The champion on your doorstep


A former British champion and international mountain runner is set to transform the experience of the great outdoors in Wales.

Ruth Pickvance, who has raced around the world, is using an inspiring heritage setting in the Black Mountains to explore Black Mountains Borders Country landscape through literature, photography and a deeper exploration of landscape.

Her ‘Sense of Place’ weekends are aimed at those who want to experience their surroundings in an ‘actively reflective’ way, rather than simply running and walking through the hills.

Ruth calls it ‘flexing muscles in new directions’ and says guests should expect activity and discussion, questions and humour, as well as enjoying the Llanthony Valley in the Black Mountains and making new connections.

Ruth says: “We know that people love to escape for a weekend in the countryside but I feel they want something more than simply walking and talking. This is a more complete and reflective experience, open to anyone who is curious and wants to experience something new and developmental, who wants to ‘get into landscape’ in a fuller way as well as wind down and enjoy what this gorgeous, historic borders country Welsh landscape has to offer. It’s also open to people who’d like to come on their own – again, really important. Adventure is all about curiosity and exploration – it’s not about climbing the highest mountain. ”

The weekends, in spring and autumn, are based at Llwyn Celyn, a Grade 1 listed building and historically an exceptionally important house. Recently restored by the Landmark Trust at a cost of £4.2m, the farmstead was built in 1420 on the lands of the Llanthony Priory and is a rare survival. There’s a small museum on the site and the venue is simply inspiring and unique.

As well as being the Race Director for the Llanbedr- Blaenavon fell race and the Black Mountains Trail Race, Ruth now runs Element (, which is based in Abergavenny. She focuses on personal exploration, confidence, curiosity and creativity – whether it’s starting to run up a mountain, having the courage to navigate on a mountain or putting words on paper. Her courses and workshops encourage participants of all abilities to gain confidence, enjoyment and fulfilment as well as to appreciate and value the outdoor world.

She says: “If you’re feeling that you’d like a fresh, creative alternative for a weekend away, A Sense of Place will provide an experience that will be developmental, unusual and interesting.”

Ruth, who has been British fell running champion, with a former career in literature in international education, is also a writer and bee-keeper. She has won some of the UK’s top races including The Three Peaks, Wasdale, and the two-day Karrimor Elite. She still holds the record for the Stretton Skyline race set in 2005 (2:46).

She has competed at international level in road and mountain races, particularly in Italy and Singapore. A latecomer to marathons she has a best time of 2:45 aged 40. At the New York marathon she was 1st British woman and collected her prize with Joan Benoit Samuelsson, winner of first Olympic marathon.

Ruth was asked to train seriously for marathons with Olympic hopes in 1989 but refused because she wanted to run on the fells. The result was being presented with a set of heated hair curlers for winning the epic Wasdale fell race, when the men were given top mountaineering jackets. “Things did get better,” she says.

The Element Sense of Place venue is the Threshing Barn at Llwyn Celyn. Says Ruth: “The two days will consist of a mix of activities – some will involve the outdoors and we also use literature and photography; there will be space around events for you to relax, chat, connect, be with friends or explore on your own. You don’t need any specific level of fitness to participate in this weekend.  And any form of camera is fine, including a phone.”

Running the event with Ruth is photographer and writer Mikaela Toczek who is a highly qualified outdoor instructor who has led expeditions around the world including India, Nicaragua and sub-Saharan Africa.

Full details:


The Landmark Trust’s Llwyn Celyn (pron. Lewin Kelin), Stanton, Cwmyoy, Nr Abergavenny. Monmouthshire. NP7 7ND

Abergavenny is the closest train station approximately 5 miles away.

Start at 9.30 am on Saturday morning 11th May
Finish around 4.30 pm on Sunday 12th May


You choose and book the level of accommodation that you would like for the weekend.

We have a list of accommodation that we will send to you on booking. This ranges in price from the on-site brand new bunkhouse to local Bed and Breakfasts and more luxurious comfortable hotels. Something for every taste and budget.
Cost of the weekend:


A fresh and healthy lunch on both days is included as are all drinks and snacks during the day.

Contact / 07507 189905


About Author

Abergavenny Now founder and History graduate from Bath Spa University. I was born in Abergavenny and have lived in the town for most of my life.

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