Black Hill Ridge – It was a long drive to the beginning of the walk, the final stretch following winding lanes until we reached the car park at the foot of Black Hill. In the north east of the Black mountains we were in Herefordshire north east of Llanveynoe and Longtown. Little Black Hill was visible to the south and our destination, Black Hill, rose steeply behind us.
Over a stile and we were travelling north along the valley and past Craswall. There was lots of mud but the ground remained mostly firm underfoot. The path was level or downhill so that the ridge we were to walk loomed higher and higher above us.
From the bottom of the valley, in woodland and to our right we could hear hounds baying. After a while the sound came from ahead of us – we guessed in the woodland as there were fields of sheep and cows. Then a large dog came bounding along the trail towards us and up the hill not even glancing at us it was so focussed on its quarry. A second hound followed soon after. Baying sounds could now be heard in several different directions. Passing through a gate we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by the pack, racing backwards and forwards and jumping a barbed wire fence in their quest. They totally ignored us apart from a few who gave us a brief sniff.
Having walked a few miles along the valley we took a path in a north westerly direction. We came onto open land which gradually sloped towards the lower slopes of Hay Bluff and we espied a hang glider. As it was 1pm, we stopped briefly in warming sunshine to eat our 1st lunch of the day (enough to get us to the top of the hill). Extensive views to the northeast spread out before us.
We used part of the Offa’s dyke path to climb Hay Bluff, an excellent path reinforced all the way to the ridge. Here we met our first walkers of the day, a group of girls doing their silver Duke of Edinburgh award.
Ignoring the trig point at the top of Hay Bluff we turned left (south east) to climb to the top of the ridge. Now we could enjoy our 2nd lunch, making our way to a small promontory we settled down. Fabulous views again, this time of the surrounding ridges and Pen y Fan could be seen in the distance. The Olchon valley lay below us.
Refreshed we continued along the top of the ridge; it is peat bog with many acrid pools and a paved pathway had been laid to preserve the habitat – very easy walking thanks to a lot of hard work and investment. As we continued we had to be careful to move left across the moorland and back to the Black Hill ridge as the solid path that is Offa’s Dyke could easily have taken us in the wrong direction. This was the only really rough ground of the whole day.
On reaching the Black Hill ridge our view was mainly the cultivated farmland to the east and the ridge rising above us to the west. One of the hang gliders came in to land on the lower slopes of Hay Bluff and another came very close to us as he veered around, to join his colleague.
As we progressed the ridge looked dauntingly narrow but once we arrived on its craggy section we realised it was at least 3ft wide along its length with a few large rocks to scramble over. Even vertigo sufferers were reassured. We could see the Olchon valley again and the ridge which Offa’s Dyke follows continuing for some miles across the valley.
At the end of the ridge the path went into a steep descent but in places there were steps worn into the hillside which made progress easier. Over the stile (the only one on this walk) which we crossed at the start of our walk and we were back at the car. 8¾ miles walked and 1200ft climbed and we all agreed that it had been fabulous