|OS Route Map →||Route file →|
Date: 09 Jul 2009
Start / Finish: Corwen. Free unrestricted car park near the police station (the large main car park is pay-and-display and prohibits overnight parking).
Maps: Explorer 255 Llangollen & Berwyn.
|Day 1||Moel Morfydd & Llangollen||15.1 miles / 3610 feet (24.3km / 1100m)|
|Day 2||Moel Fferna & Bryn-llus||10.9 miles / 1460 feet (17.6km / 445m)|
A circuit around the hills of the Dee valley between Corwen and Llangollen, largely following the Clwydian Way for the northern half and the North Berwyn Way for the southern. A dry but rather mediocre interlude in a wet spell of weather suggested a short backpack fairly close to home and this was a good choice for the conditions, giving pleasant distant views across the vales and including a visit to Bryn-llus, the 500m Dewey top that we omitted on our North Berwyn trip a few weeks ago.
Llangollen is always packed whatever the time of year with many tourists sampling its attractions, but we discovered that the International Eisteddfod was in full swing this week and the town was really heaving.
The Clwydian Way (CW) crosses the road bridge over the River Dee and heads eastwards, initially following the B5437. This section as far as Llantysilio Mountain seems to be very little walked and the CW logo is rarely seen, but the Dee Valley Way logo appears more often to trap the unwary while some turnings are not signed. The trail makes use of farm and woodland tracks but there are parts where there is only a barely trodden line, and we needed to keep a careful eye on the map at all times.
The route intermittently gives pleasing views over the pastoral dales, mainly dull vistas under the leaden skies today with faint hazy glimpses of the distant Snowdonia mountains to the west.
At SJ133456 the CW follows the flanks of Llantysilio Mountain and we left it to follow the upper track that climbs to Bwlch y Groes and the pass road. A path continues to join the main track up the steep sided cone of Moel Morfydd and its trig point, a wide and visciously eroded scar visible for miles against its heathery slopes. The strong chilling wind ensured a hasty photo before descending and climbing the short steep hill fort of Moel y Gaer, where two men were were laying out a grid of coloured cables and making measurements of some kind.
At the next bwlch we rejoined the CW to follow the contouring path along the steep flank, a fine section of the route with a grand view into the valley and a retrospective view of Moel Morfydd minus most of the ugly erosion.
Descending steeply into the hamlet of Rhewl by the church, the CW does not follow the exact line on the latest (2009) mapping, and the information board outside the Conquering Hero (the village hall) doesn't help either. The map shows the CW going behind the buildings at Twn Twll to the N of the church, but the actual route leaves the road at a finger post hidden in the hedgerow further down to the SE to follow the pecked line on the map. Since this small part of the route only climbs to another road anyway, we just walked along the main road directly SE through Llidiart Annie and on to Llantysilio Hall.
A footpath leaves the road by the lych gate of Llantysilio church and arrives at the Horseshoe Falls on the River Dee, a grandiose name for a low curved weir that forms the source of the Llangollen Canal. The CW follows the canal through this sinuous steep sided valley where the major transport arteries of canal, rail and road are sandwiched through to Llangollen, a busy tourist stretch with horse drawn barges, congregations of hungry ducks and musicians of various nationalities, including a party of Japanese in exquisite satin jackets carrying an assortment of odd-shaped cases of musical instruments. A continuous air of music and singing from around the large Eisteddfod marquee added to the atmosphere of festivity.
There are frequent exits from the canal path down to the town, and shortly after passing the stables for the working horses we chose one that looked about right and we emerged spot-on opposite the main road bridge by the taxidermist showroom. The main street was heaving even more than usual in a particularly bohemian scene even for Llangollen, and to emphasize the international gathering we didn't hear one British voice throughout our passage.
The walk had been unexpectedly tiring, much more so than a typical mountain day, and we bought extra food in the town along with water. The North Berwyn Way (NBW) departs up a narrow lane and ascends a field to a gently climbing track SW, a slow upward plod with the distant music and singing still clearly audible through the trees. Once beyond the start of Access Land we began looking out for a pitch in the generally heathery landscape and found a rough grassy patch that turned out to be ideal. The Llangollen atmosphere had made an enjoyable change, giving the trip a flavour of trail backpacking, but it was good to be in the wilds again and the whole area was, as expected, completely deserted.
We opened the door to a gorgeously clear sunny morning and continued on the NBW track towards Vivod Mountain with a good view back to the Llantysilio hills. We soon had our first ever closeup view of a hen harrier as it rose immediately ahead of us, a male with a grey back and black wingtips. Vivod Mountain gives a good view towards Moel Fferna while old tree skeletons rise grotesquely from the heather moorland.
From Moel Fferna there is a thin path heading westwards towards the fence which might seem a promising direct approach to Bryn-llus, but the terrain beyond the fence is horrendous: dense heather, matted tussocks and hidden holes. It is far easier to descend to Bwlch Cynwyd and continue on the NBW down into the forest as far as a track signed 'Liberty Hall', despite the loss of height which is regained very quickly on a good track. Approaching the low ruins of Liberty Hall the 549m spot height of Bryn-llus is a short diversion to the west.
The good track is signposted here to Corwen, leading down easily to the forest edge through the acres of badass bracken on the lower slopes. Emerging onto the forest road we followed it to a 2-way fingerpost and turned R signed 'Pen y Pigyn', then quickly L onto an excellent footpath that descends through the trees past a conical memorial to the main road through Corwen.