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Illustration photo of Mid-Wales, Powys/Welsh Borders

The valleys of the Border country prove an enchanting experience for Roger Butler


A stiff breeze blew away the cobwebs as I strolled up the grassy slopes of Newchurch Hill, where a horse rider was weaving her way between tightly packed clumps of gorse. Two minutes later another rider, astride a pure white mare, sat motionless on top against a bright blue sky. I looked, then looked again, in case it was a ghost from the days of Owain Glyndwˆr.

From the trig point, the Brecon Beacons and distant Camarthen Fan were easily visible and the glistening panorama made me want to fly, run, sing and dance, all at the same time. The sun rose and started to pick out details on the Black Mountains, where the Gospel Pass formed a prominent gap and north-facing ravines ran downhill like streaks of black ink. On my right was deepest Radnorshire, with little-known hills, endless tracks and lots of heather. In weather like this I quite fancied myself as an old-fashioned drover, striding purposefully across open hills, yet safe in the knowledge that a welcoming inn would always greet me and my flock at the end of the day.

Bracken was being cut and a tractor was creating wavy brown patterns that resembled a sofa from the 1960s. A couple of red kites appeared overhead but dipped above the farmer’s cab as if to pass on some sort of daily greeting. High cloud drifted in, but this only seemed to accentuate the colour of the heather. Large patches of purple were haphazardly dotted across the moor, between a pool called Ireland’s Well and the heights of Llanbedr Hill, and three dozen beehives indicated this must be a good place to make honey.

Now I wanted to cycle too, and the track rolling out west would have probably swept me all the way down to Builth Wells. Instead, I crossed a boggy depression delightfully called Dancing Ground and turned east onto the rough hump of Rhulen Hill. The path ahead was now a green snake, wriggling and squirming through the bracken towards Red Hill and the highest point of the day. Steep slopes then tumbled into a hidden valley with rocky outcrops, a meandering stream and rich red rowan berries. Tough wiry heather made for slow progress over Allt Dderw, but soon after I picked up a gravelly path which terminated by a bilingual sign: ‘Moduro heb niweidio – Tread carefully’. Hear, hear.

The sun came out again and bathed whaleback Yr Allt in late afternoon light. Apart from a few telegraph poles the view was just pure, unspoilt Radnorshire. Once more two kites were keeping a close watch. Maybe they had recognised their farmer friend again.

ROUTE DESCRIPTION

  • Walk SW up lane from Newchurch, take first path on R by bungalow and go through gate onto track. Climb up Newchurch Hill, continue W on grassy tracks to minor road.
  • Cross and climb Bryngwyn Hill. Drop down SW to reach stream, go over stile at fence and walk down valley and over bridge to lane.
  • Go straight across through farmyard and take steep track veering L, through old gate, to open hill. Head R for prominent knoll and walk W along top to pool, cross road and continue W. Leave track on R by two pools. Walk N then turn E above large marshy area. Descend to trees, cross stream and turn L down to lane. Cross and walk up to Red Hill. Descend N from top to reach pool.
  • Turn R on good track. Walk onto next top then return to track leading down to gate and continue down to bend on lane. Go R uphill to junction with lane, cross and head L back to Newchurch.

Mid-Wales, Powys/Welsh Borders

Details

  • Distance: 21km/13 miles
  • Ascent: 720 metres/2360 feet
  • Time: 8 hours
  • Start/ finish: Newchurch (GR: SO216507)
  • Maps: OS 1:25,000 Explorer Sheets 188 (Builth Wells), 200 (Llandrindod Wells & Elan Valley) and 201 (Knighton & Presteigne)
  • Information: Kington TIC, 01544 230778
  • Transport: Nearest rail station Knighton, but there is no public transport to Newchurch
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