Initial brutal ascent then gentle contours along a tramroad, past ruins of the industrial past to Blorenge's upland plateau. Fantastic views of Usk Valley and Black Mountains
|Start & Finish||
19.6 km (12.2 mi). Cumulative ascent/descent: 723m. For a shorter walk, see below Walk options.
8 out of 10 Time: 6 hours walking time.
Abergavenny Station, map reference SO 305 136, is 30 km south east of Brecon, 202 km west northwest of Charing Cross, 74m above sea level and in Monmouthshire, Wales. It is served by the Welsh Marches Line (Newport – Hereford), connecting at Newport to Paddington, with mostly two trains per hour (total journey time from 135 mins). Abergavenny Bus Station is passed early on, bus lines with regular and useful connections are: X3 (Hereford – Cardiff), X4 (Cardiff – Abergavenny), 43/X43 (Brecon – Abergavenny), 83 (Monmouth –Abergavenny).
Saturday Walkers’ Club: Take a train no later than 09.45.
OS Landranger Map: 161 (The Black Mountains)
This expedition through parts of the Blaenavon World Heritage Site up to one of Abergavenny’s mountains, features some stunning views and interesting industrial heritage elements. From the pretty town centre of Abergavenny walk along the curtain wall of Abergavenny Castle and through the Castle Meadows along the River Usk to cross over into Llanfoist and start the ascent up the Blorenge. You go through the Llanfoist tunnel under the Monmouthshire & Brecon canal and commence the quite brutal ascent up through Glebe Wood to the Cwm Craf along the three former Llanfoist Inclines of the tramway linking the canal to some ironworks and quarries on the side of and beyond the Blorenge. From the top of the inclines, a further, very gradual ascent around the side of the Blorenge and through the fascinating former site of the Garnddyrys Forge leads you up a tightening Cwm to the hill’s summit plateau, on a fine weather day with superlative views to the Bristol Channel, the Malverns and Cotswolds and – across the Usk Valley – to the Black Mountains.
The descent follows clear – but at times steep – paths across the heather moorland and down bracken-covered slopes past The Punchbowl pond, set serenely in a very picturesque glacial bowl. From there, follow footpaths through pastures-with-views down to and along the canal for a short stretch back to Llanfoist Wharf, from where you retrace the outbound route to Abergavenny and its many tea options.
A start/finish at Abergavenny Bus Station cuts 750m each way and 30m ascent at the end of the walk. Pick up the directions at the end of the second paragraph.
The Bridge Inn Merthyr Road, Llanfoist, Abergavenny, NP7 9LH (01873 854 831). The Bridge Inn is located 2.2 km from the end of the walk and 1.5 km from Abergavenny Bus Station. Open daily 12.00-21.00. Food served 12.00-15.00 and 18.00-20.30 Thu-Sat and 12.00-15.00 Sun.
Plenty of places in Abergavenny’s Town Centre. See the walk directions for details.
Abergavenny/Y Fenni, Abergavenny Castle/Castell y Fenni
Abergavenny (Welsh: Y Fenni, archaically Abergafenni meaning "Mouth of the River Gavenny") is a market town in Monmouthshire, Wales, about 10 km from the border with England. It is located at the confluence of the River Usk and a tributary stream, the Gavenny and on the A40 trunk road and the A465 Heads of the Valleys road and is promoted as a Gateway to Wales.
Abergavenny Castle (Welsh: Castell y Fenni) is a ruined castle, established by the Norman lord Hamelin de Balun ca. 1087 to overlook the River Usk and its valley, and so guard against incursions into the lowland areas south and east of the town by the Welsh from the hills to the north and west. It was the site of a massacre of Welsh noblemen in 1175, and was attacked during the early 15th century Glyndŵr Rising. The high, formidable curtain wall, dating from the 12th century, is now the most impressive part of the ruin. A lodge was built on the top of the motte in the 19th century and now houses the town’s Museum (open daily with free admission).
Usk Valley/River Usk (Afon Wysg)
The River Usk (Afon Wysg in Welsh) rises on the northern slopes of The Black Mountain (Y Mynydd Du in Welsh), in the westernmost part of the Brecon Beacons National Park, initially forming the boundary between Carmarthenshire and Powys. It flows north into Usk Reservoir, then east by Sennybridge to Brecon before turning southeast to flow by Talybont-on-Usk, Crickhowell and Abergavenny after which it takes a more southerly course. Beyond the eponymous town of Usk it passes the Roman legionary fortress of Caerleon to flow through the heart of the city of Newport and into the Severn estuary at Uskmouth at Newport Wetlands. Its total length is 102 km/63 mi.
