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A game of three halves

Summit of Moel Morfydd

Team photo at the summit of Moel Morfydd. With a skilled bit of Photoshopping: so good you can’t see the join.

Ice, snow and low cloud on Llantysilio Mountain – warming sunshine down in the valley – chilly winds back at The Ponderosa, then  three different terrains – very steep and slippery mountains, good field footpaths and a long lane to finish – what more could you want in the way of a day out?  This wonderful variety was provided by Brian who led us on Sunday – a day that earlier in the week I thought would bring tempest, deluge and thigh-high snow.

We rolled up at a very cold and gloomy Pondarosa Cafe at the top of the Horseshoe Pass  at about 9.00 and wonder of all – not a motorbike to be seen in the car park.  Getting our kit on was not delightful as it was blowing and sleeting with not much visibility, but we are made of stern stuff and we were soon stepping out up to the first of many summits on the Llantysilio Mountain Ridge.  Moel y Faen, Moel y Gamelin, Moel Caer, then an unnamed top and finally Moel Morfydd are the five tops that make up this wonderful ridge, each with a steep ascent and a steeper descent – much to the annoyance of Len’s knees.  Along this switchback ridge we saw much evidence of Grouse activity: plenty of footprints in the snow and also of obvious ‘fights.’ At the summit of Moel Morfydd was a large saucer-shaped depression that was a maelstrom of footprints, wing prints and all sorts of other distubances in the snow to show that the grouse had been having a real go at each other earlier in the day.

Coming down from Moel Morfydd we could see the weather breaking way to the north with sunshine gleaming on the pristine snow-covered Snowdonia peaks. We followed the good bridle path heading North-east  for a while until we came to a bit where the path just stopped at a deep gorge.  We explored up stream, the way the path was shown on the map, and got attacked by trees and bushes with no hope of getting across the barbed-wire entangled stream, so we retreated and did a bit of following-your-nose until we got back on track at the curiosly named Plas Norway. From here on it was the gentle contouring lane through the old slate workings and out onto the open hillside at the Ponderosa, now full of cars and a few motorbikes.

A good day out thanks to Brian and thanks to all who came and all who drove. Pics in the gallery.minibootprint

Gorge-ous day out

By Alex Liivet, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5614794This was the swap walk between Brian and Graham with Graham leading the Derek’s “Weatherman Walking” route in the Afon Rheidol gorges around Devil’s Bridge. For a detailed description of the route, with picures and background information follow this link to Derek’s page.

Five of us had a cosy drive over the hills and far away to park in the Waterfalls car park for a 9.15 start into a bright day with a chilly east wind. The walking is on mainly good tracks and paths all the way and the first section takes you down across the Vale of Rheidol Railway  and through the most remarkably tall conifers to the banks of the Rheidol. If you want scenery and views this is the walk for you, but take a spare memory card for the camera as everywhere you look is a picture postcard view. We headed North East down the gorge to cross the river by a narrow footbridge to the north bank and into the land of old lead mines. There is a remediation project on-going to prevent the tomato soup coloured mine drainage getting into the river and poisoning things, but nature is taking back much of the spoil with birch, heather and conifers beginning to get established.

The next section takes you through good woodlands and upland grass to a high point at Pant Cerrig and then up the gorge of Afon Tuen to the farm at Penrhiew. It was on this section, and following, that we saw probably in excess of 1000 Redwing flying overhead – not making a sound: also a few Fieldfare showed up to complete the picture. Other sightings – plenty of Red Kite and Buzzard, one Kestral and lots of small birds calling in the woodland. It was then across the tops and down to a very impressive Parsons Bridge – very narrow and very high!  This takes you up to the little church at Ysbyty Cynfyn – read the sad story of this church on Derek’s page.

The final section back to Pontarfynach is lanes and fields but then another gorge and river crossing – this time the Mynach – and then out onto the road and final fields back to the car.

