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Walk Glyndwr's Way with a Cicerone Guidebook

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Published
9 Apr 2014
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9781852847326
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17.2 x 11.6 x 1.2cm
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Glyndwr's Way

by Paddy Dillon
Published by Cicerone Press

Guidebook to Glyndwr's Way, a mid-Wales long-distance National Trail of 135 miles taking 9 days to walk, and 2 days (and 29 miles) to complete the loop down the Offa's Dyke Path to create a circular trail. It loops west from Knighton via Machynlleth to Welshpool and covers quiet hills, forests and rolling countryside.

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September 2014

p70

Accommodation is available in Staylittle at Rock Villa B&B (www.rockvillabandb.co.uk).

May 2014

p161

Reditreks hostel in Heol Powys is now known as Mach Indie Hostel, and it does not provide camping facilities..

Description

The gentle, unfrequented countryside of Powys in mid-Wales has a charm all its own. Glyndwr’s Way (Llwybr Glyndwr) is a 135-mile National Trail named after the remarkable late-medieval Welsh leader Owain Glyndwr, and is one of three National Trails in Wales. It links at either end with the Offa's Dyke Path, and this guidebook includes the two days along the Offa's Dyke Path to create a circular route.

Glyndwr's Way is one of the quietest National Trails, exploring sparsely populated countryside, featuring a succession of hills and valleys. Although much of the terrain is remote and you're likely to have many sections to yourself, the route is a National Trail and clearly waymarked with distinctive dragon symbols throughout and there is accommodation available at the end of every stage if you prefer not to camp.

This guidebook divides the trail into nine day stages, starting at Knighton and ending at Welshpool. After Day 4 there is an optional ascent of Pumlimon Fawr, which will require an extra day. Days 10 and 11 follow the Offa's Dyke Path to complete a circular walk. 

  • 164 miles of waymarked trail through quiet countryside
  • includes a day’s excursion to climb Pen Punlumon Fawr from Dylife
  • full information about facilities available along the route, including accommodation options
  • Seasons
    spring, summer and autumn are ideal for walking; winter can be a problem if there is deep snow; after prolonged rain some parts can be muddy
  • Centres
    Knighton, Llangunllo, Felindre, Llanbadarn Fynydd, Abbeycwmhir, Llanidloes, Dylife, Machynlleth, Cemmaes Road, Llanbrynmair, Llangadfan, Llanwddyn, Dolganog, Meifod, Welshpool, Montgomery
  • Difficulty
    suitable mainly for long-distance walkers; essentially hill country, with lots of ascents and descents, but also many gentle and easy stretches; careful attention to waymarking is required and accommodation is sparse in some places
  • Must See
    quiet and remote mid-Wales countryside, links with the Offa's Dyke Path, Abbeycwmhir ruins, Llyn Clywedog, Dylife mines, Parliament House at Machynlleth, Dyfnant Forest, Llyn Efyrnwy, Ann Griffiths Walk, Powis Castle

Contents

Contents
Introduction
Owain Glyndŵr
Geology
Landscape
Drove roads
Wildlife
Trees and plants
When to walk
Getting to and from the route
Accommodation
Planning your schedule
Food and drink
Money matters
Communications
What to pack
Waymarking
Maps of the route
Emergencies
Using this guide
Glyndŵr’s Way
Day 1 Knighton to Felindre
Day 2 Felindre to Abbey-cwm-hir
Day 3 Abbey-cwm-hir to Llanidloes
Day 4 Llanidloes to Dylife
Ascent of Pen Pumlumon Fawr
Day 5 Dylife to Machynlleth
Day 6 Machynlleth to Llanbrynmair
Day 7 Llanbrynmair to Llanwddyn
Day 8 Llanwddyn to Meifod
Day 9 Meifod to Welshpool
Return to Knighton along Offa’s Dyke
Day 10 Welshpool to Brompton Cross
Day 11 Brompton Cross to Knighton
 
