The Roman Rivals

A circular walk of 5 miles including 1,800 feet of elevation overall. Start Point: The car park at Porth y Nant, Llithfaen, Llyn Peninsula, Gwynedd. LL53 6NU.  Map References: SH 353440 or Lat: 52.967993 Lon: -4.453934 

adult-blur-boots-1452784This walk includes three modest peaks known collectively as Yr Eifl, or The Rivals. Some scrambling required down to the remains of an Iron Age hill fort, but nothing especially challenging and much of the route is on good clear pathways forming part of the coastal network. On a clear day, the views from Garn Ganol reach as far as the Isle of Man, the Wicklow mountains in Ireland and the Lake District, as well as the whole of Cardigan Bay.

An area rich in ancient history, the smallest and most northern summit is Garn For. The central (and tallest) summit, Garn Ganol, features a cairn and a trig point, and those extensive coastal views. The eastern summit, Tre’r Ceiri, is home to one of the most well-preserved Iron Age hill forts in Britain. There was an extensive survey in 1956 from which evidence of occupation during the Roman period dated from 150 to 400 A.D. And at the start of the walk over the Graig Ddu cliffs, there are views of Nant Gwrtheyrn and the remains of three quarries which were established in the area during the 1860s. During the late nineteenth century the village of Porth y Nant consisted of workmen’s houses, a shop, a bakery, a mansion, a school, and a chapel. Sadly, once the quarries closed around 1950, the village was abandoned and the buildings fell into disrepair. Today, the beautifully renovated site hosts the Welsh Heritage Centre and down to its stunning location, it’s also a popular wedding venue.

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The route

  1. From the car park, head up the wide stone track as it winds gradually towards the pass between Garn For and Garn Ganol. Garn For is an optional climb and the way is mostly along man-made steps forming part of the quarry and communications station. The real climbing begins when you pick up the clear track heading towards Garn Ganol, and the way is clear to see snaking towards the summit.
  2. Towards the final third the path is strewn with boulders and some negotiation is required to make the final climb; mostly bearing left to locate the narrow path. This winds up to the summit, then turn right at the top to find the cairn and the trig-point.
  3. From the trig-point, begin to descend on a path heading in an easterly direction towards Tre’r Ceiri. At the bottom, pass through a kissing-gate by a footpath sign and continue across the flat, marshy area covered in heather, bilberry and cotton grass.
  4. The final ascent to the fort is an easy climb as you head up towards the perimeter wall, at one point passing through a wide entrance with stone ramparts. From the summit it’s easy to see the formation of the original fort.
  5. Return along the same route, but then turn left in a south-westerly direction as you reach the final section of the boundary walls, where a clear grassy path hugs the base of Garn Ganol. Pass through the metal kissing-gate and continue ahead along the grass track by a footpath sign.
  6. Before the white cottage take the right fork and head upwards, continuing on a wide grass track. Then at the top, turn right as you reach the wall and keeping the wall to your left, follow the track back down to the car park.

The described route is a guide only, it’s always advisable to use a map or a GPS device.

Rhoscolyn

A circular walk of 6 miles including 750 feet of elevation overall. Start Point: St Gwenfaen Church, Holy Island, Rhoscolyn, Anglesey.  Map References: SH 277765  or Lat:  53.257636 Lon: -4.584517 

adult-blur-boots-1452784This is an easy circuit taking in a section of the Anglesey Coastal Path along the headland from Rhoscolyn to Silver Bay. Enjoy far-reaching views of Snowdonia and the Llyn Peninsula as well as rugged cliffside scenery reminiscent of Cornwall. There are numerous inlets and coves, and many small offshore islands, including the Ynysoedd Gwylanod or ‘seagull’s islands’ upon which stands the Rhoscolyn Beacon – a tall navigational marker erected to warn ships of the treacherous rocks. The Rhoscolyn coast is well known for its natural arches that the sea has carved out of the cliffs. They are called ‘Bwa Du’ the black arch, and ‘Bwa Gwyn’ the white arch. There are many interesting folds in the rocks of the sea stack, and strands of hematite pink in the cliff walls. The walls of the cliffs here are an extension of the geological fault that can also be seen on the coastline at South Stack, the faults being formed by the opening-up of the Atlantic Ocean and the separation of Europe from North America around 140 million years ago.

