Horseshoe Falls

Fri. 12 May: Llangollen: a pleasant walk beside the canal to the recently-restored chain bridge at Berwyn, and the Horseshoe Falls on the Dee. On my first visit here, over 40 years ago, the falls came as a disappointment. After seeing down through the trees to the rushing waters of the Dee, tumbling over the rocky river bed, we came to the curving weir. “Is that it?”. It’s there to provide a feed for the canal, which flows like a clear stream down to Llangollen, and it’s well worth a visit, whatever its origin.

Why did we do it? See previous post “Future Steam

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Unknown hills

Can we find somewhere that will be quiet? With a clear blue sky and pleasantly-warm temperatures, the better-known destinations will be busy. But it’s quiet here. Really quiet! We’ve driven along the minor road between Llangunllo and Llanbadarn Fynydd, and parked at Moelfre City (which consists of two or three isolated farms). We’ve eaten our lunch, and walked back down the road for about a mile before taking the track into the hills. And we’ve seen no-one. Not a soul – until the chap turned up with a mower as we passed Cwmllechwedd Fawr. After that – no-one else, until we’ve completed the walk and driven homewards for several miles.

It’s quiet, not silent. We can hear larks (ascending, as they do), and occasional buzzards, and the odd sheep (aren’t they all?) makes its presence known, but that’s about it (there are one or two red kites too, never close enough for the camera). There’s a new wind farm up here, at Garreg Lywd, just beyond the point where we turn back. If we listen carefully, we can just about hear the swish of the blades of the nearest turbine as they turn gracefully against the blue sky.

Our walk is taking us around the watershed of the Dildre brook. We pass the highest points of Tylcau, Newhouse and Warren hills on the outward walk, turn at Cae-glas Hill, and head back to the City via Tynybryniau Hill, Gors Lydan and Moelfre Hill. Gors Lydan is the highest point, at 528m (that’s 1,736′), but none of these hills have summits, in the sense of places worth visiting. I suspect the number of visitors they receive each year is in single figures – they’re unknown hills, and all the better for that on a day like today.

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On Breidden Hill

A short walk to a landmark summit, just across the Welsh border. It’s no great height, nor the greatest height of this little clump of shapely hills which is a significant feature of views from further east. The top is marked by Rodney’s Pillar, memorial to the 18th century Admiral, and provides splendid views of the border hills – or would have done, that is, had it not been for the lingering mist. The sun tried hard, but only really succeeded, inevitably, when we’d come back down again.


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The sun was already low in the sky as we walked along the short path to Montgomery castle. It’s a good place for a cold afternoon – there’s no wind but it will be frosty when the sun gets lower. We’re soon warmed up again in the Ivy House – tea and Welsh cakes. An enjoyable outing!

Montgomery Castle CADW

Rhiw and Vyrnwy

We’re in mid-Wales: after our visit to the Rhiw Valley Light Railway, near Manafon, we drive along very pleasant back-roads to Lake Vyrnwy. It’s not natural – the reservoir supplies water to Liverpool – but it’s very enjoyable to gaze across its waters to the remarkable fairytale castle (more properly known as a straining tower) and the green hills beyond. It’s also good to spend a little while in the RSPB hide, mere yards from the end of the dam, where the birds are just inches from the glazing. It’s easy to take pictures of them, but very difficult to take good ones – the glass is not totally transparent, the light is tricky, and the birds spend most of their time with their heads in the feeders. There are more good things here – rather fine ice-creams from the cafe next door…

For more on the Rhiw Valley visit, check out August in the Rhiw Valley on Geoff’s Rail Diaries.


Lesser spottedRhiw Valley - JackA day out: a visit to the 15″-gauge Rhiw Valley Light Railway, and a few minutes in the RSPB hide at Lake Vyrnwy. The RVLR’s “Jack” and “Powys” are easily spotted, trundling around the fields beside the Rhiw. The woodpeckers are, of course, lesser spotted. More to come…

On the border

Llanthony Priory to Cwmyoy – a walk in the Black Mountains:

We’ve done this one before – a circular walk in the easternmost valley of the hill country north of Abergavenny, following the valley of the Honddu from Llanthony to Cwmyoy, then up onto the ridge to walk along the border between England and Wales. The valley walk is pleasant and quiet, following woodland paths. Cwmyoy is best known for its church, built on unstable ground. The ridge is high and airy – it may be June, but there’s a cold wind – best keep moving…


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Great Rhos and Black Mixen

From the Shropshire hills, a great flat-topped dome dominates the southern distance – Radnor Forest (not a forest, though the hill’s northern slopes are well-covered with conifers). Prominent, with good eyesight or binoculars, is the (TV?) mast on Black Mixen. It follows that, given good weather, its views should be extensive and panoramic. We’d better go and find out.

It looks like one big hill – in fact it’s very nearly two – the deep and forbidden Harley Dingle (ammunition testing ranges!) almost bisects Radnor Forest. Great Rhos is the highest point (that’s the wrong word to use), at 660m (2166′), on the western side. It connects to the eastern Black Mixen (650m) by a narrow neck of land on the fringe of the forest. From the sleepy streets of New Radnor, the route is thus a high-level horseshoe, providing an excellent day out in this very quiet hill country (one other walker, and a distant horse-and-rider). There are more red kites than people. The views? Yes, as we imagined – a 360° panorama – hills in all directions. Wonderful!

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Cain, Abel and Jericho

We’re in Wales today – lunch at the Cain Valley Hotel, Llanfyllin, followed by a walk in the attractive hills to the east, just across the river Cain. There is a river Abel here too – it joins the Cain at Llanfyllin. It looks little more than a brook on the map, but it makes a good story… Maintaining the biblical theme for just a little longer – we’re walking to Jericho Hill! If the weather had been different we might have stood atop its grassy summit – but we’d have felt the full force of the bitter northerly wind, so we stayed on the path in the hollow. Away from the wind, it was very pleasant in the warm sunshine, which lit the landscape like a floodlight, really bringing out the colour.

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Down the coast – Borth to Aber

Aberystwyth was always “Aber” on the railway – as a chalked destination on a parcels van perhaps. We’d be travelling by rail today, for a leisurely stroll along the cliff-top path from Borth to the university town.

The rain that started minutes after our arrival in Borth accompanied us to the top of the headland; a little way beyond it eased, and we were soon able to pack away the waterproofs and enjoy the coastal scenery. The cliffs are not high, but there is plenty of interest along the route, not least in the stripy strata clearly visible in the rocks.

The shingle spit at Wallog,  “Sarn Gynfelyn”, is one of several similar features of the coast. Of man-made appearance, they are the stuff of myth and legend – ancient ways to submerged kingdoms.

Clarach Bay is full of caravans and chalets. It’s not the prettiest part of the walk, and we pass through quickly – but a little way beyond, back on the cliff path, there’s a picnic bench. It provides a quiet spot for a break and a late lunch before we arrive at Aber, to walk along the promenade and enjoy a well-earned ice-cream (“Mario’s” – excellent!)

“Aber” is perhaps a touch ambiguous, and appropriately so. The full name means “mouth of the Ystwyth” – but that river makes a rather inconspicuous approach to the town, sneaking into the Rheidol just yards from the open sea. It’s the latter that is more obvious, providing the harbour for numerous pleasure craft – and, as we waited on the station platform, a Vale of Rheidol train steamed gently into the former Carmarthen line platforms. Aberrheidol perhaps? If nothing else, it would be easier to spell for us poor pob sais.

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