Appendix A Route summary table
Appendix B Facilities along the route
Appendix C Pronunciation guide and topographical glossary
Appendix D Useful contacts
Appendix E Accommodation along the route

Introduction

The view from Dyfnant Forest at Pren Croes (Day 7)

Glyndŵr’s Way is named after the remarkable late-medieval Welsh leader Owain Glyndŵr, and is one of three National Trails in Wales. It links at either end – Knighton and Welshpool – with the Offa’s Dyke Path, and this guide, as well as describing Glyndŵr’s Way, includes two days along the Offa’s Dyke Path to create a circular route. The trail is an exploration of the green heart of Wales, chasing the shadow of an inspirational warrior and statesman.

Glyndŵr’s Way is one of the quietest National Trails, exploring sparsely populated countryside, featuring a succession of hills and valleys largely used for sheep-rearing. The route meanders around, with frequent twists and turns, ascents and descents, so that the scenery changes continually. Some of the higher parts feature open moorlands or forestry plantations. There are a handful of towns along the way, with a scattering of small villages and abundant small farms. It takes some walkers a long time before they point their feet towards mid-Wales, but once they do so, they always return to experience more of its quiet, understated charm.

‘Welcome to Wales’ – a notice outside Knighton, the town where Glyndŵr’s Way starts

Glyndŵr’s Way (described in Days 1 to 9 in this guide) sits squarely in mid-Wales, extending almost from the Welsh–English border to the coast, a total of 217km (135 miles). It links with the Offa’s Dyke Path (Days 10 and 11) to bring walkers back to Knighton, an additional 47km (29 miles), and it links with the Wales Coast Path at its halfway point. The route is entirely confined to the only inland county in Wales – Powys. This county was created in 1974 from three former inland counties – Montgomeryshire, Radnorshire and Brecknockshire. The only towns on Glyndŵr’s Way are Knighton, Llanidloes, Machynlleth and Welshpool, but there are also a dozen villages, most of which offer basic services.

Sample Route

DAY 1
Knighton to Felindre
StartClock Tower, Knighton
FinishWharf Inn, Felindre
Distance24km (15 miles)
Ascent695m (2280ft)
Descent610m (2000ft)
Time8hrs
TerrainValleys, farmland and hill pastures, followed by high, open moorland
MapsOS Landranger 136, 137
RefreshmentPlenty of choice in Knighton. Greyhound Inn at Llangunllo. Wharf Inn at Felindre.
TransportKnighton is served by trains from Shrewsbury and Swansea. Buses link Knighton with Kington, Felindre and Newtown.

Glyndŵr’s Way quickly leaves Knighton, crossing Bailey Hill to reach the little village of Llangunllo. Walkers who leave Knighton around midday should consider staying overnight at Llangunllo. Those who start early will have plenty of time to continue over the sprawling moorlands of Pool Hill, Stanky Hill and Black Mountain. Bear in mind that accommodation is very limited in the villages, and if relying on pub grub in the evening, it is wise to check at the planning stage that the pubs will be open.

Knighton

The small market town of Knighton, with a charter granted in 1230, is also known as Tref-y-Clawdd (‘town on the dyke’). The dyke referred to is the eighth-century Offa’s Dyke, which passes straight through the centre of the town, and some of its finest stretches run over nearby hills. There are also the remains of two Norman motte and baileys – one of them marked on the map as Bryn-y-Castell, and the other located at the highest point in town, on private land. The higher castle was destroyed by Owain Glyndŵr in 1402. The bulk of Knighton is in Wales, but a few buildings on the northern side of the River Teme lie in England, making this a true border (or ‘Marches’) town. Anyone able to spare the time to explore should start at the Offa’s Dyke Centre, which provides lots of local information, as well as commentaries about Owain Glyndŵr and Glyndŵr’s Way (tel 01547 528753).

