Wilderness Wales


Fan Brycheiniog Day

{[Cloud over Fan Brycheiniog]}My first historic trip report recounted my {first ascent of Fan Brycheiniog} 25 years ago this month. To celebrate this event I decided to recreate that trip with an anniversary walk, ideally following the same route in the same weather conditions. I’ve been waiting all month for suitable conditions and yesterday the weather obliged, with only a couple of days to spare. So as planned, I set off to visit Fan Hir, Fan Brycheiniog and the Vampire aircraft wreck.

{[Clouds over Pen y Fan]}Since the exact date of the original trip is unknown, I decided that whichever date I happened to do the anniversary walk on, I’d label that “Fan Brycheiniog Day”. So, 29th May it is then!

Of course, it was never going to be easy to follow the exact route because I couldn’t remember exactly where I went, and I decided that it wouldn’t matter if the details weren’t exactly the same, so long as it was roughly correct. As it turned out, doing the walk gave me a much better idea of where I probably went first time.

Fan Hir & Fan Brycheiniog - 29th May 2007

{[Bannau Sir Gaer]}The weather wasn’t identical, but it wasn’t too different. I do remember that I did the walk in a T-shirt and that there was no cold breeze on the tops, so first time around it was somewhat warmer. Still, it was pretty close, especially from a visual point of view, which was what mattered for the photos. This time I’d be taking plenty!

As for repeating the walk with the original equipment, i.e. nothing! Forget it! No chance of that. This time I’d be taking a rucksack, waterproofs, food and water, navigation equipment, walking poles and of course camera gear. No need to recreate the original too closely! [;-)]

The Ascent to Fan Hir

{[Fan Gyhirych]}I parked at Pont Haffes rather than the Gwyn Arms and made my way north-west through the farm. At a stile I met three walkers, two dressed in army gear, who told me they’d just walked 25km.

I headed directly up through the fields, which I think was my original route. However at the top there was a new forest, which wasn’t there originally. I followed a wall through the forest and fortunately the going wasn’t too rough. At the fence at the top there was an obvious place to cross the fence, with stones piled up on either side and a faint path leading away from it. This confirmed that it used to be the the way onto the hillside.

{[Fan Hir]}As I climbed the slope to Allt Fach at 463m, I looked back and saw a stile further west, so I made a note to return that way. I doubt that I visited the actual summit of Allt Fach first time around, but I did so anyway, since it was on my route. There was a good view of Fan Hir from here.

{[Walkers on Fan Hir]}I used the GPS to try to locate the Burnt Mound marked on the map, but I found nothing but a boggy area. Unfortunately this took me away from the path so I was walking across lumpy boggy grass for a little while. As I did so a party of 10 teenage backpackers overtook me, presumably doing the Duke of Edinburgh award.

{[Fan Hir]}I nearly caught up with them as they rested but instead I took a detour to the edge of the cliff to locate a good photo viewpoint, which was also a good spot for a bite to eat. Pen y Fan had just come into view too.

{[Overhanging Rock]}I stopped for another longish photo session a bit further along in an area of interesting rocks. As I got higher the cold breeze got stronger, and I ended up having to put on my fleece jacket and thinsulate hat.

When I reached the summit I marked it with my GPS, Egnos helping to give an EPE of just 2m. The party of teenagers had just reached Fan Brycheiniog.

The breeze dissipated as I descended to the col. It was a lot more pleasant down there. I located the col and marked that with my GPS too.

The Ascent to Fan Brycheiniog

{[Fan Hir from Bwlch y Giedd]}I was starting to get a bit tired on the final ascent, an indication of how unfit I’ve become recently. I really must get out more often! I was pleased to get the summit to myself, one of the advantages of walking mid-week. I marked the trig with my GPS and let it average for 5 minutes or so. Now that EGNOS is working I wanted to get the best possible reading to compare with the official grid ref. I got an EPE of just 1.7m and took a photo of it to prove it. I’ll report on how it compared later.

