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Llanfair Talhaiarn

This post should have the subheading, ‘I’ve made the mistakes so you don’t have to’
I had some time off work, no time constraints and the weather forecast was good. I had a number of routes planned and I wanted to go somewhere different, somewhere new.
I opened up the OS map, looking for places with plenty of paths then looked on Google Maps to see if there was anywhere to park up.

  Llanfair Talhaiarn seemed to tick the boxes. A pleasant little village  5 miles south of Abergele, it has a good size car park with toilets, a couple of pubs for refreshments and it is easy to get to, just off the A548.
After leaving the car at the School Lane car park, I headed to the river Elwy, taking the bridge on the A544 to get to the footpath on the other side.
This was a pleasant start to the day.
Easy to follow, well maintained footpaths, a nice river, a waterfall and a little ‘beach’ which if I’d come across it later in the walk, would have made a great spot to brew up a coffee.
The route followed the river,  along the edges of a field and through woodland…
then came the overgrowth.

The path seemed to go on forever through this mass of wet plants. I’m quite tall but plants where taller. It was difficult to see the path on many occasions.
Despite being a warm, summer day with no clouds to be seen, I was drenched.
My trousers stuck to me and my feet squelched with every footstep.
Just when I thought I’d reached the end, there was more. These plants were almost goading me.
No mater how well you plan a walk, there are somethings you don’t expect and this was one such thing.
Sadly, I suspect that unless something is done to clear this path it may well become unwalkable soon
There was eventually a light at the end of this fern covered tunnel…..it came in the way of a muddy track covered in cow manure.
At the end of the track, through a gate I hit a road. This would give me a chance to dry off if nothing else.  I followed the road south for a while, crossing over a bridge. At a second bridge I had a choice, assume that that the track to the right of the cottage with the barking dogs was the way to a path on my planned route or continue to the signposted bridle way.  Not wanting to argue with the dogs, I took the second option.
This was more like it, a good path and nice views.
I carried on until I reached a farm house. According to the maps, there was a footpath running behind the house. I couldn’t see it. There were a number of signs, none pointing to where the path should be so I continued along the bridleway which brought me out on to a road.
I spotted another track on the map which would lead me back the route I had planned, however, the ‘access forbidden’ signs on the gate made it clear this was no footpath! Once more I went back to the road and continued up hill.
Not to worry, there were another two footpaths up by a farm, one of those would lead back on track.  I walked up the farm track and opened the gate. According to my GPS I was right where the path should but there was nothing. No path, no signs. I really didn’t want to go trudging through the farmers land looking for the route so, again, I returned to the road.
To be fair, the walk along the road wasn’t too bad, I’d only seen the one car and the views were good. I’d come to the conclusion that if all else failed, I had an ‘escape route’ .  I  could follow this road to the main road then back to where I had parked the car.
There was one last route I could take, crossing over the sheep fields towards Llyn Du. The path was easy to find from the road and the lake was a good reference point. A little voice in my head kept telling me that this part may be easily navigable but at any point the path and signs could disappear and I wouldn’t have the road to fall back on.  I put these thoughts to the back of my mind, I wasn’t to be defeated!
Things were going well until I reached the farm at Cefn-treflech. There were a number of signs between the road and the farm then nothing. Well, not quite nothing, a post lay on the floor in front of the gate. I wondered if this once had the route labelled on it. To make matters worse,  the owner of the property had come outside. I didn’t want to go marching through his property, he might get angry, he might have a shotgun or worse, he may ask if I needed directions!
Once I was through the rusty gate, walked round the back of the house and on past another farm, I started to enjoy the views.
This seemed like a good spot to fire up the JetBoil and make myself a coffee.
I consulted my map. Perhaps I should have braved looking for the path at the side of the house near the second bridge. Not too worry, this coffee stop was enjoyable and I could see clearly where to head next. I confirmed the route on my map and with my GPS – all was good!
Nope, this was the calm before the next storm!
From the coffee stop, I headed towards the woods. A sign confirmed I was heading in the right direction. Splendid. I then ended up in more tall, wet foliage but, to make matters worse, there were also two meter high prickly blackberry bushes. At times the only way I could get through was to turn my back, duck down and let my rucksack push the worst of the branches out of the way. I couldn’t see the path at all but, amazingly, one I reached a crossroads with a track I was right on course. I crossed the track and followed the sign. Again, the plants made the path impossible to see so I checked the GPS and compass and headed in what seemed to be the right direction, unfortunately, although I achieved the objective of reaching the woods without being ripped to shreds, I was in the middle of a mountain bike track.
I couldn’t find any information about this track, only finding this one YouTube video. Luckily for me there were no bikes around as I weaved my way as best I could through the woods in roughly the right direction.
I could see the track I needed but a barbed wire fence stood between it and me. It seems that I’m not the only person to have made a mess of navigation, at one point the painful bits of the fence had been removed. I managed to step over and follow the track down to the road to Llanfair Talhaiarn.

