The Southern Arans: Glasgwm and Pen Y Bryn-Fforchog

July 17, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment

It was good to be back on the hills after three months away while working on a new report. This was a good reintroduction, nothing spectacular or very hard but enough of a stretch to get the stiffness out of my legs and cobwebs out my head  It also got me refocused on the goal of walking all the Welsh mountains. This is far from just a tick-list exercise though, even if the grander walks on the other Arans have a stronger pull.

It also gave me another chance to take the path beside the waterfalls at the head of Cwm Cywarch. I had done this on the descent from the Aran Fawddwy horseshoe but it was late that day and I was tired and wet and didn’t really have chance to appreciate it. This time starting from the Cwm Cywarch car pack I walked up the valley first – with fresh legs and sharper senses. The path meanders up between rocks and streams and a series of small waterfalls, which had a fair amount of volume after a week of rain. To the left are the impressive cliffs of Craig Cywarch and across from the valley are the steep slopes of Pen yr Allt Uchaf, which I painfully walked straight up on my last trip.

As the ground levels out into the boggy area around a small lake, the paths diverge. To the right is the path to Aran Fawddwy, but this time I passed the lake and went left up the hillside to reach the summit of Glasgwm. On the way to the summit, I could see back to Aran Fawddwy, shrouded in mist, and north to the Arenigs, which were still visible. Heavy cloud was moving in though, and when I reach the summit I was in the thick of it. I was just able to see Llyn y Fign, the moorland lake that lies just below the summit. As I sat eating my sandwich, I thought about how nervous I would have been a couple of years ago finding myself on the hills with mist all around. Now I was confident of the route and my experience and knew there would be little problem (and I wasn’t that surprised when I did get a little lost later on!).

Heading off from Glasgwm, I wavered for a minute to check which way to go around the lake and then followed the fence to the right and then as it bends to skirt the forest ahead. As the mist had cleared now, I cut across the moor to the corner of the forest, then on to the summit of Pen Y Bryn-Fforchog – which apparently means Top of the Forked Hill. It was much clearer now, hot even at times with the sun finally breaking through the cloud. Wheatears and other moorland LBTs (little brown things) were all around – and of course there was a raven waiting as I reached the summit. It’s a nondescript peak but there are decent views to Maesglaes and Waun-Oer and beyond them Cadair Idris.

The next stage was always likely to be the trickiest. Following the Nuttalls route, I was aiming for a cut through the forest to join the forest track but a large area of woodland had been cut down and the path wasn,t clear, if it still existed. So I headed off across a desolate landscape of stumps, logs, branches, mossy hummocks, bog and streams. I could see diggers parked at the start of a track and that was my rough goal. This was strange walking – bouncing across the firmer ground around the stumps and then working my way across beds of pine branches and boggy patches. I’m reading the collected JG Ballard short stories at the moment and this felt very familiar;  a post-apocalypse world with the remnants of destroyed forest all around.

Eventually I joined the forest track and seemed reasonably close to where I should be.  I followed this for a while but was always wary in case the path had been changed. When it started to wind down the hill side it looked like I was heading back in the direction of Dinas Mawddwy rather than to Cwm Cywarch. I backtracked a bit and found the faint path at the forest gate that the Nuttalls mention. I took this, passed over a stile and then joined the steep but clear zigzag path down back to valley bottom and the car park.

All round a good mix of views and effort and a bit of a navigational refresh – and the sun was shining as I finished. Not a bad day.


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