A little to the west of the village is a mediaeval well dedicated to St Gwenfaen beside which are the remains of a drystone well house. The local church in the village itself is dedicated to the same, female saint and was first built in the 6th century. Gwenfaen is also associated with the well on Rhoscolyn Headland. This medieval well contains two chambers with seats below ground level fed by an underground spring. It is said that Gwenfaen had powers to cure diseases of the mind.

The route

  1. Park by the church and turn right along the single-track road which continues as a track past a property called Lodge Bach. On reaching the ‘private’ sign, take the stile to the right and pass through the fields aided by kissing-gates. At the final gate, either turn left or continue forwards over a ladder stile and then turn left. Both routes head through the gorse towards the coast. Look for a large white property standing prominent on the skyline.
  2. Once through the gorse, bear left to a kissing-gate on the coastal path and follow the headland on a well-defined grass track. Anglesey Coastal Path signs denote the way and it’s difficult to stray off the route here. Continue for around a mile towards the NCI Beacon. There are good views towards Snowdonia and the Llyn Peninsula. Take up the route again as it heads downhill towards the bay.
  3. Pass through a kissing-gate which leads away from the headland, and continue to follow the coastal path markers between stone walls to arrive at several dwellings overlooking the bay. Turn left at the distinctive Boatman’s Cottage by the finger-post, and walk across the beach. At high tide, look for steps to the left, allowing access to the car park. Exit the beach by the small car park and turn right at the finger-post. The route passes through gorse bushes and wild roses, keeping the bay to your right.
  4. Ignore the arrow at the end of the path and instead, go straight on and pass through the gate to arrive at a driveway. Turn left, then right at the end of this driveway as denoted by the finger-post. Go through the kissing-gate at the next finger-post, onto the open heath. Follow the coastal path signs along the headland as it winds towards Silver Bay.
  5. At Silver Bay walk across the beach keeping the forest to your left. At the end of the fir trees, take the steps into the forest and continue along a sand trail. Bear left then along a wooden walkway over boggy ground to a kissing-gate. Walk up through the grazing land towards a cluster of low cottages, and take the kissing-gate at the top.
  6. Pass into grazing land and follow the well-defined farm track which meets a single-track road. Walk for one mile along the road: turn right at the first junction. At the next junction, turn left and walk past the campsite on the left, and at the final junction bear right and the church is clearly visible ahead.

The described route is a guide only, it’s always advisable to use a map or a GPS device.

 

Conwy Valley Lakes

A circular walk of 9 miles including 1,400 feet of elevation overall. Start Point: Opposite Trefriw Woollen Mill, Main Road, Trefriw LL27 0NQ.

adult-blur-boots-1452784Llyn Crafnant and Llyn Geirionydd are two of the largest natural lakes in the Conwy Valley (both around a mile long) and together, they make for a scenic, varied walk along mostly well-defined paths as part of the Trefriw Trails network. It’s possible to shorten this particular route and reduce the elevation by skipping the climb up from Trefriw and parking instead at either of the designated lakeside car parks.

Spring and autumn are especially rewarding seasons to enjoy this route due to the colour diversity of the trees, the bluebells and the wild garlic. And the falls by Trefriw Mill are especially spectacular when in full spate. Crafnant takes its name from ‘craf’, an old Welsh word for garlic, and ‘nant’, a stream or valley. The lakes run parallel to each other but a mile apart, being separated by Mynydd Deulyn, known as the mountain of the two lakes. Like much of Wales, the Crafnant valley has a long association with mining, and the Pandora Mine and Klondyke Mill (1900-1911) was for a short time an industrial lead ore enterprise. There are few, if any, fish in Geirionydd; quite likely the result of poisoning from the adjacent metal mines. However, the lake boasts a number of literary connections: Ieuan Glan Geirionydd (1795–1855) was born on the banks of Afon Geirionydd, and renowned for his poetry and hymns. Taliesin (c. 534–c.599), was a 6th-century Welsh bard, and the earliest poet of the Welsh language whose work has survived. Taliesin lived on the shores of Llyn Geirionydd, and this is also where many say he is buried.

