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Pumlumon North / 3 days / 38 miles (61km)

OS Route Map → Map GPX Route file →

Date: 06 Aug 2009
Start / Finish: Furnace. Free unrestricted car park opposite Dyfi furnace and water wheel
Maps: Explorers 023 Cadair Idris + 215 Newtown & Machynlleth.

Day 1Foel Goch to Carn Hyddgen12.0 miles / 3780 feet (19.3km / 1152m)
Day 2Foel Uchaf to Foel Grafiau15.9 miles / 2510 feet (25.6km / 765m)
Day 3Moel Hyddgen & Pen Creigiau'r Llan10.1 miles / 1210 feet (16.3km / 368m)
Twin cairns (Cairn Gwilym) on Carn Hyddgen

Another trek around virtually deserted backwaters of mid Wales to escape the summer masses, this time using a whole raft of Dewey 500m hills in the north of the Pumlumon region as a framework for a route. A total of 14 Dewey tops are visited along with a couple of lower hills on the outward ridge, giving miles of new territory to explore. The approach from Furnace on the Dyfi estuary is via the Foel Goch ridge and the return is along Cwm Einion (Artists Valley).

The walking is a mixture of pathless but straightforward terrain, easy tracks and a few short sections of hard rough terrain. The heartland near to Pumlumon has a real backpacking atmosphere about it, especially the Hyddgen and Hengwm valleys, vast and little trodden expanses with an air of wilderness and remoteness. Once the early mist had cleared in the mornings, the air was very clear and rendered superb skies.

At the start of the walk is Dyfi furnace and water wheel.

Cors Dyfi Nature Reserve on the estuary is home to the Dyfi Osprey Project managed by the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust. There is a hide built on stilts where the exceedingly rare and elusive raptors can occasionally be glimpsed fishing on the Afon Dyfi.

The return along Artists Valley passes the Ystrad Einion copper mine, famed for its underground water wheel.

Day 1 - Foel Goch to Carn Hyddgen

I took the narrow lane S from the Dyfi Furnace as far as the buildings at Tyn-y-garth and left it for the bridleway into the woodland, which soon became very vague and disappeared, leaving me scanning the trees in frustration for a path. I was aiming for the track just outside the trees and I spotted just a faint hint of a trail leading SE by a nestbox, and I found an exit to the track by playing a game of 'follow the nestboxes' through the trees - Wales again!.

The forestry track approaches the open NW slopes of Foel Goch which looked uninviting and rough, and I continued on the track to emerge on the eastern side of the forest and ascend the better northern slopes at an easier angle. There is a thin line to follow alongside the wall and a cross-wall halfway up is easily negotiated. The prominent cairn is not at the highest point but has a commanding position looking out to the Dyfi estuary.

Furnace water wheel
Furnace water wheel (06 Aug 2009__09:33:16)
Dyfi estuary from Foel Goch
Dyfi estuary from Foel Goch (06 Aug 2009__11:28:28)

The hazy remnants of the early mist were rapidly clearing to give good views northwards as I reached the second top on this switchback ridge Esgair Foel-ddu, site of another ancient cairn which has been hollowed out but has the distinction of being the only one I can remember seeing full of vegetation. The next top, and the first of the Dewey summits, is Moel y Llyn, and I aimed R to reach Llyn Moel-y-llyn first. The wire fences detract from the scene somewhat but otherwise it is an attractive lake nestling close to the summit with a craggy backdrop. The pinkish trig point is enclosed by another hollowed ancient cairn.

