Owl story II

May 6, 2010 at 11:17 pm | Posted in Wildlife | Leave a comment

We saw the owls fairly regularly over the next few weeks.

In the first week of May I got an excellent view  of the other owl late afternoon, just sitting in the sycamore above the pond

We had also heard chirping noise from the behind the panel in the barn but when these stopped we started to give up hope of there being a successful nest.

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Owl story I

April 23, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Posted in Wildlife | Leave a comment

Not much walking in April because of work commitments. Instead the spring highlight was the local owl family. In early March, I was  in the woodstore at the end of the barn when I heard a scrabbling behind a wooden panel attached to the corrugated iron sheeting (the barn is shell of iron and wood and just about still standing). I expected to see a squirrel clamber out, instead with a lot of effort a tawny owl gradually pulled itself out of the narrow gap and then took off out the doorway.  Over the next few weeks we saw the same sight several times, and hoped that there was a nest there. We tried not to disturb it but he or she (or both) seemed to get used to us going in and out and just flew off without too much panic.

We also saw the owls much more regularly during the day. In late-April, we watched this  owl hunting from  a fence post in the garden. He stayed there for at least 15 minutes, even while I was taking photographs.

Snowdon via Moel Eilio

March 28, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Posted in Walking, Wildlife | 1 Comment
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I’d planned this route to fit with a bad forecast for the day. Starting from  Llanberis it would give us the chance to come off the hills after climbing Moel Eilio if it was too wet on top of the ridge. Alternatively if the weather was good we could do a 10 mile loop going over the ridge and back via the Llanberis path below Snowdon, with various options to cut the walk short if necessary. There was also the chance of going all the way to Snowdon, though that would make it a 12 mile walk and around 5000 feet of ascent.

In the end the weather was excellent but half way up the steep slope to Moel Eilio, T had problems with his leg and had to go back. I continued up to the summit, which has excellent views all round, taking in the coast, Moel Hebog and the Nantlle ridge, Y Garn, Glyder Fawr and Snowdon itself.

From Moel Eilio it was a straightforward walk along the ridge to Foel Gron. The original plan had been good as there were easy escape routes back to Llanberis, but I carried on to Moel Cynghorion, which was a steeper climb. In theory I could have cut across to join the Llanberis path, but the route through the valley wasn’t clear. I had already decided anyway that I would at least go round the ridge and head on to Snowdon, if I had time. The summit had been tantalisingly visible for much of the walk and you don’t get that many opportunities to be there on a clear day. First, there was a leg-sapping drop and climb from Moel Cynghorion to join the Snowdon Ranger path. It was a lovely day to take this quieter route, I passed only a couple of people before the summit, including two guys carrying mountain bikes to the top! It was a perfect spring day so far, with a plenty of sunshine offsetting a cool breeze but as the summit came within reach it felt like winter again. The temperature dropped quickly to just above freezing and a cold mist was drifting across the top. There was still a considerable amount of snow on the path to the summit and beside the railway line.

As I approached the trig point the only other person around walked off; incredibly I had the summit to myself at 5 o’clock in the afternoon on a clear day. Then as I adjusted the camera, the mist came across cutting visibility to a few hundred metres but a bit of patience and the sky cleared and I had fantastic views of Crib y Ddysgl and Crib Goch (no less daunting up close) and of the Y Lliwedd ridge on the other side of the horseshoe. There was also a great view of the route I’d taken from Llanberis along the Moel Eilio ridge.

From the summit I took the Llanberis path down – except with snow on the ground I missed the point were it splits off from the Snowdon Ranger. So I did what you are warned not to do in winter and followed the railway line off the top. I can see why this is dangerous, snow builds up against the cliff side of the line but can then obscure the drop to your left. Fortunately there was only a remnant of snow and I could see the drop at all times, else I’d have backtracked. Eventually I reached Llechog, a rocky outcrop just a short climb up from the railway track and the final peak off the day. From here I dropped back down to joining the Llanberis path. This is the most straightforward (or boring) of the routes to Snowdon but I was counting on that, and an amble back with very sore legs suited me fine. Topping off a great day with a curry and beer in Llanberis was just icing on the cake.

The Glyders

March 27, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Posted in Walking | 4 Comments
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Walking with T, we took the classic route from Idwal Cottage near Llyn Ogwen, passing up the same path we had taken on the Y Garn walk in October but this time it was dry and we had good view of the walk ahead. We almost missed the turn off toward the Glyders but after that navigation was straightforward as we climbed the path up to the ridge with good views of the Glyders, Tryfan and back to the Carneddau. A steady pace took us to Bwlch Tryfan where we intersected the rugged path between Tryfan and the Glyders. Here we had the option to take the Bristly Ridge scramble to the summit of Glyder Fach – but this was never more than a theoretical option this time. Instead we took the easy path through the pass to the ridge running up to the summit of Glyder Fach.

