Today is a summer’s day worth living for. I am writing this blog overlooking the Usk Valley, from the terrace of our holiday house in the heart of the Brecon Beacons in South Wales (www.llwyn-y-fron.com). At 300 metres, with 30 mile views across to Hay Bluff in Herefordshire, England, the setting is majestic.
Behind me the peak of Fan-y-fan (719m) is accessible along the north/south Cern Cyff ridge. The mercury hovers at just over 25°C and the breeze is gentle. The decision as to whether we should follow one of the glacial valley rivers up into the heart of the mountains, or walk down to the welcoming Usk River has yet to be made.
The odds are – having cornered the market in Brecon air beds – that we will float from the Llanfrynach canal aqueduct down river to Talybont-on-Usk where we can walk up to a choice of two garden pubs. All is good and the living is easy.
The Brecon Beacons, designated a National Park in 1957, covers an area of 519 square miles (1,344 sq kms), stretching from Llandeilo in the west to Abergavenny in the east, from Hay-on-Wye to the north right down to the fringes of Merthyr Tydfil. Consisting of four spectacular mountain ranges – the Brecon Beacons, Fforest Fawr and the western & eastern Black Mountains it is a true wilderness offering impressive sandstone summits, northern escarpments and a sprawling table-cloth of fertile farmland below.
The summit of Pen-y-Fan (886m), a two hour walk from our house, is the highest mountain in southern Britain. On a clear day such as this, it offers stunning views over the Fforest Fawr Geopark and you feel can almost touch the Atlantic. Brooks, natural oak woodlands and meandering rivers welcome visitors in all weathers. And although the dramatic and brutal mid-winter conditions are a distant memory on a summer’s day, the harshness of the mountain environment is never far away.
As well as the host of outdoor pursuits activities offered, the Brecon Beacons National Park recently also became only the fifth destination in the world to be designated an international dark sky reserve. Akin to Exmoor, Mont Megantic in Canada, Aorali Mackenzie in New Zealand, the NambiRand Nature Reserve in Namibia, in the Brecon Beacons you can enjoy one of the clearest night skies on the planet.
If you are lucky, the nightly chorus of hooting owls and rummaging badgers will usher in the brilliant Milky Way, with its sprinkling of nebulas and numerous constellations. Regular meteor showers can also be viewed from our house’s mountain–side location.
If you want a British wilderness escape think no further.
These are a selection of summer photos I took from, in and around our house.