A year ago, during a visit to the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust at Slimbridge, Andrew became fascinated by a distant hill,topped by a small copse of trees, which caused it to resemble a Mohawk hairstyle. We discovered that it was called May Hill.
A week later, as we drove north to Scotland, we spotted it again from the M50, just outside Ross-on-Wye. Subsequently, we have seen it from the Malvern Hills (which border Herefordshire and Worcestershire), the Lickey Hills of the Midlands, and also from different peaks in the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons.
So, when we decided to meet our good friend Tim, at a place roughly equidistant from our homes, it seemed Fate had decreed that now was the time to uncover May Hill’s mysteries!
The Hill, with the exception of the copse, is owned by the National Trust. We met Tim…eventually…at a parking area/layby, where a wild mare and her young foal were eating their lunch, completely unperturbed by the arrival and departure of the occasional vehicle. A short walk from the car park brought us to some more horse families grazing on this protected common land.
The distinctinve copse of pine trees was planted to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee and additional trees planted for the current queen’s Silver Jubilee. The summit itself (296 m / 971 ft) is marked by a trig point and within the trees are two commemorative plaques. The Corsican and Scots’ Pine are planted in a square and a bench is placed on the outer edge of each side, so that you can enjoy the views with a degree of comfort. The panoramas are impressive.
To the south, the River Severn, meanders towards the Bristol Channel, overlooked by the Cotswolds and the Forest of Dean.
To the west we could clearly see the Welsh mountains of Sugar Loaf, Ysgyryd Fawr (Skirrid), Blorenge, Waun Fach and Hay Bluff.
To the north the Malvern Hills and also the hills of Shropshire were visible.
The eastern view is now partially obscured by the mature forestry. However, at various points, you can see the Cotswolds.
We continued our stroll (along a route downloaded from the National Trust site) and were delighted to encounter the plantation of beautiful redwood trees, amongst the fruiting beech and rowans. To Lynne’s delight we met another friendly pony ambling along the forestry track, just before returning to the parking area. To our delight (Tim and Andrew), Lynne didn't try to bring it to the Penny Farthing Inn!
Learned and Affirmed
Leaving home later than we had planned, we were very lucky to find a parking place opposite the Storey Arms Outdoor Education Centre. It’s great that so many people are being active but accommodating so many cars is becoming a real issue on the weekends.
While the path to Pen y Fan looked like the route to a religious shrine, crammed with hundreds of pilgrims; the route to Fan Fawr was, well…empty…except for the two of us. Phew!
As we dropped down from the A470 to the ‘Taff Trail’ path, we followed the Taf Fawr to the point where it enters the Beacons Reservoir. You have to keep your wits about you if you want to avoid the numerous boggy patches through which the path runs. However, once we reached the far end of the reservoir (via moorland and forest tracks) we were glad to begin our ascent of Fan Fawr’s long, curving eastern ridge - Cefn Yr Henriw.
As we neared the summit, we spied the trig point off to the west. We decided to visit it although it wasn’t on our walk route. We were glad that we made the detour. Just as we got there, the sun emerged from the overcast sky and we had a great view of previously visited western peaks – Fan Nedd, Fan Gyhirych, Fan Frynych, Fan Hir and Fan Brycheiniog.
We then made our way to the ‘true summit’ (734 m/2048 ft), marked by a small cairn. Whilst we had a quick snack, we watched the continuous line of ‘pilgrims’ making their way up the Pen y Fan path, and a couple of paragliders frightening sheep on the other side of the valley.
As we made our post-lunch descent, we met another walker with her two dogs, one of whom took a great interest in Lynne! Like us, she was avoiding the crowds. We exchanged a few pleasantries and congratulations (she had just graduated!), then made our way back to the busy car park.
Learned and Affirmed
Just a couple of hours to spend this weekend...so, somewhere local...cue the sound of Andrew rustling a map...
Llantrisant is only 9 miles away. We have driven past it, through it and to it many times. However, neither of us had ever visited the strange tower-like structure on the highest point above the town.
Within a 100 m of the free car park, we crossed beyond the cattle grid and were greeted by a variety of free-roaming bovines, claiming their rightful place on the common land. As we walked along the common road, we saw the derelict Cwm Coke Works - a relic of the heavy industry that once dominated the area. There is a strange beauty about the tall brick chimneys and other angular structures. In contrast, the Royal Mint seems modern with sleek lines and low-lying buildings.
Leaving the road, we followed a series of small roads, tracks and paths to the summit of our peak - Y Graig. As we ascended we saw the Ely Valley below occupied by Talbot Green and its shopping complex, Llantrisant golf course, and residential developments of different ages.
We quickly reached the summit tower known locally as 'Billy Wynt'. It is a folly built on the base of a former windmill (the Welsh for wind being 'gwynt'). Sadly this small cylinder is filled with litter. We walked up the few stone steps and sat on the rim. The view at only 174 m is still impressive. We saw Cardiff Bay with the Millennium Centre shining in the sunlight. We could see many familiar sights but with time pressing us, we took a few photographs, we walked back through the town and promised to return to explore its history a little more....especially that of the physician William Price, who was responsible for the acceptance of cremation as a death rite, amongst other achievements. We strolled past his statue in the Bull Ring and returned to the car park.
Learned and Affirmed
We are Lynne and Andrew from Single Steps Learning. Our love of learning and exploring has inspired us to take up 'hill-walking'. We hope to progress from novice to expert! This is our journey.