Thursday, 15 October 2015

Mapping Mountains – Trimble Surveys – Mynydd y Cemais

19.09.15  Esgair Ddu (SH 873 106), Llechwedd Mawr (SH 872 101), Mynydd y Cemais (SH 876 090), Moel Eiddew (SH 865 051) and Pt. 434.9m (SH 872 051)  

Mynydd y Cemais (SH 876 090)

The western part of Mynydd y Cemais stretches from Mallwyd in the north to Glantwymyn in the south, with its eastern side separated from that of the higher Carnedd Wen by the quiet surroundings of Cwm Tafolog in its northern part and the Afon Carfan in its southern.  These hills comprise a number of P30s with one Marilyn and three Pedwarau at their heart.  They also have one of Wales’ oldest wind farms situated on their central lands and although this intrusion takes away some of the hills appeal, these white metalled turbines can add foreground to that of mountain and moor.

I met Aled in Llanbrynmair and we left one car beside a wide track entrance opposite Pentre-celyn farm at SH 893 057, and continued to SH 892 105 where a car can be parked in a lay-by opposite a track that fords the Afon Tafolog.  The day was set fine with blue skies and bulbous clouds giving warmth to the initial ascent.

As we gained height the high Aran stood out to our north with greying cloud massed above its highest point.  Further west cloud was stuck atop Cadair Idris and played with its summit for the remainder of the afternoon, but where we were the sun bathed and the land gleamed.

Grey cloud over the high Aran

Our route took us up the track toward the old farm house of Bryn-glas, past a multitude of pheasants all breaking cover as we approached.  Leaving the track we followed a path as it gained height on open moor with the summit of Esgair Ddu, our high point of the day, now coming into view.

Aled heading toward the summit of Esgair Ddu

By the time I arrived on the summit Aled had found the high point and soon the Trimble was positioned on the top of my rucksack and an offset of 0.47m measured.  The positioning of the Trimble on this improvised tripod is something I’m now doing frequently and during today’s walk I took eight data sets and all with the Trimble positioned on the top of my rucksack.  This method gives the equipment elevation above its surroundings giving a greater chance of quick logging onto the available satellites, the rucksack also gives stable support for the Trimble and the offset is easy to measure with a steel tape.

Gathering data at the summit of Esgair Ddu

As the Trimble gathered its customary five minutes of data we looked north-west toward a near lump which stared back at us across an unsavoury bog.  This lump is given a map spot height of 462m, which is only 2m lower than the position of the spot height where the Trimble was now gathering data.  The land from where the 462m spot height appears on the ground also continued south-west to another small lump on the same small ridge, both of these points competed with each other and with the point where the Trimble had been set up for the high point of Esgair Ddu.  Visually we both thought these two lumps to be lower than where we were, and after the Trimble was switched off I used my 99p ‘that’s utter crap that is’ spirit level to site across to each point, they both looked lower, therefore once the Trimble was packed away we set off to our next hill.

The route to our next hill took us through a bog of tussock grass, beyond the bog was a small conifer plantation and around its eastern side is a small 460m map ring contour, this definitely needed surveying and although we thought it lower that where the 464m spot height appears at the summit of Esgair Ddu it was worthwhile getting another five minute data set from this point.  This part of the hill is given the name of Llechwedd Mawr on the map, so if it proved higher than Esgair Ddu it would also mean a name change for the highest point of the ridge known as Mynydd y Cemais.

Gathering data at the summit of Llechwedd Mawr

Our continued route southward now had to contend with a conifer plantation, toward the edge of which is also the critical bwlch of Moel Eiddew, whose summit was yet to be visited.  As we descended the open grassland from the summit of Llechwedd Mawr we looked down on this bwlch and the immediate forestry had been felled.  Once beside it I walked into the area and Aled directed me toward where he judged the critical bwlch to lie.  This proved to be in a tree rooted; puddled, bogged mine field of land whose decimation is the after effects of felled forestry.

