20091115_MHW_Llyn Celyn to Pentrefoelas Walk
When : 15th November 2009
Who : The Midland Hill Walkers – Club Walk
Where : North Wales, Starting near Llyn Celyn (near Bala), Just inside the Eastern fringes of Snowdonia and then walking north to Pentrfoelas (on the A5, just outside Snowdonia)
Maps : OS Outdoor Leisure Map no.18 – Snowdonia Harlech & Bala Areas showing part of the national park (vast majority of walk) …. and/or OS Landranger Maps No. 125 (Bala + Lake Vyrnwy) and No.116 (Denbigh + Colwyn Bay Area) cover all of the walk.
Transport : Coach Hired by the walking club.
Start Point: 894,401 End Point : 874,514
Approx Distance : 12 miles, 19 km
Heights Gained : Difficult to say as lots of undulating ups and downs but something in the region of about 1500 ft (about 460 m) of significant ups spread over about four rises during the day.
Summary : A rather damp linear walk in a part of Wales I’d only ever driven past before …. Very interesting countryside despite the weather which was less than ideal.
More photo’s to follow with the text in a while or visit my flickr set for pic’s on their own.
This was the second walk I did with The Midland Hill Walkers (The 1st was Goyt Valley to Peak Forest in The Peak District). It meant an early start, leaving my home before 6:30 in the cold and dark of a Mid-November Sunday morning for the drive down the A45+A46 to Kenilworth to meet the coach that the club hire for the day. I’m finding it hard to believe this is over a year ago now but it’s still fairly fresh in my mind (helped by my set of photo’s and having marked the route on my maps soon afterwards).
Using a coach has various advantages, in that there are no long tiring drives either side of the walk; the leaders can organise a linear walk (which I think can give a sense of journey, that a circular route maybe can’t) and very often there’s a pub at the end of the walk for a relaxing drink before the journey home and a bit of a snooze. Obviously if you like company on a walk then a club using a 50+ seater coach gives plenty of opportunity for a chat …. but if the thought of 50 people in a long trail across the moors and hills is a bit much, don’t worry as there’s always an A+B walk, and the numbers generally split pretty much down the middle.
I was feeling reasonably fit at the time and opted to join the A-walkers for the day (probably about 15 or 16 of us in all on this walk) and we alighted from the coach onto a side road about 3 or 4 miles north of Bala on the A4212 at Ciltalgarth. This was very near The National White Water Centre (Canolfan Tryweryn) which uses the outflow river from the reservoir Llyn Celyn a little further to the west. We didn’t head down the side road though, instead having a short stretch of road walking on the main road (heading back towards Bala) and then crossing to head up the hillside northwards and then picking up a small stream near Tyn-y-Bont. This wasn’t the easiest of starts as the ground up by the stream side was wet and boggy, the rocks were slippy with moss and overhanging tree branches often made stooping down a necessity but eventually (not long really) we emerged into more open farmland.
After the closeness of the little stream area, it was good to get some views out over the Afon Treyweryn Valley …. well the views could have been better, but what was lost in extensive panoramas was made up for by the moody atmospheric conditions – It was quite stormy looking, at times almost turning the vibrant welsh greens a monotone shade of grey.
I believe the leaders’ original plan was to head up and over the hill of Craig y Garn and possibly Bwlch Graianog and Craig Ddu. However when reconnoitering, this proved a difficult route (fences etc baring the way) and so a slightly different way was required; this included rising up out of relatively kempt farmland to head into rough grass moorland. We’d had so much rain over the preceding days and weeks (well most of the year really) that the ground was very soggy as we climbed to a small rectangular stand of trees on the flanks of Craig y Garn. We caught a very brief glimpse of Lyn Celyn in the distance backed by Mynydd Nodol and Arenig Fawr further away.
The stormy clouds occasionally parted to give a glimpse of blue sky and we were treated to some lovely sunbursts in the distance – it’s an old cliché but every cloud has a silver lining and the rays of sunshine breaking through certainly lit up the gloominess, in particular an area of hills off to the east were lit up most attractively.
Once we’d passed behind the small wood we promptly started to lose much of the height gained as we picked up a route through Maesgadfa farmstead and then down to the smaller Nant Hir further down the hill. Our route then took a combination of tracks and paths across farmland … I got the impression that farming here could be quite hard but that could be because the very damp conditions both underfoot and from up above, this was highlighted by the awkward crossing of a small rill we had to cross near Beudy Ty-Canol, it wasn’t so much the stream itself that caused problems, more the soggy rough ground either side that forced us to hunt a little for a crossing point – I was glad I was wearing gaiters!
