Mountain View(s)

Our estate here in Llanfoist just across the bridge from Abergavenny is called Mountain View.  What I’ve done is take some photographs from the top floor of our home where we have skylights in the roof to show you.  There are seven hills in fact surrounding the town, so let’s see how many we can see!

Skirrid Fawr
Sugar Loaf in the middle with the Deri to the right

Now for two hills that Debbie and I have yet to climb, Bryn Arw two and a half miles North of Abergavenny and Skirrid Fach (or Little Skirrid) one mile to the east.

Bryn Arw
Skirrid Fach

Now not surrounding Abergavenny, but seen in the distance from above Llanfoist on the Blorenge on a good day is the Brecon Beacons most popular climb…

Twin Flat Peaks of Pen y Fan and Corn Du on the horizon
Mountain View(s)

Ding Dong on Deri on High

No dear readers, my dyslexia isn’t getting worse, the post’s title shouldn’t be “Ding Dong Merrily on High“!  Let me explain…

After our recent ascent of Sugar Loaf mountain together I thought the expedition season was now probably over until the New Year.  So much to my surprise last night Debbie suggested that today we should climb the Deri.

This mountain is covered in oak trees and is within walking distance of Abergavenny town centre.  It’s famous for the “Croeso” sign with a smily face 😀 as the “o” cut into the heather visible from across town.

So after dropping James off for work this morning Debbie, I and the two dogs parked up in the free car park opposite Castle Meadows and walked down Pen Y Pound road towards the dome shaped mountain.

Deri’s dome-like appearance
Are our parents lost?  This isn’t Castle Meadows!

Stopping to ask directions once we crossed over the road just past the Deri View primary school and walked up some rather steep wooden steps carved into the bank onto a lightly path leading to the base of the mountain.

Small footpath leading to Deri from road – Debbie looking wistfully back at Abergavenny

Crossing two more stiles were the dogs had to squeeze through narrow openings we came to some white corsages and the sign for the public footpath which led up the hill.  Unfortunately it wasn’t terribly well marked and at one point we were toiling up through gorse and bracken like something out of jungle warfare films.

Debbie and Hamish wishing they had a machete

Although Debbie kept Hamish on the lead I (foolishly) decided that Molly would find it better to be free to run up and down the track as she’d done on the route to Sugar Loaf the week before and to begin with all was fine.

Molly free climbing up and down the track
Welsh flag half way up
Like stop halfway up
Abergavenny below

We reached a convenient place to stop, water the dogs and have a breather before heading into the tree-line itself.  This is where our “ding dong” happened when Molly suddenly disappeared from in front of us and we panicked.  Shouting “Molly” I headed further up the track , pausing every so often to try and hear here moving through the undergrowth but nothing!  Eventually I reached a puzzled looking and rather large sheep and realised that it was unlikely she’d come this far.

I could hear Debbie below hollering periodically for Molly and as I approached her much to my relief I could hear “good girl” – she’d finally come back.  Phew – valuable lesson learnt!  You can see how dense & dark being under the tree canopy was in the photo below.

Yours truly looking sweaty but calmer after the relief of finding Molly

After a few moments to hug each other we continued up and eventually came out of the tree-line as we got closer to the summit.

Small quarry just before Deri summit

Although the Deri is one of the smallest of the seven mountains surrounding Abergavenny the views from the top was spectacular.

Sugar Loaf from Deri
Blorenge from Deri
Sugar Loaf selfie
Blorenge selfie
Skirrid Fawr selfie

Then the “fun” of the descent happened.  What comes up, must come down, however no-one tells you that it’s much trickier coming down, especially when you have Molly trying to unbalance me in the race to get home and Debbie trying to retain her balance on the steeper parts of the descent while holding onto Hamish.

Hamish having partaken of a sheep’s poo lunch on the way up, proceeded to throw up on the way down much to our shame!  A last gulp of water for the dogs who were very thirsty at the bench heralded the final retracing of our steps through town and back to the car.

I write this blog after a relaxing bath with all limbs aching.  We did pick up a small rock that we intend to trace the name “Deri” and today’s date onto the front & reverse to add to our collection.  When it’s done I’ll update this page, but for now we all need some blissful rest!



Ding Dong on Deri on High

Abergavenny Food Festival 2016

We went to two festival events this year, the first was a “Street Food Party at the Castle” where two live bands played from 7pm to 10pm last Friday night.


We stopped off first at the Hen & Chickens pub in town for the first time which was really busy and the only room was in their restaurant area.  At the time we didn’t realise it but we shared the room with the second act, an Irish female folk band called  Dana Immanuel and the Stolen Band before heading off to the castle itself for the start.


It was quite a cold night so arriving early and securing a front row settee with 2 cushions in the main stage pavilion tent turned out to be a really smart thing to do as we had comfort for our derrières and a little bit of warmth by huddling under the cushions!


