I knew the weather wasn’t going to be brilliant today but what I love about Wales, Mid Wales, is that I still find it stunning even if it is raining or windy, hail, whatever – sometimes it only adds to that exhilarating feeling when you are outdoors. That’s what it was like today. I set off from Gregynog Hall and went north from the rear of the hall through Great Wood. I love Great Wood and I wish I had known it was there when my children were little. We visited Gregynog many times but played on the lawns at the front. So if you haven’t been to Great Wood, it’s a must - a magical place.
Then along the lane that took me up to Firhouse Sheepwalk. As soon I went through the gate on to the track I knew this was going to be a fantastic walk - the land is so rugged and unique to Mid Wales. To add to the atmosphere, a hunt was taking place, hunting for what I'm not sure, but the calls from the hunting horn, carried by the wind, made it all quite surreal. At the next gate I took a pic of the view looking back, it was very satisfying, even today. I turned off on to a track called Borfa-hafod Firs that takes you down to an old quarry. On a new walk, you can sometimes underestimate what fantastic views you are going to get and from this track the views of the Severn Valley were breath taking. I love it when this happens – it’s like finding treasure and I immediately want to share it with others.
From the quarry I knew the bridle way very well, having walked it many times when I lived up in Adfa and many times since. The bridle way takes you right up on to Bryn Du across open access land. The weather up here is rarely what it’s like on lower ground and so up I went into the mist, onto what really is the middle of nowhere. Thankfully it was all very familiar to me but I probably wouldn’t recommend doing this if you’d never been there before and definitely not on your own, like me. The track was well used by possibly tractors or quads and extremely boggy in places, there is the odd waymarked post but today I could only see about 20 yards in front of me and the wind was so strong and noisy. It really was very exciting.
I was looking out for Llyn y Tarw, a beautiful lake with a small island that has a colony of terns. When I’ve been up here before the terns have seen me and made a din but today I couldn’t even see across to the island, never the less, it was exhilarating to suddenly come to this mass of water in the mist. Time for a snack and a drink but today wasn’t a day for hanging around for too long. So onwards onto the track that takes you to the main bridle way which runs across the ridge of Bryn Du. It was quite eerie - I could hear the wind turbines but I couldn’t see them first of all, then the mist cleared and, like them or loathe them, there they were.
I came off this track further on and headed down towards Gwgia Reservoir. On the way down I could see back across to Borfa-hafod Firs –I think it’s always nice to see where you were earlier on in the walk, satisfying. Gwgia looked as lovely as ever with its little dam, boathouse and causeway, one of my favourite spots and good diversion to miss out some road on the way back. There is a pretty little lane from the dam back to the Bwlch -y-ffridd road, and then taking the lane back to Gregynog, via Great Wood. 11.6 miles
I wanted to do this walk there-and-back so that I knew it really well, but really it’s a walk designed to use the light railway between Welshpool and Llanfair Caereinion – catching the train from Welshpool and getting off at Castle Caereinion, walking over Y Golfa on Glyndŵr’s Way.
The start of my walk from Welshpool, taking Glyndŵr’s way from the Raven Pub, took me through some very smart, well-kept park land. There is something about walking early on a Sunday morning, and today was particularly still, it was so quiet and tranquil – perfect. Glyndŵr’s Way is a long distance trail of 135 miles forming a meandering loop from Knighton to Welshpool.
The oak trees in the park land, scattered across the fields, either side of the lane lead that up to Llanerchydol Hall, were magnificent and I'm sure would look even more beautiful in early summer. I didn’t know this hall even existed - certainly hidden away. It is privately owned and was built in 1776 by David Pugh - a local man who had made he fortune selling tea in London (he also owned Aberbechan Hall). I noticed an ice house near the back of the property, apparently there are two, possibly joined. Very intriguing, and imagine having enough ice on the rivers and ponds to fill these things. To be able to preserve food and, so they say, enjoy ice creams in the summer must have be high tech in its day but I expect only to be enjoyed by the gentry of the big halls. The lane continued and eventually became a track at Home Farm and just passed here, gradually getting higher, the views were fabulous although visibility could have been better.
I followed the well-marked Glyndŵr’s Way all the way to open access land / Welshpool Golf course and took a foot path around the perimeter. On the way, though, I detoured to the Trig point on Y Golfa where 360° views can be enjoyed, shame about the clouds but it was still very colourful and I had buzzards and kites souring above me. There is a fort on the footpath to look out for. Then the path follows the edge of the open access land down into the valley and to the main road, crossing the little railway and over fields to Castle Caereinion, all fairly well marked.
The village used to have a castle and there is a mound in the churchyard which they say could possibly be the remains of some sort of fort. The village its self was very quiet and petty, the shop was shut but outside was a rack with the papers in and a little old post box – all very quaint. There is a pub too which would have made a good lunch stop but I was too early for lunch so walked to the station where I had my packed snack and coffee on the platform bench (no trains today!) and then I walked all the way back. 10 miles all together and all done by 2.15 in the afternoon!
