I’ve given you hints, teased you with some pictures, so now I feel I need to say some more about the Iron Mountain Trail. Starting in Blaenavon, South Wales, The Iron Mountain Trail leads you through a brief history of man in the valleys of Wales. Going from the scraping of ore at the surface, all the way to the deep pits and coal seams, you get a crash course in landscaping on a grand scale.
Looking at the land around you, recognising how history has changed it. Made it into what it is today is a part of walking that many forget. We look at maps, compare to what we see, and follow our route, but the history around us has defined the landscape and the wildlife, even the nature of human habitation. I love to see things being put back in place by nature, not erasing our mark, just recycling what we have done. At Blaenavon you get to walk through this process in action.
You walk through the slag-heaps, along the tramways and around the remains of the mine workings. You pass old smelting yards, villages that supplied the labour for years of exploitation, all this under a hot summer sky. We looked out across the canals, to the crossroads in the valley bottoms, all the while enjoying the smells of nature as we walked through the heather and gorse that has reclaimed the hillsides, along with swathes of Foxgloves offering colour to the world. There was not much wildlife here, it is a popular place to walk with lots of access parking all around the circular route, but you do see the Buzzards circling on thermals from The Blorenge.
This was not the walk I had planned today, I was going to head to Mount Snowdon, but the walkers for that trip cancelled at the last. My good fortune, a little reorganisation and I had two friends and a trip to Blaenavon sorted out, we looked out at The Blorenge from Sugar Loaf earlier this year, and had made a mental note to visit. A good forecast and easy drive got us here, though the heat did make it harder than it might have been. Steve and Mike put on a good pace, faster perhaps than I would like but OK for a day that started later than expected due to a cycle race stopping traffic while we looked for our preferred parking spot.
All the while you get views up and down the valley, across to Waun Fach, Sugar Loaf and the Brecon Beacons. It was later on the news we heard of the group of British servicemen who had difficulties on the Brecons with the heat, the countryside can find so many ways to cause trouble. It is a reminder that even on sunny days we need to take care on the hills. These were professionals, my condolences go to all the families of these men.
The Blorenge itself is misleading, once you reach the summit it becomes a big flat moor, crisscrossed by tracks and the summit trig sits above this wide space by a few metres, surrounded by a pile of rocks. A fine place to sit and look around.
Crossing the moor you head back towards the town and the start, lean in to the lumpy pathways and head home. Crossing scours, where water has been used to expose iron ore, circuitous tracks around the old works of the original mines. Where nature is as everywhere around, doing her thing and reclaiming what has been taken.
It’s a walk of very different flavours, man and nature each vying for their place. At times still, dreamy and almost like a lost world. Then you pass a place where families and pets are roaming, calling and using the space to be free from the closeness of industry. I can see why the area is a World Heritage Site, although I think some more homage should be paid to natures part in the whole scheme. If you get the chance pay the place a visit, it’s worth a few hours of anyone’s time in my opinion.
For now though, enjoy every trip you make, long or short. They are all part of the trail you are following through your life.