Our Brecon Beacons holiday is based at Tara B&B, has multiple start dates and allows you to do any combination of our Day Tours and Guided hikes. Our Road Trips have a Scenery Explained theme, and visit Wales’ most interesting geological sights as well as the well known general sights.
The dominant structural features in the Geopark are three parallel faults that run through the park from the south west towards the north east. These are named the Carreg Cennen Fault, the Swansea Valley Disturbance and the Neath Disturbance. These faults may well represent ancient lines of weakness from when the landmass of England and Wales was coming together as a series of terranes in the Precambrian. They were active in the Caledonian Orogeny and then again in the later Variscan Orogeny, a mountain building event in the mid to late Carboniferous caused by Laurussia and Gondwana colliding to form the supercontinent Pangaea. Even today as Africa crashes into the Europe to form the Alps it is possible to have small tremors along this fault. In 1999 there was an earthquake measuring 3.5 on the Richter scale centred on Sennybridge. The Variscan Orogeny also had the effect of folding the pre-existing sediments. The best place to see the structural geology of the geopark is Bwa Maen near Pontneddfechan. Here the Neath Valley Disturbance can be seen adjacent to a fold in the Carboniferous Limestone, the two structures together form a faulted anticline (see fig. 7).
These guided hikes are not ordinary guided hikes. They are Scenery Explained interpretative hikes and are packed with information about why the scenery looks the way it does. They are led by geologist and Mountain Leader, James Cresswell, who uses his polar guiding experience to help you imagine how Wales would have looked like in the last Ice Age.
The hikes listed might take longer than listed time depending on the length of our discussions. If the hike ends up taking longer than advertised there will be no increase in price.
2015 Dates: June 27th until August 25th
Brecon Beacons: Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays only
Start: Either hike start point, your accommodation in the Brecon Beacons N.P. area, Abergavenny train station, Brecon bus interchange or Hay-on-Wye bus stop (depending on times)
Gower: Wednesday mornings only
Start: hike start point, or your accommodation in the Brecon Beacons N.P. area
£35 per person (Group size 4 -7)
Minimum spend £140. Please make contact to discuss larger group price
£25 per person (Group size 4-7)
Minimum spend £100. Please make contact to discuss larger group prices
£20 per person (Group size 4 -7)
Minimum spend £80. Please make contact to discuss larger group price
(EASTERN BRECON BEACONS NATIONAL PARK)
RIDGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAINS WALKING FROM THE DOOR OF TARA B&B
Start and End: Tara B&B, Felindre. We walk from the door.
Length: 10 miles (16.5 km)
Height Ascended: 680 metres
Description: We walk from Tara B&B through Hay Forest, where a wonderful waterfall flowing over the Bishop Frome limestone can be seen, and on to the common below Lord Hereford’s Knob. We then ascend Rhiw y Fan checking out the strata of the Old Red Sandstone. We then walk right along the ridge of Black Mountains (Rhos Dirion) all the way to Cwm y Nant. We admire this glacial Cwm pictured above and descend the Dragon’s back making our way back to Felindre.
LORD HEREFORD’S KNOB (TWMPA) AND HAY BLUFF
Start and End: The Stone Circle grid ref: SO239 373
Length: 5.5 miles / 8.9 km
Description: Starting at the Stone Circle we first climb to the summit of Hay Bluff learning about the Old Red Sandstone and harder calcrete layers. From here there are wonderful views of the Wye Valley. We then head along the mountain top, and descend to Gospel Pass the highest road in the National Park. Here we lead that a vein of lead ore was worked out from here and discuss if glaciers ever spilled through this gap. We then climb to the top of Lord Hereford’s Knob with more great views. Then we descend Rhiw Wen and study the excellent outcrops of Old Red Sandstone. We then return to the Stone Circle via the country lane at the bottom of the mountain.
THE FFOREST FAWR GEOPARK
(WESTERN BRECON BEACONS NATIONAL PARK)
PEN-Y-FAN AND THE BRECON BEACONS HORSESHOE
Start and End: Cwm Gwdi (SO 024 428)
Length: 9.5 miles / 15.3 km
Height Ascended: 736 metres
Description: This walk takes in the 3 highest peaks in the Brecon Beacons and is arguably the finest mountain walk in South Wales. We start by climbing up to the foot of Cribyn. There is then an exhasting steep climb to the top of Cribyn. Here we discuss glacial features and the Old Red Sandstone. We then descend to a gap on the mountain ridge, and start to climb to the summit of Pen-y-Fan (886m) the highest peak in southern Britain. Next is the lower summit of Corn Du and then we continue down to Lly Cwm Llwch this the best example of cirque, glacial lake and moraine in the National Park, an an excellent place to discuss glaciology. We then further descend back to the starting place.
