A bitter blustery day on Moel FamauApril 18th, 2021
Though there were plenty of things on my mind like executing my next career moves at the end of a long break, times certainly were simpler in February 2018 than they are now. Personal income was reduced heavily but I also controlled expenditure far better. Also, time largely was my own so I could pop out on day trips whenever the weather allowed so a sunny day was enough to lure me to Moel Famau, a place on which I had designs for more than a decade. A weekday excursion allowed for better public transport options so the previous stymied trip idea became a real outing.
Ironically, the trip that never happened was inspired by a bus timetable leaflet then produced by the now defunct Cheshire County Council. Instead, I was to encounter other parts of the Clwydian Range on a hike from Denbigh to Ruthin and on another than carried me from Llangollen to Wrexham when Ruthin seemed to far to reach that Sunday evening. Belatedly after those, I was not only to encounter the Clwydian Range but actually potter along part of its length.
My timing also coincided with a school mid-term break and Loggerheads Country Park had attracted families but simply continuing on my way was enough to leave them after me. Given that there were many other spots that granted me more in the way of the solitude that I so relished, that was just as well. To get closer to those, I just followed the River Alyn as it flowed past limestone outcrops and was completely unaware that, behind them, most of the hill of Cefn Mawr was eaten up by a quarry. It just goes to show, that even in Wales, limestone country can hide such a thing.
The full revelation of the extent of scarring left on the landscape by Cefn Mawr Quarry needed some height gain and that was ahead of me if I wanted to reach the top of Moel Famau. Before that though, I remained by the banks of the River Alyn until I left the track to cross the river and some muddy fields to reach Bryn Alyn. There was a road-based route that would have taken me around by Bryn y Castell but I fancied keeping that to a minimum at this stage, possibly a good idea since so much tarmac travel was to occupy the end of the day’s walking.
Nevertheless, continuing uphill from Bryn Ayn on a minor road was needed to get me onto a bridleway that would round Ffrith Mountain and get me most of the way to Moel Famau. As I continued along the track, height was gained all the way and views of the surrounding landscape opened out before me. Much was pastoral and the size of Cefn Mawr Quarry became more and more apparent; most of the hill seemed to be gone!
Leaving sights of environmental sacrilege after me, I rounded the boundary of Clwyd Forest to reach the summit that I was seeking. While the bridleway got me most of the way there, I left it to make the final approach to the Jubilee Tower. As if to remind me of the season, a brief flurry of snow came upon me but the lasting impression is of the stiff and bitterly cold wind that blew along the ridge.
That did not deter me or the others who were there but this was not a day for lingering, especially with a wind that could knock you. Still, the tower dating from the reign of Queen Victoria was explored before I started to descend along Offa’s Dyke Path. Conditions underfoot were greasy enough for walking poles to prove unable to halt a muddy tumble. After that, more careful travel was in order but my surefootedness was not guaranteed even then.
Even with plains abutting the eastern and western edges of the chain of hills, it still was possible to make images that could make one believe that it was more extensive than it was. There was so much scope for that choosing photos for this trip report was an exercise in itself. All the while, the afternoon was edging towards its end so I needed to think about getting to Mold before it got too dark. Before that, I had plenty of moments full of uninterrupted quiet and had ensured that by continuing from Moel Famau to Moel Dywyll after seeing a sizeable group of walkers taking a route that I might have taken. Peaceful wandering was what I sought and there was plenty of that so it often does no harm to let others decide some things for you.
After Moel Dywyll, I found the bridleway that start me on my descent. However, greasy ground proved to be my undoing as I endured my second muddy stumble of the day. That cause some muttering about my falling into a somewhat carefree mood but this was the last of these and I continued on my way without anyone seeing my blundering and with added care in spite of the alluring late evening sunshine. The shelter afforded by the valley was all the more appreciated as I passed Garth and two reservoirs on my way to Pentre.
While a side-trip to Cilcain tempted me, weary limbs and declining light informed my decision to follow a stream-side public footpath by Nain Gain instead. After that, it was road walking all the way to Mold’s bus station. Along the way, there was another crossing of the River Ayn and I passed such smaller places as Pontnewydd, Pantymwyn, Gwernaffield and Pant-glas. Light really was fading by then but I got within the street-lighting area in good time and reached the bus station as I hoped so my journey home started after a satisfying day in the hills laden with soothing quieter moments.
Return train journey between Macclesfield and Chester. Bus service X1 from Chester to Loggerheads where my walk started and, when It ended in Mold, bus service 4 was used to get from there back to Chester train station.