The route

  1. From the parking area, turn right along the main road then cross opposite The Fairy Falls Hotel and enter the side street, where a Trefriw Trails sign directs you along a footpath to the left. After a short distance, take the right turn indicated by another trails arrow alongside the river and follow the path as it hairpins back on itself, before crossing the bridge.
  2.  Turn right after the bridge along a short path and then at the end, turn right onto a road. At the T junction, turn left, then look for the footpath sign into the woods. Follow the path for more than a mile as it climbs steadily towards Llyn Geirionydd, the way marked by yellow trail markers. At the rocky knoll there’s a good view of the remains of Klondyke Mill.
  3. The route continues over a stream, then up to a wooden gate. Continue on the trail until you reach the final stile which brings you to the outskirts of Llyn Geirionydd. Either walk along the single-track road to the left of the lake or take a right turn at the head of the lake and take the footpath along the far shoreline, close to the water’s edge.
  4. If you choose to walk along the road, take the first right after the end of the lake, then follow the footpath posts denoted by a footprint as they head up into the forest. If you’ve chosen to walk along the shoreline, then both routes conjoin here. Follow the forest track as it winds up and bears right.
  5. Once over the stream, cease following the markers and take a right turn up through the trees to arrive on the forest road again, then pick up the blue markers. Bear left and head towards the next marker nestled in the grass verge. Follow the directions up into the forest and walk along the track which climbs up through the fir trees, then descends towards Llyn Crafnant.
  6. Before the final stile on the track, turn left as indicated by several trail markers and follow the well-defined path within sight of the lake. Pass through the kissing-gate at the end then turn left at the single-track road. At the end, pass through the gate and turn right.
  7. Follow the stone path as it passes through another gate and then turn right to cross over a wooden bridge just before a dwelling. Continue along the stone path as it follows the natural shoreline of the lake. At the head of the lake, turn left onto the single-track road with the stream to your left. At the car park entrance, also on the left, look for a right fork denoted by a footpath sign and follow this wide path as it climbs up towards a gate.
  8. Pass through the metal gate and stay on the forestry road but ignore the sharp right-hand turn and go straight on, following the yellow markers to take a stile into a wooded area with slate heaps either side. The path here undulates through a wooded area and some of the way is hampered by tree roots and boulders. At the fork, take either path as they both conjoin later on at a ladder stile over the wall by a stream.
  9. Once over the wall, the path is distinct again as it heads back up towards Llyn Geirionydd and passes the monument dedicated to Taliesin on a rise to the left. Once back at the lakeside turn left and pick up the trail from point 3 to retrace your steps back to Trefriw.

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The described route is a guide only, it’s always advisable to use a map or a GPS device.

Craflwyn and Llyn Dinas

A circular walk of 7.5 miles including 1,200 feet of elevation overall. Start Point:  Craflwyn National Trust car park on the A498, Beddgelert, Gwynedd, LL55 4NG. Map References: SH 59945-48928 or Lat: 53019270 Lon: -4089377 

adult-blur-boots-1452784Considering the modest elevation this walk offers plenty of scenic variety and on a clear day, far-reaching views and a real sense of being in the heart of Snowdonia. Streams shape the landscape here, all flowing towards three rivers; the Gorsen, the Cwm Llan, and the Y Cwm, all of which eventually join forces with the Afon Glaslyn. As a result, the first section of the route can be boggy, although much work has been carried out over the previous 12 months with huge boulders forming a solid path of stepping stones – allowing the land to be navigated whether streams are trickling or tumbling. Welsh black cattle – belonging to the National Trust’s Hafod Y Llan farm, graze here. Essential for land management, these cattle produce some of the best organic beef in the world.

You’ll come across the remains of old copper mineshafts scattered across these hillsides – last worked in the late 1800’s. Due to the copper, the streams and rivers are sterile although clear and often a deep turquoise. Further downstream, where the copper becomes diluted, salmon and trout return, also inhabiting the pretty Llyn Dinas. The lake takes its name from the nearby Dinas Emrys, a rocky and wooded hill where the remains of both medieval and older fortifications have been found. A rock near the lake – called the Stone of the Eagle – was said in a charter of 1198 to mark the spot where the boundaries of the three cantrefs of Aberconwy, Ardudwy and Arfon met. According to legend, an eagle used to perch on it once a week, anticipating battle between the three men.