Glyndŵr’s Way marker stones on the steep High Street, also appropriately known as The Narrows

Knighton is served by the Heart of Wales line, which runs between Shrewsbury and Swansea, featuring splendid scenery for the most part. The town offers a fine range of services, including hotels, B&Bs and a nearby campsite, as well as plenty of shops, pubs, restaurants, cafés and take-aways. There is a post office, banks with ATMs, local bus services and taxis. The next place with a similar range of services, Llanidloes, is three days ahead along the trail.

In 1402, south of Knighton, Owain Glyndŵr divided his small force of Welshmen and successfully engaged a larger English force led by Edmund Mortimer. During the Battle of Pilleth, or Bryn Glas, it is said that a number of Welsh archers serving under Mortimer suddenly switched sides. The field was strewn with bodies that lay unburied until they reeked, and some accounts accuse Welsh women of mutilating the corpses. Eventually, the remains were piled into a mass grave, now marked by a stand of tall Wellingtonias, beside St Mary’s Church at Pilleth. Mortimer was captured and held in Machynlleth.

Start at the top of Broad Street in the centre of Knighton, where the monumental Clock Tower has stood since 1872, around 185m (610ft). There is a signpost for Llangunllo. Climb straight up High Street, appropriately known as The Narrows, which is steep, pedestrianised and narrow, passing an ornamental marker stone for Glyndŵr’s Way. Note the acorn and dragon waymarker symbols, repeated hundreds of times throughout the walk. At the top of the street, beside The Golden Lion, turn left along Castle Road, then turn right downhill. The road narrows and is barred to traffic.

Cross another road and continue down a tarmac path. Turn right along a back street at Cross Cottage. This narrows, becoming a tarmac path running alongside a river, and continues along another back street, reaching a narrow road at Mill Lodge. Cross this road and walk up a narrow tarmac path as signposted. Continue up to a road at Green Acre, in the suburb of Garth. Cross the road, slightly to the left, to pick up another signposted path. This is narrow and grassy, flanked by hedgerows, and climbs to a road bend at Rock House. Turn right down the road, then quickly left as signposted, past Ivy Cottage. Follow a grassy track where there are plenty of trees alongside, but not enough to block views of Knighton.

Go through a gate onto the wooded slopes of Garth Hill and follow a path with a wooden edge. Keep straight ahead as marked at junctions, and the path later rises without a wooden edge. Later, go through a gate to continue with a fence alongside. When the path leaves the woods, it becomes a grassy track flanked by hedges, rising to join a minor road. Turn left, in effect straight ahead, to follow the road up to a triangular junction. Turn left as signposted for Knighton, and keep straight ahead downhill at a nearby junction.

Turn right at another triangular road junction and climb past the farm of Little Cwm-gilla. The road climbs steeply and the tarmac ends at Ebrandy Cottage. Continue straight ahead up a track flanked by hedges, sometimes with bare rock exposed underfoot, with views back towards Knighton. Reach a gate beside a small plantation on a hill top at 393m (1290ft). The track swings right and expires, so walk straight ahead instead, through a gate, and follow a hedgerow onwards, which leads down into a dip.

After passing a gate, a track leads up to a junction. Turn left and continue uphill. A hedge to the left is trimmed hawthorn, while to the right are peculiarly shaped hawthorn trees that formed a ‘laid’ hedge many decades ago, but now grow tall. Go through gates used as a sheepfold, around 410m (1345ft), near the top of Bailey Hill. Continue across high fields with hardly any sight of habitation – just rolling hills and valleys. A gentle descent leads through a gate, and a further descent leads to a junction with gates. Simply walk straight ahead as signposted for Llangunllo. Go down a grassy track, down beside a field and through a gate. The path is grassy, flanked by gorse bushes, and runs parallel to a motor-rally track. This is the Phil Price Rally School course (www.philprice.co.uk), and it could be very noisy and dusty when in use.

Turn left through a gate and walk down through a field, crossing a stream as marked. Walk up a broad field path, then turn right as signposted, down through a gate as marked. Continue down through a field, reaching the bottom corner, and go through another gate. Turn right down a track, which immediately bends left. Pass near a fishpond and walk up to a junction. Keep left and walk down through a track intersection, straight past a noticeboard explaining about Cefnsuran Farm.

