My alarm went off at 4am.  Not having been awake at this unearthly hour of the morning for many years, I was surprised to see daylight when I drew back my bedroom curtains.  After a quick breakfast I loaded up the car with all my gear and drove 1.5 hours to Worcester to pick up my two friends, Bruce & Paul.  It took a further 1.5 hours to reach a small town called Hay-on-Wye to meet another Paul, our guide for the day.  Paul is ex-military and runs ultra-marathons for fun, usually between 40 & 50 miles.  His longest race was 80 miles, so needless to say he was a lot fitter than the rest of us.

PAUL IS IN THE MIDDLE:                                     VIEW FROM ONE OF THE  PEAKS:

We then drove into the Black Mountains which is based on the Welsh-English border and started walking at 8am.  Paul took us on a challenging route, part of which was off the beaten track, through very rough and uneven ground with thick undergrowth and up & down some very steep slopes.   We covered 20km (approx 12.5 miles) in 8 hours and climbed around 1000m over the distance.


There were few breaks and Paul kept the pressure on us to keep moving.  Lunch was eaten next to a beautiful, cool stream in one of the many beautiful valleys we walked through.


The temperature varied between 12C in the early morning to over 28C; and it was sunny all day which is extremely unusual for the UK, especially Wales where it usually rains a lot.  There was hardly any wind either and so perfect walking weather for me as I don’t like the cold.  You can see from the photos that I still wore my fleece all day even though the others were in T-shirts.

The scenery varied from bleak grasslands on the exposed sections to lush greenery in the valleys protected from the winds.  We were alone in the hills most of the time except for some army lads doing their training.  They jogged past us in pairs, carrying loads 3-4 times heavier whereas we, or at least I, plodded along slowly.

Where would Wales be without sheep – there were hundreds of them but best of all were the hill ponies, very tame and roaming freely with their little ones in tow.


HILL PONIES:                                                              CATCHING MY BREATH AFTER A STEEP CLIMB:

We got back to our cars at 4pm, had a short break and then I drove Bruce & Paul 1.5 hours back to Worcester. It took a further 1.5 hours for me to get home, tired but surprisingly not exhausted.

Also surprisingly there are no aching muscles as I write this two days later (my gym sessions are paying dividends) but my right knee does twinge a bit.  Walking downhill, especially on the steepest sections, was far more difficult on the knees than the uphill sections.  I had the start of three blisters on my feet but I put that down to brand new boots which still need to be worn-in.  All in all it was a really worthwhile day and very good training for the “big hill”.

THE FINAL PEAK:                                                      THE CAR IS JUST OVER THE NEXT HILL:

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