You’ll Never Walk Alone

Not the inspirational song title by Gerry and the Pacemakers but a phrase unlikely to spring from my daughter’s mouth in future after today’s escapade!

Many months ago now I managed to persuade Emma to accompany me in a “short” walk down from the Storey Arms along the footpath back down to Brecon.

“Downhill all the way, relatively straight, easy terrain impossible to get lost and will take an hour and a half max” translated into a near four hour up and down hike, crisscrossing the Brecon Beacons, exhausting and taking more like four hours.  I got a huge blister too and Emma got wise to my map reading skills or rather lack of them…

Roll forward several months and I can only think she’d forgotten the past when I innocently asked her to join me on a walk while Debbie was attacking a rather impenetrable backlog of ironing.

Molly was joining us on this walk to lull her into a false sense of security and I’d hidden Chris Barber’s book “40 Walks In The Brecon Beacons National Park” in a Tesco carrier bag.  The page was open for a 3.5 mile circular walk starting from Crickhowell fire engine car park up to Table Mountain and back.

What could go wrong I thought as we arrived and I shovelled £1.30 into the pay and display machine, as despite it being a Sunday Crickhowell is richer than Abergavenny, so still charges on a Sunday.  “Ninety minutes should be enough” I though as we departed with innocent enthusiasm together into town, past the Bear Hotel.

Then a turn right at a primary school and we followed a path threading its way up through a housing estate until a stile came into view.  The two humans climbed over with no problem however our canine companion had to walk under the adjoining iron gate, through a muddy farm track populated by two young and inquisitive donkeys.

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A Victor Meldrew moment was had later as the donkeys started to follow me!

Fortunately the donkeys either decided I wasn’t Victor or abandoned their chase after realised we had no food, nor water in our possession.  More on that later.  Shortly we came across a second stile where I realised that there was a vertical post to the left for dogs that you could lift up to allow Molly to pass.  Great idea, sadly not replicated as nearly all the future stiles required Molly to be coaxed to slide through gaps on all fours…

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“Don’t drop it on me Emma!”

As we got higher in the path there was a wooded valley containing Cwmbeth Brook to our left with a footbridge to cross and many fallen trees but we kept to the path across two small streams up to a stone walled sheep pen.

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The pen morphed into a dry stone walled enclosed path on both sides and I remember telling Emma that we’d be turning right avoiding the steep slopes ahead to contour to the top of Table Mountain.  This helpful information duly (of course) proved false!

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About this time Emma’s confidence in my time management and location skills had taken a bit of a knock (again) and so we asked some passing hikers if we were on the right track.  They looked well kitted out and even better had the following map which made Chris Barber’s route ten in the book look rather inadequate.

To be fair to Chris he does have a section at the beginning of the book that lists the following mountain safety advice which I have to say I’d largely skipped over…

  • Check local weather forecasts
  • Plan walks with a generous time allowance including refreshment and rest stops
  • Always carry a map, reserve food, torch, spare bulb, batteries whistle and first aid kit, emergency rations

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With their help and encouragement we carried on and eventually reached a place where we could contour across to the summit and we both began to feel quite cheerful and excited.  Molly just loved the outdoors and in fact quite a few dogs appeared to be accompanying their owners and looked similarly entertained!

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I asked the couple at the top when we reached them to take the following photo of Emma and I and as I received the iPhone back I couldn’t help but notice them tucking into lovely sandwiches and a hot thermos of tea.  I think they saw my look of admiration and kindly offered me a dog chew for Molly…  Feeling tired and ravenous we decided to cut short the sight seeing and march off back to the car with the promise of a visit to McDonalds for some vegetarian fast food back in Llanfoist!

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With this vision to spur us on we headed South along the slope of the summit rather than backtrack down the ascent path to the main footpath back to Crickhowell.  Mistake number two it transpired as the three of us had to scramble down a rather steep, rock stream scree slope on all fours.

Still with the hunger incentive paramount in our minds we successfully navigated this impediment without complaint only to find that the route down to the village wasn’t all that clear and we probably would have got lost again if Emma hadn’t spotted the same couple who had overtaken us again turn down a path at an isolated farm that led to a road I recognised driving up on a previous visit.

Eventually we got back to the Galaxy and I noticed that the 30 minute safety net I’d added to what i thought would be a 90 minute walk had been exceeded by a further 44 minutes – whoops!

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Still with us both euphoric having survived this latest expedition and with Molly asleep in the rear we headed back home tired but happy with our adventure.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

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