Notes on some mid-Wales Marilyns

David Stone

October 29, 2008

These notes record visits to the hills at the end of May or beginning of June 2007. They are meant to be helpful to anybody else who hopes to visit them, returning the favour others have done by putting their notes on the web. Since these hills are not much climbed, I hope these notes will add something to the information available. I know of no guide book which covers them systematically, except the two 2000-footers (Drygarn Fawr, Pen y Garn).

Some of the grid references are 8-figure, but they are only from a 1:25000 map, not GPS, so may give an impression of greater accuracy than they really have.

Rhiw Gwraidd

The top is not in access land, but it’s easy to cross the barbed wire fences from the RoW to the east of the mast, and you can move along near the ridge hidden from below by trees to the north and the ridge just to the south. At the fence on the ridge between the two summits the top barbed strand is missing, suggesting either that somebody broke it, or that one is encouraged to cross there. There was no obvious way to get from the ridge through the trees down to the forest track to the north. The RoW can be followed on the lower slopes, but disappears on the upper.

(I have no idea why the top isn’t access land. It all looked like rough pasture to me.)

(BTW, somewhere on or near the ridge or RoW to the north there is a small black clip-on – perhaps I should say spring-off – Recta compass, awaiting a lucky finder. Probably near a stile, gate, fence, or summit.)

Bryn Gwastedyn Hill

The bridleway to the east seems an easy way up. From the south, if you follow it as it contours just above a belt of trees, it comes to a gate. Here there are steep narrow trods up directly through the bracken in access land. But it is easier to follow the bridleway through the gate into what (despite my new 1:25k) is young plantation, above Bwlch-y-llys farm. A track forks left (roughly west) off the bridleway and curls round to a gate near SN988664 into the field containing the summit. (Since the bridleway is only a little below its highest point this might be a route from the north as well.)

For lack of time I did not visit Gwastedyn’s other, lower, top. But I think it would give good views. A fence or two would need to be crossed to link the summits, but they looked quite crossable.

If you use the bridleway through Pen-y-ffynnon farm, beware of the dogs; one bit me despite my being on the bridleway.

Carn Cafallt

This is a mixture of broad easy tracks, and rather rough ground. The track up from Llanwrthwl through Cefn farm is very clear, as is the northern branch off towards Wernnewydd. I do not recall crossing any junction with the bridleway towards Llanerch-afallen to the north. I used the wide track to somewhere close to SN948642, where there was a post indicating a bridleway south off the track, where I turned north and west, so I guess I must have been at the junction, though it was otherwise unclear. I then followed narrow sheep trods through low gorse, heather, and tussocks towards the summit. There are many low bumps in the land, which would make it confusing in mist. The summit has a cairn.

Pegwn Mawr

We parked at the tarmac road end at SO008808 just beyond Croes Ffynnon farm, SO008806. A little further north the track forks (*). We went up by the right-hand track, and soon reached a sign ‘no unauthorised access’. Assuming that this was pre-CRoW and seeing rough pasture beyond (we didn’t have a new 1:25k) we ignored it. If you follow the wind farm tracks as marked on the 1:50k you can get very close to the trig point at the summit, and walk across to it on easy grass. We then walked north until we found the point where the bridleway RoW should have crossed the track at SO022818. (It is useful that every wind vane is marked individually on the map.) Here we headed across the sloshy field to a rusted-up gate, very sloshy around it. This is the highest indication of the RoW; we followed the fence down, keeping just above it, until a clear track appeared at another gate; this eventually becomes the lower fork mentioned earlier (*).

As we drove down through Croes Ffynnon farm the farmer accosted us. He wasn’t aggressive, but said we should have asked permission – which he normally gives. At first there was some confusion since he seemed to believe we had driven up to the top (quite possible on the good tracks); it wasn’t clear when he referred to the ‘no unauthorised access’ sign whether he thought we’d ignored it in the car. I mentioned the bridleway RoW – he didn’t seem to recognise its existence. (Note that if you follow the RoW up, you can then use the wind farm tracks on the summit plateau to reach the summit, without passing any keep-out signs, though you would have to climb locked gates.)

