FitBits: A Brecon Beacons adventure: walking gorges & riding mountains

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Sunday, 1 June 2014

A Brecon Beacons adventure: walking gorges & riding mountains

If you ever go to the Brecon Beacons in South Wales you absolutely have to go gorge walking.

You also definitely have to go to Afan Forest Park and ride the beautiful (but hardcore) mountain bike trails, go camping in the rain, hang out with some free range chickens and ducks for a weekend, and drink lots of red wine.




Last month me and Chris spent a wonderful few days doing just that, and had the BEST time. We camped in a tiny little family-run campsite by a stream, at the end of a long, windy single-track road in a steep valley with cascading waterfalls the other side.

We didn't have time to go and explore these, but will definitely do so next time. We shared our camp with a few other people, some happy, free range chickens and ducks, and the owner's two (very large and friendly) doberman dogs. They were pretty much taller than me and Chris when stood up!



I just wanted to share some pictures from our amazing trip and also give a big thumbs up to the wonderful, secluded campsite if you're ever looking for places to go camping in South Wales or the Brecon Beacons.

Also wanted to give a shout out to the adventure company who took us gorge walking, as well as the beautiful Afan Forest Park where we rode some tough but rewarding mountain trails. If you're visiting the area you really do have to give these a go!

Campsite:

Cwmnanthir Brecon Beacons Camping
Banwen
Powys
SA10 9LU

We wanted a small, quiet campsite that we could chill at after a hard day of activities, and we weren't disappointed. The campsite is run by a lovely Welsh family who welcome everyone into what is essentially their back garden to enjoy the beautiful countryside.

There was a fully equipped kitchen, toilet and shower, and near where we set up our tent there was a makeshift shelter which we hid under when it rained. (And it rained A LOT).

Camping South Wales Brecon Beacons

Gorge Walking

Hawk Adventures

Hawk Adventures is a great company who organises a whole host of wicked activities across the Brecon Beacons, from gorge walking and caving to kayaking, coasteering and mountaineering. You have to book in advance over the phone or online, and an instructor(s) meets you at your desired activity base, kits you up and takes you out...

Climbing over rocks, scrambling through/under/across waterfalls, hopping over stepping stones, wading through white water, crawling through caves and caverns and swimming through deep pools - our half day adventure was a truly amazing experience and allowed us to see the rivers from a completely different perspective.

Gorge walking Brecon Beacons South Wales


It's a bit pricey but so worth it (£65 for a half day or £85 for a full day which you can combine with another activity). We were gonna do caving in the afternoon but unfortunately there was no space left on that session. Booking in advance is essential so if you're gonna do it make sure you call up well in advance.

The instructor who took us gorge walking was great, really friendly and understanding of my fear in places. It took me about 5 solid minutes and several abandoned countdowns to pluck up the courage to jump backwards into a pool and swim to the other side. There was no other way of getting across so it had to be done, but I definitely took my time!


Gorge walking Brecon Beacon South Wales


Once I did it I realised it really wasn't that bad but as it was only falling backwards into the water from not a great height it's just getting over that initial fear. Saying that though, I just couldn't muster the guts to jump from about 15ft into the deep plunge pool at the end after crawling under a waterfall so had to go back the way we came.

Chris, of course, went for it and even did it twice to get a good photo!

gorge walking Brecon Beacons South Wales


We had such an amazing day doing this and despite my fear I really would recommend it to anyone. If we don't do things that scare or challenge us, what a boring life we'd lead!

Feel the fear, then do it anyway. That's my motto. (Unless the fear is all-encompassing at the top of a 15ft drop into a deep plunge pool, that is, in which case I'll leave it for now and work on that for later, thank you).

Visit Hawk Adventure's website for more info on the activities available.


Mountain biking

Afan Forest Park

This place is WICKED. For all you mountain-biking adrenaline junkies (and also relative newbies like us), spend a day riding the twisting, rocky, challenging trails here and you won't be disappointed. Chris has his own bike but I had to hire one from the visitor centre (for £20 or £25 for the day, I can't remember).

Afan Forest Park mountain biking trails


There are five world-class trails to choose from, starting with the beginner's loop which is a mix of tarmac road and wooded track. There's also a couple of training loops within this part too so you can get used to the bike and practice the berms.

We had a go on the easy trail and then tried the next one up which was the Blue Scar. This was a difficult route but noted as a great one for beginners to move onto intermediate level, and was probably the most fun I've ever had on a bike. EVER. We kind of knew it was gonna be good when we got to the top and the descent was called the 'Widow Maker'.

Afan Forest Park mountain biking - the Widow Maker


Childhood BMX Tess came out to play on this badboy - the first half was just climbing. A seemingly never-ending windy uphill climb, and was really hard work. But what goes up, must come down, right? And boy was it worth it. The descent was utterly terrifying in places but so exhilarating and actually totally doable if you take your time and be sensible with it.

If you've ever ridden a BMX round a track like I used to as a kid you'll be fine. It was such a great route we did it again (didn't have time to do any of the others as we'd already been riding for most of the day).

It's just a shame we didn't have more time to spend at the park, but we made a promise to come back another time and do some of the other trails. The park has its own campsite so you can spend a good few days perfecting your technique and smashing the trails.

We'll definitely be back for more! Edit: We did go back for more and did the Blue Scar again, Penhydd and Y Wall - this one was very technical and challenging and took us hours. It went on for miles and made Blue Scar and Penhydd seem like nothing! If you're new to the trails, Blue Scar is a good place to start.  

Visit the park's website for more info on the trails and other stuff available.

Do you have a thirst for adventure? Are you active on holiday or do you use the time to have a break from all that?



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