Llyn Cwm Llwch, a lake of glacial origins, in the Brecon Beacons, viewed from Pen y Fan.


Brecon Beacons, Wales

16th - 18th April 2010

"Kath, will you marry me"?


Fresh from my recent trip to Patagonia, the hiking club ventured once more into the Welsh Brecon Beacons after an absence of two years, Smithy's Bunkhouse again being the venue of choice. It's a long journey from Hertfordshire and as I was really not in the mood to drive all the way, I took Friday afternoon off and secured a lift around 13h30 from Hertford, with Stuart Cleland and Nadine Mathias (whom we were to pick up at a railway station just outside Bristol later in the day). Stuart and I wondered around Bristol for a couple of hours and had a beer at a pun before meeting Nadine. My solitary contribution in getting us there was down to my knowing that Smithy's was just down a narrow lane from the Old Hereford Road at The Crown, in Panygelli. Even with the assistance of satellite navigation, it's hard to find, worse still by instinct, in the dark. Unless someone tells you, you won't find it. Sleeping bags were recommended on Martin's final details schedule, which is usually not required. I found myself effectively banished to the loft accommodation, not knowing whether to feel privileged or ostracized, though well aware of the reasons for it. Two faces I had not seen at the club before were Ruth Baker and Heather White, invited along by Vanda.


Upper Neuadd Reservoir, Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales


Upper Neuadd Reservoir, Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales


  To get to the Brecon Beacon Black Mountains from our base involves a lengthy drive lasting up to an hour to one of two National Trust car parks. One is located next to Pont Cwmyfedwen over the Taf Fechan river in the Taf Fechan Forest, the bridge across the stream which is also a listed building and it was from here that we set out and returned the previous time. However, the memory fades over time and confusion reigned as we struggled to find the same car park, ending up at the other car park and then having to walk to Pont Cwmyfedwen. From here we took a shorter and arguably less scenic route via a tarred track to Upper Neuadd Reservoir. The route  walk that had been decided on this occasion was, roughly speaking, the reverse of the previous walk of September, 2007, where the first peak to be ascended was Cribyn - today it would be the last. From the reservoir, after crossing the dam wall, the path involved a climb up a sheer though not back-breaking slope towards Craig Fan Ddu, a foothill to the Brecon Beacons. Once this is reached, the route involves a circumnavigation of the reservoir and the Cwm below, via Craig Gwaun Taf Ridge (824m) , Corn Du (873m), Pen-y-Fan (886m) and finally Cribyn (795m), effectively the Pen-y-fan Horseshoe. It was a warm day, yet the scrub had been effectively bleached by recent cold due to frost and some snow.

Brecon Beacons walk in 2007, from the car park at Pont Cwmyfedwen, following an anti-clockwise route


View towards Craig Fan Ddu, foothill to the Brecon Beacons, from Upper Neuadd Reservoir; View towards the Roman Road leading up to the pass running between Pen-y-Fan and Fan-y-Big.


Halfway towards Craig Fan Ddu from Upper Neuadd Reservoir; Ruth and Heather relieved to have reached Craig Fan Ddu.



Views of Upper Neuadd Reservour from Craig Fan Ddu.


On the approach to Craig Gwaun Taf Ridge; Peter proposes to Kat; Phil Newton.


On the approach to Craig Gwaun Taf Ridge from the lower slopes known as Craig Fan Ddu, with Upper Neuadd and Pentwyn Reservoirs to the left.



(L-R): In the distance, Corn Du, Pen-y-Fan & Cribyn.


  It was somewhere on the lower slopes on the approach to Craig Gwaun Taf  that we were given a complete surprise. Peter Hartman, who had been walking with his partner Kath Evans, came over to me and asked if I would take a photo of the two of them. We had taken a tea break at this point and most of the group had assembled. As I was setting up, Peter went down onto his knees and looked up into Kath's eyes and posed the inevitable question: "Kath, will you marry me"? Congratulations from the group followed and for the rest of the walk, the couple seemed in total bliss, Peter with a permanent smile on his face. From Pen-y-Fan we were rewarded with an exquisite view of Llyn Cwm Llwch, a small lake of glacial origin occupying a rock hollow beneath the peaks of Pen-y-Fan and Corn Du. It is drained by the Nant Cwm Llwch which empties into the Afon_Tarell which itself enters the River Usk at Brecon. We descended Pen y Fan and though lower in altitude, the slope to Cribyn is much steeper. I decided to put my fitness levels I had attained on my Patagonian trip to the test, which I had assumed that I would not have been able to maintain upon my return. I set forth up the incline and reached the top without stopping, sitting it out for the rest of the group to arrive. On the way down from Cribyn to the Roman Road pass, Martin came charging by, playfully out to prove a point. We reached Neuadd Reservoir and then followed the tarred track back to car park where we had left our cars, via the one at Pont Cwmyfedwen. En route I chatted to Heather about Green Party issues. Inevitably, The Crown in Panygelli provided the venue for dinner that evening. It was Ruth's birthday and Vanda had ensured that we had a chocolate cake for the celebration, so we returned to Smithy's Bunkhouse and waited for Ruth's return, surprising her in the process. I suspect though that she might have found the entire experience a tad overwhelming.

