That’s the Black Mountains, by the way. Not the Black Mountain, which is the westernmost range. Easy mistake to make. Especially as the Black Mountains contain a peak also called Black Mountain. (Not to mention another called Lord Hereford’s Knob, which we Welsh sensi- bly refer to as Twmpa.)
Confused? We don’t blame you. But the important thing is that Talgarth has endless oppor-tunities for walking, mountain biking, pony trekking, fishing, sailing, canoeing, hang glidingand bird-watching right on its doorstep. So its people are no couch potatoes. They like to get involved.
That’s why Talgarth Information and Resource Centre, based in the 13th century Tower House on the main square, is staffed entirely by local volunteers. After all, who better to tell you about Talgarth than someone from the town?
They don’t just book accommodation, sell concert tickets and hand out leaflets –they’ll tellyou the bus timetables and the surgery opening hours too. And if you fancy seeing inside St Gwendoline’s Church, where the leader of the Welsh Methodist revival Howell Harris inspired the hymn “Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer”, they’ll give you a key. No wonder it attracts 6,000 people a year.
It was the same can-do attitude, plus £433,840 from the Big Lottery Fund, that transformed
a derelict building on the River Ellywe into a working flour mill, bakery and café. The story of how a group of passionate locals got the water wheel turning for the first time since 1946 wastold by Sarah Beeny on BBC TV’s “Village SOS”.
Just cross the 13th century Tower Bridge that guards the town and follow the smell of bakingdrifting on the breeze until you find Talgarth Mill. Every day they produce “real bread” using traditional methods and simple honest ingredients. Including their own flour milled, as youmight expect, by volunteers.
The rest of the food at their Bakers’ Table café hasn’t come much farther than the flour. Thechutneys and jams, for example, are from Black Mountain Preserves on Talgarth common.
Butcher Bryan George, who “knows more than anyone I know about meat” according to RiverCafé founder Rose Grey, provides the locally reared lamb and beef. He’s from Talgarth, too.
Mind you, the apple juice from Graig Barn Farm is so delicious they’ve broken the rules and gone beyond the town. It’s shipped in all the way from Crickhowell.
As you can imagine, it’s well worth catching Talgarth Country Market on the first Sunday of every month in the splendid Victorian Town Hall on the square. You’ll find all sorts of food,drink, arts and crafts. All home-made, naturally.
Once you’ve worked up a thirst, pop into the Tower Hotel and order a pint from the on-siteRotters microbrewery. You can’t go wrong with their flagship session ale, Utter Rotter, butyou’ve got to be careful with their 4.7% dark bitter. That’s why they call it Grounds for Divorce.
It may be safer just to go for a walk. Luckily there are five fantastic walks gathered together ina single booklet available from the Information and Resource Centre.
They range from an easy stroll around town to an eight-mile trek all the way to Castell Dinas – where you’ll find the highest castle in England and Wales at 1,476 feet above sea level.
One of the walks takes you Penyrwrlodd Long Barrow where at least 15 human remains were discovered; another to the notorious “whipping tree” at the church of Llanelieu where miscre- ants were restrained for punishment.
And if that’s not quite ghoulish enough, take a trip through Pwll-y-Wrach nature reserve, where the River Ennig plunges over a spectacular waterfall into “The Witches Pool” that gives the reserve its name. This is where medieval women suspected of witchcraft were thrown to see if they’d sink or swim. Allegedly.
These days you’re more likely to hear the bark of an otter than the screech of a witch. All the same, if you do see anyone dressed in a pointy hat scurrying through the ancient woodland it might be wise not to hang around for too long.
As the “Jewel of the Black Mountains”, Talgarth is one of five designated cycle hubs in theBrecon Beacons National Park. After all, you can’t go mountain biking without mountains.
There’s a green route called the Llanfilo loop, a couple of red routes including the almostentirely off-road Llangorse and Bwlch Trail and the hardcore 52km Black Mountains Classic. Which is black in more ways than one.