What a fantastic walk, one of the best I’ve done recently. I feel very excited about this one. Really impressive scenery and included 3 trails – pretty good for a 7.5mile circular.
Starting from Bishop’s Moat, which was a short drive from Mellington Hall, up to a cross roads where the road intersects the Kerry Ridgeway. There is a small motte and bailey there, the mound still very much intact – it was built in round 1120 (so about 400 years after Offa’s Dyke was built) by the Bishop of Hereford and was later possibly occupied by Llywelyn ab lorwerth in 1233.
The weather in the morning had been really stormy - snowing at one point, so we hadn’t started the walk until the weather had eased. The wind was still bitter walking south but a good uphill towards Reilthtop to meet the Shropshire Way warmed us up. The Shropshire Way, going west from here, took a lane that turned into a lovely old avenue of trees - a green lane with fantastic views down into the river Unk valley. We continued to walk the Shropshire Way through Knuck Wood following the river Unk northward and then it veers west still following the meandering river, or I think a tributary to the river Unk (actually I’ve just looked it up – it was the river Unk).
The Shropshire Way intercepts Offa’s Dyke at Churchtown, a quiet little place tucked right down in a steep sided valley. From the south side of the valley we could clearly see Offa’s Dyke climbing straight up the hillside opposite. An amazing and spectacular sight. We came across a big old sow and her 5 comical piglets at a small-holding in Churchtown. The Friendly farmer told us that he hadn’t expected them to survive in the awful, wet, snowy weather, but I think he’d done a jolly good job, they looked as happy as anything. A coffee stop and a lump of Christmas cake at the church before the steep incline of Offa’s Dyke.
The views of Churchtown Hill and Stevens Dingle were amazing even on an overcast day like today. The climb was certainly worth it and my mum, who was with me today, is in her mid-seventies so if she can do it…..
Incidentally, if you haven’t read a previously blog – Offa’s Dyke was ordered to big dug by King Offa – king of Mercia from 757 to 796. The trench is always on the Welsh side for extra defence. The trench is still there as too is the dyke.
Then almost straight down into the next valley following Offa’s Dyke but before that, a short plateau where we had 360 deg views. I just love it when you get views like that and can hardly see any civilization – gives me a wonderful sense of passion for walking and the stunning countryside that’s on my door step.
The stream in this valley must be a tributary to the river Unk, then, as it doesn’t seem to be named on the OS map but joins the Unk at Mainstone. So then crossing a substantial foot bridge over a bursting stream and up into Nut Wood where we took a bridle way NE back to meet the Kerry Ridgeway. It’s road from here but I noticed that all the way along adjacent to the road runs the old ridgeway track – a pity that it’s not a foot path. On our left we passed Caer Din, an iron-age fort. I couldn’t resist running up to the top to see the views even though the light was fading by now. A great spot for a picnic and that’s one thing recces are for, to find all these memorable and ideal locations.
Brilliant – I can’t wait to walk it again!
Muddy and soggy! I don’t think I have ever seen the fields so wet and swamped in places. There is water pouring across them and every gully and brook gushing with water. I started this walk from the carpark at Gregynog taking the foot path east that takes you down to a well-built foot bridge that crosses Bechan Brook. The footpath was good here with gates, and after a field of horses (that I’m always a bit wary of) came out on to the lane that passes round the back of the grounds of Gregynog. So far so good but after that I didn’t see another proper style/sign for a good while. I was heading for Bronhafod dingle where a footpath, on my map, runs all the way through….
I came across a little, stone, tumble down building on the way. I love ruins and always wonder what their purpose might have been. Getting nearer the dingle I saw a poor, dead old heron, one of my favourite birds (although one once pinched all the fish from my pond), so to see the great long beak of one so close up was, to me, very interesting. I’ve included a photo of it so if that’s not your kind of thing, apologies – shut your eyes!
The dingle was absolutely beautiful – I felt as if I’d found a secret location, hardly trodden or visited by anyone. The sides of the dingle were lined with oak and beech so the floor was strewn with a mixture of their leaves but also of lovely ferns and a carpet of celandine. The brook was traveling extremely fast and probably looks quite different in the summer. It was so soggy under foot that negotiating my way through was really quite difficult in places and the light, being down in the gully and surround by trees, wasn’t great although it was only early afternoon. Good fun all the same.
A stile at last and a path that lead across the fields to New House Farm. Taking the farm lane to the Bwlch-y-ffridd road - I have to say I was glad to see a bit of tarmac after so much sogginess not to mention jumping two small streams that at any other time of year probably would be just a trickle. This is a stretch of road that I love and used to travel along it when I lived in Adfa – the views are magnificent and even today with such poor visibility I could see The Kerry Ridgway. Turning left then on to the lane that goes back to Gregynog, downhill all the way and then entering the Great Wood. I could see why it has that name – very impressive old trees, beautiful. 5.5miles