Fiona Barltrop walks in the footsteps of Owain Glyndŵr
Of all the national trails in England and Wales, Glyndwr’s Way must surely be the least walked. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people I’ve met in total on the few occasions I’ve walked stretches of it. The 135-mile Trail is set in the heart of Mid Wales, whose rolling green hills are the quietest I know in this country. It starts at Knighton (through which the Offa’s Dyke Path also runs) on the English border, and meanders its way northwest to Machynlleth, then heads back east again to Welshpool where you can join the ODP to form a complete circuit. Named after the Welsh hero Owain Glyndwˆ r, the Trail goes past a number of sites where he fought battles against the English in the early 15th century. He held Wales’s first Parliament at Machynlleth in 1404.
I was based for a short visit in an old farm cottage, situated high up on the hillside of Cefn Pawl (whose name it shares) above the little village of Beguildy in the Upper Teme valley, about eight miles north-west of Knighton. Ideally, I’d have liked to have sampled some more of Glyndwˆ r’s Way here as a linear day walk or two, but public transport is, not surprisingly, poor in such a sparsely populated part of the world. So instead I’d devised what I hoped would be a satisfying circuit…
A few yards across the grass from the cottage’s entrance gate I picked up a grassy track that runs alongside the fence, joining Glyndwˆ r’s Way just before it descends to a rather muddy junction of paths. From here the well waymarked route heads south across moorland and round the rather grandly named Black Mountain. I planned to turn off west from the Trail at the next junction, but with the 547m summit of Beacon Hill no more than a mile away to the east, a short detour was called for. Goodness knows how many Beacon Hills there are in the country, but this one – and its surrounding common – is owned by the Crown Estate and managed by Radnorshire Wildlife Trust. It’s a sea of heather up here, no doubt at its most colourful in late summer. On a good day the views are certainly worth the effort.
Having retraced steps, I followed a rather delightful grassy track down to the road, and continued up the drive opposite and thence north-west across Warren Hill, a red kite gliding overhead as I snacked on bilberries spotted among the heather. Back on Glyndwˆ r’s Way at the northeast end of Fron Top, I headed on north, then east up a lane bordered with foxgloves, swifts darting about nearby. The Way led on down to Rhuvid Farm, where the sound of fierce barking from the yard through
which I had to pass was somewhat worrying; even more so was catching sight of the dogs running loose. Farm dogs in those parts of Wales which seldom, if ever, see any walkers can be a problem – but walking pole and Dog Dazer at hand (don’t know if it really works, but it’s better than nothing!) I got through unscathed. And ditto through the next farmyard as I reached Felindre. The final leg was back uphill to the top of Cefn Pawl – just in time for sunset – before I wandered back down the lane to the old cottage. A satisfying walk indeed, with none but the birds and beasts – sheep, cattle and wild ponies – for company all day.
- From cattle grid head up grass to L of lane and follow grassy track beside fence on L. At first gate keep to R of fence. Glyndwˆ r’s Way (track) joins from R. Follow well waymarked Glyndwˆ r’s Way S via Black Mountain and round Stanky Hill to col (no waymark here). NB Boggy patches.
- Turn L and follow path which leads directly (not as marked on map) to top of Beacon Hill. Retrace steps to junction between Black Mountain and Stanky Hill.
- Leave Glyndwˆ r’s Way and follow grassy track down to road. Continue up track opposite to house and turn R. Follow bridleway NW over Warren Hill and follow fence on R to meet a lane that joins from the L. Continue ahead to rejoin Glyndwˆ r’s Way (NE end of Fron Top)
- Turn R and follow Glyndwˆ r’s Way N across fields to lane, then R to Felindre.
- Turn R along road, then R again via Brandy House Farm, to climb back up to Cefn Pawl. L down lane back to start.
- Distance: 25km/15½ miles
- Ascent: 700m/2300ft
- Start/ Finish: Just after cattle grid up lane 1.5km west from Beguildy (GR: SO 181797), parking on roadside grass
- Maps: OS Explorer 214 (Llanidloes & Newtown); OS Landranger 136 (Newtown & Llanidloes)
- Information: Offa’s Dyke Centre, Knighton, 01547 528753, www.visitmidwales.co.uk; www.cefnpawl-cottage.co.uk
- Transport: Trains to Knighton; infrequent bus service 41 from Knighton to Beguildy, www.powysbus.info.