Sunday 31 March 2013

Offa's Dyke Path - Day 10: Hay-on-Wye to Pandy

Sunday 31st March 2013

A very long day in the Black Mountains, following the Offa's Dyke Path from Hay-on-Wye to Pandy

Distance: 27km; Ascent: 800m; Mainly sunny, but windy; Solo

After another cooked breakfast I set off walking through Hay-on-Wye just before 9:30am in the sunshine :-)  Soon I left town and began walking across green fields - it made a pleasant change from the snow from the last couple of days!  However despite the sunshine it was clearly still below freezing as there were several large patches of ice in the low lying parts of the fields.  A little over a kilometre after leaving Hay, there was a short section of road walking before beginning to ascend up through the fields to the south, back into the snow.

Hay-on-Wye clock tower
Looking back NNW over Hay-on-Wye to the snowy hills beyond
Soon after passing Cadwgan farm there was a nice wintry section of woodland before I reached a pleasant area of open common land.  There were good views of Hay Bluff and Twmpa from up here, although even by now it was clear that I was going to have another day of bitterly cold easterly winds!  After around 30 minutes or so I reached the Gospel Pass road, which must have been ploughed clear due to the large banks of snow on either side!

Hay Bluff and Twmpa
Gospel Pass road
I followed the road southwards for around a kilometre, deliberately ignoring the Offa's Dyke Path turning to the left as I instead planned to visit the summit of Hay Bluff before picking up the Offa's Dyke Path again on the way to Black Mountain.  The north-west slopes of Hay Bluff were busy with walkers and people sledging, which resulted in the snow having become hard and compacted around here - I was glad I had my winter boots on!

Hay Bluff
Higher up I followed the obvious path traversing across the steep NW slopes of Hay Bluff, across a random mixture of almost rock hard snow and deep drifts of soft snow to reach the trigpoint on the summit of Hay Bluff, where it was very exposed to the bitter wind.

Looking SW towards Twmpa from Hay Bluff slopes
On Hay Bluff summit
I didn't linger here for long and headed SE across deep soft snow towards Black Mountain.  It was clear the the vast majority of other walkers I had seen on the way up Hay Bluff didn't venture very far from the summit as soon after I left the trigpoint there were no tracks through the snow to follow; this mean I had to break my own trail, which is quite tiring in deep snow!  However there were good views across the frozen ground towards the western peaks of the Black Mountains.

The western Black Mountains
On the summit of Black Mountain
After much hard work I eventually reached the almost featureless summit of Black Mountain (Marilyn, Nuttall), which is the highest point of the Offa's Dyke Path.  The summit might have had a small cairn on but it was hard to be certain through all the snow!  I stopped briefly nearby for a late lunch around 2pm.

From the top of Black Mountain the ground conditions started to improve with the beginnings of a few sets of footprints through the snow, which made things a little bit easier.  After 30 minutes or so I met a couple of other Offa's Dyke Path walkers coming the other direction who said that there was a well walked trail through the snow all the way to Pandy, which was most excellent news! 

Tombstone like waymarker on the Hatterrall Ridge
I walked over the summit of the south top of Black Mountain (Nuttall) before reaching a path junction shortly afterwards, which was marked with a tombstone like waymarker.  Around 30 minutes or so later I reached the trigpoint on Red Daren, after having walked over the plateau of Pen-y-Garn Fawr.

Trigpoint on Red Daren
Looking back along the ridge from Red Daren
There were good views in all directions from Red Daren, and there was quite a contrast as to my west lay lots of snow whereas to my east lay predominately green fields - although I could just about make out the snow covered Malvern Hills in the distance to the east.  Around an hour and a quarter later I reached the next trigpoint on Rhiw Arw.

Rhiw Arw trigpoint
The walking along this section of ridge was very pleasant, with were excellent views of my next objective, Hatterrall Hill, as well as down into the Vale of Ewyas.

Hatterrall Hill
Looking down into the Vale of Ewyas
The Offa's Dyke Path skirted my next hill but didn't quite visit its summit so I set off through the un-walked deep snow to reach the small cairn on the summit of Hatterrall Hill (Dewey).  A combination of the wind and the late afternoon sun made for some pretty patterns in the snow near the summit.

Cairn on the summit of Hatterrall Hill
Snow patterns on Hatterrall Hill
It was extremely hard going through deep snow covered heather as I returned to the Offa's Dyke Path, which was only a few hundred metres away!  There were good views south along the final section of the ridge and soon after 7pm I reached the final trigpoint of the day, located on the south ridge of Hatterrall Hill.

Looking south from Hatterrall Hill towards Ysgyryd Fawr
Trigpoint on south ridge of Hatterrall Hill
There were good views of the sunset from the trigpoint and after a further 40 minutes or so I reached my first road since leaving the Gospel Pass road at the northern edge of the ridge.  Given the lateness of the hour, I opted to follow the road to Pandy where I arrived at my lodgings for the night at the Park Hotel at 8:30pm.  After a quick change I headed for the Old Pandy Inn, where I arrived just before they stopped serving food at 9pm.  It had been a good days walking, although it was quite long at 11 hours!  So after pie, chips and a couple of pints of Wye Valley Ale I returned to my room for a well earned sleep!

N.B. 03/06/13 - Post date updated to actual date of walk, i.e. 31/03/13 (from 14/04/13).  Links to trig points visited on the walk have also been added.

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