Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Mapping Mountains – Trimble Surveys – Mynydd Hiraethog

10.02.16  Ffridd Uchaf (SH 864 606), Foelas Fechan (SH 854 596) and Moel Maelogen (SH 848 613)  

Foelas Fechan (SH 854 596)

The weather beaten moor when sodden and wind swept is a fulfilling space, one portraying emptiness and forgotten wonder.  Few places give such an evocative feeling as this kind of endless landscape.  Best in autumn when the moor is ablaze in russets after the dying ebb of summer’s growth, it is however also a tranquil place in winter when snow ridden and smooth shaped, or when the ground is sodden and seemingly forgotten.  This form of landscape is one of the beauties of these Isles that we live in, it has shaped generations of farming families and hill walkers alike, both sometimes battling against its inner realm.  Wales has many such moors to visit, with its central belt of the Elenydd unequalled, but the desolation of moor can also be found holding on against man’s intrusion in other parts of the country.  The Hiraethog is but one example.  Nowadays known by using the prefix of Mynydd, this land has changed drastically in recent times with large swathes of forestry supplanting the solitude of moor, and reservoirs appearing where once bog laden valleys existed.  Imposition has now diversified with acquisitions of wind turbines catering for an energy need, but also taking away so much from a landscape downtrodden by man.

Seemingly endless, the moor is a beautiful and windswept place

The land on which we walk is an ever changing environment, sometimes this change can take a lifetime to alter, sometimes longer, other times it is changed on a whim, be it locally induced through reclaiming upland for pastoral grazing gain, or changed through national authority where subsidy encourages land owners to give land over for renewable energy stock.  My walk today on a small part of the ancient Hiraethog passed through many aspects of this continuing change, from upland pasture, to the beauty of windswept moor to the steel edifices of wind turbines, each catering a need that we as a species dictate.

The sodden landscape of reclaimed pasture contrasting with the heather moor

The great sweep of the Hiraethog takes in pockets of land over 500m in height, but the heart, the inner realm of its moor is that land over 400m in height, this is where the landmasses become more frequent and where the number of hills expand, and it was on part of this land that I ventured on this rain sodden day.

Hill weather is interesting, summer heat, storm wind, thick snow, all have pleasures, but rain is unwelcome as far as my walking is concerned, and although the forecast for the day was for dry overhead conditions, the rain swept in from the north-west as I parked my car at the start of a track close to the remains of a Lodge at SH 846 621.  A steam ran across the continuation of the track, its new torrent rushing down from an adjacent field, I decided wellies were the order of the day and set off following the track during a break in the showers.

The track led to the farm of Maelogen Fawr, and I suddenly realised that the continuation of the track that I thought I was on, was indeed a dead end, and the track I wanted to be on was further to the north.  A lack of map checking and the hurried nature of setting off as one shower relented before the next arrived meant that I’d walked into a dead end.  However, a friendly farmer who greeted me in Welsh kindly directed me through a gate and across a field to join my track a little lower down.  Crossing the field gave me a foretaste for underfoot conditions to come, as the land was awash and by the time I reached the muddy water laden track, the next shower had started and I made my way down to the Afon Derfyn with brolly extended to the heavens keeping me relatively dry.

I left the track to follow another, as it headed up the northern slopes of Ffridd Uchaf; my first hill of the day.  To the west the high Eryri peaks of the Carneddau, Glyderau and the Yr Wyddfa group all shone white with a covering of snow as cloud bellowed across their summits, many years ago I would probably have been up there, enjoying the excitement of adverse weather and rock laden hills, nowadays the hills I want to visit have diversified, as has my appreciation of their many facets.

The summit of Ffridd Uchaf is relatively easy to wander to, it is the last southerly bump on its wide plateaued north to south ridge, it is unmarked and all the better for it.  As the Trimble gathered data I stood and looked, soaking in this marvellous place, with snow-capped hills to the west and quiet almost endless moor to the south. 

Gathering data at the summit of Ffridd Uchaf

My planned route was a circuit around the upper Afon Derfyn with Foelas Fechan as the axis hill where the inward and outward journey led to and from.  To get there I wanted to survey the critical bwlch of Ffridd Uchaf and this was placed just on the southern side of a minor paved road that struggled up the valley and onto the moor.  To get to this bwlch I waded through a field soaked and sodden with rivulets of wet mud slowly ebbing down its slopes.