Start and End: Car park at Porth yr Ogof (Grid ref: SN 928 123)
Length: 9.5 miles (15.3 km)
Description: This area has the highest concentration of waterfalls in Wales. We start at Porth yr Ogof, the largest cave opening in Wales and make our way past several waterfalls to the magnificent Sgwd yr Eira waterfall that you can walk behind. We then continue through the forest to Dinas Rock and Bwa Maen which is an impressive fold from the Variscan Orogeny. When then pass the Farewell rock and fossil plant remains continuing to Sgwd Gwladus the ‘Lady Waterfall’ which is considered by many to be the most beautiful. We then continue along the side of the Nedd Fechan past several more waterfalls to eventually return to our starting place.
CRIBARTH AND HENRHYD WATERFALL
Photo ©Alan Bowring
Start and End: Craig-y-nos Country Park (SO 840 154)
Length: 8.5 miles (13.7 km)
Description: We start my climbing to the summit of Cribarth a mountain also known as the Sleeping Giant. This maountain is made of limestone and as we climb it is possible to find fossil corals. On the moutnain we admire the view and learn about the quarry workings and industrial revolution. We then walk the length of Cribarth and descend down into the village of Abercraf. From there we follow the beautiful gorge of the Rivetr Llech until we reach Henrhyd Falls. These falls the highest in SOuth Wales flow over the Farewell rock the lowest bed of the coal measures. We then return to our starting point via country lanes.
BLACK MOUNTAIN / CARMARTHEN FANS
Start and End: SN 797 238 near Llanddeusant
Length: 7.2 miles (11.6 km)
Height Ascended: 653 metres
Description: This walk is very much wilder than the Pen-y-Fan walk, and there will be far fewer other people walking it . We start by walking up a track to Llyn-y-Fan Fach. Here we learn about the legend of the lady of the lake and see Upper Old Red Sandstone resting unconformably on the Lower Old Red sandstone. We talk about the formation of the Old Red Sandstone and why the boulders here are made from conglomerate. We also look at the very well preserved glacial moraines and discuss their formation. After this we head to Bwlch Blaen Twrch and up to the summit of Picws Du (749) this is the highest point of the hike and the highest point in Carmarthenshire. We then head along the ridge of Bannau Sir Gaer looking out for organic remains in the Old Red Sandstone and admiring the view of the lake. We then head due west to a rocky hilltop of limestone. Here there is a caveand fossils to be seen. Finally we descend back to our starting place.
Start and End: Storey Arms car park (SN 982 203)
Length: 6 miles (10 km)
Description: This is a Fforest Fawr Geopark Geotrail, and is an excellent walk to learn about glaciation and climate change. We start at Storey Arms which is an ice divide with glaciated valleys stretching both north and south. We then climb up Bryn Du getting a good view of a glacial trimline. On the ridge there is a probable moraine and we discuss the Younger Dryas cooling event. We then head into the wonderful Craig Cerrig Gleisiad and discuss the glacier that would have created it. We then return to the starting place via the other side of Glyn Tarell.
Start and End: The National Park Visitors Centre near Libanus. (SN 978 262)
Length: 6.25 miles (10 km)
Description: This is a Fforest Fawr Geopark Geotrail. It is an easy flat walk. We admire the view of the Brecon Beacons peaks and discuss their glaciation. We also examine various rocks outcrops including one where the remains of a Devonian river channel can be seen in the Old Red Sandstone. We also walk throughTreath Mawr which is a bog and Site of Special Scientific interest, because it contains pollen from the ice ages and interglacials that give us a good way to date these events.
6 hours or Half Day
Start and End: Brecon Town Centre
Length: 8 miles (13 km) or 5 miles (8km)
Description: This hike takes in 2 or 3 of the Fforest Fawr Geopark published Geotrails:
(i) Brecon Geotrail (2.5 miles) which looks at the town’s building stones and rock out cops in the Honddu Valley.
(ii) Brecon River Usk Geotrail (2.5 miles) which looks at river deposits and flood protection.
(iii) Pen-y-crug Geotrail (3miles) This climbs up to the Roman Fort above the town.
