Hatterrall Hill – The Black Mountains

Hatterrall Hill is located in the Black Mountains in the county of Monmouthshire, South Wales.

As I write this article, there is no doubt that the summer of 2018 has provided us with some of the most prolonged glorious weather for years creating a fantastic opportunity to venture into the great outdoors. However, the hot, dry conditions can bring a new set of challenges.

Walking in the Black Mountains can be demanding at any time but add high temperatures to the mix and it becomes a whole new adventure. Suncream, water and a hat are all essential to avoid becoming a victim of the conditions but with the right preparation, the walking is superb!

As with all hills and mountains, there is a variety of routes that lead to the summit. This particular walk began in Pandy, a small village on the outskirts of Abergavenny, close to the border between England and Wales. From here, the route begins ascending towards Hatterrall Hill and joins a section of the Offa’s Dyke Path to reach the trig point.

The climb might be arduous but the top of the ridge allows for long, flat walking with astounding views. Following specific footpaths can be difficult at this time of year because the foliage is dense so it is always reassuring to come across a helpful stone marker.

The stone marker showing the way to Cwmyoy

After a few miles, the route begins descending quickly.

A covering of thick ferns made this particularly treacherous and it took full concentration looking at my feet to ensure a safe trip down. It also means that you have to be more alert when looking for where the footpaths merge as it is very easy to miss a concealed gap.

Y Graig soon comes into view. This prominent feature in the valley was formed as a result of a landslip.

Y Graig is a prominent feature in the valley.

This is the point where we had to change our plans. The footpath that was showing on the map was so overgrown that it had become impassable. However, there are several tracks around Y Graig so it was possible to walk in the other direction and still find the road leading to the village of Cwmyoy.

St. Martin’s Church in Cwmyoy

This community is famed for its crooked church. There are legends which tell the tale of a landslide caused by an earthquake in the area at the time of the crucifixion. Geological evidence explains that the leaning of the church has resulted from the foundations being built on unstable ground consisting of glaciation debris. Whichever version you choose to believe, this is a fascinating building and worth stepping inside where the twisted shape looks even more mysterious.

Leaving Cwmyoy, the walk continues across fields where it joins again with the Offa’s Dyke Path and returns to the village of Pandy.

The ridges of the Black Mountains are remarkable, especially on a clear day. When walking anywhere during a heatwave, be aware of the conditions and be fully prepared. Hill-walking can be just as hazardous in the summer.

A version of this article first appeared in ‘Bwrdd’ – The Newsletter for Mensa Cymru, September 2018.