Radnor Forest – What’s in a name?   18 comments

Regular readers will know that I’m on a bit of a quest to discover some new walking areas and the quieter side of mountain life. Aiding me in this quest are the “Hillwalking in Wales” guides by Peter Hernon and the second volume made reference to the Radnor Forest. I’ve driven past this area on the A44 numerous times on my way to the coast and the northern hills without ever giving them a second glance. It was time to check them out.

The previous day had been my grumpy walk in the Brecon Beacons so I wasn’t desperately keen to go out. However I’d promised Jane a day out in the hills and the weather did look ok. We’d chosen a horseshoe around Harley Dingle taking in the two main summits. As you’ll see some of the places have lovely evocative names hence the title of the post. (by the way even I’m not able to steer a perfectly straight line across the summit of Black Mixen – I’d forgotten to turn my GPS tracker on my phone back on after lunch)


Radnor Forest Route Map - 8 miles, 2000 feet of ascent

We parked up in the sleepy village of New Radnor and started up Mutton Dingle. The first part of the walk to the forest is up a punishingly steep road although as the views were expansive and there is no traffic it was no real problem. It would be a nice walk in spring when the hedgerows would be splashed with the colour of new growth.

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Mutton Dingle

Right at the top of the road there is a small parking area that would be really handy for a short out and back walk to avoid the road. As the route turns north along the side of the forest it turns into green path with views to the west over Harley Dingle and beyond. I don’t know why but I love these green grassy paths, probably that bright natural vivid green colour.

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Hardy tree

We even got buzzed by a low flying helicopter which appeared to be from the electricity board, checking on their power lines I suppose. And there was me wondering why my electric bills were so high….

I can safely say I was in a much better mood and Jane was thoroughly enjoying being out. Only downside is it was terrifically windy and would stay that way all day. As you reach the edge of the trees the little mini mountain of Whimble suddenly rears up ahead of you. There is no indication that it’s there until you round the corner of the path.

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Whimble

It just begs to be climbed so we pushed up it’s extremely steep west ridge onto the gale force wind on the top.

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Steep

The views were superb down to the Brecons and across to the Cwmdeuddwr Hills I’d been to a couple of weeks back.

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East towards Hergest Ridge

It’s a cracking little top and ideal for a summer stroll with the kids but today it was far too windy to hang about so we went down the east ridge and up again past Whinyard Rocks. We found a couple of airy little sheep tracks to contour around Bache Hill.

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Harley Dingle

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Harley Dingle

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Jane balancing in the wind

At one point we dropped into a tiny green valley with the most idyllic tiny campsite in it – well worth a return although no water source nearby.

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Secret green valley

We found an old quarry hollow just before the climb to Black Mixen where we had a draughty lunch. The whole place looked like it was about to collapse and was full of sheep sh*t so we didn’t overstay its welcome and headed onto Black Mixen. There is a somewhat unsightly communications mast on the top but it doesn’t detract too much from this vast heathery plateau.

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Black Mixen summit looking to Great Rhos

I was revelling in another totally new area with its new vistas and experiences and as I’d hoped we had it all to ourselves. The only slightly sad thought I had, was this would be prime territory for the evil wind-farm developers although perhaps the transmission mast might be a blessing in disguise – perhaps they can’t co-exist. Lets hope so

It was still pretty windy and cold so we pressed on around the head of Harley Dingle towards the highest peak of the area, Great Rhos. It looks a long way but it’s pretty much level and there is a decent path all the way around. In fact it’s a highly enjoyable high level stroll with views across to the rocks on Great Creigiau and the upper reaches of Harley Dingle.

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Harley Dingle

As we approached the summit the sun came out and the views became clearer and I could make out the Shropshire Hills to the north – Long Mynd, Caer Caradoc and Stiperstones – as well as a now sunlit Brecon Beacons.

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Jane approaching Great Rhos summit

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Brecon Beacons from Great Rhos

The paths across the summit plateau have been badly churned by trail motorbikes, it really is about time these bloody things are banned from upland areas – they cause immense amounts of damage. It gave the hardest walking of the day until we found a much cleaner and better sheep track to head down. I took a wander to the edge of Harley Dingle for a look and well worth the effort it was. It’s a superb pretty much hidden valley with steep sides and lovely golden autumn colours, a fantastic route for a walk.

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Whimble and Harley Dingle

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Whimble and Great Creigiau

Well it would be if someone hadn’t given it to the MOD so they can practice shooting at things. The whole valley right the way to the summit plateau is completely out-of-bounds. A travesty in my book, insult to injury from the fact the valley floor is littered with sheds and excavations making the whole place look like a building site. Rant over. Probably

I wandered along the edge taking in the views and Whimble now looked even better from this angle. We found a nice sheltered hollow on the way down for afternoon tea and we enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine.

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Afternoon tea

There is a nice long raking path that drops you into the end of Harley Dingle so at least you can see the start. In fact it’s a lovely place for a summer picnic by the river and If you are lucky the army won’t shoot you

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Harley Dingle

All that remained was a short walk around the hill to New Radnor but even then the sun came out for one last blast and we were treated to some glorious autumn sunshine lighting up the valley and New Radnor itself.

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Approaching New Radnor

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Autumn sunshine

So the Radnor Forest was another new area explored and what a top-notch one it was too. Another great day when I should have been working and all the better for the company of my wife to make sure I stayed out of the grumpy zone. Highly recommended with varied scenery from little mountains, to deep valleys and wild heather moorland. There are several longer options to take in other well named spots like Davy Morgan Dingle and a waterfall called “Water Breaks it Neck” as well as decent looking horseshoe from the north. On top of that, no-one has heard of them so they are deserted. Apart from a woman walking her dogs at the start we didn’t see anyone all day. Give them a go

I even managed to find a song called “Radnor Forest” to go with little slide show!

