We are a Charity!

The great news is that (thanks to John Winton’s efforts and perseverance) we are now a charity – Registered Charity Number 1178491. This means we can move forward with things like applying for development funding.

Field work is still tricky but I have been going over old notes and doing some updates to the web site. The new route from Ponterwyd to Machynlleth suggested and described in detail by Ceredigion Ramblers is there. This means that we have a good route through Ceredigion from Lampeter to Machynlleth. There are also plans for a revised route from Machynlleth to Dolgellau – a little longer but with less road walking and scope for a diversion over Cader Idris.

Meanwhile, National Parks Wales have put together a position statement and priority actions related to the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.This is clearly going to be relevant for the Snowdonia National Park section of the route – from Machynlleth to Conwy. This could be our next target for development. Much of that section is sorted but there is some fine tuning and checking to be done. We have been told that Snowdonia NP are keen to develop projects that lead people away from the central mountain core around Snowdon itself and to explore other parts of the Park. This could be where we come in.

It will also inspire us to think about the north-west extension of the route to Aberconwy Abbey’s original location, somewhere south of Caernarfon. This in turn would link back to the North Wales Pilgrims’ Way to Bardsey. Watch this space.

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Routing and mapping

Work on the Cistercian Way has taken a bit of a back seat recently for various reasons. I had great plans to work on routes in west and north Wales this summer. Alas, lugging a heavy bag of books off the bus (real first-world academic problem, this) I banged my knee and damaged the cruciate ligament. Then I went on a field trip with the wonderful Eddie Procter (@landscapism, http://landscapism.blogspot.co.uk/ ….), half way up the pilgrim route on Mynydd Maen my knee popped again and Eddie had to haul me out of a bramble bush. Doctor says it will heal but no walking on rough ground. ‘But that’s what I do’ I wailed.

Also no kneeling. That’s the other thing I do (old tomb carvings).

Meanwhile, we have been trying to get maps on the site.  We have permission to use VisitWales’s licence so we can embed marked-up Ordnance Survey maps into the site.

If only it were that simple.

Bizarrely, the Ordnance Survey can’t work with URLs ending .wales or .cymru. This is in spite of the huge number of sites that now have those URLs, including our public transport web site, https://www.traveline.cymru/ . We have asked again and again and they simply stall us – they don’t seem to see the problem. Even the Secretary of State’s office has tried.

But there is some progress. I went to north Wales over the weekend to talk to the Historic Houses Association at Gwydir Castle. Enormous fun, though I’m not entirely sure why I was there – the dedicated couple who have been restoring the house and tracking down its lost treasures know much more about it than I do.

I stayed in Trefriw, where they were having a scarecrow festival.

Princess Siwan and Llywelyn Fawr with locals and the Urdd mascot!

Since I was last walking in the area, Trefriw has done some great work waymarking local paths and producing a leaflet of trails. Some of these actually fill in the gaps and problem areas in the route through that area. Of course, I couldn’t walk any of them – but I did walk along the road, see where routes joined and left, and once the knee is better I can join the dots. Downloadable leaflet at http://www.visitllandudno.org.uk/things-to-do/trefriw-trails-p291871  and more detail of some of the trails at http://www.trefriwoutdoors.co.uk/trefriw_trails.html  (but not trail 9, unfortunately).

It looks as though we can comfortably take the route through the lead mines to the church at Llanrhychwyn (OS ref SH 77474 61672).

This has to be in my top 3 of Welsh churches. A little, unspectacular building, looking as though it has grown out of the bones of the hills, it has a lot of its C17-C18 woodwork

and some intensely moving medieval stained glass.

From here you can cut down footpaths and very minor roads to Llanrwst or Trefriw to find somewhere to stay. You can then continue on the low-level route along the banks of the Conwy or climb back up to the high-level route.

