Today there are absolutely no navigational problems! I get us exactly where we want to be – finding the road northwards towards Hay on Wye without a single hitch. The fact that the road, shown as a thin white line on the map, turns out to be a single track, between high hedges and with very few passing places, is really not my fault!
Winding along the base of the black mountains, the view is breathtaking – at least I find it so. Michael is too busy clenching his hands tightly on the wheel and trying to speed through the narrowest parts before we meet anything coming towards us. Strangely, my reassurance that we don’t have to drive back the same way – that there is an alternative route on double-carriaged A-roads – only elicits a sharp query as to why we didn’t use that route in both directions! ‘For the view, of course!’ I tell him.
After some ten miles, we come to a sign: Road Ahead Closed. It doesn’t say where or why, and there are no turn-offs on this single track through the mountains – although I decide it is best to keep quiet about that fact for the moment. We continue driving.
There are occasional diversion signs along the road we are on, then one announcing the end of the diversion, but no road closure. At one point we abandon the car and walk a mile up the road, but can find no closure.
In fact, it is just a couple of bends after the point where we stop walking and turn back to the car. Ten minutes later we are faced by a red and white sign part-blocking the way forward. We are briefly tempted to keep going, but chicken out and turn the car around.
Llanthony Priory is just behind us, so we make an unscheduled stop, view the twelfth century ruins, made more dramatic by the surrounding mountains, then Michael breaks the male drivers’ code – and asks for directions. We set out, discover more meaningful diversions further down the valley, and soon find ourselves at our original destination – a small car park in the Wye Valley, on the side of the road, surrounded by sheep.
Our aim today is a 6 mile walk recommended by the hotel, taking in Hay Bluff and the adjacent peak, Twmpa or Lord Hereford’s Knob. The guide book says it should take about 4 hours to complete. However, it is only as we climb from the car and stare upwards that we realise just how high 2000 feet is!
We abandon our plan to attempt the entire circuit and set our sights on Hay Bluff alone. A party of youngsters leavers their car next to ours and follows us up the slope. We are quietly smug when they give up long before us and head back down. However, as we climb, the gaps between pauses to ‘admire the view’ become shorter and we admit defeat at around 1600 feet. Even this is way more than I could have achieved six months ago. As we perch on a rock, surrounded by yet more sheep, admire the view and munch our lunch, I give thanks for our local fitness guru, Gina Sherwood, for bullying me to the point where I can (almost) climb a mountain.
Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.
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