WYE

EXPLORER

Honddu Diary

Hay Bluff Interior

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Hatterall Hill’s promontory, known as a “Darren” derived from the Welsh word “Tarren” (rock outcrop), really is an amazing environment. Indeed, Darren Uchaf and Darren Isaf (Grid Ref 295-245 and 298-239) respectively are much like a closed eco system where, as mentioned, wild ponies roam. The whole place is exhilarating and as the night draws close we’re still captivated by its rugged charms, which invoke the very freedom we venture out to experience. Further around the hill’s peninsula we continue looking for a potential campsite, pressing on through an old gate, along dry-stone walls, down an ancient bridleway, to discover, as if awaiting our very arrival, an old abandoned cottage. Our luck is in; (Grid Ref SO 302-237, OS Land Ranger Map 161)

There are signs of life gone by; the outline of a front garden long overgrown, a wooden porch reminiscent of an earlier time, moss laden uneven walls, small windows, a water butt and some discarded artefacts set to one side, which create a feeling of sad abandon tinged with mysterious intrigue. If you’ve read the classic book “On the Black Hill” by Bruce Chatwin you’ll get an idea of its character and, of course, its location situated just off an ancient bridleway stimulates the imagination further.

Upon approach you can see the cottage is secure and looked after to a degree, so a tarp is quickly pitched long ways along the front of the old garden wall serving as shelter for the night, giving basic protection from the weather. We get a good night’s rest and as the next morning comes around we make a quick brew under the ageing porch then break camp smiling at the cottage as we go our merry way, stepping casually onto the bridleway and back roads that eventually lead to the River Monnow. Now we’re on the hillside overlooking Pandy, a short distance from the Hereford/Abergavenny Rd, which has to be said is honeycombed with lanes of antiquity etched into the landscape that in itself is timeless. It’s a free and easy place to be if not a little hard work to negotiate as we’re racing against time in order to make it to the Honddu confluence before the Hereford bus departs from Pandy. Up, down, around and making good ground we reach a private enclave characterized by old estate farm buildings either side of the narrow road. (Grid Ref SO 328-228.)

It’s safe to say walking the River Honddu has been a special experience, which started in Hay-On-Wye climbing steadily as we did to the top of Hay Bluff followed by a short descent into the deep gullies that characterize its far side where the River Honddu rises and of course where our first camp was established. We then mooched the narrow trails on and through the Vale of Ewyas past Llanthony Abbey whilst hugging the verdant mountainsides and drover's lanes to then discover our second camp at the old cottage.

The landscape all the way was spectacular, and of course a memorable sight has to have been the Gospel Pass with Hay Bluff and Twmpa stood sentinel like all mighty guardians. This is the Black Mountains that make up the borders of Herefordshire, England and Powys, Wales. The end of the journey was no less invigorating observing, as mentioned, the River Honddu being forced left or North at Llanvihangel Crucorney by a huge terminal moraine formed in the last ice age. All the while the River Monnow, which rises on windswept Cefn Hill just inside Herefordshire, is making its way towards the River Wye at Monmouth and, of course, its journey is no less significant to that of the Honddu as it too can claim the Black Mountains as a major influence in its creation. Indeed, the mountains are a huge water catchment and provide all run off for these rivers.

Finally, defined only by their banks and making for a timeless union unbroken for thousands of years, the waters of the River Honddu and Monnow converge as one. Absorbing this thought like a stream in itself and before heading back into daily life we pay homage to this magical little river, for guiding us through some of the UK’s most inspiring landscape. (Grid Ref SO 335-233)

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Roam Wild Camp Free

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Wandering Waters Honddu Meets The Monnow

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