We left St Albans and stopped off at Amersham so that I could go to The Record Shop on Record Store Day, primarily to buy the 12” picture disc of Grendel by Marillion, and I was very pleased to find they had a copy. I also managed to come away with the Kate Bush 10″ picture disc of the 2012 remix of Running Up That Hill, Jerusalem by ELP, Urban Guerilla by Hawkwind, Living In The Past by folk rock favourites Jethro Tull (with Teacher mixed by Steven Wilson), Mike Oldfield’s Single, Live ‘N’ Ready by UFO, and I think the only one they did not have that I would have been interested in was Luminol by Steven Wilson. I suppose I will have to find it on eBay. I also bought something as a surprise for David Elliott, my partner in crime with the newly-formed Bad Elephant Music record label, and now we will find out if he reads these blogs, or if he boycotts them in the same way that I boycott his podcast, The European Perspective – which is to say that I listen to it avidly. The Record Shop seemed busy because of the day, and that made me happy because I have been going to it for years (in its various locations as it has moved about the Amersham high streets), and indeed purchased Market Square Heroes by Marillion from there on its day of release back in October 1982, when the shop was called Record House and when Grendel was the b-side of the 12” version of the single.
We drove through Beaconsfield to get to the M40, then down the Marlow bypass to get to the M4, and from there it was a straight drive down to Wales, because we were going to spend the weekend in the Brecon Beacons, staying at the Nant Ddu Lodge so that Debbie could use the spa facilities while I climbed Pen y Fan. That would happen on Sunday, and we had decided to take a smaller walk on the Saturday, up to Llyn y Fan Fach, in the shadow of the Carmarthen Fan. The Crimson Short Walks guide book we were working from indicated that the start was at a small car park east of Llanddeusant. The first problem we had faced is the fact there appear to be two Llanddeusants in Wales, one in Carmarthenshire and the other in Anglesey. You should head for the one in Carmarthenshire. When you get there you will not see the car park. You need to follow the signs for Llyn y Fan, and then signs for a car park start appearing. It is not a car park, as such, more a permission to park on the grass at the bottom of the hill.
It had turned out to be a lovely day and the sun was shining as we set off. It was a steady uphill walk along a track which ran beside the Afon Sawdde stream with a number of tiny waterfalls, and the colours were stunning in the light.
The track led to waterworks filter beds and a fish farm, at which point we had to leave the main track and go through a gate to follow a rough path to the other side of the buildings. As you walk along the track by the buildings you should look into the old filter beds to spot the jumping fish, because the beds are now used as a fish hatchery.
We continued up until we reached a bridge which crosses the Afon Sawdde, and kept on with the water now on our left. The route could not be more straightforward – you leave the car park and kept going straight until you reach the lake. There is a fork in the path and we followed it to the left, though you end up in the same place if you head straight on, and we went round a steep bank to the grassy shores of the reservoir. We could now clearly see the steep Carmarthen Fan ahead of us, with Bannau Sir Gaer directly ahead.
The reservoir is known as the ‘magic lake’ and it certainly seemed magical in today’s light. The place itself is steeped in myths and legends, the most famous of which concerns a magical Lady of the Lake, who married a local shepherd boy on the basis that he would not strike her with iron. The legend finally gets to the remarkable line “sadly, he did eventually strike her with iron”, as though it was inevitable, rather than being highly unlikely. We now located a small hut which is used as an emergency shelter and followed the track away from this as it took us to the right before coming round to join the main track at the fork we took earlier. From there it was simply a pleasant walk downhill to the car park.
You can see more photos from the walk here.
It did not take us too long to drive to the Nant Ddu Lodge, and as we drove past the red telephone box and The Storey Arms to get to it I got very excited, because although I would not be taking that route to get up to Pen y Fan this time, it did not matter because I was so close to it now. I could not wait for the morning. We checked in (and we were in room 2 – Cribyn) and took advantage of the facilities at Nant Ddu Lodge, enjoying a swim, a sauna and the jacuzzi. It is just a pity that they do not have wifi, which I would expect from such an establishment. We had a meal in our room, watched some television and went to bed. It had been a wonderful day and a great way to start what I was sure would become a long-term relationship with the Brecon Beacons.
You can see more photos from Nant Ddu Lodge here.