First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
A still afternoon over the Brecon Beacons. The Grwyne Fawr river ran dark and noisy after rain under the single arch of Llangenny bridge, the landlady of the Dragon’s Head Inn worked on her flowerbeds in the sunshine, and all seemed right with the little world folded into its valley in the eastern skirts of the mountains.
It was a stiff old pull up the hill out of Llangenny, following a wet green lane full of cress and pennywort. Lost lambs scampered in front of us, calling ‘Ma-a-aaa!’ as their mothers answered gruffly from beyond the hedges. A buzzard went mewing in wobbly circles, its steady flight pattern shaken up by a pair of divebombing and furiously croaking ravens. Soon the Sugar Loaf stood ahead, a green hill rising to a broad domed top, the kind of mountain that beckons rather than threatens.
Up above Cwm-cegyr, ‘hemlock valley’, a wide green cart track left the shelter of the larch groves and headed for the craggy summit of the Sugar Loaf. What a fabulous view from the top – the upturned longboat shapes of the Black Mountains along the northern skyline, the whaleback of Ysgyryd Fawr rising on the east, the rippling spines of the Valleys hills in the south-west, and further in the west the ground climbing towards the Brecon Beacons proper. Two centuries of hill walkers have climbed here to admire the prospect, and many carved their names and the date of their ascent into the grey crags that pepper the summit of the Sugar Loaf.
A bunch of beautiful semi-wild horses with wind-tossed manes and tails followed us off the Sugar Loaf, one cheeky fellow nibbling at Jane’s hat and hair. Soon they rollicked off to a water hole, plunging their muzzles in with loud sighs of satisfaction, while we went on down through fields honeyed by the declining sun.
What the hell is a sugar loaf? Well, children, if you’re sitting comfortably … that’s how Granny used to buy her sugar, in tall conical blocks with rounded tops. They came out of the moulds in the sugar factory that way; it was easier to slide the crystallised lump out of a cone than a cylinder or cube. Bingo! That simple!
Start & finish: Dragon’s Head Inn, Llangenny, near Crickhowell, Powys NP8 1HD (OS ref SO 240180)
Getting there: Train (www.thetrainline.com; www.railcard.co.uk) to Abergavenny (6 miles). Crickhowell Taxi Express (01873-811764; service on demand, Tuesdays only; free fare bus pass can be used), Llanbedr-Llangenny-Crickhowell. Road: Llangenny signposted off A40 (Abergavenny-Crickhowell).
Walk (6½ miles, moderate/hard, OS Explorer OL13): Cross bridge; left uphill past Pendarren gatehouse. In 150 yards, right (‘Castell Corryn’). Ahead for 100 yards, over stile, left uphill to cross stile. Right (yellow arrow/YA) to stile into road (244179). Cross road; follow green lane (fingerpost, then YAs) for ¾ mile, first along lane, then with fence on left. By Cwm-cegyr, track come in on right (254175); follow it, rising for 200 yards, then bearing right along fence and on uphill for ½ mile to corner of larch grove (260183). Bear right into dip; steeply uphill for 500 yards to where main track to Sugar Loaf crosses path (265182). Left to summit (272188). Left along ridge to end; follow broad path off ridge. In ¾ mile keep ahead (right) at fork (260190). In another 300 yards, fork right again. At foot of slope, follow wall to right. At bottom right corner, through gate above Gob-pwllau (blue arrow); follow stony lane through wood and on to Pengilfach (246190). Right along lane; in 50 yards, ahead (right) down to road (242191). Right for 350 yards to Ty-canol (244194). Left here (fingerpost); cross 2 stiles; follow path downhill through orchard and on (YAs), taking right forks downhill to Grwyne Fawr river (238190). Left for ¾ mile to Llangenny.
NB –Online maps, more walks: www.christophersomerville.co.uk
Lunch: Dragon’s Head Inn (01873-810350) – delightful, welcoming country pub. Accommodation details available. Ring first for opening times (generally lunchtime and evening at weekends, evening only on weekdays).