Easter in the Hiraethog

“The where ?” I can almost hear people asking.  Mynydd Hiraethog, often just called the Hiraethog is an area of moorland between Denbigh and the A5 in the north east of Wales.  It lies just outside the Snowdonia National Park, and so doesn’t get quite the same level of footfall.  There’s not much there apart from a few isolated farms and reservoirs.  This was where we chose to stay for our annual Easter get together this year, and our cottage was situated just above the Alwen Reservoir and commanded views over the moors – I could clearly see the key mountains of Snowdonia from my bedroom window.  But more about that in a later post.

The scenery on the drive in to our cottage in the middle of nowhere was pretty good too. Approaching on the A5, the Berwyns to the left had patches of snow on top and as we turned off at Llangollen to cut across to Denbigh for groceries, we found ourselves in a world of plunging valleys and soaring rounded peaks, still streaked with the remains of the winter snow. We climbed up to Horseshoe Pass, cutting through Maesyrychen Mountain and leaving behind the richer brighter colours of the valley and heading into misty greyness and an eerie contrast to the day so far. As we wound our way towards the top of the pass, we found the remains of snow drifts along the side of the road. All too soon it was over and we were descending again and heading for Denbigh with the Clwydian range on our right.  This, together with the hills north of Llangollen was another range of hills that I’d not really given much consideration to, but are now firmly on the list of places to explore further.

We left Denbigh with the cars laden with essentials (bacon, coffee, desserts, booze) and headed south west on the short drive to the cottage. As we climbed onto the moor, Moel Siabod and Tryfan in particular stood out above the emptiness we were driving through.

Moel Siabod from the Hiraethog
Moel Siabod from the Hiraethog
The Glyders from the Hiraethog
The Glyders from the Hiraethog

We turned off into the lane for our cottage, passing 1-2 foot high snowdrifts, and a few minutes later were there. I got out and looked across to the mountains. For some reason I hadn’t expected such a clear view and consequently couldn’t take my eyes off it. And better still, I can see it from the lounge and from my bed.

Looking out across the moors from our cottage in the Hiraethog
Looking out across the moors from our cottage in the Hiraethog

The next morning, the window-pane was wet with overnight precipitation as I sat up in bed and looked out west across the moor. A sky grey with mist above the yellow and browns of the moor, and dotted with patches of white snow. We lazed around in the morning before stirring ourselves into action at lunchtime. With much of the day gone, a short walk seemed like the thing to do and by 1:15 we were setting out.  And it would be a relatively short walk – at nearly 400m above sea level we had very little climbing to do to get to the top of Mwdwl-eithin at 532m, a Marilyn and the highest point of the Hiraethog.

Heading for Mwdwl-eithin
Setting off towards Alwen Reservoir and Mwdwl-eithin

We walked along the farm lanes to the footbridge across the Alwen reservoir, the children diving into the last of the snow piled up at the side of the lane, seeing how deep footprints they could make and how much of it they could successfully project onto each other.

Alwen Reservoir
The Alwen Reservoir from the slopes of Mwdwl-eithin

With a 5 year old in tow, progress was slow, but picked up when we were across the bridge and onto the hillside paths. We climbed gradually on a well-made path that struck up to the left of Nant Heilyn. Crossing a fence that ran straight to the top of the hill we continued for a short way on the path until it started to dip down hill again. Now we headed across the heather, me in the lead scouting for the path that should cross in front of us. We never found it and ended up squelching alongside the fence up to the ridgeline. The “stile” to cross the fence consisted of a bin liner wrapped around the barbed wire.

Across the moor
Across the moor
The summit of Mwdwl-eithin
The summit of Mwdwl-eithin

On the ridge we were exposed to the wind and made for the shelter. Fumbling around trying to position the camera out of the wind, we posed for a group shot. Then we scouted the ways down. All involved tramping across heather with no real clear paths. In the end we opted to follow the fence, but this time rather than cross back we stayed on this side. We made good progress and all was well until we encountered a pair of fences running across our route, one of which was electric. We crossed carefully and were soon back on the path down to the reservoir, and hot drinks back in the cottage.

The Route The Stats
 Walk 144: Mwdwl-eithin Start: SH938561
End: SH938561
Distance: 8.053km (5.0 miles)
Ascent/Descent: 269m
Time: 3h 43
Speed: 2.16kph (1.34mph)
FED: 10.93km (6.79miles)
FES: 2.94kph (1.83mph)

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