Bagging the Welsh dragon in the Black Mountains
Crossing the Black Mountains, starting at Pandy and moving on to Hay-on-Wye, the route has incredible views and a line of trig points ending in one decorated with a Welsh dragon.
Long distance walking is more popular than ever in the UK. GetOutside Champion Phillipa Cherryson heads out on a two day hike to explore some of our amazing countryside.
You don’t have to take weeks or months out of your life to complete a long distance trail. Phillipa hadn’t camped for more than 25 years, when she donned her walking boots, put a tent in her backpack and set out with friends for a weekend hike in Wales. Now she’s a convert and she’s got some great tips for starting out.
Did you know there are more than 1,500 long distance paths in the UK, stretching for an incredible 88,000 miles?
I didn’t either until I got bitten by the weekend hiking bug a few years ago. I loved heading out into the countryside for day walks, but I always thought that long distance paths were the reserve of hardened hikers who spent weeks or even months on the trail.
With a full-time job and a busy life, I thought it was something I would never be able to do. That was until I realised you don’t have to hike for hundreds of miles. A weekend, overnight hike is an incredible experience and still gives you the feeling that you’ve been on a real journey.
I’m lucky enough to live on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, in Wales. I’d always wanted to walk the 99-mile Beacons Way, but could never fit it in with my other commitments and me and my walking friends were never free at the same time. But once I broke it down into three weekends, it was so much easier to fit into my busy life and organise with friends.
We camped and carried everything in our backpacks. But you don’t have to. Why not make it easier on yourself and stay in a hostel, a B&B or even a nice hotel? Just don’t forget to take spare clothes!
There is so much information on the internet to help you plan a long distance walk. Including information on where to stay, what to take with you, what the conditions are like on the trail and transport links. Also, don’t be afraid to ask on social media walking groups and pages. You’ll always find someone who has walked at least part of the route who can offer advice.
I loved walking the Beacons Way. It starts at the Skirrid (Holy Mountain) in the east of the Brecon Beacons National Park, near Abergavenny, and goes right through to the park to its western boundary at the hamlet of Bethlehem.
The route included climbing Pen y Fan, the highest mountain in South Wales; walking through Fforest Fawr, a UNESCO Geopark and Dark Skies reserve and following the shoreline of the haunting Llyn y Fan Fach, with its Lady of the Lake legend.
We camped next to the ruins of Llanthony Abbey, watched shooting stars and shared jokes, memories and dreams as we walked.
It was tough at times, but it was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done.
I felt like I had achieved something special and it felt like so much more than just a weekend away. Now I’m hooked on my weekend adventures and that first walk has given me the confidence to go on and do many more.
Here’s a few ideas for two-day weekend walks to get you started!
And there are so many others too! You could pick a section of the Pennine Way, the South West Coastal Path, Norfolk Coast Path, the Ridgeway or how about a city break on the Thames Path? Your only limit is your imagination!