RHOSSILI AND WORM’S HEAD
Start and End: Rhossili car park (SS 414 880)
Length: 5 miles 8 km
Description: A walk that examines the geology that creates the distinctive scenery of the Gower Peninsula. It will only be possible to cross the causeway to Worm’s Head on a falling tide.
Suggested 2015Dates for Worms’ Head:
Wednesday 6th May (low tide 14:23)
Wednesday 22nd July (low tide 15:51)
Wednesday 5th August (low tide 15:27)
Wednesday 19th August (low tide 14:37)
CASWELL BAY &LANGLAND BAY
Start and End: Caswell Bay carpark (SS 594 878)
Length: 2.5 miles (4 km)
Description: A walk that looks at Carboniferous Limestone, glacial deposits and the scenery in southeast Gower.
INCLUDED IN THESE HIKES
Guiding and interpretation from Mountain Leader and MSc. Geo-scientist.
A luxury homemade picnic lunch from Beeton For Time catering.
NOT INCLUDED IN THESE HIKES
*Due to insurance regulations transportation cannot be part of the price of these hikes. However I am insured to give you a lift to and from your starting point in exchange for the standard mileage costs. My vehicle can take up to 4 passengers.
Overlying the Carboniferous limestone are three formations of rock that make up the Marros Group. The lower layer of this is the Twrch Sandstone. This is a quartzite and in places is 98% silica. This silica was mined at Pontneddfechan near to the current Waterfall Centre, which functions as the Geopark Visitor Centre, and then crushed to make fire bricks. These bricks were commonly known as Dinas Fire Bricks and were used to line furnaces. They were sold all over the world and even today in Russia fire bricks are still known as Dinas Bricks. Overlying the Twrch Sandstone are the Bishopstone Mudstone and Telpyn Sandstone formations. These alternating layers of mudstone and sandstone form faulted block over which the many waterfalls of ‘Waterfall Country’ flow. These waterfalls on the Mellte and Hepste rivers near Pontneddfechan form arguably the finest collection of waterfalls in Britain.
Overlying the Marros Group but only jutting into the Geopark on its extreme southern fringe are the South Wales Coal Measures. These coal measures are responsible for the industrialisation and urbanisation of South Wales, to the south of the Brecon Beacons National park and Fforest Fawr Geopark. The lower most part of the Coal Measures is the ‘Farewell Rock’. This was named first by early iron miners who found no more iron nodules below this rock and the name was later adopted by the coal miners who also found no coal beneath this layer. The ‘Farewell Rock’ is beautifully exposed at the Henrhyd Waterfall (fig 6). This waterfall near Coelbren is the highest in South Wales. It is possible with care to walk behind the waterfall and it is the Farewell Rock that forms the hard cap over which the water flows. In the 1830’s Sir William Edmond Logan, after whom Canada’s highest mountain is named, was mapping the South Wales Coalfield, and discovered two fossilised tree trunks in the gorge below the waterfall. These fossils now stand outside Swansea Museum. Another place to see the Farewell Rock is in Pontneddfechan at the start of the waterfall walk behind the Angel pub. Also near to Pontneddfechan is the Cwm Gwrelych Geo Heritage trail. This trail, equipped with audio information points takes you on a guided walked through coal measures in a previously industrialised valley. Henllys Vale near Brynaman is also another good place to see the coal measures exposed . The Geopark has produced a Geotrail for this location. But if you really want to see coal, the best place has to be the National Coal Museum which is part of the Blaenavon World Heritage Site. This is actually outside the Geopark being near to the eastern boundary of the National Park. Here it is possible to descend the Big Pit mine-shaft and also visit a replica mine. It is also possible to visit the ironworks where my great great grandfather Edward Pritchard Martin was the General Manager.
With Roman camps, medieval castles, Iron Age Hill forts and a World Heritage Site, there is a huge amount of heritage to learn about in the Brecon Beacons National park. Some of these tours led by James Cresswell, have a significant personal element, because they also feature his own family history.
2015 Dates: June 27th – August 25th
Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays only
Start point: Your accommodation in the Brecon Beacons N.P. area, or Abergavenny train station, or Brecon bus interchange or Hay-on-Wye bus stop
Full Day: £35 per person (Group size 4-7) Minimum spend £140
Mini 2 hour tour: £10 per person (Group size 4 -7)Minimum spend £40
THE BIRTH OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
My great great grandfather Edward Pritchard Martin who was the general manager of the Blaenavon Ironworks
Llangynidr Mountain – we admire the glaciated features of the Black Mountains and learn about dolines, which are a type of sink hole.
