Gwydyr/Gwydir Forest Circular
Saturday, 02 March 2019
Walking For Pleasure is a facebook group that has been running now for several years and, each year, there is a social meet-up to walk up Mount Snowdon on or near St Davids Day and 2019 was no different.
Arrangements were put in place for those who wished to attend to meet on the 2nd March and climb to the summit of Snowdon via the Llanberis path.
However, as the day approached, so did Storm Freya which threatened to batter Britain with winds of up to 80mph while, at the same time, drenching everywhere with a deluge of heavy rain or even snow. Yellow warnings were duly issued by the Met Office and, understandably, attendees of the annual event became less than enthusiastic to climb up a mountain in such conditions.
With the attendee list down to just seven people, an alternative plan was hatched. Something at a lower level. Something with some shelter from the wind and rain. Something with a view and something with some mines! (a special request from one particular attendee).
The day of the big event arrived and the obscured view of the summits on the drive through the Ogwen valley set an ominous tone. Dark clouds were literally forming above.
In the Betws-y-Coed, where the companions met, the weather seemed much calmer.
After the usual pleasantries and the “are you wearing gaiters?” type conversations, the leader of the group, armed with the very latest in cutting edge satellite and mapping technology, signalled that the walk had started by walking off down the road. The rest of the group followed chatting among themselves intensely.
It was 9:15 am and Betws-y-Coed was strangely quiet for a Saturday morning.
The group crossed the Pont-y-Pair bridge and then turned left. At Forest Road, they made their way slowly up into the forest. It did not take long before the group encountered the first signs of mining in the form of several small lead mine tunnels with gated entrances to prevent the curious walker from taking too close a look. The mines were part of the Aberllyn Lead Mine where lead and then zinc where mined until the 1920s.
Continuing up the path, the group passed a waterfall and then Aberllyn Cottage before reaching Llyn Parc (Llyn y Parc) a natural lake which was deepened by a dam at its southern which was constructed to power machinery at the Aberllyn lead mine.
Pushing north, the party of seven weaved through the forest passing ruined mine buildings and disused shafts until they reached the most northerly point on the route. Their leader, taking full advantage of at least fifteen geostationary satellites, had brought them safely to Hafna Lead Mine.
The Hafna Mine is the largest of the mines in the forest which was once one of the most important lead mining areas in the United Kingdom.
Mining began in the area circa 1620 and continued for three hundred years but Hafna was not constructed until 1879 and was only in use for around forty years.
The group posted two sentries to guard the food and equipment, cheese rolls mostly, while the rest formed a scouting party to explore the remains of the mill complex which consist of a stepped mill, incline, smelting house and chimney.
Reunited, the group, now heading south, passed through more mining sites and on to Llyn Sarnau. Up until now the forest had provided shelter and kept them hidden but here they were in full sight of Freya and the winds of change started to blow.
Remaining exposed while they circumnavigated the Llyn they headed for the safety of the forest at Pencraig. There, among the peaceful moss-covered victims of Freyas siblings, they ate their lunch and discussed the inevitable meteorological onslaught that awaited them.
Abruptly the peace and tranquillity were shattered. Shouts of “watch yer-self mate!” came thundering through the trees followed quickly by the flash of steel and the searing burn of luminous lycra.
One of the group, the eldest (by a long way!) and clearly shocked by the ambush, escaped the charge of the lycra brigade by mere inches only for it to be followed by a second and then third wave.
The leader of the group was quick to push buttons and consult the heavenly bodies that floated some twenty-two thousand miles above and announced that the group had “strayed” on to a cycle route. In any other part of the UK, this predicament would have been a minor irritation for all those involved. But in this particular part of Wales on a weekend, you might as well be standing in the middle of the Champs-Élysées on the last day of the Tour de France.
With all possible haste, the group made their way along the ‘red’ cycle route until they had reached the safety of the road. With the danger now passed, they laughed as they reviewed the information board and warning sign that had somehow eluded when they had strayed on to the path. Freya had been pushed from their minds.
In good spirits, the group made their way to Swallow Falls before doubling back and dropping down to the edge of the Afon Llugwy river. Here, they continued along the precarious, muddy, path avoiding the the slippy tree roots and doing their best not to fall into the raging torrent below them.
Shortly after they had passed the Miners Bridge, and almost near the end of the walk, gusts of wind began to toy with the group. Teasing them like a cat playing with a mouse. Rain followed signalling that Freya had found them.
Sanctuary would only be found in the Hikers Bar of the Royal Oak.
Peering through the windows of the public house, the group reflected on the events of the day. The rain was now so heavy that it looked impenetrable. The task of crossing the road and reaching the carpark seemed almost impossible.
It did not matter that they didn’t get to climb a mountain that day. It was never really about mountains. It was about good friends and good company the measure of which is higher than any summit.
Heading up through the forest
Group photo before the rain and wind
Waterfall near Aberllyn Lead Mine
Old mine building in Gwydir Forest
Disused mine shaft in Gwydir Forest
Hafna Lead Mine Mill Complex
Swallow Falls in Gwydir Forest
The Miners Bridge in Gwydir Forest
River / Affon Llugwy
Distance : 9 Miles
We parked at the Railway Station in Betws-y-Coed and were lucky enough to find some free on-street parking there but there are several car parks in the town.
Click HERE for a GPX file of the route.