As parents arrived to retrieve their charges for the Easter break, an intrepid bunch of venturers set off on Maundy Thursday to the Black Mountains of South Wales for their Practice D of E Gold Expedition. Camp was swiftly set up on arrival in Capel y Ffin, christening the shiny new tents with rich, red welsh mud, before we split into two groups heading off for an afternoon of navigational fine-tuning around the local hillsides. After a quick supper we all headed out again, this time under cover of dark, to complete an orienteering-type course round the valley bottom, taking in a few spooky grave yards and some very noisy owls.
Good Friday dawned bright and clear, giving the group wonderful walking conditions for a yomp along the length of the hills from near Crickhowell, up over Waen Fach, before finally returning back to Capel y Ffin. Wonderful views and accurate navigation made for a great day, but the highlight was probably a snowball fight at the highest point in the Black Mountains, during which Toby Chesser (wearing shorts due to an ill-conceived rescue attempt on a bog-bound colleague) came off the worst.
Unfortunately the man with the piece of seaweed at the Met Office was speaking the truth and as predicted the weather broke overnight to give a fairly miserable day on Saturday. Odd breaks in the cloud allowed the occasional glimpse of views as the team trudged up Twumpa, but once Gospel Pass was crossed, the clagg set in, leading to a fairly dreary plod down Offas Dyke from Hay Bluff. A rather soggy and footsore party eventually materialised at Llanthony Priory, having made good time, but grateful for a little mothering and some positive goading and nudging to get organised.
Luckily the rain eased off overnight, allowing a relatively dry get away on Easter morning after the Easter Bunny had put in an appearance. Heavy spring showers chased the group down the valley, but fortunately all were safely gathered in to the minibus before the really nasty hail and ice hit.
All the walkers performed very well, worked as an effective team and learnt much about navigation, personal skills and team work. Good humour was maintained throughout and fun (in the most part!) was had by all.
As every our thanks go to Miss Becs Gibbson for giving up her Easter to help us out and to the landowners of the Black Mountains for access to their wonderful hills and valleys.
Dr Simon AH Young
Head of Outdoor Education