Men of Harlech(Tron Male Voice Choir) - The Brecon Beacons and Beyond to Hay-on-Wye - 18th August 2016

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August 18th 2016
Published: August 22nd 2016
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Another reasonable day of weather ahead before it all turns to custard overnight. There are prospects for the weather then clearing tomorrow from around midday.

So we will head off to the Brecon Beacons today in the hope that we can find a trail and do some hiking.

While we are out and about we plan to get as far as Talgarth a town we heard about on a TV programme a year or so ago. The town was in need of some rejuvenation and the community applied to the Lottery Grant Commission and received enough money to repair a rather dilapidated building that had been a flour mill with a water mill and also built a cafe which serves bread, scones etc using flour from the mill.

So we thought we would go and see what it is like a few years on from when they finished the project.

A good breakfast with poached eggs thrown in after the usual muesli should get us through without needing lunch.

The town of Ammanford where we are staying was a coal mining town in its more recent history but the decline of coal as a fuel has seen the town’s population reduce from the days when coal was the biggest industry in Wales. There are still around 5000 people living in the town which was originally called Cross Inn but changed its name in the late 1800’s as there was already another Cross Inn in the county. The name reflects the ford that people used to have traverse before a bridge was built over the Amman River that runs through the valley.

We took the A483 and A4069 which runs through a series of small ex coal mining towns through the Amman Valley towards the Black Hills also known as the Brecon Beacons.

These coal mining towns all looked very similar with narrow two storied rows of houses lining the main road and their front doors right on the footpath. Under the grey overcast sky they looked a bit grim to live in but such is the life of those families that came here many years ago for the money they could make from being a coal miner.

The road zigzagged up to a summit where we took a stop to walk around to the site of an old lime quarry and mine. The views weren’t too bad out and across the rural Welsh countryside and would have been even better had the overcast sky not created a bit of a haze.

Quarrying for lime started in the 1700’s on a small scale which increased dramatically over the years until the quarries and mines were closed in the 1950’s.There is still a lot of white rock in the hillside but perhaps it is no longer economic to quarry or mine for the product.

Down the northern side of the Black Hills and we joined the A40 heading west towards Brecon where we switched to the A470 and a slight change of direction to a more northerly course until we got to Talgarth on the edge of the Brecon Beacons.

We had planned to pick up a trail map for the hikes out of Talgarth from the Information Office in the village but for some reason they were not open on a Thursday! We were aware that all the walks started in the car park so we thought we would have a coffee and scone with clotted cream and jam (this is becoming addictive like the Pub meals!)at the cafe created from the Lottery Funds the community had gained and shown on the TV programme that created out interest in the village.

The cafe was as we remembered it from the TV programme and the Mill was in full working order although we decided against the four pounds entry fee each just to see a water wheel working and the miller making flour.

Instead we made for the car park after our afternoon tea and found the trail map. Sure enough all the trails started here, no problem. But we could not work out which direction the trail we had chosen to an old church on a loop track actually went from the car park. It seemed that having some written instructions was important and of course the information centre with the detailed maps was closed. There were no coloured discs on posts etc that we have always found when we have been hiking.

We headed off where we thought the trail should go but after a kilometre or two we were still on a road and felt that by now we should have been hiking across fields as the church on the loop track wasn’t on a road.

Disappointed we gave up the idea of a hike and walked back through the village along the stream for one last look and then got in the car and drove to Hay on Wye also known as ‘The Town of Books’ as it has a large number of book shops selling mostly used books.

The market town dates back to 1135 with many buildings still remaining and in use from the 16th and 17th century.

The remains of Hay Castle dominate the highest point in the town although much of what remains looks like it wasn’t being that well maintained.

It was late in the afternoon and although there had been a market in several of the town’s streets the stalls were winding down with the vendors packing up their vans.

There was time for an ice cream, chocolate for Gretchen and peanut butter for me, as we wandered up and down the narrow streets of the town checking out the windows of the book shops in case there was a title that might have interested us.

We had a 100 kilometre drive back home and so we got the car back onto the A470 and this time we took a different route home staying on the A470 which bisected the Brecon Beacons through the middle of the National Park where a valley ran which meant we didn’t have a climb up and over the hills.

We switched to the A465 and drove westwards through Glynneath and back to Brynamman where we had been this morning on the outward journey and finally down through the same ex coal mine towns to Ammanford.

It had been an interesting drive scenery wise although we had been disappointed that our planned hike in Talgarth didn’t come off for us.

Tomorrow we plan to head to the west coast of Pembrokeshire and again look for a trail to hike although just how long we might get out of the car depends upon the weather which is expected to close in tonight but clear from midday.

PS;although the theme song for today's blog doesn't have anything in particular with where we visited, it is a stirring Welsh song that will get you up and singing with great voice.Enjoy on Youtube as usual

Additional photos below
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23rd August 2016

Talgarth - open or closed
We went to Talgarth last year. It was a gray gloomy day. We arrived with high expectations and found it closed. Hope you had better luck, perhaps not.
24th August 2016

It was mostly open except for the Information Centre which we really needed so we could get one of their hiking maps.Why it was closed on a Thursday we don't know.Cafe was open and had a nice break there.Decided not to pay the 4 quid each to get into look at the waterwheel making flour though.

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