Saturday, 23 May 2015

Mapping Mountains – Trimble Surveys – Elenydd

21.05.15  Y Garth (SN 934 558), Allt y Ddinas (SN 928 567), Wenallt (SN 933 571), Lan Fawr (SN 939 578) and Gornoeth (SN 946 567)    

Allt y Ddinas (SN 928 567)
Another stunningly peaceful day in the Elenydd when the only sound seemed to be that of the breeze as it whisked over this endless landscape, sometimes the beauty of the hills can be found in the smallest of things and today I happily immersed myself in this open land, except for the occasional impression of a vehicle track on a ridge crest, or the specks of white grazing and running after their mothers, or the soaring silkiness of buzzards and red kites, I was left alone with big blue skies and succulent colours that screamed out in vividness.  Today was bliss!

I have seldom investigated the southerly approaches to the higher Elenydd, but on those occasions that I have the landscape does not disappoint, as streams gently make their way down from the higher wilds of these hills to roll down long peaceful valleys.

Today I wanted to investigate a compact part of this land, one I had not visited before, although I had looked at the combination of these five hills on the map many times in the past.

I parked to the east of the first hill’s summit where there is sufficient space for about ten cars on a large flat area of land at SN 942 559.  As I walked up the road the morning chill was still in the air, and although the sky blue with wisps of white cloud heralded warmth to the day, a chilling wind blew as I gained access into the field that aimed toward the summit of Y Garth.

Walking beside the fence toward this first summit of the day opened up the view of the land I planned to visit, across the intervening valley to my north the flat topped Lan Fawr shapely descended to the green reclaimed pasture on its lower flanks, whilst away to the north-east the forested top of Gornoeth looked out teasingly as this was planned to be my last summit of the day and would probably require a forest bash to reach its highest point.

Y Garth has a small rock outcrop at its highest point and looks north toward the high Elenydd with Allt y Ddinas, my next hill, squatly domed and beckoning.  Once the customary data were gathered with the Trimble I checked the map for where I should aim to head down toward this hill’s connecting bwlch and blissfully wandered down its northerly slopes.

Gathering data at the summit of Y Garth
As I headed down, the profile of Allt y Ddinas grew in height and started to dominate the horizon, from this vantage point it was almost symmetrical with cascading sides of bracken and deeply rich greens and flesh yellowed leaves stretching out across its lower slopes.

Allt y Ddinas from the descent of Y Garth
I found the bwlch to be in a field of bog and reed where my efforts to pinpoint its spot brought the prospect of wet feet.  Once I was happy with the placement of the Trimble I sauntered away from the equipment to leave it gather data and wondered how many people come this way.  Just the other side of the fence which I had stretched over to gain access into the field of bog was a track leading down to the farm of Cwmdulas, but except for this one habitation life hereabouts must be slowed and rather different in nature to that experienced by most people in these islands.

Gathering data at the bwlch of Y Garth
By now the light was superb with clear visibility and a colour rich to overflowing, the opposing hillside flowed with merging colour as subtle shades of fresh greens interspersed themselves with the dulled appeal of blue from an undergrowth of Bluebells that swept up to end with the early summer dulled browns of bracken.

Greens and blues of early summer
The shapely profile of Allt y Ddinas
Y Garth (SN 934 558)
Not wanting to disturb the occupants at Cwmdulas, I opted to walk up a track and through a field which ended up on a sheep track above bubbling waterfalls of the Nant Cyfyng as it flowed down between Allt y Dinas and Wenallt.

As I gained height toward the waterfalls the eastern side of Allt y Ddinas shot up beyond its green and blue lower slopes, from this angle it rose to a slender point with its eastern ridge appealing with small rock outcrops breaking through the steep ground of grass and bracken.  This was the way I wanted to ascend, and once across the Nant Cyfyng I joined a sheep track as it gained height above the steams water toward the dulled browns of those brackens that were butting up against a hillside of blue.

Allt y Ddinas above the valley of the Nant Cyfyng
Seasonal change in the hills is a great joy and the month of May brings blossom and Bluebells and the freshness of budding leaves when their greens are sometimes emerald, or yellowed in the striking light given from blue skies.

Y Garth from the Nant Cyfyng
As I followed the sheep track to the crest of the easterly ridge of Allt y Ddinas I soaked in the scent of a multitude of Bluebells and soon I was amongst them framing photographs of distant hills, with their blues set off against the radiant colour of greens, one colour merged eloquently into the other.  These Bluebell fields are to be savoured, they seem a world unto themselves where their fenced lands cannot be penetrated by those blissfully unaware sheep and their May sprouting luxuriates the countryside. 

A blaze of blues and greens
The beauty of May - a hillside of Bluebells
I stopped amongst the Bluebells for quite some time and took many photos with Y Garth and Gornoeth being framed against the blue sky, the latter hill is now forested but its profile portrays a past when this hill must once have been a shapely addition to this part of the Elenydd.

