20110619_MHW_Maesyrychen Mountain + Horseshoe Pass Linear Walk– A-Walk
Who : The Midland Hill Walkers – Walking Club
Maps : Route noted as best possible after getting home and finding my old 1:50000 OS Landranger Maps 117 (Chester, Wrexham & Surrounding area) + 116 (Denbigh & Colwyn Bay)
Start Point : Approx SJ 25,52 …. End Point : Approx SJ 20,45
Distance : Approx 21 km (13 miles) (by measuring wheel + map)
Significant heights climbed : 470 m (1545 ft) … see end of diary for details.
Summary : A-party walk with The Midland Hill Walkers – Starting near Four Crosses, Bwlchgwyn and taking in :- The Esclusham Mountain area [including The Pendinas Forest] ; Maesyrychen Mountain area [including The Ponderosa at the top of The Horseshoe Pass] and finishing in The Eglwyseg River Valley, north of Llangollen.
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As with all MHW [Midland Hill Walkers] walks, the coach left almost dead on 7:00 a.m. which had meant getting up very early to be out of the house by about 6:25 for the drive down the A45/A46 to Kenilworth. Rather than go through all the blurb about car parks, timings, etc. please use the following links to see my earlier posts about the MHW and the MHW’s own web-site.
Having left Kenilworth, we headed off to North Wales, eventually reaching our starting point and we all piled off to retrieve ruck-sacks from the coach’s hold. As I didn’t carry a map for the day, I’m not 100% exactly sure of where we started, but I’m fairly confident it was on either on the A525 or B5430 near to Four Crosses / Bwlchgwyn. If I had to say one way or another I’d probably plump for the B5430 at Tan-y-Bwlch.
[I suppose an apology might be in order here, to any Welsh speakers amongst you … I’ve tried very hard to get the spellings for the place names correct, but please forgive me if I’ve slipped up anywhere – my spell checker isn’t much help in this situation].
From here we set off generally in a southerly direction, on an easy if not very defined path across farmland, unusually for a MHW walk having a series of stiles to cross. The first pasture was really quite stunning, with a carpet of buttercups sparkling in the sun, enhanced with a group of Welsh ponies grazing contentedly. After a short rise we joined a rough farm track which wound its way through farmland (to my mind with a rather untidy feel about it), in a roughly south-westerly direction. Our stay on the track didn’t last long before we branched off to the right heading into tussocky, grassy, moorland to pick up the eastern edge of a coniferous plantation, [I’m gonna call it The Pendinas Forest or Plantation, after the name of a small reservoir within the dense trees]. There was a rudimentary path to follow as we steadily climbed with open land on our left and the dark forest on our right behind a wire fence.
After about a kilometre of walking up the side of the forest, we reached and crossed a stile to enter the plantation grounds. This was a natural place to regroup as the trees had been felled here and a group of large wooden carvings in the shape of displaying male grouse had been erected as a sort of outdoor art installation. These made excellent seats for one or two of our party, prompting several ribald jokey comments in the line of “ooh look I’ve sat on a large cock”…. not by me I might add, I couldn’t possibly be so rude, either that or I didn’t think of the joke first ! ….. Once we’d all regrouped we picked up a wide forest track winding its way uphill through a large area of what can only be described as a kind of devastation. The trees here had obviously been fairly recently harvested leaving a tangled mass of stumps and mangled branches. In amongst the mess however was the next generation of trees, the tiny saplings a bright green against the overwhelming greyness of the landscape. We had to keep our wits about us, not to mention eyes in the back of our heads, as there was a steady stream of mountain bikers using the same track, some coming past us at quite a lick.
After a while and at the top of the rise, our track headed into the forest itself. It almost immediately felt oppressive; the dense spacing of the trees creating a dark, lifeless feeling on both sides, but this was to improve a little as we emerged into a more open space at a cross-road of tracks. We turned right here to start our descent to Hafod Bilston. The track narrowing as we went, now part of The Offa’s Dyke long distance footpath (we were now heading a little north of westwards).