View north from Esgair Foel-ddu
View north from Esgair Foel-ddu (06 Aug 2009__12:05:45)
Foel Goch & Esgair Foel-ddu from Moel y Llyn
Foel Goch & Esgair Foel-ddu from Moel y Llyn (06 Aug 2009__12:35:39)
Llyn Moel-y-llyn
Llyn Moel-y-llyn (06 Aug 2009__12:46:58)
View from windshelter and trig point on Moel y Llyn
View from windshelter and trig point on Moel y Llyn (06 Aug 2009__12:53:54)

A straightforward descent to the forest corner and an ascending line diverging from the fence quickly gains the east top of Moel y Llyn, unremarkable and unmarked as far as I could tell after tramping around a bit. There is another Moel y Llyn only a mile or so NE which is in the heart of the forest and is fortunately not a Dewey. I anticipated some bogginess en route to the next top Banc Bwlchygarreg but there was no difficulty on the gradually ascending line alongside the forest edge, just typical wetness for this rainy summer, and the summit is clear but again unmarked.

The next depression before an intermediate rise was the first real bog of the trip: I weaved my way through it, crossed the rise and descended to the forest track. The tracks here allow rapid progress and pass through an area of disused mines and pools, while both tracks and firebreaks are favourite haunts of dragonflies cruising the enclosed arboreal corridors for the plentiful prey. For the first time this year I saw a significant display and variety of butterflies. A side track made an easy out-and-back to claim the next top Banc yr Wyn, running to the topmost contour and leaving a short walk on a rough peaty trail to the summit, another unremarkable affair but a pleasant spot to sit and cool down.

I returned to the main track and continued downstream on the north side of the Afon Lluestgota. The track runs through the infant river at an easy ford and leaves the forest, unfortunately this ford was only a loop of the river and it left me on the wrong side (the forest terrain precluded a walk around the whole loop). Wandering up the river I found one crossing point that avoided the need to wade. The next checkpoint was the remote buildings of Hyddgen and the map shows a path climbing over the unkempt shoulder of Esgair Gorddi above the bridleway, but it is vague at times and sometimes there are several discernible lines at different levels. I must have chosen wisely near the end because my line led directly to the gate in the fence above Hyddgen where a good path descends to the buildings. The prominent twin cairns on Carn Hyddgen could be seen ahead.

I followed the path to the footbridge over the Afon Hyddgen and up to the main track where I turned R and walked as far as the Nant Y Garn. Just beyond I started the final climb of the day, a straightforward business culminating at the ancient cairns named Cairn Gwilym on the map. This is a grand spot in the heart of the region with a view to Pumlumon and Nant y Moch reservoir with Banc Llechwedd-mawr across the valley.

Hyddgen valley and Carn Hyddgen
Hyddgen valley and Carn Hyddgen (06 Aug 2009__16:56:23)
Pitch on Carn Hyddgen with Nant-y-moch reservoir
Pitch on Carn Hyddgen with Nant-y-moch reservoir (06 Aug 2009__18:26:47)

Day 2 - Foel Uchaf to Foel Grafiau

I expected the morning to be misted out and it was, but I was equally confident that it would clear quickly. By 08:30 all the hills but Pumlumon itself were clear, and by the time I had packed the soggy tent away the early sun was rendering better and more colourful views than last evening. While waiting for the best light I pondered the scene ahead for the best onward line to Foel Uchaf on the far side of a boggy-looking cwm.

Nant-y-moch reservoir & Drosgol from Carn Hyddgen
Nant-y-moch reservoir & Drosgol from Carn Hyddgen (07 Aug 2009__09:03:31)

Descending northwards to the bwlch in anticipation of walking a wide arc, I saw a distinct line heading directly along the valley and I left it further along to cross the reedy head of the Nant Lluest-fach. A short ascent gains the cairn of Foel Uchaf and another fine view of this empty wilderness.

View from Foel Uchaf
View from Foel Uchaf (07 Aug 2009__09:32:58)

I walked eastwards towards the ravine of the unnamed stream that flows down into the Afon Hengwm, descending quite steeply to the bridleway running along the edge of the valley floor. Only at the bottom of the slope on a clear sunny morning did I appreciate the sense of scale of this empty valley, and in a strange way I felt more like a backpacker here than a hillwalker, if that makes sense. There is a short fairly squelchy bit where the next stream comes down but not bad, and a little way further it becomes an easy track.

