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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

LLangollen & Berwyn - Explorer 255

What a delightful little corner of Wales this is.

I had heard Alan "Captain Hook" Sloman mention that he had been to this area a while back with Robin of Blogpackinglight fame, so when casting around for a weekend's walking within sensible reach of Suffolk & Cambridgeshire, I dragged the name from the back of my memory and looked for it on the map. Hey, an easy run of less than 170miles - should be under 31/2 hours - and so it was.

I set off on Friday evening with my Brother in Law and ex Challenger, David, and we arrived at Llangollen in good time for a barmeal followed by a few pints of Robinson's Unicorn at the excellent Bridge End Hotel which, incidentally, seems to be the only source of real ales in the town.

The Berwyn Mountains are very close to a lot of the UK's population so, given the accessibility, I expected a sort of mini Peak District / Black Mountain level of activity. Not so. In fact the area seems to be something of a backwater. The only disadvantage of this is that, unlike more popular areas where lay-bys and small parking areas abound, it is difficult to park a car in some of the (to me) obvious jumping off points, so having dropped the car on it's belly a couple of times in soggy verges, we decided to drive on to a Tourist attraction with a car park and risk the crowds. So Saturday's walk started at Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall (which at 240ft is the highest in Wales, and probably England too).

Lyn Lluncaws
Crowds? There were just three people there! Maybe we were early. We popped the car in a lay-by and wandered up to the falls, which are truly impressive. Then off  and up onto Moel Sych at 827m and enjoying the views along the ridge to Cadair Berwyn - also 827m but topped with a trig point. The ridge starts to descend from here towards Cadair Bronwen, and we decided to swing East to Tomie and drop down to make our way back below the cliffs of Craig Berwyn and over Moel yr Ewig to the curiously named Lyn Lluncaws (which is welsh for 'Lake like a Cheese' apparently - couldn't see it myself). Then on a really beautifully engineered path that lead us down to the valley just 300 yards from our car. The path was made all the more enjoyable by the bit of heather bashing to reach it!

By the end of the day we had met one backpacker and three or four day walkers like ourselves - in glorious weather too. Although we spotted quite a few cars in the little pay and display car park on the way down, it appears that few stray beyond the falls. It's a great little area to walk, and ours was quite short (under 12k) but with about 625m of ascent there's enough to leave you feeling that it is a worthwhile excursion. Take time to enjoy the views, have a little lunch as we did perched out of the wind on a ledge at the top of a cliff overlooking Lyn Lluncaws, and enjoy a bit of solitude away from the honeypot areas. We thoroughly enjoyed every minute.

Looking west from Cadair Berwyn
Looking west from Cadair Berwyn

Back at Llangollen after a bath and a bit of a doze it was time to saunter out in search of a pie and a pint, so we ambled off to the Bridge End Hotel again. It was absolutely heaving with crowds spilling on to the pavement outside. Golfers! Hundreds of 'em! All wearing a golfing glove on their drinking hand and dressed in bizarre golfing garb (check plus fours, shorts, Pringle sweaters and the like). We swiftly diverted to a quieter venue.

No sooner had we got a pint in hand than the golfers burst in - and all of them ordered a WKD Blue, and reminded each other constantly to 'mind your language' and waving score cards. Something odd going on here. As the Bridge had been vacated we went back there and settled in.

"What's going on with those golfers?" I asked the barmaid.
"Oh, they're not golfers - it's the rugby club on a night out. They're playing Pub Golf".
"How do they play?"
"Well, in each pub they all have to drink whatever is marked on the scorecard for that pub. But each pub has a rule too, and if they break the rule they have to pay a forfeit" (I guessed this was an extra drink) "and lose a point. For instance, in here none of them was allowed to go to the toilet, and in the next pub no one can swear ... and so on."
"So what happens at the end?" I asked.
"Dunno, love. I don't think any of them have ever lasted the course".

Well, at least now we could settle down for a quiet pint. Wrong. Through the door burst about twenty fairly large girls in very small dresses wearing 'birthday girl' sashes, and it was party time all over again. Llangollen may be a small town, but the people there know how to have a night out!

Up to Offa's Dyke Path
Up to Offa's Dyke Path
Sunday morning, and after breakfast we decided on a short exploration of our immediate surroundings before the trip home. There are any number of good walks straight out of the town, and we made our first objective the castle  - a brisk 130m climb out of the town and giving terrific views  along the Dee valley and Vale of Llangollen with the steam train chugging along, and away to the east it was just possible to discern the aqueduct which carries the canal high across the valley. From the castle we dropped down to join a woodland path around the bottom of the hill and eventually joined the scenic Clwydian Way up to Plas Yn Eglwseg where we cut across to join the Offa's Dyke Path and a couple of small byways to get us back to the town. Once again a fairly short (121/2k) walk but with around 600m of ascent a decent enough stretch - especially after a night out in the fleshpots of Llangollen!

For the more dedicated walker wishing to explore the hills in this neck of the woods, why not pop over to the Pieman's blog for a review of the local Hewitts? But for us ambling flatlanders these excursions made for a really enjoyable weekend. Not too taxing - just relaxing.

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Blogger Mike Knipe said...

I see - your "Lake like a cheese" picture looks almost the same as mine, except yours appears to be in focus or something.
Cadair Berwyn is, of course, the "Hill like a tomato" and Moel Sych refers to lettuce and spring onion. Dim bullshittio

October 20, 2010 at 11:07 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

Indeed Mike, the welsh language is a rich source of nourishment.

October 21, 2010 at 5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great weekend. I'm green with envy here (though Piglet says she's not sorry to have missed the camping).

I've not done much walking in Wales. Maybe it's time for me to start to put that right.

October 22, 2010 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

Camping? CAMPING???? No, I must confess to spending the nights in a warm & cosy hotel room.

Piglet would approve :-)

Yep, Wales is worth a few more expeditions. Mind you, that Snowdonia looks awfully rough for a delicate boy like me.

October 22, 2010 at 6:19 PM  
Blogger Humphrey Weightman said...

This is GR8 stuff maybe I should have Mango Terrier take up this blogging lark. I have planned my 2011 TGO Root - highlight will be a visit to Mercedes The Polar Bear, who now lives NE of Kingussie . . .

Peace and love, brothers,sisters and Captain Hook.

Word = thiesuff

October 23, 2010 at 11:18 PM  
Anonymous Merc edes said...

HMP3. You sound yummy. We should do lunch.

Look forward to eating ... ahem ...koff ... meeting you.

Mercedes x.

October 24, 2010 at 5:32 PM  
Blogger Alan Sloman said...

I feel moved to comment. It's the Welsh, you see. Walking in Wales means dealing with Welsh Customer Service. Look you, boyo, bach.

It's a shame we can't drag their hills over the border to somewhere civilised like Shropshire, or even East Angular. We could do with some nice hills hereabouts.

We would have to leave the barbed wire back in Wales though. My abiding memory of Offa's Dyke was one of being funnelled between rusty barbed wire fences.

October 26, 2010 at 2:23 PM  

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