In conclusion, this wasn’t one of my favourite walks!  Llanfair Talhaiarn is a lovely village and a great base for walking, it’s shame the navigation is made awkward.
I can understand why landowners don’t want people trudging through their land, their home, their place of work but, put up a few signs, make the paths obvious and you won’t have people  climbing over fences and being in places they shouldn’t be.
As a crude analogy, my office has signs to the training rooms, the toilets and the reception. Visitors find where they need to be and we don’t have people wandering past our desks looking lost.
I’m sure I’ll revisit Llanfair Talhaiarn  in the future, perhaps trying some of the paths to the other side of the village.
In the meantime, my route is available to download as a GPX file.…good luck!

JetBoil Flash Review

I’ve a new toy – the JetBoil Flash basically, a portable device for boiling water.

In the past, my rucksack contained a couple of flasks of juice and I would march along my route, hardly breaking stride as I reached round for a swig.
More recently I started to fill a flask. I would make up a coffee before I left home/base and it would be there when I needed it. Trouble was, I often ended up drinking cold coffee, especially in winter and much of the drink would spill or leak.
I progressed on to a meths burner. It wasn’t the easiest thing to use but it was cheap, light and usually/eventually provided enough boiling water for a drink –  just add instant coffee and milk.
I did, however, have problems in winter,  in the wet and when I forgot my lighter – the most likely problem!

Jet Boil BitsStep forward the  JetBoil Flash cooking system. It is self contained (at least it would be if I had the smaller gas canister!) and boils water in around two minutes.
Every thing except the  a screw top gas canister comes straight out the box.

I packed my rucksack and headed to my usual playground – the Clwydian Range.
Initially, I noticed the sack did feel a bit heavier but after a few minutes climb didn’t notice the extra load. Needless to say, not only would the smaller gas fit in the mug, it would also reduce the weight considerably.

I had followed the first part of the walk many times before but today seemed so much more picturesque. Spring was in full force leaving a technicolour vista punctuated by the imposing, snow capped Snowdon in the distance.
Views from Moel Famau to Snowdon

I took the Offa’s Dyke path up Moel Famau and continued to the west passing Moel Dywyll before dropping down towards the road.  I’d often been around this area and wondered where the track to the left hand side of the road went….so I followed it.
The path soon moved away from the road and I found a spot with lovely views to christen my JetBoil.

Jet Boil in the fieldSetting it up was easy.
I took the orange ‘feet’ out from the mug, unfolded them then clamped  on the gas canister.
Next out was the stove itself. Flip out the gas regulator on the site and screw the stove on to the gas canister.
Covering the bottom of the mug is a measuring pot which is handy for keeping dry ingredients  – coffee in my case.  Popping the bottom off reveals the flux ring heat exchanger.  This does the clever stuff which enables the JetBoil to work so well.
Little lugs can be found on the bottom of the mug, line these up with the stove and give it a small turn to lock in place. No chance of accidentally knocking the cup over, something that happened a few times with the slightly top heavy meths burner and mug.

I  removed the top from the mug and poured in enough water to reach the ‘2 cup’ mark.
I put the lid back on, turned the regulator to start the gas flow, clicked the lighter on the opposite side and it started to boil up the water.
Simple!
Boiled changes colourIt sounded vicious but in less than two minutes, the water had boiled.
A handy feature is the marking on the side of the mug which turns orange when the water has boiled. This takes the guess work out of the boiling and stops the urge to pop the lid to see how hot the water is getting.
The neoprene ‘cozy’ covering the mug ensures the mug is safe to lift up. Incidentally,  the side strap of the  ‘cozy’  can be used to store teaspoons.
Once boiled, stop the gas flow, twist the mug to unlock and brew  some coffee……or tea, or cook noodles, make up dried food….there are a whole load of things you can create and JetBoil have posted some recipes on their website

