You’re into walking. You’re not into walking. You think you should walk, but can’t be bothered. No-one can stop you from getting those hiking boots on. Whichever statement best describes you, there’s no denying the benefits of a bit of fresh air, some beautiful scenery and putting some space between you and that desk, television or computer.
Instead of using the tele for your weekend dose of escapism, walking in the mountains is a much more fulfilling and rewarding method of clearing your mind, forgetting about the strains of the week, as well as having the added benefit of clocking up some exercise hours.
Only last week, the Telegraph reported that Britons were walking 80 miles less per year. There’s no need to go into the detrimental effects of less exercise. We all know we could be increasing our chances of diabetes, cancer and heart disease. So the question is why don’t we exercise more?
Of course we could walk or cycle to work, uni, or the shops, but it’s a little uninspiring, don’t you find? So where can you go walking without driving half a day to get there? Did you know that if you’re local to Cardiff, you’re only 42 miles from Pen y Fan, the highest peak in southern Britain, and 25 miles from Trefechan, where you can join the Taff Trail?
If you’re stuck for where to go, local mountain leader, Tom Doey recommends the Brecon Beacons’ website. “It has a fantastic interactive map,” he says, “which allows you to explore a variety of routes for walking, mountain biking, horse riding and cycling in the National Park. Each route explains how to get there, the level of difficulty, estimated time to complete, and even lists local amenities like pubs, public loos, cafés, and such.”
An advanced route
The Beacons Way is a 95 mile east to west walk across the National Park. This route starts in Skirrid near Abergavenny and takes you across the National Park to the village of Bethlehem; a very fitting place to end up at this time of year. As you can imagine, people travel from far and wide to get their Christmas cards marked with the village’s postmark.
The route is split across eight days, but you can join at any point. Day five is the longest distance at 14.73 miles, but you’ll be pleased to hear that day eight is the shortest at just 6.77 miles, while day four sees you tackling Pen y Fan (886m).
If shorter walks are your thing, then you may be interested in the Brecon Beacons’ audio trails. The National Park has a number of beautiful, shorter trails for which it has created MP3 tracks to accompany you en route.
Taster audio tracks:
The 1.86 mile Powder Trail is an enjoyable audio trail according to Ms Patricia Doree, Information Officer at the Brecon Beacons National Park. “It begins in Pontneddfechan and runs along a former tram road in the wooded, Afon Mellte river gorge. It’s a beautiful walk and passes the ruins of the former gunpowder works and the watermills that once powered the site,” she says.
As with any activity, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt, so Ms Doree offers some guidance on how to stay safe.
“The Brecon Beacons has some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the country,” she says, “but the weather can change very suddenly, and in winter conditions can be particularly severe. It’s important to check the weather, mountain and severe weather forecasts on the MET Office before you go.
“And with it getting dark so early in December, it’s always handy to carry a torch. Take a flask of something warm and make sure you’ve got a good stock of high energy food, like chocolates or sweets.”
The right gear always makes a world of difference, so I spoke to Jon Clarkson, Head of Product Development at Gelert, a UK-based ethical outdoor company, for some expert advice.
“With exposed conditions on the tops, it’s really important to dress for warmth. Wear waterproof clothing and carry extra layers, even if it feels like overkill when you begin,” he says.
In winter a warm base layer will keep you comfortable when exercising in the cold, so he recommends their Women’s Flex Short Sleeve Technical T-shirt, which is carefully designed to wick moisture away from your skin, keeping you warm and dry.
“Getting wet can really put a dampener on a walk and could let in a winter sniffle. Our women’s Timor jacket has a double storm flap, adjustable hood and cuffs and taped seams to keep you thoroughly dry in adverse conditions and was awarded ‘Best Value Waterproof Jacket’ by Trail magazine.”
So instead of adding to this ever increasing statistic of people under exercising, grab those boots, pull on that jacket and get out there. I’ll be waiting for my Christmas card from Bethlehem!
Keep an eye on the blog over the next few weeks when I’ll be talking about more great mountain gear.
- Interested in walking more? The Brecon Beacons Park Society runs guided walks throughout December
- If you’re still not convinced you should go walking, Geocaching (a global treasure hunting game) is a brilliant excuse to get you out the house
- If you love the Brecon Beacons, but want to try something other than walking, there are also a number of interesting events and activities going on during December