Well it was a walk in the park but not in the usual sense, that
of something that is easy – just a piece of cake so to
speak. This was a little more vast than that because the park
in question was the Brecon Beacons National Park, the playground
of the SAS, but to be fair we were not humping 60 lb rucksacks
and a rifle, we merely carried light waterproofs, warm clothing
and food supplies.
There is nothing threatening about a bucket or a list for that
matter, it is when the two are combined in a bucket list that
the trouble starts. One in our midst was the proud possessor
of such a bucket and top of his list was to walk up to Pen y
Fan, the highest point of the Brecon Beacons and, furthermore,
the highest point in southern Britain. Many people do this walk
from many directions so we didn’t think that it would
be beyond us, we thought we ought to get on with it before we
got any older.
The weather recently had been mixed so we were crossing our
fingers for a dry but not too hot day and we were pleased to
find that Thursday 9th July dawned to give us just that, and
that goes to show that the weatherman can be friendly sometimes!
We arrived at the car park by about 10.00 to find that many
others had had the same idea but nevertheless we found a space
for the car. So boots and hats on, rucksacks shouldered and
off we set. I had been before but some time had elapsed since
then and, that time, we had tackled it from the other end. From
this end it is up all the way – relentlessly, but we could
see Corn Du in front of us and that was our first target. The
foxgloves were out in abundance and together with the changing
light due to the scudding clouds they made for a very colourful
addition to our walk although I have to say that our eyes were
too often directed downwards because of the uneven path. Experience
has taught me that it is wise every now and then to stop and
admire the view behind me, it also assists in relaxing the leg
other walkers on the path were many and varied, mostly small
groups but two fairly large ones, a first school bravely cared
for by about half a dozen adults with the dual task of keeping
the eager half back in the fold and getting the laggers to keep
up. Not a task I would have liked. The other was a group of
youngsters raising money for charity. Then there was the odd
individual who was running the route and putting us all to shame.
We set our own individual pace and stopped every now and then
for a quick drink and to regroup. As we sat there on the side
of the track we wished our passing co-walkers a ‘good
morning’ and it was duly returned. There is a camaraderie
when you are out on a walk and everyone is there for the same
purpose – enjoying the wonderful scenery that the countryside
has to offer, the fresh air and the constant warbling of the
skylark so high in the sky as to be invisible.
Corn Du is getting bigger and bigger all the time and it helped
to spur us on and as we were climbing higher all the time we
were being refreshed by a welcome breeze. We reached the saddle
just before the final climb and to the north the views took
in the Epynt mountain range and far beyond. To the south a long,
deep and wide valley at the end of which are the upper and lower
Neuadd reservoirs then further still the two halves of Pontsticill
reservoir, the open cast Celtic Energy site above Merthyr and,
with a pair of binoculars you could just see the sea. But enough
of this! We cannot put off the final challenge any longer, we
have a steep climb in front of us culminating in a gruelling
final set of steps to get us onto the plateau of Corn Du then,
relatively speaking, everything will be much easier. And it
certainly was gruelling, especially after all the walking we
had done so far but it is a case of one step at a time. Alan
had long gone and was probably sitting down at the top trying
to decide whether to break open his sandwiches, I led the trio
as I felt I had to be at the top first to record the conquering
of Corn Du for the first time ever, well for Richard and Mike
felt good to, at last, be up on this vast table and now we had
views to the north east taking in the town of Brecon and beyond.
After a brief rest we were off again in order to reach the highest
point, Pen y Fan. Now we could see the contours of the northern
side and directly below is Llyn Cwm Llwch, in shadow at that
moment but I knew that if I waited for a short while the clouds
would move over and the sun would light it up, and so it did.
The weather can be really kind sometimes.
And now I must catch up with the others, they are probably at
the top by now and we must have a photograph in case anyone
thinks we are just making all this up as we go along. There
were many waiting to record their own achievements including
three cheerful young ladies that we had passed several times
on our journey. I was asked by one of them if I would be kind
enough to take their photo and then she would reciprocate and
take ours. I was happy to do so. You know, I was sure I had
seen her before so I said “aren’t you Ellen Dowd”
“Yes, I am,” she said proudly, “how clever
of you!” and then proceeded to show me what to press on
her phone camera. “Hmm,” I thought. I really am
not used to using a mobile phone for taking photographs and
I struggled to see the screen, particularly in the bright sunshine.
Anyway I succeeded and then it was our turn so here we are,
satisfied smiles on our faces after reaching the pinnacle.
Finally it was time to tuck into our well-deserved sandwiches
which we did facing south, the direction was not important as
far as the eating was concerned it was just that we had a long
view down the valley and we had our faces to the sun. This is
living and gives a different meaning to ‘eating out’
– and a different experience too!
The sun was dodging in and out of the clouds and there was a
particularly dramatic edge to our left so I spent my time eyeing
the progress of the light and waiting for the right moment.
The only trouble was the path up from the east was between us
and the slope and Murphy’s Law dictates that someone will
reach the top, turn and look back during the time of best light.
There are many failings in life but you can always rely on Murphy’s
Law. She moved eventually and I was able to get a shot before
it was time to get up from our comfortable position and make
our way back down. We skirted round Corn Du and took a right
turn to join the other path going down, this should be easier
we thought, ignoring the long slope upwards ahead of us. Isn’t
ignorance so blissful when you want it to be so! As you would
expect there was a stream at the bottom but there was little
water and nice, flat stepping stones so the traverse was easy.
But not so the climb up the other side. Fifty yards away two
horses were grazing and I am sure we were not the first to think
of rounding them up and getting a lift to the top. But we are
not ones who fall back on cheating when things get tough so
we got into our rhythm and put one plodding foot before the
other keeping our eyes off the summit which we knew would be
false – it always is!
I was the lucky one of the quartet I think, in that there was
always a view to see which involved a wait while the light sorted
itself out for me. Then, with my leg muscles rested and pleased
with the knowledge that I had a photograph which may please
someone, somewhere, I could stride away to where the others
There was a view of the Beacons Reservoir just before we reached
the end of our journey at Storey Arms so I came off the path
to look over the ridge and capture the shot before rushing on
down to rudely overtake the others so that I could be there
in front of them to record their delighted faces as they reached
the final twenty yards or so.
was a great day and it all happened because of Mike’s