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18 responses to “Radnor Forest – What’s in a name?

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  1. Some dramatic views down the Dingle. Many years since I last visited this area, lovely and quiet. I have always fancied walking the hills to the south of the A44 – Gwaunceste hill and it’s surrounds, a large area of uplands on my map to the west of the Hergest ridge. Hopefully no wind farms there yet?

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    backpackingbongos
    • Oh yeah – just had a look at the maps, looks like some interesting wild uplands there – I’ll have to do some digging and see if I can find some routes or just give them a go – less than an hour from the front door – definite idea for my next day out. Don’t think there are any turbines there – yet!

      Really enjoyed the Radnor Hills, they had their own unique charm and strangely hidden from the road. No reals clues to the summits or the valleys tucked in there from the road. Be great to repeat that walk in the summer-time, late evening or in winter under snow

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  2. Well – you have to go back just to see what “Water breaks its neck” looks like surely? It’s like some kind of American Indian name. (I’ve just been reading “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” a history of the latter part of the nineteenth century from an Indian perspective. It’s incredibly sad, and it makes your blood boil, but the very poetic names, especially for Months will also stick with me. For November from various tribes: Freezing River Moon, Moon When the Water is Black with Leaves, Rutting Deer Moon, Geese Going Moon, Snowy Mountains in the Morning Moon, and perhaps most appropriately at present, to the Creek simply: Big Wind)
    Looks like a nice walk BTW. Good to get out together once in a while, if you can swing it.

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    beatingthebounds
    • Some great sounding names there but I can imagine its a very sad book and a poignant reflection on a repressed and dying culture.

      I’m trying to make the most of this time I have to get out in the week. At some point I’ll have tp go back to work but it’s good while it’s lasting. Did you get my e-mail about a possible walk with GM and UF this coming Sunday?

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  3. Reblogged this on inspiredweightloss.

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  4. hidden hills and hidden valleys sounds like my kind of place. Beautiful light in that last couple of photos.

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    • The tops and the valleys were superb but the highlight of the day was the final walk across the fields in the low sunlight – just superb. The camera really did capture the light, just stunning though I say it myself 🙂

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  5. Mutton Dingle gets my vote as the best name EVER! Why are ours all in bloody Gaelic. 😦 😉

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    Where the Fatdog Walks
    • No idea why this area has such a range of unusual names. Nothing else like it in the surrounding areas. Don’t be too harsh on the Scottish ones – you have Cac Carn Mor and Beag – big and little sh*t cairn 🙂

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  6. Thanks for that Andy. I had never even thought of looking at this area for walks. It looks gorgeous from your pictures.

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    • Thanks Alan – well worth a trip these, very quiet and unassuming but bags of character. If you’re ever down this way give me a shout and I’ll take you on the tour – might not even charge you my normal fee 🙂

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  7. I still have an attraction to visit the Radnor hills again – I didn’t climb Whimble last time around!. The folds of the valleys are reminiscent of the Howgills, nice walking.
    The problem we found for backpacking was the total lack of suitable water on the high ground, it’s one of the driest areas in that respect we have ever been. Even Shepherd’s Well was bone dry and that was in April (see our circuit of Radnor hills and the hills to the south, including Gwaunceste Hill, Aberedw Hill and Carneddau).

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    • Thanks for dropping by Geoff

      Whimble is a really nice little micro-mountain – a real surprise to find it there as well. I’d been trying to think what they reminded me of and you’ve hit the nail on the head with the Howgills, that superficially smooth look – from a distance anyway

      Plenty of water up there – all locked up in dirty brown peat! I suppose you could dig up a handful of bog and wring/squeeze out the water – might be a bit lumpy 🙂

      I’ve been looking at Gwaunceste and the surrounding hills for my next day out – I’ll check out your post for some route ideas

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  8. An area I,ve never walked in.Looks fantastic and my kind of hills.Good bold shapes and names that make you want to climb them just to tell people all about it.The Brecon beacons have been on my to do wish list for 40 odd years now. Still time If I stay fit and upright.Great set of posts.

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    • Thanks for the kind words Bob

      These really were “surprise” hills. I knew there was something up there when I drove past but I had no idea that they had so much to offer. The valleys in particular are wonderful

      The Brecon Beacons are well worth a visit, you just need to avoid the main tourist route up Pen-y-Fan from the Storey Arms which is a tedious grind with far too many people. A horseshoe from either the north or the south is the best way to experience them. I’ve posted a few routes around the Beacons so hopefuly that should give you some ideas if you ever pay them a visit

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  9. A couple of points – Harley Valley desn’t belong to the M.O.D. – it’s a privately owned weapons testing range. The Army do seem to use it quite a lot though. And there is no right of access to the Whimble, i.e. no public footpath and it’s not access land, and Eric the farmer really is not happy about people going up there! Couldn’t agree more about the trail bikes (sadly, some of them are ridden by people from the village), but it’s still a pretty good area to walk (but don’t tell everyone, we want to keep it our secret).

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    Elaine Blackman
    • Hi Elaine, thanks for the comments and corrections. Wasn’t aware that Whimble was off limits but there were people up there whan I was walking. A real shame the the farmer has objections to people treading on it. We didn’t see a soul all day and very few people I know have heard of it so it should remain a secret 🙂

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