Living in the Carneddau range of mountains (being the largest contiguous area of high ground in Wales & England) are a true gem of wild Wales – the Carneddau Ponies.
These rare ponies are a glorious insight in to British equines of the past. It is believed that they have roamed freely across these beautiful but bleak hills for some 2,500 years or more, at least since 500BC. A genetic study carried out earlier this decade by Aberystwyth University, concluded that the ponies have been genetically isolated for several centuries minimum.
Living up and around 2000ft, these ponies have survived cold snowy winters, potential predation by wolves (before they were eradicated from the hills), the enforced historical culls of wild ponies and more recent regulatory pressures. Thanks to the hard work of local farmers & the Carneddau Mountain Pony Association, the ponies hopefully have a long future on Snowdonia’s wildest of areas.
In February of this year I was lucky enough to take the picture below, of one of these hardy little ponies:
More recently, in great autumn weather, Tamsin & I set off on a long day in the Carneddau, photographing the ponies & their environment. Here are a few photos for you to enjoy:
Craig Cwm Silyn, a morning walk at the western end of the Nantlle ridge.
This walk starts at a small parking area that the landowner kindly allows visitors to use. Having walked most of the Nantlle ridge earlier this year (see this post), we wished to visit Craig Cwm Silyn at the western most point (the one peak that we didn’t visit before). Here’s the morning view from the permissive parking area:
We followed this track ahead into the sunrise. It passes through a gate, over a ladder style, and then starts to drop downhill towards the lakes at Cwm Silyn. Just before reaching the lakes, turn right, to climb over another ladder style (see photo below).
Now follow the grassy track ahead before turning uphill to your right (away from the lakes) to meet the path that ascends along the edge of the crags. It is from a point early along this section that I took the feature image (top) of the sunrise.
The path steadily climbs and as one nears the top it curves to the left, continuing along the top of the cliffs. The view back towards the coast can be excellent providing that the coastal cloud has lifted sufficiently.
Continue walking ahead, still gently rising to cross another ladder style before finally climbing to the highest point, a little over 2,400ft above the coast. The summit is fairly rocky and enjoys views towards Moel Hebog, as well as along the further peaks of the Nantlle ridge. On our walk, the morning clouds descended briefly before lifting again to show us this fine view across Mynydd Tal y mignedd (with its obelisk) & the Nantlle ridge in general:
There are various ways to extend this walk but as you will see from our way map below, we followed a similar route back down to the car. An enjoyable & rewarding walk to start the autumn with. The scenery and weather inspired me to produce an artwork in Digital Oils of the view towards a cloudy Moel Hebog. You can see the image on my pro site, Natures Universe.
This walk, along a spectacular section of the Nantlle Ridge, provides great views across Snowdonia, as well as out to sea. It is one of the classic Snowdonian ridge walks. Our version is ~ 7 miles long with a 3000ft climb; both starting and finishing in the car park at Rhyd Ddu – next to the Welsh Highland Railway station. Having parked up (£5 for the day, at time of writing), leave the car park by crossing the A4085 and enter the field opposite via an an interesting metal gateway. The stoned path bridges the Afon Gwyrfai, keep right (ignoring our little excursion on the GPS track below) to reach a corner in the Nantlle road (B4418). Upon reaching the lane, immediately turn left on to a path to the base of Y Garn. Soon the path will split, take the path up Y Garn – we shall be returning along the lower path in a few hours. As you steadily climb Y Garn the views back to Rhyd Ddu with Snowdon beyond are well worth a short breather pause – there was plenty of early haze on our day.
Continue up Y Garn, the uphill walk is straightforward enough but could be quite a haul if you were not fit to hill walking and the spring lambs seemed quite curious of our ascent.
When almost at the summit the ground becomes quite rocky and the views open up all around. The summit itself is just to your right by the cairns. Once finished here, we should strike off again in a SSW direction, keeping the cliffs to your right. We are now heading for Mynydd Drws-y-coed.
We paused by the stonewall here, to admire the views with mountains peeping up above the morning clouds. The next section is the only part of this route to involve scrambling, just maintain good contact with the rock and take particular care of any exposed places above the cliffs to your right. I should also say that this would be significantly more challenging & risky in wintery conditions where considerable equipment & experience would be vital.
Having reached the summit of Drws-y-coed, we shall now keep the cliffs on our right as we descend and then climb again to the summit of Trum y Ddysgl. Take care not to miss the point at which the path splits, to take in the summit one needs to bear right & more steeply uphill again.
