The Berwyn mountains are the Cinderella hills of North Wales. These rough and lonely hills feel like they should be part of the Snowdonia National Park, but on the day that the guy drew the Park boundary, he must have been having a bad day at the office, leaving the Berwyns in a ‘No Man’s Land’ between the Aran Ridge and the Arenigs on one side and the Limestone hills of the Clwydian and Llangollen hills on the other.
It’s only recently that I started exploring these hills (see posts #85, #162 and #163) but the Berwyns are everything that the honeypot areas such as The Snowdon Range and the Glyderau are not – OK, they don’t have the jagged rocky peaks and the technical scrambling and climbing routes, but they don’t have the crowds either, and a day out here doesn’t disappoint. Which is why Chris and I, plus Border Collie ‘Mist’ recently set out from Llandrillo on a Berwyn day.
We set out from the attractive village of Llandrillo. The approaches to the main Berwyn Ridge usually involve a bit of a walk in, and this trip was no exception. Leaving the village behind, we passed through woodland, but for a change it was all native broadleaf woods instead of conifer plantations. It wasn’t long before we reached open moorland, and wide open spaces.
The moor was mainly bog, but most of it was avoidable. There was a path of sorts, heading towards our target for the day, Cadair Bronwen, or Bronwen’s Chair. One incongruous landmark was a small plantation of fir trees, which probably wasn’t of any commercial value, but which provided us with a good navigational feature on an otherwise empty moor.
The ascent was fairly steady, with things only getting steeper as we approached the bwlch (pass) between Cadair Bronwen (784 metres/2,572 ft) and Cadair Berwyn (830 metres/2,723 ft). The idle chatter died down for a bit, but it was only a short pull before the summit came into view. We had picked a good day for the trip, and the views extended right across to most of the mountains of North Wales – just as impressive were the views of the rest of the Berwyn range.
Although lacking the drama of the peaks to the north, the Berwyns are quite an obstacle – in 1165 the English King Henry II decided to fill in a bit of ‘down-time’ by invading Wales, but instead of following the usual easy route by the North Coast, he decided instead on a full-frontal invasion over the Berwyns. A combination of days of rain and the rough Berwyn terrain ended in an English retreat.
What goes up must come down, and the walk out was as long as the approach route had been. It was all steady walking though, with no drama. If that sounds dull it certainly wasn’t, with a combination of big skies and long views to the distant higher mountains. The only problem was that every view of a familiar group of hills made me think about how long it had been since my last visit – the ‘wish list’ keeps getting bigger and bigger!
Text and images © Paul Shorrock