Wild Ponies

Wild Ponies

Devil's Kitchen

Devil's Kitchen

 

Glorious mountains and rugged wilderness may seem a strange choice for the visually impaired. This area provides a great opportunity to commune with nature, imbibe the bracing air, experience the redolent sense of flora and fauna in a natural habitat or simply amble at one's own pace away from the bustle of civilization.

The Carneddau (literally "the cairns"; Carneddau is a Welsh plural form, and is sometimes anglicised to Carnedds) are a group of mountains in Snowdonia, Wales. They include the largest contiguous areas of high ground (over 2,500 or 3,000 feet (910 metres) high) in Wales and England, as well as six or seven of the highest peaks in the country — the Fifteen Peaks. The range also encloses a number of lakes such as Llyn Cowlyd and Llyn Eigiau, and the Aber Falls waterfalls. It is delimited by the Irish Sea to the north, the Conwy valley to the east, and by the A5 road from Betws-y-Coed to Bethesda to the south and west. The area covers nearly 200 square kilometres, about 10% of the area of Snowdonia.

 

The rocks from which the Carneddau are formed mostly originated in the Ordovician period between 500 and 440 million years ago. At that time, the continental land masses on either side of the Iapetus Ocean were moving together. The friction between these caused the floor of the ocean to melt, volcanoes to form and the land to rise up. This was the origin of the towering mountains that were to become Snowdonia and the other mountain ranges in Central and North Wales. Over time, these mountains have been eroded by the weather and scoured by advancing and retreating ice sheets. The Carneddau were formed in this way and consist of volcanic and sedimentary rock. The last ice sheet retreated about 10,000 years ago. It left behind a landscape of smooth summits above erratic boulders and scree at the foot of cliffs on the eastern side of the mountains, and moraines that created shallow lakes in the cwms.

 

This area was first colonised in Neolithic times, when Stone Age farmers started clearing the native forests of oak and birch that covered all but the uppermost ridges and summits. They were followed by Bronze Age people who cleared more forests and erected standing stones across the uplands. There are more than one thousand ancient monuments on the Carneddau estate (the land owned by the National Trust, which covers the Carneddau and the Glyderau ranges). The remains of circular stone huts dating back to this time have been found and the cairns on the mountain summits contain cremated human remains, presumably from prominent people of this time.

On the north western slopes of Drosgl there are clusters of Iron Age huts and three cairns were built on the top of Moel Faban. This settlement endured for a thousand years, lasting until after the Romans arrived. There are other huts elsewhere and traces of field systems and numerous hill forts situated at strategic upland sites. The Romans subdued the area and built a road, Bwlch y Ddeufaen across the northern slopes of the Carnedds. After they left in 410, the land was controlled once again by Welsh princes who schemed and formed alliances among themselves.

The clearance of the native forests continued and at one time goats were the main form of livestock. Their feral descendants are still found in the area today on the Glyderau. They were later followed by cattle and it was not till the 18th century desire for wool that sheep became numerous. By the thirteenth century, English ambitions were increasing under King Edward I of England in this part of Wales and the English castles encircled Snowdonia.

The two highest mountains in the range are named Carnedd Llewellyn and Carnedd Dafydd after the thirteenth-century Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Iorwerth or Llywelyn the Great (1172-1240), and his grandson Prince Dafydd ap Gruffudd (1238-1283). It was in a bog in the northern foothills of Bera Mawr, at a place called Nanhysglain, that Prince Dafydd ap Gruffudd and his family were captured in June 1283. In October, Dafydd was executed at Shrewsbury by Edward I and this ended the seven-hundred-year rule of Gwynedd by the family descended from Cunedda Wledig and the end of independence for Wales.

Llyn Ogwen was reputed to be the place from which Sir Bedivere failed to draw King Arthur's sword Excalibur. Another legend has it that the two small lakes nestling below the towering cliffs to the east of Carnedd Llywelyn were haunted and that deformed fish with heads but no bodies lurked in their depths. A more recent legend records that the two great boulders known as the "Meini Gwynedd" near the summit of Carnedd Llywelyn were lifted there bodily in 1542 from the banks of one of these lakes. Henry VIII is said to have ordered the investigation of this claim and later proclaimed that it was true.

