Three Moels and a Flapjack
Updated: Jan 3
I set off for North Wales with some trepidation. Today, I'm going to try and run further than ever before; and up a big hill. I have my new hydration vest and a couple of gels. I'm planning to follow Offa’s dyke path, which I know is well signposted and I can stop at Loggerheads café for a flapjack. What can go wrong? I'm off on an adventure!
I arrive at Coed Llangwyfan & Penycloddiau Car Park (free), having driven along twisting, narrow roads with steep climbs, and prepare to start, already at around 300m of elevation.
I run across the road, find the Offa’s Dyke acorn sign, and set off across grassland; immediately ascending a steep hill. I’ve only just started and I’m already out of breath and have to walk. The path flattens out slightly and I can run again, up around Moel Arthur. I take a short detour to reach the summit (465m) and admire the views, and run back down to re-join the path. Downhill, then up, across Moel Dywyll (no obvious summit this time) and I follow the winding, undulating, stony path through the heather. I can see Moel Famau (554m) in the distance, the top hidden by occasional clouds.
I run as much as I can, but have to walk on the steeper sections. I try to keep a good pace. Moel Famau gets closer and I can see the Jubilee Tower on top. The path is easy to follow and I make good time over the nearly 4 miles to the summit, finally climbing the steps to endure the wind and enjoy the views.
Feeling quite hard core (and slightly cold) in my vest and shorts; I set off again and keep following Offa’s Dyke path south to Bwlch Pen Barras, it's downhill now and easy running. Here I turn left and begin a steeper descent through the forest, aiming for Loggerheads Country Park. I’m unsure of the paths now and following a mountain biking route. I find myself back at the road - wrong turn - I head back into the woods, uphill unfortunately, and sort myself out - I’m making this harder. Back on track; I come to the edge of the forest and turn down a winding, muddy, gloomy path. I recognise this from previous walks, and find the right path through fields and farm land towards Loggerheads. A short road section and I’m relieved to see the main car park ahead; a final spurt and I reach the welcoming Caffi Florence. Time for a coffee and flapjack; sitting outside in the sunshine. Now all I have to do is get back to my car, high up in the hills. I look up at Moel Famau; do I have it in me to stick to my original plan and go back up again? The cloud has lifted, there will be great views from the top; I’ll give it a go.
I set off again, taking my time to make sure I start in the right direction as I always get disorientated here. I align my map with the road and make sure I follow the river left, and north, towards Cilcain. I’m following the Leete path, an old water channel, and looking out for caves on my right. This part is flat and I pick up my pace; despite feeling tired. The path is signed to Cilcain and I pass the caves which is reassuring.
Reaching Cilcain (not as obvious as I expected), I cross the river via a road bridge and head off uphill towards the church. I then run downhill again to cross a road and reach field footpaths (I think I could have joined this from the bridge and saved my legs some uphill running – never mind – the church was pretty!). At this point, I nearly change my mind, there is a shorter way back to my car and I’m tired. But I’m here now and the summit is enticing so I press on, following the Clwydian Way; willing the path to become steeper to give me an excuse to walk. It does – I walk as fast as I can, following the rocky path through the heather towards the edge of the forest. It’s beautiful but hard going. Even walking, I’m out of breath. Reaching the edge of the forest, I gather myself for the final push to the top, and arrive back at the Jubilee Tower. It was worth it – amazing views - I take my time to enjoy them.
Only a parkrun to go now (plus a little bit) and I set off for the final leg of my journey. Offa’s dyke path, back the way I came, knowing what to expect this time which is not necessarily a good thing as it’s hilly and steep. I’m exhilarated to run along the tops. A small stone flicks up and hits my ankle – it really hurts but it's just a bruise so I can keep going.
I cross the road and reach the southern side of Moel Arthur, I could have parked here, but that would have been less of a challenge. I carry on, uphill, walking. I feel a cramp in my right leg – I hope I’m going to make it. I keep going and it eases, I’m nearly there. I don’t divert to the summit this time, just keep following the path, gritting my teeth now for the final mile. I get to the fields, downhill again, past some hikers, and reach my car; very satisfied. Seventeen miles run; adventure complete.