The forested summit of Gornoeth
Y Garth from the ascent of Allt y Ddinas
As I gained height toward the summit of Ally y Ddinas, Wenallt bulged out across the Nant Cyfyng with sheep tracks contouring across its rounded westerly slopes.  Below me to the south-east Y Garth stood solidly shaped with its north-westerly lower section full of deciduous trees, a welcome addition and one that accentuated its lower profile, immediately below Y Garth stood the farm of Cwmdulas with sheep being brought into one of its barns.

The westerly bulk of Wenallt
Y Garth rising above the farm of Cwmdulas
The summit of Allt y Ddinas consists of grass, and once the Trimble had gathered its data I set off down its northern slope to its connecting bwlch as the cairn on the distant Drygarn Fawr looked on from far to the north-west. 

Gathering data at the summit of Allt y Ddinas
I spent a few minutes assessing the ground at the bwlch and disturbing a mountain hare in the process, and once deciding on where the Trimble should be placed I stood back and waited for the customary five minutes of data to be gathered.  The continuation from this bwlch would take the walker to the wilds of Gorllwyn, but my interest lay across the Nant Cyfyng with the summit of Wenallt which would be my high point of the day.

The route from the bwlch to the summit of Wenallt passed through the first wet ground of the day, and as I crossed the stream I looked back at Y Garth neatly framed against the rising slopes of Ally y Ddinas and Wenallt.  I remember looking at this route on the map a number of times over the years and wondering what these hills would be like, were they full of tussocks, or perhaps laden in quagmires of endless bog, both can have their pleasures, but I was finding them a joy to walk through with sheep tracks to follow and relatively easy underfoot conditions.  However, I hadn’t yet encountered the stretch of land connecting two bylchau that I wanted to survey and that I suspected would bring a good bog trot to the day’s proceedings.

Y Garth framed against the rising slopes of Wenallt and Allt y Ddinas
I found an embedded small rock to be the high point of Wenallt which was positioned a few metres from a series of small puddles.  Beyond the flat topped grassland of Lan Fawr were the higher summits of Y Gamriw and Drum Ddu, between me and them were probably few if any fences, just an endless sea of moor and bog and solitude.

Gathering data at the summit of Wenallt
My next stop was northward of this hill’s summit in what the map suggested to be a flatland of moor, as I walked down to this bwlch I was surprised to find its point relatively easy to pinpoint, perhaps my eye is now getting attuned to bwlch detecting, or perhaps this is over optimism on my part as the human eye can be very deceptive when judging the lay of land.

I placed the Trimble near to a stagnant pool and waited until the allotted data were collected, during this I looked north-east through a morass of moor, reed and no doubt bog to where my next bwlch to be surveyed lay.  I considered a direct course but judged that to be foolhardy, I wondered about getting up onto high ground and trying to keep my footsies dry, eventually after the Trimble was packed away I decided to lose some height and hope that my route did not have me floundering amongst endless bog.

Gathering data at the bwlch of Wenallt
As I made progress my old dilapidated boots starting to leak and the sensual cleansing of water slowly ebbed into my socks, this persisted even though I tried to step from one tussock onto another whilst avoiding the brightly coloured greens of water laden sphagnum moss.  My route was not long but it was proving rather boggy, I found a vehicle rack which took me over a narrow runnel of stream water as it slowly flowed through this high grassland.  Beyond this was a path that made its way up the western flank of my next hill; Lan Fawr and according to the map it stopped right next to the critical bwlch of this hill.  Once on the path I knew the worst of the slushiness was over.

The critical bwlch of Lan Fawr was in a morass of moor, this is the true heartland of the Elenydd, I only touched this rawness of bog, reed and tussock during my day’s walk, but it has an unusual welcoming appeal to it, one that I have not savoured often enough in recent years.

Gathering data at the bwlch of Lan Fawr
My small wander amongst the openness and tranquillity of this part of the Elenydd was nearing an end, as although I’d got another summit to visit after Lan Fawr, it would be a forested one that was embedded in the joys of conifers.  Once the Trimble had been placed at where I judged the critical bwlch of Lan Fawr to be, I edged away from it as it collected the all-important data and stood with my feet on tussocks away from the numerous patches of standing water that spilled across this part of the hill.

A steady walk south then brought me to the summit area of Lan Fawr, this hill is listed as a Sub-Pedwar and I do not know anybody that has visited its summit before.  I was surprised to find a large boulder popping up out of the moor, it isn’t positioned on the high point of the moor but when I stood on its high point and peered out across the flatness of summit plateaux it looked to be the high point of the hill.

The large boulder at the summit of Lan Fawr
Drum Ddu on left of photo from the summit of Lan Fawr
Gathering data at the summit of Lan Fawr
By now the radiant blue sky had given way to high cloud that had pushed in from the west, I waited patiently for a flash of light hoping to illuminate the Trimble perched on this large rock with reed grass at its base.  I always enjoy trying to align the Trimble’s internal antenna with the highest part of any summit that has a rock or boulder on it.  Sometimes this can be a frightening experience as a strong wind could topple this piece of expensive survey equipment to a boulderly death below, surveys of Glyder Fach and the Stiperstones spring to mind, but usually its design and rubberised outer shell and bottom give good purchase onto rock and it can fit snugly on most rock even if angled or smooth.  Today was no exception as I delicately put it in position balanced on the high point of the large boulder, hoping that the brisk breeze would not dislodge it.