 

The Carneddau are the largest continuous stretch of mountain land over 2,500 feet in the country. They are not as rugged as the Snowdon massif or the Glyderau but are impressive nevertheless. Much of the higher tops is covered with rough grass and heather, with patches of shattered rocks. Pen-yr-Ole-Wen lies on the western edge of the range and dominates the Nant Ffrancon pass. Continuing along the ridge from here, Carnedd Dafydd is reached, then Carnedd Llewellyn and on to various lower summits. To the north and west of the ridge are mostly grassy slopes, while to the east there are some high cliffs, deep valleys and small lakes. The Carneddau range is home to the only population of wild horses in the United Kingdom.

The peaks in the central Carnedd ridge are:

Pen yr Ole Wen (978 m)

Carnedd Dafydd (1044 m)

Carnedd Llewelyn (1064 m)

Yr Elen (962 m)

Foel Grach (976 m)

Carnedd Gwenllian (926 m)

Foel-fras (942 m)

In September 2009 the peak referred to as Garnedd Uchaf was renamed Carnedd Gwenllian following a campaign by the Gwenllian Society to honour Princess Gwenllian, the daughter of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales.

 

The plants growing on the Carneddau need to be extremely hardy to withstand the snow, frosts, and gales they will encounter during the year and those found by sheltered streams in the valleys are very different from those clinging to crevices on windswept rocks. Sheep graze the mountains and impact the composition of the sward, nibbling out the most succulent young growth. Where the sheep are fenced out globe flowers, wood avens, angelica, red campion and roseroot can be found at lower elevations, along with ash, alder, hawthorn, holly and rowan. Higher up on scree there are Welsh poppies and in damp crevices under rocks the rare Wilson's filmy fern. Boggy areas support cotton grass, marsh orchid, sundew and bog asphodel. The better-drained rocky slopes have bilberry, ling, bell heather and cross-leaved heath and the summit ridge has prostrate dwarf willows, sedges, mosses and lichens.

Until five hundred years ago, wolves and deer would have roamed the Carnedds. They have long gone, and, besides the ubiquitous sheep, there are now foxes, moles, mice, a few pine martens (probably extinct) and an increasing number of otters. Birds breeding here include buzzards, kestrels, merlins and peregrines, ravens and choughs. The rare ring ouzel, the wheatear and the stone chat are all at home here, as are the skylark and the meadow pipit. Sandpipers nest beside the lakes, the rare twite inhabits the Nant Ffrancon Valley and dotterels are found on the upper slopes.

Wild ponies roam the Carneddau, and a study of their DNA in 2012 revealed that they have been isolated as a breed for at least several hundred years. Numbers were severely reduced by the heavy snows of spring 2013.

 

The Llyn Ogwen circular walk is described as moderate and takes between one and two hours. Enjoy superb views of Tryfan and the Glyderau and no hills to climb, this is a great way to experience the mountains without committing to a strenuous hike to the summits.

From Ogwen Cottage, cross the main road and turn left, cross the bridge then turn right over the stile (there is a gap in the wall). Underneath the main road bridge is an old drovers bridge. Follow the river upstream to the lake by clambering over the large boulders, which can be quite challenging. It can be easy to lose the path here but keep heading for the lake and the path will become clearer with occasional way-markers.

Follow the lake-shore and the way-markers for ½ a mile before climbing a slight hill away from the lake, cross the stile and continue. There is a pill box, along with other defences, built to defend the A5 from invasion in the Second World War.

As you approach the farmhouse at the end of the lake, cross another stile then bear left towards the footbridge and follow the upper path which avoids the farmyard then crosses a stile before dropping down to join the farm-track. Follow this track away from the farmhouse until you reach the main road. Turn right and follow the pavement along the lake shore back to Ogwen Cottage.

