Walking Weekend

I love walking weekends, more so taking groups of young people out walking and exploring new areas and accommodation sites, so decided a while ago to plan one to visit the plane crash site locations in The Black Mountains with a small group of Explorer Scouts from the unit I volunteer with.

I’d wanted to go visit these sites for a while, even more so when we found out that we’ve been to the area a couple of times and missed the site on Carregh Gogh!! how could that happen? Well, I guess our navigation isn’t that great! Haha. (Still haven’t been into the National Show Caves even though must have been on the site more than a dozen times with groups…)

Anyway, first thing first – accommodation. It’s nice to have indoor accommodation after a long day’s walking and we like to explore new places so I found 1st Brecon Scout Hut, situated next to the River Usk in Brecon was ideal for us and very reasonably priced.

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It is a great meeting place for any Scout group- with a 12m x 12m hall, well-equipped kitchen, an office, a small meeting room, toilets and hot showers (and a Geocache nearby), they are very fortunate to have this and they maintain it well. Not many Scout groups have a river literally a few hundred metres from their front door!


So the initial plan was to walk out and find three of the crash sites, depending on how the group felt during the day. We took 7 Explorer Scouts (our Scouting permit restricts to a group of 8 under a hill walking permit, so wished we could have taken more.)

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Checking routes the night before.

The proposed route: Tafarn-y-Garreg > Ty Henry > Allt Fach > Fan Hir > Cefn Rhudd > Fan Brycheiniog > Fan Foel > Gwely Ifan y Rhiw > Gwal y Cadno > Llyn y Fan Fawr  > Fan Fechan > Beacons Way > Ty Henry > Tafarn-y-Garreg.

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Heading towards Fan Hir

The first site we visited has the remains of a single seater De Havilland Vampire FB5 which, whilst on a general training flight, crashed at SN826201 on 9th October 1953 after mistakenly descending into the mountainside through thick cloud (the plane following lost sight of them but managed to pull up in time and avoid crashing). The pilot, P/Off Baldock, died at the scene.

 

You can see the remains from Google Maps – they have been arranged into a shape broadly resembling the Vampire’s original form. Of course, parts have been taken from the site but you can still see the jet engine when you arrive.

 

 

 

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Google Maps view

You can see the remains from Google Maps – they have been arranged into a shaped broadly resembling the Vampire’s original form. Of course, parts have been taken from the site but can still see the jet engine when you arrive.

It took a while to find this crash as the grid reference we were following from a booklet was off (plus the Explorers played on the boulders) but I think, when they reached the site they were in awe of the wreckage.

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Vampire parts

The next site we decided to find was sitting just off the escarpment of Fan Hir at SN855223. This one was a lot more tricky to find as there wasn’t much of the wreckage left. This was an Anson L9149 which crashed in thick cloud and rain, on the 17th January 1939 and sadly, the pilot, F/Off E.R.N Coombes didn’t survive but his civilian passengers did.

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Not much left of the wreckage of the Anson.

There are a few more within the National Park (17 in total) so we’re certainly going to plan out routes to find them on future hiking trips. More details of some of them can be found at this website, which I think it a good resource to use. We all decided not to find the last one we’d planned on that day but instead head for the trig point and the Lake at the bottom of the mountain.

Obligatory trig point photo. Fan Brycheiniog (the highest peak of the Black Mountain range). Amazing few. Summit wasn’t busy at all.

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Fan Brycheiniog trig point.
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Fantastic views of the ridge.
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Llyn y Fan Fawr

The drone came out again over Llyn y Fan Fawr (Welsh: [glacial] ‘lake of the big peak’) to capture some amazing views. Drone pilot still in training…


The evening started off with us trying to find a pizza place that was open (no Dominoes in Brecon! What?!) and the morning was spent packing and cleaning the Scout hall before we set out for the Ystrafellte waterfalls – these are a huge favourite of the Explorer Scouts as you get the explore behind them and wade through a lot of water to get there (if you want, you could just follow the path…). So we took them there as requested by them.

Sgwd Isaf Clun-gwyn waterfall in all its glory. Very popular with gorge walkers.

The most impressive waterfall is Sgwd-yr-Eira (translated from Welsh as ‘fall of snow‘). On one of my previous trips here I jumped through the waterfall into the plunge pool and swum to the rocks but it was too cold to do that today sadly.

I arrived at the waterfall from the original walking route; the Explorers like to cross at Sgwd Isaf Clun-gwyn waterfall (SN 923 106) over the top but it was just too fast flowing for them to do so (I always wait on the opposite side to help any down over the rocks) so they turned back, I walked on and found myself at Sgwd-yr-Eira (SN 928 099) with nobody else there! How rare an opportunity!?

Of course, people did arrive, but for a while I was able to stand under the waterfall without anyone else and listen to the roar of the water overhead. Bliss. (Bailey was a tad worried so kept running in and out from beneath the water, I don’t think he much liked the water and the noise it made).

After exploring the area it was a slow walk back (up the 170 steps!) to the minibus and the journey back home to Swindon. I have vowed to go and find some more of the crash sites when time allows! A good weekend out with some great memories made.

I wonder what I am saying to others in this video captured by the drone?

– Just Joanne

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