Alan Catherall and Jane Gay both worked very hard organising another brilliant weekend for us. This time they discovered Plas Tan y Bwlch overlooking the Dyffryn Ffestiniog valley near Maentwrog. Forty two of us stayed here enjoying the excellent accommodation and meals and brilliant blue-sky weather.
Plas Tan y Bwlch
It is a magnificent mansion set in beautiful gardens and woodland and is the former home of the Oakley family who made an enormous fortune from the slate quarries they owned through the labour of their workers whose lives were somewhat less opulent. The mansion is now the Snowdonia National Park Authority Study Centre and runs many courses and events and also hosts functions, conferences and weddings with very good hotel accommodation, dining room, bar etc. The staff are most welcoming and obliging.
A successful weekend away needs not only good organisation and accommodation; it also needs dedicated leaders who recce and lead walks. As we have found before, recceing walks in Wales can be more difficult than in the Peak District due to blocked and overgrown unused paths. We were fortunate in having leaders who solved any problems and led us on superb walks. I should add that because it has been known to rain in Wales, they also recced bad weather options. Another complication was that there were a number of other events taking place in the area that weekend which meant that some potential start point car parking locations were unavailable.
Everyone enjoyed the beautiful walks and weather and realised how lucky they were to have such competent conscientious leaders in Bob and Pat Bland, Sue and Chris Munslow, Andy Davies and Roger Fielding.
Short walks (with thanks to Jenny Irwin)
Saturday’s short walkers with a background of Llyn Dinas
Saturday’s short walk, arguably the best lowland walk in the National Park, started from Nantmor and 14 ramblers , led by Bob Bland, steadily climbed north via Cwm Bychan and past old copper workings, descending to the beautiful Llyn Dinas for lunch. They crossed and followed the river Glaslyn as it left the lake and passed the Sygun Copper mine to arrive in Beddgelert. Time for ice cream or tea and cakes. From Beddgelert they soon entered the gorge of the river with a breathtaking combination of trees and clear water racing over boulders with a background of rugged hillside. Breathtaking indeed as Jenny Irwin hovered on the brink of a ledge with vertigo, but helped with the kindly hands of Jenny Smith managed to negotiate the traverse. Back to the car park at Nantmor all agreed that this had been a wonderful walk with perfect weather and terrific views. Refreshments were taken at the Oakley Arms.
On Sunday, 15 short walkers led by Pat Bland walked round the estuary from Porthmadog and along the cliff tops, passing through the quaint little seaside village of Borth-y-Gest. On reaching the golf course, they had a coffee stop on the beach and for some a paddle, and then turned inland where a short walk along the road brought them to the foot of Moel-y-Gest. They climbed gently up the grassy track gaining height for magnificent views of the estuary and a relaxing lunch. The more energetic climbed higher for the ultimate view. They descended Moel-y-Gest to reach a wooded path back to Borth-y-Gest. They had difficulty in finding a tea shop that was open, so returned to the harbour of Porthmadog for a welcome cup of tea and cakes
Lunch time on Saturday after climbing Cnicht
On Saturday, 15 medium walkers were led by Sue and Chris Munslow from Croesor up Cnicht (689m) – the Welsh Matterhorn – and back down the valley. They walked 7 miles and ascended just over 2000 feet. On Sunday, Andy Davies took the medium walk reins by taking 11 members from Capel Curig to the summit of Moel Siabod. They too walked 7 miles but climbed 2600 feet.
Sunday’s long walkers on the summit of Cnicht
Both long walks were led by Roger Fielding. On Saturday eleven of them set off from near Maentwrog power station and traversed the four summits which form the northernmost ridge of the Rhinogydd, the highest being Moel Ysgyfarnogod (623m) followed by the vertical rock walls of Foel Penolau (614m), Diffwys (577m) and Moel y Gyrafolen (535m). They returned to their cars with views over Llyn Trawsfynydd having covered 12.5 miles and climbed 3650 feet. On Sunday, five stalwarts followed in the footsteps of the previous day’s medium walkers by ascending Cnicht but then descended to the Rhosydd Slate Quarry before ascending Moel yr Hydd (648m), Moelwyn Mawr (770m) and Moelwyn Bach (720m). There followed an easy but long descent to Croesor. They walked 10 miles and climbed 4000 feet.
An advantage of us all being able to stay at Plas Tan y Bwlch was the opportunities it provided for other activities and socialising.
On Friday evening after dinner, the centre’s senior lecturer Andrew Weir gave us a most interesting illustrated talk on Snowdonia in the comfortable lecture room, and on Saturday we enjoyed a musical evening. Luckily for us, our numbers included the very talented pianist Adrian Lord who could sight read anything put in front of him, as well as play classics and his own compositions. Roger Fielding is a very good folk singer, and he, John Handley, who is an experienced choir leader, and Denise Hutchinson did their best – and succeeded – in getting a lot of enthusiasm and a semblance of vocal musicality out of the group!