Pen Y Garn

January 24, 2010 at 11:43 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment

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.


Pumlumon peaks

July 25, 2009 at 11:15 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment
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A clear day but with the promise of later rain. Walking with an old mate, Graham, we climbed up from the Nant-y-Moch reservoir to Y Garn, the first summit. It’s a straightforward climb but there are a couple of fences to be negotiated. The views from the top were perfect stretching from the Irish Sea to the borders and up to Cadair Idris and southern Snowdonia.

From Y Garn it’s a straightforward walk across the ridge to the highest of the five peaks, Pumlonon Fawr. Visibility was still excellent and the views even better. I did a quick – if breathless – out and back tramp to Pumlonon Fach, which has good views over the reservoir, and then it was on to Pen Pumlumon Llygad-bychan and Pen Pumlumon Arwystli. The sky was no becoming overcast with spots of rain but nothing too bad as we extend the walk to the source of the Severn. A wooden pillar marks the actual spot, otherwise a nondescript point amidst the damp peat. Hard to believe that this trickle becomes the Severn but also strangely reassuring.

We then headed down to the Arfon Hengwm, with the weather and the ground getting steadily worse. This is the type of walking that really tests your stamina, will power and sense of humour (as well as your wet weather gear). We followed a rough path above the river – wading through boggy, waste-high grass. I managed to keep my feet dry until a slip allowed the water to go over my boots. From then on it was a case of head down and splodge on until the path got better and the end was in sight. Fortunately the rain stopped for the last section across stony track and road and gave us a chance to dry out a bit before reaching the car.  It was  an impressive 12 mile hike that had had a bit of everything. Afterwards we enjoyed a well-earned beer while watching a perfect mid-Wales sunset.

An early evening stroll up Black Mixen and Great Rhos

July 24, 2009 at 11:13 pm | Posted in Walking | 1 Comment
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A fine summer evening walk on the Radnor Forest peaks with Graham S. Found the right path up to Black Mixen this time to avoid heather hopping (stay to the left when reach the open ground and go up by the fence on the well defined track). Similarly on way to Great Rhos you can trust the path that runs out of the woods as it eventually winds round to the trig point. But still haven’t found best route off Great Rhos, need to go further west to find track that we did eventually join beneath the hill. Otherwise best to stay on the valley side for better views. In all about three and half hours for the walk and time to make it to the Harp for a quick pint before dinner.

Gorllwyn and Drygarn Fawr

June 30, 2009 at 9:49 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment
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Many warnings come with this walk, about the dangers of getting lost in a featureless expanse if the weather turns and about the boggy ground, which can be either knee or waist deep depending who you listen to! But the ascent was done in decent weather, from Gorllwyn I had clear views of the cairns on Drygarn Fawr. I then managed, with a bit of luck, to avoid the worst of the bog approaching Drygarn Fawr.

On the passage between the peaks there were numerous larks in the air, fervently singing in what seemed like a formal competition. There was also a group of golden plovers that kept well away and sent out a high pitched warning as my path approached them.

While having lunch by the second of the incredible cairns on Drygarn Fawr, the weather started to change and ominous thunder claps came from the north. I wasn’t too bothered about getting wet on the way back, but more worrying was the idea of being exposed to lightening on a moor where I was notably the highest object. In the end the storm circled the valley as I descended via Pant Glas and the rain held off. The way down is a tricky route at times, dipping between either side of the stream and often plunging through wet grass and bracken, but by the end the sun had come out and final miles were enhanced by the company of red kites and a circling heron.

Radnor Forest

January 24, 2009 at 10:00 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment
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Today I finally got round to walking the three main Radnor Forest peaks: Bache Hill, Black Mixen and Great Rhos – about 10 miles in all.

It starts with a steep walk out of New Radnor and through the woods to Bache Hill. The summit is hard to find and I needed to backtrack to a gate lower down the hill to get access but there are good views across the Shropshire Hills and back to the Black Mountains. Approaching Black Mixen the showers of sleet and snow started to bite and for a moment I thought of turning back to the start as it was pretty bleak on the boggy moor around the summit. The confidence that a summer’s walking had provided bolstered resolution and the reward was more sunshine – among lighter showers – as I made my way across to Great Rhos.

The walk round from Black Mixen is attractive but Great Rhos itself lacks features and easy to go off the track going to and from the peak. A mistake at the foot of the valley meant I wasted time lost in the heather before returning to take the bridle way that skirts the fence barring access to Harley Dingle. Coming down this was you can see why people have lamented the loss of access to the valley (which is used for munitions testing)  – a series of bluffs running below Great Rhos and Black Mixen with the Whimble also standing distinctly to the east and with a pretty stream meandering down the valley.

Today was also the annual RSPB garden birdwatch. All the usual suspects showed up – including nuthatch and woodpecker – but also had four long-tailed tits, first time we’ve seen them in the garden in a group.

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