Another horrible 3:45am wakeup call.  I really do not like early mornings!!  Two alarm clocks had been set to ensure that I would get up this morning.  Unlike the previous training hikes, this morning I woke up to darkness and an outside temperature of 5C.  A quick breakfast and I was in the car for a 3.5 hour drive to meet Paul and Hercules at the base of the Black Mountain in Wales.  This time there were just the two of us on the walk. 
In the darkness before dawn I saw loads of rabbits on the verge and even spotted several deer and a rare badger as it waddled across the road.
The weather forecast had predicted a bright sunny morning and a slightly overcast afternoon with low winds and temperatures climbing through the day from 9C to 19C.  However the conditions were a little different, and thankfully ignoring the forecasters I had decided to pack my warm jacket and hats in my rucksack.

We set off at 8am and headed up the hill for the first climb of the day.  The weather unusually stayed dry all day but it was extremely changeable. The temperature rose and fell between 7C and 23C several times during the day and when the wind picked up the windchill was quite unpleasant.  The maximum wind speed was about 30mph, nothing like during the last hike when we had gusts of 60 to 70mph but we had to stop constantly to add and remove layers of clothing as the temperatures and windspeed varied.

We stopped for a quick mid morning snack on top of a hill inside a man-made stone circle which made a great wind break.

Hercules protected us by chasing as many sheep as he could find.  I don’t think he realises that he’s never going to catch one, but he never gives up trying.

We had lunch beside a reservoir which was once a lake with a beautiful legend linked to it.  For more info about this story take a look at http://www.myddfai.com/lady-of-llyn.aspx Apparently once a year the local people still come to this lake to make offerings to the lady of the lake.

Apart from a few people at the popular beauty spot at the reservoir where we had lunch, we had the hills pretty much to ourselves.  The paths varied from beaten tracks to knee high undergrowth and during the last leg we walked besides a small stream with several picturesque waterfalls along its length.  In fact there were several lakes and beautiful scenery along the entire walk, and being a clear day we could see for miles around.

Paul is a mine of information and he was pointing out several different plants and explaining how they were used in the “old” days.  One of them was a grass like reed which used to be stripped of its outer covering, dipped in animal fat and then lit like a candle.  Being quite thin it did not give out much light so in order to get more light it was bent double and the other end was dipped in fat and lit too.  Another was a small yellow flower used extensively by the Romans for their well being.

During the final hour of the walk we saw dark clouds gathering in the distance but the weather bypassed us and we made it back to the cars by 4:15pm in the dry.  A quick change and a 3.5 hour drive home to a welcoming hot shower and early bed.

We walked around 20km (approx 12.5 miles) and climbed a cumulative total of 1200m (just under 4000 ft) during the day.  Although the walk seemed longer, it also felt a lot easier as my fitness levels have improved.   There are no aching muscles as I write this the next day and no blisters either although both my knees are complaining slightly.  I am now quietly confident that I have the necessary stamina to make the big climb.

My thanks to Paul again for his time, his stories and his teachings about the local plant life.

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