Saturday, June 13, 2009

coity uninterrupty

We popped up to Mum & Dad's last night for a flying visit, partly because it was my Dad's birthday and I wanted to deliver the bottle of Ardbeg I'd bought him. This was the standard entry-level ten-year-old one - it turns out the previous bottle, of which there was still a bit left, was a much older bottling from 1975, so we were able to do a bit of a taste test and comparison, purely for research purposes you understand.

The 10-year-old is very pale compared to the Macallan I've been drinking recently, and it couldn't be more different taste-wise either. Islay malts are famous for being peaty and smoky, and my first impression of this was that it was like drinking bonfire ash. It's less unpleasant than that makes it sound, and it grew on me a bit, but I can't honestly say it'll be going to the top of my list of ones to buy next. The 1975 was much darker and more mellow, and a bit friendlier to the Islay novice.

Inspired by the nice sunny weather, and undeterred by the slight red wine and Ardbeg hangover, I decided to stop off on the way home today for a bit of a walk. I parked up in Blaenavon and headed off towards Coity Mountain, which, apart from being conveniently accessible, also happens to be the highest point in both Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen and thus ticks a couple of boxes on my county high-points list.

It's not a hugely inspiring climb, since it's all a bit pathless (and even the few paths marked on the OS map don't bear much resemblance to what's on the ground), and the top is a big heathery plateau, so it's not entirely clear where the summit actually is (the picture below shows me standing on my best guess as to its whereabouts). On the other hand, the reason it's a bit pathless is that clearly hardly anyone ever comes up here, so even on a sunny mid-June Saturday I didn't meet a single solitary soul all day, which was nice. Heading south-east from the summit you pick up a rutted track towards Mynydd Varteg Fawr, where there is a trig point. From there the map suggests that there is a footpath back down towards Blaenavon; instead what you find is another trackless wilderness of bracken and cunningly concealed potholes, and towards Blaenavon a blasted landscape of old mining spoil-heaps and shattered concrete paths.

It's possibly a bit churlish to complain about the mining debris, of course, since this is what makes Blaenavon a site of historical interest, and indeed one of a select group of World Heritage Sites in the UK.

Photos from today's expedition can be found here.

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