Bugeilyn and the next objective Banc Bugeilyn now came into view. I left the ascending track and continued at the same level hoping for a direct approach to the hill and a shoreline picture on the way, but there is a large expanse of seriously badass bog near the southern shore. I climbed back up to the track and took a picture from there of this beautiful scene.

Hengwm valley
Hengwm valley (07 Aug 2009__10:26:57)
Bugeilyn (07 Aug 2009__10:55:33)

The track leads around past the boathouse and up to the buildings where I crossed the stile immediately beyond the last fenced enclosure. A scrappy climb up the roughly vegetated slopes of Banc Bugeilyn brought me to a typical moorland summit plateau of numerous peaty domes, where the highest is alleged to be at the southern end. A surprisingly easy walk eastwards through the desolate hags and a descent of grassy slopes leads to the much rougher Cors yr Ebolion, the bwlch below the next top Bryn yr Wyn. A short climb along the forest edge and a longer horizontal stretch lead to a small hump which is the clear summit, an undistinguished spot.

Returning over Cors yr Ebolion, I picked up a rough tractor track heading northwards that disappeared after a while leaving a short but arduous traverse and descent to the old mine workings beyond the Nant Ddu. Just above is the track of Owain Glyndwr's Way, easy walking past the lake and nature reserve of Glaslyn with the familiar Foel Fadian beyond.

Foel Fadian from Glaslyn track
Foel Fadian from Glaslyn track (07 Aug 2009__13:08:43)

I forked R on the track out to the pass road and crossed the fence for the short climb to the most easterly of the Dewey tops Bryn y Fedwen, which has an upright slate among the reeds on the summit and pleasing views, though not quite as extensive as its neighbour Foel Fadian that sports the trig point. On the way up I had joined a tractor track that I now saw descended to a gate a short way along the road, saving me the gymnastics with the fence on the return. There was now a grand sky over Glaslyn and the sun emerged again for a closer shot as I retraced my steps to the lake.

Slate marker stone at the summit of Bryn y Fedwen
Slate marker stone at the summit of Bryn y Fedwen (07 Aug 2009__13:26:45)
Distant view of Glaslyn
Distant view of Glaslyn (07 Aug 2009__13:27:23)
Glaslyn (07 Aug 2009__14:08:40)

The western arm of the track leads back to the buildings of Bugeilyn, and I forked R on the track above Llyn Cwm-byr that curves around to the dam at the far end with the next top Siambr Trawsfynydd beyond. This is an attractive lake that has always been overshadowed by Bugeilyn on previous visits to the area, being foreshortened from the main track on the east side, but now seen to best advantage.

Llyn Cwm-byr & Siambr Trawsfynydd
Llyn Cwm-byr & Siambr Trawsfynydd (07 Aug 2009__14:42:11)
Llyn Cwm-byr
Llyn Cwm-byr (07 Aug 2009__14:49:46)

The track marches on through the very seldom trodden rough wilderness above the steeply incised facade that falls to the north, which is unfortunately out of sight until seen end-on later. After crossing the lower slopes of Siambr Trawsfynydd, I joined a clear side path that ascends due N following the line of the intersecting bridleway to the summit fence. Walking back on the north side of the fence the top is in no doubt, a small rib of rock in the rough moorland that affords grand distant views.

Looking back to Llyn Cwm-byr
Looking back to Llyn Cwm-byr (07 Aug 2009__15:23:22)
View from Siambr Trawsfynydd
View from Siambr Trawsfynydd (07 Aug 2009__15:31:40)

I returned to the fence and followed it westwards down the rough slopes to the cross fence (passing an intermediate cross fence not marked on the map). On the far side I was surprised to find a good path heading SE back to the main track, exactly what I wanted. The track forsakes the mapped line of the bridleway and runs through the forest to descend to a track junction where I turned L back towards Hyddgen, passing a curiously sited white quartz memorial stone and small inscribed plaque. Emerging from the forest I had another grand view across the Hyddgen valley towards Pumlumon Fach and Banc Llechwedd-mawr.

