16 March 2016- Pontescob, Black Mountains
Me n Paddy Garcia
A few days away in the beautiful Grwyne Fawr valley. The valley didn’t have a road until 1912, when one was built during construciton of a new reservoir at the head, and it still feels remote. More remote than you’d imagine somewhere only 5 miles from Abergavenny could be. PG got his wish for lambs- surrounded by nothing but lambs, lambing and very, very tired looking farmers.
Walking efforts limited by a panoply of excuses, primarily (a) fishing (b) working and (c) aforesaid falling over, but we made it out one day for a sizeable walk, ably guided by Nick Jenkins Circular Walks in the Black Mountains. From our abode, it was straight out of the door up a steep lane (we considered that the description of this as ‘moderate’ showed Nick was made of sterner walking stuff than us), and along a green lane onto a fantastic ridge of open moorland. Incredible views on all sides, down right into the Ewyas valley and left along the Grwyne Fawr, across to Offa’s Dyke and the Sugarloaf. Geography lessons made flesh, or rock rather.
At a meeting of paths on top of the ridge, we reached Dialcarreg- the revenge stone, apparently the site of a memorial to Norman lord Richard de Clare, killed there in 1136 by the Welsh. Travelling hostile country accompanied by only a minstrel and a singer seems unwise on the basis of this example.
From the stone, we tracked down off the ridge a bit and followed the contours along the valley, past a string of fascinating farms, with incredible collections of old agricultural buildings, some hundred of years old. After a stop at the Tabernacle to admire the gravestones and sadly derelict manse, we crossed the river and headed up through steep fields to Partrishow, past ancient manorhouse Tyn-y-llyn.
Then to our destination St Issui’s Church. Hard to think of a medieval church in a more utterly beautiful spot. And one with a very special interior, complete with surviving rood screen and mural of Time as skeleton with spade and scythe. We sat on a stone ledge in the churchyard and ate lunch surrounded by spring flowers and sunshine, before heading off to view St Issui’s holy well, adorned by a great collection of votive offerings including pair of glasses and bottle of scotch.
A final rolling descent down the reservoir road back to Pontescob, bit sore in the hip but otherwise very happy.