Manod: A mountain missing a snooker table or two,… or three
by clivegrif » Tue Jul 29, 2014 9:18 pm
Hewitts included on this walk: Manod Mawr, Manod Mawr North Top, Moel Penamnen
Date walked: 27/07/2014
Time taken: 4
Distance: 15 km
Ascent: 780m1 person thinks this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
The beauty of the Walkhighlands site is that is someone always posts that one important detail you need. In the case of the Manods it really is not obvious looking at the map of Blaenau Ffestiniog, but Poppiesrara very helpfully suggested parking by the Co-op – just the job, thanks P!
As he suggests the way up to the hills may look complicated, but it really is simplicity itself. Walk up the road to the left of the Co-op car park and just keep going. I should mention at this point that just as were about to set off, my GPS decided that it didn’t like being dropped off a Scottish mountain last month, and it very firmly turned itself off. Preplanned route now out of the window, back to making it up as I am going along - just like the good old days….
Within yards the houses give way to towering spoil heaps, and it becomes apparent that this little side street is in fact an access road to a slate quarry. However, the way through the quarry is clearly way-marked by wooden posts that are painted yellow at the top, and soon Monty Dog and I were climbing the zigzag path up through the scrubby back wall of the quarry.
Just at the point where the gradient levels off, by a disused winding mechanism, we came across a rather bizarre sign post. ‘This is the end of the public right of way, please return the way you came’. Having driven 130 miles and walked uphill for half an hour or so to reach this point, I obviously gave this perfectly reasonable request the due consideration it deserved. Anyway, a little further up the hill, we left the last remnants of the scarred industrialised landscape behind and we were out onto to the open moorland.
I would hazard a guess that the crossing to Moel Penamnen is normally soggy and hard work, but it was a mark of just how hot and dry that it has been lately that it was merely a little rough underfoot.
Moel Penamnen only rises a 100 metres or so above the surrounding moor, but it is reasonably shapely, and the last rise to the double top is quite a stiff pull up a steep grassy slope. I couldn’t believe it when we reached the summit, where’s the cairn? I was expecting a notable mound of slate, but instead there were just a few stones collected together on a bare patch of earth.
Oh well – off we go to bigger and better things. At least the light drizzle and the cool breeze are a welcome relief to the heat we have been experiencing in Worcestershire for a number of weeks now.
To reach the Manods from here, you could just make a bee-line for the two reservoirs but I decided to keep to higher ground and take in Foel Fras before dropping down to the lakes. The walk along to Foel Fras has an almost Pennine feel to it, and made for fast easy walking. There is short steep drop off the end of the wide ridge, and then it was back to rough heathery, but fortunately dry, tussocks.
Manods across the water by cliveg004, on Flickr
The water levels in the reservoirs had dropped so there was a firm beach of slate fragments to walk along to the reservoir wall that also doubled as a Level. The way ahead looked much more promising than what had gone before, the bones of the earth were showing through the rough grass. We followed the Level along until we reached a break in the outcrops and then headed up across rough bouldery ground towards Manod North Top. Looking back, P’s route goes to the east of the reservoirs, and maybe the better way. Unfortunately we soon found we had to negotiate a sharp barbed wire fence without any sign of a stile, so maybe this is not the most trodden route.
It doesn’t take long to reach the summit of Manod North Top, but there is a bit of a shock when you get there. A matter of only a few yards away is the edge of a very large hole, the main slate quarry on the mountain, and it is very obviously still in use. Even today, a Sunday, there are large earth movers and diggers chomping lumps out of the mountain side. Working on a Sunday, here in the Bible-belt of Wales? How times have changed.
To reach Manod Mawr from here, we needed to head due east, but don’t be tempted to hop over the fence using the stile like we did, but go to the right of the stile and follow the fence line downhill where you will be able to jump over another stile. This avoids having to clamber over yet another barbed wire fence. This takes you down to one of the quarry roadways which can be used to get round the quarry itself, and onto the lopes of the Manod Mawr. From here you can easily see just how big this quarry is, this mountain is truly missing a snooker table or two, or three…. I find myself wondering just how many houses owe their roof to this place?
As a huge Earth-Mover comes roaring our way, Monty and I duck off the roadway and onto the grass, only to be enveloped in a thick white cloud of dust as the mechanical monster rushes past. Dust?? In the mountains of North Wales?? These are surely drought conditions!
As we begin the easy climb up the Manod Mawr we get a clear view of the scale of the quarry workings and just how close to the summit of Manod North Top they now are. I suggest that if you want to climb this mountain, do it soon as it might not be there much longer!
The views from Manod Mawr are spectacular and extensive, with the Moelwyns to the West, the Rhinogs to the South, and the highest peaks of Snowdon and the Glyders to the north. A fine place to linger and look a while.
We head down across more rough boulder ground and soon reach yet another slate rubble spoil heap. You could pay a fortune for this stuff at garden centres, but here there are probably millions of tons of the stuff lying about in huge heaps. We reach another level, and this one provides a really clear and obvious route down to the main road at the bottom of the mountain. Part way down there are a collection of abandoned buildings, and this marks a kink in the level. Go to the right of the buildings and the way down is clear. The Moelwyns loom large on the opposite side of the valley, and just to add to the atmosphere the toot of the Ffestiniog Railway engine echoes around the hillside – I really must do that one day.
It’s a bit of a trudge back along Blaenau Ffestiniog High Street, but the place looks pretty good in the sunshine. They have such lovely slate roofs here, can’t think why!
PS - 136 down, 2 to go....
by malky_c » Tue Jul 29, 2014 10:23 pm
Final countdown then - I assume you'll not be finishing on Moel Fferna . Then your count will go sailing past mine as I can't see me doing any new English hills in the foreseeable future.
by poppiesrara » Wed Jul 30, 2014 7:21 pm
I think the north top summit is (just) in the National Park and so about safe from being swallowed up completely? - it at least doesn't seem to have got closer to the edge since I was there. My way from Moel Penamnen to there (along the fence) was very boggy, but no barbed wire and a pretty good final climb.
In my inveterate 'bagging' days (all of 3 years ago!), I'm sure I'd have done Moel Fferna, the drive, and Tal y Fan (the short approach from the south and then a loop back west by the pass would be a really nice walk to finish the Welsh hills on) in a day - is that the plan to reach the 138?
by clivegrif » Wed Jul 30, 2014 8:25 pm
In reality I don't believe the Quarry owners would ever get the required permission to slice the top of the mountain off, they can probably get what they need by going downwards instead!
Is there a problem with finishing on Moel Fferna - are you saying it isn't one of the highlights of Snowdonia!?!? I think that one will be done as quickly as my mountain bike can carry me...
So yes, that is the plan, Moel Fferna, then belt round to Tal y Fan to finish on the most northerly Welsh Hewitt.... hopefully this year.
by CharlesT » Thu Jul 31, 2014 12:30 pm
So, over to Moel Fferna, a nice little hill - park in the big layby on the A5, don't drive up the lane as per poppies attempt, and over to Tal y Fan, for which a warm, bright sunny day is the best option - don't want to miss the views.
Then you can tick off the Nuttalls and remaining 2000' tops to complete the set.
by clivegrif » Thu Jul 31, 2014 4:43 pm
As hard as I tried I couldn't find a waterfall, so had to make do with flat water instead - I couldn't miss it out altogether could I?
by AnnieMacD » Fri Aug 01, 2014 8:28 pm
Good luck with the last two Hewitts in Wales. Then will you be back to Scotland??!!??
by clivegrif » Fri Aug 01, 2014 9:03 pm
I'll probably be back in Scotland before finishing the Welsh Hewitts, only 3 weeks now till my trip to Ardnamurchan!
My annual pilgrimage(s) north of the border will be continuing, don't you worry.