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WYE

EXPLORER

Dulas Brook - Wild Hay Waters

Upper Wye Valley

Salmon Spawn

Dulas Brook Via Esgryn Brook

Day 1 - 3. 9 miles (Pool Hill)

Grid Ref: 253/392 - OS Explorer Map 161 - Map Link

Who knows where a simple telephone call will lead? We can have our ideas but in truth we don’t know how things are going to unfold. And so it was with this particular hike up to the Hay Bluff (677 Meters). I found myself there on account of a Youtube friend Malc aka Wandering Wolf 2 who rang me days before to ask if I were available for a hike in my neck of the woods. You see Malc is from Nuneaton and as he sites ‘there is no wilderness in and around the place in which he lives’. So he wanted some wilderness and after a little think I suggested going up the Hay Bluff for a one-night wild camp and dropping down to follow the Dulas Brook into Hay and ultimately the Wye.

Leaving Hereford post a naturalists display of artefacts courtesy of Paul (Wye Explorer) we headed for Hay via Moccas because I wanted to share with Malc one of the finest collections of ancient Oak trees in Britain at Moccas Deer Park, which you have to drive through to get to Hay On Wye. On our approach Malc slowed down to view what must be one of the most Tolkenesk parks you ever did see with gnarly Oaks standing contented and primal in their designated reserve. Malc was impressed, which set the mood for the rest of the drive.

In hay we couldn’t find a car parking spot for overnight so we drove up the Forest road on the other side of town and checked out some spots near the industrial estate. Not wanting to wind anyone up we later pulled into Drover Cycles for a coffee and whilst there asked them if we could park up the night. Thank fully they agreed. Similarly contented like the Oaks we sttled down for some of their finest Rwandan coffee served out of a cool hut amid bikes from as far afield as South Africa. This was a two wheel tourers hang out and not strictly for hikers but being all outdoors enthusiasts we fitted in well making the coffee taste all the more satisfying. Indeed, what with owners Anna and Luke being intercontinental tour cyclists it certainly was a great adventure vibe, which Malc and I would carry off up into the Black Mountains above.

As we set off we spoke of life outdoors, connection with nature, friendship, the common ground we enjoyed and future possibilities. It was here we were suddenly halted by the sound of a nuthatch. We listened and as we continued up the Forest Road and over the style towards the Bluff we were greeted by two local friends and ramblers Mike and Steve. Like some rambler’s convention now on the old Offa’s Dyke path we had a jovial old time exchanging views and information about modern technology, Wye explorer and hiking in the region. The outing was turning out to be full of good vibes and so, with a shake of their hands and a farewell, we were full of smiles and the good energy of the outdoors.

Passing through homesteads like Upper Dany on the foothills of the Bluff we sensed the imminence of the famous promontory amid free range birds determined to escape our eager presence on what was a green and lush enclosed trail. I knew the route and was aware that we would probably not be afforded views of the Bluff and the epic Western Escarpment of the Black Mountains given the wet weather. And so it was as we exited the enclosed Offa’s Dyke trail to brake the brow of the hill to see the Bluff bathed in mist as expected. It was spectacular as it induced a wild untamed feeling that only rain and stormy conditions can up at these levels. Buoyed by the wild look and atmosphere of the Bluff and a Western Escarpment we simply could not see but knew was there we forged ahead looking for a spot to eat and drink out of the wind. Our search was not a lengthy one as we were beckoned into Tack Wood a large planation to our left and to the North West of the Bluffs slopes. Past a dead sheep who was strangled and suffocated in the fence as is common in sheep country we made our way 50 – 80 meters into the woods interior. There we found dead wood seating the ideal spot to relax for a while before heading off to find a pitch for the night in conditions we were more than happy with.

Crossing the single track road below the Bluff, which forms Gospel Pass and dissects the Offa’s Dyke we headed for Esgryn Brook that rises on the Northern slopes of the Bluff to then feed the Dulas Brook, which flows towards Hay and ultimately the Wye. The Esgryn lay at the bottom of a deep gully some 80 meters deep at its deepest, which it had carved out over thousands of years. It’s an impressive feature that we had chosen to navigate in our attempts to reach a small patch of flat ground on the other side nearby the Dulas.

Standing there admiring the Bluff and to the North the heavily wooded Cusop and Cefn Hill at 400 and 460 meters respectively we couldn’t help but feel pure exhilaration as the drizzle and wind buffeted our faces awakening us to life. With every cell vibrating to the tune of nature we moved on down into the gully via chest high bracken and a grand old tree standing sentinel over the lower reaches of the Esgryn. Here we gathered ourselves for a descent into the mixed woodland that covered the deep gully in an environment reminiscent of lush green temperate rain forest on this particular wet day at least.

We headed down toward the brook passing one of them old forgotten gates we love as we did so. Not too far beyond we were surprised to come across another old relic of the mountain in the form of an old longhouse farmstead made up of thick stone walls but long since dilapidated. Traversing the outside of the building we stepped inside of what was left only to marvel at its old stone fire place, which was huge and majestic given the size of the building. This was indeed the heart of the abode. We could have gazed and chatted about the place for a lot longer than we did but we had to press on as night was closing in and we still had to find that pitch.