There was a fair bit of patchy snow still lying on the top and a fair number of people, with a small queue waiting to be photographed on the famous Cantilever Stone. The views from the summit itself were excellent, with Snowdon and Glyder Fawr clearly visible behind the eerie rock formation of Castell y Gwynt.

From Glyder Fach we scrambled over the rocks of Castell y Gwynt and then had a lovely walk in late afternoon sun along the rock strewn ridge to Glyder Fawr. At 999m this the fifth highest peak in Wales (after the Carneddau and Snowdon), and there were more marvellous views from the rocky outcrops that form the summit. We then began the tricky walk down the scree path to Llyn y Cŵn, which lies in the bwlch between the Glyders and Y Garn. The light was just starting to fade as we reached the top of Devil’s Kitchen. We had enough light to negotiate the rocky path down but by the time we reached the lake we needed our headtorches but it was an easy path back and a nice finale to a wonderful day’s walking.

Waun-oer and Maesglase

March 7, 2010 at 10:25 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment
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Sometimes getting out on the hills is just the best thing you can do. This walk covered the fine, if rarely visited, ridge lying between Cadair Idris and the Arans. These hills loom over the A470 as it goes through Bwlch Oerddrws on the way to or from Dolgellau. It’s possible to walk up from the road but I followed the Nuttall route, beginning at the small village Aberllefenni. I took slightly different start though, taking the woodland path that cuts up from the road just outside the village and following this above the track cutting through the end of Cwm Ratgoed. Eventually a signposted woodland path cuts off from the forest track and its then a long haul on an a rough path through the woods. Eventually I reached the open hillside and it was just a short climb up to the ridge. The reward was a lovely view of Cadair Idris to the west. I followed the ridge north from here to the summit of Waun-oer. As you walk to the summit the view expands to include the Rhinogs, the Arans, and the hills of Snowdonia to the north. The other peaks of the walk stretch out clearly to the east.

While I ate lunch at the summit I was passed by a young lad running the trail in the other direction. I was even more impressed with his efforts when I realised how sharply the path dips after Waun-oer before climbing steeply to Cribin Fawr. I saw no one else on the hills all day – typical for these mid-Wales ranges and one of their great attractions.

There is no clear summit for Cribin Fawr just a series of tussocks of varying height, but again the views are excellent with the Arans stretching out ahead.

From here I followed the ridge across to Craig Portas with its awesome drop to the left. On the way I disturbed a couple of red grouse. It was a stiff climb up from the cwm below Craig Portas and then I followed the out-and-back path to Maesglaes. The path drops down sharply at a few points and there was also the remnants of deep snow in a few places, making for quite stiff walking at times.

The summit of Maesglaes is now recognised as Craig Rhiw-erch, rather than the old top, Maen Du, a little further on. I visited both tops with excellent views across the Arans – including the eastern hills I walked in February.

I backtracked to Craig Portas – which wasn’t as arduous as I thought, taking about half and hour. Then it was a straightforward walk over Mynnydd Dolgoed, with the lowering sun giving a lovely view of Cadair Idris as it dipped into shadow. A steep ascent brought me down to track through Cwm Ratgoed, and then it was a simple walk as the light started to fade alongside the river and back into Aberllefenni just as it became dark.

The Eastern Arans

February 13, 2010 at 11:42 pm | Posted in Walking | 1 Comment
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This was a 10 mile walk over the lesser hills in the Arans range, overshadowed by the imposing Aran Fawddwy.  It is could easily be a bog trot with mist or rain spoiling the dramatic views across the main Aran ridge to the west, but this was an almost perfect winter’s day. The snow had cleared from the pass but still lay on the mountain tops and the moors were frozen, making for crisp walking on ice-crusted grass and bogs. Although there was some cloud the views were clear all day with the sun breaking through occasionally.

I started at the car park at Bwlch y Groes and head across the snow dusted moors to the first summit, Llechwedd Du. A fence guides you most of the way to the summit, which offers good views of the other hills on the walk. From here it was an easy walk over to Foel Rhudd with a good view north to the Arenigs in the distance. I then followed the fence over Esgeiriau Gwynion, an indistinct summit but wonderful views. The sun was shining as I had lunch looking over Foel Hafod-fynydd and Aran ridge. The direct walk up the opposite slope of Foel Hafod-fynydd looked daunting, particularly with a covering of snow. The actual climb up from Bwlch Sirddyn was not quite as hard as it looked but it was still a stiff pull to get to the ridge. The reward was a fantastic view of Aran Fawddwy with the glassy calm of Craiglyn Dyfi below.