The route

  1. Start by taking the footpath visible from the car park through woodland, following the black arrow way-markers. Continue past a carved wooden dragon bench and a small waterfall, climbing steadily to reach a giant carved chair at the first viewpoint.
  2. Still following the black arrow way-markers, the route continues up steps and crosses over a small stile in a fence. Follow the path east towards Bylchau Terfyn, eventually crossing a stile in the wall. Although the going is rough – rock, bog and uneven ground – the path is clearly marked by stepping stones where necessary, and way-markers. When you reach the old wooden bridge, cross this and bear left back onto the main track.
  3. Head up towards a broken stone dwelling by the old copper mine; then pass this ruin on your left and continue on the track, until you reach a stile in the wall. Begin a steady descent towards the Watkin Path. The views here are especially good on a clear day – Moel Siabod standing in isolation ahead, Llynn Gwynant nestled below.
  4. Once you join the Watkin Path – one of the main Snowdon routes – the black way-markers cease. Turn right and follow the well-defined path. The impressive Afon Cwm Llan waterfalls will be on your left and the last stretch of the Watkin Path takes you through the ancient oak woodlands of Parc Hafod y Llan. At the single-track lane, turn right. And at the end of this lane, cross the main road and turn left, continuing through the lay-by.
  5. Take a right turn towards Plas Gwynant, which is also signed as a footpath. Follow the lane, taking the left fork up through the trees. At the end of this lane, turn sharp right just before the cattle grid and follow a short path through the woods, taking a bridge to cross the stream.
  6.  At the top of this track, turn right onto a single-track road. Follow this road until you reach another cattle grid on the left – turn left here – by the footpath sign for Llyndy Isaf Farm. Follow this track past the farm and continue towards Llyn Dinas, where the route follows the shores of the lake.
  7. At the end of the lake, bear left – ignoring the bridge to the right – and continue to follow the Glaslyn River as it heads downstream towards Beddgelert – until you reach the Sygun Copper Mines. Turn right here and cross the stone bridge onto the main road. Take a sharp left through a wooden gate and follow the path alongside the road.
  8. At the end of this path, cross the main road and bear right to enter the driveway of Craflwyn Hall. Cross left in front of the hall along a short driveway and return to the car park.

The described route is a guide only, it’s always advisable to use a map or a GPS device.

Fancy a pint of Glaslyn? Not the river water, but the ale of the same name, courtesy of the Purple Moose Brewery. If your homeward journey swings towards Conwy then the  Pen Y Gwryd Hotel is worth a visit. A distinctly quirky pub, the building is dated at 1810. Worth noting that the Pen Y Gwryd Hotel was the training base for Sir Edmund Hillary before he attempted Everest in 1953. Lots of interesting memorabilia on the walls, including Hillary’s scrawled signature – captured forever beneath protective plastic – on the ceiling. Many an expedition continues to be planned here, although perhaps not on Hillary’s scale! http://www.pyg.co.uk/

 

Llantysilio Mountain

A circular walk of 7 miles including 2,000 feet of elevation overall. Start Point: The Ponderosa Cafe on the Horseshoe Pass, Llangollen, Denbighshire. LL20 8DR. Map References: SJ1926748058  or Lat: 53.023701  Lon: -3.205093

adult-blur-boots-1452784Llantysilio Mountain is a collective name for a group of hills which run westwards from the top of the Horseshoe Pass. The main peaks are Moel Y Faen, Moel Y Gamelan, Moel Y Gaer, and Moel Morfydd; whose summit claims a specific trig point. Moel Y Gaer is denoted by the remains of an Iron Age hill fort, although evidence of human activity on these hills dates back to the Bronze Age with a large burial chamber located on the summit of Moel Y Gamelan.

In 2018 a large swathe of this landscape was lost to wildfire but despite this drab start underfoot, the slow reveal of extensive views over the Dee Valley towards Llangollen and the ruins of Castell Dinas Bran, more than make up for the blackened gorse and heather. The moorland is home to the rare Black Grouse as well as other moorland birds such as the Golden Plover, Ring Ouzel, and Merlin. Walking is on wide, clearly defined undulating paths. Some of the sections are steep. The second half of the route is easier going, connecting up with part of the Clwydian Way, before continuing eastwards past the disused Moel Y Faen slate quarries.

