Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Mapping Mountains – Trimble Surveys – Arenig

25.03.16  Pt. 458.1m (SH 768 243), Pt. 421.9m (SH 763 245), Foel Cae Poeth (SH 756 248, bwlch only), Cerniau (SH 756 241) and Moel y Llan (SH 753 241)  

Foel Cae Poeth (SH 756 248)

Wales offers such diversity of landscape that concentrating on its uplands would be a life time’s enjoyment, and there would still be unexplored places to visit at the end.  This is one of the reasons why I started investigating the lower heighted hills; I’d looked down on so many of these when concentrating on the Welsh 2,000ft’s that when I started visiting them it was as if the world had suddenly opened up.  Part of this initial investigation took me to land south-west of Rhobell Fawr (SH 786 256) and that is west of Bwlch Goriwared.  This land is wildly situated comprising heather, tussock grass, rock and bog.  Such land is a joy to explore, seemingly only visited by an occasional farmer and a peak bagger, the land leaves a lasting impression of openness and solitude.

Having previously visited the Pedwarau to the west of Bwlch Goriwared, I also wanted to visit a 457m map heighted hill to the east of this bwlch and which is listed as a 400m Sub-Pedwar with the minimum qualifying drop of c 20m.

Travelling west the early morning clear blue sky was quickly replaced with a white tinged grey that hung on the tops of the higher hills, although this was not forecast, the grey slowly broke revealing spring warmth and blue sky.  Leaving the car park next to the school in Llanfachreth (SH 756 225) I followed a footpath north-east past grazing sheep and an occasional track leading to a stoutly made old farm house.

The path led in to part of a small wooded plantation named Garth Fawr on the map, many trees had been felled leaving stumps embedded in the ground and views south toward the rounded bulk of Foel Offrwm (SH 749 209).  The land hereabouts is a patchwork of small wooded copses, walls, streams, fences, paths and small rock outcrops and with a number of options for the route ahead, by keeping to the main path I ended up where I wanted to be, which was on a track just above the end of a paved lane leading up from the old house of Cors-y-garnedd, this was my access to Bwlch Goriwared and the wild hills either side of its high point.

Foel Offrwm (SH 749 209)

As height was gained the dulled russets of bracken and fawns of tussock predominated with an occasional blink of sun as it coloured the landscape.  Once at the top of the track I headed east through a series of combined sheepfolds and plodded up in to the wild surrounds to the south-west of Rhobell Fawr.  It was this land that held the summit of the 400m Sub-Pedwar which was my first surveying objective.

The dulled russets and fawns on the approach to Bwlch Goriwared

This small hill proved a delight as when approaching from its north its summit pointed skyward; I partly stumbled my way through the bog and tussocks trying as best I could to navigate a safe passage toward its rocky top, once there I positioned the Trimble aligned with the highest point of the hill and stood back as it gathered its customary five minutes of data.

Gathering data at the summit of the 400m Sub--Pedwar

The vantage point of the summit gave views across to the hills west of the bwlch with the forested summit of Foel Cae Poeth looking particularly unwelcoming.  The connecting bwlch for this hill lay directly below it amongst a patch of standing water with oranged bog hemmed in by the bleached land of tussocks, which there were a plenty.

Gathering data at the critical bwlch of the 400m Sub-Pedwar

As I packed the Trimble away after this first bwlch survey I grappled my way back through the tussocks to the top of the track at Bwlch Goriwared, as I did so I spotted two walkers heading up the track from Llanfachreth, they were preceded by a number of trail bikes who zoomed past me with welcoming waves.  This bwlch also needed surveying and its critical point was relatively easy to identify and as the Trimble gathered data I waited for the two walkers to appear.  We chatted for a few minutes, they lived near Carmarthen and were heading up to Rhobell Fawr and knew an old neighbour of my mothers who used to live in Nantlle, tis a small world.