This is glorious walking and having reached the summit, we now swing to our left along the ridgetop. Towards the south-westerly end of this ridge we now have the option to turn westerly and cross to the obelisk marked peak of Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd.
Given my propensity for “just one more peak” we did of course go to view the obelisk.
This was a good spot to pause and have a snack to lift our energy levels. Spicy pork steak sandwiches & salad were greatly appreciated but there were rather too many midges who thought that we looked like a tasty breakfast :O
Next up was the return walk, retracing our steps back to the Trum ridge.
Having regained the ridge we now head down the south-east spur, descending towards Bwlch-y-ddwy-elor and Beddgelert forest, which should be to our left. As we descend, Cwm Dwyfor and the head of the mines of Cwm Pennant are down to our right.
Upon reaching the Bwlch, a gateway will be seen entering the forestry, take this track and follow it down through the picturesque forestry. When you meet the vehicular forest tracks, take close note of our GPS tracklog. In brief, turn right and then almost immediately left, follow this track with a stream on your left until you meet a ‘T’ junction. At the ‘T’ turn left over the stream and then right again to short cut on to another forestry vehicle track. You will notice a bridle-path leaving this track on your left (North). Take this bridle-path, follow it through the forestry & then across the open farmland, back to where you originally turned uphill to climb Y Garn. From here you should simply retrace your steps back to the car park at Rhyd Ddu.
Once you’ve completed the walk, you may be lucky enough to see a steam train in the station.
The steam train is a majestic and probably less energetic way to take in some of the natural beauty of Snowdonia, but perhaps that’s one for another day 🙂
It’s been a while since I’ve had chance to blog post, so let’s catch-up with an early morning mountain walk through Cwm Bychan to Beddgelert and then returning via the banks of the Afon Glaslyn.
Tamsin & I completed this walk yesterday morning (23rd May) and most of the route is currently lined with gorgeous bluebell flowers. Walking at a relatively leisurely pace, it took us a little over 3 hours including photography pauses (adjust for your walking pace). The GPS recorded 5.8 miles distance and 1500ft climb. Usual mountain walk advice is relevant but I would additionally stress that you will really want those sturdy boots, since much of the walk is upon rocky ground. The walk itself is absolutely gorgeous and I highly recommend it.
Park in the Nantmor National Trust car park at grid ref: SH597462 (£4/day at time of writing) and leave the car park via the gate next to the loos. Turn immediately right, under the railway and climbing up through bluebell woods.
Gradually the woodland will fade into open mountain, do look back towards the coastline, it’s a great view. Having started walking at 6.50am we had the pleasure of a cool morning breeze whilst watching the sun drawn up in to the sky by Helios’ steeds. We paused in the shade of a lonesome mountain tree.
Soon you will come across evidence of the copper mining that used to be carried out here. Mining has been dated back to at least the 17th century in Cwm Bychan. The mines finally closed in the 19th century, only to be re-opened in the 1920s. It was at this time that an aerial ropeway was built to help remove the Chalcopyrite (CuFeS2) ore for processing. This attempt to restart production was short lived and the mine finally closed by the end of that decade. Various relics of that era can still be seen, including the aerial ropeway with its pylons and terminal wheel, higher up the mountain.
There’s more information about the mine site and its neighbours on the Coflein website.
Shortly after passing the header wheel the paths split in two, keep straight ahead uphill (as opposed to branching left), past a little more copper mining spoil, to eventually climb over a ladder style and reach the high point of this walk. The views from here are breath-taking and include the peaks of the Snowdon Horseshoe. We took a moment to stand and stare, basking in spring sunshine, sweet scent on the breeze and serenaded with birdsong – life doesn’t get much better 🙂
Now continue ahead to the nearby signpost & split in the track. Whilst it is possible to turn left towards Beddgelert, why miss out on the short extension down to the shores of beautiful Llyn Dinas. Before descending on the right to Llyn Dinas we took a very short detour, just 100m ahead, to investigate another copper mining shaft and for Tamsin to do some scrambling.
As one descends, the view of Llyn Dinas gradually opens up until the view of her full waters is eventually on show. We’ll now descend right to her shore line where we turn left to follow the river down towards Beddgelert. After a short distance the path joins the minor lane from Sygun Copper Mine to Beddgelert.
