The Blorenge

The Blorenge towers some 480m (1,570ft) above Abergavenny and the river Usk. It may not be the highest mountain in Wales, but it certainly dominates the local landscape.

In 1998, after 2 years of fund raising & negotiations, the SE Wales Hang Gliding & Paragliding Club purchased the Blorenge, and became the first UK club to own a major flying site.

Map of the Blorenge, showing the routes of the three recommended walks When you visit the Blorenge, it's easy to forget that this serene mountain top once billowed with smoke, and its mining, quarrying and ironworks provided employment and housing for several hundred people.

So next time you are in SE Wales, try to find the time to explore the Blorenge, a landscape rich in beauty and history.

This map shows three possible walks on the Blorenge. Each route will give you an interesting glimse into the industrial past of an area which rightly deserves its status as a World Heritage Site.

Walks are naturally taken at your own risk, and you are strongly advised to use an Ordnance Survey Landranger 161 or Pathfinder SO 21/31 map.

Be well prepared before starting any of the routes. The weather on the Blorenge can deteriorate very quickly, and the terrain is very rough and boggy in places.

To get your bearings, stop at the plaque at the NE end of Pen-fford-goch (top of the red road) pond. This pond once fed steam engines at the Garnddyrys Forge, about ¾ mile on the hillside below. Locally the pond is better known as "Keeper's Pond" after the gamekeeper's cottage that once stood nearby. The Blorenge is part of the Blaenavon Grouse Moor.

Walk 1 - Pwll Du (Black Pool)

(Approximately 1 hour)

From the car park take the footpath around the north side of "Keeper's Pond" to the plaque at the far end.

Turn sharp left down towards the road, and head for a bridleway, which is signposted "Govilon". Follow the track downhill, and head towards the Gilwern Hill transmitter mast in the distance, keeping to the left of the walled field.

On the left you will pass the stone wall remnants of the Balance Pond, once used to power the transport of limestone in the quarry below.

Follow the path as it zigzags through the old quarry workings. Note Hill's tramroad (named after the ironmaster Thomas Hill) beneath you, and winding its way to the right along the face of Blorenge.

Join Hill's tramway and turn left, and follow the narrowing track until you reach a stile. Cross the stile and take the steep track up the rocks on the left (The sheep track straight ahead follows a very narrow precipice). Once on top of the quarry, follow the path heading for the Gilwern Hill transmitter mast.

After about 100m the tramroad again becomes visible below, with a small stone wall blocking the cutting. Beneath you lie several caverns. You can scramble down to the tramway and poke your head inside the entrance to the "bat cave" some 20m east of the stone wall.

Follow the path towards the two white buildings. The Lamb and Fox Inn is the leftmost of the two. At the corner of the field go through the metal gate, and follow the path past the Lamb and Fox to the tarmac road.

Turn right, and after a few metres right again, heading towards the second white building. This is now an adventure centre, but at one time was the village hall of Pwll Du. On the left lies one entrance to the 180-year-old tramway tunnel which runs under the hill for about 1.5 miles, before emerging near the Blaenavon Ironworks. It was used to transport coal, limestone and pig iron.

Retrace your steps to the Lamb and Fox Inn, and then head for the two Blorenge masts on the horizon, following a tramroad and then a path close to a stone wall on your left.

Maintain this course until you meet the bridleway above the Balance Pond. Turn right and return to the car park

Walk 2 - Top circuit

(Approximately 2½ hours)

From the car park take the footpath around the north side of "Keeper's Pond" to the plaque at the far end. Continue in the same direction, and pick up the route of one of the earliest primitive railways associated with the Blaenavon Iron Company. This tramroad was built around 1795 to bring limestone from the quarries at the northern headland of the Blorenge to the ironworks. It fell out of use around 1804, due to technical problems at the quarry, and the plate track was taken up in 1813.

From the route of the tramroad, note the fine views over the Usk Valley to Sugar Loaf. Looking west there are similar splendid views of the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons. Almost a dozen of the "Welsh One Hundred" can be seen from here on a clear day.

As the tramroad enters the old quarry workings, take the path to the left, and take in the fine views of Abergavenny.

