Friday, December 2, 2011

Ty Mawr Country Park

Ty Mawr country park which is about 30 minutes from the centre has all the fun of the farm in the magnificent setting of the River Dee Valley. There are lots of animals you can meet at Ty Mawr such as donkeys, pigs, and goats. You can even feed the free range chickens and ducks or admire Lawrence the guard Llama, who protects the sheep from foxes! There is a childrens play area on site and a bike track.

At Ty Mawr they do not use chemicals and pesticides on the land. That is why they have many species of wild plants and animals and in the summer their traditional hay meadows are full of colour. You can take a gentle stroll down to the river, sit and relax and see if you can spot a salmon jumping!

Picturesquely situated beneath the dramatic Cefn Viaduct on the banks of the River Dee, Ty Mawr provides some of the best scenery around.
Why not take a longer walk along the riverside to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, along the Cefn Heritage Trail or link up with the Offas Dyke National Trail?
Whether its to admire the view, to see the farm animals or to take a walk, you could take a picnic and have a great day out at Ty Mawr Country Park.

Campion School students complete their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award Expedition

In July we were privileged to host on their first night a team from Campion School in Northamptonshire who were doing their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme Expedition. The centre and cottage are ideal for D of E Group expeditions as they are able to use the centre for the first night and then the groups supervisors can make use of the cottage. The following report is taken from the Campion School website.

True to the ethos of The Award, the sixth-form students organised practically everything for themselves. This included booking the camp sites, making travel arrangements and booking an assessor.

Despite leaving early on Friday afternoon to avoid traffic, they still got caught up in traffic jams and heavy rain. After 4 hours on the road, the group finally arrived at Yr Hen Felin Cynwyd Activity and Mountain Centre (near Corwen), just outside of the Snowdonia National Park. Luckily, 4 days of glorious sunshine followed.

During the first evening at Yr Hen Felin Activity Centre, Steve Layt, the group’s excellent assessor, did a pre-expedition check to make sure the group were well equipped. After a good breakfast, the team began their expedition. They hiked from around Llandrillo to Llangynog and Bala Lake. This included three nights’ camping. They tackled challenging areas requiring careful navigation as their routes are relatively un-walked or unmarked.

At the end of the expedition, the group were very tired but incredibly pleased and satisfied with their achievement. They worked extremely well together and are a credit to themselves and Campion School. Thank you to Steve and Kay Layt who were nearby throughout the entire expedition. We are looking forward to seeing their presentation based on the aim of their expedition “The sky and its wonders”. We wish them well with completing the remaining sections of The Award. All being well, they will be presented with The Gold Award at St James’ Palace in 2012.

The team consisted of Rachel Dickson, Larissa Gardner, Lydia Prince, Kelly Oakley, Kizzy Jurgon, Dale Thomas, Matthew Chatting

Monday, November 28, 2011

Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty

THE Countryside Council for Wales today (Tuesday 22 November 2011) welcomed the Welsh Government’s decision to extend the Clwydian Range Area of Outstanding Beauty, to include southern parts of the Clwydian Range, the Vale of Llangollen and parts of the Dee Valley.

The decision follows a statutory consultation process, undertaken by the Countryside Council for Wales.

CCW Chairman Morgan Parry said: “We are delighted with the decision, which confirms all the evidence provided that this is truly an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Whilst the designation gives the area the national recognition it deserves, the key to its success will rest with local management.

“We now look forward to working with the local authorities of Wrexham, Flintshire and Denbighshire, their local communities and landowners, to realise the environmental, social and economic opportunities of this national designation - so that all sectors of society benefit from the sustainable management of the natural environment.”

The Clwydian Range AONB Management Service has an excellent track record in implementing and funding sustainable environmental enhancement projects – experience that can now be drawn on for the benefit of a wider area. CCW will now start detailed discussions with the local authorities on the resources and administrative arrangements required for the future management of the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as a whole.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Rhug Estate

I recently picked up a leaflet on the Rhug Estate which is one mile west of Corwen so about 2.5 miles from the centre. The estate has a couple of things that are of interest to users of the centre and so we detail these below.

Farm Tours

You can visit the large working organic farm where you will be taken on a guided tour of the farm in a purpose built covered trailer which is complete with audio equipment and full safety features which includes disabled access. On a tour you will see sheep, cattle and bison and will also learn about crop rotation that is key to the success of an organic farm. The cost is £4.50 for an adult and £2.00 for a child under 16 with OAP’s being £4.00. A family ticket for two adults and three children is £11.00.  Private parties can be booked in by prior arrangement by telephoning the estate office on 01490 413000 during office hours the maximum party size for this is 36 with a minimum charge of £100.