Clydach Gorge – here we do a 2 miles (3km) walk observing iron stones and coal deposits as well as a beautiful waterfall that flow over the Farewell Rock.
Big Pit – this is part of the Blaenavon World Heritage Site. Here we go on an underground tour led by former miners.
Blaenavon Ironworks – also part of the World Heritage Site. Here we learn how the iron making processes of Blaenavon revolutionised the world, and additionally learn howmy great great grandfather used to be the General Manager here.
This tour is also listed in our Scenery Explained Tour section because it is equally a geological and a heritage tour.
The Big Pit
The Blaenavon Ironworks
CASTLES OF THE BLACK MOUNTAINS
With more than 300 castles Wales is one of the best places in the world to visit castles. Join us on a tour of our local castles, accompanied with detailed historical information.
Bronllys Castle – founded soon after 1144 and lies just outside Talgarth
Castell Dinas, Pengenffordd – at 450 m this is the highest castle in England and Wales. It is positioned to defend the Rhiangoll pass between Talgarth and Crickhowell.
Llangorse Lake Crannog – The only Crannog in England and Wales built by the King of Brycheiniog in 916
Tretower Castle and Court – A 12th century motte and bailey castle that had residential buildings added in the 14th century.
Crickhowell Castle – built in 1121 by a family of Norman Lords.
Llanthony Priory – one of the great medieval buildings of Wales, a former Augustinian priory that dates back to the year 1100
The two Castles of Hay-on-Wye – The main fortress is possibly the oldest Norman tower in Wales dating back to 1070
BRECON AND THE ZULU WAR MINI TOUR
Additional Museum entrance fee £5 each on top of tour cost
Join me for a personal tour of Brecon’s and my family’s connection to the South Wales Borderers and the Zulu War.
The Regimental Museum of the Royal Welsh
Regimental Museum of the Royal Welsh – The regiment who defended Rorke’s Drift were based at Brecon and later became the South Wales Borderers. At this battle 11 Victoria Crosses were awarded more than in any other British military engagement as 150 men held out against 3,000 to 4,000 Zulus. Join me for a tour of the museum which as well as having an exhibit on the Zulu War has an exhibit on the Second World War which features my grandfather who commanded the 6th Battalion South Wales Borderers in Burma.
Havard Chapel in Brecon Cathedral – Brecon Cathedral started life as the Benedictine Priory of St John the Evangelist in 1093 and was built by the Normans soon after they conquered Brychieniog. It became a Cathedral in 1923 when the Diocese of Brecon and Swansea was created. Inside the Cathedral is the Havard Chapel where the Colours that were rescued from the battle ofIsandlwana in the Zulu War. My grandfather was the last man to parade these Colours through Brecon before they were permanently hung up on display. My grandfather also has a plaque on a pew in the chapel.
HERITAGE OF THE FFOREST FAWR GEOPARK
Llandovery from the castle mound © Alan Bowring
Carrig Cennen Castle
Pen-y-crug – a 2 mile walk to this Roman Fort above Brecon
Llandovery Castle – constructed in 1116 but left in ruins by Owain Glynder in 1403
Garn Goch – We take a 2 mile walk this prehistoric hill fort which is the largest in South Wales.
Carreg Cennen Castle – we explore the castle and visit the cave beneath the castle.
Henllys Vale – We take a 2 mile walk around this former colliery and learn about the indutrail revolution
INCLUDED IN THESE TOURS
Guiding and interpretation from local man and Brecon Beacons Ambassador James Cresswell
A luxury homemade picnic lunch from Beeton For Time catering.
NOT INCLUDED IN THESE TOURS
*Due to insurance regulations transportation cannot be part of these tours. However I am insured to give you a lift from site to site in exchange for the standard mileage costs, this will be just a few pounds each. My vehicle can take up to 4 passengers alternatively I am happy to travel with you in your vehicle.
GEO ROAD TRIP OF WALES
COST £700 EACH
based on 2 sharing a room (£200 single supplement)
2016: MAY 01 – MAY 08
This trip will run with a minimum of 4 participants and amaximum of 6
INCLUDED IN THIS HOLIDAY
4 nights Bed and Breakfast
Expert guiding and interpretation from an MSc. Geo-scientist.
NOT INCLUDED IN THIS HOLIDAY
Dinner. We will normally eat together but pay our own bills.