Aled had directed me toward my current position from the vantage point of the forest fence, and as the Trimble gathered data he continued following this fence through a large bog to a forest ride which in time took him up toward the summit of the hill we currently list as Mynydd y Cemais.  Once the Trimble had done its stuff I continued through the rutted and boggy land of the felled forestry hoping to find a forest ride taking me to open land and eventually the summit of our next hill.

The bwlch of Moel Eiddew proved a desolate area of felled forestry

As progress slowed I sweated and stumbled my way through countless uprooted remains of trees and eventually plodded my way around the eastern edge of the forest that is now clear of trees.  On my way up the grassed slopes of Mynydd y Cemais I noticed a large bodied and rather beautiful spider happily soaking up the sun on my shorts, I stopped and took its photograph before encouraging it onto a twig of plant which I gently pushed its way, before putting it down into its grassland home.  By the time I reached the summit, Aled was flat out relaxing in the sun and told me about his encounter with the large bog on the edge of the forestry.

A beautiful large bodied spider

Within a few minutes another data set had been gathered from the summit of Mynydd y Cemais, which is quite flat for a number of metres at its high point.  Our next hill; Moel Eiddew stared back at us to the south, between us and it were the spinning wind turbines all lined up in the afternoon sunshine, white and proud rotating in the breeze.

Gathering data at the summit of Mynydd y Cemais

Walking south on the access road to these turbines proved ideal as progress to our next hill was quickened when compared to the stumbling’s of bog and felled forestry.  Before the summit of Moel Eiddew we had the bwlch of Mynydd y Cemais to survey.  This bwlch is situated beside the access track and as the Trimble gathered its data positioned on top of my rucksack, Aled scoured the track and found a spider carrying her young, whilst I stood back and looked out toward Cadair Idris as its afternoon cloud dance continued.

Moel Eiddew from the bwlch of Mynydd y Cemais

Gathering data at the critical bwlch of Mynydd y Cemais

The late afternoon was giving pleasant colour as all except the higher hills of Cadair Idris and Aran Fawddwy were bathed in blue skies.  These higher hills were partly swathed in cloud and conditions on their summits was no doubt dramatic as cloud flowed in, only to dissipate and cling around their lower edges, although lower heighted hills have a beauty all to themselves, this dramatic cloud play is usually reserved for their higher cousins.

Looking past the wind turbines to the high Aran

As we reached the summit of Moel Eiddew I quickly set the Trimble on top of my rucksack over the high point of the hill which was situated about 5 metres from its trig pillar.  As it gathered data we sat and chatted and looked out toward the coast as it glimmered with light.

Gathering data at the summit of Moel Eiddew

Late afternoon light gleams across the coast

The seasonal change is starting and this was evidenced by the first large furry caterpillar spotted on the hill, its dark and bronzed hair glowed against the greens of individual grass stalks with the occasional pinked purple of heather bloom intruding upon the scene.

A large furry caterpillar

We only had one hill to visit which was a potential new 400m Sub-Pedwar as it has a 434m summit spot height and a 415m bwlch spot height, with the latter appearing on the Ordnance Survey enlarged mapping on the Geograph website. Between it and us was a land made up of waist high reed which we pressed our way through.

Heading toward the potential new 400m Sub-Pedwar

Beyond the reed was a vehicle track on the moor which gave easy access down toward the area of the bwlch, this is where Aled left me to my own devices as he gained height to direct me toward where the critical bwlch lay.  As I left the confines of the vehicle track the land instantly changed to a morass of bog, all luxuriant and seemingly never touched, it was expansive and resembled a water meadow as its large tussocks and sponge like plants gave the only safe passage over its ground.  The phrase safe passage; is relative, as the whole area was a marvellous bog.  I wondered if anyone had ever been this way before as there seemed no reason to do so.  As I floundered my way from one oversized watery tussock to another I began to smile and immersed myself in my surroundings, surveying can sometimes give great rewards and this place at this moment was one of these rewards as I’ve seldom visited such a marvellous watery bog.

When I set the Trimble up on top of my rucksack I started digging beside it to try and find ground below to take a measurement offset to, this ground went down and down to its watery depths and once I stopped digging amongst the reed and slime my hand emerged wet and muddy.  Whereas a normal measurement offset to the top of my rucksack is usually 0.42m – 0.49m, this was 0.70m and all I had found at the bottom of my digging was water.

