Archive for the ‘carnau’ Tag

A revisit to the Wild Side, Drygarn Fawr from the Elan Valley   10 comments

Oh dear, still playing catch up with the blog. Been busy with a couple of weekends away in Scotland so things have been neglected. Time to correct that

Waaaay back in late February we had a spell of pleasant weather just before the recent cold snap took hold. I’ve been introducing TJS to some of the easier mountain walks in the Brecons and Black Mountains so I thought it was time to up the ante and introduce him to wilder, more remote and taxing terrain. I’ve fell in love last year with the Cwmdeuddwr Hills  south of the Elan Valley and they fitted the bill for this trip. This time I’d approach them from the north from the end of the Caban Coch Reservoir by way of contrast

Drygarn Fawr

Despite a promising forecast it was gloomy when I got up but showing signs of brightness as we set off. By the time we reached the Elan Valley the clouds has dispersed and were treated to a glorious blue sky day. It felt almost spring-like as we set off

Waun Lydan, caban coch reservoir

Waun Lydan from the start of the walk

The first part of the route is along a wide track that leads to Rhiwnant Valley. The scenery was just magnificent under the blue skies and the Rhiwnant looked superb as it opened up to the west. We’d be heading down that way later and I was already looking forward to exploring it’s hidden corners.

Rhiwnant Valley

Trees in the lower Rhiwnant Valley

Rhiwnant Valley

TJS on the approach path

Rhiwnant Valley

Rhiwnant Valley

Our upward route took us up the very broad valley of the Nant Paradwys. I’d warned TJS of the rather wet and soggy underfoot conditions we’d be likely to experience and I’d put my heavier leather boots on to cope. The wide track soon turned into a sketchy path but it was pretty much dry all the way onto the plateau that held our summits for the day. The scenery up here is not dramatic but it is beautiful in an austere way and as I say I love it up here. There is an immense sense of openness and space that’s hard to find outside the wild moors of Scotland. I’ve not walked anywhere quite like it south of the Border and I hope TJS was enjoying it too

Nant Paradwys

TJS in the Nant Paradwys valley


TJS on Carnau summit

We stopped for a brief snack on the summit of Carnau and soaked up the atmosphere. It was beautifully still and peaceful with barely a breath of wind and not a soul in sight. Time to head across the vast emptiness that lies between Carnau and Drygarn Fawr. Navigation here in mist would be a real challenge and the last time I was up here it was a squelchy plod through the water filled grassy hollows. I’d warned TJS about this but to my surprise it was frozen and turned into a very easy and rather splendid romp across the parched grass all the way to the summit in less than an hour.

drygarn fawr, carnau

TJS on the wild land between Carnau and Drygarn Fawr

drygarn fawr

Drygarn Fawr from the east top

There was a cool breeze blowing on the top, a reminder that winter was still very much with us. Tucked away behind the huge summit beehive thingy on the eastern summit it was sheltered and warm and made for a perfect lengthy lunch stop. The views were just splendid and I was as happy as a pig in whatever with my cuppa and sandwiches. TJS is still a bit of an itchy feet hiker and hasn’t quite grasped the lazing around on a walk concept that I’ve been perfecting.

drygarn fawr

Father and Son

drygarn fawr

TJS on Drygarn Fawr summit ridge

Compelled to move we took a wander to the higher west summit top “bag the summit” as it were. We chatted briefly to a very nice couple and their dog on the summit, the only people we saw all day

Drygarn Fawr

TJS on Drygarn Fawr Summit

After lingering on the top until we were cold we pressed on, it was quite a long walk after all. After reading Mr Backpackingbongos account of a little backpack up here I was keen to check out the summit of Carreg Yr Ast where he’d spent the night. Sound choice, it was a superb spot perched over the Rhiwnant Valley and I made a promise to come back for an overnight in the spring or summer. We headed down, reluctantly as always on such a fine day to the valley below. A treat was in store with first a succession of tumbling waterfalls falling into the upper Rhiwnant Valley


Waterfalls on the Nant Yr Ast

From there the Rhiwnant Valley is just a delight. A narrow grassy valley with a tinkling stream at it’s heart. A narrow grassy path follows it down and under the electric blue sky it was a joy. I’m a sucker for these wild valleys and their waterfalls and the promise I’d seen from earlier was more than fulfilled. I could have sat on a boulder or a grassy strip for hours and just absorbed it all. Trouble is TJS feet were still itchy

Rhiwnant Valley

Upper Rhiwnant Valley

Rhiwnant Valley

Upper Rhiwnant Valley

Rhiwnant Valley

Upper Rhiwnant Valley

As we approached the lower part of the valley we’d seen earlier in the day the low angle of the sun meant we were in the shade. Where the Nant y Carw joins is the most beautiful pool backed by a waterfall and narrow gorge. On summers day this would be an idyllic spot for a picnic with a spot of swimming and river play. I’ll be back here if summer ever makes an appearance. The photograph below really doesn’t do it justice

Nant y Carw

Waterfalls on Nant y Carw

Onwards and downwards into the broader lower valley, past the old mine workings with an ever deepening blue sky overhead.

