|Although by no means an expert in such matters, I'd nonetheless be very surprised if the high level route crossing the main ridge of Y Berwyn at Bwlch Maen Gwynedd hasn't been in use for millennia... travellers braving such a hostile landscape perhaps reassured by the presence of ancestors interred within numerous round cairns upon the surrounding peaks. Possibly even pausing to give thanks for safe passage at the wondrous Moel ty Uchaf before the final descent to the Dee valley? Or vice versa. Now whether the eastern section of the route was through Cwm Maen Gwynedd itself, or following the crest of the high eastern ridge of Y Berwyn (rising above it to the north) is perhaps a moot point. Needless to say there are many precedents for such high routes which may well have been far more practical back in days of yore.
Mynydd Tawr - the Hill of the Bull - is very nearly the most eastern 2,000ft summit of Y Berwyn (Moel Fferna actually just shades that distinction) and, as such, does not feature on many walking itineraries.... least of all mine for the past 20-odd years. However it has the added attraction (for Stoneheads, that is) of a quite substantial Bronze Age cairn crowning its 2,234ft summit... together with an enigmatic 'mound' to the north east (more on these 'mounds' later). So guess I had to pay a visit sooner or later.
The 'phone box at Tyn-y-fford - minus 'phone, as I recall - to the south of the mountain (at SJ118309 where a car can be carefully parked) is a good starting point for an ascent, locals passing in well used land rovers proving to be a lot more friendly than the dogs in the nearby farm... the latter somewhat noisy blighters, it has to be said. Anyway, follow the dead end road uphill, beyond Maes farm, until a gate gives signed access to a field, forestry visible to the north encompassing the eastern flank of the mountain. The traveller can either follow a byway ascending diagonally to the left, or simply put the head down and climb VERY steeply beside the treeline, directly to the summit. Yeah, brains or brawn. I 'choose' brawn' because I don't read the map properly. Appropriate, perhaps? Incidentally one is inclined to wonder if the byway may have had an ancient origin?
Nourished by the excellent retrospective views, the summit is attained, the cairn proving to be a slight disappointment in comparison with the Pumlumon monuments visited a few days earlier. At approx 1m in height and containing a large 'storm shelter'/ sheep shelter / shooting shelter (dunno which, although this is grouse country) the cairn is not the finest of monuments, but nevertheless still covers a fair old area. The views - northwards toward the Clwydian Hills, southwards to the beautiful Tanat valley and the rolling hills of Mid Wales and, in particular, westwards along the twisting ridge beyond Foel Wen and Tomle to the main summits of Y Berwyn - are more than worth the asking price of the ascent in their own right.
I head to the west, then, pausing at the excellent crags of Cerrig Geneugiaid for a while to savour the unbridled wildness of the landscape. Although a fenceline guides the way (handy if caught in mist) the going is tough, thanks to very poor drainage and trademark Berwyn heather. Foel Wen possesses another enigmatic 'mound' of unknown origin, 2,431ft Tomle, a small quartzite summit cairn and at least one, additional 'mound'. Whether these are clearance or not I guess only excavation may determine. Must admit that the grassed-over example near the quartzite cairn looks too substantial to these eyes, but perhaps that's wishful thinking in light of the ancient route hypothesis. What is certain, however, is another large, round cairn on the shoulder of Cadair Berwyn beyond the bwlch. Not to mention another crowning Cadair Bronwen to the north-west..... and several more a'top Cadair Berwyn and Moel Sych, the flanks of which dominate the whole western scene. The standing stone marking the path across the bwlch is apparently a boundary stone. But of Bronze Age origin?
So there you are... the walk arguably raises a lot more questions than it provides answers. But it is nonetheless an integral piece of the Bronze Age jigsaw of Y Berwyn. And it's also bloody enjoyable at whatever cerebral level you care to mention. Late evening sun illuminates the Mynydd Tawr cairn as I squeeze every last moment from time before the final descent. Too late to find a camp-site for the night, I settle for the Arans' Bwlch y Groes as the night's stop-over ... with my beady, cormorant eye upon a possible visit to Craig-yr-Aderyn tomorrow.
Posted by GLADMAN
17th December 2011ce
Edited 30th December 2012ce