I often find myself visiting parts of the Brecon Beacons National Park that are a little off the beaten track. Walking to aircraft crash sites often means getting off the grid, engaging those navigation skills and finding spaces that require you to be respectful and calm. It is always in the back of your mind that you are somewhere where people lost their lives and that can bring a solemnity to the situation. But it can also make you look up and see. And I mean really see, really look. Look at the beautiful hills around us and make us appreciate life and all we have all the more.
There was one day within living memory when that peace was shattered. On 6th February 1990 Captain Robert Burrow was on exercise from RAF Alconbruy in Cambridgeshire. Piloting Fairchild A-10 80-0231 in poor weather he undertook a low level exercise up the valley. The roar of these engines is immense. I remember watching them practice dog fights over the sea when I lived Suffolk; essentially two jet engines strapped to a tank busting gun with a seat on top. An error in judgement saw the plane slam into the hillside below Tarren yr Esgob spreading wreckage over a vast area. The noise of the impact must have been incredible. An eerie silence would then have followed.
Today the scene has returned to peace and tranquillity. There’s hardly any sign of the carnage of that day 16 years ago, the US air force did a good job of clearing up but occasionally small fragments still turn up in the long grass on the ridge.
February can sometimes be a bleak time of year, and we are all aware the weather so far this winter has afforded us little quality hill time due to the storms ravaging our shores. But today I am able to find that peace and tranquillity I was after. It is quiet, a few people dot the ridgelines but none are off the tracks like me, so I feel almost totally alone up here.
Many years ago walkers fought hard for the right to roam yet still people religiously stick to the paths, fearful to leave them and go off track, however if you can make the effort then do. You could find yourself in your own little world.