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Green Man 2018 – festival in review

It was the sixteenth Green Man Festival this year. It remains a wonderful and immersive experience – free from blaring corporate sponsorships and steeped in the magical Welsh mountains. In our opinion, this was the best Green Man yet.

The Mountain Stage, with Crug Hywel (Table Mountain) off in the background

The Guardian and Telegraph have already given the festival 5/5 stars, which we’d agree with – read on for our comprehensive romp around one of the best blinking festivals we’ve ever been to!

The fact that Green Man sells out – year after year – should tell you something about what happens to people that come to this festival. This year was my eighth Green Man, and as far as I’m concerned, the best yet.

Even when not adorned with miles of bunting, walkabout performers and stages large and small offering up musical wonderments, the Glanusk Estate is a beautiful environment. The Mountain Stage sits at the bottom of a grassy amphitheatre, with stepped ledges allowing for maximum relaxing while you’re listening to music waft up the hill, while Crug Hywel (the Table Mountain for which the Table Top area is named) dominates the backdrop.

Add in 20,000 glittering, tie-dyed people of all ages, the option of a full week of activities through the Settlement camping beforehand, and a whole beer festival within the actual festival – and you’re getting closer to the spirit of Green Man. There’s no corporate sponsorship anywhere – no Carlsberg tent, or Volvo spa area. Pints of beer and cider – all independently produced – are reasonably priced. Considering some day festivals in London charge £80 a ticket and £6.50 for a can of Red Stripe, and you’re starting to wonder why people would bother when you can come here instead.

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Revellers in the glow of the Mountain Stage
The ‘man’. This year, the Green Man sported a very natty pair of horns, and is covered in written wishes that all go up in flames on the Sunday – delivering them to the universe!

General camping opens to the public on Thursday morning at 10am, and so after a hearty Wetherspoons breakfast en route (don’t judge) we rolled into the campsite. As there were a few of us this year all squeezed into my tiny car, we opted for a pre-erected tent rather than hiring a bigger vehicle to hold all our tents. And I must say, if there’s a few of you, or if wrangling tents just isn’t your thing, the Tangerine Fields campsite is brilliantly located at Green Man – directly behind the Mountain Stage, meaning you still feel totally embedded in the action even when you’ve just popped back to get a jumper.

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Once our minimalist camp was set up, most of Thursday was spent doing a lap of the site, and trying to find somewhere open early enough for us to get our first cider on. The ever-reliable Chai Wallahs opened earliest, with the Diplomats of Sound DJs serving funky beats and the bar serving whiskey coffees (a recommended mid-day pick me up). The rest of the day was spent puzzling over the popularity of Jimothy Lacoste (an old editor of mine once said if you’ve got nothing good to say about an artist, don’t say anything at all. So it’s best I say silent on this one, but I can at least convey some facts: 1 – he mimes, 2 – the kids seem to love it); enjoying a quick trip to the Cinedrome tent (which can provide a welcome respite from the weather and noise outside) for a screening of Anorac, Huw Stephens’ documentary film about the Welsh language music scene across the country (well worth catching if you can).

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“I would like to think that our nationalism, our Welshness, is defined by something bigger than just historical oppression”

We then headed up to the Far Out stage for Thursday night’s closers. We enjoyed bouncy Scot The Pictish Trail, then ended the night with a rousing and spine-tingling Public Service Broadcasting show. Their last album Every Valley took listeners on a journey down the mineshafts of the South Wales valleys, and although the purpose of the record is to shine a light on the “disenfranchised working class in this age of turmoil”, there was something particularly haunting about hearing the music just a few miles from the heartlands of the Welsh coal mining industry. Also, they brought the Beaufort Male Voice choir onto the stage. No, you’re crying. Blep.

On Friday we were up early and back up to Table Top to catch the “official” druid opening of the festival. This year Archdruid of Glastonbury Rollo Maughfling performed the opening solo (some other Stonehenge druids were on their way but had got lost …). We wished for peace throughout the whole world, chanted a bit, and then having blessed the festival, gave a large round of applause and went about our day.

