Monday, 2 November 2015

Mapping Mountains – Trimble Surveys – Moel y Gamelin


13.10.15  Bersham Bank (SJ 311 481)  

Bersham Bank (SJ 311 481)

When travelling north from Welshpool on the A 483 I’d often peered up at a mound of coal waste that peered back down on the road as it sped its way past Wrexham and toward Chester.  This spoil of industry is the remains of the coal waste produced by the Bersham Colliery which was operational between 1864 – December 1986.  At its height this Colliery employed over 1,000 people.

The coal spoil is a relic of industrial heritage and has been in situ for many decades with its northern side grassed over and steep, whereas its southerly side shows the dark blackened colour of its pedigree, colour has been added to this landscape with sapling trees now taken root.  The hill resembles an upturned box with tapered sides that are steep with a flattish summit.

I’d wanted to visit this mound of a hill for a number of years and often wondered how to approach it and what I’d find when I did so.  Having a Trimble and being able to give the hill an accurate summit height only encouraged this want to visit.

The hill possesses no contour rings on current Ordnance Survey maps and is highlighted by the words ‘Colliery (disused)’ on the map.  The connecting bwlch to the nearest P30 seems to be placed at approximately SJ 312 477 and is between 100m – 105m in height.

Some people may view this mound as man-made and therefore discount it from entering a P30 list, I would take a different view as this hill has been stable for a number of decades and now has trees and copious amounts of undergrowth growing on it, and a large section of it is also grassed over.  I also like exploring little oddities like this, and think that their exclusion from a hill list would take part of the fun away.  A hill’s inclusion in a P30 list is also the prerogative of the respective list compiler, and I’ve done a bit of that in my time so this hill was on the verge of P30 status, that is of course if its prominence granted it such privilege.

I parked on its eastern side adjacent to an industrial yard and offices, the eastern sides of the hill disappeared upward in steep slopes of undergrowth.  Next to where I had parked were ‘Danger Keep Out’ signs, this was not a good beginning to my little adventure.  The Ordnance Survey map shows a public footpath on the southern side of this hill adjacent to the railway line, this path swings northward to the base of the coal waste; I hoped I could find this path and access the hill from it. 

The slopes are definitely steep and they are not the easiest route up the hill

Once out of the car I looked beyond a series of connected six foot high perimeter fencing to a path leading away from where I was parked and heading up the southern side of the hill.  But without clambering over the perimeter fence there seemed no way of getting on to the path, I decided that the only way up was past the sign and in to the undergrowth, within a minute or so I was questioning my decision as the ground was overly steep and had lots of trees, brambles, hawthorn bushes and such like scattered over it.  Thankfully underfoot conditions were solid as the ground was compact, so much so that it was difficult to get purchase on it to make progress upward, I zig zagged my way through the undergrowth and struggled past brambles and sapling trees and eventually emerged on to a flat section where a circuitous path headed northward and upward, but at an easy gradient when compared to the land I’d just been on.

The circuitous path above the lower steep section of the hill

All around were small trees giving the feeling of walking in a country park, the path continued around the upper section of the hill, when I found a T-junction giving views of the steep sided summit section I swung left and continued uphill.

First view of the upper section of the hill

Once on the flat topped summit and away from the trees the views opened up, and what views!  Perched as I was on a steep sided mound of a hill the views shot away in all directions with the A 483 zooming past almost directly below me, this road was avenued in early autumnal colour and cut a swathe through the countryside.

The A 483 on the western side of the hill

I spent a number of minutes walking around the area of the summit assessing the lay of the land and decided that at least two points would need to be Trimbled, there was a third point that consisted of a small mound of coal spoil that I dismissed as being man-made, I laughed at the thought processes at work to come to such a conclusion.

The summit of Bersham Bank

The first point Trimbled was on the northern lip of the hill mound and overlooked its steep northern grassy slopes, below was the sprawling suburbs of Rhostyllen.  As the Trimble gathered its five minutes of allotted data the sun would occasionally burst through a partly dramatic grey sky, casting colour in its wake.  It felt good to be on top of such a hill.

Gathering data from the summit of Bersham Bank

The second point that was Trimbled was in the central southern part of the higher summit mound and as the data were gathered I looked east toward the eloquent surrounds of Erddig Park, an old estate house now owned by the National Trust, as it gleamed back from its autumnal splendour.

Erddig Park

Once the second data set had been gathered I packed the Trimble away and carefully headed down the steep southern side of the hill.  Part of the upper section of this hill is rutted with motorcycle tracks, no doubt made by trail riders, these ruts are easily seen when passing the hill on the A 483, and they formed my downward route to the waste spoil on the southern side of the hill.

Gathering data from the second set-up position on the area of the summit

From this aspect the hill is coloured black and green with coal waste and sapling trees adding warmth to the surroundings.  My route down headed toward where the six foot high perimeter fence was situated, I hoped there was a way around this as otherwise I would have to battle my way through the steep sided lower flanks of the hill and get tangled in its unsavoury undergrowth.  As I neared the perimeter fence one section of it had been pushed over giving easy access from the road where I was parked on to the path I was now on, this was the same path I had looked toward when I had parked my car.  As I walked through the gap in the perimeter fence my car was no more than a few seconds away.

The steep southerly summit cone of Bersham Bank

Before leaving I wanted to find a locally known name for the hill and I asked a couple of people who were busy trying to start a van which was spluttering away parked outside one of the offices in the industrial park.  One of them stopped working on the van and we chatted away for a number of minutes, Steve Bellish explained that the hill is known locally as Bersham Bank, with the name of Hafod Bank also sometimes used, as the spoil that resulted in this hill came from the Bersham Colliery it seems fitting to prioritise the name of Bersham Bank for the hill, Steve’s friend confirmed these names and said that it had been there for well over 50 years.

After processing the summit data and confirming this hill as a new addition to the 100m P30 Twmpau list I examined the map and found two similar hills in the same area, but on the western side of the A 483.  These hills are Bonc yr Hafod at SJ 311 469 which is given a summit height of 153m, and a hill with a 154m summit spot height at SJ 300 473.  All three hills are the product of coal waste and they are all within 1m height of one another. 

Anyone who wishes to visit Wales' newest P30 should do it as soon as possible as the owners have been granted planning permission, on appeal, to remove the coal spoil for use in the building industry.  Get there and bag it soon before the top section of the hill is removed.          


Survey Result:



Summit Height:  153.6m (converted to OSGM15) (significant height revision)

Summit Grid Reference:  SJ 31159 48116

Drop:  c 51m (100m Twmpau addition confirmed)

Dominance:  33.20%



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






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