#73 – “I bought a mountain”

Glyder Fach (on the left) – The mountain bought by Thomas Firbank, with Tryfan on the right

Only a madman would buy a Welsh hill-farm on a whim, to become a sheep farmer without having any previous farming experience – that madman was called Thomas Firbank, and his fascinating book “I bought a mountain” was published in 1940.  One reason that the book remains compulsive reading is that Firbank wrote about real people and real places, and it is still possible to identify the locations he wrote about.

Looking down towards the farm of Dyffryn Mymbyr

Firbank was 21 when he bought Dyffryn Mymbyr farmhouse near Capel Curig, and 300 acres of rough grazing running up to Glyder Fach.  Although sometimes slightly patronising in tone, he paints a vivid picture of farming in North Wales just before the Second World War.  The most interesting chapter for most hill-walkers will be his account of the setting of a record for the Welsh 3000 ft peaks of 8 hours 25 minutes, a time that many would still find hard to beat.

Moel Hirraddug hillfort and Y Foel from the east

We haven’t actually bought a mountain, but we have bought a house nestling below a Welsh mountain.  Well ok, it isn’t really a mountain at a mere 265 metres (870 ft) height, but from some angles it starts to look fairly mountainous.  The hill is called Y Foel which means ‘The Bare Hill’.  The hill is at the most northern end of the Clwydian Range, with Offa’s Dyke running just a few hundred metres away.

Y Foel seen from the west

Y Foel has a story to tell.  Stone Age hunters settled here and kept domestic animals, leaving behind evidence for modern archaeologists.  Their descendents were the Deceangli, an Iron Age tribe that was inhabiting North Wales in about 800BC, when the hillfort was constructed.  They used the steep escarpments of the Clwydian Hills as natural castles, and Y Foel was the most northerly of their defences, where they constructed the hillfort called Moel Hirraddug.  When the Romans invaded North Wales, the Deceangli must have caused them a good amount of grief, as they never became ‘Romanised’ as did other tribes.

Gap in the eastern ramparts of the hillfort

Top of the eastern ramparts

So, it looks like we have had some feisty neighbours in the past.  On our last trip over to the new house, we decided to take a walk over the hillfort to see what sort of a place the old  neighbours used to live in.  The west side of the hill is a steep escarpment that is not far short of vertical – you certainly wouldn’t run up it with defenders throwing rocks at you.  On the easier east side, a series of ramparts was built that was six metres wide in places – if you weren’t invited, you didn’t get in!

The track to the summit

The summit ridge

Once through the defences, either by invitation or by fighting a way through a bunch of angry Deceangli tribesman, the most amazing views open up, with Orme head prominent to the west, and the Snowdon Hills clearly visible to the southwest

View to Orme Head

Snowdonia, with Moel Siabod on the left, Llewidd just left of centre and Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) under cloud just right of centre

The ridge continues rising gently to the summit of Y Foel with the cliffs of the western escarpment plunging down to the Vale of Clwyd on our right as we walked.

Looking north towards the Irish Sea

The author and ‘Mist’ on the summit, with Rhyl behind in the distance

After admiring the views yet again we started the descent, spending some time mucking about at a small cave along the way

Start of the descent on the south side of the fort

Cave dog….

….and cave woman!

The descent continues

It wasn’t long before we were on a valley path heading back towards the village.  The whole outing took about the same time we allocate to the daily ‘dog walk’, but the dog walks in Shipley just don’t have the same views – even ‘Mist seemed’ impressed.

‘Mist’ taking in the view over the Vale of Clwyd

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

p.s. At the time of posting this we have two houses, one in Yorkshire and one in North Wales. Hopefully this situation will resolve to just one house in the near future – it’s a two hour commute from one to the other!

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
This entry was posted in 5. North Wales and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to #73 – “I bought a mountain”

  1. efratadenny says:

    Nice series of photos..


  2. antiquityandadventures says:

    Brilliant, hope you have a great time in your new home Paul, if you see a couple with a cocker spanial no shouting “gerroff me land” …Good luck 🙂


  3. Looks like you found a super place to live. I bet Mist is just going to love it! All the best in your new home. 🙂


    • We’re looking forward to getting set up properly in Wales, but will still be based in Shipley until the house sale here is finalised.
      Ho hum, worse places to be, with both The Dales and The Peak so near.


  4. Steve topping says:

    Hi Paul,
    Looking forward to the house warming party already,,


  5. Sam Harrison says:

    I do a lot of my training runs on the Clwyds so might bump into you one day! All the best in your new house.


  6. beatingthebounds says:

    Wow – looks fantastic!


    • Like most visitors to the Welsh hills, I’ve spent most of my time on the mountains of Snowdonia – I hardly know the Clwydian Hills, but I’ll soon put that right 🙂


  7. Bet the dog loves it! Well jealous!


    • I’m looking forward to making the final move there – Clwydian Hills to get to know, and Snowdonia less than an hour away!
      Still time for some Dales?Peak District wandering before we go, and hopefully a Scottish trip if we can get sorted before the midges arrive, otherwise that’s on hold until Autumn.


  8. Pingback: #79 – The Clwydian Hills (Bryniau Clwyd) – Gateway to North Wales | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

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  10. Pingback: #88 – Moel Siabod, the ‘Shapely Hill’ | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

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  13. Pingback: #184 – Blast from the past – Clwydian Hillforts | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  14. Matt Jones says:

    I can see Moel Hiraddug (i prefer that name) from where i live.. not been up though. Its a very distincive looking hill..


  15. Pingback: #275 – The Offa’s Dyke Path (Northern section) | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

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