Pumlumon Fach & Banc Llechwedd-mawr
Pumlumon Fach & Banc Llechwedd-mawr (07 Aug 2009__16:55:59)

I retraced my steps past the Hyddgen buildings and up to the gate, this time continuing on the good track around the flanks of Bryn Moel and up towards the cone of Foel Grafiau. The bridleway running W off the main track passes through a gate to approach the final short steep climb to the summit, giving a good view across the rolling hills to Pumlumon. I descended the cone to a good flat grassy area and called it a day, making an excellent pitch. There was still enough strength in the low sun to dry off the wet flysheet for the evening until the dank mists of the early hours would return.

View to Pumlumon from Foel Grafiau
View to Pumlumon from Foel Grafiau (07 Aug 2009__18:07:54)
Pitch near Foel Grafiau
Pitch near Foel Grafiau (07 Aug 2009__18:43:13)

Day 3 - Moel Hyddgen & Pen Creigiau'r Llan

Another day and the same post-dawn waiting game for the mist to clear before setting off - I was sure it would do so quickly again and it was locally clear around 07:30. The easiest route to the next summit Foel fras is to return to the main track to avoid the deep valley between the tops and minimise reascent, not to mention much easier going. The approach from the track is easy and there was a rather muted view of Llyn Penrhaeadr from the top.

Sun breaks through early mist onto Foel Grafiau
Sun breaks through early mist onto Foel Grafiau (08 Aug 2009__08:17:59)
View to Llyn Penrhaeadr from Foel fras
View to Llyn Penrhaeadr from Foel fras (08 Aug 2009__08:28:15)

I rejoined the main track to Bwlch Hyddgen and hairpinned back on the side track that descends above the buildings of Hafodwnog and ascends past the forest edge towards Moel Hyddgen, leaving it for an easy climb to the summit area of several grassy mounds.

I returned to the track and kept my eyes peeled for the start of the path I remembered that heads westwards near the forest edge towards Pistyll y Llyn. The path becomes far less distinct approaching the stream and loses itself in a sea of horrendous tussocks and dense vegetation at the bottom. Crossing this bwlch took a long time, or so it seemed with every step gingerly tested, and eventually I climbed out the other side to relatively good ground. The view ahead to Pen Creigiau'r Llan is deceiving at first: the obvious top is actually a small hill inside the forest boundary where the trees are very sparse, the true summit is out of sight to the right. There is a track of sorts, clear at times but obscured by tussocky vegetation at others, that traces an arc well away from the forest fence and later becomes a path leading directly to the summit. Llyn Conach can be seen to the SW and there was a dull view towards the estuary.

Llyn Conach from Pen Creigiau'r Llan
Llyn Conach from Pen Creigiau'r Llan (08 Aug 2009__10:26:11)

The teasing path continues meandering NW, still playing hide and seek through the tangled tussocks, and finally arriving at the forest fence where the whole northern arm has been felled. The going is now easy along the fence to the northern tip where I turned L to pick up the bridleway through the forest at a gate. The beaten path passes through an area that resembles the aftermath of a nuclear detonation, quite absorbing in a perverse kind of way, and soon joins the main forest road.

The route becomes a bit vague here: the map shows bridleways and RUPPs that don't exist on the ground and forest tracks that do. These scenarios always worry me, the working tracks often change and I have visions of wandering around in the trees for hours, but fortunately here the overall route I wanted was clearly waymarked as a bridleway and it was a matter of keeping faith and watching the landscape. The route file shows the approximate line which emerges at SN 719928. Here I turned L and walked up to the forest road that runs along Artists Valley on the SW side, finally joining the narrow lane by the Ystrad Einion mine. I followed the lane directly back to Furnace.