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Garth Lawson's latest walk is a good introduction to the Black Mountains
9:42am Thursday 1st September 2011 in Walks
IF you embark on a visit to the valley of the Grwyne Fawr with just a small band of followers, a singer and a flute-player, you should be safe enough.
But in 1135 it was a different story for the Norman knight Richard de Clare. Having been entertained by Lord Fitzcount at Abergavenny Castle and given an escort for the start of his journey north towards Talgarth and Brecon, de Clare made a momentous decision. Arriving at the gateway to the valley, the Lord of Usk dispensed with the services of Fitzcount’s men-at-arms.
Two miles up the pass, Morgan ap Owen, the Lord of Caerleon, was lying in wait with a band of Welshmen in the thickets now called Coed Dias, the “Wood of Revenge”.
Nursing a personal grievance and determined to drive any Norman “oppressors” out of Wales, Morgan’s men mounted an ambush and slaughtered the unarmed party.
Our moderate ramble starts one mile north of this fateful spot at Pont Cadwgan, an enclave which used to be in Herefordshire, but was transferred to Monmouthshire on September 29, 1893.
The route straddles the last journey of de Clare’s lyrical retinue and, at point three we reach Partrishow Church. Clinging to the hillside at the head of the valley in the midst of Wynford Vaughan-Thomas’s “soulconsoling view”, it has become a place of pilgrimage. A saintly man called Issui gave lessons in the Christian faith here, but was murdered by a traveller after receiving hospitality in his humble cell by St.
Mary’s stream in the dingle below the churchyard.
In 1911, hundreds of navvies, stonemasons and craftsmen invaded the valley to start constructing the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir.
They built, blasted, boozed and brawled their way through a seemingly impossible task which instead of the estimated 40 months’ work took no less than 18 years to complete. The project required the creation of a mountain village which expanded to house over 400 people at Blaen-YCwm two miles north of Cadwgan.
Beyond Issui’s church, we regain the road near the 1837 Tabernacle Baptist Chapel, which lay between passing point numbers 11 and 12 on the old railway line.
The single line carried workers from 450 feet at Lower Cwmyoy to 1800 feet at the dam and was operated without signals on the sight and sound principle of warning. The engines had to be worked hard on the steep inclines and in the quiet valley the train could be heard for several miles.
Young men seeking a dalliance would come down from “tin town” at Blaen-y-Cwm to the “Tab”, and time their arrival to meet the farm girls as they were coming out of chapel.
Dial Carreg, the 3ft upright “Stone of Revenge” (at point five) is on the open hillside of the fine Ffwddog ridge and above the scene of the bloody event it commemorates.
Finding one’s way to the first of two Mynydd Du car parks in the Gwyne Fawr valley takes you beyond the crossroads of Richard de Clare’s life.
First head for Llanthony from Llanvihangel Crucorney, but turn left for Partrishow after just under two miles. When you reach the point where there are four options at Five Ways, turn right for Grwyne Fawr, thus taking the third exit from the left.
There is a large parking area after about four miles on the right, over a bridge.
The walk is a good introduction to the Black Mountains; and the vistas and cronk of the acrobatic raven should provide consolation for any shortage of musical accompaniment.
1. Pont Cadwgan car park in Mynydd Du Forest GR 267251.
Re-cross bridge, and go straight across road by which you entered car park and bear L up the wide forest track. With conifers both sides, rise gently up, bending R, ½ mile altogether to path junction. Keep L towards signed “Fford- Llas- Fawr”, bridle path. Go through old gateway, bend L up, then bend R to stone farmhouse buildings.
2. Fford-llas-fawr. TL, with garden L, across a stream, straight ahead, through another old gateway and descend, past larch, to Crug Mawr mountainside.
Go through gate, ford stream and TL up to stone wall.
Rise along L edge for airy stroll along moorland and follow wall through 2 gates to L corner.
Bear L down sunken lane to reach road, where bear R and bend R by barn quite steeply down road beyond church, and down 13 steps to St. Issui’s well. Retrace road back up to enter churchyard through lychgate.
3. Partrishow Church. Go up path, (visit) pass preaching cross with original base and leave churchyard by wooden kgate.
Bear R down field, T very sharp R to put white farmhouse down to your L and follow wall down through farm buildings.
Complete left U Bend by going through gate (L), below topiary, on Beacons Way into paddock.
Leave paddock by gate or stile and TR down to cross stile or go through gate. Descend field half L through remnants of old building to join an old wall on your R. Follow tree-lined sunken lane, across trickle, cross stile on to and across road, forking R over bridge and Grwyne Fawr to Tabernacle Chapel.
4. Tabernacle Baptist Chapel, built in 1837. Continue on up lane which levels through gate and forks to R above Ty-mawr.
Go through another gate, just past salt bin, bear R beyond next gate, under tree, up to Upper House. TR, “Way to Hill”, bending L and steeply up stone path through gate. Rise between fences, through rusty gate, bear R up stone wall and fork R up to 3ft high stone pillar on crest.
5. Dial Carreg , “Stone of Revenge”. Now TL from monument for about 150m. Keep ahead, (not forking R) to pick up the lower of two stone walls ahead, by a gate. With 4ft high wall on your R, and the road you came in on way down to your L, follow wide footpath.
100m beyond a fence corner, fork L downwards. (Don’t climb any further). Pass three hawthorn trees, gradually contouring down to L on a narrower footpath. Go more steeply down to L and a ruin.
6. “Ruin”. TR along low track, across rubbly bit and TL through wooden gate by a waterfall. Now go through trees past “Cadwgan” along forest track to car park.