New Year’s Day: Just a walking in the rain ………….

Wednesday was the wettest day of the year.  Admittedly it was the first day of the year so not a lot to compare it with but if many of the remaining 364 days match up to the amount of rainfall then we have a problem.

Recently my son and I have started a New Year’s Day tradition, he mountain bikes and I walk along the mountain ridge which lies between our two houses and have a pub lunch in the Goose and Cuckoo in Upper Llanover. The weather is usually ‘interesting’, in the mountaineers sense of the word.  In 2010 the ridge was covered in snow and natural ice-sculptures.   2014 and it was windy and wet.  Very wet.

The farm track at the start of the walk was flowing, stones bouncing along, the ditch at the side filled to the brim with water the colour of drinking chocolate pouring off the fields.  By the time I reached the ridge top at the Folly Tower, just below 300 metres I was in cloud and the rain was horizontal. It must have succumbed to the law of gravity and reached the ground at some point but apart from what was dripping off me that seemed unlikely in the near future.

Water flowing down farm access track

Water flowing down farm access track

Sheep stood huddled under hedges, fleeces hanging with mud, looking too depressed and  heavy with water to be bothered to run away.

The path down to the stream at Coed Ithel, vegetation irrevocably damaged by illegal off-road motorcycles and so normally mired in mud in wet weather, was being scoured to bedrock.  Crossing the usually shallow ford was impossible.  The stream, now a torrent, would have offered an interesting white water kayak experience but for the overhanging branches which rendered it suicidal.  My only way across was to push upstream from the ford through brambles, find a narrow point, and jump.  Left foot slipped in as I hit the opposite bank and the water overtopped my boot but I was across.

Standing at the edge of the flooded ford at Coed Ithel

Standing at the edge of the flooded ford at Coed Ithel

The path up to the open mountain.

The path up to the open mountain.

Every depression in the ground on the ridge-top was filled with pools of standing water, one overflowing into another until it reached the edge and became a stream looking for the lowest point.  The usually dry and stony path off the ridge down the eastern flank of the mountain to the Goose and Cuckoo was one such stream.  Part way down, water from the path diverted into the ditch at the side of the forest track which crossed it but was soon replaced by another stream as more run-off fed into the bed of the historic sunken way between the two major valleys of the Avon Llwyd and the River Usk.

The path down to the Goose and Cuckoo off the mountain, normally dry even in wet weather

The path down to the Goose and Cuckoo off the mountain, normally dry even in wet weather

A miniature waterfall, once a path

A miniature waterfall, once a path

In the grey conditions even the moss looks vivid

In the grey conditions even the moss looks vivid

My son arrived in the Goose minutes after I did, wet, cold but buzzing after a good bike ride.  We had bowls of bean soup and steamed dry standing in front of the log-burning stove. The few other customers had come by car and soon left.  The landlady was a little despondent; a group of 20 walkers she had been advised were coming and had catered for had phoned to cancel because it was too wet!!!

We set off back, again by different routes, me on foot, he cycling.  We knew that this time we were heading into the teeth of the wind.  Fortified by soup but a little sluggish at first on the climb because full of beans, gastronomically, I must confess to being elated once on the ridge–top partly because it was downhill from there, partly with the satisfaction of having overcome difficult conditions.

Standing by the trig point at the top of Garn Wen, as if in response to the wave of a hand the cloud suddenly lifted opening views across the valley and down to the coast.  Back the way I had come was still shrouded in cloud.  The amount of standing water was now more obvious, pooled in places where in nearly 40 years I had previously only seen dry ground.

The view suddenly opens up across the valley

The view suddenly opens up across the valley

Often wet when it rains but I've never seen it with standing water

Often wet when it rains but I’ve never seen it with standing water

The water level in the stream at Coed Ithel had dropped slightly making jumping across at a more convenient spot viable. A pull up to the top of Little Mountain, the final climb on the route, and despite tired legs there was now a spring in my step.

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This entry was posted in Grey Britain, Hiking, Landscape, Monmouthshire, Mountains, Pontypool, Wales, Winter and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to New Year’s Day: Just a walking in the rain ………….

  1. sarahsquall says:

    Happy New Year Barry! Are you building an ark? Well done for braving it! We waited til yesterday for our new year bike ride!

  2. BarryH says:

    Thanks Sarah, and Happy New Year to you. Work on the ark starts when I get back from Cananda

  3. dai hankey says:

    It was epic though wasn’t it dad?! Thanks for being the only one loopy enough to face the mountain with me. Good times 🙂

  4. BarryH says:

    Not just good. Buzzin!

  5. 165bryn says:

    Wonderful walk and bike ride this;[WE ENJOYED YOUR REPORT AND PICTURES IMMENSELY What energy; and 40 years of experienced walking. All I can add is, I’M looking at the beautiful red dawn from the comfort of our house. but mark my words we will get to ‘Garn wen’ even though i’m 73 and pad 71 this year. our verse is ‘Jesus is the same yesterday today and forever

    Date: Thu, 2 Jan 2014 13:27:59 +0000 To: the-evanses@hotmail.com

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