The joys of walking in Wales

One sunny day last week, it was too hot to continue the digging battle against ground elder in the unruly area surrounding my home. I hesitate to refer to this battleground as a garden whilst that bloody squirrel continues undermining any progress I make.

Photo by Ben Brooksbank

Photo by Ben Brooksbank

Cooling off indoors, I remembered a rash decision made back in November 2013, to lead my much loved group of walkers on The Iron Mountain Trail (Llwybr Mynydd Haearn) in the SE corner of the Brecon Beacons, between Blaenavon and Abergavenny.

Last time I took the faithful group up on the Brecon Beacons we were soaked, spun at approx. 800 revs and ejected into thick mist, whereupon we realised we were totally and hopelessly lost to the world. You will be relieved to note that we were able to miserably retrace our muddy footsteps, and the Mountain Rescue were not troubled with saving our souls… and what is more, the group are putting their trust in me again (well, some of them, perhaps not all) for the promised walk at the end of June.

So, as I cherish my walking chums, the least I could do was to reconnoitre with my faithful friend Jill. On the appointed date, the black clouds hung out together along the A465 and muttered warning rumblings to us all the way to Keepers Pond – a great picnic place, and the start of the walk. With OS map under plastic, thick fleece-lined anoraks and legs clad in sexy flapping trousers we squelched off merrily … missing the first signpost and heading off strongly in the wrong direction.

In a fit of misplaced organisation, I had photocopied what I took to be the relevant part of the OS map. Unfortunately I had missed off the section relevant to the beginning of the walk, and so we had to hope that our printed directions were adequate. This meant continually squinting through rain-splattered spectacles. It was OK until I had to take the directions out of the plastic to turn to the second page.

Then, whilst sheltering my frozen hands under the plastic covering surrounding the map, I realised that Jill was lagging behind. Worryingly, she explained that she had experienced a sudden lack of energy and a noticeable drop in blood sugar. Aaargh – get the food out! A couple of wet sandwiches and a whole packet of saturated oat biscuits later, blood surging encouragingly, we set forth cheerily once more… only to find ourselves back on the little B road adjacent to Keepers Pond.

Forked lightening and deafening thunder suggested that perhaps this was a heaven sent opportunity to return to the car, as getting the whole of the OS map out and examining the error of our ways was not really on. Wow – it was bliss removing the ‘waterproof’ clothing and putting the heating on full, and we congratulated ourselves on calling an early halt on the great walk.

So, will the walk go bravely ahead as scheduled in June but without a reconnoitre? Will the patient followers believe the amount of time and trouble expended in endeavouring to give them a grand day out? Will the jolly walkers see the positive side of going horribly astray (once again) and walking for 12 miles instead of the promised 7.5? What if someone brings a small arthritic dog along? Will the sandwiches get so wet as to be unpalatable, and how many grams of oat biscuits will be required?

Would Helen ever be allowed to lead a walk in the Brecon Beacons again, or would she understandably be cast out as completely incompetent, to be confined to short tours of the new Hereford shopping mall? Will she be confused and sad at heart at having failed to do her duty? How will the grand Welsh expedition end?