Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Mapping Mountains – Trimble Surveys – Beacon Hill

20.04.16  Racecourse (SO 091 862) 

Racecourse (SO 091 862) second ridge of four and centre right of photograph

Beside the winding A 483 road as it makes its way south from Newtown toward the salubrious surrounds of Llandrindod are a number of hills, all of merit, and many seldom visited, one such hill is the Racecourse, which stands aloof of its neighbours to the north-west of the road near the conference and holiday park of Cefn Lea.

I parked just beyond the entrance to Cefn Lea on a minor lane and walked down the road hoping to find access into a deciduous wood named Glog Wood, which is situated on the western lower side of the hill.  By now the slight chill of early morning had been replaced with warmth reminiscent of summer.

A short distance down the road the adjacent bank lessened in steepness and gave me an opportunity to clamber over a fence into the wood.  Deciduous woods have a beauty all to themselves and my short sojourn through and up this one was a tranquil experience until I heard a quad bike in the adjacent field above, I walked over to a near gate and waved to the person on the bike, he parked it up and walked over to me.  Tony Ward lived locally and pointed out his old toll house next to the road, we talked about the hill and its name and I asked if he minded me visiting its top.  He knew the hill as Cefn Faes whose land the conference centre and holiday park was on.  He explained that the house of Cefn Faes was next to the entrance to Cefn Lea and told me that its high point was toward the right hand side of the field where a golf course is situated.  After thanking him I slowly plodded up the closely cropped grassy field which had a number of red flags stuck in it, indicating where budding golfing professionals were to aim their ball.  I knew from the map that the high point of the hill was on the northern side of the fence and wondered if this land was a part of Cefn Faes, further enquiries were necessary.

The top of the golf course is bounded by a thin layer of conifer trees and a double fence which proved easy to carefully clamber over, on the other side was another cropped grassy field which led to the summit of the hill.  This was definitely someone else’s land and did not belong to Cefn Faes.

I chose the spot for Trimble placement and waited the customary five minutes as it beeped away collecting its 300 datum points.  As it gathered its data I admired the view, looking out toward the high peaks of Cadair Idris, the Aran and Y Berwyn, it was indeed a beautiful day.

Gathering data at the summit of the Racecourse

After packing the Trimble away I retraced my steps down to where I had chatted with Tony and decided to walk down to the buildings next to Cefn Faes and try and gather data at the critical bwlch of the hill.  It was as if mid Wales had been transported to the sun drenched lands of southern Spain where an early afternoon siesta was taking place, as when I arrived at the bwlch all was quiet and remained so for the next fifteen minutes as I assessed the lay of land, chose the spot for Trimble placement and gathered the necessary data.

Gathering data at the critical bwlch of the Racecourse

After packing the Trimble away I called at Cefn Faes and enquired about the hill, they knew where the high point was situated and confirmed that this wasn’t on their land, they also told me that their part of the hill was known as Cefn Faes and kindly directed me down the lane to the next farm; Garth-Heilyn, who were the land owners for the part of the hill where the summit is situated.  Before heading back to my car I called at the next house down the lane and chatted with their son, who also confirmed that the land up to the boundary fence of thin conifers is known as Cefn Faes and that the high point of the hill is a part of the land of Garth-Heilyn, and that the Morris’ would be able to tell me a name for the hill.

Once back at my car I drove a mile or so down the road and parked on the lane as it makes its way through the farm of Garth-Heilyn.  As I got out of my car a large tractor came chugging toward me from an adjacent barn, Gwyn Morris pulled up and smiled, I introduced myself and explained my interest in Welsh upland place-names and asked about the high point of their hill.  As Gwyn chatted away I found it hard to hear some of what he was saying as the tractor’s engine roared away, he kindly lessened the noise but explained that he was busy and would have to carry on with his work.  However, he was only too willing to talk about the hill and told me that it is known as the Racecourse, I thought this a slightly unusual name for a hill, but not one that is unique as there are examples of places on uplands known by such names.  He said that he didn’t know why the hill is known as the Racecourse and explained that Gilfach farm used to own the land, with his family moving to Garth-Heilyn in 1935 and purchasing the land from Gilfach in 1969, and the hill was known as the Racecourse even when Gilfach owned the land.

Gwyn Morris

As Gwyn chugged off in his tractor to continue his work, Andrew Morris; Gwyn’s brother, walked around the corner and the conversation continued.  As soon as I mentioned the hill, he said ‘You mean the Racecourse.’  He also said that he didn’t know why it was called by this name, but that was the name the locals had known it by for decades and he didn’t think that the name appeared on a map.

Andrew Morris

I scribbled all necessary details in my notebook before getting back into my car and waved my thanks to Andrew as he went about his farming business and I drove back up the lane toward my next and last walk of the day.

The following day I wrote this blog post and accessed the Tithe maps online and searched for this hill.  The Tithe maps operate on a field system and are ideal for names adjoined to smaller heighted hills as usually the field where the summit of the hill is situated can be pinpointed and with a little detective work the number adjoined to a field can be cross referenced against its name.  Not all fields have names, but many in Wales do, these are historical as well as current, some names of which survive in the local community to the present day, whilst others have been lost, but the ones that do not survive the oral tradition of passing place-names down from one generation to the next will be documented on the Tithe maps of the day, and as I scrolled down the Tithe documents a name popped up on my Laptop’s screen; Race Course.  I smiled and thought how wonderful this name is, it had survived the passage of time in the local community, even when the meaning behind it had not.

Gwyn and Andrew Morris' field where the summit of the hill is situated named as the Race Course on the Tithe map

Survey Result:

Summit Height:  370.7m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SO 09122 86296

Bwlch Height:  326.7m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SO 09113 85925

Drop:  44.0m

Dominance:  11.87%

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

No comments: