On the weekend of 9th to 11th November (2013) Martin, Sue, Brian and Jo visited The Hafod Estate – a Forestry Commission property – and stayed in Pwll Pendre, aka Hawthorne Cottage, which is actually in the heart of the estate. The drive down, through the Elan Valley right to the end, past the old lead mines, was spectacular, giving us a small taste of what to expect. Martin and I had intended to go to into the gorge at Devil’s Bridge which is very close to Hafod, but as it started to bucket down, we went through to Aberystwyth instead and bought a map of Hafod for the next day.
The weather on the 10th of November was absolutely glorious – we woke up to a light frost, bright sun and blue skies. As we watched, mist rolled in, forming picturesque bands across the fields and lake and we rushed out to start taking photos. The day that followed continued in the same vein. Hafod has a number of well maintained and well-marked, dramatic, picturesque walks and we took full advantage of these. It’s difficult to explain how impressive the whole thing was, except to say there was a lot of ‘chimping’ (‘oo..oo..oo’ noises that photographers make when they are too excited to speak, I am told!) and other meaningless exclamations (‘wow’ being a bit of a favourite for me).
The Estate has everything – high viewpoints over hills and into valleys and gorges, waterfalls and rushing rivers, picturesque rocky overhangs, wonderful flowering lichens and beautiful trees. The autumn colours of the leaves were spectacular. Some notable animals and plants we saw were: golden spindles fungus, caldonia polydactyla lichen in flower, a woodcock, and a fox that walked past Jo and Brian’s window.
After 7.5 miles of walk and 697 metres of climb, each of us had taken the best part of 200 photos. In Martin’s case, this was actually more than he took on a week in Sicily! As we were actually staying in the estate, we were able to break at the cottage for lunch, which was a nice added bonus.
The cottage is picturesque, cosy and well-equipped, although there is no TV or mobile reception and the pay-phone and WiFi were not working when we went there, so the mod cons are more of the ‘two toilets and a shower and cooker that work properly’ kind than the watch the Rugby kind . It has a log fire, and three comfortable, warm bedrooms (2 doubles and a twin). You need to be reasonably fit to stay there, as the path down from the car to the cottage is a fair length and a bit steep in places, and all your belongings need to come in that way, but it is definitely worth the effort. If you are up for a stiff walk and enjoy spectacular landscape, we would thoroughly recommend it. And it is only 1hr 40 minutes drive from Abergavenny!
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