I had passed the Clwydian range hundreds of times on the way to Snowdonia, but I had never climbed any of its hills. Amongst other things the hills are famous for the range of iron Age hill forts, with six forts along the crest of the ridge. The crest of the ridge is heather moorland and Offa's Dyke path follows almost the entire ridge.
The weather forecast predicted a cold, clear day, so I decided to Cilcain for a walk up Moel Arthur and then along the ridge to Moel Famau, the highest top.
I had found an interesting route that traversed the ridge from Moel Arhtur to Moel Famau on the Walking Britain website. I drove to the start of the route in Cilcain, which is just off the main Mold to Denbigh road. I stopped briefly in the car park opposite the church which has a notice stating "The gate may be locked at any time”. The Walking Britain site suggests that you drive down the lane next to the church over a stream and park near to the tree by the large grey steel framed building, so that's what I did. There was quite a bit of space and only one other car there.
I parked up and started heating some water for a flask using my new Primus Gravity II stove. I was using a Coleman's gas cylinder, which is a propane/butane mix, so even though the temperature wasn't much above freezing the water was soon boiling.
From the car I walked back into Cilcain and then took the path opposite the church running North West on the right hand side of the car park. I followed the path over a few stiles and arrived at a small lane. On the way I passed several clumps of snowdrops, a nice sign that Spring can't be too far away. Careful study of the map showed that I need to turn left, walk a few yards and then follow a small lane off to the right down a hill.
I followed the lane until reached a T junction, where I climbed over the stile directly in front of me. The path continued in more or less a straight line over several fields. When I reached a small wood on the left, I went diagonally to the right hand corner of the field. There I had a short chat with two people hanging a gate. I wasn't sure about the way ahead, but there was a yellow waymark pointing along the line of the fence to the left. I continued along the line of the fence, through some very boggy ground and crossed the stream via some convenient stones without getting my feet wet. I turned left, expecting to find a gate after a short distance. However, there was a new looking fence made from pig netting and barbed, with no apparent way through. I walked backwards and forwards along the fence a couple of times, but couldn't find an easy way over or through. Luckily, I found an empty feed bucket and by standing on top of this I was able to get over the fence.
I crossed the field and found the stile in the hedge by the road at grid ref. SJ162670. I climbed over the stile and went in a generally leftwards direction to cross over a stream. Once over the stream, I followed the path straight up the hill into the corner of the wood. I continued along the path straight ahead for a short distance and then took the forestry track to the left, which led uphill. This lead to a gate at grid ref. SJ156677, with a wooden horse jump to its left. I climbed over the jump and turned left along the wide path, which skirted the woods to my left. The views from the path were extensive, as I was on the crest of a ridge. Eventually, the path started to drop down towards the car park at grid ref. 147657. I should have turned right here and carried on up the eastern slope of Moel Arthur to the summit, but I carried on along the path. About two thirds of the way down to the car park I realized my mistake, so I cut directly back up the side of Moel Arthur to the summit.
After taking a few photos I made my way back down the slope to the car park, which was quite busy. I crossed the road and started to make my way directly up the hill opposite. The path goes up through a small gully, which was still full of snow. I stopped just below the snow and had a chat with a man who was in the process of putting on a pair of small crampons. I reached the snow, which turned out to be iron hard neve. Luckily there was a ladder of steps and the slope was short.
Once I reached the ridge there were views of Snowdon, Cadair Idris, the North Wales coast. I could see snow on the peaks on Snowdonia, but Cader seemed to be snow free. I followed the path along the crest of the ridge towards Moel Famau. I wished that I had brought my binoculars to help me identify all the towns, buildings and hills I could see. Out to the West were the mountains of Snowdonia, whilst over to the East most of Merseyside was clearly visible.
I wanted to be back home by 4:00pm and I wasn't sure how long it would take me to get back to the car, so I didn't stop until I got to the Jubilee Tower on Moel Famau. Apparently, this was built to celebrate the 50th year of George III's reign, but it was never completed. I sat under the North side of the tower, which was sheltered from the breeze and ate my lunch.
From the tower I walked short distance to the North East. Once away from the shelter of the tower I was exposed to the very cold North Easterly breeze. I joined the descent path, which dropped down steeply North Eastwards along the left hand side of a wood and once I reached the wood I was sheltered from the cold wind. I reached a small finger post where my path crossed a track. I carried straight on down hill making for the left hand side of the reservoir below. Following the path beside the reservoir, I reached a gate at the end of the lane. Walking along the lane brought me out next to the car. It was 2:30pm, so I just had time to make another cup of hot chocolate before I set off for home.