1/3/15 - St David's Day

St David's Day - the national day of Wales and what better way to spend it than with the indigenous people, the Welsh. I regard myself as Welsh, I was born in Wales, my parents were born in Wales and my grandparents were too but 5 of my 8 great grandparents were born in England and it's their language I speak. Sometimes I'm a foreigner in my own country, I don't speak the lingo you see, I can be amongst Welshmen and I don't understand a lot of what they say. Today I walked with real Welshmen, men who were brought up speaking Welsh, men who toiled underground digging out the black gold.........

........the brothers Jones

The brothers Jones are pictured at the Ton Pyrddin Ironworks towards the end of our walk. The man in the middle is Dan. He's my hero and I want to be like him when I grow up. I see Dan when I swim in the mornings but I've also met Dan a few times while out walking or riding my mountain bike, and mostly he's in the middle of nowhere and he's walking with purpose. Well it's nowhere to most people but to Dan it's home. Dan is 85 and he walks every day which is why I keep bumping into him. To his right is brother Emlyn, he's 83 and to his left Eirwyn, aged 82. The brothers all grew up in Banwen and the Ironworks and it's vicinity was their playground when they were growing up and they can still be seen playing there today. 

A note about the Ironworks. I'm informed by the brothers that it was only open for two years in the 1840s and was abandoned almost 100 years before they were born. The structure of the works was almost complete when they were children but has fallen into disrepair since. It's on private ground and is not even marked as an 'old ironworks' or anything apart from buildings on the map. In fact I'd walked within 20 metres of it on a previous walk and didn't know it existed. See the map extract below. It's the 3 squares while the green dotted line public footpath. The Ironworks is on private land and you would need to make an appointment to view it. The brothers of course are on first name terms with every farmer within a 10 mile radius of this location so an appointment on this day was not neccesary.   


Back to the walk and we started at the cottages where the bothers grew up and Emlyn still lives, their sister Elvira lives next door. The cottages have views over the Brecon Beacons and in particular the Fan Hir ridge, still with the odd patch of snow. Within 200 metres the skies opened and my camera struggled to take photos of a pair of red kites that were floating nearby, they were still there on the return but my camera battery had packed in by then. We followed the road to Nant Hir and joined the footpath leading up towards Cwm Nant-Hir. Emlyn informed me that his aunties & unlces were previous owners of Nant Hir and that his uncle used to drive a car down the footpath we were on.


Prince the Jack Russell just trotted on and wasn't impressed. I was though and stopped to take more photos of the moss in the valley.

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There was so much moss, and it was all so green that for a sort while it didn't seem like winter time. At the end of the path we turned left onto a farm track and headed for Sarn Helen, the old Roman Road to Brecon.  

I'm the bloke behind the camera, and don't forget Prince the dog. We were only on Sarn Helen for a short while then into the forestry, looking across the valley we could see out start point and the village of Banwen in the distance. 

The row of trees in the foreground was where we were heading but we had to go around the 'houses' to get there.

Eirwyn climbs a makeshift style. 

The next location we were heading for was an old ruined farmhouse next to the Nant Hir stream. In the centre of the ruin there is a grave. J.W. died 1821. Vernon had been intrigued by this grave previously and had done some research on it. It turned out that Jenkin Williams died aged 9 months was buried there. His mother had been turned out from her home at Glyn Mercher Uchaf, about three miles away because she was unmarried and became pregnant. The family at Blaen Nant Hir took her in and Jenkin was born illegitimate. Because of this he was allowed to be buried on consecrated ground so we think that Jenkin was buried here for this reason.

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Vernon pointed out another unusual fact about this grave, the text is in English, whereas everyone in the area at this time would have spoken Welsh.

From here we headed to the Ironworks which I've previously mentioned......... 

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....... and from there back to our start point on the Banwen Rd, but every couple of steps Dan would point out something of historic value like............

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..........there used to be a row of cottages here and.............

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near where that pylon is over there - there was a school but that was demolished and completely removed when they 'open casted' the site back in the 1950s



4/3/2015 - Aberavon Beach sunset

Another short walk and sunset on Aberavon Beach. I just love them :)


7/3/2015 - Kenfig Hill Nature Reserve

With 45 minutes to spare between appointments I took myself off to Kenfig Nature Reserve for a quick 2.2 mile circuit walk to Sker House, almost to the beach and back. No time for photos, it's a walk I've completed before so have plenty on file - see sometime in the future for these.  

