Sometimes a long trek or a serious bout of fell walking isn't everyone's cup of tea, especially on holiday.
For some people, a gentle stroll or meander about the countryside is very much more their preferred choice
and, metaphorically speaking, would perhaps be their mug of blackcurrant tea, infused with raspberry and a
hint of camomile - if their tastes were say slightly more lavish.
Cups of tea aside, setting forth from Glyn-yr-Aur, would-be walkers are presented with a myriad of
interesting and diverting options. There's rough pathways that lead down to the nearby river,
or routes that lead higher up into the aromatic pine forests and steeply curving hills. Or people
can literally find their own routes, very much off the beaten track as it were, and ramble across
pastureland while weaving in between herds of cows or the more ubiquitous Welsh mountain sheep.
However, for this walk, the country roads and forest trails will be very much its mainstay, and
it is also worth stressing that this route is suitable for most ages of walker and would probably
take most under an hour to complete.
So now to the more descriptive details: from Glyn-yr-Aur, people need to turn left and walk along
the single track road towards the nearby cattle grid. More than likely sheep will dawdle on the
road in front of you and reluctantly make way, but most are friendly and usually inquisitive about
As you continue along the road, you'll, more often than not, encounter many more sheep in the
surrounding fields and grasslands. It's perhaps worth revealing, at this juncture, that Wales
has a human population of around 4 million, but their white woolly compatriots, exceed more than
12 million in total. And for many of them, and this applies equally to a great number of people
too, the grass is almost certainly greener, and more inviting, on the other side of the fence.
Usually a few ewes and their respective broods will have formed an escape committee, and will
have broken through a weak part of the metal lattice-style barriers, in a bid to feast on the
more verdant grasses that have sprung up on the roadside. Or Houdini-style they will have squeezed
themselves under an unfeasibly small gap below a metal 5-bar gate in search of new friends, or more
tasty shrubs and bushes.
Some, with a conscious, will try to dive back in to the field that they shouldn't have left when
someone is passing. Or others will take fright, perhaps fearful someone is coming to spirit them
away to fields unknown, or worse still to the local farmers' market, where forever after they may
be condemned to play a starring role of lamb cutlet supported by a side dressing of mint sauce.
But the local farmers are usually quick to curtail the high jinks of any strays or stragglers.
And they usually manoeuvre sheep around the different pastures to allow grass to grow back,
so they have a continuous supply of fresh land on which to graze.
If you're lucky, you might be able to watch one of the local farmers, typically with two determined
and dedicated dogs, rounding up one of the flocks. Border collies seem to speak a language which makes
the sheep obey. With a flurry of shouts and whistles, in a few minutes it's all over. The outside
flanks have been gathered in and the sheep are ready to board their allotted trailer. A sharp bark
and a menacing display of teeth ensure that any recalcitrant individuals do what is bid them.
And now to a brief aside, which has absolutely nothing to do with this walk, but ... - speaking of
communication between animals or indeed animals of the same type: according to experts, animals do
actually 'speak' their own language and not only that but they also have regional dialects too.
In a recent magazine article, it was revealed that at Rhug Farm, near Corwen in North Wales (over
an hour's drive from Glyn-yr-Aur), a herd of bison couldn't understand each other. All North American
bison in origin, several of the new incumbents had been raised in the wilds of Scotland, while the
remainder had been reared in Wales and had acquired all of the subtleties and nuances of its Celtic
tongue - for a bison that is.
Well, to cut to the chase, the lilting Welsh grunts of the original Rhug bison couldn't be understood
by the new Scots arrivals. And likewise the broad Scottish brogue of the new breeding stock had their
Welsh counterparts completely and utterly mystified. Hopefully, one or more of them will get through
the language barrier and be able to make small talk such as: "Och, It's no good, I just can't
understand what you're saying!"
Indeed, for those wanting to see the bison in person, then Rhug Farm would make for a more than
ideal day out. Over an hour's drive from Glyn-yr-Aur, the farm is around 1050 hectares in size
and has an ever-growing population of sheep and other livestock (all reared organically). Reportedly
over 1000 gourmet product lines are sold on to the public through its on-site shop, which include lamb,
beef, venison and a wide-ranging variety of cheese.