After my cuppa, I continued on my walk.
I could have remained on this path right around the ‘base’ of Moel Famau, however, keen to increase my mileage for the ViewRanger challenge, I turned off on to a road to my right.
At a junction, I took another right towards the small village of Llangynhafal.
A footpath passes to the left of the  Golden Lion Inn and through the campsite behind. The views from this campsite are spectacular, however (at the moment at least) the only ‘facility’ is a tap in the corner of the field.
Airbus Beluga from Hawarden
The path crosses a road before following the base of Moel Famau, at one point I got cracking view of the Airbus Beluga aircraft taking wings from the nearby factory in Hawarden.
Near a farm, the path joins a concrete ‘road’. There is a path which continues South, however, it was impossible to tell what was the route and what was a gate in to their garden even checking against my GPS and paper OS map. I wasn’t brave enough to risk trespassing so continued along the road to a junction in Hirwaen where I took a left.
There are a number of ways back  on to the original route, I took a left at Pen-y-waen, from there I headed East back to the car park.

All in all, a very enjoyable walk and I can definitely see the JetBoil getting a lot of use!

Download this route as a GPX file

 

The Sun Does Shine on the Clwydian Range

I know, I  go to the Clwydian Range a lot….a hell of a lot.
In my defence, it’s less than 40 minutes drive from home and there are so many routes. I’m still discovering new ones years after I first went.

I’ve recently started parking in Llanferres. I had parked in the same spot last week when I (finally) discovered the cave near Maeshafn (that’s one for another post!)  It is usually cold, wet and cloudy whenever I visit this part of the world, today, however, the forecast was good and the skies were clear!

After parking up, I walked towards the Druid pub and followed Rectory Lane to the end where it becomes a footpath. Here it’s a bit of a climb through fields, passing through a gate which isn’t clearly marked as being part of the footpath.
Dangerous gateThe path continues heading South West, ending up in a small woodland.
Not too sure about the barbed wire around the gate though!
I continued on this path, taking the next right, almost heading back on myself.
The views from around here were beautiful.
I had forgotten how good the Clwydian Range could look.

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Continuing on this horseshoe, I could look down from above onto the village of Llanferres where I had left the car. I made my way to the narrow road at Pen-y-waun, taking a left where the path joins the road and another left at the road junction.
Ahead of me was the Moel Famau car park and a handy stop to the use the ‘facilities’!

Not far from the car park is a small pull-in off the road on the left. Here a path  leads from the road towards the  Bwlch Penbarra car park.
From the far end of the car park, I  headed up Foel Fenlli, going up and over the top, around the location of the old fort before dropping down to Bwlch Crug-glas.

Coffee brewing on the meths burner
Coffee brewing on the meths burner

Passing a small woods on my left I walked through a large field of sheep and found a great sheltered spot to fire up the meths burner and make myself a cup of coffee,
Civilised waking!

After one of the nicest cups of instant coffee I’d drunk in a long while, I carried on along the path just skirting the route I had taken earlier in the day.
At the crossroads I continued straight on. The path here wasn’t too well signed. I headed roughly South East through the fields to a stile.
Once over the stile, the route became very difficult to see as I ducked under branches, stepped over fallen trees and made my way across the boggy terrain.

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Difficult to see where to join/leave this path!

There was no clear path through when I reached the road, it was a case of climbing over the fence.
It was difficult to see the ‘official’ route from the road.
It was over grown and a rusty set of gates stood in front of the public footpath sign.

Crossing the road, I took a right then walked down the first road on my left.  I stayed on this narrow, quiet road for a while until it became a path towards the quarry.
When reaching Burley Hill Quarry, I took the path to the left, though the woods alongside the now disused limestone quarry.
Apparently, this is a good spot for fossil hunting, I also spotted the entrance of a small ‘cave’.

At the end of the woods is the village of  Maeshafn, home to the Miners Arms pub. The food here looks amazing especially considering how far off the beaten track it is!

After the pub, I followed the road to the left. Just after crossing a bridge, I took the footpath on the left back to Llanferres.

The total walk was around 9 miles and was very enjoyable, obviously the clear blue skies helped A GPX of the route can be downloaded.

And to round off such a good day….a drive home with the top down in the Abarth 124!

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Out with Desmond

I had just opened the 8th door of my advent calendar and realised I’ve not been out since the end of October (well, apart from a 4 mile stroll around Thurstaston shore)
I decided that no matter what the weather wanted to throw at me, I was heading out to the hills. This thought came while the news channels were still covering the devastating effects of storm Desmond so perhaps wasn’t my brightest idea!

I had good intentions of planning routes all round the local area, however, as with all good intentions, other things got in the way and I ended up at old faithful, the Moel Famau car park.

