Llia, there and everywhere

4.30am garden patrol. Rufus did the checking. All clear, weather good.

I climbed back into the luke warm bed and had a think about where to go this morning. When I woke again to the damp nose of a cocker spaniel eager to get going, I’d had one of those strange, quickie dreams – this one was about climbing Kilimanjaro. While a last minute flight for both of us to Tanzania was out of the question, it put me in the mood for a hill.

Fan Llia is a long ridge rising from the Llia valley running roughly north to south. On the opposite side of the valley is Fan Nedd and Fan Gyhirich. Nestled at the northern end of the valley, near the summit of the road, is Maen Llia, an ancient standing stone that seems to mark the route ahead, as it is aligned with it’s longest edge pointing down the valley. The climb from the car park is relentless but not steep. Unfortunately, the going at the bottom of the hill is very damp, with lots of little trickles of streams flowing down and creating small but awkward ditched to cross. Once you get above a certain level, the ground is much firmer underfoot and so I always try and climb quickly at the start, which makes the route a little tougher than it needs to be.

Rufus and I left the car park at about 8.45am. Two young people (I think one might have been male but it was hard to tell with the hair cut) were in a parked car at the far end. They were trying to look as if nothing was happening, which made it seem as if I’d disturbed them. We left quickly. We didn’t want to spoil their fun. Whatever they were up to it only lasted another 10 minutes, as I heard the signature roar of the boy (or girl) racer tearing off up the road.

We got above the marsh quite quickly and then it was a reasonably rapid march to the ridge and on to the stone cairn. The clouds were beginning to clear as we reached the first stop. In the distances, remnants of mist were trapped in the dips of the surrounding valleys. The cairn isn’t at the highest point of Fan Llia so we set of uphill once more, passing the summit a few minutes later. All around me were my favourite mountains. To my left, Fan Nedd, Fan Gyhirich and beyond them, Fan Brecheiniog and Fan Foel. To my right was Fan Fawr and poking out from its shoulder, Corn Du and Pen y Fan. The sun came out and blue sky dominated the heavens. Even the chill wind stopped.

We walked on for another mile or so, passing ponies and horses grazing on the mountainside. I hadn’t decided where to go from here so we stopped again and had a think. I’ve  wanted to go around to Fan Fawr from here but this would double the distance and time, so we deicided instead to head down to Sarn Helen, the old Roman road through the valley. The drop down was tough underfoot – there were lots more of the little streams and the lower we got, the deeper their ditches became. Finally we dropped on to the road, which was rough and rutted by the streams. But it was easier going than the hillside. It undulated and twisted as it climbed up to enter the valley again, and at points I could see some kind of man made intervention to try and smooth out the surface. I doubt is dated back to Roam times, but this road served as the only route through the valley for many centuries after the Romans left and it was more likely to date back only a few hundred years.

Just before the old road met the new road (which follows the line of the old road for most of the valley), we left and kept to the bank of the River Llia so that we would be in the right place to cross the stile and get back tot he car park. But that was several miles and many stones would have to be thrown into the river before we got back.

Rufus ranged far and wide as we went back, but always popped his head up to make sure I was okay every now and then. He scrambled up and over the stile and then we were back in the car park. But it was far too early to head home, so I dumped the back pack in the boot, grabbed a tripod and we went off to follow the river south for a while. I got some nice infrared shots of the river and Rufus chased sticks I’d thrown for him.

Back home, my coffee went down well and as I’m typing this, there is the just a hint of snoring coming from the sofa on which is a tired dog.

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Fan Llia

The weather forecast was good so after doing some chores (chores = things I have to do but don’t want to do. Don’t worry, I won’t blog about shopping and washing and ironing), I went to pick up Rufus and we set off for the Llia valley and Fan Llia.

There was a cold wind blowing as we set off from the car. We started off by walking along part of the Beacons Way. The long distance Beacons Way stretches from Llanfihangel in the east to Carreg Cennen castle and Bethlehem in the west. Over the years, we’ve walked chunks of the route but never the whole route in one go. One day, perhaps. (Rufus is lying at my feet as I type and he has just sighed as if he knew what I was typing).

The going was quite wet underfoot. We waded through reeds and across mud and bog until firmer ground appeared as we started up the slope. I tried to thread my way through little groups of sheep but Rufus didn’t really seem to be interested. We carried on slogging uphill against the wind, which was getting strong and colder. A shower passed quickly by and before long we had gained the ridge and the slope lessened.

A few minutes later, we got to the cairn that marks to top of Fan Llia. It’s a proper top so there was a great 360 degree view around, and the rain clouds had melted away. In the distance to the east were the peaks of Corn Du and Pen y Fan, both covered in a thin coating of snow. To the west was Fann Nedd and Fan Gyhyrich, both looking tempting in the sun.

(Rufus is staying with me tonight so we can get an early start tomorrow. He is in front of the fire now and has started to snore rather loudly).

We carried on north along the ridge towards Fan Dringarth. We were following the valley of the Afon Llia off to the left, west. My plan was to get to the summit of Fan Dringarth and then drop down into the valley, to make our way back along the river itself. Rufus loves the river and I wanted to see if I could find some of the remains of iron age settlements and earthworks that line the valley. I also wanted to walk along the route of the Roman road Sarn Helen.

We dropped down the slope towards Maen Llia, a large standing stone that points the way down the valley. We reached Sarn Helen after a few minutes. This was also a toll road that was finally replaced by the tarmac road most visitors to the valley use today. No direct sign of the Roman road remains; but further down the valley another standing stone – Maen Madoc – bears a Roman inscription. This stone stands on the eastern side of the line of Sarn Helen.

We strolled back along the river Llia. Rufus spent most of the time in the water chasing the stones I threw for him. It was lovely in the sun and we stopped several times just to enjoy the day. I did n’t see any of the earthworks I was hoping to glimpse but I spotted the sites of several buildings, now only flattened platforms above the flood level of the river.

Then we were back at the car and ready to head home for food. As I drove north, dark clouds were building ahead of us and it wasn’t long before heavy rain started to fall. We’d missed it by about 5 minutes. We walked, ran, swam and paddled 5.5 miles today, and climbed just under 900 feet.

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