Soon after that, as we approached Pentre, amazingly a patch of blue sky appeared overhead, somewhat lifting the gloom as we headed over to Hafodnwydog. We’d pretty much been heading north to this point but our route was to take a left turn (westwards) to head away from the farmland back up into rough moorland – very rough moorland. The path on the map heads pretty much straight up to a shallow col between the hills of Craig Ddu and Craig yr Hafod, initially crossing a sort of natural bowl. This proved impossible to cross however due to the extremely boggy ground and we had to make a wide detour finding some higher and less boggy ground at first following the line of a wire fence northwards (the lichen covered wooden posts testament to the wet conditions here) and then swinging west and south through the moor in a big semi-circular loop across Cyfiau. This way was extremely tiring having to wind our way through large mounds of moss, course tussucks of grass and wet boggy patches. Somehow I ended up at the front of the party, probably aided by my long legs clearing the ground easier than my fellow walkers (an advantage of being over 6’ 4”).
It was quite a relief (at least speaking for myself) when we reached a rough stone sheepfold near to meeting the path again and quite near the col mentioned earlier. The walls of the sheepfold afforded a little protection from the elements as we had a short stop for some refreshments (tomato soup from a flask and a cheese sandwich for me – yum!). Once restarted, it only took a few minutes to reach the top of the rise and then start a descent into the upper reaches of the wild and remote feeling Hesgyn valley. The path swung northwards again to meet a track contouring above the small Llyn Hesgyn (lake). The path was easy to follow but was somewhat waterlogged and at times felt like I was splashing through a shallow river. This didn’t last long though as we swung right, rising out of the valley to skirt the top of Llechwedd Du (hill) and then about a mile descent to reach a minor road at Cadair Benllyn. It was here that we crossed out of The Snowdonia National Park although you wouldn’t know it unless you had a map with you.
The weather by now had brightened a bit, but had dropped in temperature quite considerably as the cloud cover lifted and broke up a little. Depending on which way you faced it looked either bright and sunny or stormy and angry, almost two days worth of weather all at the same time. The earlier adage of every cloud having a silver lining was even more apt now.
The way ahead now was very straight forward taking the minor road northwards and all downhill for about a mile to reach the small settlement of Ty Mawr Cwm by the side of the Afon Ceirw (river). It was here that we settled down for our main lunch stop. This turned out a little longer than ideal as our leader headed off ahead to try to suss out a slightly different route to the one pioneered. On our leaders return, we set off (still on the original route) heading for Cappele (farm). There was one very short sharp climb as we left the Afon Ceirw and after our lunch stop my legs really didn’t want to do this …. I don’t think I was the only one either.
However, we soon reached more level ground and then had to negotiate a rather awkward fence baring the right of way (without stile or gate) which was what our leader had gone searching for an alternative for. There was no other route, so we had a bit of clambering to do to cross the obstacle but once over we were easily able to skirt around the farm meet another minor road and then head north again rising and skirting around to the west of Moel Eglwys before another track joined our path to take us to another minor road to the east of Garyn Prys.
The gloom had returned again and was unlikely to get much better now that day was giving way to the early dusk of Mid-November. The next ¾ of a mile or so was on the road passing several places that I probably couldn’t begin to pronounce properly, but I’ll note them here (just to confuse my computer’s spell checker) … Brynffynnon; Bryn-hyfryd; Bryn-dedwydd and Hafotty-bach.
It was just after Hafotty-bach that we again left the road to head west on a bridle track, across country skirting under a sizable wooded area, pitch-dark against the stormy skies, to reach Gilar and then onwards to zig-zag on farm tracks to Plas Lolyn. Gilar had a somewhat fortified feel to it, the drain pipes on the gatehouse sporting the date 1623 giving an indication of the age of at least a part of the farmstead …. what might those walls have seen over the best part of 400 years of history ?
After a very little research on “the web”, it turns out the grade-II listed farmhouse was built c.1600 as the seat of the High Sherriff of Denbighshire … part of the farm is still a 500 acre working hill farm and part is now a Holiday Home and it’s their web site that also informs me the gatehouse is no longer used as entrance but still houses the original gate.
Dusk was now really drawing in and I’d hardly taken a photo’ since our lunch stop, and from here I might as well have put my camera in my rucksack for the final mile or so on a combination of paths and roads into Pentrefoelas (by far the largest place seen on the walk all day) and the end of today’s walk where we met up with the B-party and the coach. It turned out towards the end of the B-teams walk that they’d had to ford a swollen stream (they’d been unable to find a suitable crossing place) and they’d all ended up with their boots full of water and rather wet trouser legs to finish in Pentrefoelas a little before us.
Once changed into drier and more comfortable clothing, some headed up to a pub further up the village on the A5, whilst some of us chose the nearer Tea Rooms …. Well, the description Tea Rooms doesn’t do anywhere near justice to the small establishment, which turns out to be a well known (or even famous) chocolate shop called simply “The Riverside Chocolate House and Tea-room”, selling delicious homemade chocolates of all descriptions as well as a superb hot-chocolate drink which I enjoyed considerably. A superb ending to a rather strenuous day’s walking.
I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….
Next Walk = 2010 … to follow.