Helix hikes for Home-Start: on the road with Chris Oxley

Follow Helix site manager Chris Oxley through Brecon Beacons National Park to the peak of Pen y Fan. In this blog, he recalls his adventure through the Welsh mountains.

Approaching South Wales from Helix Group’s head offices, I reflected on the time I had visited the Brecon Beacons some 20 years ago. Walking was not on the cards then, with a young daughter. So, this time was an opportunity to see the area in all its glory and to catch up with colleagues I had previously only spoken to on the phone. When we pulled up in the car park, I was excited about the trek. 

Helix team hiking for charity

L-R Nic Davies, Lael Panter, David Jowett, Ian West, Paul Thomas, Chris Oxley, Carl Mulkern, Charlie Scherer

We took a quick ‘before’ group picture and set off to the old reservoir, where the first climb began. Our rucksacks were loaded with food and drink, thermals and waterproofs, but luckily the weather was very favourable, with most of us donning shorts and t-shirts. 

Looking around at the expanse of the peaks, and anticipating just how far we were about to walk, I kicked myself for not doing a least a little training in advance. Undeterred, we started up the path. Although rocky, the ground underfoot was stable since there had not been much rain in the past week. No one slipped and fell on the wet rocks.  

At lunchtime, we found a convenient rock to sit down on, relax and enjoy the surroundings. I’d already managed to work up a sweat, and with two climbs still ahead of us, the break was just what I needed. 

As we walked further around the peak, the number of walkers increased, and they were a real mixed bunch. There were hardened fell runners who made it all look very easy, weekend hikers, school groups and families. All seemed to be appreciating their day out.  

top of pen y fan

L-R Chris Oxley, Charlie Scherer, Nic Davies, Ian West, David Jowett

We climbed Corn du first and then moved onto Pen y Fan. The view from the top was stunning. Another walker kindly offered to take a group photo of the team standing by the stone that denoted the highest point of the peak, at 886M.

As we were ready to make our way back down the other side, a chap passed us and recommended we try one final peak, Cribyn mountain. This was not part of the plan. After a brief chat, we decided that we would only do this trek once, so we should give it a go. 

For me, this last climb was the most challenging. The old knees were not best pleased to do it “one more time”, but it was definitely worth it. Once we reached the next peak, the superb views of this outstanding landscape did not let us down. 

The walk back down turned out to be every bit as demanding as the hike to the top. In all, I think we must have walked about 12 miles. I can’t remember how long it took, but it didn’t matter. The conversation and company along the way helped make this one of the best experiences I’ve had in a long time.

To find out more about how the money will support the Baby Bank and local families, visit the Home-Start West Berkshire website: https://home-startwestberks.org.uk/baby-bank/