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Archdruid of Glastonbury Rollo Maughfling blesses the festival
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Finding critters
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Nature activities for big and small kids

We lazed in the sunshine and enjoy the shiny pop of Amber Arcades followed by the spacious ditties of Eleanor Friedberger, before deciding to explore the festival a little more.

The Nature Nurture area is where to head to if you’re looking for something for your body, your mind, or a bit of both, with the area offering every massage you can imagine, nutrition from a vegan cafe, or even shamanic journeys or gong baths, if you’re so inclined. After wandering the area for a while, I decided on some inversion – being strapped to a board and hung upside down for ten minutes, which is supposed to reduce pressure on your back and neck, allowing it to stretch out and recover from all that sitting on hard ground and lying on lumpy camp beds. (I enjoyed it so much I went and did it again on Sunday).

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Having a good stretch

For the rest of Friday, we enjoyed the psychedelic noodlings of Beak>, aka Geoff Barrow of Portishead, the weird rnb/indie pop of Dirty Projectors, and then it was back up to the Far Out Stage, where the programming was a bit skew-whiff. Firstly it was Floating Points live, which felt like a very Berlin style minimal set you’d expect at 4am in a weird dive bar down some hole in Alexanderplatz, followed by one of my festival highlights, Mount Kimbie. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen them – the last time was a very different kind of ‘live’ gig at Cardiff Arts Institute in 2010, which you can listen to here: Mount Kimbie Live at Cardiff Arts Institute 2010). This was full live band, with pounding intensity and great upbeat tunes. And then, what we were waiting for – the main event for After Dark – John Talabot. What we were expecting was techno – but what we got was some weird cheesey rnb disco. It wasn’t until some time later after we’d all left Far Out, somewhat confused, that someone in Chai Wallahs told us John Talabot had pulled out due to illness, and it was in fact a Floating Points DJ set.

I was very drunk and belligerent by this point (apparently all I said for an hour was “where’s the f***ing techno” until my second brandy chai, where I lost the ability to speak completely). We headed for the ferris wheel, which often has the most banging tunes of any venue on site – no jokes, you get on there and get whizzed up and down, and then see if you’re not screaming with glee while they play Whitney Houston’s ‘I wanna dance with somebody’ followed by DJ Zinc’s ‘Wile out’.

Luckily, the Walled Garden is on the way home from the top end of the site, meaning we got to stumble into the brilliant Heavenly Jukebox, where I’m pretty sure we stayed for about an hour, although the only song I can definitely remember was something by Lionel Ritchie? Anyway, big up to Jeff, Diva and the crew who mercifully I didn’t go and talk to, because I was beyond speech and no one except my nearest and dearest should ever had to deal with me in that state.

After such a heavy Friday night, I think it’s fair to say everyone in the tent cursed me at least five times when I woke them all up at 8.30am with the bright and breezy news that ‘WE’VE GOT A HOT TUB AT TEN AM GUYS!’. Bathing Under The Sky have been bringing their wood-fired hot tubs to Green Man since 2015, and although it might not seem like it, there’s nothing better for sorting out that hangover than slowly boiling in hot water, then submerging yourself in a freezing cold plunge pool, and repeating for two hours.

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Saturday morning hot tub

It’s a luxury that’s worth investing in, although one member of our party was so hungover all he managed was five minutes in the hot tub (he did also vom in one of the bins right in front of the Mountain Stage on the way back – yep, the bit where all the kids play – just as Sweet Baboo struck his first chords to open the stage on the Saturday). “GREEN MAN! YEAH!”

After depositing our worse-for-wear tent mate, we headed back out into the festival, feeling fully refreshed, where Westerman was playing in the Walled Garden, and we picked up our first cider of the day (my drink of choice throughout the whole festival was a nice half of the Mortimer’s Orchard English Berry cider. Mmmm).