To stay on the high-level route, from the church start by following the leaflet route 8 in reverse. (You have to bear in mind that most of the routes are only waymarked one way, so you have to do a bit more of the work yourself.) Walk back down the lane from the church to SH 77398 61772 and take the road to the left. At SH 76998 62092 take the footpath to the right. Follow the footpath round Penrallt farm and down toward some disused mine workings. At SH 76967 62883 the leaflet route 8 goes right but you go left and down to cross the Crafnant at SH 76967 62883. This puts you on leaflet route 7 (in reverse again). Walk up to the road and turn right.

I got this far in about 2007, took the next footpath to the left at SH 76900 63116, and went up through the woods.

This landed me up to my knees in bog and up to my armpits in bracken and scrub. I got through but I couldn’t recommend it. The leaflet suggests you take this footpath but bear round to the right, keeping to the edge of the woods (OS gridpoints SH 76882 63166, SH 76975 63281, SH 77047 63318, SH 77017 63408), above Gelli-newydd farm and along the lane to the road.  Turn left.

From here you can follow the very minor road over the spur and down to Llyn Cowlyd. For an easier but slightly longer walk, take the footpath to the right at SH 77017 63408. You are now on leaflet route 9 and – glory be – walking it the right way round, so the waymarks should be with you.  You should be able to cut up to this point from Trefriw by taking the road up the hill and following the waymarked path at SH 77834 63344.

Rejoin the road at SH 77587 64723. At about SH 76977 65593 it becomes a lane, then a footpath leading to Brwynog Isaf and Uchaf. Turn right on a minor road at SH 74642 64133. You are now on the higher-level route as described on the web site. Take the footpath over the spur and down to the ruined dam of Llyn Eigiau, then on to Conwy Mountain.

I haven’t actually walked any of this, but it looks as though it should work.

And Crafnant House in Trefriw is an excellent place to stay – peace, quiet, good books and amazing vegan breakfasts. Usually the vegan breakfast is what’s left when you remove the bacon, eggs and anything with milk. At Crafnant House I had vegan French toast one day and a sweet potato hash that would have made a perfectly good supper the other day. Highly recommended.

Chapel Hill and Penterry: a rethink

My friends in Tintern are keen to do something about the ruined church of St Mary, Chapel Hill. It’s a pretty little Victorian Gothic building, in ruins since deconsecration and a disastrous fire, though the churchyard is still in the charge of the Church in Wales. They are also keen to revive Tintern as a centre for pilgrimage. It’s a key location on the Cistercian Way – of course –  but there’s also lots of scope for local pilgrimage. The combined parishes of St Arvans, Itton, Devauden, Kilgwrrwg and Penterry do a walk around the parish churches on Rogation Sunday – could we tap into that? And could the Cistercian Way be tweaked to take in Chapel Hill?

So a group of us set out this morning to try it out. Actually, it works very well – if anything, better than the route up the Stony Way, which is now so badly damaged by off-roading as to be dangerous.

Start in the same way, across the main road from the abbey and up past St Anne’s House (the old gatehouse chapel – look for the line of the precinct wall in the surface of the road) but go straight across the side road and up the steep lane to the church. After visiting the church (the building is marked as dangerous but the churchyard is stunning, with some huge C18 tombs) continue up the lane. At SO 52946 00098 the tracks divide – take the left fork and keep going up a lovely hollow way. At ST 52606 99801 cross a forest road

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(here’s Nell with her new friends)

and keep going up to a gate.

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The path winds right and left and up to another gate.

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Walk along the hedge to the gate at the top right corner of the field.

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Turn left on a metalled lane.

You can cut across the fields to Penterry church from the gate just before the next farm buildings at ST 52196 99539 – angle across the field to the far corner at ST 52082 99071 and keep going on the same line. If the animals in the field put you off, continue on the lane to ST 52342 98851, go through the gate to your right, walk up the field with the hedge to your right, through the gate at the top and up the next field to the church.

