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Peat bagging in Mid Wales

Peat bagging in Mid Wales


Postby clivegrif » Mon Sep 10, 2012 9:12 pm

Hewitts included on this walk: Cadair Berwyn, Cadair Bronwen, Esgeiriau Gwynion (Foel Rhudd), Foel Hafod-fynydd, Foel Wen, Llechwedd Du, Moel Sych, Moel y Cerrig Duon, Moel yr Henfaes, Mynydd Tarw

Date walked: 21/08/2012

Time taken: 10

Distance: 36 km

Ascent: 1718m

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This was to be my first trip into Wales since February, and I had a need to venture onto hills I had not climbed before. Despite them being amongst the closest hills to where I live I had never been onto the Berwyns, so it was about time I put that right.
Malky_c’s trip report http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=18694 proved an excellent guide but I wanted to do just the main group, Moel Fferna can wait for another day.

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The road up Glyn Ceiriog from Llanarmon proved to be narrow with few passing places, and the widening at Pentre with its phone box and old chapel was the only place to park apart from field gateways. So leaving the car tucked in outside a derelict house on the road would not inconvenience anyone would it…..?
The first part of the trip follows the road to the end, near the farm of Swch Cae Rhiw. Here Malky headed north across the desolate waste to Moel Fferna, but I stuck to the track and trudged steadily but gently uphill for a good two or three miles. This is the track that Malky suggested may be navigable by 4x4s, and for the most part it is quite reasonable, however higher up there are dire bottomless pools and great shelves of railway sleepers that cover a bog to be negotiated – definitely not one for Chelsea Tractors or their drivers.
Near the top of the path the sun was coming out, and it seemed a good place for a spot of photography. I had decided to have a go at the manual settings on my Olympus, and thought I remembered some of the handy hints in a good book I had recently bought. Schoolboy error, I got the aperture settings the wrong way round and managed to get most of the picture out of focus. At the highest point of the track there is a box that confirmed this is Lets Off-road! territory – the box contained a log book and various landrover type paraphernalia. The climb from there to the top of Moel Henfaes is only a matter of yards, and the hill itself is barely more than a slight rise above the surrounding moor.
Image
Cadair Bronwen by cliveg004, on Flickr
Back to the track and then on to the first ‘proper hill; of the day, Cadair Bronwen. The first part of the climb was soggy, but then the path flattened out onto a shoulder at the 700m mark. Here it became apparent that anywhere flat in the Berwyn was also going to be wet. Despite my bottom half being encased in goretex, I could already feel the water between my toes….
Cadair Bronwen proved a distinct hill, with a bit of a steep part on the north eastern edge, but ahead where the highest points of the range.
Image
High Berwyns from Cadair Bronwen by cliveg004, on Flickr
Dropping down into the wide saddle I was expecting an expanse of bog, but there is a long length of double width railway sleepers with a plastic mesh fixed to it that speeds you across the worst of the soggy peat.
Image
Berwyn Mountain Railway by cliveg004, on Flickr
The climb up to Craig Berwyn was not too bad, but there was a nasty boggy surprise lurking at the top of the slope, a big wet patch of bare peat.
Image
Looking back to Cadair Bronwen, across the bog by cliveg004, on Flickr
Having successfully waded across, the path leading along the top of the escarpment to Cadair Berwyn was a delightful change. Firm underfoot, with cracking views opening out made all the better by a warming sun.
Image
Cadair Berwyn by cliveg004, on Flickr
The one trig point on the whole round is on a lump near the top of Cadair Berwyn, but it was obvious it was not THE top – perhaps they got a wider view from there, or it was just very misty when they planted it….
Image
Summit rocks by cliveg004, on Flickr
The highest point is an outcrop of real rocks, these are few and far between up here so make the most of them. The short hop to Moel Sych is easy and pleasant, with good views left down to Llyn Lluncaws, and on to the valley that ends with the famous Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall.
Image
Llyn Lluncaws by cliveg004, on Flickr
Double back from Moel Sych and have a sit down amongst the rocks for a sit and a sandwich – marvellous!
Image
Real rocks! by cliveg004, on Flickr
Suitably refreshed I continued back along the escarpment to the junction with the ridge leading out to Tomle, Foel Wen and Mynydd Tarw.
Image
The way down by cliveg004, on Flickr
As Malky describes, the drop down to Tomle and then over the top of it is rough, wet and hard going. It is a fair distance to Foel Wen, but the going is somewhat easier. Between Foel Wen and Mynydd Tarw is a group of rocky outcrops that seem out of place, but the boggy theme is continued all around them. The last top of this round is just ahead, an obvious large cairn just by the edge of the trees.
Image
Mynydd Tarw by cliveg004, on Flickr
Now all I have to do is get down. I hopped over the fence, and cramp grabbed my right calf – dear oh dear, I have been away from the hills for too long. I decided to go the more direct route back to Pentre, down the Cefn Cwm-y- geifr spur. Unfortunately this did mean that the first part of the descent was across deep heather and grass, and that was hard going. However, once onto the shoulder of the spur the going was much more solid and easier going. I stuck to the moorland outside the fenced off sheep field, I just got the feeling that hillwalkers were not exactly welcome in these parts. Lower down there are supposed to be footpaths, but there was no sign of them so I resorted to fence jumping and farm dodging before finally hitting the road just below the wood on Pen-yr-orsedd. The car fortunately only yards away as my legs were definitely feeling it.
As I got to the car I noticed that someone had used a finger to write a welcoming message in the dust on the driver’s door, ‘NO PARKING HERE AGAIN’…. Charming. Is there any legal basis for this Gerroffmyland, attitude – no, none at all. Will I be back – not in my car certainly – far better to leave the car down the road in Llanarmon and cycle the rest of the way.
I felt the need for some light relief after this annoyance so drove round to the Pistyll Rhaeadr, a very fine waterfall that is well worth the diversion. I had not seen it before, and was surprised to find that it is actually the highest in England and Wales, at 75 metres. The recent wet weather made it a fine spectacle and it does rival some of the big falls in Scotland. I spent a most splendid hour or so just looking, and trying out a few new techniques with my camera. Hope you like the result.
Image
Pistyll Rhaeadr falls by cliveg004, on Flickr
Image
Pistyll Rhaeadr, lower falls by cliveg004, on Flickr

