Postcard from The Blorenge

Taken a few years ago when it was chilly

(Part 3 of my walking series. Part 1 and part 2 also available.)

Blorenge or sometimes The Blorenge is a prominent hill overlooking the valley of the River Usk in Monmouthshire, southeast Wales. It is situated in the southeastern corner of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The summit plateau reaches a height of 1,841 feet (561 m).

Blorenge overlooks the market town of Abergavenny and the villages of Llanfoist and Govilon in the Usk Valley to the north. At the foot of the mountain lies the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal. It drops away steeply to the northwest into Cwm Llanwenarth. To the south, gentler slopes fall away to Blaenavon at the head of the Lwyd valley. Prominent peaks seen from the Blorenge include the Skirrid to the east of Abergavenny and the Sugar Loaf to the north.

Blorenge summit looking towards the Sugarloaf

Blorenge is composed in layer-cake fashion of a number of different rock types. Its lower slopes are formed from the sandstones and mudstones deposited during the Devonian period and known collectively as the Old Red Sandstone. Its higher reaches are formed from a suite of mudstones, limestones and sandstones of Carboniferous age. The summit plateau is formed from coarse sandstones that lie at the boundary of the Millstone Grit and the Coal Measures. All of these beds tilt south-westwards into the South Wales Coalfield basin.

View from the Foxhunter car park

The shape of the hill was modified during the ice ages as the Usk Valley glacier flowed past it to its north. A small glacier nourished by windblown snow from the plateau excavated the hollow on the eastern side of Blorenge which is known as The Punchbowl. Cwm Craf on the hill’s north-eastern slopes has a cirque-like form though probably never harboured a full-grown glacier.

Mountain rescue are often parked up to take advantage of the good reception

Blorenge is situated within both the Brecon Beacons National Park and the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape, a World Heritage Site. Much of the hill has also been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest principally for its heather moorland which is important for breeding red grouse. The Punchbowl is owned and managed by the Woodland Trust as a nature reserve.

Heather transforms the landscape in the Spring

Most of the hill is open access for walkers and there are a number of footpaths and bridleways which run to and over it. There is a hillwalking trail that runs around Blorenge and is a very popular destination for tourists and walkers alike. The ascent on foot to the summit from Llanfoist / Abergavenny via Cwm Craf is very steep but the effort is repaid by the panoramic views from the summit across the valley of the River Usk to Abergavenny and the Black Mountains, Wales. Easier access both to the summit and the northern edge of the plateau can be had from the Foxhunter car park.

I got caught in a snow storm at the top

Most visitors are walkers and sightseers. Some come to see the grave of Sir Harry Llewellyn’s famous showjumping horse, Foxhunter, who won Britain’s only Gold medal in the 1952 Summer Olympics. Foxhunter is buried near to the Blaenavon to Llanover road on Blorenge. A car park here is named in his honour.

Look closely and you can see some hikers climbing up the hard way

The SE Wales Hang Gliding & Paragliding Club’s members regularly take off from the summit, The whole 998 acres of the upper part is owned by the club. Paragliders performing ‘top to bottom’ flights land in Castle Meadows beside the River Usk at Abergavenny.
Every November a ‘category A’ fell race takes place on the mountain starting and finishing at St Faith’s Church at Llanfoist. The race route passes under the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal.

Here are those hikers

There is also a Great Taste Award winning pale ale named after this hill and produced not far away in Llanhilleth.

Looking out across Wales and towards that other country to the east

The remains of a tramway, built about 1796, linking a limestone quarry on the north side of the mountain with the ironworks at Blaenavon can be seen near 51.807°N 3.060°W. Hill’s Tramroad extends around the western flanks of the hill and drops steeply down to Llanfoist by means of a series of inclines beneath Cwm Craf. There are extensive abandoned workings for limestone around the northern and eastern rim of Blorenge.

You can see for miles around on a sunny day

The western edge of Blorenge is crossed by the B4246 road between Llanfoist and Blaenavon which passes over the climb known as “The Tumble” (“Y Tymbol”), which reaches an elevation of 482 m (1,581 ft) close to Keepers Pond (Pen-ffordd-goch) (at 51°47′19″N 3°04′57″W). The climb is regularly featured in cycle races, and has hosted the finish of the final stage of the Junior Tour of Wales since 1989. It is listed as one of the 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs in Britain. The signs at the summit indicate incorrectly that the elevation is 512 m (1,680 ft).

This is the snow storm blowing towards me

From Govilon, the climb is 4.1 km (2.5 mi) long, gaining 347 m (1,138 ft) in altitude, at an average gradient of 9.0%. Stage 3 of the 2014 Tour of Britain finished at the summit on 9 September 2014, when the stage winner was the Italian rider, Edoardo Zardini.

Sheep roam wild on the hillside

Nearby is the town of Blaenavon. Attractions in the town include the Big Pit National Coal Museum (an Anchor Point of ERIH, The European Route of Industrial Heritage), Blaenavon Ironworks, the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway, Blaenavon World Heritage Centre, Blaenavon Male Voice Choir, Blaenavon Town Band and many historical walks through Blaenavon’s mountains.

You are in the middle of nowhere but ironically the phone signal is great

The Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway is a scenic attraction rich in geological and historical interest. Blaenavon lost both of its passenger railway stations — Blaenavon High Level station closed in 1941; the last train from Blaenavon (Low Level) (namely to Newport via Pontypool Crane Street) ran in April 1962.

Snow above, sun below

Contrary to an oral tradition, the lower line had already been closed for more than a year before the anti-subsidy Beeching Axe took place. The lower lines passenger service was among many in Gwent (Monmouthshire) were Ministry of Transport de-classified papers reveal were axed due to rail congestion in the Newport area following the newly opened Llanwern steelworks.

The lake at the Keeper’s Pond car park, previously used in iron production

© Jonathon Davies 2018

(Information from Wikipedia under the Creative Commons licence. Photos by Jonathon Davies.)