Once Debbie was safely buried in the sofa I got two pints of rather strong lager (£4 each) and a cardboard box filled with a delicious lobster roll, salad, chips and coleslaw (£12.50) and we settled down to listen to the music surrounded by shivering, rather envious looking neighbours perched on rather rickety looking wooden chairs around us…

The first band was called Ish Kabbible a rather unusual name but of the swing/jazz genre with a double bass, clarinet, lead singer with banjo, fabulous trumpet player and drummer.  Just my cup of tea and I bought their CD at the end for £5 which is now in my  iTunes.


After a quick handover on the stage our Irish fellow drinkers started playing with electric guitar, washboard and thimbles, electric double bass, hand drum machine and vocalist on banjo/acoustic guitar.  This time Debbie was more impressed than I – but to be fair a lot more people seemed to agree as there was a lot more dancing going on – although a jaundiced view could have predicted this would happen as the audience desperately tried to stay warm!



Eventually we decided to walk back home and made our way back arm in arm amazed at the sight of a full moon over Abergavenny.  A great evening and one we shall repeat next year if all goes to plan.

Saturday was our trip to Brecon to see “Boycie” (& Paul) as per yesterday’s post, so the Food Festival itself was attended Sunday and boy were we lucky with the weather.  James accompanied us in the walk into town as he was opening up the Blue Cross shop to take advantage of the crowds.


Wristbands rather too tightly affixed we walked into town and dropped off James before looking out for the “Monmouth Turkey” stall where we had ordered our fabulous Christmas Day bird last year.

After a quick visit to the Priory and some cider tasting we finally found it and I celebrated by tucking into the most delicious roasted pig roll with yummy sage and onion filler with apple sauce and crackling!

Debbie took these rather blurry photos as alas the food available wasn’t low fat (to put it mildly) so all I could do to compensate was buy two ice cold lagers supplemented by two complimentary sakes from the Japanese bar adjacent to where we were sitting.

After more mooching around the stalls we finally headed off back home this time through Castle Meadows which had been turned into a huge car park for the event.  My heart soared at the sight of the Blorenge behind me as we stopped off at the Bridge Inn for a last refreshing drink in their beer garden before finally making it home.  One year on from our move I think we’ve cracked it!


Abergavenny Food Festival 2016

Molly Goes on Her First Walk

Last Monday James and I took Molly and Hamish up to the Foxhunter car park at the top of Blorenge.  I’d managed to get her to wear her harness for the second day running without any fuss again which was a huge relief, so with Hamish in the lead we exited the front door and she followed.  To Debbie’s alarm straight through the border bushes and almost on her tummy she was so nervous!

In the end we decided to put both dogs on the back seats in the Freelander, with James holding onto them, as the dog guard I’d ordered hadn’t yet arrived.  So after a few moments to draw breath I set the air conditioning up to high & we made our way slowly up the Stumble towards the communication mast at the top of the mountain.

Freelander parked to left, communication mast to rear

I don’t think without Hamish being there and so obviously enjoying himself she’d have left the car park but with a little bit of encouragement from James she was off sniffing around as if this was a normal thing for her.  After about 15 minutes walk, stopping off to say hello to some fellow hikers coming down the path, we arrived at the top and as you can see Molly was enjoying the view perched on James’ back.

Climb every mountain, in this case to a rather nondescript trig point

As we made our way back to the 4×4 I glimpsed Foxhunter’s grave, spookily she died the day after I was born and for some reason I’d never seen the plaque before despite losing out for it.

Fox hunter’s grave, the first time I’d ever seen it believe it or not!

As the trio rejoined the back seat together I took this fabulous photo, it has to be one of my all time favourites now.  Hamish and Molly really are like chalk and cheese, not just in colour but in temperament, but one thing I do know they share is the love of a good walk!

A happy trio of passengers!



Molly Goes on Her First Walk

Two Heroes…

Two heroes have made themselves known to me this past week.  In truth, one is an old childhood hero of mine from the mid 1970’s, the other is a new friend & one half of lovely couple we’ve had a lot of fun with recently as neighbours in Steele Crescent.

Their names?   Steve and Andy (with Helen his wife), I can feel your curiosity increasing, so to put you out of your misery please let me explain.

It all started a couple of weeks ago when Debbie was wandering around the Abergavenny market while I was doing some “professional” mooching when she came across a set of 72 Six million Dollar Man trading cards priced at £10 and called me over as she knew I’d been a huge fan of “Steve Austin”.  Big mistake!


After haggling a bit I got them for £8!  We then made our way home where I realised I couldn’t stop there, especially with Amazon Prime offering free next day delivery of the complete box set of DVD’s of the Six Million Dollar Man episodes and reunion movies for a mere £99.

Before long visions Farah Fawcett Majors (as she was called then as Lee Majors’ wife), Bigfoot, the Bionic Woman, Rudy Wells and of course Oscar Goldman reunited me with so many memories…


Moving swiftly to my old friend, next I secured the action figure with bionic eye and brand new red tracksuit and matching trainers I’d coveted as a young adolescent now standing proudly in my den.

Steve Austin.  Astronaut.  A man barely alive (literally).