Looking down the steep gully (ravine), which was peppered with deciduous and evergreen trees we knew we needed a staff each to negotiate the thick bramble and forest dead wood that littered the floor. With a few pulls and kicks two staffs were promptly produced one for me and one for Malc. On we go or so I thought for with my first step I duly fell to my ass with a thud. A slippery rock had got the better of me. So much for the staff aiding my balance. Having said this, it was a minor blip in an otherwise successful descent to the Esgryn below, which saw Malcom present briefly for Youtube the richness of the woodland floor as we got ever nearer to our burbling objective.

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Aaah what a site the brook was as we looked up to where we had come from and down to where we would drink and refresh ourselves. The water was superb as it burbled, babbled and splashed its way down towards the Dulas Brook below. It was a cool, green and lush all around and just the kind of place that Malcom liked to ‘kiss the water’ as he put it.

Onwards and up a steep incline on the other side of the brook we reached open ground in just a short distance of some 30 meters or so. I inhaled the space that greeted me and turned to see Malcom exit the thick foliage below as if emerging out of some kind of rich natural soup. It’s these transitional moments I thought that make a trip and with Malcom’s joy expressed in turn we headed off North East 300 meters or so to find what we’d honed in on for most the day that being two convenient flat spots along a slightly wooded fence line.

We wasted no time in pitching our tents Malcom with his Vango and me with my new Six Moon Designs tarp tent, which I did a review for in the isolation of the night. As night time unfolded we found ourselves engaged in conversation about the gear, life, stress and relief, family, work, aspirations, wives, knives and our eco systems, which was evident in the diversity of insects that inhabited the trees in our midst. On top of a meal each we were satisfied and later turned in to sleep soundly in the Dulas Brook valley at the foot of Hay Bluff.

Morning was dry and crisp but not cold, which boded well for the short hike back into Hay On Wye. Before setting off from the clean camp we once again admired our location surrounded, as we were, by a high plantation clad hill to our front and North and a clear panorama of the Begyns and Mid wales to our West. The wood particularly was an imposing presence stimulating to our senses and as we gathered our gear to head downhill to the Wye valley below we knew it was another special time had worthy of congratulation and celebration.

Onto the quite back Longtown road we had only a short distance to go and a field to cross before getting to Dulas brook, which was hidden in a small gorge it had carved out for itself over millennia. Before the pleasure of that though we sat for well over an hour admiring the view of Cusop Hill and the Dulas valley to our front running East to West. It was a magical sight to savour with Buzzard and Peregrine above to fill the valley with activity akin to this wild yet occupied part of the Welsh - English border.

Climbing into the Dulas Brook the sound of water encouraged us to spend a time immersed in the lush green overhanging grove that accompanied the gorge. Both Malcom and I were once again taken by the running water as with the Esgryn earlier. I photographed whilst Malcom rinsed his head and face in the water siting that he was Aquarius. Of course being a cold water spring enthusiast I had to drink, which I did from my empty Evian bottle. It was blissful and as the pure life giving waters tingled throughout my being I closed my eyes briefly at the satisfaction of it dreaming of them lighter days without stress and or fear. This was certainly one of them days.

With a quick stone balance erected as my very own mark of respect and contribution to the ever present water spirits and whoever else may come along we climbed out of the brook via an opening that bordered the roadside. Again Malcom looked like he was exiting the jungle, which reminded me of how off-piste our trek had been. Buzzed and buoyed by the brook and the spirit of being off-piste we set off for Hay On Wye and the confluence of Dulas Brook with the River Wye via Cusop. Slow and amble like our trek into the ‘Wild Waters of Hay Bluff’ was drawing to a close.

Suddenly we found ourselves once again admiring this somewhat famous mountain town of Hay without too much of a wobble. This was largely due to the long drawn out settlements of Cusop that eventually pitters out the further away from Hay you go. It breaks you into town life gently. As we passed the old stone home and buildings reminiscent of Hay we remarked on where the confluence may appear. We’d not been there before and so relied upon our intuition or rather my intuition having visited the town on many occasions before. I knew where to go and so, with a sense of renewed purpose, I honed in on the confluence, which turned out to be situated beyond the Newport St Car park.

Walking into the car park off the main road I was greeted by the sound of a Kingfisher the presence of which was confirmed by Malc who also heard it. We laughed and then with awe sited simultaneously the Wye in medium spate. It looked majestic, beautiful and wild as did the Dulas Brook that flowed into it some 60-70 meters or so down river as though a preordained continuum were being played out.

Print Screen of Dulas entering the Wye

There was no objection by the Wye as it made room for yet more waters coming off these impressive high tops. We were stoked to see and be a part of an eco-system that has been here for too many years for us to count almost but has delighted and even kept alive generations of people and a diverse array of creatures large and small. With this illuminating thought we made our way toward the carriage or should I say car at Drover Cycles, one more Rwandan coffee and a meander through the Vale of Ewyas via Gospel Pass, which was now relieved of its cloak of cloud revealing, in all its glory, the Western escarpment of the Black Mountains where yet more waters emerge to swell the Wye.

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