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Time to move on to my base for the next phase of the trip – up to the Bwlch y Groes above Bala, and in full view of the cliffs of the Arans. It was still only late afternoon when I got there, so there was time for a grab another Hewitt, Moel y Cerrig Duon This is one of those cheeky hills that takes next to no time and there is very little climbing involved. Follow the fence from the cattle grid at the top of the pass, over a bump and then up to the top. It’s only about a mile and so you will be there and back in just over three quarters of an hour. It was a relief to find that this hill was quite dry and grassy, apart from the little pond at the top. Good views too, but the cloud had come down rather ominously over the high tops of the Arans to the west.
Image
Summit pond by cliveg004, on Flickr

Image
Moel y Cerrig Duon by cliveg004, on Flickr
I was camping out in my car at the top of the pass overnight, and now all the walking was done I settled down with a beer, a pasty and a book. Just then a load a chaps turned up to ‘take their dogs for a walk’. The hounds clearly wanted a good run as they belted off down the hill towards the Arans. They also had some cracking little terriers with them, and part of their exercise apparently includes being dug out of holes as their owner was carrying a large spade. A couple of hours later as the light was beginning to fail, most of the folk with the dogs returned to the car park and it was clear something was afoot. There was much tooting on a hunting horn, lots of dashing about and anxious looks across the valley. A couple of hounds appeared and the terrier man came back with his fine little dogs, but still they shouted and tooted. This went on way after dark, and as the rain started to fall it occurred to me that if someone was missing it was not a good night to be out in the open. However, no police cars or mountain rescue, whatever was going on? Eventually they gave up, and reluctantly drove off.
At first light a couple of them were back, and curiosity got the better of me.
‘Anyone missing?’
No, 12 dogs’.
’12’?
‘Yes, they must have got a scent, and they were off over the Arans… and goodbye’!
‘Oh dear – hope you get them back’.
‘So do I. Sorry if we kept you awake last night’. And with that he was off to try to round up his dogs.
It was dismal out. It had been raining for most of the night, and the cloud was right down. The car radio said there would be early rain, a respite and then heavy thundery showers. Nothing for it, get this coffee down me, and get on with it. As the weather was no good at all, I left the camera behind – so please check out Malky’s report for some decent photos of the area.
http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=18926

