from the Western slopes of Llech Y Lladron at 703M. Whatever the source water comes in from all directions and flows through the plantation where a series of waterfalls can be found unannounced to the world. This again, like many wet environments, is reminiscent of temperate woodland although pine. It's green, moss covered, wet and magical no matter the baron floor of the plantation itself.
All in all, the start of the Honddu is a pleasure and exhilarating and we recommend you discover it for yourself for a great liquid sound abounds there amid the buzzards, sheep, pine and ponies.
The Black Mountains Weldh (Y Mynyddoedd Duonare) to the West of Herefordshire and East of the Central Brecon Beacons in the National Park. Forming a 14-mile-long whale back ridge they are home to numerous low valley, high hill farms and towns such as Abergavenny, Talgarth, Hay on Wye and Crickhowell.
The extensive mountains and plateaus give rise to a watershed that feeds the Wye via a myriad of brooks and rivers notably the Ennig, Honddu & Monnow the latter two featuring on this page.
Arising from within the heart of what's essentially the famous Hay Bluff the Honddu flows for some 17 miles adjacent to the Offa's Dyke trail before arriving at its confluence with the Monnow near Pandy, which then enters the Wye further downstream at Monmouth. It flows through the spectacular and secluded Vale of Ewyas connecting the Wye to yet more 'Mountain Waters'.
The Mountains are made up of red sandstone some 300 million years old. Built up as a result of alluvial sediments the colour red indicates the presence of Iron Oxide, which can appear Ultra illuminated in the sunlight. They add an energy to the landscape that is iridescent and dramatic.
Reaching a height of almost 3,000 feet via Waun Fach. this huge lump of stone and earth lay centrally within the range forming a boundary between England and Wales via Herefordshire. Here on the border and some 3.5 miles to the North/North East of Waun Fach you will find the popular Hay Bluff, which gives rise to the River Honddu.
Finding the Source
To find the river source you have to reach the heart of the Bluff by leaving established paths, which later meld into the Offa's Dyke national trail. We're 800 meters 'South of the Bluff' trig point and have meandered heather, peat bog and elephant grass to peer down into the deep gullies that form the start of the river. It's a magnificent sight framed by Waun Fach in the distance and a large pine plantation in the foreground that establishes a clear barrier between the network of gullies that lay within the Bluff and the populated valley beyond. Indeed, many day trippers consider this part of the Bluff lifeless but this is where the water gathers and where the wild ponies and other mountain life shelter and ascend. It feels sacred!
The Gullies Meet
Establishing the source of the Honddu is flexible. Indeed, the whole of the inner Hay Bluff gives rise to it. Numerous gullies meet at around 400 meters to form the river proper one of which comes....
Black Mountains & Brecon Beacons - www.breconbeacons.org/black-mountains
Black Mountains geology: www.brecon-beacons.com/geology.htm
Cefn Common - www.herefordshirewt.org/documents/Cefn.pdf
Rob Pen Bike Action - www.bikecation.co.uk/
Dark Sky's Brecon Beacons - www.breconbeacons.org/stargazing
Llanthony Priory - www.cadw.wales.gov.uk/daysout/llanthonypriory/?lang=en
Elan Valley - www.elanvalley.org.uk/
Some quick facts include: The Black Mountains are a Dark Sky Reserve, Offas Dyke runs along the mountains Easterly side, a terminal moraine at Llanvihangel Crucorney changed the direction of the Rrver Honddu, Wales' oldest Alehouse exists at the Southerly end of the range, Llanthony Priory is set beside the river Honddu in the Vale of Ewyas, the priory has an outpost the Llanthony Secunda Priory in the city of Gloucester, Llanthony is home to the local country show, the Black Mountains and the Hay Bluff play host to the highest road pass in Wales - Gospel Pass, the Big Chill staged one of their first away from home events in the Black Mountains, the book On The Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin was inspired by the mountains, Black Hill on the Herefordshire side of the Black Mountains is the highest point in Southern England, Sculptor Eric Gill lived in the mountains, Presenter and gardener Monty Don has an Organic Farm in the mountains, Guardian Columnist, presenter and cyclist Rob Pen lives in the mountains, the SAS train here as well as in the central Beacons, the mountains also feed the River Usk that flows past the Southern part of the range, the mountains are home to Longtown Mountain Rescue and The American Werewolf in London was filmed at the base of Hay Bluff.
The River Monnow rises high up on Cefn Hill (486 meters), which sits adjacent to the famous Hay Bluff. Attracting hikers and Offas Dyke Trail walkers the bluff appears impressive as it looks upon Cefn Hill to its North East.
Imagine the Hay road not running between the two and it can be said that Cefn Hill (Map) is a part of the Black Mountain massif. The Plateau is open and expansive and makes up part of the Cefn Hill common that covers an area of 131 Ha.
Traditional grazing helps maintain the acid grassland whilst other grasses provide habitat for Wax Cap Fungi, which are declining in Europe. Cefn Hill is therefore an important reserve or conservation area.
The Monnow rises from all directions. As with any river it's not a given where it first emerges. The river channel begins near Craswall Priory and is fed by a series of gullies...
Monmouthshire beyond where the famed Wye Gorges have attracted millions over the decades.
The relationship towns such as Rhayader, Builth, Hay, Hereford, Ross, Monmouth and Chepstow have with the high hills are not often well publicised but suffice to say without these high hills and valleys they would not exist. The high hills are fundamental in the settlement story.
Here is a list of some of those 500 meter plus high points that feed the Wye as it makes its way to the River Severn its final destination, which sustains the cities of Gloucester and Bristol before it flows into the Irish Sea. Note the names and how evocative they are. They are names put to environments that offer a distinct character and sound via their shape, form and indeed communities. Some are as follows:
Gwastedyn Hill Ryayader, Llandegley Rocks, Carn Gafellt, Pen Y Bwlch & Allt Goch - Elan Valley, Moelfryn & Carreg Lwyd - Upper Wye, Trembyd, Gwuanceste Hill, Cefne Hill, Red Hill, Twmpa, Rhos Dirion, Mork Hill and many more.
A Surprise Wye Catchment
entering from the hill. It's another case of the source impressing itself upon you from Cefn Hill itself which is a buzz to walk for both the river and its amazing views of the Black Mountains.
We've explored the Pimlimon Massif in the Cambrian Mountains and the Black Mountains here on this page and there are more amazing places to discover up there in the heart of Wales that's part of the Wye system. Watch this space or visit the links provided.
Wandering past the Elan Valley, which supplies water to the Wye and Birmingham the river meanders by other notable watersheds namely the wetlands of Drygarn Fawr & Bryn Glas , the Begwns and the Black Mountains prior to it slipping by into Herefordshire and then onto........
Mountain or Region: Black Mountains
Wye Rivers Present: Monnow, Honddu & Ennig
Highest Peak in Range: Waun Fach 811 meters 2,660 Ft.
Highest in the Wye system: Rhos Dirion 713 meters 2,339 Ft
& Black Mountain 703 Meters 2,306 Ft
There is plenty of walking in the Black Mountains and you can follow many of the Wye rivers within the range easily. Places and things to look out for are: Hay On Wye, Long Town, Twmpa Mountain to Rhos Dirion, Cefne Hill and Hay Bluff for the River Monnow, Pwll Y Wrach nature reserve on the River Ennig & Llanthony Priory on the River Honddu.
Maps Sheet Finder
Ordnance Survey 1.25,000 Sheet Map OL13
Anquet 1.25,000 Digital Map OL13