June 20, 2019. 13 miles. Hatterrall Ridge, Brecon Beacons National Park, Black Mountains, high point of the path, Hay-on-Wye bookstores.
The previous day was challenging, and two of the group didn’t feel good this morning. Ellen, Peyton, and Kyle took a recovery day and rode to Hay-on-Wye, giving them an opportunity to tour the book stores.
Gracie, John, and I started the day with a brisk, 45-minute hike back up Hatterrall. It was a cool morning and a tough climb, but we all felt great. Near the top, we turned and saw the others far below get into a car and drive off.
Once we reached the top of the ridge, it was glorious walking for many miles. There was misty rain and a stiff wind at times, and we could see rain in the distance to the northwest and northeast, and the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons to the west was absolutely beautiful. Hatterrall is the easternmost of the Black Mountains and stands at the eastern boarder of the Brecon Beacons. So, looking west we saw mountains, and to the east we saw rolling farmland and meadows.
We walked at a quicker pace – though certainly not speeding along – to keep warm. Around 1:00 we found a perfect spot for lunch – three knee-high boulders at the edge of the trail, with wild ponies off to either side. It was one of the most beautiful lunch spots you could imagine.
One of my favorite memories from the ridge will be the singing of the skylarks. Some seemed to follow us along the path. One would fly straight up, maybe 20 feet, face the wind, and while stationary in the air, sing a complex, glorious song. It seems you could hear the song all along the ridge and to the mountains to the west. I wonder if the skylarks rise in the air to sing because there are no trees where they could perch. If they want to be heard, they have to fly up, flap their wings furiously, and sing into the wind.
We made incredibly fast time over the ridge, to the highest point on Offa’s Dyke Path, and then made a gradual descent and 4-mile walk over fields into Hay. I was sad to leave the great walking along the ridge, but there’s more ahead of us. We got a bit lost taking a wrong turn coming into Hay-on-Wye, but a group of school boys – also apparently lost – showed us the way back to the path. And we reached Hay with about two hours still to tour the bookshops.
The stores and storekeepers were wonderful, and I bought a couple of books by a Welsh novelist and poet, along with a book of essays by William Hazlitt. Hay Castle was closed for repairs, but the sheep’s milk ice cream at Shepherds Parlour was delicious. I did some laundry in the evening and stayed at a nice homey B&B, Firs Guest House.