Newest Review: ... hill at the west with Mold lying to the east. Moel Famau, together with the Loggerheads country park lie just off the A494 Ruthin road... more
Challenging walks and beautiful scenery
Moel Famau Country Park (Wales)
Member Name: markos9
Moel Famau Country Park (Wales)
Advantages: Gorgeous countryside with plenty of wildlife
Disadvantages: Can get a bit busy at weekends
Moel Famau Country Park is in the Clwydian Range Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Moel Famau is the name of the mountain that forms the highest point in the Clywdian range.
The country park is an outstanding place for walkers. The area is aptly designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty; the scenery is gorgeous and the views from the top of Moel Famau are far reaching and, on a clear day, can be breathtaking.
Walking is not the only activity that the park caters for, however. Mountain biking is popular and there are trails from the lower car park.
The country park is signposted from the A494; there are two car parks, the lower and the higher. The lower car park is the one that's reached first. This is a pay and display car park (cost £1), which opens at 8am, but there are a few spaces before the barrier for early birds (like me!). To reach the higher car park, simply carry on up the road for about half a mile.
There are few facilities at the park. There are toilets, and a baked potato van is there at weekends, but that's about it. There are, however, some excellent interpretation boards showing the park and it's wildlife as well as four superbly colour coded and way marked routes (useful for people like me who can't read a map!).
Let me take you on a walk through the country park to the summit of Moel Famau.
From the car park, the posts showing the red and blue routes point up a steep gravel path through broadleaved woodland. The lower slopes of Moel Famau are full of birds and in the summer, will be alive with bird song. Redstarts, willow warbler, chiffchaff, and song thrush will all be heard, and if you're lucky, several cuckoos will be calling their disyllabic, monotonous (but strangely appealing) call.
At the top of this path, I pause for a rest (I said it was steep!) and to enjoy the scenery. The woodland opens out, and the coniferous forest across the valley dominates the scene. In the morning, on a sunny day, the sun will be creeping over the low hills to the east, casting golden rays of sunshine onto this lovely place.
Here, the red and blue routes diverge. I'm going to describe the blue route in detail. The red can be described quickly; very, very, steep. In truth, the blue route is longer, easier, but also more beautiful so I much prefer it to the red route.
The blue route continues level for a while, along the edge of the start of the coniferous woodland. The character of the walk therefore changes; the massive conifers tower above you to the right, whilst the valley drops away to the left. The bird song changes, too. Goldcrests and coal tits will be calling in their high pitched voices and siskins and redpolls will be buzzing at the tops of the trees.
After about 1/3 mile the very helpful maker posts direct you sharp right up through the conifers for a few hundred yards. At the top, there's another clearing with another chance to enjoy the views of the rising sun (OK, I get my breath back here, too!).
Here, a couple of hundred feet up from the car park, the landscape begins to change again. Heather and bilberry can be seen in small clumps at the side of the path; a taste of the heather moorland to come.
Another steep bit follows (it's at this point I often ask myself WHY I'm climbing this mountain!) before the conifers are left behind and the heather takes over.
Here, you can see the summit with its heather clad slopes, although it's often wreathed in cloud. This is a good place to stop as it can be really wildlife rich. Tree pipits can be seen and heard in summer and crossbills may be at the tops of the trees or flying across the clearing calling 'chip chip'.
These birds, like their name suggests have their upper and lower bills crossed. This enables them to prise open pine cones and get at the seeds inside (their only food).
If you're really lucky, in spring, that powerful bird of prey, the goshawk could be displaying above you. This rare, normally secretive bird is hardly ever seen except at this time of year, but most of the forest's inhabitants live in fear of it; it will eat almost anything.
The marker posts now direct you to the left, along a ridge, around the side of the mountain. Here the walk can result in a bit of a shock. You may be walking along quietly when a chicken sized black bird explodes from the heather in front of you and flies off at high speed, calling frantically! This is a black grouse. These are now very rare in Britain, but, due to good management of the moorland, are doing well in the country park. Red grouse, their smaller cousin can also be found here, too.
At the end of this section, the walk joins Offa's Dyke path on a final steep walk to the summit. You'll notice now, a strange structure at the top of the hill; this is the Jubilee Tower. It was built in the 1800's to commemorate the jubilee of George III. The tower was originally much taller than the remains, but a storm in 1862 reduced the impressive monument to the 'stump' that's all that's left now.
The summit has been reached now and the reward is (if the weather allows) the fantastic vista that's all around. There's a display at the top of the tower indicating landmarks that can be seen and their distance. I was amazed to see that one of the tallest mountains in Wales, Cadair Idris is visible; forty miles away! Liverpool and the Dee Estuary can be seen easily as well as the startlingly white church at Bodelwyddan.
The summit will feel colder than the car park and is often windy. This is, however, a superb spot for a picnic; the huge bulk of the tower gives shelter from the wind and some shelter from any rain. As you eat your well earned meal, reflect that you're now 1818ft up; higher than anywhere else in the region, really on top of the world!
Birds such as raven and peregrine can often be seen flying effortlessly around the summit. Tiny meadow pipits will certainly be around. My most bizarre wildlife encounter happened earlier this year at the base of the tower. I found a badger, 1800ft up a mountain, amazing! It was in some distress so I left it well alone (I have no idea what happened to it or whether it survived).
Keen walkers can continue along the Clywdian Range towards Moel Arthur and beyond. Unless I'm feeling really energetic, I usually just spend half an hour at the top before making my way back to the car, retracing the blue route.
Moel Famau Country Park, as I hope I've shown, is a beautiful place to visit at any time of the year. There are many more possible walks than the one I've described; the park covers over 1800 acres so is quite extensive. The mountain, despite it's popularity, has a sense of wildness about it. It's a place I return to again and again.
Summary: A lovely place to walk off some excess calories!
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