 

The route

  1. Take the path opposite the Ponderosa Cafe in a south-westerly direction, which travels parallel to the road before bearing right, and uphill.
  2. At the top of the first knoll, bear left to continue. Thereafter the way is clearly denoted by wide tracks streaking across the aforementioned summits. At the trig point of Moel Morfydd the distance from the start will be 2.85 miles.
  3. Descend from this summit to see a post at the bottom indicating the Llangollen Round. Turn off the main pathway here and bear right along a sheep track which gradually descends to a well-hidden single-track road.
  4. Turn right. After a short distance on the right, a finger-post denotes a bridleway. Follow this until the bridleway swings right, and a stile presents itself by a gate.
  5. Go over the stile and follow the footpath through fields and pasture land until you reach a pair of wide double wooden gates with a stile and a finger post. Pass through the gate but ignore the finger post to the right and go straight on passing through all gates.
  6. At a fork in the path alongside a stone wall, take the right-hand path, ignoring the lower track leading to a metal gate.
  7. At the end of this path, stride over the low wire fence – it looks as if some stiles are missing on this section. Keep the quarry and the fence-line to your left, walking straight on through pasture, until the road comes into view.
  8. Bear left to find a wire gate/barrier which allows you to pass onto the road. Turn right, and follow the road for around a mile back to the Ponderosa.

The described route is a guide only, it’s always advisable to use a map or a GPS device.

The Big Picture

The 2018 Annual Gathering of the Carneddau Ponies

IMG_4696-1Picture this. An early Sunday morning in November on the Carneddau Mountains and a small convoy of assorted vehicles heads up into the clouds. This vast coastal area is mostly inhabited by sheep, and features bogs, boulders, ditches, deep ravines, and rough tracks. Celtic standing stones and burial mounds are scattered across remote hillsides, amid miles and miles of undulating heather and gorse. When the sea fog creeps in with the tide, visibility can be reduced from poor to, well… zero.

The mission: to find in the region of 200 Carneddau ponies and shepherd them down to a single hill farm at the top of Llanfairfechan. Mission impossible?

The bleak, often cruel beauty of the Carneddau is a double-edged sword because the land here has supported these ponies since Celtic times, with little human interference. And although they’ve likely had connections to the more well-known Welsh Mountain Pony variants somewhere in their past, the Carneddau have been scientifically proven to have the most inexplainable DNA – a kind of unique, indestructible set of genes which sets them apart from not only other domestic ponies, but from other wild native breeds as well. And one has to appreciate that the kinder, more temperate habitats of our native Exmoor, Dartmoor, and New Forest ponies are also controlled and managed more selectively, whereas the Carneddau are isolated in all senses of the word. These ponies shape the land, and the land shapes them…

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In essence, the Carneddau ponies are a product of pure wildness…

45359008_1977224559028511_3745455930175651840_n-1Susanne Shultz (Senior Research Fellow at Manchester University) has spent many years studying the herds and logging their movements, understanding their social groupings, taking samples and analysing their lives to an astonishing level of detail. One item which did stand out was that the ponies’ social groups were paramount in maintaining health, especially as they aged – and this was a big factor in underpinning their physical fitness. Ponies (and people) with good social interactions generally enjoy a better quality of life. Of course, there will always be some individuals who fall by the wayside or just prefer to be loners, as evident in our own social structure. Interestingly, stress levels in the ponies during the gathering were not especially high – the levels only rose when the ponies were returned to the hills and endeavoured to re-establish their social groups.

Susanne goes so far as to suggest that this wild gene pool might be introduced to strengthen the breeding lines of domestic ponies who’ve fallen foul of various commercial and domestic traps such as sustained inbreeding. Small, domestic ponies are often prone to laminitis and a whole list of other ailments which clearly don’t affect the Carneddau ponies. Occasionally there are ponies on the hills with skeletal abnormalities and defects such as locking stifles, something which may have crept in due to the breed being watered down by the dumping of domestic horses on the mountains, or simply it’s the weaker ones falling foul of the brutal climate – or a combination of unfortunate circumstances. What is clear is that in order to protect their natural selection process (i.e. their breeding and social grouping) questions have to asked about our level of interference, because their way has seen them adapt to survive on this land for centuries. Essentially, these ponies enjoy a freedom denied to the majority of equines.

IMG_4278Standing in the mist-wreathed landscape, boots slowly sinking into a wet mattress of heather, the noise of the wind and the rumble of a distant quad broken only by the occasional whinny, was slightly eerie. And the ponies are well camouflaged; the colours of bracken and stone, rainclouds and earth. Occasionally we’d glimpse a small herd, moving easily across the landscape in a seamless line. The high-stepping speed with which they cover the ground is challenging for the following drivers, often risking life and limb over the unforgiving terrain.