Upon reaching Beddgelert one may cross the river & visit this much loved village. Have a pub lunch, enjoy the ice-cream parlour or just soak up the relaxed atmosphere. When ready, pick up the footpath going downstream again. Our GPS tracklog (see below) follows the left-hand bank but you’ll want to be on the other bank if you wish to visit Gelert’s grave. Either way as you walk along the paths downstream you’ll eventually find yourself on the left-hand riverbank with the Afon Glaslyn to your right & the Welsh Highland Railway to your left (keep a look out for the Steam Trains).
The pass of Aberglaslyn is a stunning section of river and worth a walk along at any time of year. Do take care on the path, it is quite rocky & narrow in places.
Eventually you will find yourself near the Aberglaslyn road crossing. Don’t exit the woodland on to the road, just turn left uphill on the path away from the river. It is now just a short walk back to the car park that you started from; I hope you enjoyed the walk. Our GPS tracklog is embedded below plus two links to alternative descriptions of this walk.
Other descriptions of the route: National Trust – starting at the same point but walking clockwise (the opposite way) Snowdonia.gov – starting from Beddgelert, walking anti-clockwise. [PDF file]
A changeable day in November, with a beautiful clear start; just the sort of day to photograph some of the different moods of beautiful Snowdonia. And so it was last week when Tamsin & I had an early start to head for Rhyd Ddu before dawn. Here’s a photo heavy post, telling the tale of our walk and including the GPS track / route details, so that you might enjoy this fine piece of country for yourself; (please note that in wintery conditions this route becomes a much more significant challenge, requiring more knowledge & equipment):
We parked up in the frosty & empty car park at Rhyd Ddu just as the tinges of blue light were lifting the dawn sky. A few quick checks plus one photo later and we were on our way, hiking up the track towards the old quarry on Yr Aran slopes. The aim was to be at the quarry as the sun rose above the mountain horizon. As always it was worth taking the time to stand & stare, the view looking back westwards was beautiful with a coloured dawn sky, mountain panorama and mist in the valley:
It is these views that help make early morning walks such a pleasure, along with crisp air, morning wildlife and the fact that you’ll probably have the mountainside to yourself! It’s definitely the time for catching decent photography light. I’m currently on a long-term mission to capture the many changing faces of North & Mid Wales landscapes, not just the perfect blue sky days. And so we carried on, heading uphill for the quarries.
As we reached the quarry, the timing was great and we were rewarded with striking views all around. Looking back through the ruins, we could see Beddgelert Forest & Nantle Ridge beyond. Whilst ahead there were stunning sunrise colours, as the sun burst out from behind the flank of Yr Aran.
Now it was time to swing north and climb more steeply up the ridge, Allt Maenderyn, towards the arête of Bwlch Main (my favourite point on Snowdon). Looking uphill showed that the summit of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) was, as so often, shrouded in moody cloud. Pleasing, from my photography perspective, it would allow for some moody shots looking down from the cloud base, I just hoped that more general cloud would hold off for another hour or so. In the meantime it was great to enjoy the morning view across to Y Lliwedd.
Approaching the cloud base & with the temperature becoming notably fresher, I paused to put on my coat and to take advantage of a gloriously clear view across Bwlchysaethau to Crib Goch, which was bathed in warm sunshine.
As we crossed Bwlch Main the views down towards Cwm Llan & Nant Gwynant beyond, were just as dramatic as I had hoped. The morning sunshine was sandwiched with building cloud above, valley shadow & mist below. Leaving the Canon SLR in the rucksack, I decided this would be a good spot to utilise the significant reach of my little Nikon. When I bought the B700 last year, its main target use was for video projects with Tamsin. I hoped that it would also act as an inexpensive & lightweight backup / catchall on walks. Whilst it clearly can’t produce SLR standard shots, it does hold its own well & fulfils my chosen role for it. Here are 2 shots out of the cloud with it – the 2nd shot is framed within the first one, at the mist line on the valley floor:
Now continuing across this exposed ridge to Snowdon’s summit, visibility dropped & hints of winter appeared; perhaps we’ll be back up here with the crampons in a few months 😉
Finally we reached the summit and met a small handful of cheerful folk who were also enjoying the morning (the first folk we’d seen all morning). Here’s a picture of Tamsin by the summit trig point.
To descend, we retraced our tracks across Bwlch Main and then, keeping right where the path splits, we followed the Rhyd Ddu path back down to the car. With steadily increasing cloud & flatter light, the best of the photography was done but we did pause to enjoy our bacon butties & picnic 😀
Below, you will find the details of our route, a link to the GPS track and a gallery of all the pictures above, to make it easier to view them: