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...