Westerman in the Walled Garden
Walled Garden in full swing
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The black hole for all my cash on site, the Rough Trade stand

After that, the afternoon was a haze of sax-lead jazz from Nubya Garcia and crunchy guitars and huge trousers from Bo Ningen.

Bo Ningen

After that, we waited around Far Our for another one of the other acts I’d been really excited about seeing – north Walian nu techno kween Kelly Lee Owens. Instead, some gal with a guitar took to the stage … again, with no announcement about the line up change, but we did find out from a steward she also had pulled out due to illness (techno flu must be going around). I wasn’t drunk enough to be livid this time, but did bemoan the lack of screen outside Far Out notifying people of line-up changes. The night still ended on a high as I had a spiritual experience to the magnificent John Grant (who is 50! Can you believe he’s 50??), followed by Simian Mobile Disco with the Deep Throat Choir playing their latest album, Murmurations.

Although I didn’t spend any time at the Green Man Rising Stage this year, the fact that Deep Throat Choir were headlining the Far Out stage is a testament to the stepping stone that Rising plays in the careers of so many acts – I first saw them on the Rising Stage in 2014. But there’s so much to do every year … it’s impossible to get around to doing everything …

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Bubbles

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So when Sunday rolled around, and I realised it was our last day (last day!), we rolled the picnic blanket out in front of Xylouris White and enjoyed some wonderful jazz by way of Crete and Australia, before I decided to go and hang myself upside down in the Nature Nurture field one last time, and then topped up the wellbeing with a half hour massage. Well worth the investment, you could have poured me out of that field back into the festival.

Another area of the festival I’ve not mentioned yet is the Back of Beyond – the performance area, with an aerial rig for trapeze, hoop and rope performances (right next to a flying trapeze you can have a go at if you’re feeling brave!). This year the hosts of the afternoon entertainment were the usually NSFW Mr and Mrs Clark, who brought much merriment and shenanigans to the stage.

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Mr and Mrs Clark

And here’s Mrs Clark, leading the crowd in some festival yoga.

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Mrs Clark
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The Kitsch n Sync ladies…

Other highlights of Sunday were the totally demented Nine-Inch-Nails-psych of Follakzoid, smooth r’n’b stylings of Curtis Harding, the huge lung capacity of Anna Calvi, and then the Mountain Stage finale – epic rock-n-roll from The War on Drugs, who I was expecting little from, but really enjoyed. It’s familiar and huge-sounding – much more engaging and demanding than the band are on record.

Once the headliners had finished we ambled up the hill to watch them burn the Green Man from the safety of the large safety perimeter fence. A lot of people use the burn as their festival watershed, but I felt revived after hanging upside down and getting pummelled earlier in the day, so wandered over to Far Out, where High Contrast challenged everyone to bring their best bass face and smashed out some incredibly dark drum and bass to finish the weekend off.

Stumbling around the site, I decided to do what I always do at the end of the festival, and do one final victory lap. The Deptford Northern Soul Club were still going strong in the walled garden, full of an energetic audience filled with plenty of cross-dressing (did anyone else notice that as a thing this year?), tie dye, and plenty of biodegradable glitter.

It’s impossible to round it up in a sentence, other than to say the bands were wonderful, the food was great, the weather held out – and it’s still, by a long way, one of my favourite festivals. The lack of corporate sponsorship and the beautiful setting makes for a special experience – where you really do feel like you’re immersed in a completely different, magical world. Long live Green Man – mark out the 15-18 August 2019 in your calendar, and make sure you follow Green Man on all their channels for early bird tickets.

Waiting for a go on the Ferris Wheel
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More bubbles
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Waiting for liquid refreshments
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Some downtime with the Guardian crossword
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Far Out!

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To see our full round up of Green Man photographs and see all the We Are Green Man festival portraits from this year, head to the We Are Green Man Facebook page!

