Being a little earlier than usual we were delighted that the Met Office was promising good weather for the Gold Practice Expedition to South Wales. What is more they delivered on their promise – instead of the usual gloom that can descend over the landscape when the Severn bridge is crossed, the sun shone and the hills glowed russet with dry bracken fronds. The cloud shadows scudded across the slopes as we headed up the valleys into the heart of the Black Mountains.
After setting up camp we pottered off on a “shake down” walk to get the groups back into a navigational frame of mine. Following supper they had a chance to put revised skills into practice on a short night navigation exercise round the valley bottom beneath a beautiful starry sky.
Friday saw another bright day and both groups walked the length of the hills from Crickhowell over Waun Fach and down to Capel y Ffin. Everyone arrived at camp in good time, despite one group getting a little confused as to the difference between North and South, resulting in a major detour in exactly the wrong direction.
A relaxed evening round a fire was followed by a showery night and a rather damp start to a major pull up to Twmpa, over Gospel Pass and along the Welsh-English border formed by Offa’s Dyke. A chilly wind soon blew the last of the showers through and allowed lovely clear views into mid Wales and over Hereford to the Malverns – another hugely enjoyable day, leaving everyone in good humour for the night at Llantony Priory.
The final morning ushered in another sunny day to see the groups through their final plod down the Vale of Ewyas to the pickup point at Cwmyoy. All parties did well; lessons about kit and food were learnt, navigational skills were sharpened and most importantly the hills were enjoyed.
Dr SAH Young
Head of Outdoor Education