Brecon Beacons National Park
Home to spectacular landscapes, a rich variety of wildlife and fascinating cultural and geological heritage, the Brecon Beacons National Park in Mid-Wales boasts a magnificent array of Old Red Sandstone peaks, open moorland and green valleys, spanning 1,344 km2 (520 mi2). Pen y Fan within the Central Beacons is perhaps the best-known summit but there are many others in the five distinct parts of the National Park (Black Mountain (Y Mynydd Du) in the far west, Fforest Fawr, Central Beacons, the Llangattock and Llangynidr Hills, and the Black Mountains to the east).
Blorenge is situated in the southeastern corner of the Brecon Beacons National Park and also within the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape World Heritage Site. It overlooks the Usk Valley. The summit plateau reaches a height of 561m, offering fine views of Abergavenny’s other mountains: Sugarloaf and The Skirrid, as well as the Black mountains. It drops away steeply to the northwest into Cwm Llanwenarth, while to the south gentler slopes falls away to Blaenavon at the head of the Lwyd Valley. The high heather moorland ridge continues to the south and assumes the name Mynydd y Garn-fawr. The cairn referenced in the title of this shoulder of Blorenge is Carn y Defaid which sits on the county boundary at 503m above sea. It is one of a handful of Bronze Age burial cairns on the ridge.
Usk Bridge (or Abergavenny Bridge/Pont y Fenni)
The bridge crosses the River Usk at the boundary between Abergavenny and Llanfoist, carrying the A4143. It is probably of mid-15th century origin but was substantially reconstructed in the 19th century, to support a tramroad, and again when the two bridges were combined. The tramway, which originally ran parallel to the bridge, carried the horse-drawn Llanvihangel Railway from the Monmouth & Brecon canal at Llanfoist.
Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal (The Mon & Brec)
The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal/Camlas Sir Fynwy a Brycheiniog is a small network of canals following the line of the Usk Valley through the Brecon Beacons National Park. It is currently navigable for 56 km and with only 6 locks (5 of them in Llangynidr). Its rural character and tranquillity belie its original purpose as an industrial corridor for coal and iron, brought to the canal by a network of tramways and/or railroads.
Cambrian Way/Taith Cambria
The Cambrian Way (‘The Mountain Connoisseur’s Walk’) is a very challenging 479 km (298 mi) linear long-distance high-level footpath traversing much of the highest and wildest parts of Wales. It runs coast-to-coast from Cardiff Castle to Conwy Castle over the Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons, Carmarthen Fan, Plynlimon, Cadair Idris, the Rhinogs, the Snowdon massif and the Carneddau and is unmarked in the higher mountain areas. Navigational skills are therefore of paramount importance. http://www.cambrianway.org.uk/
Garnddyrys Forge and Rolling Mill & Pen-ffordd-goch pond
Garn Ddyrys (=tangled cairn) foundry processed the ‘pig’ iron from Blaenavon Ironworks, producing a less brittle, more malleable product, the wrought iron, which was then transported on to Llanfoist and the Monmouthshire & Brecon canal. Built in 1817, the site was only productive for about 50 years and in the 1860’s its machinery was dismantled and moved to a new site at Forgeside, Blaenavon. The railway to Blaenavon had made this a much more economic site. Despite its long idleness, the site of the forge is impressive to walk through with its overgrown foundations of the furnaces, forges and other buildings, as well as the silted up lower and higher ponds and numerous iron slag heaps.
The Pen-ffordd-goch (or Keeper’s) Pond on the summit plateau of the Blorenge was the last of three ponds installed to supply the forge.
Iron Mountain Trail/Llwybr y Mynydd Haearn
The Iron Mountain Trail is an 18 km (12 mi) circular walk around the Blorenge Mountain. The walk, starting from the Pen-ffordd-goch pond and incorporating former tramroads, inclines, footpaths and the Monmouthshire & Brecon canal, encompasses the wealth of historical and natural features which give the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape its unique identity and enjoys views across the Usk Valley to the Black Mountains and into the Torfaen Valley.
After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
Out (not a train station)
Back (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
Oct-20 Thomas G
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Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk