During a walk part of the Cambrian Way from Cardiff to Barmouth in 2016 a number of issues were noted along the way, some involved minor errors and discrepancies with the GPX files, which have now been updated accordingly, and some relating to other issues that may be of interest to walkers. It should be noted that the GPX files were created from Ordnance Survey online maps and aerial photographs in an attempt to follow the route as defined in the guidebook, and this is the first time that they have tested against the actual paths on the ground. In some cases the corrections are there to bring the GPX files in line with what was intended in the guidebook (7th Edition), and in other cases, where some difficulty or obstruction has been found, minor deviations from the guidebook have been used. A further walk in July 2017 from Barmouth to Conwy raised a number of similar issues as has feedback for other walkers, which is also included.
In general, however, the GPX files proved to be very accurate for the majority of the route and, once I got used to using them, I found I only needed to look at the map occasionally just to see what point I had reached, or to check some other detail.
This flagship hostel is now open and is about 1.1 miles east of the City Centre - see the Accommodation page for details. At the moment (June 2016) there is a huge area north of the hostel that is cordoned off for the building of a new road bridge over the railway, so it is best to take a route to the south to avoid this.
From the car park entrance at ST143840, I was unable to find the footpath to Bwlch-y-cwm shown on Map 1B. I followed the forest track but was unable to find a route down the hillside. The latest O.S. maps show no path, only one further north that is not marked as a right of way. It is, therefore, better just to take the road northwards for about 150 yards, then turn sharp right at the junction going south for about 450 yards to rejoin the route where it turns off from the road. The GPX file has been amended accordingly.
On the way up through the forest from Machen, it is possible to get confused by a number of mountain bike tracks that have now developed along the hillside, so take care to keep to the main track. Towards the summit, the guidebook shows the route turning sharp left up the steep hillside on exiting the forest at ST226897. However, there is a somewhat gentler ascent by continuing along the Rhymney Valley Ridgeway Walk for about 200 yards and then turning left up the Sirhowy Valley Walk to the summit. This gives better views to the east and is not as steep. The summit area is all Access Land, so it is just a matter of preference as to which route to take.
At ST221909 I was unable to find a path down the hillside and found I had to turn right along wide forest road, then left down the road, which I stayed on for the rest of the way as I was tired and did not want to chance footpaths that might be blocked. However, it is possible I may have missed something but I didn't have time to investigate properly.
Update 16/08/2017 - It has now been reported that obstructions down this path have been removed and a new set of bridle gates have been installed, though, as yet, there is no waymarking. A complaint about the latter has been raised with the local authority.
After descending from Mynydd Maen to the track by the common boundary, there is a tall green kissing gate leading into the Blaen Bran Community Forest at ST264973. This proved to be a more pleasant alternative to the normal route with a smoother track and more interesting views. There is a reservoir and other places to visit further down if time permits. The track rejoins the guidebook route at ST275978 and covers approximately the same distance. The only drawback is the very tight kissing gates at each end which were not designed with large rucksacks in mind.
The path leading up the hillside from SO291005 is badly overgrown in places, though it is possible to walk up parallel to the sunken path a little way to the right. However, a new path can be seen over on the western side of the wall, but I didn't see how to access it until further up where I could cross over. Presumably there is access from lower down, but I didn't have time to go back and investigate.
Update 16/08/2017 - Investigation has shown that this route between the wall and the fence is not intended as a footpath, but a means of preventing sheep from getting into the park through gaps in the wall. The correct route stays to the right of the wall and, where the sunken lane starts to get blocked, there is a new metal gate giving access to the open hillside, where the route continues parallel to the wall.
Brecon Beacons National Park Authority dispute the route shown in the guidebook and also, presumably the steeper route straight down the hillside, as short stretches are outside Access Land without a right of way shown on Ordnance Survey Maps. The only route they acknowledge takes a considerable detour south adding about 2 miles to the route. However, routes that have been used for long periods without attempt to restrict access have access rights in Common Law, even though they may not be registered as rights of way. Tony Drake was very knowledgeable about these matters, so it is very likely that access rights do exist. His suggested route swings round in a loop around the hillside trying to avoid the very steep slope of the direct route, but there is little in the way of a path for parts of the way. The steep path has, at least, formed a series of steps in the soil and is not showing too many signs of erosion, so it is a matter of preference which route to take.
The guidebook route follows the valley, but this was only to access a B&B which is no longer operating. The more obvious route is to ascend Darren Lwyd, which gives fine views over the Vale of Ewyas, the Gospel Pass and Hay Bluff, then follow the ridge to Twmpa. This was the route used by hostellers before the hostel closed. The views further along the ridge are not so good as the ridge is flat-topped. It is quite likely that the next Edition of the guidebook will use this as the route, though the GPX file still shows the current guidebook route.
After passing through the Craig y Cilau Nature Reserve west of the Llangattock Escarpment, the route follows a minor road from SO185169 for 1.7 miles. It is possible to omit part of this section of road walking by continuing westwards along the path at SO186168, shortly before joining the road. However, the path gradually peters out and the only reasonable option is to rejoin the road at SO168167. This cuts out over half of the road walking, but there may be other paths higher up that could avoid even more if they can be explored.
Update 28/08/2017 - Further investigation shows that there is no reasonable alternative route further up the hill.
Although this is only a variant, it is likely to have a lot of use because there are plenty of accommodation options available this way. The guidebook route takes the old tramway or Brinore Tramroad, which is easy to follow but lacks many good views and has a very rough surface. There a few alternative tracks through the forest, one of which is used by the Taff Trail. It would be worthwhile investigating the options to see if any of these are better, either for views or the quality of the walking surface. I have tried one route down to Danywenallt Study Centre in the past but that was not good either.
Update 28/08/2017 - The warden at Danywenallt says that the other routes are no better.
It seems difficult to find a good route down from here without going quite a long way around. The whole hillside attempts to work against a reasonable descent. It would be interesting to know of a good route that does not involve making a large detour.
Update 16/08/2017 - It has been suggested that one option would be to head south downhill towards the stream at SN879185 and then loop round to the northwest following the boundary stones to join the road. These at least give something to follow even if the route is not easy.
The guidebook shows a 'waymarked path' from SN783249 to SN785248 which leads onto the common. Brecon Beacons National Park Authority (BBNPA) say there is no right of way here but, as before, Tony Drake must have had reason to believe otherwise, as it the obvious access point to the common and must have been used by locals for moving livestock on and off the common for many years.
This has already been mentioned in News Item 30, but it is included here as well.
There have been a few reports recently regarding the route around the buildings at Gwernpwll (SN782486) on the route towards the riverside path into Rhandirmwyn. Some walkers have been sent in the wrong direction, or have taken the wrong route by mistake, whilst one walker encountered a man who was gesticulating and speaking in a foreign language trying to get him to turn back to take the road route.
This matter has been raised with Carmarthenshire County Council, as there seems to be a lot of confusion as to the status of this track. The Ordnance Survey show it as a Byway Open to All Traffic (BOAT), which was its original status, but following severe erosion where it leaves the road at SN781421, it was closed to all but walkers and horse riders, and there is a notice to this effect. What appears to have happened is that Carmarthenshire County Council considered it to be closed completely on their maps and do not show it as a right of way, whereas the Ordnance Survey still show it as a BOAT. The result of this is that it has had no waymarking and, presumably the owners of the farm, which someone says now belongs to the local college, have taken this to mean the track is private.
What adds to the confusion is that the actual track past the farm is obscured by trees until you get quite close, so it is easy to miss. I walked the route recently and found my way, mainly because I have walked the route before and know what to look for, though it still took me a while to be certain. At the far end of the second building, which is the long, narrow one on the left (furthest north), there is a lane going fairly steeply downhill amongst trees, so it appears that it might be private, but is actually the route in question. At the bottom of the hill is a farm gate on the left with no waymarking, but looking across the field a stile can be seen which leads to the riverside path followed by the Cambrian Way.
Whilst on the subject of the this BOAT, it is worth mentioning that there is also some confusion where it descends from the road at the start. After the badly eroded section, it turns to the left as shown on maps, but towards the bottom of the slope it zigzags back again to the right and it is not obvious exactly where it goes. There is a footpath waymarked to the left but the BOAT goes through an unmarked, tied up gate with no waymarking, and just a sign saying 'Keep to the Edge of the Field'. However, although this is the official route, it is also the boggiest part of the field, so it is best to skirt around the bogs. Hopefully Carmarthenshire County Council will eventually resolve this issue and mark the route with appropriate signs, also informing the residents of Gwernpwll that this is a public right of way so they do not try to turn walkers away, but it may take some time for this to happen.
Update 16/08/2017 - It has been reported by the local authority that the route has been waymarked and the college has been informed not to impede walkers using this route, though nobody has yet reported back on how effective the improvements have been.
This section is prone to becoming badly overgrown with ferns and nettles and problems have been reported in previous years. Although it can be a pleasant alternative to road walking, it is not when it is in this condition, especially when wearing shorts in wet weather. The alternative is to cross the river at Towy Bridge and follow the road. Hopefully this will be cleared again by volunteers.
This needs to be negotiated carefully to avoid boggy areas, especially in wet weather. The best way is to keep to higher ground where the ground is firm and there are some tracks and paths that can be followed. The GPX file (Section 6) has been updated with a better route, though this may not be totally accurate as the log file could not be retained because the GPS ran out of memory.
Although this is the Variant for accommodation, it is likely to be more widely used than the main route. It is difficult to find a good route across the open moor here. There are a few paths here and there but also a lot of rough and boggy ground. One tip is to keep on higher ground for a way to avoid boggy areas. The GPX File (Section 8B) tries to pick up on some paths but still encounters some boggy areas. It would be useful if someone could suggest a reasonable route. There was also an overgrown tree blocking a broken stile at SN730652.
There is a large patch of very boggy ground between Llyn Fryddon Fawr to Domen Milwen which is best avoided, especially in wet conditions. The best way is to skirt around higher ground to the left where it is still firm until SN804717, then cross the highest ground to the east where a path then skirts around the higher ground on the approach to Domen Milwen. The GPX file on the website (Section 9) has been updated to reflect this.
After turning off the road at SN785742, the route up Nant Cae-glas is rather confusing. The OS maps show only the second footbridge and not the first one at SN787745. The guidebook map attempts to make this clearer by showing the route crossing the first bridge and then crossing back again over the second one. However, the first bridge leads into the valley of the stream, which has to be crossed a few times, but this is quite easy as it is narrow (there is also a waterfall on the right hand side). It is then possible, after a short scramble to reach the second bridge, but going back over this leads to the smallholding Ty'n-y-rhyd which has a fence very close to the steep bank of the stream and has been made very difficult to get around. It is better to avoid this by staying to the right of the stream beyond the bridge to SN788748, which is beyond the smallholding. The stream is narrow and easy to cross and the path can be rejoined by heading west. The problem with this is that this is not Access Land, so this is not a legal right of way, but the legal one has been obstructed, partly by bushes and partly deliberately. The GPX file has been amended to show the legal route more accurately rather than the more practical one. This needs further investigation to ensure that the right of way is not obstructed, or that a legal diversion around Ty'n-y-rhyd is obtained.
The guidebook route from the road at Ty-hir SN739789 is quite an interesting one, with good views across the Rheidol Valley to the east. However, the path is very faint in places and meanders over rough ground and through wild bilberries around the hillside. It is waymarked with posts, which helps a great deal, but it is hard going at the end of a long day and for anyone trying to get to the hotel quickly it would be far easier to just continue up the road and drop down the path detailed on Map 29B.
Dyffryn Castell Hotel is still derelict. Renovation work was started several years ago and then abandoned, so the builing is gradually deteriorating. On the ascent, the GPX file has been updated with some minor variations of the route on the ground. At SN785838 the right of way is shown entering the forest, which is now impenetrable, so the path runs close to the fence. However, it looks as if more people stay on the eastern side of the fence, which does involve climbing over a wire fence, but this is not very high. Further up, the GPX file followed a wide track, but this was at variance with the guidebook, which heads straight up to the top of the ridge near the corner of the forest. The path along the ridge is smooth and grassy with views to both sides, so the GPX file has been amended to follow this route. On the descent towards Bugailyn, there is a Grid Reference in the guidebook of SN 8175 0139, which should read SN 8175 9139. This is the crossing point of the stream but in fact, the stream runs underground in a pipe east of this point so it is only west of this that there is any difficulty in crossing. As the ground is rough and boggy north of this point it is best to take a fairly direct line northwards to meet the track rather cutting across at an angle, so the GPX file has been amended to do this.
At SN853983 the guidebook and OS maps show the route on the left of the fence, but a track was built several years ago to the right of the fence and the original path has become very difficult to walk due to lack of use. This is Access Land, so there is no concern about rights of way. At SN861987 a farm gate leads back to the original path to the north of the fence and from there to Bwlch Glynmynydd.
For many years, the Right of Way shown on O.S. maps cutting across the corner of the Forest from SN86998 to SH866000 has been obstructed by tree growth. However, there is a path shown going to the corner of the forest at SN866999 which can be taken. This leads out onto the open hillside where the wall can be followed to rejoin the Right of Way, which is indistinct for a while. Do not head for the clearer track lower down the hillside but follow the contour 20m higher up.
Where the guidebook says 'Watch for waymark post SH849025' is the place where one of Tony Drake's home-made signposts was placed, and it has been renovated and preserved. The forest was felled some years ago and the hillside now gets overgrown quickly. The path has been cleared previously by volunteers, but was badly overgrown again. Had it been dry, I might have attempted to negotiate it, but with everything being very wet, I would have got soaked had I done so. My alternative was to continue along the forest track until it joined the road at SH841033, then turned right to rejoin the route a quarter of a mile down the hill. More volunteer work is needed to keep this clear.
Although this is a Variant Route, as there is no accommodation in Commins Coch, it is likely to be used considerably more than the main route. On the ascent towards Mynydd Cemmaes, there has been a change to the route around Tynwtra. The path used to fork off to the left at SH851059, but this has been blocked off and it now goes round the left of the farm buildings, then through a new gate into a field (this is not shown in much detail in the guidebook, but was shown differently on older OS maps). There are a series of new gates on the way across the fields on the new line of the path, which is shown on the latest Ordnance Survey maps, but the waymarking was not in place at the time (June 2016). By the start of the diamond shaped wood at SH859057, as mentioned in the text, there is a new gate giving access to the unsurfaced road leading to the wind farm, but the path continues to the left of the trees beside a stream in a steep sided valley, before joining the track going diagonally to the left up the hillside. The path by the stream is very boggy with branches of overhanging trees almost at ground level, making it difficult to negotiate. At the fence, what used to be a ford has been eroded away leaving a steep scramble up the bank of the stream to a gate that has to be climbed immediately above, and this can be rather difficult. Once over the gate, it is easy going up the track. By the wind farm, the route follows an old path that is not greatly used now that wind farm roads can be taken instead. However, in good visibility this has the advantage of fine views down into and across the valley. Further along there is little advantage in attempting to follow the right of way, which is often hard to see and runs in and out of the access road.
As referred to in the guidebook, there is no way through the diamond shaped woodland, so the alternative is to divert left to the new gate mentioned above at SH859057 and take the rather difficult route to reach the track. The other alternative is to follow the wind farm access road, which is somewhat longer but easier. I am not certain about the legality of access via this road initially, though it enters Access Land after a short distance. The GPX file has been amended to show the former, but it is open to suggestion as to which option should be promoted in future. By the end of the wind farm, it is easier to follow the access road to its end and the track beyond before heading down the hillside beside the forest. Tree felling and gales have left a number of obstructions through the forest and these are sometimes awkward to clamber around. Changes have been made to the GPX file to reflect these minor variations.
It has been reported that the footbridge across the River near Dinas Mawddwy at SH861149 has been closed because of flood damage. However, locals say that they have been using it all along despite warning notices as, although the central pillar has shifted, it remains in a stable condition. 2017 has been mooted for a replacement, so it is up to individuals to decide whether they wish to use it or not. The alternative is to continue along the road at SH858138 to join the A470 for a third of a mile then bear right into the minor road through the village. This has the advantage of avoiding the route through to Meirion Mill at SH861149, which has sometimes been obstructed. The A470 has a good pavement and the village road is generally quiet.
Update 16/08/17 - A new footbridge was installed earlier this year, so the diversion is no longer in force.
The GPX file has been changed to more accurately show the ascent from the A470 through the forest.
The route is shown on the left side of the fence, but overhanging branches make this impossible in places, so it is better to stay on the right hand side. This is Access Land, so there are no issues with rights of way and the fences are quite low with stiles from time to time if they have to be crossed.
GPX file updated with minor changes to steep ascent.
It has been suggested that a better route, avoiding the steep ascent from Bwlch Llyn Bach, would be to follow the byway from the head of the pass at SH757140 northwards to the access land at SH753152, then head southwest along the ridge to Gau Graig rejoining the route just beyond there. This adds nearly a mile in distance, but is a gentler ascent with better views.
On the Minffordd Variant, the route follows the busy A487 road for some of the way, but there are footpaths running parallel to the road for much of this, first on the left and then, past the car park, on the right. The GPX file has been updated to show this in more detail.
Cadair Idris to Haffoty Fach - Map 38A - Minor changes to GPX file on route down to Haffoty Fach.
There is a footpath diversion round the north side of Ty'n Llidiart Farm at SH673155. This does not yet show on O.S.Maps (Aug 2017). The GPX file has been updated.
It has also been suggested that a more interesting route from Ty'n Llidiart Farm is to climb the ridge to Pared y Cefn hîr by turning off the route shortly after it levels off and curves around the hillside at SH 6715 1535, taking the faint path heading diagonally up the hillside. This follows the ridge to the end, returning to the route by the north side of Llynau Cregennen. There are several steep scrambles along the ridge, but there are plenty of handholds and footholds, so they are not too difficult. The views from the ridge are stunning, though it does involve about 650ft of additional ascent and takes about 20 to 30 minutes longer. This has not been included in the GPX file.
This is not so much a problem as a clarification of the route as shown in the guidebook. When heading along the Vale of Ffestiniog towards Dduallt, the route joins a path from SH665413 to SH666414 that is not shown as a public right of way. Tony Drake asserted that this belonged to the National Trust and that they gave permissive access to walkers. However, the Snowdonia National Park Authority advised against the use of this, because they didn't recognise the access rights. When walking the path now, there are notices at either end of the path saying 'Coedydd Maentwrog National Nature Reserve'. It is a well maintained path and obviously intended for public use, so there is no reason for the Cambrian Way to avoid it.
It should be noted that shortly after Bwlch y Llan at SH623178, the route follows the wall on the right hand side, but at Bwlch y Rhiwgyr it is necessary to go through to the left hand side, as shown in the guidebook, as there are places further on with no stiles for crossing over walls on the right hand side of the ridge wall. Minor corrections have been made to GPX file to clarify which side of the wall to walk by slight exaggeration of the distance between the path and wall.
When heading westwards to reach accommodation from the route at Bwlch Drws Ardudwy, there is a stream to cross at SH659280. In reasonable weather this is not difficult, though the area is rather boggy. However, following heavy rain this can turn into floating bog, which looks fairly stable until any weight is put on it, in which case it can sink down to a considerable depth. It may require a very wide berth to find stable ground.
When diverting eastwards for accommodation, be warned that a large area of the lower ground to the east of the Rhinogau has been designated a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) because of some rare plants that are to be found there. Consequently, grazing of sheep has been either stopped or severely restricted in order to allow the area to return to its natural state of long reed grass and blanket bog. Farmers also have to abide by a number of other restrictions as to what they can do with the land. This has had a major impact on footpaths that cross the area, making many of them overgrown and boggy. It is, therefore, generally better to avoid trying to use them to cut off corners but stick to forest tracks and roads instead. This also applies to the footpath leading from the A470 at SH713307 to the Rhiw Goch Inn at Bronaber, which appears fine at first, but deteriorates badly further on, especially after rain.
On the ascent towards Llyn Stwlan, it is not very clear from the guidebook which route to take when approaching the dam, as there are some steep cliffs to the left that have to be climbed. There are some gullies there, but the one nearest to the dam is quite a difficult climb, whereas the one before it is not as steep, especially up the left side at SH666443.
For anyone wanting an easier ascent to Llyn Stwlan, it is possible to continue along by the side of Tanygrisiau Reservoir past the Power Station towards the village and then walk up the service road to the eastern side of Llyn Stwlan, then across the dam to rejoin the route. However, this is more than two miles further and, although the walking is considerably quicker, is likely to take about three quarters of an hour longer.
The guidebook shows an undefined route heading straight towards Bwlch Stwlan from the near the dam, which if fine in dry weather, but can get boggy in wet weather. The alternative is to follow the Carreg Blean-Llym ridge of higher ground to the left, then make for the disused Tip at SH663438, where there is a fairly level path leading north towards Bwlch Stwlan.
Although a clear footpath is shown on O.S. maps, the reality on the ground is not quite so clear. The path tends to meander around over the undulating ground and it is quite easy to go astray. The GPX file attempts to follow visible paths, but these can change over the years, so it is not as definitive as could be desired. However, it is not too difficult in this area to walk over rough ground in the general direction that is required until the clearer path up onto the ridge comes into sight.
The Hostel Variant route approaches the hostel from the hill to the south, through the woodlands of the extensive hostel grounds. A path leads off from the public right of way at SH642510 and this used to have a sign indicating that led to the hostel. However, more recently there has been a lot of disruption caused by logging vehicles, making the route more difficult to follow. To make matters worse, there is a large fallen tree blocking the path when entering the hostel grounds just beyond a stile built into the wall that is easy to miss at SH 6399 5112. The only way that was apparent to pass the fallen tree was by going underneath, with a gap of about two foot on muddy ground. In the hostel they say that few people now use this route, so it is unlikely to improve. It may, therefore, be better to take the main Cambrian Way Route to Bethania and enter the hostel from the main road entrance. The GPX file (Section 15A) has been corrected as well as possible.
About 10 years ago, a new route was built to take the Watkin Path through woodland a little way to the west of its original route, yet this is still not shown on the latest online maps. However, there can be little mistaking the route as it is so well marked. The GPX file attempts to show the correct route.
Above the waterfalls on Afon Cwm Llan, The Cambrian Way route passes the Gladstone Rock then heads for a bridge over the river by an old quarry and tip at SH612524. However, if you are not interested in the Gladstone Rock, the route from SH621520 to Bwlch Cwm Lan has been proposed by the Snowdonia National Park Authority as a better route with pathwork improvements underway.
After following the path by Llyn Ogwen, the GPX file incorrectly showed it following the right of way past Tal y Llyn Farm to cross the wall at SH668608. However, it should, as shown in the guidebook, turn up the hillside before crossing the stream. The GPX file has been amended accordingly.
There is an error in the 7th Edition of the Guidebook where some renumbering of maps took place from Map 42 onwards. The reference "See 47A" on Map 47 should say "See 48A".
The GPX file (Section 18A) has been amended to follow the route on the ground better.