Saturday, 21 March 2015

Mapping Mountains – Trimble Surveys – Carnedd Wen

20.03.15  Courthouse Bank (SJ 247 183)   

The summit of Courthouse Bank (SJ 247 183)
The last time I had seen a weather forecast for this morning it said that a cloud bank was pushing south and would be over the part of Wales where I live during the morning hours.  When I woke up to bird song and bright skies it was a surprise, I also didn’t know what time it was as my watch had stopped when out on the hill yesterday.  I soon found out it was 7.00am and as I opened my bedroom curtains blue sky invaded.

With over two hours until the partial eclipse of the sun was to take place I quickly sorted my walking gear and started looking at maps for a suitable wee local hill to visit and watch as the moon slowly sank over the sun.  I’d watched the 11th August 1999 eclipse with friends from high on the Black Mountains and had watched the transit of Venus across the sun from the summit of Mynydd yr Hewyrch, time and inclination dictated that this morning’s destination was to be a little less ambitious.

After studying the maps I decided on Courthouse Bank which is a local P30, I decided on this hill as I had not visited it, it had a public footpath to its summit and had no specific absolute height on any map that I had seen, it was also only 20 minutes by car down the road from where I live.

I parked just off the lane at the start of the driveway that goes upto a property named Courthouse.  The next few minutes were spent walking up three different driveways trying to find the public footpath that led up the western ridge of this small hill.  I asked one occupant who was busy emptying his bins where the footpath lay, he directed me back to where I had parked and said that he thought it was at the back of the Courthouse.  I then quickly walked back down his drive, investigated his neighbours drive, backtracked again and walked up the drive next to where I had parked.  All these properties are rather grand with the backs of these houses adjacent to the footpath and where I wanted to be.

The back of the Courthouse looked promising and I opened a gate into a paddock which gave access to a field which had a number of horses in it.  Just as I was shutting the gate a voice rang out ‘excuse me, where are you going?’, I said hello and chatted to the woman who had seen me walking around the back of her property, I explained I was looking for the public footpath and she kindly directed me back to her neighbours house, which was the second property I had investigated.  As I walked back up her neighbours drive the woman directed me around the back of a garage to where she thought the footpath lay.  She had pre-warmed me that it was full of brambles, she was not mistaken.  The footpath to this hill approaching from the west is not recommended as gorse and brambles pre-dominate.  I disappeared around the back of the garage, clambered over a fence and bi-passed the brambles by climbing another fence, I was now in the upper part of the back garden of the first property that I had investigated, the one where the man was sorting out his weekly refuse collection.  I crouched down and quietly walked up to the next fence which gave access into a field.  I was now adjacent to the path which was on the other side of a fence and looked as if it had not been used in decades.

Within a few minutes I was at the summit of Courthouse Bank, the high point is beside the ridge fence, ten or so metres away from a mature tree.  The summit is rather attractive with a slightly rising ridge which steepens on its north and south sides.  It looked particularly welcome on such a morning with the sun ablaze and blue skies above. 

The summit ridge of Courthouse Bank
Across the Severn Valley the Breiddin were a greyish tinge of a silhouette and to the north the shapely wooded summit of Bryn Mawr (SJ 251 190) looked down on the mid Wales landscape.

Bryn Mawr (SJ 251 190)
Once I had chosen the spot for the Trimble I set it down on the ground, pressed ‘Log’ and left it to gather its data.  It was now 9.07am and the sun was a white streak of light in the sky, I then put on my Eclipse Shades and looked up, the moon was slowly edging its way down across the north-easterly part of the sun, which through the shades took on an orange colour with the moon blacking out its bulk, this was not evident from the naked eye as the sky was clear of clouds.  It was also not evident from photographs taken directly into the sun, these came out showing the orb as a bright white mass with no partial eclipse evident,  what was needed was slight cloud cover, but alas bright blue skies were the order of the day.  The only way I could take a photograph which showed the partial eclipse was through the eye piece of the Eclipse Shades.  By doing this the sun appeared small and crescent shaped with the moon merging into the black coloured sky.

The only way I could photograph the partial eclipse of the sun was through the eye piece of my Eclipse Shades, in the background is the Breiddin
At 9.20am the partial eclipse was nearest its fullest for this part of the country
At 9.30am the sun was no more than a crescent shaped disc and the land had dimmed of bright colour
At 9.30am the fullest eclipse for this part of the country occurred, just before this I turned the Trimble off after it had collected 20 minutes of data.  By now the landscape had taken on a dimmed coloured effect, one that resembled the heralding of dusk, it felt unerringly odd at this time of day and especially so on such a beautiful and clear spring morning.

Gathering data at the summit of Courthouse Bank
By the time I left the summit of Courthouse Bank I’d been on top for over 30 minutes happily watching the transit of the moon across the sun, considering the coincidence of the mathematics, distances and sizes of the objects involved it was a stunning thing to watch.

I now wanted to visit this hill’s critical bwlch which is positioned to the west of the hill; I straddled the ridge fence and wandered down another field in a dimly lit trance as a tractor across the way chugged about its business.  Finding the footpath towards the bottom of this field which would take me over the connecting bwlch proved fun and involved back tracking on a couple of occasions and clambering down through undergrowth to straddle another fence.  Once on the expansive field of the bwlch its position was relatively easy to judge and after five minutes of data were collected I packed the Trimble away, climbed a roped up gate and sauntered into the farmyard of Coed Mawr.

Gathering data at the critical bwlch of Courthouse Bank
Busy at work were the Pryce brothers; Alun, Dave and Neil.  I stopped and chatted for a while, Alun said that they had viewed the partial eclipse through their welding goggles.

Busy at work at Coed Mawr farm, the Pryce brothers; (L-R) Alun, Neil and Dave
After ten minutes of conversation with Alun, Dave and Neil I continued through the farmyard and walked down onto the continuation of the Courthouse Lane, turning left took me back to my car.  As I walked up the lane the first Daffodils where pushing out from their slumbering bulbs as birdsong rang out from the blue sky, the changing of the season seemed complete with spring now here.

Survey Result:

Courthouse Bank (significant name change)

Summit Height:  149.5m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SJ 24787 18328

Bwlch Height:  115.9m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SJ 24276 18362

Drop:  33.6m (100m Twmpau status confirmed)

Dominance:  22.45%

For further details please consult the Trimble survey spreadsheet click {here}


Alex Cameron said...

Definitely was a lovely morning for the partial eclipse. I was not very far away at all, just across the border at Webscott trig (Harmer Hill). These celestial events really align your consciousness with the vastness of the cosmos. Days like Friday certainly help to give one a little perspective about running around to and from random points on hill lists scattered about our fair planet.

Just savour each and every day out and the freedom to come and go here and there as you please.

Look forward to the next time, Alex

Myrddyn said...

Hi Alex, good to hear from you. I'm afraid my attempts at 'eclipse photography' didn't do the event justice, but it was a lovely morning and very unusual when the light dimmed dusk-like at 9.30 in the morning.

Alex Cameron said...

I think you did an excellent job, all things considered with what were difficult conditions. Much better than my attempt to photograph it directly through the shielding metalwork of Harmer Hill mast. Have you had local confirmation that Courthouse Bank is the accepted name? Hill Bagging has it down as Cefn Briw, though this doesn't really seem right and I'd agree that Courthouse Bank is more appropriate.

I've been spending a good many days out in the area so far this year bagging by train and bike so I'll probably work my way over to this particular P30 in the coming weeks and months. I may even make it to Welshpool once or twice before the summer is out :).

Cheers, Alex