Overall, we weren’t in the forest for long, but I can’t say I was sorry to exit the plantation, where we turned left on a good surfaced farm road, immediately starting to regain some of the height we’d just lost. We had again reverted to a roughly south-westerly direction, skirting the edge of the plantation on our left as we went; the views to our right over the River Alyn valley, across to the southern end of The Clwydian Range of hills, were by far the most interesting. After about a kilometer we left what was now a track, branching right to head into rough moorland again. At times we were lucky enough to have a narrow path to follow, but at other times we had pure cross country terrain to negotiate (quite wearing having to push through the thick vegetation). This had the effect of spreading us out over quite a long distance before regrouping again as we picked up a narrow but much more defined path rising up onto the Maesyrychen Mountain area. The name “mountain” sort of conjures up a false impression of the terrain, as there aren’t really any peaks of a classic mountain range; it’s more a description of a generally high mass of land.
The new path moved us along quite rapidly southwards to meet another wide track (below a radio mast at Cryn-y-Brain, off on our left). Rather than head upwards in that direction however, we turned right to descend to The Ponderosa Cafe/service station with its sprawl of car-park on the A542 (Horseshoe Pass) Road. The environs of The Ponderosa became our lunch stop. The Horseshoe Pass road is very popular with the motor-biking fraternity, and The Ponderosa becomes a natural stopping off spot for the bikers along with car motorists enjoying the scenic route. Although a noisy spot (plenty of bikes and cars on the road today), there were some super views out to the east over to Worlds End on The Eglwyseg Mountain.
Our route was now to continue on the other side of the main road and one by one we packed up for the climb to the summit of Moel y Faen where our leader said we’d meet up again before moving off en-masse once we were all gathered together again. The path was grassy and easy underfoot, but the gradient was enough to raise my heart rate somewhat, however the views from the top were well worth the effort.
Leaving the top was almost a wrench, but onwards we needed to go, which was a drop to a broad coll, and then, instead of heading up to the next top (Gribin Oernant/Moel y Gamelin) we took a left turn onto a narrow “single file” path descending gently to the south. There were again super views, out over Clogau Quarry, giving a glimpse of the Horseshoe Pass Road as it makes its big sweep around the hillside. The descent now got steeper as we dropped quite quickly into the Eglwyseg River Valley.
I’m a bit sketchy exactly what path we used to reach and cross the A542 for the second time of the afternoon, but I think it was near Pen-y-clwdd. What I do know, was there followed a short sharp climb to pick up another path heading south through some woodland and then a gentle drop to again reach the A542 (I think near Valle Crucis Abbey). The final part of the walk was to re-cross the A542 again and then head north along-side the main road to meet the coach at a pub – I’m pretty sure it was The Britannia Inn.
Well that’s about it, apart from one last comment. The B party were taking the same route as the A party during the latter stages of afternoon walk, and we were half expecting to maybe catch them up near the end of the walk. Failing that we certainly expected the B’s to be sat enjoying a drink at the pub. But no, neither scenario came to fruition, nor could we imagine they’d got lost. It turns out they’d finished early, so had added some extra distance onto their route; I think they’d headed off down the valley in the direction of Llangollen and then made their way back up to the pub, to find the A team relaxing with a drink (or two), a good proportion of us were outside on the terrace, sat in the sun. The Bs were at pains to suggest they’d probably ended up walking further than the A-team, just for a change, and who could begrudge them that accolade.
Now that is the end, I hope you enjoyed my scribblings …. If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel welcome.
PS. ….. Break-down of significant heights climbed: (taken from reading contours on my 1:50,000 OS map, so only rough figures really, but a good indication of the day’s ascents)
1st rise = 150m (490 ft) … Tan-y-Bwlch to the highest point in Pendinas Forest.
2nd rise = 130m (430 ft) … Hafod Bilston to above The Ponderosa.
3rd rise = 140m (460 ft) … The Ponderosa to Moel y Faen.
4th rise = 50m (165 ft) … Crossing A542 up to Hendre.
Total heights gained = 470m (1545 ft)
Highest point = Summit of Moel y Faen at about 540m above sea level
The downhill bits were fairly straight forward, but there was one steep section dropping off The Maesyrychen mountain that my knees didn’t appreciate at-all.
T.T.F.N. again, Gary