The Wild Welsh Wilderness

Having been away for work last week we had a fairly quiet weekend. I did some work in the garden and we headed out to Cross Foxes on Sunday for a Mother’s Day lunch – well, Morgan isn’t here to treat Anna, so I did instead. I of course went along for the meal too.

I then decided that there was a bit of a break in the wet weather on Monday and Tuesday so headed out for an overnight wild camp.

Bagging some Summits

I parked up by Llyn Nant-y-cagal just north of Nant y Moch. I met a guy who was living out of his car there and had a quick chat which soon descended into him ranting about conspiracy theory nonsense, something to do with chemicals in the air and other such things. I managed to get away and set off for a walk bagging a few of the summits in the area.

There are loads of little summits around here that I’ve never really been to. Most of them don’t have any sort of path to them and are a bit out of the way so I was soon tromping through the ever present Molinia grass that these parts are known for. Elsewhere there was heather or bilberry bushes to impede my way so the going was tough much of the time. As I was aiming for summits lots of it was uphill too. They may be small in stature but most of them were fairly hard won summits thanks to the terrain and lack of paths. Oh, and of course it was all very wet underfoot as they are all surrounded by endless bog!

I picked off Bryn Mawr (489 m) and then descended to cross the road and slog up to Banc Bwlchgarreg West Top (511 m). I passed what looked like a couple of nice campsite on the way here. I then followed the ridge and line of forest across to Banc Bwlchgarreg (520 m ) and then Banc Bwlchgarreg East Top (511 m).

It was a lovely day up here, very peaceful, there was no one or no thing about and I don’t think many people ever come up here.

I then descended to some familiar Forest Trails that I mountain bike along, walked through the old mine workings around Windy Gap and then headed off up a trail I’d never been to before to the summit of Banc yr Wyn (503 m). At the top I followed the ridge south and then had a bit of a nightmare finding a way through the forestry where I had to clamber over loads of fallen trees. I eventually made it out onto some very boggy ground and ascended to the summit of Bryniau Rhyddion (466 m).

Online Digital Nomad

I stopped here for lunch, listening to the skylarks twittering away with expansive views out over Nant y Moch. There was no wind, it was warm(ish) and extremely peaceful. It couldn’t have been a better place to stop.

I had a Teams meeting to attend for work and had said I would join the call if I had reception. I did have reception here and quite liked the ideal of being a proper digital nomad and joining the call from such a stunning location. I didn’t quite get the sign in to work properly though and to be honest I didn’t try too hard as I didn’t really want to end up in a meeting that went on for too long.

More Summits

From here I dropped down into the valley and crossed a stream and climbed back up past some old mine adits to the summit of Cefn yr Esgair (451 m). Next was more of the same. Another steep descent, across a river and then a steep climb to the summit of Drosgol (550 m). From here I had yet more stunning views of Nant y Moch and also out across what looked like grassland plains. This place really is a wild welsh wilderness. There’s nothing here, just bog and grass!

The Perfect Campsite

I had identified what looked like a nice campsite on the map so started looking out for any other suitable spots as I descended from Drosgol down towards the River Rheidol. I found a couple of likely looking spots but the one I had identified on the map turned out to be just perfect.

I found the flattest bit of ground I could and soon had my tent up. It was a gorgeous late afternoon by now. The sun was out but soon disappeared behind the hills I just descended from. The waters of Nant y Moch were calm and reflecting the slopes of Plynlimon. There was a burbling stream just off to the side of my camp where I had a wash and filled up my water bottles. You couldn’t ask for better conditions to set up camp, nor for better scenery. As the sun set the grass covered landscape seemed to glow.

I was miles from any paths and quite a long way from anywhere really. There was no mobile reception here either, but my phone did ask me if I wanted to send my location by satellite. I did, so that Anna could see where I was. I cooked my dinner, tried in vain to dry a few things out (socks and shoes) and then read my book. I did a few camp ‘chores’ (pfaffed about with some kit and such like in other words) and then as dusk descended I took a few obligatory photos of my tent in the dying light. There were now some clouds shrouding the tops of the hills.

Here comes the Rain

The clouds looked a little ominous and sure enough, come 11pm there was the patter of raindrops on the tent. These just got heavier and heavier throughout the night. I got out of bed to tighten all of my guy-lines at one point as the tent starts to sag a little once wet. I woke up a few times to check things out too. I need to seal the seams on the tent as by the morning it was hammering down and 6 hours of non-stop rain had led to a couple of them leaking a little.

Come the morning, I wasn’t in any hurry to get out of my tent as it was still pouring with rain. The wind was picking up now too. After a while it sounded as though it would only get worse so I cooked breakfast in the shelter of the tents vestibule and then packed everything away inside the tent. Eventually I had to get out and pack down the tent in the pouring rain.

Day 2 in the Rain

I was soon on my way through water-logged bogs to cross the River Rheidol at a little bridge.

River Rheidol
River Rheidol

This turned out to be the only photo I took today as it was just too wet to get my phone out and I couldn’t see much through the mist and murk anyway.

After crossing the river I climbed towards the summit of Banc Llechwedd Mawr. I never actually found the summit though as visibility up here was pretty much zero, it was blowing a gale and still absolutely hammering down with rain. I did find something that resembled the summit and looked to me like a summit, but according to Summitbag and my GPD trail I missed it be a few metres. Oh well, it’ll be there for me to bag another day. From here I worked my way down towards a bridge crossing the River Hengawn and headed off through very wet ground to Sarn Helen. I had hoped to cross the river here and then head of up the valley and off to summit Carn Hyddgen before returnning to the forest tracks north of Nant y Moch and my waiting van.

The stream of Nant y Llyn running down from Nant y Moch was a raging torrent by now though. There was no easy place to cross. Had I been with someone else I would have risked it but on my own it was just too dangerous. I decided I needed another plan and instead walked along the southern edge of Nant y Moch, across the dam and then followed the road back to the van. At least that meant I’d completely circumnavigated Nant y Moch on this trip even if I didn’t manage to bag any summits today.

The rain and wind never eased up and it was something of a miserable trudge along the roads but progress was good and I felt fine. With just the odd stop here and there for some snacks or a drink there was little of note. I did accidentally stop my watch whilst putting on my gloves though so the GPS track below is missing out a chunk of the route around Nant y Moch. The only other thing I saw or did was come across the guy I spoke to as I set off yesterday. He was still living in his car so I stopped to say hello but within no time he was once again wittering on about chemicals in the air changing our DNA so I left him to it and continued back to the van.

It was just a short drive home where I could shower, warm up, get some food and start sorting out all of my sodden kit. Oh, and order some seam sealant for my tent. It might not have been the dry couple of days I had expected but it had been a good overnighter all the same. I’ll have to head back that way soon to get those summits I missed.

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.