Moel Famau Country Park (Wales)
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.
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Loggerheads Country Park (Wales)
The title I have chosen for this review basically says it all. I have lived in the same area for the past twelve years and it is only very recently that I have come to realise how lucky I am in having such a beautiful, tranquil beauty spot a mere 10 minute drive away. Loggerheads has been a constant, and quite often daily, ... walking spot for me and my dogs over the years and I find it hard to believe that I have only just considered writing a review on it in the hope that other people, who may be unaware of this place, can enjoy it. Truth be told, I would prefer to have the place all to myself, but that wouldn't be fair would it?
I have been in two minds whether to write this review myself, or allow my two dogs to put paw to paper and share their views on Loggerheads. After all, it's a very thin line between who enjoys going there the most: them or me. There is nothing more enjoyable on a hot sunny day than mooching through the forest, finding some nice refreshing mud to roll in and then jumping into the crystal clear waters of the river to cool off - and the dogs quite enjoy doing this too!!
Joking aside, this really is a fantastic place and I do hope that it will encourage readers who find themselves in the area to take a little look around this very pretty country park.
And so, on with the review.
A Little Loggerheads Information
Loggerheads Country Park forms part of the Clwydian Range, which is one of only eight protected landscapes in Wales. The 80 acres of Country Park was created down in the limestone valley and accessible walking areas include both the gentle pathways on the valley floor, or up to the top of the rock through the cool forest.
Loggerheads is approached via a fairly narrow driveway which can be a little daunting if you meet a car coming the other way. Fortunately, this only stretches for approximately 30 metres so it is certainly not a death trap. This pathway leads you directly into the car park where you will find the usual pay machines (more on that later) and fairly large information boards detailing the various species of birds you may see whilst in the park. Despite the somewhat formidable driveway leading up to the park, once inside the grounds, this really is a very attractive area and you find yourself surrounded by trees and rock, the rock face itself towering above the mere mortals who come to visit.
Basically, you have a choice of two directions in which you can go off to explore. The first direction I will cover is the one that I use most often, and takes visitors to the lower section of the valley and is, in my opinion, the prettiest. This area is accessed by walking across the small bridge which crosses the stream, and on past the cafe and picnic area which I will cover in greater detail later in the review. Crossing a second bridge, this time an old stone offering, you find yourself on one of the main pathways that lead through the Country Park. To the right hand side of the path, walkers are dwarfed by the magnificent limestone rock, and to the left, the path follows the river which is always low enough at this point to bubble over the rocks below. Further along, there is a very low point down to the water's edge which is a favourite for people with young children to go paddling (and when it's quiet, I usually let the dogs take a dip here). The path then takes a right turn which leads to a fairly dense wooded area, and I would warn people to be wary when walking through here due to the amount of mud which is usually present! At the time of writing this review, this area, together with many others parts of Loggerheads, appears to be in the midst of a major thinning out and tree felling period which I assume is with the intention of maintaining the natural environment and preventing everything from becoming too choked up with greenery. As you continue along this route, it begins to become obvious that you are getting a little higher as the river suddenly appears to be much lower down than before. In fact, you could probably call it a fairly huge drop! Suddenly, the path stops! Now here, you can either turn round and go back the way you came, cross the river to get to the other side, or if you are feeling brave (and believe me, you do need to be energetic and fit to do this) you can climb the extremely high set of winding stone steps which will take you to the top of the cliff face. This is still very pretty and surrounded by some nice old trees, but for anyone with breathing difficulties, I would strongly advise again this. I used to do this route a lot when the dogs were younger, but even they cannot manage this anymore. The park authorities are obviously sympathetic with the walkers because they have very kindly put a bench at the top, which I assume is to allow people to get their breath back. So, once at the top, it's all downhill from here as they say, and you continue your walk through a very large forest, before arriving back onto the main road just a couple of hundred yards from the main entrance to the Country Park. I would add that, once at the top of the rock face, the view is magnificent and you can appreciate just how high you are because you can look down onto the car park and the cars look like small dots. The surrounding landscape is magnificent and you come to realise that the climb really was worth the effort.
On many occasions whilst travelling along this route, I have noticed that the park authorities have arranged old logs and tree trunks to mimic natural habitats in order to encourage the wildlife.
The alternative route to this is approached via the left hand side of the car park and I will not go into as much detail here, simply due to the fact that there is not as much to see. This route basically runs parallel to the previous route, but takes its visitors a little higher, a little sooner. The pathway along this route is a little more dangerous because, unlike before, there is no concrete footpath, but merely a 'trail' cut out of the hillside. In addition, there is no barrier between the pathway and the huge drop on the other side, so this is certainly not suitable for anyone with a fear of heights. If you have curious dogs and/or children who are prone to having a look over the edge, keep them on a short lead (dogs AND children!) As I mentioned earlier, there is not a great deal to see along here, and if you continue along, you cross a small section of the river and simply meet up with the path on the other side which meets the high stone steps.
