From the village of Blaenavon (World Heritage Site no less) take the B4246 north.
As you reach the top of the hill and rise out onto open moorland take the first turning on the right. (You will see the two large transmitters) Next to the transmitters there is a large car park – park here. From the car park follow the gravel path and then the obvious ‘path’ through the heather which takes you to the summit of Blorenge (rhythms with orange!) Mountain and the large Cairn.
7.30am and already I am stood on top of the Cairn. Why this early? Good question.
I had been given the day off work in order to do some voluntary work helping construct river anti-erosion screens for the Woodland Trust. I wasn’t due to start until 9.45am and looking at the map I could see it wasn’t too much further to drive to Blorenge. So, there we are, an early start but well worth the effort.
Although I doubt the ‘courting couple’ I disturbed in the car park thought so!!
There is an information board in the car park giving details of this part of the World Heritage Site but no mention of the Cairn. The path across the mountain is called ‘Heather and Heritage’.
Another thing of note is the large mound of stone with a plaque on it stating that this is the resting place of the horse Foxhunter who died in 1959. The horse was famous in the equestrian world and won Olympic Gold. The car park is named Foxhunter in its honour. First time I have seen a burial site for a horse.
The weather over the last few days had been glorious and we had been promised more to come. However, at this time of the morning, at this height, things were much different. Threatening clouds hung over Blorenge Mountain like a great black cape although below it you could see the sun shining on the valley below.
I seemed somewhat inappropriately dressed in my shorts and t-shirt!
As you walk to the Cairn you pass many piles of jumbles stones, many of them Cairn-like. Can there really only be one Cairn up here or perhaps (more likely) there are others hidden amongst the heather? Two piles in particular looked very much like a Cairn. One was about 0.3m high x 5m across and the other 1m high x 3m across. But there again – what do I know?
Carn Blorenge is a fine site and sight although it has suffered from the usual walker’s shelter adaptation. I could see no trace of the cist mentioned by COFLEIN – I assume it has since been back-filled with stones? The views of course are very fine indeed.
In the distance, across the heather, there looked for all the world to be a standing stone of some 2m in height. Why wasn’t this on the map? After getting my feet soaked tramping through the wet heather I discovered the answer – it is a natural rock outcrop. It did make me wonder however if it had been used as a standing stone in the ancient past. Who knows?
All in all a good place to visit.
‘Extensive robbing of a cairn, 15m in diameter and 2m in height, has exposed an eccentric cist, 1.4m by 0.7m’.
After aborting a visit in rain and mist last year, which would have been via the easier approach from the south (see Gladman's fieldnotes), some winter sun and a good dusting of snow tempted me to try again. Getting off the train at Abergavenny, Blorenge fills the view to the south, a huge flat-topped bulk. The approach, via Llanfoist, starts at about 50m above sea level and then involves a steeply climbing footpath, under the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal, to Cwm Craf. The snow line started here today (20.2.2010). From here footpaths encircle the mountain in a few directions, and I took the bridleway west around the northern shoulder. Here you are at about 350m, and an amazing vista opens out with every step. Behind is the distinctive Skirrid, to the right the Sugar Loaf, with the highest Black Mountains peak behind it, while over to the west the Brecons start to unfold. This is spectacular countryside. The summit itself remains invisible until you are practically up on it. The massive cairn sits on the top of a fairly flat plateau, with the gentler ground sloping away to the south. Next to it are a trig point and an unsightly walker's cairn, no doubt robbed from the monument itself.
The views are terrific. Only the top of the Skirrid is now visible, the Sugar Loaf looks to be on a level with this cairn (it's actually a bit higher), to the west the white peaks of Pen-y-Fan and the Brecons Horsehoe are visible. To the south you can see the cairns of Carn y Defaid and to the south-west Coety Mountain. A light aircraft flew past below me. An amazing spot on such a cold, clear day. And I've finally stood on top of my first Black Mountain (it's taken me long enough).
Leaving to the south, it's a relatively short walk to Blaenavon over much more gradual slopes. Woo-hoo!
Although not only lower, but far less shapely than the Sugar Loaf (Mynydd Pen-y-fal), its elegant neighbour across the valley, the sprawling South Walian mountain known as Blorenge nevertheless possesses something of great value that its illustrious rival does not - a stonking great Bronze Age burial cairn at its summit!
Despite being sited at an altitude not that far short of 2000ft, it's also pretty easy to visit, the B4246 from Govilon crossing the western shoulder of the peak before descending towards Blaenavon, one of the cradles of Welsh industry, or so I'm told. A short diversion towards prominent radio aerials brings the traveller to The 'Foxhunter' carpark, so named since the eponymous racehorse is apparently buried nearby.
But is a burial site of a different type that the Mam Cymru and I have come to see today - that of what must surely have been a Bronze Age chieftain or other 'Big Man'. The conditions are appalling, the wind so powerful it takes all of my strength just to open the car door, the rain coming in correspondingly violent bursts. Nevertheless the path (to the approx NE) is clear and easy, if more resembling a flowing stream today. So, after helping a bloke with no shoes bump-start his van (kicked out by his wife, perhaps?) we follow said path-cum-stream to the summit.
Reaching the summit we are blown away.... not only by the massive monument and superb views, but also in a quite literal sense. Duh, it's windy! The cairn is a full 15m by 2m high according to Coflein, although it would appear its crafty builders utilised the shape of the mountain's summit to cut down on the volume of stones required to achieve the desired effect. There's also the remnants of a possible cist within, which is always good to see. Bonus! Having said that, a head first close-up view, courtesy of the wind, is probably best avoided, come to think of it.
As previously mentioned, Sugar Loaf sits across the valley, acting as appropriately 'rainbow-ed' foreground for the sweeping be-cairned summits and ridges of The Black Mountains, the little hillfort of Crug Hywell clearly visible above Crickhowell. Several Neolithic tombs grace the landscape, out of sight but not out of mind, as they say, not to mention Norman castles, reminders of a more war-like age. Hell, I like Wales.........