Archive for the ‘Preseli Hills’ Tag

Animals, beaches and walks – Clarach Bay October Half Term   4 comments

As I mentioned in my post about my stunning walk in the Preseli Hills, we’ve been staying in my parents caravan the last few October half-terms. It’s normally close to D’s birthday so this year as a special treat we invited his best friend J along. We managed to keep it a secret until his birthday and it was a really exciting surprise for him.

We gave D free range to choose what he wanted to do and for the first day he chose the local zoo or Animalarium to give it its proper name at Borth. It’s a very low-key place tucked away behind the sea-front and it specialises in finding a home for unwanted exotic pets. I’ll not enter into the zoo debate here as I know there are strong feelings about whether it’s right to keep wild animals in captivity and I share those conflicting feelings. For this day I’ll just try to share the enjoyment we had getting close to animals that in all likelihood would not have survived as their owners became tired of their exotic pets.

Borth Animalarium, Meerkat

Borth Animalarium, Meerkat

As most of the animals are ex pets they are very much habituated to human contact to they approach you with interest and you get very close encounters. A large majority of the animals are primates and small monkeys which you can feed by hand.

Borth Animalarium

Large Reptile

The kids loved this element and really enjoyed the much closer connection with the animals. They also have a regular program of closer encounters throughout the day and the kids especially enjoyed the meerkat feeding and the reptile encounters. Nothing beats holding a massive python to give you that close connection with a giant of the jungle and the whole thing was handled with a very relaxed and informal air.

Borth Animalarium, Albino Python

TBH holds an Albino Python

Borth Animalarium, python

D holds a normal python

It’s only a small place but we managed to spend the best part of a day there. I’m amazed it survives tucked away in such a quiet little known coastal backwater as Borth but it appears to be thriving and the owners are friendly and informative. Our favourite animal was Mango, the black-capped brown capuchin, all box-head hairstyle and attitude – he was a treat. I hope they can continue to thrive and remain a hope for these “pets” that have no home.

Before we went home we took a late afternoon stroll on the beach to look at the petrified tree stumps.

Borth Beach

Kids on Borth Beach

These are the remains of an ancient forest and there several spots along the Ceredigion coast where you can see them at low tide. The kids and adults alike were fascinated and I was amazed how they survive. They would surely get washed away in a major storm you would think but they survive. Despite the fact that I spent most of my childhood exploring this coastline, I had no idea about this feature until earlier this year.

Borth Beach, Petrified Forest

Borth Beach, Petrified Forest

As the sun started to set the low light behind the clouds reflecting off the wet sand gave some stunning images.

Borth Beach

Sunset at Borth Beach

Borth Beach

TBF and L on Borth Beach

Borth Beach

Sunset on Borth Beach

The next morning while the kids went swimming, I headed off early for a fantastic walk under clear autumn skies in the Preseli Hills. In the afternoon D wanted to show his friend the local eminence of Constitution Hill that separates Clarach Bay from the town of Aberystwyth. It was a stunning afternoon and the views were spectacular.

Clarach Bay, Constitution Hill

Clarach Bay from Constitution Hill

Aberystwyth, Constitution Hill

Aberystwyth from Constitution Hill

To the north beyond the coast was Snowdonia with Snowdon itself clearly visible, and the Lleyn Peninsula with Carn Fadryn and The Rivals there as always. To the south beyond Aberystwyth, the Ceredigion coast, Pembrokeshire and the Preseli Hills I’d climbed in the morning.

Snowdon, Cardigan Bay

Snowdon across Cardigan Bay

Clarach Bay, Constitution Hill

View north from Constitution Hill

There is a range of kids stuff at the top so the kids played ten-pin bowling and bounced on the bouncy castle while TBF and I enjoyed the expansive views. We took a further stroll on the beach in the afternoon sunshine on our way bacxk to the caravan.

Clarach Bay

Clarach Bay Beach

Clarach Bay

Clarach Bay Beach

I had to head home that evening but TBF and the kids stayed for the week. They got lucky with the weather and had some warm sunshine while most of the rest of the UK was blanketed under cloud and drizzle. They took some walks in the hills, along the coast from Borth and had a happy day on the beach in Abertystwyth.

Aberystwyth, Constitution Hill

L takes in the view of Aberystwyth

Aberystwyth

Aberystwyth Beach

Aberystwyth

L playing on Aberystwyth beach

Aberystwyth

The boat landing pier at Aberystwyth

Clarach Bay, Borth

Coastal walk between Borth and Clarach Bay

I returned the following weekend just in time for the little mild blast of winter we had and another very cold night and morning in the caravan. The sunday was a total wash out of torrential all day rain (handy for me to catch up on some blogging) but the Saturday – well that was an absolute cracker. Stay tuned…

Romancing the Stones – The Preseli Hills   16 comments

I used to work as a sales rep for a small company that sold plastic building products (they were famous for their yellow buckets which my so-called friends found disproportionately amusing for some reason). Most of south Wales was on my patch and one very dark, grey and dreary afternoon I drove across the high road over the Preseli Hills and saw them as nothing more than a drab bit of moorland and never gave them another thought as a walking destination. In my quest to visit the lesser known corners of our uplands I thought it was time to give them a proper look on foot. As you’ll see, neglecting them for so long was an error.

Preseli Hills, Foeldrygarn, Preseli Hills

Preseli Hills from Foeldrygarn

We’ve been spending our October half-terms in my parents caravan at Clarach Bay for the past couple of years. When I say “we”, TBF and the kids spend the week while muggins goes to work and only spends the weekends away. This year was no exception and I’ll post up about the family times in an upcoming report. On the first Sunday the weather forecast was looking great so I agreed with TBF that I’d head out early for a morning walk while they went swimming and be back to spend the afternoon with them. I was up early on a cold, clear and frosty morning which when living in a caravan means a very cold making of breakfast and sandwiches with my gloves on – caravans are not great providers of early morning warmth.

