Friday, 17 April 2015

Mapping Mountains – Trimble Surveys – Elenydd

14.04.15  Esgair Dderw (SN 943 700), Penrhiw Wen (SN 925 709), Esgair Perfedd (SN 917 700), Crugyn Ci (SN 926 687) and Coed y Cefn (SN 950 682)   

Esgair Dderw (SN 943 700)
I’d almost forgotten the tranquility and spacious solitude that the Elenydd can offer, this area is special throughout the year but autumnal months give a blaze of colour when the moor grass reaches a bronzed intensity, but spring months when warmth heralds new life and the Skylark is a constant companion and the wide open spaces give big skies of blue radiating against the bleached colours of the land is also quite magical.

Today I wanted to visit Esgair Dderw, a Pedwar with just 30m of drop according to Ordnance Survey maps and a hill that only entered the list during evaluation for publishing on Europeaklist.  I’d devised a circuit that would also take in Coed y Cefn which is a Sub-Hump with only 90m of drop, both hills were new for me as I had not visited them before, between the two is a large expanse of emptiness with Penrhiw Wen, Esgair Perfedd and Crugyn Ci rising out of the extended moor, smooth shaped and desolate.  I’d visited Penrhiw Wen and Esgair Perfedd twice before in 2000 and 2009 and Crugyn Ci three times before with the extra visit in January 2001 with Eryl, Rita, Ed and John and Anne Nuttall after we’d celebrated my 40th birthday the night before in Llanidloes.

I parked at SN 952 688 where the width of tarmac had been extended, this is opposite the footpath I aimed to use and which rises eastward next to a deciduous wood before angling back on itself when it reaches open hillside.  As I gained height a brisk westerly wind blew and I put my gloves on which remained firmly in place until later in the morning when the warmth cascading out of the sky burned the high cloud cover and replaced it with deep blues.

The view beyond the beauty of the Elenydd
Once beyond the deciduous wood a multitude of paths, some green tracks and others off-road vehicle tracks consisting of stone and rock made their way upward toward the high point of Esgair Dderw.  As I approached the summit intermittent busts of sunshine would illuminate the land before disappearing and replacing the colour with a dull ache of sameness.

I gathered data from three potential high points at the summit area of Esgair Dderw and then stood beside Maen-serth, an outlying 8ft tall ancient standing stone looking over the upper Gwynllyn valley.  This stone’s antiquity is disputed as it is probably placed as a way marker.  One local name for it is the ‘Prince’s Stone’ which relates to a dispute over land between the Norman ‘Marcher’ Lord; Roger Mortimer, and the Welsh chieftains; Rhys ap Gruffydd and two brothers; Cadwallon and Einon Clud.  It is said that it was on this spot, beside Maen-serth that Mortimer ambushed and killed Einon and later did the same to his brother; Cadwallon.

Gathering data from one of the three points surveyed at the summit area of Esgair Dderw
Maen-serth stands as a way marker looking out toward Crugyn Ci and Esgair Perfedd
A short distance beyond the summit of Esgair Dderw is its critical bwlch, this area has a wooden fence enclosure similar to a small paddock, within its confines are reed grass and a dried up muddy puddle.  I took data from where I judged the critical bwlch to be positioned and then checked the positioning of the 433m spot height which appears on the Ordnance Survey enlarged Geograph map and which gives this hill its Pedwar status.  The ten figure grid reference for this spot height took me to land which is positioned on the upward part of the hill to hill traverse.

One of the options for the easterly ascent of Esgair Dderw is on a good vehicle track which starts from a country lane and continues beyond the summit of Penrhiw Wen where it emerges onto the mountain road from Rhaeadr (Rhayader).  After surveying the bwlch I joined this track and walked on it to near its high point before heading north upto the summit area of Penrhiw Wen.  I took data from two potential high points and looked out as light and shade played on the landscape with the high cloud now slowly breaking and with the chill early morning breeze being replaced by late morning warmth.