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Green Man 2018 – final line up announcement! Got your tickets yet?

Our favourite Brecon Beacons based arts extravaganza Green Man Festival is looking REAL FINE this year, with a line up that includes plenty of Cardiff talent (boom) and headliners from ACROSS THE GLOBE. Tickets usually sell out early summer, so make sure you get yours in soon!

New music line up additions today (we’ve highlighted our We Are Cardiff fav picks in bold – in particular we can’t wait to see Bristol gig legend Big Jeff making his Green Man DJ debut …!)

Teenage Fanclub | Whyte Horses | Follakzoid | The Lovely Eggs | Insecure Men | Frankie Cosmos | Eleanor Friedberger | Ari Roar | J. Bernardt | Horsey | Celebrating Bert Jansch | Black Midi | The Cosmic Array | Squid

DJs – High Contrast | Huw Stephens | Tom Ravenscroft | Alfresco Disco | Heavenly Jukebox | Lycra | Dutty Disco | Big Jeff | Fever Club

Chai Wallahs Stage – Afla Sackey & Afrik Bawantu | Agbeko | Amy True | Animal Noise | Animanz | Ben Catley | Berget Lewis | Edd Keene | Friendly Fire | Gringo Ska | Groovelator | Holly Holden y Su Banda | Joncan Kavlakoglu | Kiriki Club | Lazy Habits | Lost Tuesday Society | Monster Ceilidh Band | Samsara | Snazzback | Solana | Soul Grenades | Sounds of the Siren | The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble | Tropical Tea Party feat DJ Hiphoppapotamus | Will Varley | Wrongtom

And in case you need more convincing, have a look at our Green Man video from last year …

Previously confirmed music line up:

The War On Drugs | Fleet Foxes | King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard |

John Grant | Grizzly Bear | Dirty Projectors | The Brian Jonestown Massacre | Public Service Broadcasting | Anna Calvi | Cate Le Bon | Mount Kimbie | Floating Points (live) | The Black Angels | John Maus | The Lemon Twigs | Joan As Police Woman | Teleman | Kevin Morby | Baxter Dury | Curtis Harding | Tamikrest | Courtney Marie Andrews | Susanne Sundfor | John Talabot | Simian Mobile Disco (live) featuring Deep Throat Choir | Wye Oak | Jane Weaver | Alex Cameron | Phoebe Bridgers | Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever | Kelly Lee Owens | Bo Ningen | Beak> | Chastity Belt | HMLTD | Sweet Baboo | A Hawk and a Hacksaw | Xylouris White | Lost Horizons | Shannon Lay | Pictish Trail | Marlon Williams | Lucy Dacus | The KVB | Omni | Goat Girl | Duds | Snapped Ankles | Jade Bird | Boy Azooga | Snail Mail | Nubya Garcia | Charles Watson | Ider | Ed Dowie | Haley Heynderickx | Bas Jan | Seamus Fogarty | Juanita Stein | Sacred Paws | The Murlocs | Jim Ghedi | Sorry | Stella Donnelly | Spinning Coin | Group Listening | Haze | Fenne Lily | Adwaith | Accu | Sock | Aadae | Teenage Fanclub | Whyte Horses | Follakzoid | The Lovely Eggs | Insecure Men |

ERMEGERD right?? All of this in addition to the amazing Talking Shop and Last Laugh announcements made earlier this year … Get your tickets and join the annual decamp to the beautiful Brecon Beacons!

Buy Green Man tickets now

Green Man website

Images from last year’s birthday bash!

More We Are Cardiff – Green Man coverage:

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Green Man’s 15th birthday bash – our highlights video!

Well, it was one to remember! Possibly the strongest line up of any Green Man so far … plus more art, performance, fun times and pints of Growler than any Green Man before!