Lunch. We will buy our own snacky lunches while on the go.
Night 5 in Llandudno. On request this can be booked but it is possible to travel home by train that night. Times at the bottom of the itinerary.
*Transportation – see box below.
*Due to insurance regulations transportation cannot be part of this holiday. However I am insured to give you a lift from site to site, in exchange for the standard mileage costs. If 4 people join this holiday the estimated cost will be £37 each. If 6 people join then the estimated cost will be £25 each.
The Jurassic and Triassic contact at Lavernock Point
The Triassic Dinosaur trackway near Barry
The former Ironworks at the Blaenavon World Heritage Site, where Edward Pritchard Martin , James Cresswell’s great great grandfather used to be the general manager.
Llanthony Priory in the Black Mountains of the Brecon Beacons National Park, a great place to study the Devonian Old Red Sandstone that it is made from.
Bwa Maen a folded anticline, one of the best examples of a Variscan structure in South Wales
Henrhyd waterfall, South Wales’ highest flows over the famous Farewell Rock – the base of the South Wales coalfield
Fossil crinoid at Stack Pole Quay
Folding in the coal measures at Nolton Haven
St. David’s Cathedral, made from purple Cambrian sandstone.
The Elan Valley
The Ogwen Step, with Roman Bridge under the modern bridge. At this site fossil brachiopods can be seen.
Ride the train to the summit of Wales, Mount Snowdon. This great mountain is made from volcanic rock that erupted in the Ordovician and has been sculpted by glaciers in the Ice Ages
Caernarfon Castle part of the Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd World Heritage Site
Llanfair P.G. in the GeoMon Geopark in Anglesey, the longest place name in the world and home to blueschist rocks that were formed in ancient subduction zone
The GeoMon Geopark visitor centre at Amlwch Port
Parys Mountain in the 19th Century this was the largest copper mine in the world.
Arrive in Cardiff the Capital of Wales. The hotel (to be determined) will be in central Cardiff with easy access to Cardiff train and bus stations. Cardiff is only 2 hours by train from London and there are regular buses directly to Heathrow, Gatwick, Bristol and Cardiff airports.
Day 1. Glamorgan Heritage Coast, Dinosaur footprints, Blaenavon World Heritage Site, and the Brecon Beacons National Park.
We depart Cardiff at 9 am and travel to nearby Lavernock Point on the Glamorgan Heritage Coast. Here we can see the Triassic and Jurassic boundary and many fossils. Next we travel to Barry where it is possible to see the best Triassic Dinosaur trackway in Europe. This is followed by a drive up through the former industrial valleys of South Wales to Merthyr Tydfil, on to the Blaenavon World Heritage Site, where we have lunch. Here we also learn how the geology of Wales was responsible for the country being at the forefront of the industrial revolution. We also visit the National Coal Museum where we are able to descend into a coal mine, and we visit the remains of the Iron Works where, GeoWorld Travel Director James Cresswell’s, great great grandfather was the General Manager. We move into the nearby Brecon Beacons National Park and head up the beautiful Honddu Valley in the Black Mountains. We pass through Ice Age moraines and more recent landslips to reach Llanthony Priory. This beautiful ruin is built from the local Devonian Old Red Sandstone and we have a great opportunity to study rocks as well as enjoy the historical site. At the head of the Honddu Valley is Gospel Pass, the highest road in the National Park, here we can muse if the Ice Age ice sheet ever poured through this gap, see the site of a former lead mine and drop down into Hay-on-Wye and nearby Velindre for our night at Tara B&B. Tara is James Cresswell’s home and we will give you a wonderful family stay.
Day 2. Fforest Fawr Geopark: National Park Visitor Centre, Porth yr Ogof Cave, Bwa Maen Fold, Geopark visitor centre, the Farewell Rock, Henrhyd Waterfall, view of the Black Mountain and Carreg Cennen Castle.
After a wonderful breakfast at Tara B&B with eggs from our own chickens, we drive to the Forest Fawr Geopark. The Brecon Beacons National Park visitor centre is our first pause where there are also great views of the main glaciated peaks of the Brecon Beacons. We then continue through the scenic Geopark to Porth yr Ogof, the largest cave entrance in Wales, to Pontneddfechan where we can see the Bwa Maen faulted anticline, have lunch and visit the Geopark Visitor Centre. After lunch we visit the magnificent Henrhyd waterfall. These fallsthe highest in South Wales flow over the Farewell Rock of the South Wales coalfield, and were main famous bySir Edmond Logan, after whom the highest mountain in Canada is named, when he mapped the area and found fossil trees at the base of the falls. Next we drive west through the Geopark with superb views of the Black Mountain, the wildest part of the park and onto Carreg Cennen Castle. which lies on an outlier of limestone caused by faulting. Finally after the castle we transfer down to Pembrokeshire for our night in the medieval walled town of Tenby.
Day 3. Southern part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park: Skrinkle Haven, Stackpole Quay, the Green Arch of Wales, Nolton Haven, Druidston Haven and Port y Rhaw
In the morning we head to the impressive cliffs of Skrinkle Haven. Here we can see the Carboniferous / Devonian contact, and the vertical strata of the rocks forming the cliffs. We then head on to Stackpole Quay where folds, faults and fossils can all be found in the Carboniferous Limestone. We then drive on to through Manorbier where Devonian Old Red Sandstone meets the sea, to the Green Arch of Wales (dependent on the military range being open). Following this we head through Pembroke, past its impressive castle to Nolton Haven, where Coal Measures reach the sea. Here very impressive folding and faulting can be seen and, if the tide conditions are right, iron nodules can be seen. A little further up the coast is Druidston Haven, again with fantastic folds and a huge thickness of recent glacial deposits. Finally on our way to Saint David’s we pass the famous fossil site of Porth y Rhaw. Here the rocks are Cambrian in age. This is the site where in 1862 palaeontologist J.W. Salter discovered one of the largest ever trilobites. This trilobite has since been named Paradoxides davidis, and is the exact same species as trilobites found in the rocks of Newfoundland. The night is spent in Saint David’s, Britain’s smallest city and the resting place of Wales’ patron saint, St. David.
Day 4. Northern part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Saint David’s Cathedral, Abereiddi Bay, Strumble Head and Carn Meini the source of Stonehenge’s bluestones
Our first point of call is the amazing St David’s Cathedral, a must see visit on any trip to Wales. The Cathedral is made from beautiful purple Cambrian sandstones. We then head to Abereiddi Bay. The Bay is a former slate quarry with a beautiful blue lagoon, graptolites are very common here. The next step is Strumble Head where Ordovician pillow lavas can be seen at low tide. This is followed by Cresswell’s Cafe in Fishguard. After lunch we head to the Preseli Mountains to visit the Pentre Ifan burial chamber and, if the weather conditions allow, a hike up to Carn Meini, the site where the bluestones of Stonehenge originally came from. We then transfer along the scenic Ceredigion coast to the University town of Aberystwyth.
Day 5. Mid Wales: Aberystwyth turbidites, the Silver Mountain mine, Devil’s Bridge, Cwmystwyth mine sites, Elan Valley, Clywedog Reservoir, and Cadair Idris
The day begins on the North Beach of Aberystwyth right by our Bed and Breakfast. The rocks here are made from Silurian submarine mudslides and are known as turbidites. They are some of the best examples of turbidites anywhere in Britain. Later in the morning we leave Aberystwyth and head to the Silver Mountain silver mine. Here we have lunch and can go underground to explore the former mine workings. We then head to nearby Devil’s Bridge and see the 3 bridges on top of each other. We then spend the afternoon on a long scenic drive all the way to Snowdonia. We start by passing through the abandoned mines of Cwmystwyth, through the Elan Valley, a beautiful place containing several dams and reservoirs built by the Victorians to provide water for Birmingham. In the valley there are numerous outcrops of mudstones lain down by turbidites in the Ordovician. Our journey then passes through Rhayader and Llanidloes to the Clywedog Dam, here an old lead mine site can be seen. We then take the mountain road to Machynlleth the ancient capital of Wales and cross the Dovey Valley and enter Snowdonia National Park. We stop to admire the fine views of Cadair Idris before pressing on the Victorian slate quarry capital of Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Day 6: Snowdonia National Park. Pass of Llanberis, Summit of Snowdon, Caernarfon World Heritage Site
Our first stop this morning is the Ogwen Step, where a Roman Bridge can be seen hidden right under the main road bridge. Here tuff beds of volcanic ash can be seen and in one bed there are many fossil brachiopods that were killed by a volcanic eruption. Our next destination is the Pass of Llanberis where we can observe the rock close up. Snowdonia was once part of an ancient caldera. We then continue to the village of Llanberis itself, and visit the National Slate Museum and eat lunch. This is followed by the highlight or at least the high point of the trip, the train ride up to the summit of Snowdon itself. At 1085 m above sea level this is the highest point in Wales. The scenery on a clear day is staggeringly beautiful and the summit is a great place to observe the glacial features of the National Park. After descending the summit we visit the World Heritage Site of Caernarfon Castle where we will stay the night.
Day 7: The West side of GeoMon Geopark in Anglesey: Llanfair P.G., Llanddwyn Island, South Stack and Holyhead
Today is the first of two days in the GeoMon Geopark on the island of Anglesey. Our day begins with a visit to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch, the longest place name in the world of Llanfair P.G> for short! Here we can see Precambrain Blueschist rocks that were formed in a subduction zone. This is followed by a visit the railway station and the famous place name signs. We then head on to Llanddwyn Island which is famous for Precambrian pillow lavas which were extruded as pulses of lava onto the sea bed where they quickly cooled. Spectacular melange, created by an ancient subduction zone can be seen in Pilots Cove at the far end of the Island. The visit to Llanddwyn Island will take most of the day and we will eat a picnic lunch there. We then head on to South Stack. This is an RSPB reserve with spectacular Cambrian folded schists and quartzites which are considered to be world class. We then spend the night in the nearby port of Holyhead, which was founded by the Romans.
Day 8: The East side of GeoMon Geopark in Anglesey: Cemaes Bay, Amlwch Port and Geopark Visitor Centre, Parys Mountain
Cemaes Bay near Llanbadrog contains the oldest rocks in England and Wales. These 800 million year old stromatolites are contained with the melange that was formed by the ancient subduction zone. The next location, Amlwch port hosts the visitor centre for the GeoMon Geopark and the Loft Copper Museum, here too can be seen beautifully folded rocks. Parys Mountain is another highlight of the trip. Here smokers, rising from under the sea bed disseminated copper and other metals into the Silurian-age mudstones on the sea floor. During the 19th century, Parys Mountain was the largest copper producer in the world. The ore was exported from Amlwch Port. When copper prices rise, the mines are to reopen. Mining has taken place sporadically from Bronze Age to present times. We then cross the Menai Strait back to mainland Wales and end the trip in Llandudno
TRAIN TIMES FROM LLANDUDNO JUNCTION
Staying an extra night in Llandudno is well worth it so you can visit the Great Orme Roman copper mines.
However it is possible to get the train home at the end of day 4.
Depart Llandudno Juction at 17:37
These times were correct at the time of writing. Please check these times yourself before committing to a booking.
As the sedimentary basin continued to fill and subside the land eventually fell below sea level once gain and in the early Carboniferous a shallow tropical sea rather like the modern day Bahamas formed over the Geopark region. This has deposited a band of Carboniferous Limestone stretching along the southern margins of the Geopark from Carreg Cennen Castle in the west to Merthyr Tydfil in the east (see fig. 1). In places these rocks contain fossils of the creatures that lived in the tropical sea such as corals and crinoids (fig 5). A great place to see these fossils is on the geology trail which leads from Craig-y-nos Country Park to the summit of Cribarth Mountain. This mountain and nearby Penwyllt are also an excellent place to see industrial archaeology. The limestone was quarried here and burnt in lime kilns to provide quick lime for agriculture and the iron industry.
The limestones also host Britain’s deepest cave. Ogof Fynnon Ddu is 308 metres deep and boasts 50 km of passageway. The cave is situated under Penwyllt. This cave is for experienced cavers only, but can be explored by becoming a member of the South Wales Caving Club. A more accessible cave is the nearby Dan-yr-ogof cave. This cave is part of the National Show caves Centre of Wales, and has extensive walk ways where it is possible to see amazing stalactites and stalagmites. Another notable cave in the Geopark is Porth yr Ogof near to Ystradfellte. It has the largest cave opening in Wales which is 17 m wide and 5 m tall.
THIS TOUR IS ONLY AVAILABLE IF YOU ARE STAYING AT TARA B&B
2 people max
4 hour guided tour that includes, tuition and the use of a fishing rod and tackle
2015 Dates: June 27th – August 25th
Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays only
SELF GUIDED TOUR
£20 – Must provide your own equipment
Brown Trout: March 3rd – Sept 30th
Salmon and Sewin (Sea Trout) – March 3rd – Oct 17th
Salmon: fly fishing only March 3rd – May 31st, all salmon caught between March 3rd and June 15th must be returned unharmed.
Fishing is available on the River Usk near Llangynidr, where it flows through my cousin’s farm at Cilwych. This beat is not available on the Wye and Usk Passport scheme and is only fished by our family members.
If you are coming for a guided tour, I can lend you a rod and reel and provide you with flies and casts. I can also provide tuition in casting. However you will need to provide your own footwear. Thigh waders are best.
If you are self-guided I will not provide fishing equipment.
It is your responsibility to purchase the appropriate Fishing License for your day tour.
Dear Scenery Explained Wales followers, I am still in Antarctica but will be back home in Wales in 2 weeks. After our successful landing at Cape Royds and outing of the Welsh Flag we journeyed on to the McMurdo Dry Valleys, the driest place on earth, where I once again brought out my Welsh flag. Below is a description of our day:
Today started early, really early. In fact it had already gone midnight by the time we went to bed after our successful landing at Cape Royds on Ross Island for our visit to Shackleton’s hut. However at quarter to 4 it was time to get up again for a pre-breakfast excursion to Scott’s hut at Cape Evans, further down the coast on Ross Island. The swell was quiet large and the wind was almost 40 knots, but we felt we could do it. We started to launch boats, but the ship was drifting and unable to hold its position due to the wind, so unfortunately we had to call off the operative.
We then recovered the only lowered boat and fell asleep again, as the ship sailed back across McMurdo Sound to the entrance of the Dry Valleys. Unfortunately the sea ice situation had deteriorated further and we were only able to get within in 6 miles of the entrance to the valleys. The wind was still blowing 40 knots and the Trans-Antarctic Mountains were still draped in cloud. It was all very depressing and looking very doubtful.
We waited and waited, then the cloud showed signs that it was lifting, however the wind was still 40 knots. Expedition Leader Don, and chief helicopter pilot Marcello decided they would do an exploratory flight into the Dry Valleys to see what the wind conditions were like up there. The pilot very skilfully lifted off the ship in the windy conditions and headed out across the ice towards the lifting cloud of the Dry Valleys.
After 45 minutes they returned. We were all eating in the dining room and Don announced that it was a GO! The wind was still high at the ship, but inside the valleys there was no wind and it was do-able.
As the ship’s Geologist, I was lucky enough to be selected to fly in on the first helicopter to prepare the landing site for the passengers. It was an experience I will never forget. First we flew over ice floes and newly forming sea ice, with sleeping seals near to the shore line. Then we flew up over the land – dry land with no snow even though we were at nearly 78 degrees south. As we flew over the bare ground, I could see frost wedges caused by freezing and thawing of the permafrost. Then we saw the first glaciers: the Wales glacier coming in from the left and later the amazing piedmont of the Commonwealth glacier and our destination the Canada Glacier, coming in from the right.
The Dry Valleys are free of ice because the Tran-Antarctic Mountains are so high. Ice from the East Antarctic Ice Sheet does not spill over into them to flow down these valleys. In addition to this the area is incredibly dry. There is very little snowfall and this snow cannot accumulate as a glacier. Any snow that does occur, often sublimes straight to water vapour or is blown out by the extreme catabatic winds that can rage down the valleys. As chance would have it there was some snow there on our visit day. The previous day’s storm had left a thin layer on the higher ground and on some of the boulders but it was quickly ablating away.
The helicopters landed at the foot of the Canada glacier, with forms an elephant’s foot or piedmont glacier as it emerges from it restrictive Canada Valley into the main dry Taylor Valley. In front of the glacier were a few ice blocks produced by an extremely low rate of calving. In the hottest days of the year these will melt and flow into nearby Lake Fryxell, which today was completely frozen. The interior of this lake is always frozen but on the hottest days of the year a thin moat of water will form around its edges.
On the valley floor, at our landing site, there were three mummified seals. These unfortunate beasts had once made the wrong call, and crawled the wrong direction to find the sea. Eventually they died, but because the conditions were so cold they have been perfectly preserved. One of these seals has been dated at 2000 years old. Also on the valley floor was a large assortment of different rocks types, but all were either igneous or metamorphic. These rocks show that the Taylor Glacier has at some stage flowed down through this valley because these are all the rocks types that outcrop higher up in the Taylor Valley.
As the day went on helicopters and groups of passengers came and went. Eventually the last passengers had arrived and then it was time to go on another incredible helicopter ride over the glaciers, and the sea ice back to the ship. Visiting the Dry Valleys was a dream come true for me, and today was my best ever day working as a guide on an expedition ship.
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