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Brecon Beacons

Sunday 8th May

By
Dave Jones

The weather forecast for this meet was predicted to be very good, with some south easterly winds in the afternoon. However, on the way down it looked very dark at the “back of bills” and we did have a good shower at one point. Perhaps putting on my shorts was not such a good idea after all.

The West Bromwich crew that normally depart at 07.00am probably had an extra 30 minutes in bed due to not been picked up until 07.20am, so roles were reversed and Penkridge members were picked up first due to going M5 southbound and then onto the M50 for Brecon.

We picked two other members up near to Lickey, David Hind & Phil Smith to eliminate them travelling northbound to come back south.

It was very rewarding to see the coach relatively full and also it was good to see Jason Jones back on the coach after a long spell away. (Perhaps this was me texting him.)

An hour in so into the journey we stopped off at the services for a twenty-minute stop for changing footwear or a quick cup of tea or coffee, I opted for the MacDonald’s counter for a Bacon & Egg McMuffin, my excuse was I should be able to burn that off later.

Over the last couple of meets, the committee have felt that it is a good idea to put on a lead walk due to the fact that if anyone is new on the coach they can come along and learn from fellow members and by doing this it shows that we want to promote the club and hopefully get them to come back on future coach meets.

On this particular meet we had arranged for Route 1 to be the lead walk which takes in Fan y Big and Pen y Fan, the route is (18km – 11 miles) The coach was dropping off at Pencelli & Storey Arms and picking back up ay Storey Arms & Tair Bull.

Nigel Tarr informed everyone on the coach that there was going to be a lead walk and informed to meet at the back of the coach so we could identify who we had on the walk. David Hind and myself agreed to lead with Nick Piotrowski supporting at the rear.

We had around seventeen individuals on the walk, plus other individuals where doing the same route but they opted to walk with fellow colleagues. Throughout the day we kept coming across each other at stop off points.

By now the sun had come out and the forecast was doing as predicted. The majority of the coach got off at Pencelli and other members remained on the coach to be dropped off at Storey Arms.

We started the walk just after 10.30am following the road west then turning left at the second road junction; we followed the road for a short while and then started the steady climb south west up Gist Wen, some individuals not in the lead walk stopped off to take clothing layers off due to the weather getting nice and warm.

As we got higher up there was some fantastic panoramic views and the route ahead was clearly visible, one individual was having some issues due to medication that they were taking, and David Hind called me to inform me of this, hence the reason on a lead walk it is beneficial to have support at the front and rear. I caught up with the rest of the group to inform them, we carried on to Bwich Ddwyallt, stopping off for a sandwich/drink following the cliff edge path and then onto Fan y Big, from here our target was to the highest summit in the national park Pen Y Fan, this is quite a large summit plateau, prior to this one of our members slipped and cut their elbow, Emily Smith was quickly on the scene and carried some First Aid skills.

On the way back down we came to the Tommy Jones Obelisk. If anyone does not know the story here is a quick bit of information.

A visit to relatives

On 4 August 1900 a miner from Maerdy, at the head of the Rhondda Fach valley, decided to take his five-year-old son Tommy to visit his grandparents who still farmed near Brecon. They'd travelled by train and planned to walk the four miles to Cwmllwch, the farmhouse in the valley just below Pen y Fan.

A long journey

By 8pm they'd reached the Login - now in ruins - where soldiers were encamped for training at the rifle range further up the valley at Cwm Gwdi. The father and son had stopped for refreshment when they met Tommy’s grandfather and cousin William, who was 13. William was asked to go back to the farm and tell his grandmother to expect Tommy and his dad, and Tommy ran off up the valley with him.

When the two boys were halfway, Tommy who was frightened by the dark perhaps started to cry and wanted to return to his father at the Login. So the two boys parted. William completed his errand and returned to the Login within a quarter of an hour – but Tommy hadn't returned.

Missing

His father and grandfather started the search immediately, joined by soldiers from the camp. The search was halted at midnight and resumed at 3pm the following day. The search continued for weeks. Every day, parties of police, soldiers, farmers and other volunteers systematically combed the area with no luck.

The dream

After reading accounts of the search, a gardener’s wife living just north of Brecon is said to have dreamed of the very spot where Tommy was found. She had a few restless days before persuading her husband to borrow a pony and trap on Sunday 2 September to take her and some relatives to Brecon Beacons, which they'd never climbed before.

They reached the ridge below Pen y Fan and were making their way towards the summit over open ground when Mr Hammer, who was a few yards in front, started back with an exclamation of horror. He had found the body of little Tommy Jones.

Memorial

No one could explain how the five-year-old had managed to reach the spot where his body was found. He'd climbed 1,300ft from the Login. Today the spot where Tommy’s body was found is marked with an obelisk. The jurors at the inquest donated their fees after determining that he had died from exhaustion and exposure.

It was more than 60 years later when the first Mountain Rescue team was set up in the Brecon Beacons.

I’m sure everyone that reads this will feel a little sad.

The group followed the bowl shaped path skirting around the lake and arrived back at 17:00 hours to meet with others at the Tair Bull.

There were some lovely shades of red and perhaps soreness on the journey back. We hope that you all had a great day out on the hills and we look forward to seeing you on the next coach meet (a Long Coach Meet to the Yorkshire 3 Peaks) on the 11th June.

David Jones.

This article was written by Dave Jones and published on this website on the 28th May 2016