Snow covered Carneddau

Snow covered Carneddau

Tryfan in Glyderau

Tryfan

 

Glyderau

The Glyderau (a Welsh plural form, also known in English as the Glyders) are a mountain group in Snowdonia, North Wales. The name derives from the highest peaks in the range, Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach. According to Sir Ifor Williams, the word "Glyder" derives from the Welsh word "Cludair", meaning a heap of stones.

The Glyderau stretch from Mynydd Llandegai to Capel Curig, and include five of Wales' fourteen or fifteen summits over 3000 feet; these include Tryfan, considered one of the finest mountains in Wales and one of the few mountains on the British mainland requiring scrambling to reach the summit. The eastern half of the range in particular, including Glyder Fawr, Glyder Fach and Tryfan, is very popular with walkers and climbers.

The Glyderau were formed in the Ordovician period about 500 million years ago as the result of two land masses moving together and causing the Snowdonia massif to rise up. Since then, erosion and the advance and retreat of glaciers during the Ice Ages has worn down the mountains to their present proportions. The underlying rock is a mixture of sedimentary and volcanic material. The last ice sheet retreated about 10,000 years ago and Cwm Idwal is a good example of a cirque formed by the ice. The main glacier flowed down the adjoining Nant Ffrancon Valley, a route now followed by the A5 road, and Cwm Idwal housed a side glacier. The ice scarred the surrounding cliffs, hollowed out the bed of Llyn Idwal and dumped rocks and other material that formed moraines at its foot. Massive boulders and shattered rocks crashed down from above to form the boulder fields and screes.

The land was originally covered with native forest mostly consisting of birch and oak. This was cleared over the millennia by the Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age farmers that settled here and now there is little tree cover. Groups of feral goats can still be found on the Glyderau, probably the remnants of the herds that were farmed here a thousand years ago. The large number of sheep that now graze the common land were introduced in the 18th century with the rise of the woollen industry.

 

The Glyderau present a much more rocky appearance than the smooth rounded humps of the Carneddau just to the north. The ridge between the summits of Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach is covered with coarse grasses and heathers and strewn with boulders and slabs of rocks. The ascent to the summit of Tryfan requires scrambling rather than just walking. Tryfan, Glyder Fach and the cliffs around Cwm Idwal offer rock climbing with routes ranging from those suitable for beginners to those requiring great technical expertise. The mountains can be approached from Llyn Ogwen to the north, where there is a car park, or from Nant Peris in the Llanberis Pass where there is a park and ride service. Buses run hourly from Bangor to Llanberis and there is a less frequent service from Bethesda to Llyn Ogwen.

Deep inside the mountain of Elidir Fawr there is a power station and many miles of tunnels. Dinorwig Power Station, a pumped storage hydroelectric facility, was originally built to provide back up facilities and water storage to smooth out the peaks and troughs in demand associated with the inflexible output of nuclear power stations. When demand is low, water is pumped up the mountain and stored in Marchlyn Mawr reservoir, previously a slate quarry. The water is released to flow through turbines during times of high demand for electricity. The power is conveyed through underground cables to join the grid so as to have little visual impact on the Snowdonia National Park skyline.

The National Trust took over the management of the Glyderau and the Carneddau in 1951 in lieu of death duties on the Penrhyn Estate. The total area is about 7,000 hectares, half of which is common land with registered grazing rights for 45,000 sheep and 741 ponies. There are eight tenanted farms on the estate and the National Trust is responsible for the maintenance of footpaths and drystone walls, some of which date back many hundreds of years. The two mountain ranges form part of the Snowdonia National Park.

 

The north-facing amphitheatre-shaped valley of Cwm Idwal with its dark cliffs has a unique flora, and some plants here are the most southerly remnants in Britain of the Arctic/Alpine flora. The Snowdon lily (Lloydia serotina) is found here, high on mountain ledges, the only place in Britain where it is found. Other Alpine species include the purple saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia), tufted saxifrage (Saxifraga cespitosa), Alpine meadow rue (Thalictrum alpinum) and mountain sorrel (Oxyria digyna). Because of the scientific interest of this valley, sheep have been excluded from it to allow the native plants to flourish and it has been made into a National Nature Reserve.