Light and shade upon the lonely Elenydd landscape
I now had a choice, either continue from Penrhiw Wen across the moor toward the bwlch between this hill and Esgair Perfedd or too loose around 55m of height to investigate the critical bwlch of Crugyn Ci, I opted for the latter and joined the minor road and walked downhill away from the continuation of my planned walk.  I soon left the road and found a sheep track amongst the Elenydd tussocks which took me down to a quiet pool amongst a morass of bog.  Thankfully conditions were relatively dry and as the Trimble gathered its data I watched the occasional car pass on the minor road, wondering if the people inside the cars were wondering what a forlorn figure was doing standing in a bog!

Gathering data at the critical bwlch of Crugyn Ci
Once data were gathered I re-joined the sheep track but soon diverted toward the minor road and then opted for the continuation of the moor toward the next bwlch, below was the slender watery thread of the Graig Goch Reservoir framed against miles of desolate land.  When I arrived at the next bwlch it proved to be extensive and wet, with reed grass stretching off into the distance, I opted to place the Trimble beside a large pool and settled in for a few minutes wait until the required 0.1m accuracy is attained before data can be logged.

Looking down and past the Graig Goch Reservoir
Mmmmmmmmmm yummy, yummy, another bog!  Gathering data at the critical bwlch of Esgair Perfedd
By now I’d removed by gloves as the breeze was warmer than first thing this morning, ahead lay the 504m map heighted summit of Esgair Perfedd, I started toward this hill in a direct route but soon back-tracked and tried to gain height around an intervening morass of bog, in land like this a sheep track can be a god-send and once I fund one I followed it toward a series of small boundary stones placed across the moor, in time I arrived at the quiet summit of Esgair Perfedd and proceeded to take data from two points.

Miles of naute!  Gathering data from one of the two surveyed positions at the summit area of Esgair Perfedd
The high cloud had now been replaced by a clearing blue mass of sky which gave a refreshing feel to the landscape, this stretched out in a continuous pattern of moorland with rolling hill after rolling hill giving way to the horizon.

I followed boundary stones and an adjacent small path down to the next connecting bwlch, this proved extensive, the largest of the day, it stretched out in a flatness of bog and moor grass, I took data from two points on the valley to valley traverse and gave a relatively large margin of uncertainty for the height placement.

More miles of naute!  Wandering in another bog, this time at the critical bwlch of Penrhiw Wen
As I packed the Trimble away and walked through the bog to the relatively dry slopes of Crugyn Ci I took my one-skin summer jacket off as I was now over heating in the afternoon sun.  The path leading up from the bwlch soon gave way to a small sheep track that in time brought me out close to this hill’s trig pillar.  Again, two points were Trimbled and whilst it gathered data I sat and rested, happy in the knowledge that the wilder part of the walk was now almost over.

Gathering data at the summit of Crugyn Ci
Blue skies above the trig pillar on Crugyn Ci
Gathering data beside the trig pillar on Crugyn Ci
Once I had packed the Trimble away I looked out from the trig as a Red Kite soared above, just one of many that I had seen during the day, once a sighting would have been a rarity, now it is common, but their majestic flight has not altered, still they glide with forked tail and slender body.

Red Kite - always majestic in flight
The summit of Crugyn Ci is perched above an attractive small rock outcrop which gives authority to its position amongst the miles of slowly undulating moor.  Just below this rock outcrop is a good track that crosses over the hills from the Penygarreg Reservoir to the minor road that I had walked on earlier in the day.  Diverting from this good track is a path that heads eastward down to the valley, once I had found this path I stayed on it as it slowly lost height before plunging down through steep ground toward the critical bwlch of Coed y Cefn, which was my last hill of the day.

This path was a delight as it passed the remains of an old house with the customary wind break of mature trees next to it.  I often wonder when I come across the remains of such houses who lived here and when.  It must have been a gentle and probably sometimes hard life in such a place, this may have once been a Hafod, a summer dwelling for a shepherd, one that was boarded up for the dark winter months when the flock tends itself on lower pastures.

The remains of an old house in the hills
I slipped over on my way down the sleep rock path as I approached the valley, I’d already broken the lens cap to my camera when on the summit of Crugyn Ci and would shortly tear my map case and my legs on a ‘footpath’ that is not recommended.