Views of Upper Neuadd and Pentwyn Reservoirs.


A perfect view of the walk along the gentle lower slopes, starting at Craig Fan Ddu.


View of the steep incline that is Cribyn.


View towards Corn Du from Craig Gwaun Taf Ridge, with Pen-y-Fan over to the right (the highest point obscured)..


View from Corn Du and Craig Fan Ddu, our starting point on the lower slopes.


Pen y Fan as viewed from from Corn Du.


Llyn Cwm Llwch, a lake in the Brecon Beacons, viewed from Pen y Fan.

The Welsh Fairy Book

by W. Jenkyn Thomas

Llyn Cwm Llwch

At the foot of Pen y Fan, the principal peak of the Beacons of Brecon, is a lake called Llyn Cwm Llwch, overhung by frowning precipices, the home of croaking ravens, the only birds which will venture near the dark waters of the mere.

In very ancient times there was a door in a rock hard by, which opened once in each year - on May Day - and disclosed a passage leading to a small island in the centre of the lake. This island was, however, invisible to those who stood upon the shore. Those who ventured down the secret passage on May Day were most graciously received by the fairies inhabiting the island, whose beauty was only equalled by their courtesy to their guests. They entertained them with delicious fruits and exquisite music. and disclosed to them many events of the future. They laid down one condition only, and that was that none of the produce of the island was to be carried away, because the island was sacred.

It happened upon one of these annual visits that an evil visitor, when he was about to leave the island, put a flower in his pocket. His theft did him no good: as soon as he reached unhallowed ground his senses left him, and he was a jibbering idiot all the days of his life. Of this injury the fairies took no notice at the time. They dismissed the rest of their guests with their accustomed courtesy, and the door was closed as usual. But their resentment ran high. Those who went to pay them a visit on May Day the year after failed to find the door, and it has never been found from that day to this.

Some hundreds of years after, the inhabitants of the neighbourhood formed a plan of draining the lake to see whether the fairies had left any treasure at the bottom of it. They assembled at the lake one day in considerable numbers with spades and pickaxes, and set to work with such vigour that in a few hours they had dug a trench thirty yards in depth (the remains of it may still be seen). At last they had got so near the mere that it seemed as if another blow of the pickaxe would break through the bank and let out the water. Just as this blow was going to be given, just as the pickaxe was lifted up to complete the undertaking, a flash of lightning was seen which averted the blow; the sky became black, a loud peal of thunder rolled among the mountains, waking their thousand echoes, and all the workmen ran from the trench and stood in awe upon the brink of the lake. As the sound of the thunder died away, a sort of ripple was perceived on the face of the water, and the centre of the lake became violently agitated. From this boiling eddy was seen to arise a figure of gigantic stature, whose hair and beard were at least three yards in length. Standing nearly half out of the water, he addressed the workmen :

"If you disturb my peace,
Be warned that I will drown
The valley of the Usk,
Beginning with Brecon town."

He concluded by saying, "Remember the token of the cat," and then disappeared amidst a terrific storm of thunder and lightning.

When the wonder and fear had a little subsided, the people began to discuss the matter together. They could perfectly understand the warning, but they were much perplexed about the "token of the cat," which conveyed no meaning at all to them. At this point an old man of the name of Thomas Sion Rhydderch came forward and said he could explain the words. "When I was a young lad," he said, "I was tending some sheep on yonder mountain, and a woman, who had a very troublesome cat, asked me to take it with me one morning to drown it in this lake. When I arrived here, I took off my garter and with it tied a large stone to the cat's neck, and threw it into the water. The cat of course immediately sank out of sight. The next day I went in a boat on Llyn Syfaddon to fish. What should I see floating in the middle of the lake but the very cat which I had drowned in Llyn Cwm Llwch, with my garter around its body! I was much frightened, because the two lakes are miles apart and there is no stream flowing from the one to the other, and I have never mentioned it to a living soul until to-day."

From this they concluded that there is some mysterious connection between Llyn Syfaddon and Llyn Cwm Llwch, and that, though the latter is but small, yet if they attempted to drain it, the large lake would assist its little relative and avenge any injury done to it by discharging its vast body of water over the whole of the adjacent country. Accordingly they left the trench which they had dug unfinished and departed to their homes.


Cribyn from Pen-y-Fan.


Cribyn from Pen-y-Fan and the way down. Fan y Big lies beyond, with the Roman Road (right) between the two peaks.


View along Cefn Cwm Llwch from just below Pen y Fan.


Magnificent view from Pen y Fan.


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