The lake itself is shallow and fringed with rushes, reeds and bottle sedge (Carex rostrata). Plants growing in the water or on the damp ground nearby include awlwort, pillwort, waterwort and spring quillwort (Isoetes echinospora). Other plants growing on damp shady ledges include the Welsh poppy (Meconopsis cambrica), the wood-rush (Lazula sylvatica), water avens (Geum rivale), wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) and golden rod (Solidago virgaurea). Animals that live here include badgers, foxes and polecats as well as buzzards (Buteo buteo), peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus), choughs (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), skylarks (Alauda arvensis), black grouse (Tetrao tetrix) and red grouse (Lagopus lagopus).

In the cliffs above Llyn Idwal is a dark cleft in the rock known as Twll Du from which plumes of mist sometimes emanate. These were believed to be caused by ancient druids creating lightning bolts to keep the invading Romans at bay. Llyn Idwal itself was said to be named after a drowned boy, either the son of 8th century Prince Cadwalader, murdered by a rival, or the son of 12th century Prince Owain Gwynedd and killed by his uncle. The traveller Thomas Pennant, writing in the 1780s, stated that the local shepherds were in awe of the lake believing it to be "the haunt of Daemons, and that no bird dare fly over its damned waters".

This is a list of the main summits in the range, in order from west to east.

Elidir Fawr (924 m)

Carnedd y Filiast (821 m)

Mynydd Perfedd (812 m)

Foel Goch (831 m)

Y Garn (947 m)

Glyder Fawr (1,001 m)

Glyder Fach (994 m)

Tryfan (918 m)

Y Foel Goch (805 m)

Cwm Idwal walk. This walk offers some of the most dramatic mountainous scenery in the UK at the oldest National Nature Reserve in Wales. It takes you into a normally inaccessible upland environment, and through beautiful ice-sculpted Cwm Idwal – a bowl-shaped hollow filled with the crystal clear waters of Llyn Idwal. The site is world famous for its rock formations and its rare and fragile plant life. Listed as a challenging walk it will take at least 3 hours.

From the Ogwen Cottage Ranger Base, walk in a westerly direction for roughly 93 yd (85m) over the bridge to the Snowdonia National Park Visitor Centre building. Steps to the left of the building are the start of the path which ascends steeply at times for approximately 56 yd (50m) through verges of heather, towards the mountain gate.

Continue through the gate and over the oak bridge. The oak bridge was replaced in the summer of 2010 using sessile oak sustainably harvested from the nearby National Trust place at Plas Newydd. The bridge provides an excellent opportunity to photograph the peak of Y Garn, with Afon Idwal in the foreground. The footpath meanders in a south-eastern direction for 550yd (500m) before arriving at a junction. Take the right fork towards the west along the more formal stone-surfaced path, and follow for another 550yd (500m) to the lake.

At Llyn Idwal (lake) you may choose a clockwise or anti-clockwise route around the nature reserve. This guide takes you on the clockwise option. Before setting off along the eastern lake shore, look left, a few yards above the footpath. Here you'll see a collection of large fractured rocks known as Darwin Idwal Boulders, named after Charles Darwin.

The footpath follows the lake shore towards the south for 550yd (500m), until you arrive at a gate through a wall. The wall is there to exclude grazing animals from the nature reserve and to allow the regeneration of natural upland vegetation. Opposite the wall is a small island of rock in the lake. The vegetation growing there gives us a glimpse of how the Cwm may appear in years to come, without the grazing pressure of sheep and cattle.

Legend has it that Idwal was the son of the 12th century prince Owain Gwynedd. Idwal was sent away to stay with his uncle, Nefydd, while his father was at war. Nefydd was a jealous man and and pushed Idwal in the lake, laughing at the young man as he drowned. Owain was devastated and named the lake after his son. To this day the birds are believed to maintain that vow not to fly over the water in respect to the memory of the dead prince.