Coed y Cefn from the approach toward its critical bwlch
As I approached the critical bwlch of Coed y Cefn it was evident that it was placed either in or just beside another bog.  Once I placed the Trimble down at the allotted spot I sat under small trees in the dappled light and looked up as branches gave way to blue sky, I checked on the Trimble’s downward progress on a couple of occasions and contentedly waited until I pressed ‘Log’ and then sat down again.  The critical bwlch where I was now at is beside a footpath that looked like a track on the map.  Once the Trimble was packed away I remained in the field beyond the bog as the footpath was old and enclosed and particularly wet.  I should have remained in the fields and used gates to gain access onto the lane at the base of the wood that gives Coed y Cefn its name; rather stupidly I opted to join the enclosed path even though I could see that it was full to busting with sapling trees.  Once I started on my ‘safari’ I reached a point where I couldn’t be bothered back-tracking and continued through the mayhem, either side was a hawthorn hedge and I was now in a gully full of prickly stuff and to make matters worse the further into the stuff I plodded the more wet, muddy and oozy the underfoot conditions became.  As my legs started to be torn and bloodied I decided that I had to try and get through the adjacent hedge, as I stumbled my way up the slippery bank, through the hedge and over the adjacent barbed wire fence I tore my map case, which seems to be compulsory if bagging smaller hills.

Beside another bog, this time at the critical bwlch of Coed y Cefn
I was now knackered, hot, sweaty, bloodied and disheveled.  Once in the field I plodded up to a gate and the safety of a narrow lane which led to two end houses at the western base of Coed y Cefn.  Beyond the last house a path led south-eastward around the base of the wooded hill, I left this path and puffed my way up through the stunted oaks toward the top.  By now I had to take a few rests on the uphill part, as I did so I watched a multitude of ants scampering on the small path which made its way up through the trees.  I soon came across one of two large ant nests and stopped to take some photos, as I crouched down to zoom in I listened to the hum and quiet crackle as the thousands of ants hurriedly went this way and that, a hive of activity in the afternoon’s sunshine and perched in a seldom visited wood.

The ascent of Coed y Cefn is easy and attractive past stunted oak and small rock outcrops, the summit is crowned by one of these attractive outcrops beside a few small trees.  Just under the high point of the summit outcrop is a wooden board with the following inscribed on it ‘up, way up to the stars above’.  I thought this rather wonderful and quite unexpected.

An unexpected and welcome addition to the summit of Coed y Cefn
I sighted with my small spirit level across the upper part of this highest rock outcrop as there are three positions vying for the summit, once I had decided which was just highest I placed the Trimble on the rock and gathered the allotted five minutes of data.

Perched on the high point of Coed y Cefn the Trimble gathers its last summit data of the day
The outcrop of rock at the summit of Coed y Cefn
All that remained was to re-trace my steps back down through the trees onto the lane and then follow footpaths down to a stream crossing and a slow plod back up a field to my car.  It had been a wonderful day spent in the tranquility of the Elenydd, easily one of the best landscapes in the whole of Wales.

Survey Result:

Esgair Dderw

Summit Height:  462.8m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SN 94362 70013

Bwlch Height:  431.6m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SN 93879 69951

Drop:  31.2m (Pedwar status confirmed)

Dominance:  6.74%

Penrhiw Wen

Summit Height:  510.1m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SN 92511 70917

Bwlch Height:  476.3m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SN 91946 69612

Drop:  33.9m

Dominance:  6.64%

Esgair Perfedd

Summit Height:  503.5m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SN 91702 70082

Bwlch Height:  479.2m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SN 91363 70716

Drop:  24.4m

Dominance:  4.84%

Crugyn Ci

Summit Height:  532.6m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SN 92627 68799

Bwlch Height:  432.3m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SN 91485 71676

Drop:  100.3m (Hump status confirmed)

Dominance:  18.84%

Summit Height:  342.2m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SN 95076 68217

Bwlch Height:  251.3m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SN 94349 68432

Drop:  90.8m (Subhump status confirmed)

Dominance:  26.54%

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

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