As well as the guided farm tour there is also a self guided farm trail.

Farm Shop

The farm shop on site sells fresh meat off the farm (which is superb) and have over 1000 lines of gourmet food items. It also has a popular farm cafe selling organic food off the farm.

The estate are currently constructing a new 60 seat cafe, children’s play area and shops which are all due for completion in 2012. This will make a great place for users of the centre to visit as well as all the people visiting Corwen and those travelling further along the A5 to Snowdonia.

See  the estate web site

Thursday, June 23, 2011

July Trail Magazine

For many years I have subscribed to Trail Magazine which I still consider to be the best magazine for all round interest in mountains and walking. I bought my first Trail magazine on my very first trip to the Lake District and it inspired me to greater efforts with regard to my mountaineering. TGO magazine comes in a very close second and we have been impressed by the first edition of the new format and eagerly await the next few editions to see what that brings. TGO has some very thought provoking articles and we hope that this continues as each of the three regularly read outdoor magazines all bring something a little bit different to the party. It would be a shame for any of them to try and copy each other as this would in my opinion change why I liked all three magazines so much. The third magazine I regularly read is Country Walking. I will say that over the past few months Country Walking has had some good Denbighshire routes in it. Both Trail and Country Walking magazines have recently introduced a new routes service via Trailzilla and this is really excellent and worth subscribing to one of these magazines for the free subscription to Trailzilla.
The July edition of Trail has a real treat in it for centre users with a five page article on the Berwyn Mountains. Jeremy Ashcroft describes ‘The Berwyns Round’ a journey around all the main peaks of the Berwyns and with a little bit more walking this could be adapted to be done from the centre.
We have long advocated that the Berwyn’s are a great set of mountains which are far too often overlooked by people who see North Wales as Snowdonia and therefore ignore the truly great ridge that the Berwyns offer. We are glad that this article, with its stunning photos, brings these great mountains to a widespread audience. If anyone does this walk please drop us an update which we will publish on the Blog.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Annual Report for Northampton District Scouts April 2010 to March 2011

The year up to March 2011 was a good year for the activity centre in Wales. In some ways we can look back on this year and see it as a stepping stone for a greater level of booking in the future. Although income remained static from the previous year we saw interest gradually rise so that even when we had a booking on popular weekends we got two or three additional enquires. This is good in the fact that many people now know that booking early is essential so our ongoing bookings are now consistently good. This year was also the year when we finally agreed to take a big step and employ a caretaker. This allows us to ensure that the high standards we had worked hard to achieve could be maintained on a weekly basis and we thank Fay for all her efforts.

For new members of the District and to remind other people we will again reiterate what the Yr Hen Felin complex offers. The main centre provides a thirty bedded centre with catering kitchen, toilet, washing and shower facilities, lounge and dining area which is suitable for groups to use. The cottage has two ensuite rooms with a double in one and a set of bunks and a single in the other. The addition of a bed settee in the lounge ensures that our cottage facilities are suitable for both small groups and families. The complex also has a small camping area and a drying room with a washing machine.

The centre and now the cottage continues to get people re booking year on year. In this twelve month period over 50% of bookings were returning customers showing that our level of commitment to quality is justified. We continue to use the evaluations that we receive to ensure that we constantly develop both our programme of activities and the facilities the centre offers and we now see evaluations from returning customers reflecting their appreciation that we listen to even the smallest items. In order to build both a committed and loyal client base we continued to hold our prices and this will continue as long as we can to build on what we have achieved so far. We receive regular bookings from the commercial outdoor activity companies based in North Wales and have become particularly popular with schools booking activities with these companies.

At the end of this year we had to replace all our fire extinguishers as they were all getting too old but this was the first time they had to be replaced rather than serviced and so the high cost this year will stand us in good stead for the future. We have also increased our drying ability within the drying room as this was an area of concern for our customers. We have some more work to do on the drying room but this has greatly helped and so even at the height of last winter the drying room worked by drying wet kit overnight for use the next day.

The website has been revamped and we now monitor its usage. We get above 300 visitors (10 per day) to the website each month. This year we also set up our Facebook page and this is now our main way of giving details of our special offers which are always worth considering. We also launched a blog and this has been viewed from around the world.  We continue to monitor the outdoor industry press and have had some success in correcting the notion that there is no hostel left in Cynwyd. This has given us positive feedback and whenever we are mentioned in widely read outdoor publications we see a spike on the website, Facebook and blog usage.

