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There is a fine drizzle in the air but we soon reach the valley floor and Fforest Coal Pit. We see a small pony looking particularly miserable in the now heavier drizzle. I think this is quite apt considering where we are. Is he an ex pit pony? Probably not, the coal pit in the name refers to charcoal pits anyway.
We sit on a verge and consult the map. The way out of the valley is up the very steep road opposite. It is hard work but the hedges are covered with honeysuckle and dog roses and the air is filled with their scent. Near the top, we realise we have left the map, on the verge, at the bottom. Charl goes down to retrieve while I sniff the flowers.
Once off the road, the way is still steep but gradually eases off into a steady climb and we soon see the summit cairn of Garn Wen. We stop here and have breakfast in the substantial shelter
We can see two rises ahead. One must be Bal Mawr and the other Chwarel y Fan. As we reach the second rise, the wind increases making it very hard work. It is a side wind which catches the backpacks. I have to dig my hiking pole in to the side holding it with two hands. Charl says I look like I am canoeing. This makes me really giggle, so much so that my legs go weak which doesnít help at all.
We start to look for the Blacksmithís Anvil, a stone which marks the descent into Capel-y-Ffin. We realise we have been too optimistic. We have only just left Bal Mawr and Chwarel y Fan is still ahead..
We find a sheltered spot on the ridge for a cup of tea. The wind rages each side but with our backs against the rock we are in a calm vortex.
After Chwarel y Fan the wind is extremely strong. At times there is nothing for it but to dig in and stand fast against the gusts. At one point, I do this but the wind still knocks me sideways. I dig in with the hiking pole, take a step sideways and try again to no avail. After digging in three times I take a calculated risk. I canít stand upright much longer and the wind canít take me too far. The ground is flat in the direction of the wind, the landing will be soft on heather, so I let myself go and, with a yell, hope for the best. I fly through the air, land and roll over several times before coming to a stop. Charl turned round when he heard the scream in time to see the whole event. He looks quite worried but I disintegrate into a fit of giggles. He says the wind blew me quite a distance. I think he is exaggerating but I did seem to be in the air a long time.
We continue along the ridge but, just to add to the discomfort, it begins to rain. We try to put our ponchos on which is quite a feat in the wind and I have my third fit of giggles of the day.
After a while, the wind abates somewhat. I can hear a noise in the distance. They must be logging around here somewhere. We sit on our sacks for a smoke break. I hear the noise again. It continues for some time but there is something about it that doesnít quite add up. Is it a loud noise in the distance or a quieter noise in my vicinity? I realise it is my electric toothbrush that I have accidentally activated probably by landing on it after flying through the air back on the ridge.
Now the wind has dropped a little, I take the opportunity to glance at the map. I find that, The Grange, where we are to camp, is not a hotel as I thought, but a pony-trekking centre. This was not important when planning the route but now, having spent an extra day getting to Capel-y-Ffin, we are out of food and I was hoping to get a meal at the said non-existent hotel.
After a stony descent much churned up by horses, we reach The Grange. The woman here is very helpful and supplies us with a loaf, free range eggs and shows us where to camp, under the trees in sight of the chicken run and, even better, there is a shower!
After dinner it is great to snuggle into our sleeping bags. It has been hard work today, struggling against the wind for most of the time. I try to stay awake to listen to the weather forecast hoping it is not going to be the same tomorrow but am asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow .....if I had one.
I cook all the eggs as they will be far easier to transport that way. I mean, remember the toothbrush incident and substitute a raw egg. We have one each for breakfast. I am not very enthusiastic this morning.. We have a second cup of tea before packing up. I go down to the washroom and notice the cat turd still in the middle of the floor as it was last night. Apart from this though, the washroom is clean.
We finally get started at about 9.30 am. We cross a ford and then there is a long haul up tarmac.My legs wonít seem to get working this morning. I do a lot of moaning. We can see the ridge we walked yesterday. It looks a different prospect altogether now as the sun begins to struggle through. We come to a track, go through a gate and are immediately transported into a quiet idyllic valley with a fast running stream and waterfall. We canít pass this by. It is crying out for a tea break. We stop and brew up with water from the stream and save some water in our bottles for later, always boiled of course. After this break, I am completely revitalised.
The valley narrows to a gorge from the top of which we have to take a spur, ascend to the summit of Twmpa (Lord Herefordís Knob) and then descend again to rejoin the path. Charl cannot see the sense in this and waits at the junction with the sacks while I ascend on my own. It is well worth the climb. The view is stupendous. I feel like I am walking on air without my sack.
