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For Easter 2012 the Dorset Young Walkers travelled to the Brecon Beacons in Wales for a weekend organised by Louise. We stayed the Star Bunkhouse in a little village named Bwlch. I assumed this was pronounced ‘Belch’. However, locals seemed to pronounce it something similar to ‘Bulk’ but with more phlegm in their throats!
People arrived during Friday afternoon and evening. We all brought a selection of buffet foods for our first meal. I am sure we all ate too much but the cheese and hot chilli jam was rather good. On Saturday, John led a 12 mile circular walk ‘Bwlch with Altitude’ directly from the bunkhouse. Meanwhile, Adrian led a less strenuous 8 mile walk to the waterfalls near Pontneddfechan.
The initial hill climb of John’s walk was strenuous and brisk and we were soon in the hills with the remnants of snow that had fallen the previous week. We took the opportunity to throw a few snowballs! Later, the walk became flatter and more sedate. We stopped to sign the visitor’s book in Llangors church before breaking for lunch near a rather large bird hide at Llangors lake. The final part of the walk was up and over another hill which descended to the welcome sight of the sign for Bwlch.
On arrival at the bunkhouse we discovered Adrian and his gang had not yet returned. They arrived soon after us and explained the walk although only 8 miles had been a little more strenuous than anticipated and involved scrabbling over rocks around the waterfalls.
Saturday evening involved the strenuous activity of eating and drinking in the New Inn which was situated directly opposite the bunkhouse. The menu was limited but the food was plentiful and delicious. The ‘dirty’ burgers were fabulous. It was Mat’s birthday and we celebrated by eating the delicious cakes Elaine had kindly made. With full bellies, many people went to bed early to prepare for the climb up Pen y Fan the following morning.
At 886 metres above sea level, Pen y Fan is the highest peak in south Wales and indeed southern Britain. If it had been raining, we would have had a good excuse to miss this out. Fortunately, the weather was kind and although very cloudy was mainly dry. From the start point we could not see the peak as the summit was hidden by low cloud. Ray, led us from a small car park up a quiet track. The ascent was quite hard going initially but after a break by a small lake we got into our stride and headed further into the clouds. We soon joined a well trodden path and suddenly more people started appearing including a whole group of school children hurrying past us.
We had to pick up our pace to keep up with these seemingly ill-equipped children. It was a relief to reach the top and an obligatory group photo was taken to prove our achievement.
The descent started well but it turned out to be too well as we missed a sneaky turning off the main path. Ray had to break the bad news that it would be quicker to go back up and find the correct path rather than continue down and find our way back to our start point. As the clouds lifted so did our spirits. It was amazing to see the view of were we had been. The little lake we had stopped at on the way up appeared much larger on the way down.
Back at the base we quickly drove back to Bwlch to relax and prepare ourselves for another evening in the pub. This evening we tried out other options on the menu and threw a few darts before drifting back to the bunkhouse. Some of us stayed up chatting until midnight before turning in. We had been lucky with the weather, which up until now had been mainly cloudy with the odd shower. Sadly, Monday was rather wet and after a fantastic weekend we headed off early to get home and wash our gear ready for our next walking adventure.
Text by Phil Channer; Photos by Phil Channer, Andy Skraga and Louise White