|Start: SO 148 268
End: SO 148 268
Overall Altitude Gain: 2,800ft
Terrain: Well defined tracks onto open hillsides with three very steep ascents.
Difficulty: Medium – navigation difficult on open hillsides
Friday afternoons mean planning for the weekend, an exercise which typically includes preying to the weather Gods for a relatively kind forecast. A quick glance towards the Met Office promised they at least had the latter under control whilst the discovery of aroundllangorselake.co.uk sorted the rest. I’ve not come across this website before so not sure how long it’s been available but the quality of downloadable PDF’s there make it a must use resource if you’re considering a walk in the area. One in particular named “Awesome Walks” grabbed my attention for perhaps obvious reasons. Covering various routes ranging in length from two to eleven miles we predictably went with the longest possible option, a self described strenuous walk over, or more accurately up and down, the three peaks of Mynydd Llangorse, Mynydd Troed and Pen Tir.
We headed out from the Llangorse activity centre at a little after midday, later than usual but timed to coincide with the best of the days weather. We certainly managed that and were greeted with a clear blue sky and temperatures rapidly approaching twenty Celsius. Considering we’ve not done much hill walking of late the initial climb proved pleasantly easy as we wound our way up an ancient farm track, its base well worn by centuries of storm run-off and bordered by trees which looked little younger. Willow Warblers, several carrying food, and the constant calling of a distant Buzzard were our companions whilst our views remained restricted until we burst onto the hillside proper revealing Llangorse lake for the first time.
This is the largest natural lake in Wales and also home to the country’s only crannog whose finds date from at least the eighth or ninth century. Today though it was sun seekers enjoying the glorious conditions but I doubt any would have had as fine a view as us. For not only was it the lake that we could see but also the Brecon Beacons beyond including its highest peak, Pen y Fan. Even from this distance things looked busy at the top.
Inevitably we had to push on and another mile or so brought us to a restored farmhouse, rebuilt in memory of Kevin John Thomas who died in 1998 rescuing a drowning child. A more tranquil reminder its hard to imagine, perfectly maintained and surrounded in birdsong. Someone obviously cares for this place dearly as the bird feeders were well stocked and being visited by the usual assortment of Blue Tits, Great Tits, Chaffinches and Robins. The unmistakable call of a Yellowhammer drifted across from the open hillside beyond whilst overhead scores of Swallows and House Martins swirled, no doubt contemplating their fast approaching migrations to warmer climes. Similar thoughts were probably playing on the mind of a female Redtstart sat nearby, the first of many along this route.
Alas our respite here was only short lived as we could put off the climb to Mynydd Llangorse no longer. Although the path was easy to pick up it’s clearly not walked regularly meaning that Bracken had taken over. Often head high it was a case of forging your way through, a process with which we are more than a little familiar being regular visitor to Mull’s sometimes Bracken choked lands. The effort was well worth it though as each sweat drenched step took us ever higher, opening the views to our right and bringing us closer and closer to our first trig point of the day. Again House Martins were numerous, many using a lone dead tree as a brief perch until critical mass was reached and the whole lot took to the air once more. As is typical with this part of the world the hills are rolling in nature and rarely sharp edged, pitted with shallow pools and signs of long gone quarrying. Mynydd Llangorse proved no exception though any man made scars were softened by Heather in full bloom.
Looking across to the Black Mountains provided a vista as impressive as any I’ve yet come across and their amphitheatre like profile made for a constant companion as we walked the ridge line towards Cockit Hill. Along the way we spotted a couple of Wheatears and met our first Stonechat families of the day. Meadow Pipits and Skylarks were also about in good numbers, their presence only belied as they erupted from cover around our feet. Yet all that beauty couldn’t quite distract from the inescapable fact that between us and Mynydd Troed stood a rather large drop. Shouldn’t have been a surprise really given the name of this route but did the descent really have to be that far?
This seemed as good a time as any to stop and grab some lunch which ended up being a battle between getting food down us whilst batting off a horde of flying ants. In the end we relented and after the exhilaration of a steep descent it was a long hard climb back up the other side. At least we had the distraction of a stunning Yellowhammer and a family group of four Ravens, gronking away as only Ravens can. The effort was well worth it though bringing us a second trig point and views across to the English border and beyond.
The next couple of kilometres took us along a gentle ridge before we were faced with yet another steep descent. This one dropped us down to Blaenau-draw and meant getting reacquainted with overgrown Bracken. Here we met the walkers nightmare however, hidden nettles! The horror. Being a true gentlemen I adopted the ladies first approach and let Emma bash a path through, undoubtedly regretting her choice of shorts that morning with every step. By the time we broke free dock-leaves were definitely in order. At least the climb up the other side gave us something else to think about as the path steepened to near vertical. Redstarts were incredibly numerous here with a couple of juveniles sat amongst a family of Stonechats at one point. Great to see if a little hard to photograph whilst feeling like one is being cooked alive.
Thankfully our emergence at the summit cairn of Pen Tir was met with a strong breeze and a look across to the once more visible Pen y Fan revealed why. Or at least it would have been visible had the cloud base not descended to obscure the lot bringing with it a few drops of rain in the air. I’ve learnt the hard way that conditions up here can change rapidly and this was another prime example. It did at least allow us to cool down a little as we looped around and down the hillside back towards our starting point.
It was as we were nearing the farm at Cwm-Shenkin that we got our birding highlight of the day. I watched a perched Buzzard alight and drift off from a nearby tree, only to spot a pair of Ospreys head back in the opposite direction! I couldn’t quite believe our luck and it took a couple of moments to convince Emma that they were indeed what we thought they were. I presume they’d come up from Llangorse Lake itself and continued to rapidly gain height before drifting off South, no doubt heading back to Africa. Conditions were less than ideal for photography but I just had to attempt a couple of record shots. Not often you see an Osprey out this way, let alone two.
Further good fortune found us on the last mile with a Slow Worm and Red Kite sighted before the welcome vision of our car hove into view. All in all we’d been walking pretty munch non-stop for seven hours and, despite those climbs, covered the eleven miles with relative ease. The route had proved both interesting and varied and has definitely made it on to my list of walks to repeat. Llangorse Lake certainly looked a little different though compared to when we’d set off earlier in the day.