The high point of Bwlch Goriwared

To the west of Bwlch Goriwared are four Pedwarau and I wanted to survey three of the summits and each connecting bwlch, the highest of the four is unnamed on current maps and is listed under the point (Pt. 421.9m) notation.  I also suspected that one of the four; Moel y Llan may end up having its Pedwar status reclassified to a 400m Sub, but that survey had to wait until the end of the walk as my next objective was the summit of Pt. 421.9m.  This lay straight above its bwlch and I followed a partly collapsed stone wall that clung on to its purchase amongst its heather surrounds, the summit was easy to identify and I positioned the Trimble on top of my rucksack to give it elevation above the heather and waited for it to gather its allotted data.

Gathering data from the summit of Pt. 421.9m, with Rhobell Fawr in the background

Foel Cae Poeth from the descent of Pt. 421.9m

I now wanted to survey two bylchau with the first having two points to gather data from.  These three surveys took me in to a beautiful land of tussock grass and bog.  One of the joys of surveying is the time spent in such places, if not for this rather unusual aspect of hill walking the bylchau would be places to either avoid or walk through without much thought on the way to the main objective of the summit, and surveying and the time taken to do so, enables one to immerse in their solitude and bog laden land.  I suspect this is not to everyone’s taste, but it is something that I enjoy as it gives time for my mind to wander and time to watch the land and luxuriate in its complexities, and today as the Trimble did its stuff, and the play of light cast radiance down on to the land, I also spotted a small frog jump and hide in one of the tussocks, just a fleeting glimpse of life in the bog, but a welcome and unexpected addition to my bwlch bog wait.

Gathering data at the critical bwlch of Cerniau

Gathering data at the critical bwlch of Foel Cae Poeth, with the forested summit of the hill in the background

Once these three points had been surveyed and data gathered I headed toward the fence and stone wall boundary beside the conifer plantation that smothers the summit of Foel Cae Poeth.  I had no intention of gathering data from this hill’s summit, unless the trees had been felled, and they hadn’t, but I could at least take a ten figure grid reference from any high point I found.  Forested summits are not my favourite, although there is a perverse enjoyment in tackling their like.

There is a narrow path close to the edge of the forest amongst the heather and I followed this to the high point of the stone wall at approximately SH 756 248.  On the other side of the wall a number of wind felled conifers lay at all angles which didn’t give me much appetite for what was to come.  I switched the Trimble on and waited until it logged in to the satellite almanac and clambered over the wall and in to the conifer plantation, and made relatively good progress through the trees and used the Trimble as a hand-held GPS.  The going was not particularly difficult although a number of wind-blown trees had to be bi-passed on their western side.  I’d noted a ten figure grid reference for a high point from the Hill Bagging website and wanted to compare the high point I found to this, within a few minutes I reached what looked like the summit, I bashed through a number of branches and pushed my way through to one or two places before heading to the highest part of land in the vicinity of where I was.  I backed out from this spot and made a note of the grid reference given by the Trimble; SH 75616 24888.  I knew from looking at the grid reference on Hill Bagging that this point of the hill is on the southern extremity of a 410m contour ring, therefore I pushed my way through the tree branches a short distance north and the land was going down in all directions, whether higher land exists on the northern edge of this ring contour I do not know, but happy with my efforts I retreated and found that by keeping to the edge of the steep land on the west of the ring contour the way back proved a little easier.  I popped out of the trees a few metres from where I had entered them.

No data gathered, but the Trimble marks the high point I reached on Foel Cae Poeth

My next objective was the summit of Cerniau and a path led me toward it from the lower easterly slopes of Foel Cae Poeth.  This path is a rarity amongst this land and I savoured in its delights until it became a muddy quagmire as it abandoned itself to more tussocks and bog.  On the other side was relatively dry land and I hopped from one soggy tussock to the next and fought my way up toward the heathery summit of Cerniau.  My wandering amongst this wild land was nearing its end as the last hill of the day; Moel y Llan, is a patchwork of grass and heather and the way down toward Llanfachreth is from the bwlch between the two hills.

