Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Tea-on-Top: with Brecon & District Mind

Every year members and Friends of Brecon & District Mind ascend the mountain called Pen-y-Crug in the Brecon Beacons for what they call “Tea-on-Top.” It is said to be a Lammas Day tradition, and those that go describe it as magical.

This year’s event takes place on Sunday 27 July. We gave Sue Hiley-Harris, Chair of the Friends of Brecon & District Mind, a call to ask her more about it.

Tea-on-Top 2010 - the musicians strike up a tune
Tell us more about what happens on the day
We meet at Brecon Cathedral car park at 2.00pm and walk up Pen-y-Crug together where we find tea, cakes and sandwiches waiting for us. The walk is a three-mile round trip, passing the ancient Maendu Well and exploring the Iron Age hillfort of Pen-y-Crug with its magnificent views of the Brecon Beacons.

Who can take part? 

Anyone – although they do need to be able to walk the approx 1.5 miles up the hill. Some of it is over fields and stiles so we ask that people wear stout shoes and suitable clothing – for all weathers!

Tea-on-Top 2010 - what a crowd!
Whose idea was Tea-on-Top and which year did it start?
It was Gareth Morgan’s idea to organise a walk in the spirit of the Lammas Day walk and Pen y Crug seemed a suitable hill. Our first Tea-on-Top was in our first programme - 2010. This will be our fifth Tea-on-Top.

What is the Lammas Day tradition that inspired the trip? 
Lammas means ‘loaf-mass day’ but, in Wales, gatherings on hilltops at the beginning of August were not necessarily connected to the first harvest festival of the year. Trefor Owen, in his book on customs and traditions of Wales, describes ‘the shepherds’ feast’ (ffest y bugeiliaid) when shepherds would bring food to feast on a hilltop in early August. The Lammas Day tradition of tea and merrymaking on the top of the Brecon Beacons was popular in the region until the 1950s.

Tea-on-Top 2011 - the music keeps on playing
What kind of activities take place “on Top” apart from the tea? 
These vary from year to year but music plays a major part. Guitarist and singer Laurie usually organises friends to play with her. In 2012 Colin brought his Olympic torch and we all processed around the hill fort.

How do people describe their experience of taking part? 
'It was a lovely day, members, friends and the community got so much out of it. As one member, who made it to the top of Pen y Crug for the first time in many years, put it "(phew) I made it and it was worth it! I could stay up here all day." Thank you so much for co-ordinating it and making the event a great success.’ Nikki Cook, Service Manager, 2010.
‘Thank you to all involved in T on Top today. I had a great time, enjoyed the food, company and music, even the weather!' Rosie Whitfield, 2011.

Tea-on-Top 2012 - following the Olympic baton (photo by Charles Jenkin Jones)
Does Brecon & District Mind organise other walking trips or have a walking group? 
I am involved with the Friends and we do usually organise another walk during the year. Brecon and District Mind are in the process or reorganising a walking group and discussions are underway about a Friends and members walking group. 

What effect does being out in the open and experiencing nature have on people’s sense of wellbeing? 
Walking can greatly improve people’s wellbeing and Tea-on-Top has the added advantage of walking with others and the “carrot” of a nice cup of tea at the top.

Tea-on-Top 2013 - Sue Hiley Harris serving tea to thirsty walkers
Who provides the tea, or do people need to bring their own picnic? 
We provide the tea, sandwiches and cakes – and water. 

Tea-on-Top 2013 - fun despite a shower
What is your favourite memory from other Tea-on-Top days? 
That is hard to have just one favourite memory. The first Tea-on-Top in 2010 was magic. It had been an enormous feat of organisation so seeing so many people on the top of the Grug enjoying the tea and music remains a special memory. Last year a short rain shower brought everyone rushing under the gazebo or under umbrellas. The laughter and happiness this created is also a favourite memory. The sun soon came out again!

Tea-on-Top 2013 - tea & cakes, music and that amazing view!
The Friends of Brecon & District Mind was set up in 2010 to enhance and support the work of Brecon and District Mind (or Brecon & District Contact Association as it was known then). You can find out more about their programme of events here.

Update following 2014 Tea-on-Top event
Sue got in touch to say: Tea-on-Top was wonderful: the walk, the weather, the musicians, the tea and the food were all perfect.

Tea-on-Top 2014


  1. Hello everyone, in 2010, my husband John and myself were on holiday in Wales and enjoyed the lovely walk, tea and music, walking with a nice group of people upon Pen-y-Crug. How pleased we were last year, that Tea-on-top was there again in our last weekend in Brecon and we walked up again, this time also accompagnied by my youngest sister Ireen. And we didn't mind at all the short, heavy rain, because it gave us all a sense of being, laughing and suffering together ! And after that we enjoyed the sun ánd the nice cakes again. And how lucky we are this year ! Setting of for Wales coming Saturday, we will be able to take part for the third time and enjoy all those lovely people, walking and talking going up the hillside. A very big Thank You to all the people who are involved in organising this lovely event and we hope to see you alle coming Sunday ! Bye for now, Yvonne van Ieperen, Nuland, the Netherlans.

    1. Hi Yvonne
      Thanks so much for commenting - it's always great to get feedback, especially such positive feedback - about the events that the voluntary sector mental health centres in Powys organise and we help promote. It sounds as if you have shared some wonderful days with the folk from Brecon & District Mind on their Tea on Top excursions over the last few years. We wish you and John much enjoyment for this coming Sunday's walk and talk followed by tea and cake!