An entirely voluntary exercise, the annual gathering is deeply rooted in Welsh tradition and reaches back several generations to a time when entire villages were involved – either on foot, or on horseback. A time when communities pulled together to ensure that the future of these herds were protected and managed to the best of their abilities. But these are modern times and although lots of people have strong opinions about the ponies, sadly, few people are interested enough to offer time and practical help. Given the depleted manpower available it’s doubtful the gatherings could continue without the use of quads, scramblers, and 4X4 vehicles. Helpers prepared to walk, line-out across the hills forming a human barrier to deter the ponies from chasing back uphill; while the vehicles traverse the Carneddau, circling as far as Tal Y Fan and out towards Conwy, driving the ponies down towards Llanfairfechan. 

IMG_4737Today, the same seven local farming families who continue to graze sheep on the Carneddau, retain the rights of guardianship as the Carneddau Pony Society. Gareth Wyn Jones, spokesman for the society, owns just 7 of these ponies while his uncle and father (still incredibly active on the farm at the age of 82) lay claim to around 80. After some five hours, around 150 ponies moved in a long, colourful caterpillar along the single-track lane to Tyn Llwyfan. An emotive sight; some cautious, some bold, some distinctly flighty, many of them vocal! The ponies were segregated into ownership groups – no mean feat. The individual families then make decisions as to which colts and young stallions need to be held off the mountain, along with the old and sick – on this occasion watched over in an advisory capacity by veterinary surgeon, Ellie Salisbury. Obviously, there are no predators on the Carneddau and so numbers need to be managed in order to allow the available grazing to support the existing ponies, and the resident sheep.

The vast majority of the ponies removed at these yearly gatherings are re-homed; thanks to various successful schemes working with the society such as conservation grazing – headed-up by Hilary Keyhoe (PONT coordinator and North Wales Regional Development Officer),or simply as companions to solo horses on private yards. The society even received a request for a matching pair of colts to be brought on as driving ponies, and many more have been taken on for rehoming and rehabilitating by Jackie Williams (Bryn Gaseg, Anglesey).

At times it seems a thankless task, managing 200 wild ponies which are worth nothing in monetary terms, and it’s a job which can occasionally attract negative press. Essentially, the Carneddau Pony Society is up against a balancing act between conservation issues, the rigours of a farming livelihood, and those who are perhaps misunderstanding of the ethos. But one has to look objectively at the roots of life on the Carneddau in order to appreciate the most effective way to co-exist, and it’s clear how much can be achieved if ideas, opinions, and resources are pooled. Looking at the big picture is an essential part of survival and exists at the heart of every successful community – both human, and equine.

Beddgelert and Cwm Bychan

A circular walk of 7 miles including 1,500 feet of elevation overall. Start Point: Layby on the A498 by Llyn Dinas, Nantgwynant, Beddgelert, Gwynedd, LL55 4NG. Map References: SH 6124149371  or Lat: 53.023590  Lon: -4.070265  

adult-blur-boots-1452784This route offers a great variety of scenery from panoramic, mountainous views across the heart of Snowdonia, to wooded valleys smothered in bluebells in the springtime, to the iconic village of Beddgelert and the pretty River Glasyln.

The village is probably named after an early Christian missionary called Celert who settled here early in the 8th century, although the folk tale of Gelert the dog is more often associated with Beddgelert. There is a raised mound called Gelert’s Grave – a significant tourist attraction. The dog is alleged to have belonged to Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd, a gift from King John of England. In this legend, Llywelyn returns from hunting to find his baby missing, the cradle overturned, and Gelert sporting a blood-smeared jaw. Believing the dog had savaged the child, Llywelyn drew his sword and killed it. But then Llywelyn heard the cries of the baby, unharmed under the cradle, along with the dead wolf which had attacked the child – killed by his faithful hound, Gelert. Llywelyn was overcome with remorse and buried the dog with great ceremony, haunted by his dying yelps. After that day, Llywelyn never smiled again. A sad tale, but the grave was actually built in the late 18th-century by the landlord of the Goat Hotel, David Pritchard, who created it in order to encourage tourism.

