A post-op Northern Berwyns round in perfect weather

Hewitts: Cadair Berwyn, Cadair Bronwen, Moel Fferna, Moel Sych, Moel yr Henfaes, Mynydd Tarw

Date walked: 18/10/2018

Time taken: 10.75 hours

Distance: 33.5km

Ascent: 1496m

I had a shoulder op in mid-August, and the recuperation process was now at a stage where I didn’t have to walk around in a sling. Cranking out theoretical miles on a turbo trainer is all very well when there’s no alternative; but, once the sling is off, no retiree with a love of the hills and a clear diary could resist the promise of the forecast for Wednesday…

The bunch of hills nearest to me is the Berwyns. It was roughly a couple of decades since I’d visited them, so I’d already worked out an alternative to my original route that looked doable in autumn daylight hours; and this is pretty well what I stuck to.

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Most importantly, on my map the village I planned to start from and finish in sported the symbol for an establishment of cultural, historical and architectural distinction… It’s good to mix a little culture with the experience of the great outdoors :D .

Official dawn time was 07.45, but I know from previous experience that this is excessively conservative: walking daylight begins around 45 minutes earlier than this. So leaving home at 05.00, I arrive at Llanarmon DC (a bit like Washington DC, only a bit different…) in good time, and am underway around 07.00.

Image20181018_072227. The clear dawn sky augers well for the rest of the day. It’s light enough for walking, but I need a torch for map reading.

My first goal is the Iron Age site ...

that occupies the hill of Mynydd Bach, as much as anything because it gets me off the metalled minor road I started on. Initially I'd assumed it was a Roman Fort site, because of the name of the wood immediately adjacent to it – Roman Camp Wood; but a little investigation in COFLEIN indicates that it’s an iron age “defended enclosure”.

Image]20181018_072333. As I climb the hill, the rather picturesque Llanarmon DC gradually comes into view.

Image20181018_073420. This is the summit of Mynydd Bach, in the centre of the enclosure. There's not a huge amount to see at the site itself. The boundary of the enclosure isn't that easy to see on the ground, but it's very clear in the aerial images on the sites below.



About a third of the way in from the RHS of the pic is my next target: the unnamed 563m spot height. The first half of the route is very easy walking through grazed fields, before I'm out on to the open moor. Initially there's a decent tractor track, after which it's off-piste heather-bashing through knee-deep growth. The highlight is starting a snipe, the first of two I see during the day :D .

Image20181018_075958. The sun is just emerging above the eastern horizon, so I stop to take some pics. And do exactly as I did on my last walk before my op - put the map case down on the ground!!! :roll: I don't know how many screw-ups it takes before I learn... Fortunately I only walk on for about 15 minutes before I realise what I've done. I'm not very sanguine about finding the map case again in the rough heather, but anyway I go back to the last point where I'm sure I had it and then retrace my steps. Some excessively sympathetic god must be active, for I do manage to spot it - big sigh of relief!

Image20181018_083346. Looking back towards the iron age site at Mynydd Bach (centre pic).

Image20181018_083937. Panorama looking west from the trig point close to the 563m spot height, with the Berwyns just left of centre.

When planning the route, a particular stream had caught my eye because it seemed to have almost a kilometre of waterfalls along its course as it dropped through a steep-sided valley.
Image Should be well worth a visit, I thought.

The only downside is a couple of kilometres of heather-bashing...

Image20181018_091119. ... but it proves to be well worth it. This is the first of the falls. I hear it long long before I get to it, for the water hitting a large boulder and echoing through the valley sounds like a tractor harrowing.

Image20181018_091838. Looking downstream (south) from more or less the same point.

I descend the steep hillside with considerable care, the dire admonitions from my surgeon about avoiding falling on to the operated shoulder echoing in my brain. I cross the stream, and as I ascend the opposite hillside at a gentle angle, am treated to the sight of one cataract after another. Brilliant.



Image20181018_094809. Looking back south the way I've just come: the 563m spot height hill more or less centre, and the waterfalls valley on the right.

After the heather- and bracken-bashing, it's something of a relief to get to the track that leads to the base of Moel Fferna. Progress is now much swifter. Initially the track heads west, before then swinging north.
Image20181018_100143. At this point the three main Berwyn hills are visible in the (far) south west.

Image20181018_100159 Zoomed and labelled.

Image20181018_100945. Whilst to the north is Moel Fferna, the first Hewitt of the day.

Image20181018_102645. Quite wild up here - this looking roughly south, the Berwyns on the RHS of the pic.

I follow the track to within a few hundred metres of Moel Fferna, and cut-off right to head straight to the summit. As I get to the watershed on the bwlch to the east of the summit I hit a horribly churned up 4x4 track that isn't shown on the map. I can't imagine why folk need to take 4x4s up here, and they've made the most terrible mess ...
Image20181018_103522. ... it's even visible on Google Earth :shock: :( .

Image20181018_103923. The heap of stones on the summit is quite dramatic. This shot is looking just south of west, with the Berwyns on the LHS.

After a breakfast croissant, and a pause to admire the views and soak in a bit of sunshine, I head off west along the parish boundary, which I follow more or less continuously from now on - simply because it's the obvious route. The fence is evidently quite new - but it's not at all clear what the point is of spending money on renewing a fence in this wild bleak place.

