Thursday, 13 August 2015

Mapping Mountains – Trimble Surveys – Bryniau Clwyd

23.07.15  Castell Dinas Brân (SJ 222 430)  

Castell Dinas Brân (SJ 222 430)

The annual get together with John and Anne Nuttall was hosted by John and Jenny this year at Mold, and our first planned walk was just north of Llangollen next to the limestone escarpment that stretches toward Worlds End.

We parked at approximately SJ 233 431 beside the narrow road that winds its way around the southern and western section of the limestone escarpment.  This pull in spot has sufficient space for about five cars, as do other places beside this road.

Although we only had one summit objective, Castell Dinas Brân, the walk that John and Jenny had devised would take us around a variety of paths, many affording beautiful views.

We set off down the lane in an easterly direction and turned sharp left onto a path that gained height overlooking the edge of a quarry whose sheer sides blended in with that of the limestone escarpment.  From this vantage point Castell Dinas Brân stood out as an almost symmetrical green sided hill of small tree, fern and grass with its easterly path snaking its way up to the remains of Dinas Brân which is the Iron Age hillfort dating from approximately 600 BC.  Beyond are the remains of the Castell perched atop the hill with its stone walls now forlornly looking out on the Vale of Llangollen.

Heading up toward the escarpment edge

The easterly path snaking its way up from the critical bwlch to the summit of Castell Dinas Brân

At the quarry edge

The path soon left the escarpment edge and continued up on grass toward open heath and moor.  The grey sky gave a backdrop of summer colour as the land toward the north-west became partly illuminated with sunbursts, with the greens of fields cast against the dulled browns of higher lands with Moel y Gamelin the centre piece on the horizon.

Heading toward the open hillside of heath and moor

Sunburst on part of the limestone escarpment

Moel y Gamelin

A patchwork of hill colour from greens to browns

Following the path with Mynydd Eglwyseg in the background

We left the main moorland path and headed down on steep ground beside a small stream for a sit down to have lunch.  By now the sun was illuminating the land and with a backdrop of grey sky the colour bounced out from parts of the limestone outcrop which had copious amounts of fern as foreground. 

Deep grays and greens of summer

The view from our lunch stop

After crisp butties we continued down and spent a few minutes watching a climber on the limestone outcrop as he manoeuvred his way up.  Spread-eagled his body toyed with foot placements as first one, and then another was tried before his upward progress continued. 

On the rock

Spreadeagled on the rock

The path led down toward part of the Offa’s Dyke Path which we then followed as it re-claimed height.  Above us rose limestone cliffs with their squared-off sides cast down to scree, above lay greenery and the higher desolate moor.  With the sun giving warmth we could have been walking in parts of southern France.  Few places in Wales can compare to this part of the country, as this whole limestone escarpment is one of wonder.

The limestone escarpment

One of the great stretches of Offa's Dyke with the steep gradient above and valley views below

Our route toward Castell Dinas Brân now left this wonderful path and we walked down through a field where playful cows ran back and forth.  We then entered a wooded path where butterflies gently darted and toadstools grew.  We soon emerged onto another field and aimed for a gate which gave access to a lane and a path next to the steep western slopes of Fron Fawr, which I had once ploughed my way down many a year ago.

On the wooded path

Tree fungi

Thankfully we stopped beside a picnic bench where I lay out in the sun, scoffed another butty and proceeded to have a snooze.  After 15 minutes of laziness we continued, away to the west Coed Hyrddyn looked down upon the Valle Crucis Abbey, unfortunately the unsightly proximity of a caravan park negates the impact of the tranquil surrounds of this Abbey.

We left the path to join a lane which took us to a field from where Castell Dinas Brân loomed ahead.  Its slopes looked steep but a good gradient path helped the ascent.  As height was gained the surrounding land opened up with views down to Dinbren Hall which is a Georgian Manor House and dates from 1779.  This house is prominent in the valley and nestles below a 200m Twmpau hill.

Castell Dinas Brân looming overhead

Dinbren Hall, nestled and secluded within tranquil surrounds

The 320m spot height on Ordnance Survey maps is positioned within the walls of the Castell, and as we arrived at the top of the hill John, Graham and I started our inspection for the highest ground.  This we found close to the walls, but outside of their compound to the east overlooking where we had parked our cars and the hill’s critical bwlch.

An artist's impression of Castell Dinas Brân

Once the point had been determined I set the Trimble up and gathered five minutes of data.  The walls of Castell Dinas Brân that now remain on the summit probably date from the mid 1200’s and had association with the Princes of Powys.  Although the hill is not the highest hereabouts its central position in the valley and its prominence gives it a dominant feel, this is enhanced with the castle’s remains, which can easily be seen from afar.

The Trimble perched on the high point of Castell Dinas Brân

The ruined walls of Castell Dinas Brân

Gathering data at the summit of Castell Dinas Brân

Our last point to survey lay to the east, down the hill’s snaking path, in a close crossed grassy patch of land which constitutes this hill’s bwlch.  Graham used his Abney level and two walking poles, sighting from one to another, to determine the approximate position of the critical bwlch, and once decided upon the Trimble gathered another five minutes of data.

Gathering data at the critical bwlch of Castell Dinas Brân

All that remained was a walk back on the lane to the awaiting cars.  It had been a wonderful walk with lots of variety and good company.  As we headed back to John and Jenny’s I looked forward to the evening’s meal and tomorrow’s walk which took us to a part of Wales I hadn’t been to before; Point of Ayr, and its now neglected lighthouse which stands firmly placed on its expansive sands with the Gronant Dunes and Talacre Warren overlooking its lonely position.

The lighthouse on the sands of Point of Ayr

Survey Result:

Castell Dinas Brân

Summit Height:  321.4m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SJ 22283 43075

Bwlch Height:  225.3m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SJ 22667 43189

Drop:  96.2m (Subhump status confirmed)

Dominance:  29.92%

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

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