Provisional Welsh CROW mapping

Natural Resources Wales has just published new Provisional Open Access maps for Wales, following the first review in the ten years since the CROW act came into force. Some bits of good news – The Whimble, a delectable pointy hill on the edge of the Radnor Forest, and the RAC Boulders below Dyffryn Mymbwr will become access land.

NFU Wales are inevitably up in arms about it, obviously of the opinion that we should pay them their subsidies and keep our noses out of their legal business of buggering up the environment with wooly lawnmowers.

Still time for appeals, and to visit the few places that may be removed from the map!

 

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Cwm Gwerin, Pumlumon

By 5:30 I was parked at above Maesnant, at the far end of the Nant-y-Moch reservoir. Cloud was obscuring even the minor tops, but down here it was clear dry, and just a little breezy.

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Today’s route meant that wet feet were going to be almost unavoidable, so I opted for trail shoes instead of boots, on the basis that they’d probably dry out faster anyway.  The path on from Maesnant heads downhill at first, and a footbridge gives you the option of crossing the Afon Hengwm. On the spur of the moment, I crossed over and headed up the Hyddgen valley, with Glyndŵr’s ‘Covenant Stones’ visible on the far side of the river. I followed the track all the way to the edge of the forestry, where two old and probably rotten fire-beaters stand proudly. The ground here is so wet you could probably drown just trying to reach them.

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I returned the same way, making the most of the good track before re-crossing the river and following the faint and boggy path to the ruined house where Cwm Gwerin meets the Hengwm.

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I stopped just long enough to wring water our of my socks, as I could see the cloud had lowered up the valley and the wind was carrying a fine spray of drizzle.

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Cwm Gwerin is a delight – the rocky crags towering over on the western side grab the attention as you slowly gain height, past waterfalls and with Wheatears for company. The cwm widens out at the top, and finding a dry path is a challenge. My photographs don’t do it justice, so I need to come back when the light (and weather) is better.

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As I climbed upwards towards the plateau, I realized how much the cwm had been sheltering me from a very strong westerly wind. I was in the cloud now, with the steady drizzle reducing visibility even further, making navigation difficult.

I stopped just below the crest and took advantage of a lull to have some breakfast and repeat the dance of wringing out the socks.

I struck out across the plateau, heading for the windshelter on Pumlumon Fawr. Given the conditions, I was glad to be on familiar ground. I was able to find the faint path down towards Pumlumon Fach without trouble, and soon below the worst of the weather.

The reservoir track from Llyn Lygad Rheidol was sheltered at first, but after it turns to the left I was back heading straight into the wind, so I took a downhill shortcut to the car after passing the three small lakes.

While the rain had never been  that heavy, It was enough to completely wet out my Marmot softshell in a few places, so changing into dry clothes for the drive home was very welcome.

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Northern Carneddau – Pt. 2

Carneddau, Snowdonia. 19/6/2013

The night had been dry and warm, and the sun was brightening the interior of the tent well before 5. I made some coffee and watched the sun breaking through the clouds.

wpid-P1020128.jpg With the gear packed, I made my way upwards, following the course of the streams that run into Dulyn. This turned out to be inspired, as there was plenty of plant and bird life to look for. In the space of about 100m I’d found a Heath Spotted Orchid, a ‘colony’ of Butterwort, Starry Saxifrage mixed among profusions of an as-yet-unidentified short, smallish five-petaled yellow flower growing in the wettest patches. Marsh Marigold, maybe?

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Looking east now, I saw two small lenticular clouds with distinctive shape and ‘layering’. They dispersed quite quickly

Once on the ridge, I bypassed Carnedd Gwenllian, going on towards the Berau. Bera Bach’s summit is easy to reach, but Bera Mawr’s needs a little simple scrambling to reach the top. The Cwm below was full of cloud, threatening to spill out over the plateau. The cloudbase above was also lowering – Foel Grach’s summit was now well hidden, so I was keeping a careful eye on the weather.

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I walked to the N of Yr Aryg and Carnedd Gwenllian, aiming to intercept the main ridge path to Foel Fras. As I climbed, the visibility dropped, and I was glad to reach the stony path running up the spine of the hills. I followed the path on until it met the fence corner, which gave me a good navigational fix. The summit of Foel Fras was in the cloud now so I continued on towards Drum.

