Our first major trip of 2016 would be to Wales, 10 nights starting on the easter weekend, 3 campsites and one birthday, we set off a day late due to Lolly having the flu but to be honest that was fine by me, it meant I could take my time loading up the van and making sure we had everything we need. After a day of getting the van sorted we got up early the following morning and started our journey, Lolly took the wheel first and drove us to the M4, this was a milestone for Lolly as she doesn’t usually drive on motorways, she did really well.
It took us about 4 hours or so to reach Pencelli Castle, we booked in and then drove to the start of a walk from one of our books. As soon as we neared the start point the heavens opened and the wind started to blow, the next few hours were spent wandering about in the kind of weather you usually avoid going out in and instead watch it through a window while sitting by a fire with a pint in your hand. We also got lost and walked 30 minutes in the wrong direction. We got back to the van and made for the pub down the road from our campsite, The White Hart. The pub was lovely, very welcoming and we got a table straight away, there was a good selection of ales on tap and ciders too, I had a mixed grill and Lolly had a lamb and leek curry, both were awesome. The campsite was a 2 mile drive down the road, the site features a drying room which is kind of essential given the Welsh weather, I went to hang up our wet stuff only to find an army of soaked teenagers doing their best to get all their clothes hung up in there, they were all soaked to the skin and still had to put there tents up in the dark and rain, poor sods.
Due to the rain hammering on the roof of the van for most of the night neither of us got a particularly good sleep, this was to be a common theme throughout out trip. We got up, made some tea and drove to Bike Park Wales, we arrived and Lolly bought us a bacon and egg roll each. Lolly had booked on an introduction to mountain biking course as she’s not as confident on her mountain bike, I got myself a day ticket with an uplift pass and we spent the day haring about the downhill trails, the weather held out and we both had a wicked day, i’d definitely go back there, proper good fun.
On the way back to the site we stopped into the Royal Oak for some food, nice little pub, got a table quickly and in no time at all we were stuffing our faces, after eating we watched Deadpool in the van and crashed.
Day 3 was a walk up Pen Y Fan, for a short while I read a lot of books about the SAS, they all talked about selection and part of selection is walking up and down Pen Y Fan a few times with a heavy Bergen on your back in a ridiculously short amount of time. I wanted to walk up Pen Y Fan to see why it’s the mountain of choice for the SAS, I wasn’t planning on doing it quickly or with a ton of gear in my bag. We parked up the van and set off, there are a few different ways to go up, typically we chose the hardest, a steep long ascent on uneven ground, The weather held out again and was actually quite pleasant.
It took us about three hours to walk up to the top of Pen Y Fan, the wind was mental and I lost a prop off the drone I was planning to fly at the top, it started to get cold too, the last 100 meters was in the snow, the picture below is looking up to the peak.
As you approach the peak you have to climb up some frozen steps which are properly treacherous, we made it up and took a quick selfie, you can see from our choice of clothing how much the weather had changed, always be prepared!
From here we walked across to Corn Du, hung out there admiring the view and then started our descent via the obelisk which is a memorial to a young lad who died at that spot on the mountain in 1900
You then come across a stunning lake which we could see from the top of Corn Du
From the lake there isn’t anything much more special to see, it’s just a walk over fields and roads till you get back to the van, all in all we did 8 miles and apparently burned 1000 calories. We were tired and hungry so on the way back we swerved into a pub we first saw on the way to Pen Y Fan called The Swan, it was quiet and the staff were really friendly, the food was lovely as was the beer, we both slept well that night.
We had planned to go for a bike ride on day 4 but the weather had other ideas, the rain come down like a monsoon, we made it as far as The Star Inn and spent the next there hours holed up in front of the fire waiting for the rain to stop, we did venture out again and we came across some old VW’s.
Shortly after discovering the VW’s the pedal arm on my bike came loose so we abandoned the ride and returned to the van, we watched Deadpool again as Lolly fell asleep halfway through it the first time, we made some pasta too.