Cefnsuran Farm covers about 120 hectares (300 acres) and is predominantly for rearing sheep, where Welsh Mule ewes are put to Texel, Bleu du Maine and Suffolk rams. There are also Charolais cross cattle and a few working ponies. Two short walks are offered – the Rough Ground Trail and Cloggie Trail. Self-catering accommodation is available, and the Rally School is close to hand.

Don’t head left towards the farm, but watch for a gap between trees, where there is a marker post. Walk up through the trees a short way and go through a small gate, then turn left up a track into a farmyard. Turn right to leave it, going through a gate and following a track uphill. This runs through two more gates as it climbs through fields, then it expires. Climb straight to the top of a field and go through a small gate beside a tall tree. Veer slightly right through the next field, and go down through a small gate onto a narrow road.

Turn left down the road a short way, watching for another small gate on the right. This leads onto a path dropping from the road, down through woods, and crossing a track. Go through a gate and continue down through fields, following the path between houses at Lugg View, to join the B4356 road. Turn right along the road, crossing the River Lugg to enter Llangunllo, around 230m (755ft).

The recently reopened Greyhound Inn sits at a crossroads in the village of Llangunllo

Llangunllo

St Cynllo is said to have lived in a monastic cell in this area in the fifth or sixth century, and the church bearing his name is thought to date from the 13th century. The current building is a 19th-century ‘restoration’, but it incorporates features that may date from the 14th century.

The Greyhound Inn sits on a central crossroads and served as both pub and community shop until 2006. It closed for a while following the death of 92-year-old Bill Matheson, thought to be one of the longest-serving landlords in Wales, with 45 years spent pulling pints. Distraught villagers were reduced to using the bus shelter across the road as an impromptu bar! The inn recently reopened, although there is no longer a shop in the village, despite the old-fashioned shop signs attached to odd buildings. There are a couple of B&Bs nearby – the Old Vicarage House and Rhiwlas.

Llangunllo is connected by rail to Knighton, Shrewsbury and Swansea, although the railway halt is 2km (1¼ miles) distant. The only other transport available is a Taxi Link service to and from Knighton, operating Monday to Saturday, which has to be pre-booked.

Leave the village by walking down the road signposted for the station. Cross the River Lugg, then walk uphill and eventually pass straight through a crossroads. When the road bends right, keep straight ahead through a gate and go down a grassy path. Cross a footbridge and climb, keeping right to follow a hedge alongside the top of a field, to reach a gate and a road bend. Turn right to follow the road, which quickly runs beneath a railway bridge. The railway station is about 600m further along the road. Turn left immediately up a farm access track, keeping left of a house called Nayadd Fach. Go up through a gate and pass a stand of conifers, still climbing. The track changes from stony to grassy and goes through another gate. Continue almost to a farm building, but turn left beforehand, through yet another gate as marked.

Turn right to follow a fence and hedge onwards, beside a field. Turn right through a gate and cross a little footbridge, then quickly turn left through another gate as marked. Immediately turn right and follow the hedge and fence up and around to the top of the field, and go through yet another gate. Walk gently downhill, with a fence to the right, through a gate into another field, then over a slight rise to a final gate. Join and follow a grassy track flanked by fences, rising gently above Ferley, over 380m (1245ft).

The track later falls to a junction with a gravel track. Turn right to follow it across a dip at 367m (1205ft), then climb. Apart from another dip along the way, the track climbs and briefly enters a forest, leaving it at a gate and junction around 460m (1510ft). Turn left to walk beside the forest, and pause to read a notice about Beacon Hill Common, and also notice where the earthwork known as the Short Ditch crosses.