Image20181018_111921. In many places there are traces of three generations of boundary fences, including the original (I suppose) slate slab posts.

Image20181018_113333. Notwithstanding the fact that a path is marked on the map following the boundary fence, the terrain is quite rough, and at times boggy. This pic is looking back along the boundary fence to Moel Fferna

Image20181018_115153. Looking ahead from the 604m spot height at 089374 to Moel yr Henfaes (which rather confusingly is some 2 km south east of where it is marked on the map - and as I discover after the walk is also pointed out in the WH description). Cadair Bronwen is the higher hill in the background to the left of MyH.

More rough walking, this time off-piste, gets me to Moel yr Henfaes. For some reason I forget to take a pic of the summit cairn.

Image20181018_121838. But looking SSW from the summit, Cadair Bronwen doesn't look too far now.

It's all easy walking from here...

Image20181018_130448. Close to the summit of Cadair Bronwen, looking back the way I've just come.

As I approach the summit, I see that there's already someone there. It turns out to be a fell-running lady, probably in her early or mid-thirties, who's aiming to summit 1000 UK hills in a year - average of 3 hills per day, every day! Wow - serious stuff! It seems she only started fell running four or so years ago, but she's already run with Joss Naylor - now in his 80s! I wrap up in all my warm gear - notwithstanding the bright sun it's quite chilly up here in the breeze - and we both have lunch, blethering all the while about hills, fell-running characters, Joss's 70 summits when he was 70, etc. etc. As you do :roll:

Image20181018_131342. She kindly takes a someoneelsie, looking more or less west.

Image20181018_135856. Looking west and north, pretty well all the significant hill groups within 50 km are visible - just wonderful.

Image20181018_135856 labelled


Image20181018_140036. After almost an hour on the summit I'm beginning to get a bit cold, so I get moving again towards the next goals, Cadair Berwyn and Moel Sych. There's an excellent path over the boggy ground, created by pairs of sleepers with black plastic geogrid stapled to the top to give a good grip.

Image20181018_141000. Looking back north towards Cadair Bronwen, showing again the excellent walkway.

Image20181018_142138. And forward and south to Cadair Berwyn and Moel Sych.

Image20181018_142148. The views in every direction are just heart-warmingly wonderful. This is looking ESE down Cwm Maen Gwynedd. The shoulder on the LHS of the pic is the one I plan to return to Llanarmon DC along.

Image20181018_142426. The steep scarp slope is quite reminiscent of the Brecon Beacons...

Image20181018_143600. Looking back north from the summit of Cadair Berwyn towards Cadair Bronwen...

Image20181018_143614. ... and from the same location, south towards Moel Sych.

Image20181018_144929. Easy walking along to Moel Sych. This view is looking more or less south from the summit of Moel Sych, with Llyn Lluncaws in the middle distance - looks like quite a fine camp spot.

There's a family group lunching here, and another half hour is spent in soaking in the sun and some idle chat. Then it's back the way I've come to the point where I drop of the lip of the scarp heading towards Tomle, Foel Wen and Mynydd Tarw...

Image[20181018_151144. ... all of which are clearly visible.

Image20181018_151144 labelled.

Image20181018_152901. Cadair Bronwen viewed from the east in the afternoon sun looks particularly fine...

Image20181018_153348. ...while to the west, the autumnal afternoon sun is already silhouetting the Berwyn ridge.

From the ridge, the route to Tomle and Foel Wen looked like it might involved a bit of heather-bashing, but in fact it turns out to be easy going.

Image20181018_154102. The "cairn" at Tomle is very much in the tradition of many Welsh cairns - somewhat underwhelming!

Image20181018_154122. I have to keep looking back west up to the Berwyn ridge, looking splendid, though a bit difficult to photograph against the declining sun.

Image20181018_161156. Here the same view from the summit of Foel Wen - I took this pic because of the dramatic colour contrast between the manicured field and the upland turf, but it doesn't come out quite so well on the picture.

Image20181018_162115. Easy path along the fence line to Mynydd Tarw.

Image20181018_163322. Looking back west along the shoulder as I approach Mynydd Tarw.

Image20181018_163600. Looking back west once again from the summit of Mynydd Tarw towards firstly, Foel Wen, and behind it and to the left, the Berwyn ridge.

Image20181018_164247. Looking east, the start of the descent to Llanarmon DC alongside the fence to the area of felled forestry, now just brash. The going is a little rough, but not really difficult

Image20181018_165600. Looking back west towards Mynydd Tarw on the descent.


Image20181018_173050. The final stretch of the path down into Llanarmon DC.

And I'm back at the car at 17.45.

I haven't drunk as much as I usually do on walks, having recently read about the hydatid flatworm, and seeing the large numbers of sheep about... :roll: . So I am more than usual in need of replenishing minerals and vitamins lost through perspiration.

Image20181018_175227. Fortunately, as I noted at the start of the report, Llanarmon DC is the location of an establishment of cultural, historical and architectural distinction, to which I immediately repair...

Summary: I couldn't have had a better walking restart: superb hills in superb weather.

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Comments: 2

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