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Cefn yr Ystrad
by Daveyf » Sun Aug 11, 2019 6:18 pm
Hewitts included on this walk: Cefn yr Ystrad
Date walked: 02/08/2019
Time taken: 7.5
Distance: 22 km
Ascent: 650m3 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
There were a lot of unknowns on this route, during my research I had a few question marks around access points, paths or more specifically lack of, and access around the quarry area. So with a positive attitude I set off with fingers crossed and a hope that it would all turn out ok in the end.
I managed to find a parking spot at Dol-y-gaer, just by the railway bridge that carries the Brecon Mountain Railway and a restricted entrance to Pontsticill reservoir. I found a gate which appeared to lead to a footpath on the other side of the bridge, there were no signs saying this way Dave, in fact no signs at all which to me equally meant it wasn’t a private field. So ahead I go, north-west initially alongside the railway and in no time came to another gate that had taken on the role of a barrier. Blocking the path and with no style in place, I was still unsure if this was a public path, but again definitely no signs saying keep out. I clambered over the gate and the path continued now heading slightly away from the railway. At the gravel road I turned right for just 10 yards before picking up the path again now heading north. So far the path was quite good and as the ground began to rise, the views to my left included the Pentwyn reservoir and behind me the Pontsticill reservoir also began to show itself.
Just as I was feeling pleased that the path was so clear and evident…it ended. I could see a stone wall ahead with a gate and without too much difficulty headed for that, through the gate and then followed some trampled grass to the left and then alongside a forest. An occasional visit by a path here and there but from here on it was a battle through the long wet grass until I got to the top of the hill. Wearing shorts I was very aware that a tick check would be required. Soon I came across a small stream where a suitable crossing point was found, along with a path which then headed up the other side of the bank. I followed the path for a while before it disappeared once again, the grass got longer and wetter and before long I wasn’t so much wondering about ticks, I was now more concerned about alligators and anacondas! Eventually the trig point at Pant y Creigiau came into view. A little after a mile ¼ from leaving the car, the first summit is reached.
At 1854ft it’s been a nice easy climb to the first summit, if not a bit wet amongst the long grass. The outlook is a little hazy, but Talybont reservoir can be seen in the distance and Waun Rydd can just about be made out to the north although not very clearly.
Heading off the hill it’s an easy 2 mile hike to the next hill top, the path is clear if not eroded in places but no problem in following it. The central fans to the north slowly start to appear as the haze begins to lift.
At Bryniau Gleision there is no trig point or cairn, a few bumpy bits and I find what seems to me to be the highest knoll of them all at 1765ft where I down kit and have a bite to eat. Closer now to Talybont, the view is a little clearer, Allt Lwyd just to the west of the reservoir can be seen leading up to Waun Rydd.
The intended route from here is south, crossing what is apparently a Roman road, (they seem to have got about a bit) and heading to the quarry about a 1½ miles away. The quarry was one of my areas of doubt, I wasn’t sure what access would be like and there were very few reports online on the summit of Cwar yr Ystrad. Again not a bad path and nearer the quarry there are several concrete roads about and soon I follow one of these towards Cwar yr Ystrad. The quarry lies beyond the road and between the two I can see a fence with barbed wire around it preventing access to the quarry. A little to the east of my target there does appear to be a gap in the fence but it’s too far away to see clearly so I carry on south east along the concrete road towards Cwar yr Ystrad. Approaching a brick hut along the road, I check my GPS and Cwar yr Ystrad is shown to be a mere 100 yards to the south east behind it, however there are ‘no admittance’ signs everywhere and barbed wire preventing access. I write these reports in the hope that it will inspire others to do the same route or similar and the last thing I want to encourage is trespassing or enticing others to enter an area of risk which I know sounds absurd given the nature of mountain walking, anyway rather than skip over the barbed wire fence I decide to follow the fence anti-clockwise around the quarry in the hope that it will eventually lead to the elusive summit which I still haven’t glimpsed yet.
