Flicking through my phone’s photos, I was surprised to find my last camping trip was tent months ago. Since then, we’ve been locked down yet again and Covid related work has been keeping me busy in the (home) office.
To depress me further, Google photos kept popping up reminders; x years ago you were in Slovenia, Andorra, Bavaria, Italy….. There was no chance of a nice week away in Europe this year so time to get the tent back out!
After a few cancelled/unapproved leave requests I’d finally managed to secure three days. One of these days I was getting my Covid vaccine so that left two days for a trip to North Wales.
This trip was a “two bag camp”, basically, one big rucksack with the camping gear and a smaller bag for drinks, first aid kit, map etc.
Bwlchgwyn was somewhere I’d stumbled upon on Google maps. A village most famous for NOT being the highest in Wales!
It looked like it could be a good place for walking, I just had to hope I didn’t have to ask for directions to there!*
The Wrexham Council website had a nice route but, it was only 5 miles. I wanted something that would last me the day. My route would take me through the village, on to Llandegla forest via Esclusham mountain.
Viewranger optimistically said this would be around 10 miles.
The first footpaths I hit coming out of Bwlchgwyn were very, very over grown. I circled a field at one point in search of a stile which led to another path that became almost impossible to follow.
This path came to a road out of the village. The quiet stretch of tarmac gave my arms a chance to recover before the next onslaught of evil, sharp branches near Ffordd Isaf.
I left the route for a little detour to look around Minera Quarry, once the largest lime works in North Wales.
The quarry once had it’s own steam locomotive and I followed what was once the railway line towards the path climbing Esclsham Mountain.
Just before the path spat me out on to the road, I stopped to take in the lovely views which stretched on for miles and miles.
I remained on the road for a while Here the views were mostly sheep and moorland. On the whole, this is a rather featureless mountain but, at least I couldn’t get lost following a strip of tarmac. I soon longed for the easily navigable when I left the road and headed North along the moorland towards the forest!
At times, the path was easy to spot but, quite often, what appeared to be a footpath could actually be a route made by sheep. Other times, there was no clear way through at all. Even on this dry, hot July day, I couldn’t tell if my foot was about to sink in to something squelchy. For me, this type of terrain is second only to scree for being my least favourite to walk on.
Armed with my compass, clutched firmly in hand, and frequent checks on my GPS, amazingly, not only did I make my way to the forest entrance but also I’d strayed very little from the path. I’d like to put it down to my navigation skills but suspect it was mostly luck!!
It was nice to have a complete change of scene in the forest. Gone was the featureless carpet of green and bog, now I saw trees, wild flowers and obvious footpaths.
I stopped for a while at the beautiful Pendinas Reservoir, grabbed my flask and consulted the OS map. From here, the plan was to retrace my steps back to the moors but take the path to the left, heading to a quarry.
Navigation along this part of the moors was easier, having a fence as a handrail to my right hand side.
Things became confusing at the farm at the end of the moors. The one bent footpath sign wasn’t clear but the gate wasn’t padlocked, always a good sign!
I could see two people in a field working with horses. I kept my head down and kept walking. Nobody shouted. Maybe I had stayed on the correct route but I decided not to linger.
I couldn’t find either of the footpaths I wanted across fields to the edge of the quarry, instead I joined the road and followed that until I saw an obvious footpath heading in the right direction.
There’s several paths around the old quarry and a number of old buildings which you can walk around.
The nice, easy to follow routes didn’t last long. I headed to the left hand side of the next quarry where things were slightly overgrown!
I spent most of this walk wishing I had a scythe. My rucksack became a ‘battering ram’ against the bushes and brambles. Not only was the path almost impossible to see, a few strategically placed, stealth rocks impeded progress somewhat. It was nice to reach the terra firma of the roads in the village once more.
14 miles later (not the 10 predicated), I’d completed the route. Ususally, I post GPX files for download. I wouldn’t recommend this one though!
So, in this “two bag camp”, it was time to switch from the little sack to the bigger one containing the tent, bedtime things and the most important bits, beer and dinner!
I was using the MSR tent this evening. As it was so warm, it was tempting to use it in it’s inner only configuration.
Dinner was a first for me, a dehydrated bolognaise orzo pasta from Frirepot. I usually buy the wet, Wayfayrer meals but Firepot was just as tasty, lighter, contained more calories (I felt I’d earned them!) and it was far less messy. I’ll definitely be investigating more on their menu!
Drink came from Black Lodge Brewery in Liverpool and it tasted so good after the long, hot, sweaty walk!
Breakfast was slightly less adventurous, porridge and coffee. My one ‘must have’ luxury when camping is my Wacaco Barista Kit. I can get by without many things, but decent coffee in the morning isn’t one of them!
After packing up and, obviously, leaving no trace, it was back to the small bag and a walk around Llandegla forest. This area is more famous for it’s mountain bike trails but there’s a number of walks, each clearly marked with coloured posts. I took the 7 mile (plus a couple of little detours) yellow, Moorland View path. I have made this route available to download as a GPX, however, it is very well signed.
Back at the main car park, I noticed that the cafe serves meals until 21:00 on a Wednesday, perhaps something worth bearing in mind for my next over night trip!
Returning to the car, I calculated I’d walked 30 miles over the last two days. 30 hot, humid, verging on lost miles. But it was so good to be back!
* in case you’re wondering Bull-ch-gwin