Rhiwnant Valley

Lower Rhiwnant Valley

Just before the path rejoins the track we’d started on earlier in the day there was a patch of what looked like Scots Pine on the opposite bank. Yet another truly marvellous spot to loiter to add to the many we’d seem throughout the day

Rhiwnant Valley

TJS rests in the spring sunshine

Rhiwnant Valley

Sun on the water

It was one of those days that even with tired legs and feet it was a real disappointment to reach the car and end the walk. One of those days when you just want to keep on walking. We both felt that winter was over and this was the first walk of the spring – wrong!

Gurnos, Pen Garn Ddu

Gurnos & Pen Garn Ddu

As a side note in stupidity I use a tool called Endomondo to create GPS tracks of my walks. When I got home it turns out that walk was a little longer than I thought. 58 miles over 9 hours with an average speed of 9mph and a top speed of 84 mph. Not bad for an ageing hiker and his young son in a day. Obviously helps if you remember to turn the tracking off BEFORE you get into the car and drive home. 🙂


Cwmdeuddwr Hills – a walk on the wild side   10 comments

Buried at the back of one of the volumes of my “Hillwalking in Wales” guidebook was a chapter about the Cwmdeuddwr Hills. Where the hell are they? Out came the maps and I discovered they are a range of hills to the south of the Elan Valley in mid-Wales. The general tone was one of tough, yet shy and retiring hills and open moorland with pleasant valley approaches. Just the thing for a quiet day out. The best sounding approach was from the north using the Rhiwnant valley. However it’s orientation would mean that at this time of year it would be in shade for most of the day so I chose to come in from the south near Abergwesyn. I also have an AA walking book with this route in titled “A walk on the wild side” (hence the post title) so armed with both guides and a map printed from Bing maps (I didn’t have the map of this area), I headed out on Sunday a couple of weeks back.

My usual map extract is below but in case anyone wants to follow my route and doesn’t have the guides I’ll be a little more specific than usual with a couple of route descriptions. As you’ll see some of the terrain is pretty wild and untamed so I hope my tips may help out.

Route Map - 11 miles, 1800 feet of ascent

I parked up a short walk down the road from where the route starts outside the local village hall. I got the distinct impression that this area is not frequently visited by walkers and it felt quite a lonely neglected spot as I put my boots on. The weather was reasonably clear although there was a hint that the tops may be cloudy as I set off across the fields.


Lower Gwesyn Valley

The first section is on a well made track down to the river where there was no bridge and I had to ford it (memo to self – RTFGB – I’ll leave you work out the acronym)


Wet crossing

As you may be aware I’ve been moaning on a couple of recent posts about my North Face boots with the hole in the rand. I’d tried some Heath Robinson repairs the night before (basically some ultra-strong duct tape over the hole) but the rand had been cleverly manufactured from a Teflon substance and it had already peeled off. The water was ankle-deep and a couple strides across. I just ran across it and ended up with just one very wet foot where the water seeped – sorry, poured – in through the hole. I’ll stop moaning now. 🙂


Gwesyn Valley

The path then passes a small group of trees and bends left towards the river. You don’t follow this but head up and across the meadow into the next group of trees where you pick up a path that crosses a small stream and then curves left to exit into a meadow below some farm buildings. If you then head up and across this field you pick up the main path that takes you along and into the Gwesyn valley. As you pass under some rocky outcrops the path turns north and you enter a stunning, wild and hidden valley.


Upper Gwesyn Valley


Upper Gwesyn Valley

The autumn colours were stunning and the stream had numerous small cascades and deep, dark, brown pools.


River Gwesyn

Just the sort of valley I love and I had it all to myself. It was a cracking walk up this lonely valley and I wasn’t even aware of any boot prints in the mud, a sure sign that this is not a well walked route. I alternated between sticking to path and trying to follow the river, looking at the cascades and trying to spot small campsites for future reference. After a while the banks became terminally soggy so I just returned to the path. There were several of these pretty fungi near the path but they aren’t in my Collins guide. Anyone know what these are?


Mystery fungus


Upper Gwesyn Valley

After a couple of miles you come to an impressive waterfall Sgwd y Ffrwd, a wonderful spot for a summer picnic, with some pools for swimming on a hot day.


