ON A DRY but overcast and chilly Easter Sunday morning, Robin and his spaniel Pepper from Penarth and District Ramblers played host to a group of 14 walkers at the start of a journey through the Hepste and Dringarth valleys to the north of Penderyn, where the famous Welsh Whisky is produced.

Heading along wide forestry paths past tadpoles in a pool and after stopping to give directions to some visitors, a pretty pine needle carpeted track through privately owned woodland led to a road with a fine view back towards Penderyn. Under brightening conditions and with views across the Hepste valley towards Cefn Cadlan and Cadair Fawr, with the A4059 snaking its way northwards towards the A470 and the Beacons reservoir, a narrow lane led past ponies and geese in the adjoining fields. Ahead the owner of a property who was chopping wood on a circular saw accompanied by his three-legged sheepdog, was delighted to show off his 1947 Ferguson tractor, often nicknamed the ‘Little Grey Fergie’ which is still in good working order and his pride and joy.

A narrow blackthorn-lined path between old stone walls made the perfect place for morning break out of the breeze before continuing past an old ruined cottage and stone sheep dip and out onto open moorland. Heading northeast through a ruined drystone wall just above the Afon Hepste with shakeholes littering the ground, a stile led them to Hepste-fechan a derelict farm situated on the pretty Nant Hepste-fechan with an old stone ty-bach situated at the bottom of the garden and pretty primroses adorning the banks of the stream.

Gradually climbing across tumpy moorland, a fine drizzle rain suddenly blotted out the surrounding views and heading past deep shakeholes towards the hump of Waun Dywarch the rain grew heavier and the temperature dropped in the cool breeze. A hillside covered in long spiked grass with no visible paths led them downhill to a stone boundary wall for lunch in fairly dry conditions under the overhanging branches of trees.

Then crossing a brook and turning north then west, across the bleak moorland heralded their entrance into the Dringarth valley and a steep muddy descent to cross a slippery wooden footbridge over the river. Climbing past another derelict farm at Blaen-tringarth and joining a bridleway through a series of fields and past a flock of sheep and young lambs led to a farm track, where twin lambs had managed to wriggle onto the wrong side of the fence, but with a bit of patience and some skilful shepherding and catching on a steep muddy bank, the lambs were reunited with their bleating mother.

Reaching the entrance to Heolyrhedyn Farm situated above the confluence of the Afon Llia and Dringarth at Pont y Llia, a short stop to view the remains of Castell Coch, a motte and bailey castle which in 1239 was held by William de Braose, but now merely a grassy tump perched above the road in amongst the trees. Then continuing uphill by road with huge black clouds ahead on the southern skyline and with the rain finally easing, daffodil clad banks and a rough path through an area of deforestation finally led the bedraggled party back to the car park to remove wet sodden clothing before the drive home.

On April 29, meet 8am at Cogan Leisure Centre in order to car share to Abergavenny, followed by a bus ride to Llanfihangel Crucorney for the 15-mile strenuous trek back to Abergavenny with 4 major climbs; contact Barrie on 029 2053 0753.

On April 30, meet 9.30am at Cogan for a 9-mile moderate walk in the Dare Valley; contact Jan/John on 01446 418514.

On May 1, meet 8am at Cogan for a 12-mile moderate walk taking in the garlic woods on south Gower; contact Joy on 01446 737131.

Wear suitable clothing, preferably boots and carry waterproofs, food and drinks. Some degree of fitness is required and if you are in any doubt, then please contact the walk leader for advice. To follow the group please log onto www.penarthramblers.wordpress.com or Facebook. Programmes and membership advice can be obtained from Pam on 029 2025 5102.