Before leaving Lan Fawr I gathered another data set on what I judged to be the high point of the moor, this whole area is almost sponge like as it is plateaued with a dexterity for water retention, something I didn’t approve of as I stepped from one small tussock to another trying to find the driest and safest way forward.

The large flat and watery moorland top of Lan Fawr
A few minutes later and the watery summit of Lan Fawr had been left behind and closely cropped grazing fields led through two or three gates down to the area of the bwlch for my last hill of the day; Gornoeth.  This bwlch is placed on the imprint of a path as it makes its way across a field.  It took a few minutes wandering before this became evident, but once the position was picked I placed the Trimble down and waited for it to attain its required accuracy before data can be logged.  I waited for around fifteen minutes for this to happen, during which two people on horses passed on the adjacent narrow lane, otherwise all was quiet.

Gathering data at the bwlch of Gornoeth
All that was left was a visit to Gornoeth, I approached from its north and walked up an appealing green path amongst mature pines, this I had spotted during my descent of Lan Fawr and I hoped it would lead up to a forest track and then felled forestry on the higher part of the hill.  The path led back on itself and I came out beside the upper part of the mature pines, a direct route to this point from where I had left the narrow lane would have been easier, but I enjoy investigating and I was now on the forest track.  A previous study of Google Earth and a report by Rob Woodall on Hill Bagging places a forest path heading from the forest track and which seemed the easiest way to make adequate height before the forest bash truly started.  I found the relatively wide forest path without any difficulty and followed it up through the trees, this path gets very near the summit of the hill, I’d previously noted a ten figure grid reference where to leave this path, and also one for the estimated summit position and the direction into the trees to find the high point.  The path proved rather good and soon I had walked past the summit and over the hill’s summit crest and emerged back into sunshine onto the southern side of the hill, I could now see my car down in the valley below.  I back-tracked and reached the high point of the path again and turned the Trimble on to use it as a hand-held GPS, and within a couple of metres from where I had estimated the position to leave the path and enter the conifers was a relatively easy entrance into the trees (SN 94580 56762), that would at least make good headway into the forest toward where the hill’s summit crest lay.  Once in the trees all I had to do was reach the summit crest and turn left and bash my way through the branches to try and find the high point.

The entrance into the trees with the high point of Gornoeth over on the left somewhere
There’s a certain enjoyment to heading straight through the darkened realm of a conifer plantation, thankfully today’s little adventure proved relatively easy and within ten minutes or so I was reading coordinates on the Trimble that were close to the ones I had estimated for the summit.  I then placed the Trimble on what looked like a high point, look a couple of photos and proceeded further into the trees where there seemed to be another high point.  I reached a point where I could see a slender ridge crest continuing downhill to my north-east, as I knew that the ground behind me was going downhill and I had kept as closely to the high point of the ridge crest as the conifer branches would allow, I stood on what I deemed to be the summit and turned around to find my way out again.  However, it has to be said that the land within this part of the conifer plantation is relatively flat.

The point where I gathered data from, at the summit of Gornoeth
Another 10-15 metres further into the trees and I was happy that I'd visited the summit
I popped out of the conifers with the usual scratches and blood on my legs, a sign that although relatively easy the dead lower branches of conifers can sometimes be fierce things to bash through.

Bloodied and scratched, but summits bagged and data gathered I headed back to my car
Once back on the forest path I stripped off as there were twigs poking out of all kinds of places.  All that remained was to retrace my steps down the forest path, onto the track and down to the small lane which in time led back to my car.  I’d visited five hills; four being Pedwarau and one a Sub-Pedwar.  The day had been rewarding with the landscape of the Elenydd inviting me in to another small part of its seldom trodden heartland.        

Survey Result:

Y Garth

Summit Height:  433.0m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SN 93443 55850

Bwlch Height:  327.9m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SN 93691 56409

Drop:  105.1m (Hump status confirmed)

Dominance:  24.28%

Allt y Ddinas

Summit Height:  448.5m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SN 92830 56735

Bwlch Height:  414.2m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SN 92831 57037

Drop:  34.3m (Pedwar status confirmed)

Dominance:  7.64%


Summit Height:  466.4m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SN 93366 57112

Bwlch Height:  438.1m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SN 93196 57615

Drop:  28.3m (Pedwar reclassified to 400m Sub-Pedwar confirmed)

Dominance:  6.06%

Lan Fawr

Summit Height:  460.8m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SN 93963 57819 (summit relocation confirmed)

Bwlch Height:  438.8m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SN 93664 57970

Drop:  22.0m (400m Sub-Pedwar status confirmed)

Dominance:  4.78%


Summit Height:  442.3m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SN 94622 56740

Bwlch Height:  349.3m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SN 94446 57110

Drop:  93.0m (Subhump status confirmed)

Dominance:  21.02%

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

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