Cefn Cenarth

There is clearly no right to be on this hill, so we approached with caution. We parked in one of the little quarries on the south side, perhaps near SN965755, and went up through the oak woods – rough, steep, but not difficult. Despite the 1:50k, the top edge is fenced with a barbed wire fence. The top is easy grass. We went round the edge of the trees keeping just west of the ridge, then walked through the conifer plantation on the top towards the north summit. The trees were mature and so this was fairly easy. After a quick dash to the top, we retraced our steps through the trees, went to the south summit (probably lower, but hard to be sure). We then used the gate in the corner of the field at SN96767604, just west and a little north of the south summit. This was the start of a good track which zigzagged down the west flank of the hill, eventually appearing on the main low contouring track (near SN966763, though that’s a guess) which leaves the minor road corner at SN963757. At the bottom of the zigzags, where the track starts up from the contouring track, there is a post indicating a Radnorshire Wildlife Trust permissive path. Thus at least the contouring track is open to the public. I should suggest this track as a good way up this hill.

Garreg Lwyd

We did this just after Cefn Cenarth, so from the east and north. We used the track leaving the road to gain height past Cilrhye. It fades out once it reaches the flatter land, near a sheepfold at SN956748 – this is marked as a building on the 1:50k. Here our intention was to contour using the footpath RoW, and then to the track at SN951742, keeping roughly at the same height. There was, however, no trace of the RoW (well, near SN953744 a bank and ditch might have been along its line), and there were several barbed wire fences – all crossable, but tiresome. At the end of the RoW was a clump of trees (perhaps once a screen for a building). After heading across fields by compass, the track appeared, and led us round to the end at SN943739, at a gate. If you go up the grassy slope leftwards you will find a stile in the upper fence, roughly in the right line for the summit. There was no sign of the public footpath near but not on the ridge. Above the stile heathery access land and one more barbed wire fence can be crossed to the summit.

Disgwylfa Fawr

We parked by the lakeside road at SN737867, and followed the byway and bridleway, clear easy tracks, round to just beyond the corner of the trees (about 100 m beyond the point on the track closest to the corner, SN72858513). Here a broad fairly clear path heads off; it is not quite clear as it leaves the track, but becomes more so. It is made by motorbikes, apparently. This takes you up close to the summit.

Drosgol and Banc Llechwedd-mawr

To help judge the comments about stream-crossing, this walk was done at the start of June after a wettish May, 2007. We parked at Maesnant. We followed the clear track east to the footbridge over the Hengwm SN78458915. The ford alternative was not crossable with dry feet in walking boots. We then crossed the Hyddgen, trying to pick up the bridleway marked on the map. It was tricky to cross the Hyddgen, but possible to keep your feet dry if you didn’t find too slippery stones. [I have since heard that there is now a footbridge near here.] The tussocks on the flattish land nearby are throughly unpleasant – you lurch along. We then followed the line of the bridleway on the south side of Banc Llechwedd-mawr. I do not think there was anything more than fragments of sheep-trod. We then crossed the Afon Llechwedd-mawr (more horrid tussocks at about SN767888). The crossing was very similar to the Hyddgen. Walked up Drosgol without any problems – mostly grass and whinberries, but we found no path. Descended north towards the building at SN762889 near the Afon Llechwedd-mawr, and crossed it. The walk up Banc Llechwedd-mawr was easy though pathless. The summit ridge initially confused us – the summit is at the far (north-eastern) end, and looked at first sight a long way, but is an easy stroll. Descended easy slopes due east to cross the Hyddgen further north than earlier – no easier to cross, but fewer tussocks. Back to Maesnant as we came.

Note that the track on the east bank of the Afon Llechwedd-mawr as far south as the building, and that on the east bank of the Hyddgen, both existed.

Pen y Garn or Bryn Garw

We parked near the road corner at SN791753. Going up we followed the track from the road corner, even though there was a sign saying ‘pedestrians prohibited’, the gate was topped with barbed wire, and the fence nearby had nails driven through it, points sticking outward. Why the landowner wanted to stop people following the track I don’t know – it’s boggy and waterlogged, but only passes ruins, not his farmyard. From SN79237585 a good wide unmetalled road snakes up the hill, and passes next to the trig point, closer than my 1:50000 suggests: I think there are more tracks, probably associated by the wind farm now NE of the summit. Checking later on a 2005 1:25000, several tracks including the one very close to the summit were not marked.

Though this way on the road was easy, the land to the north, and more so east, looked unpleasant – peat hags. A new wind farm meant that there were some tracks, but off them must have been rough and boggy.

