Walk #172: Brecon to Cwmcynwyn
Map of the walk
Maps courtesy of Google Maps. Route for indicative purposes only, and may have been plotted after the walk. Please let me have comments on what you think of this new format. For a detailed table of timings for this walk, please see the table file.
This was a very short walk, which will reduce the mileage needing to be walked tomorrow to get to Merthyr Tydfill via Pen y Fan if the weather is good enough. It is also a test of the kit that I will be taking up to Scotland in April next year - if I manage this trip okay then it is a good sign for the hard walks to come next year.
I spent the night in a camping barn at the farm at Cwmcynwyn, and the young gentleman who showed me around the barn said that I was the first person that they had had since the end of the foot and mouth crisis in the area, which had been very severely affected by the crisis.
The farm has a number of dogs on it, and whenever I opened the door to the barn even a little bit I was greeted by some ferocious barking from some not-so-ferocious looking small dogs which were thankfully securely tied up - even though they were small I would not have wanted to be bitten by any of them.
It was quite nice walking towards the hills and seeing the mountains rising up ahead of me. This is one of my favourite parts of any walk in hilly areas; the anticipation of being about to climb a hill being much greater than that of descending it or the all-too-brief moments spent at the summit.
I walked into the center of Brecon at the start of the walk so that I could find the cathedral. Sam dropped me off at a long stay car park in the east of the town, so I had a little way to go to get to my starting position. I did not go into the cathedral as I was keen to start the walk and the outside of it was cluttered with buildings, making the cathedral look fairly ordinary.
The cathedral was constructed as part of Brecon Priory, and the vast majority of the buildings on the site date from between 1100 and the dissolution of the monasteries in 1537. Apparently there are two main distinct styles in the cathedral, a thirteenth century Early English style and a fourteenth century Decorated style (although I must admit I am far from being an expert on church architecture). After the dissolution of the monastery in 1537 the Priory church survived as a parish church serving the town. Over time parts of the Priory complex fell into ruin, but the tower and nave survived until the 1860's when Sir Gilbert Scott oversaw a major restoration of them. The Priory church became the cathedral church of the diocese of Swansea and Brecon in 1923 after the Church in Wales was disestablished.
There is also a castle in Brecon, but I did not have time to go and see it. Apparently the ruined castle remains are now part of a hotel, so I have little idea of exactly how much of it remains.
Just before the bridge that carries the B4601 road over the River Usk in Brecon was reached it started to rain, and I ducked into a chip shop immediately before the bridge to get a portion of chips, which I ate as I walked along in the rain. All the locals were friendly, and I chatted to a man carrying home his shopping, who enquired where I was walking to, and a policewoman who was of the opinion that any walkers who were out in that weather had to be mad, a statement which, in my bedraggled state, I could not find any fault in.
As I walked westwards out of the town I passed Christ College, the oldest private school in Britain, set up in 1541 by King Henry 8th. Until recently the school was exclusively for boys, but recently it opened its doors to girl boarders. Some of the school buildings looked very nice, although not necessarily in a 'public-school' style.
I am looking forward to the walk up the hill tomorrow which promises to be a long hard slog, which will be even longer if I choose to go to the summit of Pen y Fan. The first part of the walk will be up a track and the last part along a road, so it will be hard on the feet. Part of the idea of doing this walk is to reach Pen y Fan, which is the highest part of one county, but tomorrow's weather will have much to do with whether I do that.
(28.12.2001 7.27 a.m.) Last night was very windy, which made me quite concerned about the walk that I have to do today. Fortunately the temperature was not too low, so I was quite warm all night. One nice thing happened last night - a lady came in with details of the weather forecast, and also gave me a slice of christmas cake. This was totally unexpected but very gratefully received - a kind deed indeed. Looking at the weather I doubt that I will do Pen y Fan today - the wind makes it look more dangerous than I would like.
This walk start at Brecon Cathedral, on the hillside to the north of the town. Turn right out of the cathedral and walk along the B4520 Pendre Road for a short distance to the junction with Maendu Street on the left. Turn down Maendu Street and follow it as it descends for a couple of hundred yards until another road junction is reached. Turn left at this junction and follow a road for a short distance as it heads south-southeastwards until it meets Kensington Road at the bottom of the hill. Continue along Kensington Road until the B4601 is met.
Turn right and follow the B4601 as it heads west to meet the River Usk at a bridge. Cross the bridge and follow the road past Christ College. When Bailihelig road leads off to the left take it and follow it southwards as it passes over the A40(T)and starts to climb uphill to the farm at Ballyheig. Stay on this road as it heads south past Cefn Cantref to Twyn.
Pass Twyn and pass the road junctions that lead in from the right and then the left. The road continues for about a kilometre to Croftau, when it veers from the southerly direction that it held for a couple of miles to a southeasterly direction for a short distance until it ends at a T-junction with another road.
At the junction turn right and follow a road as it heads southwestwards. After a short distance this road becomes a rough track as it heads southwards as it climbs up to Bailea. It then turns southwestwards and climbs some more to a gate. Turn left down a very rough track that leads off downhill to the left for a short distance. The track then veers to the right to head south along the valley side to the farm at Cwmcynwyn.
This makes a total distance of 4.2 miles, with 853 feet of ascent and 282 feet of descent.
I am staying in a camping barn at Cwmcynwyn, which consists of a large wooden sleeping platform above a concrete floor in an old outbuilding. The building is complete with old horse-driven machinery which gives it a very rustic feel, but does at least have electric lighting which means that I could read the latest edition of Scientific American for a while so I did not have to go to sleep to early. The farm also allows tents to pitch, so it would be an ideal base for exploring the area. The camping barn has running cold water and a toilet, which is ideal.
Please note that I take no responsibility for anything that may happen when following these directions. If you intend to follow this route, then please use the relevant maps and check the route out before you go out. As always when walking, use common sense and you should be fine.
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And finally, enjoy your walking!