The walk to Tor y Foel started in the cosy riverside town of Llangynidr. At the trail, we were met by a rather excited collie dog leaning against a low wall with one arm and cocking his head good-naturedly. It was such a human pose that I half expected him to pull out a pipe and wink. We bid the chap farewell and set off along the banks of the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal, which was displaying its full autumnal plumage.
As we rose up and out of the water's edge we noticed the gnarly protrusion of Sugar Loaf, watching over us from behind. It stalked us right up until Tor y Foel's summit. To the north, the majestic curves of the Black Mountains stood proud. Their tilted profiles looked to me as if they're eternally bracing themselves against harsh winds. Ahead, the views were just as captivating. A ridge rose on the left, stretching up from the Talybont reservoir. In the distance, a mighty fissure opened up before Waun Rydd.
The final leg of the journey snaked back between sheep fields on Tor y Foel's flanks. Looking out on colourful bushy hills, we ambled merrily along before rejoining the houseboat waterways and following them right back to where we began.
Words & Photography: Scott Norris (@_scott_norris) // autumn 2015
At the small car park on the bridge at Llangynidr, descend to the canal, heading west.
Walk along the towpath past canal lock number 64 to lock 65, where you cross the canal.
Walk up through the wood and over a stile.
Cross the field passing a telegraph pole on your right and walk to the stile, cross it and turn right, heading towards another metal gate.
As you approach the gate, cross the stile on your left and continue onwards and upwards through two gates towards the farm. Take the track up to the road and at the crossroads take the opposite path (you are now leaving the Beacons Way).
Continue uphill with the hedge on your right. The route is now quite clear, passing through gates and over stiles to open countryside, continuing steeply upwards to the summit of Tor y Foel.
Follow the path from the summit of Tor y Foel in a SW direction to a stone wall with a gate close to the tarmac road. Ignore the Beacons Way sign. Cross the road and follow the footpath below the stone table, down the hill diagonally and to your left.
Cross over the stile into forestry and descend, crossing the forestry track, and join the Brinore Tramroad. Turn right, following the tramroad north above the Talybont reservoir for just under a mile (1.5km) until you reach a wooden gate. Go through the gate and cross over the stile immediately to your right into the field. Follow the footpath diagonally north-east across two fields passing a large oak tree on your left.
As you cross over the stile in the top corner keep the cattle grid to your left and follow the road for approximately 15 yards before turning left up a green track curving uphill and to your left.
Walk a short distance until you see a gate set back. You are now on a section of the Usk Valley Walk. Go through the gate and follow the contour of the slope to another gate.
Continue through the field to another gate and follow the hedge on your left until you eventually reach a forestry road.
Turn left, go down to the canal and cross the bridge. Climb over the stile on your right onto the towpath, which you follow to Llangynidr locks as far as lock number 64 opposite the Coach and Horses pub.
Leave the towpath and join the road on your left walking past the Walnut Tree Stores to join the road leading down to the bridge, where you retrace your steps back to the New Inn.