Foeldrygarn, Preseli Hills

Foeldrygarn

It’s an hour’s drive down the Ceredigion coast and the day’s weather and the views were absolutely superb. I arrived at the small and chilly parking area just outside Crymych before 9 and eagerly headed off towards the hills under a deep blue sky.

5.5 miles, 550 feet of ascent

The Preseli hills are arranged as long broad ridge arrayed east-west and I was headed first for the most easterly top Foeldrygarn (the  rounded or bare hill of the three cairns). The car park is quite high up and the summit less than 400m so it only took 20 minutes to reach the summit, crowned with 3 huge bronze-age burial cairns and the remains of an iron-age hill fort.

Ceredigion Coast, Foeldrygarn, Preseli Hills

Ceredigion Coast from Foeldrygarn

The views were breathtaking and revealed the majesty that are the Preseli Hills. A rolling ridge of grassy tops crowned by a succession of rock outcrops marching westwards. Out west was the Ceredigion coast and Cardigan Bay and the patchwork of fields in between.

Foeldrygarn, Preseli Hills

North from Foeldrygarn

It just begged to be walked and had an impression of remoteness and altitude that belied its proximity to the coastal resorts and modest height. Foeldrygarn itself is an impressive little mountain in its own right, bristling with rocky outcrops of its own and numerous winding paths. It’s another to add my list of “Small mountains with disproportionately great views”. On a calm summers evening it would make a magnificent spot for wild camp.

Foeldrygarn, Preseli Hills

Foeldrygarn

Foeldrygarn, Preseli Hills

Foeldrygarn

I was eager to explore so I was away and positively bounding with enthusiasm. My inherent laziness crept in though as I sought to cut the corner on my way to the next summit. What I got for my trouble was wet feet as I discovered another of the Preseli charms – they are seriously boggy and wet. I retreated from a tussocky swamp to the path I should have been on in the first place thinking it would be drier. These hills however are made of sterner – and wetter – stuff and every yard of path was either boggy, squelchy or just water, or a combination of all three. Not a place for trail shoes 🙂

Carn Gyfrwy, Preseli Hills

Carn Gyfrwy

Still it wasn’t in any way detracting from the views which were still amazing. The next rocky tor is Carn Gyfrwy, a grassy mound topped with jagged rocks that gave a fine view across the nearer tors to the higher summits beyond. Onwards across the grassy boulder strewn summit towards Carn Menyn and a quintessential piece of British history.

Carn Menyn, Preseli Hills

Carn Menyn

It was from here that the bluestones (or spotted dolerite to be more correct) that form Stonehenges inner circle were taken. Each one weighed an estimated 4 tonnes and was transported over 200 miles to where they now stand. Still, no-one knows why they were taken such a huge distance from this particular spot or more importantly how. As I stood alone amongst the rocks it makes you think what a strange and wonderful history we have in the most sublime and unexpected of places.

Carn Menyn

Carn Menyn, Preseli Hills

This section of the ridge was rippled with rocky tors and I wandered amongst them, fascinated by their shapes against the backdrop of the blue sky. In the distance I noticed a group and an argo-cat clearly out hunting. I’ve heard a few worrying tales of unfriendly landowners with guns of late so my pace slowed and I felt a little apprehensive as I headed towards them. However I heard no gunshots and by the time I reached the summit of Carn Bica and the Beddarthur stone circle they were long gone. Beddarthur is another supposed burial-place of King Arthur (blimey that bloke covered some ground) and the local legend tells of him and his happy band chasing a giant wild boar called Twrch Trywyth across the hills.

Carn Gyfrwy, Carn Menyn, Carn Bica, Preseli Hills

Carn Gyfrwy, Carn Menyn from Carn Bica

As I sat on the top for a breather I unfurled the map. I had thought I could reach Foel Cwncerwyn (the highest point) or even Cerrig Lladron at the western end of the ridge. It was clearly a ludicrous plan given I only had half a day. The ridge looked inviting but rather than race to the top I thought it a better plan to wander back through the tors to Foeldrygarn and take a leisurely lunch on the summit. The full ridge traverse would have to wait for another day.

Foel Cwncerwyn, Carn Bica, Preseli Hills

Foel Cwncerwyn from Carn Bica

The problem with the these hills is that there is no obvious circular route – unless you fancy a long road walk along its southern flanks. As I wandered back it occurred to me that I am a little preoccupied with not retracing steps when I plan walks but without a good reason why. The views in the reverse direction were different to those on the outward leg and every bit as good. The same tors I’d examined took on a new character. I suppose where there is an obvious circular route it will always draw you on but this walk was telling me that when there isn’t one, simply retracing your steps is not necessarily a bad thing. I’d be interested to hear anyone else’s view on this topic.

I saw my first walkers of the day on the summit of Foeldrygarn (although I had passed a couple of very energetic and very muddy mountain bikers) but they soon departed leaving the summit all to myself.

Foeldrygarn, Preseli Hills

Lunch on Foeldrygarn

Foeldrygarn, Preseli Hills

South from Foeldrygarn

I found a cracking grassy shelf amongst the rocks, sheltered from the wind with views out to the coast and along the ridge. The summit of Foel Cwncerwyn had a huge bank of cloud like an alien spaceship sitting over it. Perhaps that was how they moved those stones 🙂

Foel Cwncerwyn, Preseli Hills

chariots of the gods!

Foeldrygarn, Preseli Hills

Alone with his thoughts (and a brew)

Time to make the short walk back to the car and head home for some family time. I was home by 2 and back out again for another walk on the local coastal hill – but that’s another post….

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