This would make a nice circuit: Tintern Abbey – Chapel Hill – Penterry – back to the abbey. The Stony Way is in such a poor state that you might do better walking back across the fields to Ruddings. We didn’t, because we had dogs with us and there were lambs in the fields, but if it had been wet under foot we might have regretted it.

For the walk across the fields, go back down to the metalled road at ST 52342 98851 and go straight across, down to a stile to join the Stony Way at ST 52429 98866. Go straight across the track and over another stile, then turn left and follow the RoW which bears gradually up to your right. You can divert up to visit the (very overgrown) Iron Age fort at the top. The path is waymarked round the farmyard at Ruddings (an old grange site) and down the lane which was actually the main road down the valley before the nineteenth century. Look out for the limekilns to your left on the way down, and the line of the outer precinct wall. I haven’t walked this way for a few years so I probably ought to recheck it, but the local footpaths are generally well maintained.

 

Llangatwg to Llanfaenor: joining the dots

Third day of fine weather. Can we manage to link the walk from Llanthony with the Wye Valley –

Yes, we can!

The Offa’s Dyke Path is still the best way south from below Cwm-iou – it gets you across the railway line and the main road, both difficult crossings (and the road could probably do with a bit more notice for drivers) and across the fields to Llangattock Lingoed. Llangattock is well worth a visit for many reasons. There’s B&B at the Old Rectory (http://www.oldrectorystayinwales.co.uk/ ), a cabin which can be rented just for one night (https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/14687416 ), and the Hunter’s Moon http://www.hunters-moon-inn.co.uk/ , a village pub with food and accommodation. (The pub is open all day from 12 noon, every day, so you can get a cup of tea if you roll past late in the afternoon.)

And the church – http://www.villagealivetrust.org.uk/what-to-see/churches/st-cadocs-church . Much of its medieval rood screen, medieval stained glass (very rare in south Wales), a huge wall painting of St George, and this humdinger of a seventeenth century gravestone.

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The naive vernacular figures either side of a central cross are the trademark of a local firm of stonemasons.

But eventually you have to tear yourself away. The ODP would take you all the way to Monmouth, but the Cistercian Way plans a diversion to visit  the remains of a Cistercian grange. Leave the churchyard by the south gate, following the ODP waymarks. Walk down the field and over a footbridge to turn left on the lane. At SO 36244 19009 follow the ODP waymark across the field to a footbridge at SO 36422 18751.

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Leave the ODP here and turn left down a very muddy bank and across another footbridge at SO 36509 18746.

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Bear slightly to the right up the next field to a stile in the far hedge at SO 36799 18904. Continue on the same line across the next field heading for the impressive Jacobean chimneys of the intriguingly-named Great Pool Hall. (This is a timber-framed gentry house of a kind you would be more likely to find in town – more details at http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/300001924-great-pool-hall-grosmont#.WMqd46JBrIU.)

Cross the road at SO 37057 18999 and walk down through the yard of Great Pool Hall, between the house and the stables. Go through a little gate ahead of you

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and walk along the right side of the hedge. Cross the stile at the far left corner of the field and keep on the same line bearing right towards a stile in the fence at about SO 37554 18827

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(the stile is difficult to see and the fence isn’t on the map).

Look up to your left and you can see the huge mansion of Glen Trothy, built in the 1880s at the height of the Victorian passion for Scots Baronial architecture.

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It was built for the Vaughan family, who were Catholics, and has a lovely little chapel dedicated to the Sacred Heart (http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/300014407-glen-trothy-house-including-attached-sacred-heart-chapel-llantilio-crossenny#.WMqeo6JBrIV ). The house isn’t open to the public. (If you Google for places to stay nearby you may find the Glen Trothy Caravan Park but that’s nowhere near – it’s in Mitchel Troy, south of Monmouth.)

The bank below the stile is a bit overgrown but there were some lovely wood anemones.

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Scramble down, turn left on the metalled drive, immediately right over a little bridge and immediately left up the bank.

