The Black Mountain 2007

The Beacon's fourth mountain range.

The Brecon Beacons National Park is made up of four mountain ranges. To the Northeast are the Black Mountains, separated from the other ranges by the River Usk. Running from the centre through to the East are The Brecon Beacons - the largest by far of the four ranges. Just West of the centre is Fforest Fawr, which contains many of the cave systems and most of the waterfalls, separated from the Brecon Beacons by the Taf Fawr. In the West is the Black Mountain, separated from Fforest Fawr by the River Tawe.

The names of the Black Mountains and the Black Mountain may seem confusing, and to make matters a little more difficult, the Black Mountains even contain a peak called the Black Mountain. However, we manage to cope with this naming, and it serves only to confuse outsiders. In the original Welsh naming (a direct translation of the English versions), the names of the two ranges sound significantly different, but the Welsh names have long since fallen out of use. To add more confusion, in the Fforest Fawr mountain range, there is a forest, called Fforest Fawr. On top of that, the UNESCO Fforest Fawr Geopark covers more than just the Fforest Fawr mountain range, also including the Black Mountain and part of the Brecon Beacons range. It can be difficult to work out which version is being referred to.

Despite being called collectively under a singular name, The Black Mountain is actually a range of separate mountains, characterised by a long sandstone clifftop ridge at their northern end, containing the tallest peaks. The purpose of the first trip was to photograph the tallest of these; Fan Brycheiniog, whose name confusingly means "The Brecon Peak", despite the fact that it is over 20 km from Brecon, and not even in the main Brecon Beacons.

The Black Mountain contains fewer major caves than the more popular Brecon Beacons, but what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for with quality. At its western edge is the river cave Llygad Llwchwr, whose name serves to torture even local residents. At its eastern edge is Dan-yr-Ogof, the only showcave site in Wales, and one of the best decorated caves in the UK. Dan-yr-Ogof's name translates to "Under the Cave", a name first given to the village under the cave, and then transferred to the cave itself, which was the cave above the village that gave the village its name. The cave that is under itself, apparently. Confusing names are a fashion here.