Now playing with dolls aged 56, may indicate that there is something wrong with me, so I dressed Steve hurriedly so neither Emma or James could see to what levels their father had sunk to since retiring!  Worse is to come, as anybody who knows me well will realise I’m an inveterate collector, so wouldn’t be surprised if Jaime Sommers, Maskatron & Oscar Goldman dolls might follow shortly…

Anyway back to real heroes for the moment and neighbour Andy on Friday had been expecting to launch himself from the top of Blorenge mountain on a piloted Paraglider.  It was a present from his 23 year old daughter currently serving in the RAF out in Afghanistan.

Now upon hearing the details of this “gift” in our local pub over a drink I immediately made sure that Emma realised that this kind of birthday present for me was out of the question having done my military service already.  Although slightly weakening my argument was the fact that Andy is an ex-WO1 in the Royal Signals, a regular soldier too, not reservist like yours truly!

In any event, his flight was scrubbed until Saturday when all the thermals disappeared just as it was his turn to launch.  After what must have been a nerve racking wait overnight and most of Sunday an excited Helen came round to our house about 5pm pointing up at the sky and Andy hurtling towards the River Usk and Castle Meadows.

Unfortunately I was just leaving in the Freelander to pick up James from work so I took this hurried snap out of the driver’s window before leaving and watched Debbie with Helen running down Cooper’s Way to the Bridge Inn to get a better view and ready some drinks to the all conquering hero.

Andy’s flight took just over 7 minutes I believe and cost around £120.  His “pilot” was a ex-squaddie and they marched left, right, left right together off the top!

James duly deposited back home, I made my way quickly to the Bridge & a round of celebratory drinks, when I glimpsed Andy through the window towards the three of us after helping the pilot pack the “parachute” in the field.


Helen ran out to congratulate her man and then the two of them looking happy (& dare I say it slightly relieved?) sat down to a well deserved cold drink as we clapped them in to the bar!

Andy enjoying a very well deserved Carling and clutching a smiling Helen!

Phew – whatever next in our Escape to Llanfoist adventure!



Two Heroes…

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal (by Foot)

Hamish our Westie can be a real pain sometimes, he isn’t the most affectionate dog in the world, but when we’re away we do miss him and look forward to reuniting with the “Scottish dog from hell”….

One huge benefit of Hamish though really is that he keeps Debbie and I fit with his daily walks.  When I was working we pretty much outsourced this duty to James, but now that I’ve retired, well, there’s really no excuse to taking him (& us) for regular exercise and to be honest we look forward to it.

Sometimes that means a quick tour of the Mountain View estate, or down the road to the Bridge Inn, but only if the weather is absolutely atrocious.  Normally we’ll take him in the Freelander down to the car park in Llanfoist near the Village Hall and take him down the cycle route that follows the old Abergavenny – Merthyr railway line.

A few days ago I suggested to Debbie (& Hamish) that we park up but instead cross the road towards the local St. Faith’s church where Crawshay the ironmaster is buried.


Up the single track road that leads to the rather steep footpath that climbs up the Blorenge – equivalent I think to the North face of the Eiger – something to be reserved for the days when we’re even fitter.  On that note by the way this retirement lark seems to be suiting us both, Debbie has never looked better and I’ve gone down from a 38″ waist to a 36″!


In any event we walked up the tree-lined road with a beautiful stream to our left which gradually bent round to the right towards a dark tunnel which leads up the Blorenge path.


Turning immediately right though we climbed a steep set of stairs leading up to Llanfoist Wharf on the Monmouthshire & Brecon canal and a most picturesque path, which to the left goes to Goytre Wharf and the right Govilon Wharf.


We’ve taken Hamish up there a few times now and rapidly it’s becoming our favourite dog walk.  Skirrid Fawr doesn’t really count except as a dog marathon!  In fact the picture below shows Skirrid Fawr from the canal side – it looks pretty impressive despite the distance!


On our last trip we saw this wonderful sight of a young female Mallard duck and her seven adorable ducklings, so cute, so amazing they seem to be thriving.





Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal (by Foot)

The Dragon & Kast Off Kinks

Yesterday was a real fun day here in our Welsh escape paradise!

Firstly, Debs, James & I drove over to Caerphilly castle, which after a few navigational hiccups on foot, yielded a dragon (covered in young kids) coming out of the ground.  On this occasion we didn’t visit the inside of the castle, that’s for a later day, as the dragon could only be viewed from outside the walls near to where we parked the Freelander which we only found out after traipsing over to the main entrance!

When we eventually got back to Llanfoist, we got ready for the “Kast Off Kinks” show at 7.30 in Abergavenny’s Borough theatre as can be seen below (I got told off before for photo during a performance so this is just the set!) – doesn’t Deb look fab? 🙂

The band were fab too, the lead guitarist was so close we could almost touch his guitar and the medley of songs included greats such as “Dedicated Follower of Fashion“, “Waterloo Sunset” amongst many others.  A great night out!

In case you’re wondering if your eyes are deceiving you I can confirm Debbie’s looking fitter than ever, look at her on the top of Blorenge recently taking Hamish for a walk – unfortunately I’ve not made quite the same progress due to an occasional addiction to a cooked breakfast, but even I need a belt to hold up my trousers now….



The Dragon & Kast Off Kinks