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You are now on the line of the Three Castles Way – a promoted route, and reasonably well waymarked. Cross the road at SO 37675 18743, scramble up the far bank (there are steps but they are worn) and over the stile.

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Bear up to the right across the next field to a stile about ⅔ up the far fence.

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Continue bearing round to the right past Cae Scybor. Cross the drive and walk to the left of the hedge ahead of you.

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When the hedge bears to the right, keep straight on to cross a stile at SO SO 38102 18930. Bear slightly to the left across the next field. The map shows the RoW going along the hollow lane at the far side of the field but this can be very muddy (police have put warning signs about off-road activity) so the RoW is now waymarked along the far edge of the field to a stile and gate at SO 38295 19093.

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Turn left and walk along the lane. Turn right on the metalled road and right again at the fork following the sign for Cat’s Ash. In about ⅔ km you reach Llanfair Cilgoed, site of Dore’s grange. The name suggests it might have been an early Christian hermitage. You can cross the stile at SO 38976 19088 and walk diagonally across the field to look at the earthworks of what may have been fishponds and vineyards.

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The land of the grange was sold off when Dore was closed in 1536 but the grange chapel became a chapel of ease, a small church for weekly services but without the power to do the big stuff like baptisms, marriages and funerals. In 1560 the curate was a John Dydbroke who had been a monk at Dore. He would not have been paid much as a curate but he had also managed to get hold of a lease of the grange so he could have lived quite comfortably on that. The present church is a little Victorian box, built when the old one had long been in ruins and people had to trek nearly 6 km to the church in Llandeilo Gresynni.

Llanfair church is worth seeing. There is some good modern stained glass and a very informative exhibition about the history of the grange and the Cistercian order (though I did spot one mistake – thirteen Cistercian houses in late medieval Wales? What about the other two??)

A bit more background at  http://www.villagealivetrust.org.uk/what-to-see/churches/st-mary. The church is always open and has a kettle, tea and coffee for walkers.

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Continue down the lane and just past the churchyard there is a gate in the hedge which gets you back into the grange field. The foundations of the old church are in a small railed enclosure ahead of you.

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Pick up the footpath again, walk below Llanfair Grange farmhouse and bear left to the far left corner of the field.

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The stream is culverted here but it is still very muddy. Immediately over the stream, turn left and cross a stile.

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Bear right across the next field and head for the far right corner (the woods marked on the OS map are no longer there).

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Cross a stile and turn left on the main road by the 1861 restaurant (http://www.18-61.co.uk/ – tbh it looks a bit posh for walkers but might be good for an evening-out  treat).

Past the restaurant, take the next turning to the left. At SO 39947 19229 (opposite The Laurels) take the waymarked footpath through the gate to your left. Walk to your right and gradually downhill to a gate at SO 40187 18976.

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Continue parallel with the stream to another gate (with a rather battered stile) at SO 40368 18652.

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Turn left on a roughly metalled road. After the bridge, this becomes a muddy lane going steeply up hill.

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At the top it becomes very overgrown and so muddy as to be impassable (more off-roading, but this is technically a byway for vehicles so it’s legal) but it’s easy to get into the field to the right and walk along the hedge.

Turn right on a metalled road and follow it to Llanllwyd. Go through the farmyard at Great Llanllwyd and straight on along a lane (this one a restricted byway – horses but not motorised traffic). After the dogleg in the lane go straight on through the gate ahead and to your right, and walk down hill to the right of the hedge.

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When you pass under the pylons, go through the gate to your left and continue on the same line but to the left of the hedge. There is a slight hollow trail along the hedge. At the bottom right corner of the field, go through a gate and down a lane to the ford and footbridge at Little Mill.

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Here you pick up the route I explored last summer (https://cistercianway.wordpress.com/2016/06/12/pushing-up-the-borders/ ) and walk on to Grace Dieu and Monmouth and down the Wye valley to Tintern.