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The route

  1. Go through the gate by the footpath sign, walk the short distance along the edge of the lake before passing over the bridge and turning right to follow the River Glaslyn as it flows downstream towards Beddgelert – for almost two miles.
  2. At the copper mine, ignore the road bridge to the right and turn left towards the car park before turning sharp right to take a footpath alongside the drystone wall. At the end of this short track, turn right on the single-track road and continue towards Beddgelert. At the next road bridge go through the metal gate to the left alongside the river, taking the path into Beddgelert.
  3. Cross the pedestrian bridge over the river then turn left to walk alongside the Glaslyn for about half-a-mile – the route here is sign-posted to ‘Gelert’s Grave.’ At the next bridge, pass beneath it to emerge onto the road. Cross the road and take the stile opposite into grazing land. Keep left alongside the drystone wall, ignoring the first stile by a metal gate into the woods, taking the next stile which crosses over the wall.
  4. Pass a ruined barn to your left and continue along the well-defined grassy track that climbs steadily towards Bryn Du. The lower slopes here are covered in bluebells in springtime, and throughout summer the tooting of steam trains echo across the valley. Follow the National Trust posts as the route winds up towards a small stone enclosure on the summit. Some of this path can be boggy after heavy rain but there are stepping-stones in the form of well-placed boulders.
  5. At the top, far-reaching views towards Snowdon and Moel Siabod make a good stopping point for a tea-break, before turning right towards Aberglasyn Woods. Take the stile over the wall into the woods, and continue to follow the National Trust markers, taking care on the steep sections as the route begins its descent.
  6. At the bottom of the woods, turn left and emerge onto the road. Turn left and walk along the road for a short distance before taking the stone road bridge on the right. Go through the metal kissing gate on the left and turn sharp right to ascend the track which leads through a copse of trees, arriving at a car park.
  7. Turn left and head towards the railway arch, following the route through a small picnic area before taking a well-defined, gradually ascending track towards Cwm Bychan.
  8. The route opens out into a narrow valley, with evidence of copper mining. Head up towards a wooden ladder stile which passes over a drystone wall and onto the summit of Cwm Bychan. Again, panoramic scenery as the route heads towards Llyn Dinas.
  9. Take the steep steps back down to the lakeside and retrace the route back over the footbridge to the starting point. This walk works equally well in reverse, allowing for a well-timed pub stop in Beddgelert towards the end of the walk.

The described route is a guide only, it’s always advisable to use a map or a GPS device.

More Beddgelert photography: https://janruth.com/2017/06/01/beddgelert/

Christmas at Pensychnant

For the peaceful appreciation of nature.

Despite driving, walking, and riding past this place for many, many years I’ve only recently visited Pensychnant House and I’m ashamed to confess that the lure of home-baked cakes was one of the primary drivers.

24255021_1556180557799582_1168942086629676364_oThis isn’t a National Trust or Cadw property attracting an entrance fee (although contributions are always encouraged), nor does it house a lot of cordoned-off untouchable valuables. What it does offer is a real, modern experience of a Victorian house. This is partly down to the fact that the house is still very much lived in. The log fires are burned for a great many reasons. Today, Pensychnant works primarily as a conservation centre; holding exhibitions by local wildlife artists, organising guided walks, and of course, the annual Christmas fair when the Welsh dresser is laden with vast quantities of home-baked cakes. The Billiards Room is also available to hire for meetings. Although traces still remain, the original spectator area has since been removed. The idea of ladies watching the men play billiards was pretty much unheard of in those times, proving that the original resident, Stott, was pretty forward thinking!

The Turbulent History of Pensychnant. Today’s resident warden, Julian Thompson, has much to share about the history of the estate. The original house is a simple farmhouse dating from about 1690. Because of the existence of a second storey – probably originally accessed by an exterior stone staircase – it suggests that this would have been the property of a family of some means. Interesting that the draught generated between the front and back doors was utilised to winnow corn, and later, Stott affectionately christened the boot room in this part of the house as the Wellington Room. But it’s the Victorian extension built in the Arts and Crafts style (started in 1877 by Stott) which makes Pensychnant so unique.

Stott & Sons built about a fifth of the cotton mills around Lancashire. Surprisingly, the house had a central heating system from new, and in 1923 it received an electricity supply. Built initially as a holiday home for the Stott family, Abraham’s wife was less impressed with the house, particularly its rural location. Fearing he’d never encourage his family to move there, Stott fell into something of a depression about his investment. He reputedly left candles alight in vats of paraffin in the farmhouse, and took his absence. His desperate plan failed, since residents of nearby Crows Nest Hall spotted lights in the windows and went to investigate. Amazingly, Stott managed to escape being charged with arson despite harbouring not one, but three insurance policies about his person! In 1882 the wealth and standing of this hugely influential family clearly held the greater power.    