From the summit, I followed the ridge fence east, coming down the slope before it steepens to the ravine of Ceunant y Briddell. I crossed the stream and then followed the track that runs above the left bank. There were good views back to the mountains towering above the valley and a series of waterfalls at the lower reaches, before the track left the stream and joined the road a mile or so below Bwlch y Groes.

The walk back up the road was a tiring slog, with a blister on my heel and a pain in my knee it was a case of gritted teeth and resolution. Part of me was hoping the weather might start to turn so I’d have an excuse not to do the last summit (following the Nuttall route). But it didn’t and I reckoned I had just enough time to climb up to Moel y Cerrig Duon, which rises on the eastern side of Bwlch y Groes. From the road that heads off toward Lake Vyrnwy it was a straightforward walk to the summit. The light was starting to fade and the wind had more of a bite in it, but there was good view of Lake Vyrwny to the east. To the west, I could see across the whole of the Arans, picking out all the summits that I’d done that day. It was then an easy mile, following a fence, back Bwlch y Groes.

Pen Y Garn

January 24, 2010 at 11:43 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment
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Pen Y Garn is an outlying peak to the south of the Pumlumon range. There is little remarkable about it but it’s a nice stretch for the legs.  The snow and ice that had covered mid-Wales since before Christmas have now gone, except for a few vestiges on the hills and higher roads, so there were no more excuses, and as the route is mostly through forest it was also a chance to give the dog a good run out.

The starting point is the Arch, a 19th century monument by the side of the B4574, a winding  mountain road that runs across hills and moors from Rhayader to Aberystwyth with fine views over the Elan Valley on the way.

From the car park, , a wide forestry track leads up over 2.5 miles to the grassy slopes below the summit. I thought we might make things more interesting by detouring through the forest itself. This was a mistake of course. We did find a clearing with a good viewpoint looking across to the coast and the hills to the north but then had to struggle through rough forest paths to get back on the main track.

We probably took the least direct route through the confusing mix of fences around the summit and by the time we got there we were surrounded by a thick and very cold fog. The summit itself is now the site of a number of several large wind turbines, an eerie presence in the mist. After a quick (shared) sandwich, we followed the path south from the summit and then onto a track that took us all the way back to the edge of the forest. The only mishap was going into a mound of snow up to my thigh. Passing an old farm house in the middle of the forest, the farmer told me that a week or so before the snow had reached over the top of the farm gate. Now there was just enough snow left on the sheltered parts of the hills to make an attractive piebald patterning across the slopes.

From the farm it was an easy walk back through the forest to the car and then an enjoyable drive home over the mountain road. A good way to shake off  post-holiday, mid-winter lethargy and bag another summit at the same time.

The Berwyns

October 19, 2009 at 9:05 am | Posted in Walking | 1 Comment
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The last weekend before the clocks change seemed a good time to do a long walk and before we came to the end of a spell of fine autumn weather. The target was the 11 peaks that surround Cadair Berwyn, a 10 mile walk based on the Nuttall route with the addition of Cadair Bronwen. This is a fine ridge walk particularly the highest section from Cadair Bronwen over Cadair Berwyn and on to Moel Sych. Much of thLooking back to Tomle, Foel Wen and Mynydd Tarw from Cadair Berwyne rest of the walk is across moors and rolling hills covered in heather and bracken (dying away now). It’s boggy in places but there is only one section that involves a real heather-hopping bog trot.

I grabbed the last tiny parking space at the bridge (SJ 118306) on the minor road above Llandrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant. After walking through the farmyard at Maes (greeted by a couple of enthusiastic but friendly enough farm dogs), the stiff climb began alongside a wood to the top of Mynydd Tarw. This was a pretty hard slog up the steep grassy slope but it got the toughest climbing of the walk out of the way. From the cairn at the summit of Mynydd Tarw there are good view east over Cheshire and Shropshire. It was a straightforward walk from here across the twin peaks of Foel Wen and on to Tomle. I should have had fine views of Cadair Berwyn ahead of me, but disappointingly a thick mist hung over the high tops.

