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North Berwyn / 2 days / 24 miles (39km)

OS Route Map → Map Route file →

Date: 23 May 2009
Start / Finish: Cynwyd.
Maps: Explorer 255 Llangollen & Berwyn.

Day 1Moel yr Henfaes, Pen y Lladron & Bryn Du9.9 miles / 2560 feet (16.0km / 780m)
Day 2Vivod Mountain & Moel Fferna13.9 miles / 1790 feet (22.4km / 545m)
Pitch on Bryn Du

A 2-day route from Cwnwyd based on the Dewey 500m tops of the northern Berwyn hills, approaching on the virtually untrodden Moel yr Henfaes and returning via the familiar line of Vivod Mountain and Moel Fferna.

There were four new Dewey tops in our plan for this circuit, but we ran short of time near the end and descended directly from Moel Fferna to Cwnwyd, leaving Bryn-llus for another day. A forecast of fine weather for a bank holiday weekend suggested this adaptable backpack from our closet series that avoids the crowds, avoiding even a distant glimpse of anyone at all in fact for most of its length, at the expense of a couple of rough and arduous sections.

Day 1 - Moel yr Henfaes, Pen y Lladron & Bryn Du

We left Cynwyd via the steep narrow lane by the Afon Trystion and the dull retrospective views opened out over the Dee valley, it was still grey and overcast but the slopes of Moel yr Henfaes ahead were clear. The original choice was to follow the byway round to the southern slopes and climb from there, minimising the amount of potentially difficult terrain, but surveying the scene before us and picking up its vibes, we decided to make directly for the access land at SJ 06341 39805 using the bridleway that ascends the north western slopes. There is a gate at this point, and just beyond the sparse trees a spongy mown track ascends through the heather. This winds aloft and leads on to similar tracks, making an easy ascent to within a short distance from the summit, leaving a short pathless walk to the cairn.

SE of the summit our luck with the mown tracks quickly ran out and the terrain reverted to the infamous deep and rough Berwyn heather, but the skies were beginning to brighten and the clarity was surprisingly good. Slowly thrashing through to the next fence, the terrain changed in an instant to smooth cropped grass and the sun broke through.

Moel Fferna from Moel yr Henfaes
Moel Fferna from Moel yr Henfaes (23 May 2009__11:37:20)
Moel Fferna & Pen y Lladron
Moel Fferna & Pen y Lladron (23 May 2009__12:24:26)

The going remains easy on grass and rock to the 621m summit cairn of Pen Bwlch Llandrillo Top, a pleasing viewpoint that strangely doesn't have its own name on the map. We joined the main ridge and weaved our way across the squelchy depression towards the next objective Pen y Lladron, a top we have passed several times before on our Berwyn walks and which lies at the far end of a short tortuous heathery spur. The summit has a low pile of stones that fails to protrude much above the vegetation, but even if every person who had walked here contributed a stone it wouldn't amount to much!.

Pen Bwlch Llandrillo Top & the Arenigs beyond
Pen Bwlch Llandrillo Top & the Arenigs beyond (23 May 2009__12:46:44)
Pen y Lladron summit
Pen y Lladron summit (23 May 2009__13:50:19)

Another Dewey top Cerrig Coediog lies on the ridge path and is automatically climbed on each traverse. At Bwlch Cynwyd we turned eastwards on the good track and later took the R fork southwards that bends around to enter the forest. On reaching a clearing the northern slopes of Bryn Du come into view and we spied a thin but distinct trodden line ascending on the L of the fence: we crossed a marshy patch to join it. The going is quite easy until the ground levels out, but it then reverts to difficult heather and tussocks as far as the fence junction and for some distance beyond eastwards. The fearsome looking bog shown on the map is not actually all that boggy and presents little difficulty in itself.

We crossed to the south side of the fence for slightly easier terrain for a little while, but left it to seek out the highest point at 563m that lies on a shallow heathery dome, unmarked as far as we could tell. The lower 561m trig point is a little further east and has a couple of sizable patches of tussocky grass and sphagnum nearby: it was getting late and time to pitch. We had a grand view of the surrounding hills, including the Llantysilio range beyond Llangollen. Later that evening a belt of grey menacing clouds approached from the west and seemed set to engulf the Berwyn ridge, but it would amount to nothing and the night would be clear.

Bryn Du trig point & the Llantysilio hills beyond
Bryn Du trig point & the Llantysilio hills beyond (23 May 2009__17:45:17)

Day 2 - Vivod Mountain & Moel Fferna

In the morning the views were crystal clear and the heather and tussocks were dripping with dew, as were our tent and the many gossamer spider webs spun out across the moor: time for our very occasional use of the gaiters, wisely packed in anticipation. The early light gave a good view to the main Berwyn ridge.

The Berwyn ridge from Bryn Du trig point
The Berwyn ridge from Bryn Du trig point (24 May 2009__07:50:17)

We waded through the heather back to the fence to find the mapped track heading eastwards, and it's a good one, starting at a sort of gate in the fence and enabling easy progress. It crosses a waymarked bridleway and continues to our unsigned bridleway track SE that emerges on the Upper Ceiriog Way (UCW).

The UCW makes an easy and rapid crossing of the pair of valleys between here and Vivod Mountain, although the long bottom section of the first descent is quite interesting: it flows literally like a small stream right down to the valley road. Thereafter it follows the narrow lanes to the foot of Y Foel where the path ascending to Vivod Mountain is signed 'Ffynnon Las - 1m'. The path is a lovely one, cropped grass underfoot and climbing at a gentle angle towards the stand of trees on the skyline with pleasant views back towards Bryn Du. The path completes the ascent to Vivod Mountain on the R of a new ugly barbed wire fence, but the views were superbly clear.

Creigiau Eglwyseg from Vivod Mountain
Creigiau Eglwyseg from Vivod Mountain (24 May 2009__11:29:16)
Llantysilio hills from Vivod Mountain
Llantysilio hills from Vivod Mountain (24 May 2009__11:31:55)

Vivod Mountain is topped by a Bronze Age burial cairn, and from here the recently promoted North Berwyn Way crosses a stile to descend to the forest and follows the natural line of the ridge to the northern outpost of Moel Fferna. Here we saw the first people of the trip, including many motorbike scramblers ripping up the peat moorland. Our plans for a rest at the Moel Fferna windshelter were quickly revised by a plague of buzzing flies around the summit area, and we retreated to the edge above Bwlch Cynwyd to catch the intermittent breeze in the heat of the afternoon.

From here we made an easy if rather hot descent to the forest and directly back to Cynwyd.

Moel Fferna & old quarry  from Vivod Mountain
Moel Fferna & old quarry from Vivod Mountain (24 May 2009__11:49:48)
View from Moel Fferna
View from Moel Fferna (24 May 2009__13:39:29)