Sue and I have been involved with Stockport Walking and Outdoors Group (SWOG) for the best part of ten years, but this was our first Sunday walk with them.
After rejecting the Berwyn route that I reccied with him (on the grounds that a finish after 8 pm would stretch his credibility as a walk leader), Cary chose the Clwydian Hills for today’s excursion. We met him at Loggerheads after coffee in the Visitor Centre café, leaving our car there to give drivers a lift back to their cars at the Moel Famau car park later.
Setting off at 11.00 am, our select group of thirteen was soon enjoying views down to Ruthin and far beyond, from the slopes of Moel Famau (pictured above).
There were lots of folk heading up Moel Famau. Here’s a view looking back from near the summit.
By the time he had reached the tower that crowns the hill’s summit, Mark was suffering from third degree exhaustion.
Moel Famau's Jubilee Tower dates back to 1810, having been erected for the golden jubilee of King George III – aka Mad King George. A crowd of 3000 people apparently assembled for the laying of the foundation stone. The column fell down after about 50 years, but the rest of the tower has survived, and has been stabilised following some recent repairs.
At 554 metres, it's the highest point in the Clwydian Hills, and it lies on the route of the Offa’s Dyke trail, along which our walk progressed all the way to Moel Arthur.
There are good views to Merseyside and beyond. From Moel Famau, our path continued, minus grockles and drones, towards Moel Arthur on a good surface with remnants of ancient hilltop forts in constant view.
Steve, training for the Yorkshire Three Peaks walk, led the way, and the scenery was enlivened by the ubiquitous bright purple Bell Heather, mixed with yellow flashes of tormentil and splashes of the small white flowers of crosswort, as well as ubiquitous foxgloves.
The summits of Snowdonia could be picked out on the horizon. (If ‘not quite’ in this picture! See the slideshow.)
Lunch was taken in view of Moel Arthur, no doubt once the site of an ancient fort. You can see the circular ‘path’ around the scalp of the hill, which may indicate the walls of a fort. The direct line of approach to the summit that Mark and I took later is obvious; the others all took a longer but gentler route that you can just see to the right of Sue’s head in the picture below.
However, the principal source of interest during lunch was an array of birds of prey. Nearby, a kestrel was minding its own business, hovering; buzzards were on a family outing, their mewing perhaps showing irritation in that smaller birds were dive bombing them; a lone red kite was touring the area, speeding away from any minor irritation. That was all after a conspiracy of ravens had abandoned the area as we approached.
There was also a snake in the grass!
A peculiar looking aircraft flew over. Apparently it takes wing parts to the aerospace factory in Toulouse.
We descended sharply to a minor road.
Mark and I ascended even more sharply to Moel Arthur. Time for another snooze for Mark. Chester soon turned up to guard him.
There was a good view back to Moel Famau from Moel Arthur.
Whilst others took an illegal route across a field, I took a long way round and was quite a long way behind by the time I passed the small summit of Moel Plas-yw, from near which point the following picture was taken. It was a lovely day to be out.
I caught up with the others as they tackled a short section of jungle. Most people seemed to be coming the other way, but Mark and I persevered and managed to get through after about 100 metres of intricately threading ourselves through the fallen trees. After waiting for a while, we assumed the others must have chosen another route, and we continued on easy paths for three kilometres or so into the hamlet of Cilcain. The White Horse Inn saw to our needs, and we enjoyed a quiet forty minutes with jugs of cold lager before the rest of the party emerged from the undergrowth.
Tales were concocted and exchanged, and glasses were eventually drained.
There was no chair for our esteemed leader, Cary, who was very thirsty.
After an idyllic hour outside the pub, we dragged ourselves off and were soon heading away from Cilcain towards Pont-newydd.
The final section of the walk was along a leete to Loggerheads, past this mine entrance - note the people on the path below us.
The 'leete' was a lovely contouring path in pretty woodland that presumably used to be accompanied by running water. Today the only sounds apart from our own emanated from numerous small birds of many different breeds.
There were giant caverns leading to mine workings. I ventured into one of them and only noticed the ‘danger of death’ signs as I returned to daylight…
It was nearly 6.30 by the time we reached the café where Sue and I had earlier enjoyed a coffee and left our car.
Loggerheads: from where the car drivers were returned to their vehicles whilst others chilled out for 15 minutes.
Most people then went home, I assume, but Sue and I opted to pop in to a pub restaurant across the road.
Here’s my route (click on it for a larger version) – others went slightly different ways. It was about 21 km, with 750 metres ascent, and took about 7.5 hours including 2 hours of stops.
Note that the jungle section was through the woodland at the very top of the route map. Cary led most of the group around a track to the west that may not be on my map, to regain the public footpath route that Mark and I took.