After about ¾ mile the path turns left and climbs the hill, causing a rise in optimism. Heading for the high ground I eventually appear on what I thought may be the summit. I can see to the south west some cairns higher on a hill but GPS tells me this is Cefn yr Ystrad. GPS also tells me I’m now 300 yards away to the south east from this obscure summit! The GPS co-ordinates I have for the summit is Lat 51.81883 Long 3.33169 and on the north side of the quarry, however I’m standing on the highest point I can see (other than Cefn yr Ystrad behind me) and the co-ordinates for where I’m standing are Lat 51.81661 Long 3.32825 which is on the south side of the quarry, so I can only assume this is it, a fairly forgettable top at 1903ft.
From this point I can see the trig point on Cefn yr Ystrad and head down a col and up towards it. As well as the trig point there are a couple of large cairns and a couple of smaller ones, the smaller ones having a cross sticking out of each one. I head over to one of these smaller cairns to investigate. It’s a fine location just on the edge of the hilltop with fine views to the north and also views over where I was not so long ago looking for the very shy Cwar yr Ystrad. There is no inscription on the cross and I have no idea what it may memorialise. Having completed a little further research when back home, I learn this is a crash site of An RAF Wellington bomber T2520, which crashed here in December 1940 presumably in poor visibility. It set off from Lincolnshire on a bombing raid over Bordeaux, returning home it strayed hopelessly off course and in the middle of the night believing they were somewhere over East Anglia they descended only to strike the mountain top. The aircraft burst into flames killing all six crew. Another small cairn with a cross a short distance away apparently bears an inscription. From the small cairns I head off to look at the larger higher cairns, one of which is the highest point of Cefn yr Ystrad and at 2031ft just scrapes in as the days only Hewitt.
I head off from here in a generally south easterly direction towards Twyn Ceilog occasionally picking up a path which leads me to a tombstone in the middle of nowhere, there are some large initials carved into the tombstone although due to it being covered in lichen it’s difficult to make out. Still unaware what it relates to I continue towards Twyn Ceilog.
Soon a minor raise in the ground level is evident but only just. This is one of those ‘hills’ that has been steam- rollered to the point where you could easily walk past it. Apparently 1811ft above sea level with a drop of a nerve wracking 5ft!
A 2 mile trek across pathless grasses of all shapes and sizes now follows along the route to Pen March. It’s not as bad as it sounds, part is heather which seems to have paths going through it, but some of the grass is quite brutal horrible clumpy tussocky grass which is not pleasant to walk through. After about ¾ of a mile I come across another lonely tombstone, this one again has large initials carved in and is a lot clearer. ‘D of B’ ‘T M’ and ‘G H’ on the reverse. At the time I still had no idea what they referred to, now back home and with the power of the internet, do they possibly relate to the crew of the downed Wellington? The initials don’t match with the crew, so it’s fair to say I still have no idea!
Onward to Pen March. Overall the ground is dry and navigating around the shake holes isn’t a problem, however occasionally there are a couple of marshy parts where the grass is over my head and I try my best to get through these bits as quick as possible. I reach a high point (ish) and find my GPS tells me I’m still a couple of hundred yards away from Pen March, I blindly follow to those co-ordinates and feel stupid, I’m now in a depression, I return to the ‘high ground’ and decide this is the ‘top’ of Pen March. It’s farcical, how can this be a hill, it’s flatter than an ironing board , there is no summit feature, no summit in fact, just grass, lots of grass. I’m so unimpressed I don’t even bother taking a photo, simply because there’s nothing here to photograph! Merthyr Common a short distance away is also classed as a hill and at 1742ft its 13 feet lower than Pen March and equally as undistinguishable, I head to that point but I’ve no idea why, again a grassy snooker table. Feeling almost cheated I head off to a couple of cairns I can see to the northwest!
From a series of cairns above a ridge, Pen y Fan puts in an appearance in the distance. I head west down into a dip, through some more man-eating grass and head up to another ridge where the Pontsticill reservoir can now be seen and I head down towards it’s southern end where I’m hopeful of picking up a path.
Soon a stone wall appears with an inviting gap in it and at last a path appears which I follow down through a couple of cow fields, underneath the railway eventually reaching a road. Now back on the road it’s a right turn and all that remains is an easy, level 2 mile walk alongside the reservoir and the Beacon Mountain railway line back to the car.
Initially an enjoyable walk , however if I were to repeat it, instead of heading off to Twyn Ceilog, I think I would head south west from Cefn yr Ystrad along the clear track straight to the reservoir missing out the pathless , featureless second half of the walk and shortening the walk by about 4 miles.
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