A Walk around Cwm Mawr ( The Big Valley)

My wife suffers from what she calls, “ridge envy” and the condition is brought on by gazing up to the top of any stunning ridge, plenty of them in the Black Mountains around Gliffaes, and on spotting a tiny speck of a walker or two, she immediately turns green and wants to swop places with them. The treatment is swift and pretty tiring – you have to climb the ridge. Saturday morning and a beautiful spring day, perfect conditions for a bout of ridge envy. We had to get her to the top.
Where the lane leading up to the hotel meets the main road (A40) you pause for a second to look left and right for traffic but your eyes are always drawn upwards to the magnificent ridge that runs between Pen Cerrigcalch to Pen Alt-mawr, and at 650 meters high that was our target. With two old friends of Gliffaes staying at the hotel we set off at around 10am for this 5 mile circuit of Cwm Mawr (the big valley). A 5 minute drive from Gliffaes finds you at the parking spot somewhere in the region of 203 213 (OS map 13) this has the advantage of a height gain of some 250 meters, every little helps.


The route is a simple one. Straight up hill for about 1 mile following the ridge towards Pen Cerrig-calch (217 225), no need to climb right to the top, when you see the flat saddle on your left, between the two high spots, head left along the ridge towards Pen Gloch-y-pibwr (203 233) before descending the opposite ridge you went up. These two ridges frame a perfect, steep sided bowl shaped valley. This area was once used for grouse shooting and the old grouse bouts are very much in evidence. We saw no grouse but did see plenty of sky larks and welsh mountain ponies. It was a perfect day and we had stunning views all the way across to Pen y Fan.  At the bottom of the ridge you meet the mountain wall and the Beacons Way path, turn left for the short stroll back to your car. One case of ridge envy dealt with.
Notes: Do this walk before the bracken gets too high, so avoid late summer and autumn. I will be happy to mark up your map and give detailed instructions to any guest wanting to go on this walk. It can be very windy on top and I have been snowed on here in June.