Sugarloaf Mountain is probably, along with the Gaer, the Black Mountains I return to most often. I love the start of my walk, at Bettws, and the way the path rises inexorably from its gently flower-edged start, through thrusting bracken, on up past little hidden bilberry bushes, onto the open plains and upland heaths below the summit, to suddenly and steeply rise to its end amongst the strewn rocks and wild winds of the top.
To be honest, I don't always reach the top. Summiting is not necessarily what it's all about for me. I adore the lost feeling of solitude, yet whilst comforted by the proximity of farmsteads down the mountain, that I get on the wide heathery upland plain before the final slopes begin to rise.
So often, also, I find my photographs are all taken lower down the slopes, anyway. I am particularly fascinated by human endeavour at its far edges. Just as in the Moroccan Atlas I love the little carved out pastures amongst rock, I love the boundaries between the cultivated or grazed pastures and the upland heath of the Black Moutains. It's somehow the mix of the wild and the nurtured and gentle greenery which I really enjoy, and which I love to photograph most. This inspires me on the walk up to Sugarloaf; just as it also does on the walk up to the rugged hillfort of Crug Hywel only a few miles further down the Usk valley.
This summer I have climbed up from Bettws to Sugarloaf Mountains late on a few evenings, seeking peace, solitude, pictures, and to absorb myself in my own footfall. One night this week I dipped in the river at Llanbedr, sinking into the coolness under a waterfall, to soothe myself after one of the hottest days in years, just before and in preparation to undertake my climb. That evening, and every evening this year it has been wonderful, up on the tops watching the sun setting, before then making my fast descent to race the light to the bottom, and my car. There's nothing like having a Black Mountain to oneself late on a midsummer evening...