So we have the route clear and walkable from Capel-y-ffin to Tintern and on to Llantarnam. Now all I have to do is get it translated …

Llanthony to Cwm-iou (2)

Strike 2. Yesterday (https://cistercianway.wordpress.com/2017/03/13/llanthony-to-cwm-iou-1/) ended at the bridge at SO 29087 24788 with instructions not to go over the bridge and follow the waymarked route to Cwm-iou but to take the footpath up to Daren. The path started well but got very very muddy. Also it goes through several farmyards – which I always find a bit uncomfortable – and the first farmyard was literally knee deep in mud and completely impassable on foot. The only option was to go back down the lane and go for the lower, waymarked path.

Actually, it isn’t too bad. Cross the bridge at SO 29087 24788, and bear left to the road. Turn left. In about ½ km. at SO 28942 24273 take the waymarked lane over the bridge to your left.

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After the cottage, go over the stile to your left,

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cross the lane (2 more stiles),

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turn right and follow the hedge to your right.

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Good views up to the ‘yoke’ which gives its name to Cwm-iou, the result of a post-glacial land slip.

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The path is well stiled and waymarked straight along the east bank of the Hoddni to the Cwm-iou road.

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Turn left on the road and walk up to the church. (I did try the footpath waymarked to the left but it takes you a long way up to the lane above the church only to come back down again.

The church was as lovely as ever – sad monument to little Joan Williams,

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these in the chancel,

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this in the south window.

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Leave the church by the west gate, turn right on the steep road downhill, then on the next bend at SO 29988 23291 take the waymarked path to the left.

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Follow on the same line over the stiles, across the next two fields,

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along the hedge,

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across a minor road and over a stream.

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Bear up to the right across the next field to the lane above Perthi-crwn.

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The right of way goes in front of the house and along a lane.

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Continue on the same line through the fields, with the hedge to your right.

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After you cross a small stream at SO 31468 22758, ignore the turning to the right but go over the stile at the far right corner of the field.

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Bear left across the next field,

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cross the stream at SO 31728 22698

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and bear up to the right towards a stile at the top of the next field, SO 31778 22588.

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Keep bearing to the right and cross another stile at SO 31817 22530.

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Turn left on a muddy lane then right when you meet a metalled road at SO 31864 22543.

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You are now on the Beacons Way. At SO 32074 22362 the Offa’s Dyke Path joins from the left. I’m still puzzled by the stonework in the little garage ahead of you, at Trawellwyd.

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It must have been recycled – but from where?

Keep straight on and follow the OD waymarks, which will take to across the railway and main road to Llangattock Lingoed. You could follow the OD to Monmouth but I’m working on a slight diversion past Abbey Dore’s grange at Llanfair Cilgoed.

Possibly tomorrow, DV and Derek the Weather permitting?

Angels and visions

Tintern-Llantarnam is pretty much sorted and we are working our way back up the borders. I haven’t walked the area round Llanthony since 2005 and there have been a lot of changes and improvements to the footpaths. The track over the pass from Hay and down the Nant Bwch seems to be the way to go, and it takes you past Llanthony’s third monastery, the strange Anglican community founded by Joseph Leycester Lyne, Father Ignatius. Hugh Allen’s new biography of him is a good read.

Just past the monastery you meet the road from Llanthony over the Gospel pass. Turn left to visit the church at Capel-y-ffin, described by Kilvert as ‘squatting like a stout grey owl’ among the yews of the churchyard. Lovely cherubs on the south wall

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and symbolism on this head stone –

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‘One by one the sheaves are gathered’. Just south of the churchyard, at SO 25483 31495, take the lane alongside the churchyard wall,

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across the Hoddnu

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and past another tiny church.

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This is Capel-y-ffin Baptist chapel built by the two brothers, William and David Prosser. According to Wikipedia, ‘a wall plaque commemorates their work in bringing The Ministry of the Gospel to their house in the year 1737. And Secured this Place for That Sacred Use for the Time Being. Both died near the End of the Year 1780.’