From Tomle, there is a clear path up to main ridge but I took the alternative track about half way to the inviting peak of Cadair Bronwen. At the top there were clear skies to thCadair Berwyn and Cadair Bronwen from Moel Syche north and east, but the mist was growing heavier over Cadair Berwyn and spreading towards me. It looked like the rest of the walk would be in thick cloud. Things hadn’t improved as I reached the trig point on Cadair Berwyn. The rocky outcrop to the north, now recognised as the highest point in the range, was barely visible but by the time I’d reached it the mist had begun to clear. This is a more dramatic peak than the trig point, with a dramatic fall away to the valley below and good views across the Berwyns and the hills of Snowdonia.

I then had a gentle stroll over boggy moorland to Moel Sych. The weather continued to improve and I had at least a hazy view around the hills of mid-Wales, the Arans, the Rhinogs and the Arenigs. On a completely clear day the view would be magnificent.

From Moel Sych the descent is via a narrow path beneath Cadair Berwyn and across Moel yr Ewig. This was easy walking along moorland paths except for a section after MoeCadair Berwyn from Moel yr Ewigl yr Ewig, which involved some strenuous heather-hopping, never fun on tired legs. It got easier though as I reached the non-descript north-west top of Godor. A little further on is the main summit of Godor, which gave a good view of the complete horseshoe. From there it was a straightforward walk down the ridge and through fields to the track that took me back to the road.

Y Garn (The Glyders)

October 3, 2009 at 9:10 pm | Posted in Walking | 3 Comments
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Like Moel Siabod, I chose this walk with the poor (and accurate) forecast in mind. We hoped we had wDevil's Kitchen and Y Garnaited out the wind and rain in the morning, but as we left the car park at Llyn Ogwen the rain started again. It grew heavier as we walked up the well-maintained track to Llyn Idwal. At least it gave T a chance to test his investment in decent  boots and waterproofs. On the way up we passed a succession of returning walkers soaked to the skin (literally in some cases). Some had been caught out on what should have been a pleasant stroll around the lake, others were coming down off the mountains, and at least  one suggested we might want to think again.

We decided to go at least as far as The Devil’s Kitchen – the rocky chasm that provides access to the pass between Y Garn and Glyder Fawr. As we stopped for lunch at the beginning of the steepest part of the climb, the rain eased up but I was as concerned about the wind as the rain. It was supposed to be gusting up to 70 mph on the tops, though it was fairly calm in the sheltered Y Garn (The Glyders)bowl around Llyn Idwal.

We carried on up the rocky ascent, passing several groups of descending walkers coming off The Glyders or Y Garn (who’d presumably been waiting for the break in the weather). By the time we had reached the plateau at the top of The Devil’s Kitchen, the wind had eased, though it was still strong on the exposed sections. The clouds had also cleared and as we walked up to the summit of Y Garn there were fantastic views of Tryfan and the Glyders as well as the Snowdon and Carneddau ranges.

We then walked down the steep eastern face of Y Garn back to Llyn Idwal with the sun setting as we reached the end of the walk. There is something about a wTryfan and Glyder Fachalk done in the face of the elements that gives you a sense of achievement (and if the sun comes out at the end to dry you off even better!). And though the mountains can throw much worse that this at you, it still felt like a good test. Next time it has to be Tryfan and the Glyders.

Moel Siabod

October 2, 2009 at 11:52 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment
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Moel Siabod is a prominent and isolated peak at the edge of the Moelwyn range in Snowdonia. It is climbed via a straightforward route made more interesting by an easy and very enjoyable scramble to the summit.

We didn’t start until after lunch and by the time we got to the parking place on the road to Capel Curig the mist was thickening. The summit was glimpsed for a few seconds as we left the car park, but that was the last time we saw it until we reached the top. The gradual ascent was pleasant and undemanding until we reached Llyn y Foel. The lake was sombre place in the mist, lying below the cliffs of Moel Siabod with the main ridge rising from the far end then disappearing into the clouds. The surrounding hills were little more than fleeting, shadowy presences.Moel Siabod

From here we started the ascent of the ridge, which quickly become as interesting but safe scramble. The mist thickened as we climbed and by the time we reached the summit we could see only few metres ahead. The wind was also much stronger and colder on the peak, so I just took a couple of photographs and then we beat our retreat. A little care was needed in the mist to make sure we kept in the right direction down hill but there were no real problems. As we descended into the valley the winds shifted the clouds to allow glimpses of the previously hidden valley below.

As the forecast for the next day was even poorer, it was good to get this walk under our belts. A pint and a steak pie in the Cwellyn Arms at Rhyd-Ddu was a fitting reward.

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