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Seasonal area

January 2012

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More a Christmas picture than a New Year one, the January 2012 image shows a path down the west flank of Mynydd Machen on a snowy 3rd of January 2011. Gaze into the picture and feel the biting cold of last winter...

Mynydd Machen is a striking expanse of rock rising above the small town of Machen, which is situated in the Rhymney Valley on what was (until 1974) the administrative border between England and Wales. (Machen, despite its Welsh name, was on the English bank. The 1974 reforms moved the border east to the River Wye, favouring Wales and getting all the places with obviously Welsh names into the correct country, but rendering obsolete posters advertising Monmouth, Tintern Abbey and Raglan Castle as being in England. Monmouth remains uncertain about the benefits of the move.) The name translates into Machen Mountain; not being part of a range of mountains it feels more like a large hill in many respects, but seems big enough on climbing it to be a mountain.

It is also a particularly distinctive affair; a smaller but similarly prominent hill to the east has a small pimple on it called Twmbalwm, formerly the motte of a large hillfort, which helps with location of the Mynydd if one is feeling particularly lost. The Mynydd itself is topped by a large communications aerial, denoting its status as the highest point for miles. The ridge running north from the mountain, only slightly below its highest point, has also been thoughtfully topped with a pile of colliery waste run up at considerable inconvenience from a colliery at the confluence between the Sirhowy and Ebbw Valleys, which can be found below the Mynydd to the east. Since getting the waste down again is a fairly tricky affair - the aerial ropeway used to get it up has been removed - there it remains as a vast grey lump on top of the mountain, slowly blending in to the general landscape.

Each side of the mountain has been planted with pine forests, although a large gap in these woods can be found where some people have thoughtfully removed a sizeable chunk of the mountain's west flank for use elsewhere. The trees cut out a few hundred feet from the top with the consistency of a climate-imposed tree line - the top of the mountain is a vast, bleak moorland waste fully deserving its status of a Mynydd...

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Last modified 31/12/11

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