Once through the gate the path begins to rise gently as you climb over mounds of rock debris (moraines) left behind as glaciers retreated from the cwm around 10,000 years ago.

You are now approaching the famous Idwal Slabs, a training ground for many pioneering mountaineers including Everest conqueror Edmund Hillary and his Welsh team mate Charles Evans. Roughly 55 yards (50metres) before the base of Idwal Slabs, follow the path down right towards a level area, using the stepping stones to cross streams. NB: An alternative high level route may be taken at this junction by following the path towards Idwal Slabs and up towards the base of the cliffs above. This route should only be attempted by competent hill-walkers as it involves very rough, steep ground and a difficult stream crossing.

Look up to your left and you'll see the sheer cliffs which form the headwall of Cwm Idwal, known as 'The Devil's Kitchen'. The headwall of Cwm Idwal earns its name from the mist which rises up through the dark chasm at the centre of the cliff face. Beneath the cliff lies a boulder field with dozens of gigantic individual rocks that fell from the face of the Devil's Kitchen, forming a scree. The cliffs above are composed of a more basic rock, and support a host of rare and fragile flora, including Arctic-Alpine plants. These include the Snowdon Lily, Mountain Avens, and many members of the saxifrage family.

The path rises gradually until you reach the junction of the high level route as it descends through the boulder field. Take a right turn onto this path and walk into an area of heather-clad hummocks.

The path climbs gradually through the moraines before descending gently towards the lake shore. Once across the footbridge over Afon Clyd, which tumbles steeply from a hanging valley to your left, go though the gate in the wall. You're now on a shingle beach on the north-west shore of Llyn Idwal. Take a moment to look to the back of the Cwm and absorb the scale of this natural amphitheatre. Try to imagine the area lying beneath a blanket of ice hundreds of metres thick, a mere hundred centuries ago.

The heather-clad hummocks found here are evidence of glacial moraines, deposited as the ice retreated up the Cwm around 10,000 years ago. The area between the footpath and the lake remains fenced off to deter both grazing by livestock, and erosion of the peat bog by people. You can see the effect of grazing by comparing the density of vegetation on both sides of the fence.

Follow the lake shore around to the east, until you arrive at a gate through a wall, leading to a slate bridge that crosses Afon Idwal as it drains out of the lake. Once across, you’ll have completed the circular walk around the lake and can retrace your steps to the Ogwen Cottage Ranger Base.

Ogwen Cottage Ranger Base

Nestled between the dramatic Carneddau and Glyderau mountain ranges, Ogwen Cottage is a countryside hub for the Carneddau and Glyderau Ranger team. It serves as an information point for walkers exploring nearby Cwm Idwal, Tryfan, Y Glyderau and Carneddau. The Café will be open on school holidays. They will be serving home made cakes, barista style coffee and a selection of sandwiches. See their daily specials for more information on soups and stews. This iconic building has long been associated with mountaineering and adventure, a tradition the National Trust are maintaining by providing outdoor learning experiences on site in partnership with The Outward Bound Trust.

There is a car park (not National Trust), Café and toilet at Ogwen Cottage (open during school holidays and weekends from 1st April to 10 September). There is an Information point at Ogwen ranger base. There are Maps, guides and activities at Ogwen ranger base.

There is disabled access into Ogwen Cottage café and ranger base.. Disabled toilet available, access s through the emergency fire door at the side of the building. Assistance dogs are welcome.

 

Location : Ogwen Cottage, Nant Ffrancon, Bethesda, Gwynedd, LL57 3LZ

Transport : Bangor (National Rail) 11 miles then bus. Also station at Betws y Coed 13 miles. (National Rail) then bus. Bus Routes : Sherpa buses from Betws y Coed and Bangor to Ogwen car park. Pick up available from Capel Curig and Bethesda.

Opening Times : Dawn till Dusk. Ogwen Cottage see above plus weekends April to November 10:00 to 17:00

Tickets : Free

Tel : 01248 600954