This walk could be very busy in high season but probably looks it best on a sunny late Autumn day as the ‘Golden October’ colours are out in full force.  Thanks to all who came and Graham who drove.  minibootprint

 

 

Another beautiful day on the Long Mynd

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Nature surving on Adstone Hill – Rowan

Finding new routes on the Long Mynd is not always easy – but on Sunday we did manage some new bits. The day dawned chilly and bright, I even had to scrape the windscreen before leaving home, just hard frozen dew, not frost. The mist was trailing about as we left The Oak and headed out to Bridges for our starting point.  We went via Montgomery, as the Chirbury/Church Stoke road was shut, the castle looked magnificent with its ghostly ‘fingers’ towering out of the mist. More wonderful atmospheric views on the way over to Bridges, arriving to find out from Graham the road is now only shut at night.

Our route was a sort of clockwise circle.  Up past the Youth Hostel and over the stile by the Darnford Brook, then not far into the trees took the bridge up into Ratlinghope.  It was then a bit of a drag up the road towards Belmore Ring and diving off to the left at the cattle grid and on up to the Long Mynd ridge by the Shooting Box. Here a group of ‘D of Eers’ were cooking, I think soup, in a very chilly breeze and wondering why nothing would boil: but hey ho, they were having fun. The views from up here were endless, a perfect cool blue sky, just bits of lingering mist in the valleys.

The first weekend of October is always Long Mynd Hike weekend and there was much evidence of check points being cleared at Pole Cottage.  As the going was good we worked out a bit of an extension to the route – going right along the ridge to the Gliding Station. We watched them doing launches and landings while we had our elevenses, they were not doing a lot of gliding about.

The route now turns sharp north westish down towards Stanbatch on Prolley Moor above Wentnor.  The view down into the valley was one of bucolic beauty: patchwork fields, sheep and cattle grazing, wisps of smoke gentling up into the bright cool air, hills into the misty distance – does the soul a power of good.  From Stanbatch we picked up the Shropshire Way and followed this across fields and lanes to Adstone and started up the long whale-back that heads north back to Bridges. We took a long lazy lunch lolling against the fence on the sunny bank.

From the lunch stop it is easy walking along the ridge top and down into Bridges where outside the pub stood gently wheezing was John Sankey’s beautiful traction engine: a grand end to grand day.  Thanks to all who came and all who drove.  minibootprint

A nice walk

img_3411After all the frustrations of the recce the new cobbled together route turned out to be very pleasant indeed, and the weather turned out to be “Goldilocks” – not too hot and not too cold, just right. Four of us left The Oak at 8.00 and we were walking just after 9.00.

The start from Llandrillo is great – free car park and very tidy loos – and just a walk across the road and you’re onto the footpaths. The route heads south from the village gently up through the woods of Cefn Pen-llety then east-ish until you break out onto the open hillside of the western slopes of the Berwyns. The track now turns north up the fence line and then east to near the low summit of Trum y Wern and the gate in the fence – (548m). This is not high but the views are very good, across the valley all the way into Snowdonia and everything in-between. A bit of downhill now, north west to that well known place – Sheepfold – on the Taith Tegid – the Tegid Way, for elevenses. The Tegid way runs 18 miles from Cynwyd, near Corwen, to Bala. To the east of the path on the way down is a Cairn Circle:  we should have gone and had a look at it because it’s quite impressive.

The route follows the Tegid Way generally east-ish on good tracks up to Pont Rhyd-yr-hŷdd. From here the route turns back on itself across a good grassy path down to a very suitable lunch stop at the first fence – complete with gurgling stream, comfy rocks and shady bits if required. The next few miles follow the north bank of the Afon Llynor on good forestry tracks with open woodlands and hundreds of pheasants. The last mile or so back into Llandrillo is on farmland footpaths and stiles of some awkwardness, but it resolves itself into a steep lane back down into the village. About 8 miles of loveliness. Thanks to all who came and all who drove. minibootprint

