#163 – The Berwyns? Where’s that? – Part 2

The Berwyn Ridge from Mynydd Tawr

The Berwyn Ridge from Mynydd Tawr

Overview map of routes in posts #162 and #163

Overview map of routes in posts #162 and #163

Route from post #162 in blue and #163 in red

Route from post #162 in blue and #163 in red

A walk in an area that I’m not too familiar with usually prompts a return visit, and the Berwyn Ridge (see post #162) was no exception, so in less than a week I was back again and enjoying the fine settled spell of weather we had for much of October. It looked like being a bit of a leg stretcher though, so Chris opted out of this one leaving Border Collie ‘Mist as my companion for the day.

The return leg – Godor (centre) seen from Mynydd Tawr

The return leg – Godor (centre) seen from Mynydd Tawr

A long, steady ascent to start with ….

A long, steady ascent to start with ….

…. then a long rolling ridge ….

…. then a long rolling ridge ….

…. and a view of the Berwyn Ridge ahead

…. and a view of the Berwyn Ridge ahead

The plan was to follow the ridge line over Mynydd Tarw, Foel Wen and Tomle to join the Berwyn Ridge, then crossing Cadair Berwyn before dropping down onto Moel yr Ewig to return via Godor – in effect doing a horseshoe route of Cwm Maen Gwynedd. After a short ascent of Mynydd Tarw, the way ahead was a long roller-coaster ride, with great views towards the Berwyn Ridge.

The route ahead ….

The route ahead ….

…. and looking back at the route behind

…. and looking back at the route behind

Cadair Berwyn (in the centre)

Cadair Berwyn (in the centre)

The final section of ascent to the Berwyn Ridge

The final section of ascent to the Berwyn Ridge

‘Mist’ at the boundary stone at the bwlch

‘Mist’ at the boundary stone at the bwlch

The Berwyns have a reputation for rough heathery ground, but the route was easy going in this case. From Tomle I passed a boundry stone at a bwlch (Welsh for ‘pass’) before the final height gain to the Berwyn Ridge – the high ground ahead was the setting for a double tragedy in 1942, with two flying accidents occurring within a day of each other.

* * *

Supermarine Spitfire

Supermarine Spitfire

Westland Lysander

Westland Lysander

‘Mist’ at the site where the Spitfire came to rest

‘Mist’ at the site where the Spitfire came to rest

On 14th December 1942, Sergeant Pierre Degail of the Free French Air Force set out from RAF Mountford Bridge on a training flight in a Spitfire. The weather was good, but something caused the aircraft to crash on Cadair Berwyn. The next day, Flight Lieutenant Douglas Harvey Walker left the same airfield flying a Lysander spotter aircraft. He was tasked with searching for the missing Spitfire, and despite poor weather conditions he was successful in locating the crash.

The view that Sgt Degail would have had from the wreck

The view that Sgt Degail would have had from the wreck

The cwm where the Lysander crashed

The cwm where the Lysander crashed

As he circled the wrecked Spitfire, which was mainly intact, he saw that Sgt Degail was still alive and in the cockpit of the aircraft.  Moments later the Lysander was caught in a downdraught, and crashed in the adjacent cwm, within 300 metres of the Spitfire.   Flt/Lt Walker was killed in the crash, and when a rescue party reached the Spitfire they discovered that Sgt Degail had died of exposure – his legs had been broken in the crash, and he would have been unable to find shelter from the freezing weather conditions.

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

The Flying Fortress crashed into the hillside to the right of the trees below the crag

The Flying Fortress crashed into the hillside to the right of the trees below the crag

How much sadness can one small bit of Welsh hillside hold? On 11th August 1942, just four months earlier, an American B17 Flying Fortress on a training flight had crashed into the hillside immediately below the final resting place of the Spitfire, in a completely unrelated accident – the crew of 11 were all killed.  (On checking the map when I got home, I realised that I had passed within 500 metres of yet another air crash site – on 23rd March 1940 a Bristol Blenheim crashed on the slopes of Mynydd Tarw whilst also on a training flight)

* * *

Looking back to my outward route from the Spitfire crash site

Looking back to my outward route from the Spitfire crash site

Continuing towards Cadair Berwyn

Continuing towards Cadair Berwyn

Craig Berwyn and daredevil sheep

Craig Berwyn and daredevil sheep

The only other human I saw all day – just below Cadair Berwyn

The only other human I saw all day – just below Cadair Berwyn

The view down to Llyn Lluncaws

The view down to Llyn Lluncaws

I left the scene of the double tragedy behind me, and carried on over Cadair Berwyn – these hills are remarkably quiet, and apart from some daredevil sheep who had found a good source of grass on the rocks of Craig Berwyn, the only other life on the summit ridge was one lone walker, the only other human I saw all day.

The start of the descent to Moel yr Ewig

The start of the descent to Moel yr Ewig

Further down the path ….

Further down the path ….

…. and looking back to the descent

…. and looking back to the descent

The return ridge

The return ridge

Final view of the Berwyn Ridge

Final view of the Berwyn Ridge

Then it was time to head back along the other broad ridge. A steep descent took me down to Moel yr Ewig, before a ‘yomp’ across a moor that was almost Pennine in character. The final view of the Berwyn Ridge from Godor soon dispelled that idea though – these are real mountains, without any doubt!

Heading down to the valley

Heading down to the valley

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

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.
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12 Responses to #163 – The Berwyns? Where’s that? – Part 2

  1. A great post Paul…they remind me so much of the Howgills with their rolling ‘bread dough’ shaped hills. And how tragic with so many plane crashes too.

  2. I think you went the right way round there – getting the up and down stuff out of the way on the ascent and looked easier going ground for your ascent too. They look good stuff – I’ll have to have a go at them sometime when I get going back to Wales.

    Terrible for the pilot who froze to death as he thought he was going to get rescued. There are a lot of aircraft crash sites in the Welsh hills aren’t there? Very tragic – I always find them very sad.
    Carol.

    • I guess that a lot of history is sad Carol – our mountains are full of old battle sites, the relics of old industries, the aircraft crashes of WW2. Each one a story waiting to be told.

  3. Yes, a sobering reminder that the mountains have their dark side

  4. jimmykranke says:

    A great article Paul….really interesting, wasn’t aware of the double tragedy.

    Many Thanks

  5. johndburns says:

    Mentioned your blog on my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/johndburnsblog feel free to put links to future posts of yours on there.

  6. Pingback: #204 – Beautiful Berwyns | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

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