We’re prepping our We Are Green Man festival goer portraits, but for the time being, hopefully this will tide you over …

Early bird tickets for next year are out soon – make sure you do the thing and follow the lovely Green Man Festival in all the usual places …

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Green Man 2016 festival in review – Thursday / Friday

This was the fourteenth Green Man Festival. Can you believe it?? Green Man’s growth has been gradual and organic – from humble beginnings to being one of the most family-friendly jewels in Britain’s summer festival crown.

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This year, the family-friendly aspect is next-level: the festival teeming with kids of all ages: from new borns (I met a three week old whose parents figured they might as well be at a festival and not sleep as be at home and not sleep) to waterproof-onesie-wearing toddlers to barefoot (and very muddy) teenagers. Green Man takes its reputation as a young-person-friendly site very seriously, with the sensory science paradise of Einstein’s Garden providing hands-on entertainment for kids of all ages. There’s also a completely separate kids’ area, and activities specifically for teenagers.

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THURSDAY

So onto the actual festival itself this year: we arrived early Thursday morning, and having treated ourselves to a ready-erected tent in the Tangerine Fields, found that we were unpacked and ready to party considerably earlier than in previous years, when we’d would typically spend two hours with two of us flailing around with an 18 man tent, ending up relying on the kindness of neighbouring campers to rescue us.

Cans at the ready, we headed straight to Chai Wallahs, where uptempo reggae/afrobeat favourites By The Rivers were getting the roof of the tent raised, warming up nicely for the weekend. Over in Far Out, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard moved into psychedelic surf rock territory, warming up for Wild Beasts, as they ran through a mixture of classics alongside brand spanking tunes from new album Boy King.

Afterwards it was back over to Chai Wallahs for some bubbling funk and soul disco numbers, before we decided to call it a night relatively early. It was only Thursday, after all.

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FRIDAY

Given the unsettled weather forecasts, on Friday we headed straight for the comfort of the undercover (and consistently quality) Chai Wallahs, to sit with a cup of brandy chai and enjoy the delicate folk of Kit Hawes and Aaron Catlow while looking at the Guardian crossword (yes, I am aware of how intensely middle class that sentence sounds, but you want the truth, right? That’s the truth). We stayed in Chai Wallahs to see the rabble rousing bluesy-jazz of the Gin Bowlers (who I had seen the week before at Boomtown, and who were every bit as good, if not better), then headed down to the Mountain Stage to watch Meilyr Jones, whose poppy, brass-led indie was a stand-out performance of the festival (despite the rain. But as my mother always says – there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unprepared campers).

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We stayed to watch some Jason Isbell (which was underwhelming, so I won’t dwell on it), and then headed off to see Kamazi Washington. Our excitement at seeing the jazz legend was somewhat tempered by the 30-minute soundcheck that seemed to be focused all around one microphone, although once that was over, the set was a stormer, with plenty of jazz noodling.

The act I was most excited about seeing all weekend was Austin pop-punkers, White Denim. I used to be Reviews Editor for a music magazine called Kruger (RIP) and we’d featured them in Kruger issue 22, back in 2009, and they’d been on my list of ‘bands I super want to see’ since then. I’m not sure the show was really one of their best – given it was late Friday night, the setlist was a more mellow afternoon set, with their best uptempo numbers spaced out in between, the songs sounding like they could have benefited from getting another guitarist up on stage with them.

The crowd started thinning out, and by halfway through headliner James Blake’s set it was only half full, though this could have been to do with the severe weather warnings everyone was checking obsessively on their phones every five minutes. Over in Far Out, Lush’s power-pop was extremely pleasing, although the crowd wasn’t much bigger there either. Nicely lubricated with Growlers aplenty, it was then to a change of pace, with some comedy, where Rob Deering was having issues with his guitar while being a human jukebox for people shouting out requests.

We only managed to catch the encore of Charlotte Church’s Pop Dungeon in the Walled Garden (never thought I’d hear R. Kelly’s Murder She Wrote sung live by an ex-child opera singer in the Brecon Beacons, it must be said), before rounding up the night with some uptempo house and electro with the Alfesco Disco in Round The Twist, before smashing it up with the Asbo Disco back in Chai Wallahs.