Brecon Beacons – Cwm Oergwm Circuit

Image2A 7:30 start from The Oak for our drive to Llanfrynach, a picturesque village straddling the Nant Menasgin, a fast flowing tributary of the Usk, just south of Brecon town.  Leaving the village we walk upstream for about an hour along a bridle path that threads through mature trees and pastures: a delightful start to any walk.  This leads to the open hillside at the foot of Fan y Bîg.  Now for the real hillwalking: a long, and at times steep, pull up the ridge of Cefn Cyff.  The effort is well rewarded with close up views of Cribyn, the valley of Cwm Oergwm and looking back towards Brecon.  Plenty of photo stops and a coffee break provided welcome relief on our ascent.  Now at the summit of Fan y Bîg we followed in the footsteps of thousands by having a photo call on the cantilevered stone that juts out like a bird’s beak over a sheer drop, (the translation for Fan y Bîg is ‘peak of the bill’).  This setting was the front cover on the O.S. map of the Beacons for many years.

Lunch on the summit was accompanied by 2 Peregrine Falcons soaring overhead before stooping spectacularly, they obviously had a nest nearby as young birds could be heard calling for food.  Now for an easy afternoons walking, starting with a traverse overlooking the valley of Cwm Oergwm via Craig Cwmoergwm with a gradual gain in height to our second summit Bwlch y Ddwyallt.  Views to the South included Neuadd Reservoirs and the headwaters of the Taf Fechan.  At this point we turned North, heading towards Llanfrynach.  An easy downhill walk along the Bwlch y Ddwyallt ridge and Ffordd Las track, with views to Llyn Syfaden/Llangorse Lake took us to within a mile of our starting point.  All that remained was a stroll along a country lane into the village.  There was just time for a quick examination of the stock in Llanfrynach’s library, open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (see photo), before arriving back for a welcome cup of tea and pieces of cake at Bev Lewis’s house.

With conditions dry overhead and dry underfoot and good visibility we had enjoyed a superb day out. Thanks to all who came and drove, Bev and Abi Lewis for the hospitality and Doreen Lewis for the cakes. (Report by Len)  minibootprint

Wild and wet Arans

Img_3121The weather forecast was not very favourable: a breezy wet start, then a bit of a gap, followed by a wet afternoon – so the mac was put near the top of the rucksac.  Brian was leading and he had said that his recce was rather damp underfoot and he was right, I think sturdy wellies might have better suited. The route is well known but little visited, particularly in poor conditions, we only saw two other people all day.

The route starts at the top of Cwm Cywarch at the honesty car park (with portaloo) at Blaencywarch, and heads North West up the very steep and rocky cleft to the ridge between Glasgwm and Aran Fawddwy.  This little valley is a wild flower paradise with so many varieties, enough to keep anybody happy. (A few pictures in the gallery) From the top the route turns North East and follows one of the many fences on the ridge. It was here that the duckboards started and Brian’s ‘wet underfoot’ warnings kicked in.  It was a bit of a sloppy trudge up to the summit, but in good conditions the views from the top are stupendous – you can see practically anything in Wales from here – but not today. (Aran Fawddwy 905 m / 2969 ft ) The scramble from the fence up to the summit pile was accompanied by the most ferocious wind, nearly having us off our feet.  Needless to say we didn’t linger long, just long enough to snatch a couple of pics and then quickly back down to the comparative shelter of the rocks below.  All this was achieved in sporadic drizzle, but luckily none of the torrents we were expecting.

From  the summit the route heads south east and then east at the memorial stone with views down to Craiglyn Dyfi (source of the Dyfi) and Llyn Tegid (Bala) away to the north.  The grand sweep of Hengwm below soon opened out, with our route out clearly showing as a dark green line down the slope to the South West and back to Blaencywarch. Brian teased us with ‘a sting in the tail’ – this turned out to be what was once a rocky lane, but was now a steep rocky stream of wondrous slipperiness.

Safely back at the cars we had had a good day – not as wet as we had expected but wetter underfoot then we liked.  Thanks to Brian for leading and to all who came and all who drove.  Pics in the gallery. minibootprint

Bird list

  • Few Skylark
  • Innumerable Meadow Pipits
  • One Red Kite
  • One Wheatear
  • Few corvids

 

Phew – wot a scorcha!!

