At last Chris and I had a weekend away having just returned, somewhat stiff and achy, from a fun weekend in South Wales. As part of a group of 7 friends, we did a monumental 14 miles of tough trekking and climbing on the Saturday and a more relaxing waterfall walk on the Sunday.
We left home during the late morning of last Friday and made our way for 220 odd miles to the campsite. This should have taken just over 4 hours but heavy Friday traffic and a few detours meant we finally arrived at the Lone Wolf Campsite near Neath at around 5 pm.
Upon arrival we were greeted by the friendly owner who gave us a rapid overview of the facilities before leaving us to go and find a place to pitch our tent. He seemed concerned and as he tried to manage my expectations he said “I hope you will be OK with everything, it is all quite basic here…” Maybe he thought we were townies or softies? Having wild camped in Botswana and also with Chris not too far away near Abergavenny, I can do basic!
We had to leave our car in the car park as motor vehicles were not permitted, or wouldn’t even get to anywhere on the campsite. Thankfully we soon located Russell and Roza, friends who had arrived before us who guided us to a lovely large area right next to the pretty stream. We grabbed a wheelbarrow and taking a couple of trips carted our gear down the grassy and in places muddy track to pitch our tent.
Mike and Flo and then Mark arrived shortly afterwards and once everyone had put up their tents and sorted their kit we sat around the fire, nibbling on snacks, drinking wine and cooking hallomi burgers. Roza added a touch of sophistication and produced a fabulous cheese board!
During the evening we had one short light rain shower so we all moved our chairs and ducked under Russell’s tarp (above). Thankfully it was over in a few minutes so we resumed our positions around the fire. And that was all we saw of any rain for the whole weekend.
Saturday: Fan Brycheiniog
The big hiking day began with a short drive to the start of the circular walk, where we parked for free along the road near the Tafarn-y-Garreg pub.
We crossed the road, over the wooden bridge and began the fairly steep climb up towards Fan Brycheiniog.
Hiking through the clouds and walking along the ridge we got higher and closer to the peak.
A steep drop of several hundred meters below Chris…
As we had a snack and a rest stop in the stone shelter near to the top the clouds lifted and we had wonderful views from the highest point at 802 m.
Overlooking Llyn y Fan Fawr lake, Fan Brycheiniog is the highest peak in the Black Mountains which are part of the Brecon Beacons National Park.
From the Fan Brycheiniog peak we made our way across the ridge towards the next peak which was Fan Foel at 781 m.
We had another steep climb to reach Fan Foel so had another break at the top!
We had already climbed the peaks but this point was about half way through the walk. We began our long and gradual descent around the other side of the lake and back to the cars.
We finally arrived back at the cars feeling pretty exhausted having followed Russell’s route, climbed up and down the peaks and walked for over 14 miles. Our total elevation was 971 meters and our total walking time (excluding several leisurely stops) was 6 hours. This was the toughest trek we had done in a while!
It was soon back to the campsite where we enjoyed Flo and Mike’s vegetarian chilli (cooked on Mark’s huge cast iron skillet on the fire) and washed it down with beer and wine.
Sunday: Pontneddfechan Waterfalls
Thankfully it hadn’t rained overnight and after breakfast and packing up our tents and cars we drove to the Gwaun Hepste car park to begin our short walk around the Pontneddfechan Waterfalls. We paid £5 per car for all day parking.
We had been there before as part of a longer and more remote walk in 2015 on a previous camping trip however this fitted perfectly before our drive home in the early afternoon. The woodland and waterfalls added a lovely contrast to the mountains of the previous day.
Throughout the park you can wander along the smooth tracks however if you wish to go and see any of the 4 waterfalls, this involves steep up to 15 minute treks down and then another 15 minutes back up again. This wouldn’t be suitable for anyone with walking difficulties as you have to concentrate somewhat and select your footing. I must say with sore legs and a couple of blisters from yesterday I could feel every step down!
While camping or trekking isn’t for everyone for me it’s a brilliant little adventure for a low cost. The total cost for the weekend for both of us was £100, that is £60 for petrol and £40 for 2 nights in the campsite. I didn’t include food costs as we had no meals out, visited no pubs and we consumed the same type of food and drinks as we would if we were at home.
More effort is required especially for semi wild camping as this means you have a bit of organising to do. More packing (with the tent, bedding, gas stove, cooking utensils, food etc) and time being spent on setting everything up, cooking the food, washing up and then taking it all down again. But when you are relaxing in the evening, sitting in the woods next to a stream, having a laugh with good friends around the fire, nothing can beat this.
This is similar for mountain trekking. After the effort of climbing to the top, you are rewarded with fabulous views and a sense of achievement that you wouldn’t otherwise get.
With so much focus on being active and trying to stay organised (damn, where’s the bottle opener…) this was also a wonderful de-stressor. Not once did I think about work so roll on the next camping/trekking adventure!