One good thing about both of these routes is the fact that there are numerous benches positioned along the pathways, so if the walk is getting a little too much for you, you can rest your legs for a little while and get your breath back.
Parking (or not)
I think the main disadvantage of the car park is the minimal amount of spaces. It is fairly easy to navigate in that it comprises approximately four rows of bays, each bay accommodating around ten cars. That may seem quite a large space to some, but come the summer and, hopefully, nicer weather, it is amazing how quickly this becomes full to the brim. Many visitors park along the main road just outside the Country Park, but in the height of summer, even that gets busy. I suppose it goes to show how popular this place is.
The car park itself has two pay machines. Now, one advantage of living in this area is parking prices. Loggerheads is no exception, and the parking fee for up to one hour is 20p. Charges rise in small increments and, if I remember rightly, I think the charge for up to three hours is in the region of 50p. For people who intend to visit on a regular basis, an annual parking permit is available from Denbighshire County Council. I have just purchased my first one for £25 and this allows me unlimited parking for the next twelve months. I would add that, although I am not covering it this review, the pass also includes parking for the adjoining beauty spot 'Moel Famau'.
For regular visitors like myself, educational parties can be a bit of a nightmare at times. Put it this way: two soggy dogs and a party of excitable youngsters don't always go hand in hand! (Though, it is funny seeing everyone jump to one side when the dogs want to say 'hello') However, I do appreciate that Loggerheads is a great place for nature trails and school trips. There are some really good services available to help children learn about the environment, such as learning packs for teachers who take their class on a guided walk round Loggerheads, self guided interactive tours and guided tours with park rangers. There are also various activities going on throughout the year, though you need to check with the park itself to see what is on offer at any particular time.
The most important thing I want to mention first in this section is the ice-cream! Is it Welsh? No! The ice-cream kiosk, which incidentally forms part of the cafe, prides itself on selling Cheshire Farm ice-cream which is renowned in Cheshire (obviously!) for its creaminess and rich flavour. The cafe itself sells a fairly wide variety of both hot and cold food, though as I have never eaten anything (apart from the ice-cream) here, I will not comment on how good it is. However, I can confirm that the cafe is always busy in the summer months so I suppose that is a good enough recommendation in itself.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a fairly large picnic lawn opposite the cafe and this is very popular with families and is ideal for younger children who want to have a kick about with a ball. Picnic benches are dotted around the lawn and it really is a pleasant little area in which people can sit and relax. Dogs are now allowed on here.
Just opposite Loggerheads is the Loggerheads Pub. This does wonderful food and has plenty of tables and benches outside so that you can eat your lunch and take in the scenery. I would add that this does not form part of the Country Park and you do need to leave the park itself to gain access to the pub.
Where To Find It
Loggerheads Country Park is situated on the main Mold to Ruthin Road (A494) and is clearly marked by the usual brown tourist signs. The turning can be a little confusing to strangers due to the fact that the sign directs you up a side road, but does not tell you that you have to bear immediately right once on this road. It is very easy to miss the entrance so, to any visitors arriving for the first time, this is something to bear in mind.
My personal opinion is that the good points far outweigh the bad. This is a wonderful place for people of all ages to visit due to the fact that you can choose whether you take the easy, scenic walking route, or whether you don the hiking boots and climb to the top of the cliff. Either way, the scenery is fantastic and you can even smell the wild garlic which grows on the valley floor. The water in the river and streams is crystal clear and ideal for children (and dogs!) to have a quick paddle.
There is only one real bad point that comes to mind and that is the lack of dog waste bins available. I always make sure that I clean up after my dogs, but there is nothing worse than trying to enjoy a nice walk with a bag of **** in my hand. Therefore, the only improvement I think that could be made is to increase the number of bins available. However, it has just occurred to me that there also seems to be a short supply of general waste bins too. There is one fairly large one outside the cafe, but I cannot recall seeing any more along either of the routes that I have mentioned.
Overall, I would highly recommend Loggerheads to any potential visitor to the area. This is a lovely place to visit, whether you are out with your children and/or dogs, or whether you simply fancy a leisurely stroll. I know that it is extremely popular with local people like me, but I have heard of people travelling miles to visit. There is nothing I could really fault with this place, maybe with the exception of the lack of waste bins, but all in all Loggerheads provides a wonderful, atmospheric environment for all.
A Final Point (not relating to Loggerheads)
I would just like to add that although I live in this beautiful part of the country, I am not actually Welsh so apologise to any Welsh readers if I have made any spelling errors in relation to the place names. I am sure I have got them right, but please feel free to correct me if not!
Thanks for reading.
(Also on Ciao under the name 'matthewsmum')
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Snowdonia National Park (Wales)
I was born in the West Midlands and lived there until 2002 when we all moved to Llandudno in North Wales. My husband, Dave, and I bought a large Victorian house and mom and dad came to live with us so that I could be their full time carer. We have now sadly lost both of them and Dave and I have moved to a small cottage on the ... Great Orme here in Llandudno as our old house was far too big for just two of us.