Carneddau ponies were about everywhere – so many I lost count. They’d taken a hammering in the late April snows, and having seen only two the previous day, I was initially worried just how few had survived. But many of the mares looked like they were in foal, so hopefully the numbers will bounce back quickly.

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From here, the sun broke through again stronger, giving an easy and fast descent to the car by the Roman Road below Tal Y Fan.

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Northern Carneddau – Pt 1

Carneddau, Snowdonia. 18/6/2013

I hatched a slightly last-minute plan for a night camping in the Carneddau, so after finishing the school run I was on my way towards Betws-Y-Coed and heading for the Roman Road into the hills by Bwlch y Ddeufaen. Anyone who expects Roman roads to be straight will be surprised by this single-track road, hemmed in between high dry-stone walls, between Tal Y Fan to the north, and the main Carneddau ‘massif’ to the south. Just always remember where the last passing space was, and pray you don’t meet anything coming the other way.

I’d parked up at the end in the small car park, and picked up a small trail over a rocky rib at the eastern end of Foel Lwyd, with a buzzard watching overhead. While the path gained height quickly, it soon deteriorated into deep and steep heather, and left me the wrong side of a wall near the summit. The walls here are all beautifully maintained, so I reluctantly and very carefully clambered over onto the ‘right’ side.

wpid-P1020075.jpgThe path onward to Tal Y Fan was short and easy, with a brief steep drop into a small col before the true summit and trig point is reached. A quick break, then back down directly to the road.

The signpost by the road looked had received some unwanted attention from a firearm, and was a reminder that Walkers aren’t always Welcome.

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Walking up the road back to the car park, the contrast between the sheep-devastated moorland of the ‘open hillside’ and the roadside verge was remarkable. On the hill, I’d really seen nothing flowering except Tormentil and some rather forlorn Milk-wort. But the verges were overflowing: Speedwell, Cuckoo Flower, Herb Robert, Foxgloves (not yet out) and many more… Possibly the walls and road give shelter and some extra warmth, but I’m sure the absence of woolly lawn-mowers is the main reason.

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Back at the car I picked up the tent and continued up to the bwlch. The whole area here is awash with prehistoric sites – a chamber tomb further down the valley, a stone circle (which I’d walked past without noticing – mostly hidden by the high walls) and the two standing stones after which the bwlch is named. The stones mark the highest point of the blwch and you can see the evidence where the power cables and gas pipeline have followed the same path of least resistance taken by the Roman Road, probably built on a much older highway.

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From here, the path up to Drum and Foel Fras is a long slog over grass, following the fenceline all the way. Two Carneddau ponies appeared, one rubbing its neck continually against the fence, the bizarre sound from the vibrations running along the fenceline almost 100m away.

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The sun had been beating down most of the day, and it was a relief to reach the top of Foel Grach.  The refuge looked pretty uninviting in these conditions, but has apparently been a lifesaver in winter in years gone by. Rather than following the path directly up to Carnedd Llewellyn, I sidetracked towards Yr Elen, with great views into the dark cwm and Fynnon Caseg.

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Yr Elen would have to wait for another day, as I wanted to find a pitch for the tent before my legs gave out. I’d been thinking of using the bothy at Dulyn, but camping out in the fine weather seemed far preferable, and would save several hundred metres of descent and re-ascent the next day. Heading down from Carnedd Llewellyn, I aimed for the ‘nose’ between the two reservoirs, and soon found flat, sheltered and only slightly boggy pitch close to a small stream. Tent up, meal cooked, and I was out like a light before the sun had even set.
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Lenticular Clouds?

While packing up early yesterday morning from an overnight camp in the Carneddau, I saw these distinctive strange-looking clouds. I *think* they’re some kind of Lenticular formation – but they didn’t hang around long. 10 minutes after taking this, they’d dispersed.

These were taken from above the Dulyn reservoir, in the lee of Foel Grach. There was just a light breeze.

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Velbon V-Pod Tripod

After reading the review on Hendrik’s blog,  I’ve just got hold of a Velbon V-Pod tripod. It’s incredibly lightweight (< 280g on my scales) yet stable. The only downside I’ve seen (compared to conventional tripods) is that the lack of clamps means that each leg section must be either fully extended or collapsed, so setting it up on uneven ground is not so easy. You just have to put up with it at an odd angle and adjust the ball head to compensate.  Continue reading

Hillwalking, and other frivolous pastimes