18/3/15 - 'Porridge on the Point' - Pen-y-Fan trig point 

The second sunny day in a row and the forecast was good for sunrise so after a disappointing sunset last night I got myself prepped and ready for 'porridge on the point', the point being Pen-y-Fan trig point, the highest point in southern Britain. Sunset was at 6.23am but I was on the road 4.50am because it's quite a walk to the top. I'd given myself 70 minutes and although I'd allowed enough time for a normal day to arrive 20 minutes ahead of sunrise I hit the snow line for the path at about half way up which slowed me down a little. It was around minus 2 degrees at this point with the wind in the face as well, note to self, don't leave gloves on the car seat. I did have my main ones in the rucksack for the top though. The climb from Pont-ar-Daf car park which was my start point is on the dark side of Pen-y-Fan and you can see that it's a lot lighter on top but it's just so far away. 


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The majority of the path was snow from half way onwards Chasing the light - Corn-Du is clear on top - excitement is building now On to the ridge and the glow of sunrise is evident on the horizon Where is the top of Pen-y-Fan - someone has stolen it

 The path junction with Corn Du is at the top on the ridge and it's here that you can see the warm glow of the sunrise in the distance for the first time then it's the last push to the top but the clag is down. I made the top with 10 minutes to spare and there was an occasional lift of the clag for the next 20 minutes set which allowed me to get some half decent photos, but the best shot I missed because I was busy changing my wet top and adding hats & gloves to my extremities. It was there one second and gone the next, just before sunrise, the top half of Cribyn rearing it's head out of the clouds with a stunning red glow in the background. Absolutely beautiful, it was worth the trip for just that one pure magic moment.

top of Cribyn poking through pre-sunrise.......

......... and there she is 

It was interesting to note the sunrise was at 6.23 and Brav, the Zimbabwean arrived at 6.22 just in time to see it, perfect timing. He then proceeded to speak to his other half via skype, she was back home in the warmth of Africa so I said hello and asked could I borrow Brav to take a photo of me taking photos. 

Brav with a direct line to Zimbabwe

Thank you Mrs Brav. On went the first pot of water for a cup of coffee, Brav couldn't stop for a cuppa because he had to be in Brecon for 7.30 so he bid farewell and he missed porridge as well.

Dai with camera at the ready

mmmmmmm...............mmmmmmmm - note the new windshield for the stove


20/3/15 - partial eclipse of the sun

It was one of those days that happen when they happen and young Dale happened to shout "let's do something for the partial eclipse on Friday". So we put our thinking caps on not forgetting the even younger still Gethin was not yet 2 years old and came up with a short walk & picnic in the ruined church overlooking Margam Park. Now I've always known this as Capel Mair ar y Bryn (The Church of Mary on the Hill) but last time I was there it had a completely different name (more info to follow) and while we were there this special 'paper clip olympic sport' happened.............



and to think we spent 3 hours rehearsing all that :) - well maybe not. So what is a 'paper clip olympic sport' I hear you ask. It's a sport that's made up there with any materials that are available. Other 'paper clip olympic sport's' we regualarly compete in include Melon Boat Racing, Gate Rounders and Target Beach Screech. So where does the terminology Paper Clip Olympics come from. Back in the early 1980s my friend Bryan 'Charlie' Cokely and I (pictured left below on a trip to Wales with me in 2012 with his daughter the Flying Emily) used to make games up from anything to hand and we used to say 'give us a paper clip and a piece of paper and we'd invent an Olympic sport out of it' and as we invented different competitions we used to call them 'paper clip olympic sports' and then he moved to Australia so we invented the international postal dodge but that's another story. But we are both carrying on the tradition and the spirit of the paper clip olympics with our children....... and grandchildren (in my case).


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Another short walk on Aberavon Beach for the sunset, I wanted to get a short run in but got carried away with trying to catch a nice sunset photograph of myself running.


Is that a beard or double chin ? 

I ended up taking 400+ photos and I think I may have worn out the self-timer. You've just got to love the colours of the sunset, the oranges, the purples & the pinks. 


Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday dear David, happy birthday to me, I'm 25 again and scooting up Pen-y-Fan for another sunrise, this time on my own. Most of the snow had gone from the previous week but there was a light dusting that had fallen overnight. Again it was mostly clag on top but still there were a couple of golden moments.   


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