A Day in the Black Mountains

Today my son and I headed for a day of walking in the Black Mountains north of Abergavenny. Arriving at a car park in Mynydd Du Forest at around half-eight we got kitted up and headed up the track to Grwyne Fawr Reservoir. As we climbed the track  which was like a mini river the dam came into view. It looked impressive with plenty of water running through. IMG_1012 (1024x767) On arriving at the dam we were pleased to find that we could walk across the top. This gave us great views down the valley. An interesting plaque on the wall of a building on the causeway. IMG_1021 (1024x767)Seen here was my first Common Sandpiper of the year. Heading on up the Valley there were plenty of Meadow Pipits to be seen and a couple of Ravens flew over. On reaching the ridge the it was quite challenging with a strong wind blowing and the peat underfoot  was very wet and ridged. Amazingly many of the large puddles had large amounts of Frog Spawn in them. Totally unexpected. IMG_1023 (1024x768)Reaching an unnamed Trig Point at 713 metres we found some shelter from the wind behind a small bank of Heather where we stopped for some food. IMG_1032 (1024x768)Retracing our steps for around a mile we were walking straight into the wind making the going extremely hard. A while later the direction of the path changed as it rose towards Waun Fach, the highest point in the Black  at 811 metres. Birdwise it was more Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and Ravens along with a steady flow of Swallows battling the wind. Also of interest were a couple of Gliders that were taking advantage of the uplift from the ridge. Watching them soaring made me realise that no Buzzards or Kites had been seen.  Waun Fach was reached and we were surprised to find that the summit was mainly a large peat bog in which, on a couple of occasions caught usIMG_1060 (1024x754) out, with or feet disappearing below the surface. Next summit was Pen y Gadair Fawr at 800 metres. More Mipits and Skylarks here as well as a Golden Plover. A breeding bird maybe? Despite the improvements in the weather recently, there was still plenty of  snow around. IMG_1055 (1024x766)Some of it quite deep although melting and adding to the amount of water. After walking to the edge of the ridge to view the reservoir below we carried on to the edge of the forest. Large areas had been cleared leaving a scene of devastation.IMG_1078 (1024x768) On the map a footpath was marked dropping down through the trees to the road and river several hundred feet below. However we were unable to find it so had to find our own route down through the trees. At a lower level we did find the path which was extremely overgrown and barely passable in places. We did eventually reach the road at the bottom of the valley. I was disappointed not to see a Dipper along here. We arrived back at the car at a little past three, having walked a little over fifteen miles. A fabulous walk and well worth the two hundred mile round trip. On the way home a brief stop was made at Cannop Ponds in the Forest of Dean. No Garganey were seen but Mandarin Duck was added to the year list.

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