Day 5 was our final in Pencelli, we packed up and headed off to our next location, Afan forest park. En route we stopped to do the four waterfalls walk, there are few different routes you can take, ours was circular and seemed to take in the muddiest paths possible, if you are up this way then definitely do this walk, the waterfalls and scenery is stunning, you can walk behind the waterfall below which we did, you get soaked…
By the time we arrived at Afan forest it was dark, the campsite isn’t really a campsite at all, it’s more like a car park with some electric hooks ups, 24 hour toilets and a green space to pitch tents, we made some food, had a beer or two and settled in for the night.
Day 6 started with sunshine and a reminder that I was another year older, lolly made me a lovely breakfast and presented me with some new headphones, boxer shorts and a necklace. Now that it was daylight we could appreciate where we were camping, right at the foot of a bloody big hill.
The plan was to spend the day on the bikes riding the trails and generally having a good time. We went to the bike shop to grab a map but were told there weren’t any, all the trails are well marked, we’d be fine without a map, I took a picture of one of the maps at the start just in case. To get to the start of the trails involves a 6K ascent, it starts off ok but very quickly the terrain you have to ride up looks like this
Which meant there was a lot of this
On the upside for the first time in ages we got some phone signal, I got some birthday messages from my family which was really nice, when we got to what we thought was the top we stopped for a sandwich, a drink and a bit of a rest.
Shortly after that photo was taken it started to rain so we darted into the woods to get under cover, we followed the signs to the start of the trail for what seemed like an eternity but eventually we made it to the top and the sun came out again.
We planned to take a trail down called whites level but after spending so much time getting up there we thought we’d do the skyline trail, have a look about and then pick up whites level and head down, didn’t quite work out like that. Most of the markers we were looking for had either moved or no longer existed, partly due to a windfarm being installed on the hillside which had changed a lot of the features, the map we took a picture of down the bottom didn’t quite match what was going on up the hill, this was the closest I had ever been to a wind farm and it was pretty impressive.
After a lot of wrong turns and not knowing quite where we were Lolly got us back to the start of whites level and we started to make our descent, unfortunately the sun set pretty quickly and a lot of the decent was through forest, with the fading light and Lolly forgetting her glasses we had to abandon the trail because Lolly couldn’t see and find another way down, thanks to Lolly’s excellent map reading and sense of direction we took a forest road down into a village about 3 miles from where we were staying, it was pitch black by the time we got down, we belted back to the van along the old train track, locked up the bikes and grabbed a drink, Lolly was a bit scared and there was a really eerie vibe about the place we were staying at once the sun went down, we ate some food and decided we’d chip off first thing, i’d had an excellent birthday, a proper adventure, not likely to go back to Afan.
Our last few days were to be spent on the Gower peninsula, we were booked into a very family orientated site called Carreglwyd, there were lots of rules but none we intended to break, we were shown our spot and then left to our own devices. The weather wasn’t all that so Lolly suggested we head to the pub for a birthday meal, we went to the Ship inn and spent the next three hours eating and drinking followed by a walk along the beach, we retired to the van and watched an awful film.
The next morning we woke up and the rain was chucking it down, this picture kind of summed up the mood
We spent the morning in the van with the heater on, lolly read her book and I made tea and snoozed, the rain stopped so we decided to go for a walk in Rhossili, we also arranged to meet Laurens auntie Steph.
The walk we were supposed to do takes you along the Rhossili headland, was managed about ten minutes trekking up hill before deciding we couldn’t be bothered and would much rather take a walk on the beach, the view from where we where was very nice though.
We mooched down to the beach and spent the next hour or so investigating all the weird and wonderful things you find on beaches, for example, an old boat.
Lots of drift wood
And a shrimp
Rhossili bay was award best UK beach in 2010, it’s a lovely beach even when the weather is rubbish and is popular with surfers.
We left the beach and went to meet Lollys auntie Steph, we had a lovely meal at their local pub and stayed then night at their house, best nights sleep we’d had all week, was nice to have a decent shower too. We got up the next day and decided to go home, we still had a night at the campsite booked but we were both shattered and wanted a night in our comfy bed at home.
This is the first time as far as either of us can remember that we were quite looking forward to going home, I don’t know why, maybe it was weather or the tiredness. I enjoyed South Wales and next time i’d like to head north, maybe a bit later in the year when the weather is better.