. I pointed to the summit of Black Mixen saying that it was the high point of today’s walk – “forgetting” to mention the fact that there was still some reascent coming later. A tramp across the heather to pick up the bridleway running along the northern flank of the (just about) mountain, and soon we were at the col, or sheep toilet as it could be more accurately described. Most appropriate for a mountain whose name means dunghill.
We slanted up the southern flank of said dunghill, along a track becoming more and more defined and our
lazy “exhausted” wild camping initiate pointed out some flattish scoops out of the hillside that he thought would take a tent, his implication being all too obvious. But at 4:30 it was a tad early, not to mention the fact that we were only about 3 miles into the walk. So we carried on alongside a fence to the head of Cwm Sian. I pointed down at the wonderful example of a valley cut deep in the childhood of a river, but our geography student was singularly unimpressed, being more taken by the TV mast on the summit nearby and the carcass of a dead sheep that we came across, adding its image to his portfolio of expired wildlife.
We headed up to the top of the TV dunghill, the only Nuttall so adorned, and I tried to divert his gaze from the mast to Great Rhos across the valley – a mere 10m higher than where we were now and the highest point of the whole walk (trying again that trick of carefully avoiding mention of all the up and down in between). With time now marching on, and not much in the way of promising camp spots between us and my first choice location, we got moving again heading north west along the ridge to the head of Harley Dingle, and another lesson in the ability of a little bit of water to erode deeply.
Through the woods surrounding Cwm y Gerwyn and down to a felled area where we could see our final summit of the day rising through the trees ahead. We followed forestry tracks around and up to attempt to find the top of Fron-wen. Finding no obvious sign and with several contenders for apparent highest point, I once again resorted to putting my faith in Social Hiking to adjudicate the bag. We headed down tracks to the north of the hill to find our camp spot, emerging to a grassy depression in the corner of a sheep field. But a field with a sizeable lake in it – Rhiw Pool. I’d picked this spot purely on the strength of a picture on Geograph. In real life it was every bit as good as I’d hoped, the only possible concern being in a farmer’s field and close to a bridleway and forest tracks. But since we saw no one from leaving the car until we were almost back at it, this wasn’t a major problem.
We sat by the pool for a bit, before getting the tents up and then focussing on the key task of dispatching the traditional birthday camp comestibles – sausages and cider. As the sun started to get a bit more orange and sink below the top of the field, David wondered at how late he was being allowed to stay up and that it was still quite light. The dusk hot chocolate went the same way as the pork and “apple juice” and then it was time to turn in.
A thin film of mist drifted across the pool as I stuck my head out of Monica. Morning bird song and the predicted early morning visit from the sheep made further sleep difficult and I sat taking in the scene with the first cup of tea of the day. David remained unconscious (or pretending to be) in Sally. This couldn’t be allowed to continue for too long though, so he was urged from his slumber with the suggestion of tea, losing interest when I pointed out that he would have to get the water himself.
We were packed and ready to go at 8:30 and headed along the bridleway to skirt around the western side of Fron-wen and climb back through the wood to the top of Harley Dingle. This time though we headed right onto Great Rhos and the final summit of the walk.
We cut down through the heather following a narrow track and slanted down the side of Fron Hill into the valley, where we found more dismembered sheep for the boy’s gallery. We reached the bottom and took a breather before skirting the lower reaches of Whimble to arrive back at the car in New Radnor.
The route (click on the image to view it on Social Hiking)