‘Running in the Hills Weekend’ – Vale of Ewyas Sunday

The Valley

Or a Squashed Frog, Welsh Nazca Lines and Talking to Sheep…

We leave the campsite early on a Welsh weather morning and drive to Llanthony Priory set in the Vale of Ewyas , a narrow, remote steep sided valley on the Eastern edge of the Black Mountains.

We walk across a field past the former priory gatehouse and follow a track along the bottom of the valley. Millie finds a delightfully squashed frog and dances along with it hanging out the side of her mouth.

We are alone with no sound but sheep and birds. A cuckoo calls from a far wood and a brood of young pied wagtails leapfrog us as they flit in and out of the hedges. We follow the path of the river Honddu through lush fields where we are tracked by belligerent sheep who stand on a low ridge above us stamping their hooves in annoyance. We cross a footbridge and come on more sheep but this time they follow us, barging each other out of the way in their eagerness to get closer.

We pick up a path that runs along the western slopes of the valley. It is empty moorland under an immense blue arch of sky and we look down on skylarks as they hover below us. We walk in single file towards the distant cairn of Bal Bach. Three ponies are outlined on the ridge and on a far hill we see patterns that can only be described as Welsh Nazca Lines.

From the cairn we look out over the Vale of Ewyas and the neighbouring Grwyne valley. And then we finally meet other humans.”It’s Oliver’s Army”, mutters Darrell as a gang of cheerful teenagers pass us. And further down the path, “It’s okay I’m really rather well adjusted”, a memorable individual leaning on walking poles assures us; “I’m not talking to myself, I’m actually communicating with the sheep….”.

In the carpark we have a flat on the ground canine protest but we can’t decide whether it’s because she doesn’t want to go home or because she simply can’t manage the final ten steps to the van.

Back in camp we sit in the sun and watch a kite and several paragliders. For a few minutes at least – then Millie ‘sings the song of her people’ and demands pull-toy time – again and again and again…

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