Img_3065Where was the hottest place in the UK on Sunday?  Porthmadog just down the road from Snowdon – 28° (give or take a tiny bit).

Sunday was a bad “senior moment” day for me.  First I turned the wrong way in Beddgelert and ended up nearly in Porthmadog, then found I had left my sunhat behind and to cap it all when we got back to the car in the afternoon I had a parking ticket.  But that was because I HAD bought a ticket on arrival and put it in my pocket while I went to the loo. The ticket stayed in my pocket all day and not on the car dashboard where it should have been.  I put it all down to the heat.

Five of us set out a bit late from Rhyd Ddu and enjoyed the gentle early mile of the path.  Very few people on our side of the hill, but as we were to find out at the top, hoards toiling up all the other paths. We stopped at all the walls to try and get some shade and take on more liquid and ‘paused to admire the view’ quite often. The views were typical for a hot day – lots of haze – could only just see Anglesey.

Arrived at the top at 12.30 and the place was heaving: lots of big groups on sponsored ascents etc, so we ate our lunch a little way back from the summit accompanied by the friends of Alfred Hitchcock. The clouds to the north of us looked very dark and threatening and mist boiled up from Cwm Clogwyn to the west making it cool enough to need fleeces. We left the hoards at 1.00 and got onto Allt Maenderyn (the South Ridge) and had it virtually to ourselves. A steep descent with one or two scrambly bits brought us down into the quarry where it was hot and airless. One or two birds about but really all very quiet – that still, hot, lazy time of the afternoon when sitting in the shade with a cool drink at your elbow was what was called for.

We arrived back at Rhyd Ddu just in time to see the Welsh Highland Railway train in the station and watched it pull out heading north.  Back to the very hot cars and a slow drive home at 45 mph – we met all the folk on their way back from the coast.

A good day and I still say that this is the best route up and down Snowdon.  Thanks to all who came and all who drove: pics in the gallery. minibootprint

 

 

Chirbury

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Just off the Chirbury Road at Blackford. Picture by Annie.

What an excellent walk – no big climbs – no muddy bits – lots of sunshine – and to cap it all wonderful countryside: thank you Vivien for all the hard work you put into the route finding etc.

A short drive to the car park in Chirbury and then a walk of a few hundred metres back down the Forden road got us out onto the open fields with blue sky and skylarks.  We headed generally westish toward Offa’s Dyke and then south along the Dyke footpath and then east via Whitely and Timberth to meet the A490.  Here we dodged the traffic for 5 minutes or so before climbing a stile to take us down into Marrington Dingle where we lunched on a bridge across the Camlad.

The last paragraph does not do justice to the total ‘niceness’ of the landscape, the views and the flora and fauna – just look at the bird count below.

Marrington Dingle was in fine form on Sunday. If you have not been into the dingle you must go – especially in late spring – it is just gorgeous. Not a place to stride along but just to stroll gently and try to take it all in.

Many thanks to Annie for the pics.  I thought I had got it right with my camera this time, but no: went to take a picture (like the cracking one on the right) and my camera announces ‘Your memory card is full.’ I said “Oh dear me!” and asked Annie to be the photographer for the day.  Have a look in the gallery for her fab pics.

Bird Count – a really good day

  • Yellow hammer – lots
  • Whitethroat – a couple
  • Skylark – lots
  • Lapwing – three
  • Grey wagtail – single
  • Heron – single
  • Blackcap – several
  • Garden warbler – single
  • Tawny owl – single
  • Plus all the usual suspects – buzzard – kite – dunnock etc

 

Fourth reserve and a committee lead the walk

Image4The 24th April walk was down on the programme for Richard to lead, but he is still not up to long stiff climbs etc. so he asked me to lead it.  I was so busy, what with going on WI cookery courses and looking after ospreys, that I was unable to fit in a recce.  He contacted Annie who said yes – no prob.  Got an e-mail from Annie on Saturday saying that her daughter was just about to give birth and that she had got Peter to lead the walk.  Peter was given the Kittiwake book with the route in and so we rolled up to Carrog Station carpark on Sunday morning with a walk being lead by a committee of four.

