The Blorenge

The Devil's Punchbowl by Dickie-Dai-Do

  • Location: The Keeper's Pond, The Blorenge.
  • Distance: 12 miles
  • Description of this walk: A figure of eight walk around the Blorenge that can be split into two walks

The pond appears on some maps as 'Pen-ffordd-goch pond', but is known locally as 'Keeper's Pond' which is also the sign on the car park, so look for that and not what's written on the 'proper' map.

The Iron Mountain Trail is a figure-of-eight walk, with the pond as the centre of its loop - which means you can divide it up into two walks rather than one and use 'Keeper's Pond' as your base for both.

Industrial heritage

This area was once a hive of industrial activity and it's worth stopping to try and imagine what it must have been like in the 1800's when the ironworks were in full swing.

The weather here can deteriorate quickly and the terrain is rough and boggy in places but local guide Fiona Ford from Torfaen Borough Council says was on hand to keep Derek out of trouble.

On the day Derek walked it, there were a few inches of snow on the ground which transformed the mountain into a winter wonderland with fantastic views over Sugar Loaf, Skirrid and the Beacons.

Have a look around Blaenavon Ironworks and if you're feeling thirsty pop into the 'Cordell Country Inn' for a glass of shandy.

The trail is an intermediate walk of 12 miles with two steep climbs. If this is too much then the walk can be easily split into two.

The guide on this walk, Fiona Ford said: "I never tire of taking visitors around this walk. There is always some part that will 'wow' them - be it the spectacular views over the Usk Valley and Beacons, the intoxicating scent of a hill full of heather bloom or discovering one of the many archaeological gems."

From the bleak but beautiful Keepers Pond on the Blaenavon road, this walk twists around the back of the Blorenge mountain and is in the heart of what is now called Cordell country.

Cordell Country

The phrase was coined by walking guide, author and publisher Chris Barber who told Derek how the author Alexander Cordell fell in love with this area, its people and its history.

Chris Barber from 'Walking Wales Magazine' said: "Cordell's books - Rape of the Fair Country, The Fire People and The Hosts of Rebecca charted the rise and fall of the iron works in the Nant-Y-Glo and Clydach areas and are hugely popular."

"Some of the towns and places mentioned in those books can be seen on this walk - from the lost village of Pwll Ddu to the balance pond now drained, where the characters fought on a Friday night".

The route offered fantastic views of the Sugar Loaf mountain and the Brecon Beacons and traced a network of old tram and railway lines that were built in the 1800's (some parts are much older).

Keeper's Pond

'Keeper's Pond' was named after the game keeper who kept the iron master's grouse, but you're more likely to see a peregrine falcon or other moorland birds these days and plenty of sheep

From abandoned mountainside forges, to giant lumps of iron slag and ruined cottages the area is alive with industrial history and heritage - something which seems at odds with the peace and tranquillity of the walk today.

The Blorenge is now owned by the South East Wales Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club.

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