Gathering data at the critical bwlch of Pt. 434.9m

As the Trimble gathered data the high Aran rose monstrous across the land, their profile large and dominating, set off against the white metalled arms of wind turbines.  By now Aled had disappeared and was no doubt enjoying the dry land of the summit and once five minutes of bwlch data were gathered I packed the equipment away, grabbed my rucksack and stumbled my way through the remainder of the bog up to the summit.

The last survey of the day was quickly completed and the Trimble safely put back in its bag and off we went with Aled wandering ahead to find a good track that led us down through part of an intervening forest, to open lower hillsides of fences and fields and our track down through the farm yard of Pentre-celyn.

Gathering data at the summit of Pt. 434.9m

Aled waiting at the gate which gave access through the forest to open and lower hillside beyond

Heading down toward Pentre-celyn

As we approached the farm we wondered if we should knock on the door and make place-name enquiries, at this moment a woman walked across the yard heading for an out building, we waved at one another and within a couple of minutes were chatting away, she (Becky) explained that her husband (Huw) had lived here all of his life and he was probably the best person to ask about hill names, as she directed us around the side of the farm I noticed about ten cars pulled up around the corner, and as we followed Becky around the side of the farm house there were 20 people sitting in the back garden drinking wine, eating and chatting.  We had stumbled upon a gathering of the mid Wales Highland Cattle Association, and their social evening looked good fun, especially so when Becky kindly offered us cups of tea and coffee.

Becky preparing the tea and coffee

Within a couple of minutes Aled was chatting with Becky’s husband; Huw and then a man rounded the corner, looked at me and said ‘you’re Myrddyn Phillips, aren’t you?’ and then disappeared again, I looked at Aled and burst out laughing.  Soon the man returned and introduced himself; Gareth used to work for a company that dealt with the company I used to work for and his middle aged mind is obviously more alert to people’s faces than mine is.  This social evening was getter funner and funner and then Gareth offered me a burger and Becky offered Aled cheese cake, this and the tea and coffee went down a treat after our fairly long walk on the hill.

Gareth Davies with glass of wine in hand

Becky with cup of tea and burger - yummy, yummy

By now Huw had explained where each cynefin was situated on the hills that we had just visited, I’d finished off my burger and the cup of tea was going down a treat, I was then offered cheesecake which I find hard to resist at the best of times, Gareth’s wife then appeared to find out what these mysterious men were doing laughing away around the corner with her husband.  Once introduced she asked where I lived and burst out laughing when I said Welshpool, as this is where her and Gareth also lived, I asked her maiden name and we soon found that her Great Uncle played for Welshpool Town Fotball Club at the same time as my Dad had captained the team.  The late afternoon was getting better and better, we left just as we were offered a can each, and as Aled had a long drive back to Liverpool and I’d fall over if I sniffed alcohol we thought we better politely decline.

It was great fun meeting Becky, Huw and Gareth and their hospitality was greatly appreciated, we said our goodbye’s and wandered back to the car with big happy grins on our faces.

Survey Result:

Esgair Ddu

Summit Height:  464.0m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SH 87322 10640

Drop:  222m

Dominance:  47.85% (Lesser Dominant status confirmed)

Llechwedd Mawr

Summit Height:  461.2m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SH 87210 10112

Drop:  17m (non 400m Sub-Pedwar status confirmed)

Dominance:  3.69%

Mynydd y Cemais

Summit Height:  442.0m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SH 87600 09002

Bwlch Height:  398.2m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SH 86643 06669

Drop:  43.9m

Dominance:  9.92%

Moel Eiddew

Summit Height:  453.4m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SH 86545 05122

Bwlch Height:  385.1m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SH 88136 09700

Drop:  68.3m

Dominance:  15.07%

Pt. 434.9m

Summit Height:  434.9m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SH 87247 05156

Bwlch Height:  416.2m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SH 86927 05196

Drop:  18.7m (non 400m Sub-Pedwar status confirmed)

Dominance:  4.30%

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

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