Sgwd y Ffrwd

The path climbs up the waterfall and promptly vanishes into the boggy ground, and I do mean boggy. After a few minutes there is a fairly prominent ridge coming in from the right (for prominent read about 6 feet high) that gives some respite from the bog. Alas you have to cross about 50m of astonishingly deep tussocks and bog to get to it. Several times I found myself up to my waist in tussocks with my feet under water. When I reached the sanctuary of the ridge the fact that my left boot had a hole was somewhat irrelevant – both feet were now wet.


Out on the moors, Drygarn Fawr in the cloud in the distance

To compensate I coud now see this wild upland area expanding before my eyes. It appears as a huge expanse of brown grassy hills with little in the way of prominent features. It’s absolutely stunning, untamed, untracked and largely untouched if you can forgive the forestry plantations to the west. Looking north I could see that Drygarn Fawr, the highest point was still in the cloud but I reckoned it would clear shortly and so it proved.

Once on this very minor ridge you just follow it upwards for a few hundred metres and pick up one of the sheep-tracks running across the slope and start making tracks for the summit. There are no paths but I had no real problems stringing together a succession of these tracks and it was nothing like as boggy as I’d feared. Drygarn Fawr came out of the cloud as I crossed the huge tussocky expanse below the summit, revealing it’s twin cairns. Once up onto the ridge the going became much easier to the summit.


Drygarn Fawr

If you can find some water draining the bog there are plenty of spots to throw up a tent on the ridge. The two summit cairns are enormous and well made. Neither of my guidebooks mentioned what they are but they certainly stand out. They seem to be a feature of many of the hills in mid-Wales.


Drygarn Fawr looking east


Drygarn Fawr looking west

The views from the top are breathtaking in their wilderness. Just mile after mile of endless wild grassy moorland. The distances between the summits are vast and a walk from here to the other main summit of Gorllwyn across this terrain would be a serious test of navigation and stamina.


Looking towards the Rhiwnant valley

My route was taking me across the vast trackless wilderness to the summit of Carnau to the south-east.


The "path" to Carnau

There is a fairly obvious grassy track that heads of eastwards and I followed this with the boundary marker posts to my right for company. At the point where the track completely flattens and makes a turn to the left there is boggy path leading straight on, roughly following the boundary posts and onto the featureless plateau of Bryn Rhudd. They seemed to be scraping the tussocks of the moor for some reason. What’s left when they have I hear you cry? Bog!


Cleared tussocks

Main problem is the terrain is so flat you can longer see the cairn on Carnau so it’s hard to judge the direction. From here the guide said to simply keep to whatever passes for high ground to stay out of the worst of the bog although compared to the bits by the waterfalls earlier it wasn’t too bad. In essence you just keep vaguely following the boundary posts using whatever sheep tracks to ease progress. Safe to say navigating across this in poor visibility would need a lot a patience and skill with the compass. I was soon approaching Carnau with its little sting in the tail in the form of a swamp that completely surrounded the top. My drying boots were now replenished with a fresh supply of water. As I approached I saw a mountain biker on the summit but he’d gone by the time I got there. Turns out he was the only person I saw all day.


Drygarn Fawr from Carnau summit

After a brief snack I moved on, there was a pretty cold wind blowing and up here on the moors there is little option to find shelter. I headed down on a very soggy section of path towards an obvious river valley. As is my want when I’m out walking on my own, I was talking out loud to myself. I was halfway through the phrase “this looks like a place where my leg could vanish into a bog” when, well I think you can guess. It was my holed-boot foot as well although when your leg goes into watery bog up to you thighs, the hole in your boot is a tad academic.

The little river gorge of the Nant Gewyn and Esgair Gul was most impressive and the walk along the top edge and across the grass towards the forest was one of the highlights of the day.


Nant Gewyn and Esgair Gul


Heading towards the forest

There then follows a mile through the forest itself. I’m not a great fan of forestry road walking so I just pushed on through to the other side for the start of the final stretch down. The first part of this was along a farm track fenced in on both sides, again not my idea of pleasant walking and totally out if keeping with the wild landscapes from the earlier parts of the day. Once past the farm the character changed completely with some stunning views across the east and lovely autumn colours in the trees.


Evocative sunlight


Autumn colours

I found a nice sheltered spot in the field near Bryn Clun and lost myself in the landscape, still enjoying the loneliness and isolation this walk had delivered.


Looking east from near Bryn Clun

Satisfied with my efforts I completed the final couple of miles back to the car. If you’re after crags, rocky ridges and lofty summits then these hills aren’t for you. However if you’re after solitude and a wild untamed landscape with serious effort rewarded by views of hills that most will never have heard of or seen then pay the Cwmdeuddwr Hills a visit, you won’t be disappointed

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