A 7-mile route in the lonely northern Berwyns - July 2007
Moel Fferna Walks with a Camera
Walks with a Camera © Geoff’s Pages 2011
Like many people, I suppose, I've driven along the A5 through Llangollen, and beside the Dee to Corwen and beyond, without paying too much attention to the hills north and south of the river. This little expedition had been in the back of my mind for some time, however - just hadn't "got around to it" Moel Fferna is not trivial - a little over 2000' in height, it is the highest point north of the main Berwyn peaks. It's also the name of a former slate mine, some way below the summit. The mine was once connected, via the lower Deeside Slab quarry, to the main line sidings at Glyndyfrdwy, which once again sees passenger trains on the Llangollen Railway - but no more slate traffic. The connection took the form of a narrow gauge tramway, which achieved its place in the history books as being the last place - in the British Isles at any rate - to see the use of wooden rails. Much of the route of the tramway is walkable - some of it, including the
uppermost stretch, forming part of the "North Berwyn Way". No, we hadn't been aware of that path beforehand - but our routes coincided from time to time. We left the car near Glyndyfrdwy station, and headed up the Nant-y-Pandy - a superb if little- known route to the hills, with beautiful wooded cascades, and the remains of the Nant-y-Pandy slate mill, which closed in 1923 when the slab quarry ceased to operate. Eventually we made our way to the latter, with its air of desolation. Taking the steep incline to the upper level of the tramway, we then skirted the open hillside to the Moel Fferna mine, which operated until the 1950s. We paused for lunch here; although many years have passed since it last operated, the derelict buildings and remains of the incline (some lengths of steel cable remain) seem much more recent. The North Berwyn Way seemed to go off in the wrong direction - so we took to the deeply heather- and bilberry-clad hillside and headed towards the summit (meeting, after a struggle and significant consumption of fine juicy bilberries, the NBW again - clearly it took an easier route). On reaching the summit ridge, and eventually the summit, a fine view opens out in all directions. To the south, the main Berwyn peaks dominate. Eastwards, we could make out Shropshire's Wrekin and Clee hills. To the west, the whole of Snowdonia lay on the horizon, while to the north, beyond the Vale of Clwyd, was the sea. Despite the views, we only stayed long enough for a quick drink - the still air and swarms of insects (predominantly flying ants) encouraged us to keep moving. A clear path descends to the north, after a while picking up, yet again, the North Berwyn Way. Gradually we made our way back down to the Dee Valley on this route, where we would catch a Llangollen Railway service back to Glyndyfrdwy and the car. There was still more than an hour before the train however, and a nice little pub at Carrog beckoned...
Footpath signs, Nant-y-Pandy Nant-y-Pandy Nant-y-Pandy Nant-y-Pandy mill Nant-y-Pandy Nant-y-Pandy - stream and tramway Deeside Slab quarry - incline to the upper tramway Slab Quarry remains Tramway and Moel Fferna Moel Fferna - cables on the incline Moel Fferna and the view to the Dee Valley Moel Fferna summit; view to Snowdonia Gradual descent to the Dee Valley Carrog - the Dee and the Grouse The Dee at Carrog Carrog station - our train arrives Moel Fferna summit ridge - view to the Berwyns
The "official" route is described, with a map, as the North Berwyn Way "Quarry Circuit"
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