One of my lockdown projects was to post details of an activation of this North Wales summit which we squeezed in between lockdowns in July 2020 (perhaps not 1920 as I first typed, thanks Tom) - and I am now squeezing this report in before those lucky GW activators are allowed up their hills. Hope it won’t be long before those just over that little border are allowed to join in…! Here we go:-
We had been up Moel Ysgyfarnogod (GW/NW-038, SH 658345, on the northern end of the Rhinogs) a few times from the east when on the way up to Snowdonia from Dolgellau but I had long wanted to try the longer route from the west and thus visit Bryn Cader Faner, the lonely Bronze Age stone circle, on the way. In July last year we were based near Porthmadog which seemed the ideal opportunity and it would get us away from the ‘madding crowds’ who were besieging Snowdon and the higher summits. We drove up to Llyn Tecwyn Isaf (limited parking) so we could reach the SOTA summit as well. The lake was beautiful and we admired the water lilies as we walked on up the road, took a right turn followed by a left (signed Taith Ardudwy Way) onto a track to Caerwych farm. Passing the farm buildings we turned right beside a low barn
and were on a grassy track, with signposts, for the next couple of miles with lovely views and many small bridges over the little streams.
The ‘Taith Ardudwy Way’ markers were a great help as our destination kept us guessing until we finally saw it (and 3 people) on a distant spur. It was only at the last moment that we realised the signposts were not actually sending us to the stone circle (but were pointing to the right and the Trail was going down the valley) while we went straight on and up the spur to the stone circle. This might not be obvious in poor visibility.
I knew that Bryn Cader Faner (SH 648353) had been the finest Bronze Age site in North Wales, consisting of about 30 stones which, very unusually, leaned outwards rather than standing erect with a burial chamber at the centre of the circle. Some good pictures (including a panorama which makes me seasick!) are at Bryn Cader Faner - Cairn Circle - Gwynedd The site was plundered in the 19th Century and some stones were destroyed by the Army when training for WWII so only about 18 stones are left and the circle is rather smaller than I had expected, 8.5m wide and less than 1m high, but its position is magnificent. On approaching from below it is obvious why it is known as the ‘crown of thorns’ as the leaning slabs are very distinctive.
We were lucky to have the stones to ourselves as another party was approaching as we left on the way to our summit – and it was ‘occupied’ when we passed it on our way back to the car.
From Bryn Cader Faner we basically headed SE hoping to find a way through or round the small scarp on our right and up to Llyn Dywarchen. The going was slow and sometimes boggy but getting through the rocks was relatively easy and I found myself suddenly on flat ground looking up to a rather steep western flank of Moel Ysgyfarnogod on the other side of the lake … and about to cross the path of 2 people who were travelling at right angles to us and were equally surprised to see another person!
We had been intending to go anticlockwise round the lake and probably skirt round to the south but, on their advice as they had just come down the hill, we went to the left (clockwise), through some very small mine workings and then aimed straight up the hill beside a stream which took us almost to the top and the magnificent views as all the hills were clear.
As it had taken nearly 4 hours (including a long stay at the stone circle) to reach the summit from the car we did not want to spend long getting our contacts but it took a bit longer than expected. Perhaps the 5 70cm contacts in 8 minutes we managed at the beginning of our Moel Hebog (GW/NW-014) the day before and a total of 9 on 70cm and 14 on 2m fm had rather raised our expectations!! However we were on a much smaller summit, were at an unusual time for a SOTA activation (1340 UTC)and had some rather high mountains just North of us so had to rely mainly on a keen selection of chasers down the Welsh coast.
Once again, we only had the VX-7 and dipole as M0JLA didn’t feel like carrying the HF gear but, with the help of GW4VPX (Lampeter), MW0OFA (Blaenfoss), MW0UPH/M (Barmouth), GW6TKK (Fishguard), GW0JLX (Cilgerran) and 2W0NLH/P (Newport) we had qualified on both 2m and 70cm within about 45 mins. We then took down quickly and started the descent, with good views over to the Lleyn Peninsula,
which went more rapidly than I’d feared and we were back at the car by 1800.
A lovely walk on a good day but with the cloud down navigation after the stone circle might be challenging. There are other routes to the stone circle which are shorter (eg from above Eisingrug) but this looked the most convenient, and scenic, when based at Penrhyndeudraeth.