Local farmers also sell their wares at a farmer's market on the first Sunday of every month (from May to October).
There is also a cafe and an abundance of wildlife such as otters and buzzards to look out for.
For more details go to www.rhug.co.uk or tel: 01490 413000. The estate is situated one mile west of
Corwen on the A5, and it is open 7 days a week from 8.00am.
And now let's go turn back to the walk, and pastures. Perhaps it's worth mentioning, that there has
been a long-standing feud about local grazing rights. The increasing numbers of wild deer (mainly
fallow, but some roe) in the Coed-y-Brenin like to have first pick of the freshly grown pastureland.
And while the farmers' collective backs are turned, they will sneak down from their hideaways and
chew their way through sizeable chunks of grass.
At dusk, they can usually be spotted stealthily making their way down for a quick evening snack.
More often than not, they are very timid and will take flight at the first sign of a human. With a few
skips and hops they vanish in to the vast wilderness. However, some of the more valiant have been known
to race along side cars in adjoining fields.
As much as the farmers curse them under their breath, they can be quite a cute and common site around
the forest and they seem to be blissfully unaware when they are trespassing and when they are not.
And perhaps it's worth mentioning that 'blissful' is a word that should be applied liberally to any
descriptions of this part of Snowdonia. To fully appreciate this secluded idyll, people should try to
be receptive to the poetic spirit that is said to reside in this area (particularly around Cader Idris).
The Awen, as ancient Celts liked to call it, should help awaken people's senses to the 'poetry' of nature
and the countryside. It is said to more than amply nourish the soul of those capable of recognising its invisible,
but divine presence.
Just ambling along the road watching the clouds glide overhead, while their shadows ripple and flicker across
the hillside, is certainly one of those moments that people should want to savour forever. Perhaps when
someone feels a heightened awareness for the 'beauty of the day' then they know the mystical Awen is in
force around them.
Again, someone's spirits are likely to soar by scanning down the hillside to gaze at the giddy and
fast-flowing Mawddach, while it courses in a frenzied motion down the rock-strewn valley floor.
Definitely a river in a hurry, it seems to have a hundred things to say and its raucous babbling and
chattering can be heard quite clearly a fair distance away.
So back to the intricacies of the walk: following the tarmac single track road, you will pass a
renovated cottage to your right and a dense glade of pine trees will come in to view. This wooded
area itself has a waymarked routeway through it, and it is another well-defined walking option. However,
it is absolutely essential that people do not veer off the marked trail path, because the trees are planted
so close together people can't easily just go off to explore, and find their own way through them. Once at
the end of this particular walk, you will just need to retrace your steps back to the roadway. But now to
more about the steps that make up this current walk and a bit more about the surrounding area.
In the not too distant past, on the opposite side of the road, rows of trees also prettily adorned the
hillside, but now great tranches have been clear-felled and none too neatly one might add.
Traditionally, the Coed-y-Brenin used to be a major wood producing site. But apparently, the demand for
pine from our shores is in decline; and because the Welsh Assembly is spearheading several initiatives
to boost tourism in the area, not least of which has been a multi-million pound cash injection in to the
new visitors' centre (see link), ever more of the pine trees are being harvested on an aggressive scale.
Wales' Environment Minister Carwyn Jones, who officially opened the centre in early 2007, said the new
£1.6 million complex should help propel Wales in the to the world-wide premier league for mountain biking.
He said: "We need sophisticated, state-of-the-art centres such as in the Coed-y-Brenin, if we are to fully
realise the tourism potential of our woodlands. The centre is the ultimate outdoor recreation complex with
six new exhilarating mountain bike trails at its heart.
"Taking 12 months to complete, this centre should be a magnet for thousands of tourists, while at the same
time benefiting the local rural economy." For more information, click on link for visitors' centre here,
or visit www.forestry.gov.uk
Moreover, the Forestry Commission, who is responsible for managing much of the Coed-y-Brenin, is at the
forefront of a campaign to encourage native deciduous trees such as the oak, ash and birch to recolonise
the area - so that there will eventually be, so the theory goes, a more pleasant and varied landscape for
people to enjoy.