We crossed the bridge over the Dee and turned left and then right by the Grouse Inn – wow it went up a bit steep a bit early in the walk: not even chance to get your first wind, let alone your second. But good views opened up behind us as we climbed up the side of the Dee Valley and out onto the tops at Bwlch Côch.  This is the Clwydian Way here so it was well walked and waymarked and very good walking along the undulating open tops with great views all round.  We followed the good track generally NE down past the derelict Nant-y-madwen to the lane where we stopped for a quick refuel. From here we could see the looming bulk of Llantysilio Mountain – this is the SW end of the ridge that includes the Horseshoe Pass and further on, the Eglwyseg escarpement.

We made our way across the open moorland up to Bwlch y Groes with a few “off route excursions,” but we ended up at the right stile in the right fence where we found some very nice spectacles, but we left them there as they didn’t suit any of us.  Then it was down to Plâs-y’nghoed-drwg to pick up the Dee Valley Way that heads back towards Carrog. Again good walking, very varied, fields woodland and a VERY steep decent down to the lane that had Len almost coming down backwards as his knee was complaining. We finished the walk with a pleasant stroll along the banks of the Dee and back to the station carpark just in time the see the Foxcote Manor steam up to the platform and disgorge its passengers.

Thanks to all who came and drove – particular thanks to Peter and his electronic kit for getting us round and back to the cars safely.  minibootprint

Not Bwlch Sych – Long Mynd instead

 

Img_2961Those of you who read my e-mail (see below)  concerning the recce for this walk will realise that we didn’t go up the hills to the north of Lake Vyrnwy but we did have a good day on the Long Mynd.

We arrived at the musical loos in Stretton and set out up the Burway and then down into Carding Mill Valley. Weather improving as we climbed to near the top, then a bit of cross county to join the Portway and down to the cattle grid at Duckley Nap for some refreshments. Then a loop round across the shoulder of Haddon Hill and on to the Shooting Box – now just a car park with a bit of a mound, not a tin roofed building that used to be a good waymarker in misty conditions. Then a good step up to the Pole Bank Toposcope (516M) with improving views all round. It was on this rise that we saw a group of 25 ish birds wheeling and calling above us: even Len the Bird man was a bit flummoxed. These turned out to be Golden Plover – a real joy.

Pole Bank is the high point of the Long Mynd so everything from here on should be down hill – well it nearly is. It was then on to Pole Cottage and a left turn onto a small sheep track that joins the path, locally known as Ashes Ridge, that skirts Round Hill and Grindle and down into Small Batch.  We stopped for lunch in the shade some hawthorn bushes overlooking Callow Hollow and enjoyed the total silence that the Long Mynd can offer.

We then plunged down into Small Batch and past the camp site at the bottom in Little Stretton. Bit of climbing from here on, over the ridge to The Owlets and down through the woods to the Ludlow Road and back to the cars.  Before the start I had estimated 8 miles or so, but with a bit of measuring after we got back it was around 10 miles.

Thanks to all who came and all who drove.  minibootprint

Previous e-mail:

Hi all  –  Just got back from the recce for the 3rd April Walk – Bwlch Sych above Vyrnwy. Could be a good walk but not at the moment.  The first half was fine: forestry tracks a bit of open hillside, lots of snow, but reasonable underfoot. The second half was dreadful.  The guide book says ” … the paths are a little faint and the ground can be wet at times …”  Biggest understatement.  No paths at all, just very wet knee high tussocks,  two river crossings not mentioned as a problem – I ended up paddling.  Also the footpaths lower down on the way out just stop with very high barbed wire and impenetrable undergrowth – climbing over and round was not good.  Suffice to say I will not be leading this walk on Sunday – but will be leading something else, not sure what, but it will be the same start time and distance etc.  I will send out another mailing when I know what I am doing.