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The first hill was Llechwedd Du which is not a pointy hill, but is flat topped and deservedly has a poor reputation. Navigation in these parts is not hard as inevitably there is a fence that traces the highest line across a hill to the summit. It soon became clear that although there was a fence to follow, it crossed such deep boggy pools that the posts must be the length of telegraph poles and they clearly used a boat when they knocked them in. Route finding in the mist proved both wet and tiresome, and I was mightily relieved when I finally stumbled across the tiny pile of stones that marked the ‘summit’. It occurred to me there was a reason why I had not climbed this hill before, but had climbed the Arans themselves many times – the latter are fine mountains, this was just hard work.
Poppiesrara’s trip report (http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=11298) said that ‘the route across the deep peat-hags to Llechwedd Du wasn't too difficult, even bordering on enjoyable’. Seek medical help at once young man, you are in need of therapy!
Fortunately I was now not far away from the western edge of the hill, and I was soon slipping and slithering down the steep wet grass to the stream that separated it from the next hill.
From the stream it was straight up steep grass that gained the lengthwise ridge of Foel Hafod-fynydd. This is a much more shapely hill, and is really an outlier of the main Aran ridge. Once on the ridge itself it was also much drier underfoot, and it stopped raining! However, glowering cloud hung heavy over the Arans themselves – no chance of that lifting today, a shame as the view of the cliffs is particularly fine.
Oh well, on to the next one. Steeply down to the wide flat col, and another meeting with our old friends Peat and Bog. From here it was again steeply up a grassy ridge to Esgeiriau Gwynion. This too is quite flat at the top, but slightly more rolling and much better drained than Llechwedd Du. Simply because it was there I nipped across to the other top Foel Rhudd, before heading back towards Llechwedd Du. This time I was determined to avoid the bogs, and decided to contour round the edge of the hill, below the bog-line. There required a bit of going in and out around steep sided streams, but it was a small price to pay for avoiding the main bog area. The sheep had made a few good paths that could be followed, and these led back almost all the way back to the car park.
I had considered going on to do some of the other hills in the area such as Foel y Geifr, but having wrung a mug-full of water out of each of my socks with black storm clouds gathering, enough was enough…..
Still, at least my HEWITT count had gone up by 10!
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clivegrif
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Re: Peat bagging in Mid Wales

Postby ChrisW » Mon Sep 10, 2012 9:52 pm

Great report Clive, excellent entertainment and lovely photos - your old book must have been pretty good to stay in the memory, excellent work with all the shots but particularly with the waterfall :clap: The 'chaps walking their dogs' best find the missing 12 or it will be like hound of the baskervilles up there in no time :lol: :lol:
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Re: Peat bagging in Mid Wales

Postby poppiesrara » Mon Sep 10, 2012 10:25 pm

Good stuff, Clive - I'm not sure many of us could have taken quite that many boggy lumps in two days at the moment... The route to Llechwedd Du really was firmish and dry last spring - I know I got pretty lucky there - but I'm not sure very much anywhere is this summer. I'll take 'young man' any day though, with or without the therapy!

Lovely pictures though - you'll tempt others over there too if you're not careful!
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Re: Peat bagging in Mid Wales

Postby clivegrif » Tue Sep 11, 2012 7:26 am

Hi Poppiesara, Hope I didn't offend!

Just had a look at your pictures again, and was struck by the one of fence on Llechwedd Du. It does look quite dry in your picture, but that section was properly under water this time round.

..but at least neither of us have to do it again!! :D

Hello Chris - glad to see you are in fine form after you hair-raising escapade, hope the bumps are healing!
Apparently the hounds were last seen heading west towards the Coed y Brenin forest south of Bala.... Hounds are just mental - dopey terriers like mine are far more reliable.
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clivegrif
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Re: Peat bagging in Mid Wales

Postby malky_c » Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:57 pm

Lovely colours in the Berwyns :) . I was surprised just how wet and hard going they were, even though I'd done the main ones before. Got to say it's rare to find ground that hard to cross in Scotland! If I was repeating I think I'd leave Moel Fferna out of the circuit too. Nice photos of Pistyll Rheadr.

I didn't think much of Llechwedd Ddu either - Poppiesrara's approach makes it look more interesting though.
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Re: Peat bagging in Mid Wales

Postby KeithS » Thu Sep 13, 2012 11:53 pm

That's quite some trek you did there Clive, looks like hard going as well.

I like the pictures, especially the waterfalls, very restful.

Whilst it might not have the grandeur of Fisherfield it still looks like quite remote and getting away from it all.

Obviously a nice place to take 12 dogs and a spade for a walk :? :?
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Re: Peat bagging in Mid Wales

Postby clivegrif » Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:17 pm

malky_c wrote: I was surprised just how wet and hard going they were, even though I'd done the main ones before. Got to say it's rare to find ground that hard to cross in Scotland!


You got me thinking there Malky - and you are right, in all the years I've been going to all parts of Scotland I can't think of many places that were such hard work as some of the hills in Mid Wales.

KeithS wrote:Whilst it might not have the grandeur of Fisherfield it still looks like quite remote and getting away from it all.


It was certainly remote and I didn't see anyone apart from 3 chaps on the second day. Wonder where everybody went? Perhaps in a couple of thousand years archeologists will find them all in perfectly preserved Goretex when the bogs finally drain :shock:
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clivegrif
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Re: Peat bagging in Mid Wales

Postby john923 » Sat Sep 15, 2012 12:08 pm

A great read and pics Clive. Had to laugh at the thought of chaps in boats trying to knock in fence posts the length of telegraph poles on Llechwedd Du. I think I'll save that hill for when we get a month without rain.
Cheers, John
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Re: Peat bagging in Mid Wales

Postby mattcymru » Sun Jul 27, 2014 10:17 pm

Ok actually the berwyns are in north wales... but never mind! photos very good and atmospheric. i went up to the north top in 1997. time to return!
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