Beacon Hill Common is part of the Crown Estate and extends for 1889 hectares (4667 acres). It is designated Access Land, and Glyndŵr’s Way crosses it for some 8km (5 miles). The boggy area where the River Lugg rises is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Radnorshire Wildlife Trust holds a conservation lease on the moorlands, which are notable for bird-watching. The boggy areas suit snipe and curlew, while the heaths are populated by grouse, skylark, ring ouzel, whinchat, wheatear and meadow pipit. Buzzards, peregrines and hen harriers might be spotted hunting. Moorland vegetation includes heather, bilberry and crowberry, with bracken abundant in some places and a few rare plant species present in specific areas. The moors provide grazing for sheep, while grassier areas are favoured by cattle and ponies.

A clear track rises gently onto the Crown Estate moorlands of Beacon Hill Common

Theories abound as to the origin of Short Ditch. It really is short, measuring no more than 300m in length, across a broad gap. Some claim it was constructed around the same time as Offa’s Dyke, in the late eighth century. Others say that the ditch was cut by Edmund Mortimer, in the hope of preventing Owain Glyndŵr from reaching Knighton. Whether or not that is true, Glyndŵr destroyed the castle in Knighton in 1402.

Follow the track gently uphill beside a fence, with a field to the left and moorland to the right. Pass a corner on the fence and stay on the most obvious track over a moorland crest, around 480m (1575ft), beside Pool Hill. Walk gently down across a broad, gentle dip, watching for marker posts at intersections with lesser paths, to be led across a broad moorland gap of grass and heather beside Beacon Hill. The path runs into a dip to cross a small stream, then rises. Eventually, two grassy tracks join and continue as a clear, firm track around the shoulder of Stanky Hill, again around 480m (1575ft). There is a descent to a broad and boggy gap, where a marker post indicates a right turn.

Watch for marker posts as the path climbs onto the shoulder of Black Mountain to around 470m (1540ft). Drop down to another gap, passing beside what looks like a wood, but is actually the overgrown remains of hedgerows that once surrounded a few small fields. Cross a footbridge and climb gently, still watching for marker posts on Warren Bank. Pass a signpost on this grassy moorland crest and rise gently a little further before descending gently to a muddy track on a broad gap. Go through a gate within sight of the isolated farmhouse of Bwlch, and follow the track uphill with wide-ranging views.

Descending from Brandy House Farm to the little village of Felindre

Reach a junction with a narrow minor road at Cefn Pawl. Cross over and head diagonally left as marked. A grassy path follows a fence around a few fields to reach a signpost. Take careful note of the direction indicated for Felindre, as markers are a bit sparse for a while and the path is vague. However, walk across the slope and head downhill to find a gate on the right. Go through and cross a field, picking up a track winding down to Brandy House Farm. The farm access road descends quickly to the little village of Felindre, where a left turn along the road leads to the Wharf Inn.

Felindre

Felindre is small and compact, sitting beside the River Teme in a pleasant agricultural valley.

Accommodation is limited to Brandy House Farm and Trevland, which both offer B&B and campsites. The Wharf Inn is open for business, but the post office shop recently closed. There are occasional buses, Monday to Saturday, linking with Knighton and Newtown.

Maps

Front Cover Newchapel Baptist Church – built, rebuilt, restored, destroyed by fire and rebuilt again Approaching Foel Fadian – the highest point reached on Glyndwr’s Way (Day 5) Powis Castle looks across country towards Beacon Ring and Offa’s Dyke A path follows Offa’s Dyke closely,  away from the hill called Hergan (Day 11) Looking back along a path that climbs steeply from Brynorgan onto Cwm-sanaham Hill Glyndwr’s Way crosses a wooded ravine between Moelfre and Newchapel (Day 3)

The maps in this guidebook are extracted from the Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger series. They show the route and some of the land either side of it. If you wish to see more of the terrain through which the route passes, then you will need the following Landranger maps – 125, 126, 135, 136 and 137. For more detail, use the following Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer maps – 200, 201, 214, 215, 216 and 239. If you wish to include the additional two days of walking along the Offa’s Dyke Path, or the ascent of Pen Pumlumon Fawr, these maps also cover those options.

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