When the mill industry collapsed, Pensychnant was sold to the Collins family before it passed to Doctor Tattersall of Conwy. Then, like the stuff of fiction, something wonderful happened when the great grandson of Stott bought back the entire family estate in 1967. Although the estate continued to function as a working farm, Brian Henthorn Stott regarded it as a nature reserve too and as well as planting hundreds of trees; primarily Welsh oak, birch, rowan and holly. He installed a great many nesting boxes and the variety of birds remains prolific, especially the cuckoo. In Victorian times there was a brisk tourist trade in nearby Penmaenmawr based on collectors travelling from all over Britain to see the Pensychnant moths. There are still two species in residence today, so rare they occur nowhere else in the world…

Pensychnant Today. Sitting in 148 acres of conservation land, Pensychnant house is heavily concealed from the access lane on Sychnant Pass (the mountain road which runs from Conwy across to Penmaenmawr, where it eventually joins the A55 expressway) but if you’re interested in local countryside conservation or historical properties, or if you’re simply looking to escape the modern world for a couple of hours, Pensychnant is well worth a visit. For me, the elegant shabbiness of the house adds a richness not quite quantifiable in words. I guess it has atmosphere. And yes, of course there’s a ghost… the maid, who was murdered by the gardener in the chauffeur’s room.

Brian Stott established the Pensychnant Foundation before he died in 1997.   

The Pensychnant Foundation

The Pensychnant Foundation (a registered charity) was established in 1989 by Brian Henthorn Stott to: manage the Pensychnant House and Estate as a conservation centre and nature reserve; for the benefit of its wildlife; and to foster the public’s appreciation and understanding of nature and nature conservation. The house hosts an on-going exhibition of wildlife art by some of Britain’s most talented artists. Proceeds from the sale of drawings or paintings support the charity’s conservation work.

More information about Pensychnant and its programme of events can be found here: http://pensychnant.co.uk/home.html

Words and photography by Jan Ruth

Aber Falls

adult-blur-boots-1452784A circular walk of 5.2 miles including 985 feet of elevation overall. Start Point: The service road off the A55 slipway by Aber Falls Hotel, Abergwyngregyn, Llanfairfechan. LL33 OLP. Map References: 6562572840 or Lat: 53.235540 Lon: -4.014783

An easy circuit taking in Aber Falls. The waterfall is formed as the Afon Goch plunges about 120 feet over a sill of igneous rock in the foothills of the Carneddau range; especially spectacular in full spate after heavy rain or suspended in ice and snow as per the photo: spot the ice-climbers! Abergwyngregyn is a small picturesque village with a long and varied history, located between Bangor and Llanfairfechan on the North Wales Coast, opposite Beaumaris which lies across the Menai Strait. Along the main footpath towards the falls there are several small Bronze Age settlements including an excavated roundhouse and smithy, fenced off with an information plaque. Aber Falls Whisky Distillery is one of only four in Wales, and the first in North Wales since the early 1900s – still using specially crafted Welsh ingredients from the surrounding area.

The route

  1. Take the road that winds up through the village. After approx one mile, the road swings sharp left over a stone bridge. Ignore this turning and go straight on through a small car park, and through the gate.
  2. The route here is straightforward and well-signed along a wide path which follows the river upstream towards The Falls.
  3. The path continues across the front of The Falls, down some stone steps and over a wooden footbridge to cross the river, before ascending the other side.
  4. Continue through the gate, signed for the North Wales Path. This lesser-populated section of the walk continues past another, smaller waterfall to the left, and then begins to ascend to the right.
  5. The gradual climb affords good views across the valley and eventually, the Menai Strait, Puffin Island and Anglesey. The Great Orme comes into view at the highest point of the walk.
  6. Once over the stile, there are options here to return to the car park, but cease following any signs for the North Wales path which continues parallel to the coast and bears left towards Bangor. Instead, head downhill, taking the steep, right-hand track on the side of the hill which will return you to the village.
  7. Alternatively, continue onto the wide track ahead and follow this, passing over a couple of stiles alongside gates as the path winds downhill before presenting an optional sharp right towards a cluster of cottages and an old kissing gate. Go through the gate and bear left down the driveway. At the end of this lane, turn right and follow the road a short distance to a T junction. Turn right here, and the car park is on the left.

The described route is a guide only, it’s always advisable to use a map or a GPS device.

Watch: https://www.dailypost.co.uk/business/business-news/video-aber-falls-youve-never-6952438