{[Self portrait at the trig point]}I don’t usually photograph myself, but figuring that this was a special occasion I went to the trouble of setting up the tripod for a quick self-portrait at the trig. I then stopped in the summit shelter for a bite to eat, and tucked into some chocolate “anniversary” cake that my mother had given me. After that I retraced my steps to the col and finally got out of the cold breeze.

The Descent to the Aircraft Wrecks

{[Looking down the Haffes valley at the Vampire wreck]}Skirting around the base of Fan Hir was easy, there was a faint path and the ground was good. Once I reached the head of the Afon Haffes I immediately saw the wreck of the vampire in the distance, glinting in the sunlight, from approximately 600m away. This is no doubt how I spotted it in the first place, 25 years ago.

{[The wreck of the Vampire]}I soon reached a large flat topped rock, it’s quite possible that we’d stopped on this for a rest, and the wreck was quite visible from here. The wreck was concentrated in two places, so I stopped, photographed and marked waypoints at both. Some distance further on, hidden in another stream, I found more pieces of wreckage, so I duly marked and photographed it.

{[Mynydd Du, looking west]}From there I headed in roughly a straight line to what little remains of the wreck of a Wellington bomber. I hadn’t done this on my original walk but it wasn’t far off my route so I thought I’d take the opportunity to visit it. Unfortunately my straight line took me through a lot of rough, boggy ground. I’m pretty sure I didn’t come this way first time around. Judging the lay of the land I assume that I probably regained altitude after visiting the vampire to return to contouring around the base of Fan Hir. I’ll have to trace a new route and revise my previous estimates of the original walk.

{[Solitary cloud above Carreg Goch and Disgwylfa]}Checking my route on top of aerial photographs afterwards I discovered that had I taken a higher line or a lower line I’d have missed most of the boggy ground. I really should have checked that before the walk rather than after! Ah well, I’m still learning from new mistakes even after 25 years!

{[The Wellington Wreck]}The Wellington wreck was exactly where the grid ref that Bill Grey had given me told me it was, or at least a small memorial cairn with some crosses in it was. But where was the wreckage? At first I saw nothing at all. I knew there was very little left of it, but I couldn’t see anything at all.

As I looked below the cairn though, I finally noticed some very small blobs of melted aluminium in amongst the rocks, quite a few of them. So I took some photos and marked an accurate waypoint. This wreck has always been notoriously difficult to find, partly since the grid ref listed in the Aircraft Crash Sites manual was way off, about 500m to the ESE.

{[Fan Gyhirych]}The walking got marginally easier after this, with tracks appearing through the drier tussock grass. I made my way back to the stile I’d spotted on the way up and followed a permissive path that I didn’t know about (which isn’t marked on the maps) which skirted the fields and led back to the right of way that crosses the Afon Haffes. The start point of this path is a stile on the north side of the right of way, just before you get to the river. and is well marked until you get onto the hillside. After that, you’re on your own!


{[Llyn y Fan Fawr from Bwlch y Giedd]}Due to my current lack of fitness and penchant for photography the walk took me a lot longer than anticipated, but at least I got back before dark. That’s one advantage of these long late spring days. And although I was knackered by the end of it, it was still a good day out. It didn’t have quite the same magic that it did first time around, but it was nice to finally repeat the walk, even if it wasn’t exactly the same. And of course, I got some photos this time, 246 of them! [:-)]

GPS Distance: 13.5km
GPS Ascent: 811m (this seems a little too high)
Time: 7 hours 8 minutes

Posted on Wednesday, May 30, 2007


  1. Bill Grey | 17 June, 2007 at 8:16 pm

Hi paul,

Well worth waiting for - smashing.

The photos are all very good indeed - gorgeous light conditions.

I particularly like the one of the rock overlooking fan Hir.

Great stuff.

Best wishes - Bill

  2. Paul Saunders | 17 June, 2007 at 8:58 pm

Thanks Bill. That was the main reason I waited until so late in the month before doing the walk. I particularly wanted to have good weather for it.