Just as I pulled up, the skies turned from a nice blue to black, then the rain came. Huge clumps of the stuff.
Not to worry, the waterproof jacket and over trousers are more than a match and off I headed through the woods following the pinky/purpley coloured arrows before joining the Offa’s Dyke path.
Views on Moel Famau walk
All was good as I headed up towards Jubilee Tower, the route was easy to follow, the sun was starting to make an appearance and it was unseasonably warm (around 10 degrees Celsius).

A few layers were shed, which was to prove a bad move.

Just before the peak I took the left hand path with the intention on pressing on to Moel Dywyll and perhaps  Moel Arthur however, the wind really whipped up in this more exposed area.  Forecasts for Cilcain suggested 25mph winds, gusting 37mph…… then the hail kicked in.

Trying to put my waterproof back on proved to be rather awkward, think of an octopus trying to change a duvet cover and you’ll get the idea.
My Arc’teryx waterproof was on the verge of becoming an Arc’teryx kite.
After that hassle, I decided against a further battle with the waterproof pants, the wind would soon dry my legs off.

Normally my philosophy is to carry on regardless, never wimp out, however, with ice battering my face and the wind trying it’s very best to push me over, the little voices in my head told me the that high, exposed ground was, perhaps, not the best option.
Reluctantly I gave in to the sensible side and turned back towards the last junction I passed, taking  a left,  crossing a style and heading North.

River or pathNow for a different problem.
The ground from here on in was muddy, extremely muddy and slippery.
Somehow I managed to stay on my feet and my bum remained mud free by pulling off moves and agility that Beth Tweddle would have been proud of.
My path came to a ‘crossroads’, I could have continued straight on, shortening my walk, however, given my earlier route failure, I took a left, heading North following the Clwydian Way towards the reservoir and Cae Newydd.

MudAt the next junction I headed right, this path went South initially on tracks and through the odd stream before becoming a narrow wooden walk way.
At the base of Ffrith mountain I went West before taking the mixed use route to my left. This soon becomes a big wide track, big enough in fact for a large digger which was busy doing some work in the area.

By the time I reached the car park, I’d completed about 9.5 miles. Not bad, but I had hoped for more.
An excuse to book another day off work and go on another walk I guess!

 

Foel Fenlli (Iron Age Mums are haunting my cagoule)

Foel (or Moel) Fenlli is the second highest peak of the Clwydian Range in Denbighshire, North Wales.
It’s peak is at 511 metres/1,677 ft, slightly lower than it’s neighbour Moel Famau but attracts far fewer walkers making it far more pleasant.

The best place to start the walk is the Bwlch Pen Barras car park. This pay and display car park currently costs £1.50 for the day.
The path up Fenlli is to the south of this car park.
There are a number of routes up, I headed to the back of the car park, following the narrower path to the left hand side of the hill.

Views
Views from Foel Fenllli

Take the steps up the final stretch to the cairn at the top where, on a clear day view stretch across to Snowdonia one way and Wirral and Merseyside the other.

The remains of a hill fort are found at the peak, it is believed that the site dates back to the Iron Age.

Take the first path down, signposted with the Offa’s Dyke route acorn symbol and continue to follow these signs taking the path which the right of two small woods and across a couple of fields.

At a ‘crossroads’ take a right, still following the Offa’s Dyke route.
The path comes out on to the A494. Take a right here and again, follow the Offa’s Dyke signs.
After a short distance, take a left off the road, taking a track. Where this forks, take the right hand track, passing some houses before continuing through woodland (it can get very muddy here!)

After passing Bathafarn farm, turn right on the road until the first footpath to the right, crossing a field.
I found this to be over grown and not well signed so stayed to the edge of the field following it round to the far end which had been fenced off (easily climbed!). Continue in a north easterly direction, you’ll see some caravans and, eventually a stream, keep this to your left hand side.

At the right time of the year, the woods at Coed Rhiwsig are great for wild garlic picking. *
Leave the woods, cross over the A494 again, then take a left to for the continuation of the path, a horseshoe route which, when I went in summer,  was very over grown.
Unfortunately the last part of this Cowswalk follows a road, take a right, uphill, passing the Halfway House before eventually reaching the car park.

Look out for the local residents!

This walk is around 8.5 miles in total (13.7km)
And the GPX file is available to download from my ViewRanger page.

 

* wild garlic is easy to spot, it is rather pungent! It is usually ready for picking in Spring and, unlike ‘conventional garlic’ it is the broad green leaves you want rather than the bulb. The white flowers can also be eaten but are rather mild.
I like the leaves whizzed up with some Parmesan cheese and olive oil to make a pesto, goes great with steak!

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