Coming down we thought we’d try a non-prohibited alternative. At SN79237585 we took the upper track which kept just inside the access land, gently rising, and followed the edge of the access land. When the track ended, we just kept to the fence edging the access land. Just one barbed wire fence to cross, and we reached the footpath RoW at SN79157510. Here we were set upon by dogs from the house adjacent – so much for trying to be good.

Hafod Ithel (Mynydd Bach)

This was very easy from the minor road just to the west of the summit. A path starts going NE from the parking area (SN60856790) between the hill and the monument, and curls SE to the top. It’s not even worth putting boots on, unless it’s pouring.

Waen Claerddu or Llan Ddu Fawr

We parked near the cattle grid on the minor road to the south of this, at about SN78456832. We roughly followed the line of the fence to start with, a little to its east, then headed to the trig point top. The fence can be climbed, and the ground just to its west is more interesting, so at least on a clear day it’s probably better to follow the higher ground just west of the fence. The ground is rough but not really difficult; if it was misty you might find that sticking to a compass bearing would lead you though the boggier patches which it is easy to avoid if it’s clear. There are many minor knobbles. My own opinion is that the trig point is higher than the other summit Carnyrhyddod, to the NE, but we went across and back to Carnyrhyddod to be sure; the latter’s cairn is distinctive, with a white quartz top.

Drygarn Fawr

We parked at Llanerch Yrfa fords. The forest road is clear and easy to follow up to the gate at SN85155625. (We saw no trace of the bridleway where it should cross near SN84505625.) From the gate onto the open moor, there is a path, though its start isn’t quite clear. If you go onto the patch of smoother grass on the left, then go up it until it becomes rough grass, the path starts into the rough grass at the left of the patch. If you cannot find it, you’ll probably stumble across it if you just take a bearing for the summit cairn, and head in a straight line. The path leads all the way to the summit. It’s not quite good enough to follow easily in mist, and it’s wet in places, but in good weather there’s no problem with it. It goes broadly in the same direction as the non-existent RoW, but starts further south, and unlike the RoW, it gains the summit ridge once the ridge becomes definite. The grass is tussocky, and the path flatter.

On the top there is a narrow trod to the lower eastern cairn, and one led on from there towards Gorllwyn, though we did not follow it.

Pen-y-garn Goch

This was an unpleasant hill – covered in dense conifers. However, it can be climbed without any desperate manoeuvres. We parked at the start of the forest road just beyond Bwlchmawr Farm, at about SN890503 (the forest track was not marked on my 1:50k). Up the track N (direction very approximate), zig SW, zag N, pass a metal barrier, zig, long stretch, zag (this one in a felled area, just replanted), turn right at a junction, keep going until the main track ends at a turning area. From then the track degenerates into a firebreak. Curl round the hill on this – rough but not in dense trees – until you find the wooden arrow on the ground kindly placed by Jim Fothergill. (The arrow is of 3 sticks each about a metre long.) Cut through the trees, in the direction of the arrow, to the summit. The summit itself is clear (June 2007) and gives good views; there are many stones piled, slightly higher than the trig point. If you find yourself trying to go more than about 10 m through trees, not on a track or firebreak, you have either gone wrong or enjoy being scratched by conifers. There are shortcuts that can be taken, but they will change as trees grow and are felled. (Sorry about the lack of grid references, but I didn’t know where I was on the unmapped track.)

Bryn Arw or Bryn Arrw

We parked at the car park at SO292200 between Bryn Arw and Sugar Loaf. We used the farm road (public footpath) going up the western side in a large zigzag. Thie can be cut short by a permissive path by the nant, though the bottom end of this is nettles and a muck heap (SO295202). If you go by the farm, you find that the farmer has made a large yard across the start of the unfenced section, and put a fence across the line of the RoW – but a nearby gate allows you out of the yard. Once you reach the open hill, you find bracken everywhere – so summer is a bad time to visit this one. There are many narrow paths that wind circuitously through the bracken. There seem to be two summits of very similar height, at SO303202 (south) and SO30152065 (north). Both have much gorse, and so it is hard to know which is higher, or where the exact top of either summit is. A path links the two summits. Further south of the south summit the ridge is clearly lower, though not by much; older maps suggest this as the top (SO304197), which seems wrong.