Take a walk in the Brecon Beacons

Foodies are taking to the Welsh hills to follow a tasty trail of home-grown produce and gently reared meat. Kieran Falconer burns off the calories in the Brecon Beacons

My dinner at Peterstone Court Hotel finishes with clotted-cream ice cream and a summer pudding of blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. I'm in the heart of the Brecon Beacons. The milk chocolate brown humps I can see from my window are interleaved with valleys of lush pasture. I hear that the fruit in my dessert is all local.

The next day I find the origin of my berries, Primrose Farm near Felindre, where Dr Paul Benham immediately invites me to pick from a bush dripping in raspberries. Benham arrived here 22 years ago having fled conventional farming to work in ecology. Eventually, he bought 1.5 acres, which now boast £20,000 of organic produce a year.

For such a tiny plot it's incredibly biodiverse. One half-acre alone contains 95 varieties of fruit and nut trees. Benham makes a very strong economic argument for organic farming and tells me he regularly undercuts supermarkets with comparable non-organic produce. The only flicker to disturb his pacific nature concerns factory farming, their huge subsidies and high carbon emissions.

But the overall feeling when walking around is of immense fruitfulness. "The land is so generous if we treat it with respect," says Benham. "I think we've been good to the earth, so I like to think that the earth is good to us." Trees are laden with plums; green waves of salads grow in abundance; polytunnels are stuffed with peppers, aubergines and tomatoes. And as to the most urgent gardening question of the day? "Well, our chatty ducks and mistlethrush get rid of the slugs."

This little foray into the wild has been organised by Oyster Active, a young company run by Mike Clay, which specialises in mountain biking and all things outdoorsy. He has now added foodie rambles to the list and has put together a route of a few days in the Beacons visiting some interesting producers interspersed with short walks to burn off the tastings.

After the fruit and veg of Primrose Farm, I take a stunning walk among the heather on what is known as the Iron Mountain Trail. Blaenavon is a world heritage site due to its important role in the Industrial Revolution. The iron and coal mines here were the world's biggest producer in the 19th century, but now the buildings are rubble overgrown with brambles; the slag heaps are hills slowly greening and the air is pure. The walk on the slopes of the fantastically named Blorenge (neither blue nor orange) overlooks the Black Mountains, including their own Sugar Loaf and Table Mountain.

To help to replace lost fuel I head off for a nibble at the Blaenavon Cheddar Company. Run from a small shop among Blaenavon's quiet streets, it belies intense industry. There are at least eight cheeses on offer, ranging from goat's cheese with lavender (yuck), to fruitcake cheese (lovely), to good old-fashioned cheddar that has been matured 300ft below in the shaft of the Big Pit coal-mining museum. All are hand made and hand waxed by "cheese designer" Susan Fiander-Woodhouse.

The next day, bright and early, I walk the Vale of Ewyas, a perfectly U-shaped glacial valley where the bare, ruined choirs of Llanthony Priory are stark against the sky. I could have walked the ridge of Hatterall Hill, which is on the border of England and Wales. "On one side it's completely flat," says Clay, "and on the other it's mountains and Wales." But I elect to go the lazy, short route and pass through pasture, over stiles and after an hour or so drop to Maes-y-Beran Farm.

This is where I meet a pixie called Birgit Reheusser. She is tiny. Originally from a village in Bavaria, she is passionate about her 60-acre organic farm which she runs with her partner Mark Morgan. They have a herd of 200 Welsh mountain sheep that are kept out through the winter and are a tough breed with the meat flavoured by the herbs they eat. Their Red Devon (Ruby Reds) cattle are a breed that was known to the Celts before the Romans arrived. They have a very high heat tolerance (not needed) and a thick waterproof coat (needed very much). They are tough and docile and it's not often you can pat a bull (Boris) with impunity.

Reheusser, with the help of a buoyant collie, Bron, shows me part of the two miles of hedgerow that they've planted. Several ponds and meadows are given over to wild flowers; the result has been an increase in owls, otters, bats and red kites.

It is my final meal in the valleys and Reheusser serves up some of their own beef with home-grown veg. It might be just the setting, but it tastes like home-cooked food used to taste before we discovered lemongrass. For a touch of Bavaria there's an apple and cinnamon cake and then it's back on the M4 and reviving those ideas of starting my own organic patch.

COMPACT FACTS

How to get there

Oyster Active (07775 904451; oysteractive.com) offers the gourmet Brecon Weekend from £385 per person, including two nights at Peterstone Court Hotel, fully guided walks, visits to local producers and all food.

Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager

    £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager required for ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator

    £25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator A...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
    Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

    That's a bit rich

    The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
    Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
    Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

    Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

    Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago