The Blorenge dominates the skyline above the town of Abergavenny. This mountain played a significant role in the area’s industrial past and still bears the scars inflicted by the iron and coal industries. Now, it is part of the UNESCO Blaenavon World Heritage Centre, recognised globally for its historical importance.
The summit of the Blorenge is 561 metres (1,841 feet) high. There are a variety of routes leading to the trig point with difficulty levels ranging from easy to strenuous.
It is possible to reach the summit by following a gentle pathway from the Foxhunter Car Park near Blaenavon. For more of a challenge, there is a very steep ascent beginning in the village of Llanfoist at the Crossing Car Park.
The demanding route immediately climbs sharply towards Llanfoist Wharf on the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal. The tunnel underneath the canal leads to the tramway. In the 18th and 19th centuries, horse-drawn trams would bring the industrial materials down the mountain from the ironworks for transportation along the canal. The sleepers are still visible embedded in the side of the mountain.
These days it is tranquil but it would have been a different place two hundred years ago with all the sights, sounds and dangers associated with a world leader in the industrial revolution. This has been immortalised in Alexander Cordell’s ‘Rape of the Fair Country’, a novel about the lives and struggles of the Mortymer family and their community.
The steep ascent persists and there is a choice whether to continue climbing directly to the summit or take a detour to the lake at the Punchbowl. Formed by glacial erosion, the Punchbowl is believed to be the place where in olden days the local men from the surrounding areas would meet to participate in bare-knuckle fighting, hidden away from view.
The route from the Punchbowl continues upwards, less steeply than the direct route to the summit. The path to the trig point is clearly defined and the views over the Black Mountains are spectacular.
The next point of interest is Foxhunter’s grave, a short walk from the summit. Foxhunter was a champion show jumping horse, most famous for winning gold with his rider, Harry Llewellyn, in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Foxhunter died in 1959 and was buried on the mountain. Forty years later, in 1999, Sir Harry Llewellyn passed away and his ashes were scattered around the grave of his beloved champion.
A circular route around the Blorenge also includes Keepers Pond (Pen-ffordd-goch pond), a man-made pool that was created to provide water for the local Garnddyrys Forge. This iron foundry opened in 1817 and closed in the 1860s following the establishment of the larger, more eminent ironworks at Forgeside in Blaenavon.
From here, the route follows the tram road back to the canal at Llanfoist.
The Blorenge is a captivating mountain. With a little imagination, it can transport you back in time to a fascinating period in history. Combined with remarkable views, it really is a memorable walk.
A version of this article first appeared in ‘Bwrdd’ – The Newsletter for Mensa Cymru, November 2018.