The view from the front of our cottage is of the sea and the Snowdon Mountains beyond and it got me thinking that it was about time I wrote a review about this beautiful part of the world.
The Snowdonia National Park stretches from Llandudno in the north to Machynlleth in the south and from the west coast of Wales inland as far as Bala.
I don't intend to go into minute detail in this review but rather to give you a flavour for the area and its attractions. Where I have written a separate review on a particular subject I will put (R) for your information. I am not touting for reads but if there is something that you are particularly interested in you can take a look.
Beginning where I live - Llandudno (R) is a typical Victorian seaside resort with two large sweeping bays separated by The Great Orme (R). This is a headland which was formed in prehistoric times and affords some lovely walks with beautiful views. There is a cable car or tram (R) to take you to the top or you can walk if you are fit! There are also some Bronze Age Copper Mines (R) which are well worth a visit too.
Moving west along the coast we come to the walled town of Conwy with its imposing castle and pretty shops. You can still walk almost all the way round the town on the top of the walls - a really interesting walk I might add.
West again takes us to Bangor, the home of Bangor University which has quite a well known research facility. The town has an up to date shopping centre and a large out of town shopping areas with a huge Tesco's, B & Q, and Focus DIY etc.
Caernarfon is next as the coast dips southwards. Again there is a castle well worth a visit and a decent little shopping centre too. You can catch a boat here to cruise along the Menai Straits.
Staying with the coast we now move directly south from Caernarfon across the base of the Llyn Peninsula, as this does not form part of Snowdonia, to Porthmadoc. This is a pleasant enough little town with a main street of gift shops and a pretty harbour.
Just outside Porthmadoc is the Italianate village of Portmerion where the 1960's series The Prisoner was filmed. You have to pay to visit Portmerion but it is so unusual I thought it was worth the money although I can't remember now how much we paid!
As we move south again we find yet another superb castle at Harlech, a traditional seaside town at Barmouth and a small town with lots of caravans at Tywyn.
Moving inland Machynlleth and Dolgellau are lovely little towns - great if you fancy mooching round some nice gift shops.
Well, that's the outskirts of the area covered so now we'll move into the main area of the mountains for which Snowdonia is famous.
The highest of these mountains is of course Mount Snowdon which gives the park its name. Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales and the second highest in Great Britain and you can reach the top by climbing up one of the many marked paths or by travelling on the Snowdon Mountain Railway (R) - an amazing ride! By next year the new café at the top of the mountain will be open too.
The town at the foot of Snowdon is Llanberis - again with some nice gift shops. There is a lake here with a narrow gauge railway along the side and boats to be hired. There is also an amazing place called Electric Mountain (R) where you can go on a tour into the Elidir Mountain to visit the Dinorwig Power Station built inside the mountain.
Beddgelert is a lovely village in the Snowdonia National Park with some really nice shops and some lovely walks along the river. The home made ice cream shop is not to be missed!
Blaenau Ffestiniog is the centre of one the main slate mining areas and tours are available into the now disused mines.
Another really pretty town in the area is Betws y Coed. There are some really nice gift shops here, together with shops selling walking and mountaineering equipment and lots of tea rooms and restaurants.
Just down the road from Betws y Coed is the famous Swallow Falls which for those of you who don't know is a stunning waterfall and is well worth a visit.
So there you are, I have described the various places to visit within the Snowdonia National Park but of course the whole area is famous for its outstanding scenery. There are walks for every level of fitness from an amble along a flat path next to the river at Betws y Coed up to a climb up Snowdon or Cader Idris.
There are rivers and lakes for canoeing and white water rafting via various clubs and activity holidays.
Obviously I haven't covered everything about the area or you'd be loosing the will to live by now - if you aren't already!
If you want to find out any more you could always visit www.snowdonia-wales.net which is a really informative website.
Basically I am saying that my new home is beautiful and is well worth visiting whatever the weather so who needs to go abroad?
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Wales National Park
National Park / The park lies North East Wales bordering the counties of Denbighshire and Flintshire. It is well known for the prominent Jubilee Tower remains at the summit.
National Park / North Wales - 80 acres of a tree lined limestone valley with riverside walks & a history of lead mining
NATIONAL PARK. National Park Officer, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, Winch Lane, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire SA61 1PY, Wales. Tel: +44 (0)1437 764 636 Fax: +44 (0)1437 769 045. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
NATIONAL PARK. National Park Officer, Snowdonia National Park Authority, Penrhyndeudraeth, Gwynedd, LL48 6LF, Wales. Tel: +44 (0)1766 770 274 Fax: +44 (0)1766 771 211. Snowdonia gets it's name from Snowdon - the highest mountain in England / Wales.
Brecon Road, Penycae, Swansea Valley SA9 1GL.
Tel/FAX: +44 (0)1639 730395
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