Gathering data at the summit of Cerniau, with Rhobell Fawr in the background

I’d previously surveyed Cerniau and Moel y Llan for drop with my old wooden staff, with 112ft (34.1m) and 108ft (32.9m) obtained respectively, and had wanted to re-visit and accurately survey the hill.  I left the heathery slopes of Cerniau and walked down to the connecting bwlch between it and Moel y Llan and positioned the Trimble to gather its last bwlch data set of the day.

Gathering data at the critical bwlch of Moel y Llan

Above this bwlch was Moel y Llan, a hill that is given three separate 400m ring contours on Ordnance Survey maps and no accompanying spot height.  I wanted to gather data at the high point of each ring contour and suspected that a fourth survey would be required as the land comprising the most easterly contour looked as if it had two high points.  I plodded up the grassy eastern slopes following a path and reached the first high point, which is a pronounced lump on the northern edge of where the most easterly and largest of these three 400m ring contours appears on the ground.

Gathering data at the summit of Moel y Llan

After gathering data at the first high point I picked the Trimble up and turned to make my way toward the high point of the central 400m ring contour and looked out toward two Roe Deer, a welcome and yet rare sight on the Welsh hills, I’d spotted five or six earlier in the day as they scampered off through the heather, no doubt these two were a part of the same small herd.  They glanced my way and quickly shot off out of sight.

A rare but welcome sight on the Welsh hills; a pair of Roe Deer

I surveyed the high point of each 400m ring contour and then back-tracked to gather data from the second high point of the most easterly ring contour.  Happy that all contenders for summit position had been Trimbled I headed back to the bwlch between Moel y Llan and Cerniau.

Gathering data from the top of the most westerly 400m ring contour on Moel y Llan

I spent a few minutes at the bwlch trying to get bits of conifer out of my hair, clothes and rucksack before having a bite to eat and examining the map for the route of the green path heading down from the bwlch toward Llanfachreth.  This green path soon became rougher with water flowing down its steeper sections, by now the sun had swept away any cloud from all but the higher hills and I wandered down toward civilisation happy in the knowledge that another 13 data sets had been gathered and accurate drop values obtained for four out of the five hills visited.

The path led to a paved lane, which brought me down to the neat and quiet village of Llanfachreth, as I followed the road toward the school and car park I stopped to take a few photos of a Daffodil and some Primroses, a sure sign that spring is now upon us.  Arriving at my car I tugged my wellies off and gave my feet a chance to breath, the sun beat down with its spring warmth and I slowly sorted my gear and got changed for the drive back home.

Wales has so much to offer, with one small but important part being its landscape, and the part of this landscape I had visited today gave me another lovely experience, one that will enrich me until my next time in the hills.      


Survey Result:

Pt. 458.1m

Summit Height:  458.1m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SH 76859 24378

Bwlch Height:  437.4m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SH 76869 24491

Drop:  20.7m (400m Sub-Pedwar status confirmed)

Dominance:  4.51%

Pt. 421.9m

Summit Height:  421.9m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SH 76324 24535

Bwlch Height:  387.3m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SH 76465 24578

Drop:  34.5m (Pedwar status confirmed)

Dominance:  8.19%

Foel Cae Poeth

Bwlch Height:  375.9m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SH 76000 24658

Drop:  c 36m

Dominance:  9.58%


Summit Height:  411.7m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SH 75694 24172

Bwlch Height:  378.8m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SH 76006 24531

Drop:  32.9m (Pedwar status confirmed)

Dominance:  8.00%

Moel y Llan

Summit Height:  405.4m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SH 75382 24155

Bwlch Height:  372.3m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SH 75510 24198

Drop:  33.1m (Pedwar status confirmed)

Dominance:  8.17%

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

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