As I approach the spot where I left Charl, I notice a long line of horses, obviously from the pony-trekking centre at the Grange. For a moment I canít see Charlie but, yes, there he is, fast asleep against the sacks. I donít think he has even noticed the horses!
There is a lot of activity in the sky with planes releasing gliders and hang gliders too.
The scenery is majestic as we head back south but on the opposite ridge. We reach the summit of Pen Y Manllwyn and have our lunch while we watch the air show. There seem to be more people in the air than on the ground today.
There is another ascent to Waun Fach and then on to Mynydd Llysiau. We want to wild camp tonight. There seems little point descending the ridge to Pengenfford, which we could have done from a spot before Pen Y Manllwyn summit. This would have meant a 2.75 mile detour and, of course, the same distance back up again tomorrow. We will need water before we camp. Charl peruses the map and notices a small path off the main track, just before Mynydd Llysiau ,which leads down a side valley where water looks a likely prospect. I sit and wait at the top of the path. I can just see him in the distance. He is a long while but returns, triumphant. It was a very small trickle and he had to dig a hole to get the bottle under. At least we can have a hot meal now, albeit rice, cheese and tomatoes - far better than a cheese and tomato sandwich! There is a steep rise to Mynydd Llysiau and then a long flat plateau at the top. An ideal place to stop. It is a beautiful evening. I cook the rice with the tomatoes and stir in the cheese to melt. I allocate two slices of bread each, aiming to get to Crickhowell in time for lunch tomorrow.
Just before the summit of Pen Alt Mawr we sit by a pile of stones and have breakfast and the last of our food, one egg plus two slices of bread each. We spend a long time here in the sunshine peering at the hill in front of us, which for some strange reason, keeps reminding me of the infamous trifle in "Faulty Towers". We see a car travel up the road below. I remark, that from our perspective, he has only travelled ten centimeters. I look at the path we have to walk. Itís a long way, at least forty.
There is a bit of a scramble to the top of Pen Allt Mawr but we soon reach the trig point. It is now a slow climb to the next summit, Pen Cerrig-calch.
From here the paths get rockier and a little harder to negotiate. We approach Table Mountain which is impressive from a distance. Table Mountain is obviously a favourite tourist spot,easily accessible from Crickhowell. There are crocodiles of people going up and down the other side.
At the bottom of Table Mountain we come to a stile, well no more than a fence really as it has no cross member. I try several times to get over but, eventually, have to remove my backpack in order to lean back and get my leg high enough. It is a real crotch splitter. This is a bit of a nuisance as we stopped for a break on the edge of the common and I have only just put my sack on!
The path is cool under trees and very welcome. We come to another stile. This one has a cross member but it is very wobbly. We go through fields over many more stiles. One is very short with a big drop beyond, a sort of a Beeches Brook of a stile. The next stile is new but ÖÖ it has no hand post!
We arrive in Crickhowell at about 1.00 pm
Charl sits under a water fountain in the middle of the high street while I shop. It is now extremely hot and I find it difficult to concentrate and recite all the things I need, whilst walking down the high street. The shops in Crickhowell are all small and no matter what they may be, they all seem to sell everything. ie: the butcher sells fruit, veg, and groceries, the green grocerís sells meat etc. I buy most of what I need in the butcherís and return to Charl, still desperately trying to think what Iíve forgotten but the heat is all encompassing. I pick up pasties and chelsea buns plus bread in the bakers then I take my turn by the fountain while Charl, who is keen to get out of the sun, leaves to find camping gas. He returns with a large canister. I say ďthank youĒ sarcastically as I carry the gas. He says that we donít know when weíll be able to get another can. I know heís right but the heat is making me tetchy. He even says he will carry the small gas can that we are using but I donít want him to. I carry the gas.
We walk to the campsite loaded with shopping bags. It is not very far so it hardly seems worth packing it into our sacks. The houses in Crickhowell are all very neat and tidy with pretty gardens, tubs and window boxes.
Before we put up the tent, we sit in the only small slither of shade and have our pasties, chelsea buns and several mugs of tea.
It starts to cloud over and is cool enough to get in the tent so we have half hour snooze. By the time we wake and have a shower it starts to rain. The sky looks very black so we quickly retrieve all our scattered possessions that are outside the tent.
I remember I havenít arranged to recharge the mobile but decide it will last till Glentawe.