Gathering data at the critical bwlch of Ffridd Uchaf

After gathering data at this bwlch I headed back to the minor road and walked up toward the first southerly turbine on the Moel Maelogen Extension Windfarm, this is run by West Coast Energy and its development stretches over the drier part of Moel Maelogen, which at a map height of 424m, was the high point of my planned walk.

Leaving the minor road I clambered over a fence to visit the summit of Foelas Fechan, this hill is listed as a Sub-Pedwar with c 20m of drop with its qualifying critical bwlch either placed to its south-west, or to the north-west of its summit, and as this latter option was on my planned route I wanted to investigate and survey it.  As I stood at the summit and set the Trimble up on my rucksack to give it elevation above the moorland surrounds fighter jets sped across the sky, loudly screaming as they went.

Gathering data at the summit of Foelas Fechan

One of the joys of surveying with the Trimble is visiting bylchau, these are sometimes positioned on roads which bring their own unique hazards, others can be found in the driveways adjacent to houses, whilst many are found in seldom visited places amongst the hills, and as I packed the Trimble away after it had gathered its allotted five minutes of data from the summit of Foelas Fechan, I set off back to the minor road and across a field aiming for the north-westerly option for this hill’s bwlch.  Between the field and the bwlch was a fence and ground that oozed water and mud.  My first attempt at getting to the fence was aborted as my wellies sank in deeply to the ooze, so much so that when I attempted to back track one welly became stuck and I almost found myself lying forlorn in a morass of wet mud.  Thankfully with a bit of encouragement the welly eventually oozed its way out and I delicately made my way back the way I had come and decided that access through a near gate was advisable.  The gate led to the north-western bwlch option which proved to be an expansive quagmire of heather and bog, wherever I stood I was in water, and I wandered around trying to keep afloat whilst trying to judge the lay of land to take another Trimble reading.  Eventually I chose a spot, gathered another data set and as wet snow started to fall from the northern sky I packed the Trimble away and aimed for the relative safety of another water laden field.

The higher Eryri peaks snow laden and weather beaten

This next wet and sodden field gained access to the area of the critical bwlch of Moel Maelogen, this hill is a relative newcomer to the ranks of Pedwarau, only entering the list due to 5m contours intervals at the bwlch on the Ordnance Survey enlarged map on the Geograph website, these bwlch contours gave this hill an estimated c 31m of drop compared to its previously listed drop value of c 28m, and its elevation to full Pedwar status was first reported on the RHB Yahoo Group forum on the 23rd July 2012.  As the hill is a relative newcomer and as its drop value is marginal for its continued Pedwar status I wanted to be sure of the Trimble placement for its bwlch.  What I found was an expansive morass of wet heather which had a slightly elevated central part with reed infested streamlets emerging on its south and north, because of this I decided that three surveys were necessary, one to the south, another centrally positioned and the last to the north, with the latter my favoured position from judging this land by eye.  As the Trimble gathered these three data sets I stood in clumps of thick heather drying not to get trench foot from the surrounding bog.

Well camouflaged, the Trimble gathers data at the critical bwlch of Moel Maelogen

Leaving the expanse of heather behind I clambered over another fence and made my slippery way up another water drenched field to the top of the southerly summit of Moel Maelogen, this is given a 423m spot height on current Ordnance Survey maps, which is only 1m lower that its official summit.  However, visually the 424m summit is easily higher.  I Trimbled both, and stood and looked out on the route I’d taken over this part of the Hiraethog as data were being gathered and stored.

Once the Trimble was packed away I headed down the field to a gate which gave access toward a track which led back to my car.  It had been a good, albeit very wet underfoot few hours on the hill in surroundings both tranquil and yet disturbed, as man’s intrusion has altered part of this moor from one of expanse and large skies to one where uplands have been reclaimed for grazing and energy production. 


Survey Result:

Ffridd Uchaf

Summit Height:  403.9m (converted to OSGM15) (Pedwar status confirmed)

Summit Grid Reference:  SH 86432 60608

Bwlch Height:  370.5m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SH 86113 59833

Drop:  33.4m (Pedwar status confirmed)

Dominance:  8.28%

Foelas Fechan

Summit Height:  415.8m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SH 85408 59650

Bwlch Height:  397.2m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SH 84795 60122

Drop:  18.6m (400m Sub-Pedwar deletion confirmed)

Dominance:  4.47%

Moel Maelogen

Summit Height:  424.4m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SH 84843 61341

Bwlch Height:  394.4m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SH 84740 60799

Drop:  30.1m (Pedwar status confirmed)

Dominance:  7.08%

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

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