Continue around the northern tip into the north-eastern bowl, from where there are fine views towards Pandy, the Skirrid, and the flatlands beyond. Launch and fly east from here on an infinite glide, and you'll not touch down again before reaching the Urals!

Continue to the eastern tip, where there is a fine view of the Usk Valley heading towards the Bristol Channel. Face the track heading south-west, and on the horizon above you will see the hump of a Bronze Age burial mound (Carn y Defaid).

Continue down the track between the old quarry workings, then turn right on to the tarmac road to the Blorenge masts. Alternatively retrace your steps a short way to the bowl, and then take the route over the trig point to the masts.

The car park at the masts is named after Foxhunter, who is buried nearby. Foxhunter was the beloved horse of Sir Harry Llewellyn, who was probably best known for winning a Gold medal at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Following his death in 1999 Sir Harry's ashes were also scattered on the same spot.

From the car park skirt the road back to Keeper's Pond. Alternatively choose one of the tracks heading NW across rough ground. But be aware that many of these wide sheep tracks suddenly disappear (presumably at places where house thermals transport the sheep to pastures new?).

Walk 3 - Top to bottom via Hill's Tramroad

(Approximately 3½ hour)

Follow Walk 1 to the junction with Hill's tramroad. Turn right and follow the tramroad around the head of Cwm Llanwenarth. Parts of the tramroad have fallen away or have been covered by rockslides, but the path is well defined. As you approach the B4246, a slag heap marks the remains of Garnddyrys Forge and Rolling Mill. This once produced 300 tons of iron rails and bars a week, to be transported down the tramroad to Llanfoist Wharf.

Follow the curved track up to the B4246, and then continue down the road for about 200m. At this point Hill's tramroad continues on your right, rising slightly. Rejoin the tramroad, and continue past the remains of the Queen Victoria pub (behind a low wall on your right), and the edge of the forestry. On this section of the tramroad, many of the original stone sleepers of the 2ft-gauge iron plateway are still visible. On rounding the northern headland of the Blorenge look out for the "Hilton Hotel" (for sheep). This 40m "cut and cover" tunnel dates from 1818, and is listed as an ancient monument.

Continue along the track as it skirts to the left of the tunnel before rejoining the tramroad. Shortly afterwards, the end of the level tramroad is marked by retaining walls on your right. This area was originally a marshalling yard, where wagons were switched to the inclines on your left. The inclines are not a public right of way at this point, so continue on the path until the enclosed fields drop away sharply to your left. Turn left, and follow the boundary fence down the steep hill until you reach a stile. Cross the stile, and look up to your left for a view of the upper inclines.

Continue down the steep Llanfoist inclines until you emerge at a wooden gate and stile at Llanfoist Wharf, on the Brecknock and Abergavenny Canal (completed in 1812). Here, having descended three sections of counterbalanced incline from the level tramroad 255m above, the products of the Forge were transferred to barges for transport to Newport Docks. The tramroad and inclines also provided a useful link to the Llanvihangel Railway (completed in 1814) at Llanfoist village.

Head straight-ahead for the Wharfmaster's House, where a tunnel underneath the house and the canal brings you to a tarmac road. Follow the road left downhill past Llanfoist Church to a junction with the B4246 (The Llanfoist Inn is a 100m diversion to your right). Take the lane ahead (across the road), and follow it past a football field and nursery. Continue under the A465, and then turn right. Follow the road past the cemetery on your right, until you eventually reach the Bridge Inn.

Enjoy your walk, but please respect the Blorenge. It's a World Heritage Site, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and it contains a number of important scheduled national monuments.

If you want to learn more about the area, please check out "Exploring Blaenavon Industrial Landscape World Heritage site" (£9.99) and "Classic Walks in the Brecon Beacons National Park" (£8.95). Both books are by Chris Barber and are available from the Blorenge Books website.

Acknowledgements

Base map reproduced from the OS map by permission of Ordnance Survey®
On behalf of The Controller of Her Majesty's Stationary Office. ©Crown Copyright 2002.
All rights reserved. Licence number AL 100037852


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Published for the SEWHG&PGC
Maintained by Paul Dancey
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