Weatherman Walking: Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal
Derek goes walking with Chris Barber
Derek Brockway had an adventure on the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal as part of his Weatherman Walking series for BBC Radio Wales.
This is a moderately energetic walk that starts at the popular tourist attraction of Goytre Wharf.
It takes in a hidden valley, a wishing well, the Pontypool Folly and a descent along an ancient trackway - perfect for a brisk Sunday morning stroll.
His guide was Chris Barber, South Wales editor of Walking Wales magazine and a veteran of many previous walks with Derek.
The walk begins at Goytre Wharf. An important industrial location used in the production of lime, it is now a popular tourist location and still in operation on the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal.
After leaving the wharf the route meanders through low lying farm land before gradually gaining height amidst flower filled paths.
On the lower slopes of Mynydd Garn Wen an abundance of Spanish bluebells were seen, and as Derek gained height the views began opening out to encompass the whole of Trellech ridge and the Bristol Channel.
A pleasure barge on the canal
A highlight on the ascent was the discovery of the secret or hidden valley - Cwm Lasgarn. The name means "the valley of the pile of blue stones" - but on the day of the actual visit no traces of said stones were in evidence.
As the party began to climb the banks of a shady tree covered brook they came to the site of a holy well, Ffynnon Angaeron, on a pilgrim route.
Shaded and discreet beneath the trees the well is set back into ground like a stone fireplace with a small brass bell in place of the fire. It was noted by Thomas Thomas of Cardiff in 1890 that the well contained pins, nails, pencils and buttons. Most likely this points towards it having been used as a wishing well.
Frances Jones, author the Holy Wells of Wales, noted that the well is one of 5 Monmouthshire pin wells. Pins were used as offerings in wells back as far as Roman times. The custom was that a bent pin would be thrown into the well. The visitor would pray and wish silently, then travel home without telling anyone what was wished for. The visitor's ailment would be cured.
At the summit of Mynydd Garn Wen
After an arduous climb Derek and the team arrived at the trig point marking the summit of Mynydd Garn Wen, one of the highest peaks in Monmouthshire and part of a ridge that traverses the length of the county towards Abergavenny.
At 1394ft or 425m the OS trig point is rather distinctive due to the numerous outcrops of quartz conglomerate or puddingstone.
A distinctive geological feature throughout the county, puddingstone is made of white chunks of quartz (1-2 cm in size) set in a finer silicate or sandy matrix.
From the summit there were fine views out across the Bristol Channel towards Flat Holm and Steep Holm, whilst back across the eastern valley Abersychan and Blaenavon were visible.
Adjacent to the trig point is the site of a World War Two air crash, where on Sunday 22nd September 1940 a Bristol Blenheim bomber crashed into ridge, killing its three-man crew.
Today nothing can be seen of the air crash itself except a memorial stone erected on 60th anniversary of the incident in 2000. Each year on Remembrance Sunday a ceremony is held to remember those airmen who perished for their country.
Through a more leisurely descent Derek passed a herd of Welsh Black cattle and Pontypool golf course, the second highest golf course in Wales.
Pontypool Folly was rebuilt after the Second World War
The route also passed the Pontypool Folly. The 38ft tall octagonal tower is a replica of the original folly dismantled in World War Two to prevent German bombers using it as a navigation aid to attack the nearby armaments factory at Glascoed.
After passing Pontypool Folly the route descends down a steep path along the site of ancient track way.
Care should be taken on this section particularly during wet weather as the original cobbled top surface is weathered smooth, and in part broken and abraded.
A highlight of the walk, this pathway has a mysterious air with sunken hedgerows on either side completely shielding the route from the outside.
Visiting St Illtyd's church
It is likely that this section of the route represents a medieval packhorse route or Roman road - a coin from the 3rd Century AD was once found at the bottom of the path.
As the walk neared its end Derek was surprised to discover the path's splendid cobbled surface had been in places ruined by illegal motorcyclists.
The walk ends at the scenic St Illtyd's church in Mamhilad with refreshments available at the Star Inn.
Goytre to Mynydd Garn Wen is a walk blessed with variety, atmospheric mediaeval pathways, wonderful views and an abundance of ancient and recent history.
Weatherman Walking - BBC Radio Wales Sunday 2 May 2010 at 1730 BST repeated Wednesday 5 May at 1830 BST
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