Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The VoFf Way - Llan Ffestiniog to Blaenau Ffestiniog

Outline: this leg of the VoFf Way takes you up the Roman road (Sarn Helen) past an iron age hillfort to the entrance to the slate mine where the treasures for the National Gallery were safely stored during WWII. From here you follow a slate tramway across rugged terrain descending steeply into Blaenau with industrial heritage all around.

From Y Pengwern walk out of the village on the A470 road towards Trawsfynydd going underneath the railway bridge.  About 100 metres beyond the bridge at map reference 705418 take a footpath to the left and follow it up through the fields on to the golf course keeping towards the right hand side and watching out for flying golf balls. This course is neither busy nor expensive but quite steep and with great views. Exit the golf course at a gate at map reference 719421 turning left and walking up a narrow lane to the B4391. Turn left and then right at map reference 723423 onto the track to the water works.

On your left are some pillow mounds which are referred to as Beddau Gwyr Ardudwy - the graves of the Ardudwy Men. The story goes that the men of Ardudwy needed to increase their population so they stole the women from Clwyd. Somewhat peeved, the men of Clwyd attacked and killed the Ardudwy men but the kidnapped women did not rejoice. Instead they drowned themselves in the nearby lake, Llyn Morwynion, the Maidens' Lake.  

At the left hand side of the track as it passes the water works there is a replica of a 5th century carved stone which reads Cantiorix Hic iacit, Venedotis cives fuit, consobrinos Magli magistrati - Cantiorix lies here. He was a citizen of Gwynedd and a cousin of Maglos the magistrate. Venedotia is the old Latin name for the territory of Gwynedd. Presumably the Romans were long gone from Britain but their language and ways of doing things had been adopted by local people?

At map reference 726428 the track branches to the right. Follow this for a short way, maybe 350 metres, then scramble up left to the top of a small hill on which is an iron age settlement called Bryn y Castell (map reference 728430). The site was excavated and researched in the late 1970s by the Snowdonia National Park and more information on what was discovered can be found on the Park’s website.

Walk off the northern end of the settlement’s hill and along for 350 metres or so crossing the Afon Gamallt on a footbridge by a ford (‘Rhyd Helen’ which is mentioned in the Mabinogion) at map reference 729433 and carry on in a relatively straight sort of Roman line. You are walking along Sarn Helen; Sarn is the Welsh word for causeway and Helen is thought to derive from yr lleng, the Welsh for the legion i.e. causeway of the legion. A short diversion off the Roman road to the right to map reference 736442 will take you to some hut circles. Follow this upland Roman road, keeping the fence on your left hand side, until you reach the stile at map reference 737444 then cross over and continue, keeping the fence on your right, until you reach the conifer plantation at map reference 739453. From here make your way northwest to the quarry car park at map reference 733457.

From the quarry car park (handy dropping off or parking space if you don’t fancy the uphill stretch) follow the level tramway to the north past a derelict TV aerial shelter and turn left onto the next tramway at map reference 734460. Keep going to the disused Cwt y Bugail quarry and veer left or west going past Llyn Bowydd and Llyn Newydd – these two reservoirs stored water to power machinery in the slate workings below.

Follow the footpath towards Llechwedd Slate Caverns (a great place for going underground to experience the good old days of slate mining) until you reach map reference 712468. At this point you are only about 100 (steep) metres away from another footpath at map reference 712467 which will take you down to the centre of Blaenau Ffestiniog. There is no public right of way and no signposts connecting these two paths but the landowner, Llechwedd Slate Caverns, is working with us and the council to make it a permissive right of way. In return we are all asked to stick to the path and not go wandering about in the quarries.

Once you are on the path that starts (or ends) at map reference 712467 follow it down, down, down until you come out in the centre of Blaenau Ffestiniog with the Railway Station across the main road.   

Click here to go onwards down the railway side of the Vale of Ffestiniog.

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