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In the run up this year, we were informed there would be changes to the site layout, which formed much conversation between our group: one Green Man veteran, then one with three under their belt, and one total newbie to the festival. As you can imagine, the constant ‘oo! that’s moved’, and ‘that wasn’t there before’ got a bit tiring for the newcomer, so we limited all the logistical commentary to the first.

For the record though, here were our thoughts: from the Orange entrance, changes were all positive: moving the box office up the hill made it much easier to get wristbands and then go back to your car to get your stuff (although long queues from the box office spilled across the path down to the festival, making it difficult to negotiate with a wheelbarrow full of camping paraphernalia). The general camping area was extended into this area (previously unused), and also included an extra entrance into the festival, that went straight up to Babbling Tongues and Round the Twist, meaning that you didn’t have to go all the way to the entrance by the Mountain Stage: big thumbs up for this change.

On the site generally, the big field edged by Far Out and Chai Wallahs also had some changes: the line of shops and food stalls that had previously divided this space in half had completely gone, moved to line the route from Far Out over to Round The Twist. The “Man” (as in, the green one) was now fairly central in this field, meaning a much better view for everyone when he was set alight on the Sunday. As a small person who has never managed to get to the front to watch the man burn, this change got another big thumbs up from me.

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Part Two of our review coming soon!

Check the Green Man Festival website. 

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Out of Cardiff: Walking up Table Mountain

Occasionally we like to leave the safety of our favourite capital city and explore the beautiful countryside of Wales that surrounds us. This weekend, honouring the fact that 2016 is Wales’ Year of Adventure, we decided to jump in our campervan and head to the Black Mountains, in search of some good walking.

Table Mountain, Crickhowell

Table Mountain, Crickhowell, by Nick on Flickr

We parked in the tiny, picturesque town of Crickhowell, in the Usk Valley, just south of the Black Mountains. It’s on the eastern side of the Brecon Beacons National Park, and is a great starting point for lots of good hiking trails.

There is a car park in the centre of town, but during weekends getting a space is a cut-throat affair … luckily we found a space and went into the Crickhowell Visitor Information Centre to have a look at maps and local info. We bought two maps on local walks (for a whopping £1.50), popped across the road to have a quick coffee at the nattily-named ‘Latte-Da’ (see what they did there?), and then decided on the Table Mountain Walk.

It’s an energetic walk, and a quick ascent up the 380m to the peak of Table Mountain, where the Iron Age hillfort is located. There are some pretty special views from the top, but expect tired legs getting up there!

From Crickhowell town centre, it’s a circular walk that you can either do steep side first (up Llanbedr Road – this was how we did it), or if you’re carrying a child on your shoulders or accompanied by an older dog, you can go down to start at the Cwmbeth Dingle, so the ascent is much longer, but less difficult.

The route up. Legs burning …

Table Mountain, Crickhowell

The sun-kissed peak!

Table Mountain, Crickhowell

Table Mountain, Crickhowell

Views from the top: alright, like …

Table Mountain, Crickhowell

Table Mountain, Crickhowell

Table Mountain, Crickhowell

Table Mountain, Crickhowell

On the way down …

Table Mountain, Crickhowell

Table Mountain, Crickhowell

Table Mountain, Crickhowell

The walk took about about three hours in total, including a very enjoyable pause on the peak to look at some wild horses and some lambs frolicking around in the field below us.

Vital statistics:

  • Cardiff – Crickhowell: 40 miles (up the A470)
  • Crickhowell has limited amenities, so we suggest taking a packed lunch with you.
  • There is parking on Llanbedr Road if the car park in the centre of town is full …

And that’s all from us on our out-of-Cardiff jaunt for this week. Get out in the countryside and have a lovely time!

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