Browsed by
Tag: Mountains

On the road to nowhere

On the road to nowhere

In April 2017 we traversed the Cambrian Mountains, on our way to Devil’s Bridge, on one of only two roads which go over the Cambrian Mountains. This is the blog that covers that trip.

We now decided that it was time to explore that second road. We weren’t going to a particular destination but purely to see what that road was like (Have you ever had a premonition that you are about to make a mistake?).

We headed off, on a warm sunny day, towards Beulah. Yes, I know, you’ve never heard of it. Well it’s a small village about 8 miles south-west of Newbridge-on-Wye in Powys. This is where the mountain road starts and having turned on to it, and before we’d left Beulah, we spotted a nice little church which we had to explore. The original path into the churchyard went over this cute little bridge but the current path bypasses the bridge.

And this is the little church. It is not very old, having been built in 1867, but it is very attractive.

Having had a quick look round ( what else can you do with a church that small?) we set off again along the road. This road is just one car’s width and does have passing places but you can bet that you won’t be near one when you meet a car coming the other way.

The first part of this road is mainly wooded but eventually after a gentle climb of some miles we came out into the open. We continue to head upwards through that valley round to the left.

We carried on to the village of Abergwesyn where we’d heard there was a ruined church. We couldn’t find the ruined church, if it still exists, but we did find the old churchyard with a mega Yew tree.

We carried on and soon went into another wooded section of the road with an unprotected steep slope on one side. No barrier to stop you driving off the edge and you do have to drive relatively near the edge because the road is so narrow.

I was quite pleased when that was over. Next we reached the Devil’s Staircase – a steep bit of read with some hairpin bends. The name is more worrying than the actual road and we successfully negotiated that section without problems. We reached another open area and we are still climbing but the views were getting better.

The road was beginning to get interesting now. It was bending in three dimensions and they tended to be sharp bends. When the bend was in the vertical plane the road beyond the top of the hill couldn’t be seen until the car was beginning to tip down the other side so one couldn’t see which way the road was going to go and there was always the possibility of a car coming the other way. Travelling was slow and if there was a short stretch where one could attain 20 MPH then that would be considered very fortunate. The same applied to bends in the horizontal plane – it meant driving really quite slowly. Don’t pick an argument with a rock – you won’t win.

Having reached the top we took a 7 mile detour to have a look at a reservoir we had heard about, Llyn Brianne, and it turned out to be a worthwhile detour. But it certainly increased our bend count.

Our road was now going downhill again but the bends didn’t get any better.

We finally reached the end of the road in a small town called Tregaron which was a relief from the bends – but not for long. We now had to return home which meant travelling the same route in the opposite direction. I was really looking forward to doing all those bends again. :(

I can tell you that by the time we reached Beulah again I was rather tired and we still had an hour to go to reach home. However we did reach home without incident and I don’t intend doing that journey again in a hurry!

We have been loafing about.

We have been loafing about.

For those of you who may not have seen this expression ‘to loaf about’ it means to be idle but we haven’t been loafing about in the accepted sense.

If one goes out for the day and ends up absolutely and totally knackered how can that be ‘leisure’?

It all started so well. We parked our car, got out and looked around. Lovely!

Then we started to walk along the footpath which sloped gently upward and, as you can see, although it was a sunny day visability looking towards the sun wasn’t all that good but looking away from the sun was better.

Our destination at the moment is off to our left so we are walking parallel to it but it is hidden from us by a slight rise in the ground. Still going up gently we were walking along chatting away and then we reached a point were we could see byond the slight rise which had been blocking our view and saw this.

YIKES! No, wait, lots of yikes! The top of that is our destination and it looks a long way away and a long way up. Those clouds are brushing the top of what is known as the Sugarloaf. Before the advent of granular sugar, sugar was sold as ‘loaves’ which were roughly the shape of that mountain; hence the name.

It didn’t look all that impressive when we were looking at the map and planning this trip. We are, by the way, near Abergavenny which is about an hour and a half by car from home. We seriously thought that, perhaps, we had bitten off more than we could chew.

After seeing this view we changed our plans slightly inasmuchas we had planned to go up the right-hand end but after seeing that it was steeper at that end we decided to head for the left-hand end which looked like a shallower (easier) slope. Even then we are still travelling parallel to the Sugarloaf and we were probably going to have to walk further to reach the left-hand ridge.

So we pressed on with the intention of going as far as we could. We reached the start of the path which we had originally planned to take and there were some other walkers heading up that way but we could see that avoiding that route was the right decision. From here the mountain looked slightly nearer. Progress! You may also notice the top is being slightly covered in cloud.

We continued along our chosen path and took a photograph back the way we came which was along the path on the left from the horizon to here which looks quite a long way. Needless to say the lady with the dog soon overtook us oldies.

We walked on and from here the slope increased and we could feel our energy slowly but surely fading away. We are now, at least, level with the left-hand edge of the summit ridge and heading towards it. Where the path in front seems to stop suddenly it actually turns towards the right heading for the centre of the summit ridge.

I’m walking fairly slowly now although Amanda can do better than me but is keeping down to my speed. We have now reached a point where the slope steepens again and I suppose we are about two thirds of the way there and I am not looking forward to the last third. Compared with the previous view of the path we have come a long way.

On this section of the path, which is significantly steeper than it looks in the pictures, I find that I am taking about 10 steps and then having to stop for a short rest. I can see that this is going to take a long time. Although it still looks a long way to the summit ridge there is no doubt that it looks nearer although there are some people on the ridge who still look very small indeed.

Later on the steepness of the path increased even more to the point that one was stepping up a level at a time rather like stairs which slowed me even more. This is the last part of the ‘path’ which led up to the summit ridge and it was steeper than it looked.

My main problem is that medication I am having to take now has the side-effect of reducing muscle mass which is a nuisance as I didn’t have that much before. I was now seriously thinking that I may have to give up but I just took it a step at a time and we actually did finally reach the summit ridge. I may be slowly falling apart but at least I have 83 excuses for it.

It was certainly worth it with those tremendous views.

Now comes the part I’ve been dreading – going back. We started off back down on that same rough path.

Then Amanda though she would make the descent easy by flying back but couldn’t flap her arms fast enough. It was a good try though.

Going down the steeper parts was rather trying on the leg muscles, especially since I didn’t have any, but stopping to rest and look at the surrounding scenery was good.

The town down there is Abergavenny where we are hoping to go after reaching the car for much needed sustenance.

Abergavenny seems to be getting nearer and that can’t be too soon.

We finally staggered, literally, back to the car and drove the 3 miles to Abergavenny where we visited the Fig Tree Espresso which we hadn’t been to before but had read plenty of nice things about it. As it turned out it was a nice little place where we had a light but late (3 o’clock) lunch. We finished off with a slice of Rose and Chocolate cake which was unusual but very nice indeed.

It was an hour and 30 minutes to get back home after dark. Whew!