The lane bears up to the right, passing above Blaenau farm and becomes a path across the fields.

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It is well walked and waymarked as a route up to the Offa’s Dyke path.

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Cross two pretty stone stiles (the second at SO 26068 31171  is a bit of a challenge)

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and continue on the same line along a stony track.

Nell and Cara coupldn’t manage the stiles. Cara is getting old and creaky but hates being picked up. Nell is just daft. So we went back along the track, they had a good swim in the Hoddnu and we walked down and up a very steep stony lane to rejoin the track at the far side of that very precipitous stile. Walking along the road and down that lane is the best way to go if you have dogs.

The farm above the track at SO 26521 31032  is called The Vision, and was given that name after the famous vision of the Virgin Mary at Father Ignatius’s monastery. The farm inspired Bruce Chatwin’s novel On the Black Hill, though he relocated it to the other side of the Hatterall ridge.

At SO 26701 30804 the track becomes a metalled road. There are some footpaths to the left but they mostly go up the ridge. The road is very quiet, little more than a farm track, and an easy walk. After about 1.8 km, at SO 27735 29421 , the road turns to the right. Go through the gate ahead of you and continue along a narrow lane. This has all the feel of an old road, possibly the original road down the valley. It would be too narrow for carts, so once the local farmers took to using wheeled vehicles the road across the valley would be easier. I walked along the lane to rejoin the metalled road at SO 27912 28728 but it might be worth exploring the track that bears left at SO 27795 29061 and becomes a footpath passing above Broadley farm and rejoining the road at SO 28502 28103.

At SO 28560 27946 you turn left on the main road down the valley (usually quite quiet, though it can be busy on summer weekends) with encouraging views of the priory and the Half-Moon pub.

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Ahead of you is the priory gatehouse, now a barn. When the road bears right round the gatehouse, take the footpath straight on to the rest of the priory buildings.

Penrhys Pilgrimage this year

This year we are walking the old pilgrimage route from Pontypridd via Llanwynno to Penrhys on Saturday 5 September – taking in ancient trackways, spectacular scenery, a medieval church, a pub lunch, two holy wells and a Doctor Who location. As seen on ‘Weatherman Walking’ – downloadable route map and description at http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/tv/weatherman-walking/walks/Pontypridd-Walk.pdf plus a gallery of photos and DREADFUL puns at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02m3m53/p02m3hlp.

We start at the green near the White Bridge on the Ynysybwl road – OS Map Ref. 077-910 – at 10 am. Walk up the Darran trackway and over to Ynysybwl then up the lovely little valley of the Llys Nant and over the fields to Mynachdy. Through the forest to Llanwynno – refreshments in the church and a short service, or time for a pub lunch. We’ll try to walk down to look at the recently-restored holy well of St Gwynno – the path is very overgrown, bring sticks.

Set off again from Llanwynno at about 2 pm, walk down the track to Stanleytown and Pontyrhaiarn then up to Penrhys. Time to explore another holy well, then up to the estate church for tea (about 4 – 4.30) and a visit to the church itself as part of the Open Doors weekend.

You can join us at the start or at Llanwynno – the church there will be open from 12 noon – 1.30 as part of the Open Doors weekend (after that there’s a wedding at 2.30 so we have to get ourselves out of the way!). If you want lunch in the Brynffynnon pub it might be as well to book – tel. 01443 790272. We hope to arrange transport back from the finish for those who have left their cars, and there is also plenty of public transport.

Please note – this is an informal walk, and you should take responsibility for your own comfort and safety. The Organisers provide only the route and arrangements for the visits en route. They are unable to take legal responsibility for any other matters. The start time is punctual, but all later times are approximate. You will need stout shoes and waterproof, warm, wind-resistant clothing, food, and some liquid refreshment, for personal use.

Poster follows – do print  and send /forward to anyone who would be interested.

Penrhys poster 2015