A sum of £2.3 million is being spent throughout the principality, in a bid to resurrect the glory days,
when much of the land was covered in rich, dense woodland. The foresters supposedly hope to uncover a
long lost well near Llanfachreth, called Fynnon Goch. It is reputed to possess great healing properties
Project Manager, Kath McNulty, further explained: "Ancient woodlands are part of the Welsh national
heritage and are as important in their own way as Caernarfon Castle or St David's Cathedral. They are
among our most important habitats and provide homes for birds and animals, including some of our most
threatened UK species.
"Our overall objective is to turn back the clock and return plantations on ancient woodland sites to
their former natural glory."
Land close to Glyn-yr-Aur has been ear-marked for some of the large scale forest clearance. More specifically,
the Cwm Hesian Woods is to be totally transformed under the scheme which is being financed by ROFI (Reclaiming
Our Forgotten Inheritance programme) and with funds from the European Union and the Forestry Commission.
Only recently, a large contingent of forestry workers were out in force behind Glyn-yr-Aur. Apparently it
was quite a sight to behold as a metal grab just plucked trees out of the ground, and stripped them of their
branches and twigs and reduced them to a shadow of their former selves in minutes.
But within a few decades, the surrounding area should look quite different and be closer in appearance to
the long-forgotten days of yore, promises the commission.
Anyway, now back to the details for the rest of this walk: once you pass the expanse of dense forest as
mentioned before, you should come to a 5 way junction. Once there, on your left, you will find a forest
track way that winds up a moderately sloping escarpment.
First of all, would-be walkers will need to bypass a wooden gate and walk up the tree-lined routeway as
it meanders up the steepening hillside.
More often than not, they will pass tiny, silvery streams as they trickle through the undergrowth and
in to shallow plunge pools.
Not far from here, a large stag was spotted. Less timid than the females, he gave out a steely glare
and moved off quickly in to the once thick forest covering the slopes. It is perhaps interesting to
learn that stags are, to all intents and purposes, confirmed bachelors. Hinds remain in separate groups
for most of the year, and meet with stags during the rutting season in late July and August.
And now to the walk again: passing more rows of pine trees with their offspring steadily flourishing at
their feet, people should then make steady strides ever upwards towards the brow of the hill. The trail
should then flatten out as they reach the summit and they should come to a rough, circular clearing.
Once here, people will be afforded the chance to drink in the stunning expanse of enchanting and impressive
views. On a clear day, ramblers will be able to see many of the local mountains, more often than not,
buffeted by a faint trail of wispy and barely visible clouds. The most famous among them are of course
the Rhinogs and legendary Cader Idris. (It's worth pointing out that those in to serious fell walking can
find scores of well-researched and meticulously mapped walks in those areas on the
Trail magazine website:
For a small fee (£2.00 per walk), keen walkers can discover many a rigorous trek in and around these parts.
And of course Glyn-yr-Aur provides a more than ideal base camp for those wishing to get out there and explore.
It's also worth adding that mobile phone calls can be made from this high up, because the relevant phone masts
signals are strong enough to send and receive calls from this high point).
For those wanting to venture in to the Rhinogs, it is said to hold an abundance of exciting monuments
and remnants which date back to the Bronze Age. There are reportedly burial chambers, the grounds of
former hill forts and some standing stones all just waiting to be examined in more depth.
The Cader Idris and its steep rocky ravines and supposedly bottomless tarns also promise an exhilarating
series of adventures for the more advanced walker and climber alike.
There are long, easier treks to the summit and more dangerous, but challenging shorter ascents to the top.
Our walks section contains some more details on possible routes - see link for more details.
And to finally complete this current walk, people can follow the forest trackway down to the tarmac roadway,
turn right along it and follow it all the way back to Glyn-yr-Aur.
Or they can simply, walk down the side of the hill, meet the tarmac road and then retrace their steps.
Alternatively, ramblers could also join the Beast mountain bike trackway to the left and venture up the
side of the mountain pass to gaze at more impressive views of vast tracts of the Coed-y-Brenin.
Eventually, as the route flattens out, people will encounter more stretches of forest, they can then
just retrace their steps back homewards