Last year we had made the decision to try and increase bookings by applying for an activity license so we can run our popular activity packages for people outside of the Scout Association. We have had some positive feedback and help on this from the staff at Gilwell Park. The governments’ review of health and safety has meant that major changes are going to be made to licensing and so we have put this aspect of the centre on hold until we see what is going to happen. We continue to still run our packages for Scout Groups, families and groups of adults and so we would encourage anyone who uses commercial companies to provide activities for their Scout group to talk to us about what we can offer as we guarantee to beat any commercial price. Every activity we run is done so as if we were a commercial operator and we maintain the same standards that they do so you can save the cost to your young people. Last year we were involved in the BBC Thrillseeker activity programme of events and this in itself was good publicity for the centre.

For groups of young people using the centre we now offer a workbook that can be used before, during and after a visit. This has proved popular with our school bookings and ensures that use of the centre is proper outdoor education that can build on learning in other areas.

We continue with our two clear aims for the centre in Wales which are to offer adventurous outdoor activities at a very low cost to the members of Northampton District and to provide an additional income to Northampton District Scout Council. For the future we have now set some additional targets and would like to increase bookings over the next year by 25% and to increase our midweek bookings by 10%. Both of these are ambitious targets but we hope to report on a successful outcome in next years report. We are also looking at developing two programmes for young people from Northampton District using the centre with a Basic Adventure Wales and Advanced Adventure Wales package to suit all users. These will be backed up by badges that can be used as part of the progressive training scheme.

We would encourage all Groups to make use of your own facilities for adventure by coming to stay in your own centre in Cynwyd so why not give us a call on 01604 813505 or visit the website at

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Loggerheads Country Park

Loggerheads Country Park is situated 2.5 miles south of Mold in the Community of Llanferres, and covers 80 acres of the Alyn Valley.  From the centre you travel to Ruthin then follow the A494 signposted to Mold. Loggerheads is on the left hand side before you get into Mold itself. It takes about forty five minutes to get to the park from the centre. There is a pay and display car park on site. Loggerheads Country Park is a tree lined limestone valley with riverside walks & a history of lead mining. The main paths are gentle but you can be more adventurous & explore the steep cliffs with views over the surrounding countryside
The dominant feature of the Park is an imposing limestone cliff, Pen-y-Garreg Wen, which overlooks the Leete Path, a 4 mile walk through mixed woodland to Rhydymwyn.  This walk and the surrounding countryside, have been renowned for their beauty for over 200 years.  In 1985 the Clwydian Range was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) for its rich landscape. Loggerheads Country Park is a popular visitor destination, attracting over 100,000 visitors every year. The Countryside Centre gives visitors an insight in to the history and life within the Park and provides a wealth of information and an excellent learning opportunity.
Loggerheads Country Park is an established Rural Country Park set in a limestone valley in the Clwydian Range Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It encompasses a mining and tourism history. The Park is also managed for conservation, with SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) designation and rich and varied natural habitats. The Discovery Trail gets visitors out & about in the park. They can see evidence of the history for themselves, along with abundant wildlife. Visitors also get the chance to become a Trail Detective and collect the secret symbols.  Woodland, riverside and cliff top experiences make this a very good day out for users of the centre.
The history of the country park dates from 1926 when the Crosville Motor Bus Company purchased land at Loggerheads on which they developed Tea Rooms and Gardens for the enjoyment of visitors many of whom travelled on the Company’s bus trips.  Not only was there a Tea House but also a bandstand, boating lake and kiosks selling sweets and ice-cream.  Loggerheads was very popular during the 1920’s and 30’s but its popularity waned after the Second World War, as the use of buses declined.  In 1974, Clwyd County Council purchased the land and the gardens as a Country Park.  In August 1984 the old wooden Tea Room was destroyed by fire.  A new Information Centre, restaurant and visitor facilities were built to continue the tradition of providing for the enjoyment of the many tourists who still come to Loggerheads.  The Park is now owned and managed by Denbighshire County Council.
There is a great café on site Caffi Florence. They have brought a fresh approach to food in Loggerheads Country Park to match the stunning countryside. Much is homemade and seasonal and many of their suppliers and products are local. Their tea, coffee and hot chocolate is fair-trade and their meat is local and eggs and chicken are all free range. The cafe serves morning coffee, homemade soup, lunches, afternoon tea, homemade cakes, ice creams and snacks. When we were there we had the soup of the day and sandwiches which was excellent and the girls had a children’s platter which is lots of chopped vegetables and fruit that went down really well. You can see their website at
Loggerheads country park is a great place to visit when using the centre for groups with both young people and adults and makes a worthwhile day trip worth considering in you planning.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Plas Y Brenin Taster days

The National Mountain Centre Plas y Brenin in Capel Curig (about 40 minutes from the centre) are offering taster sessions in canoeing, skiing and climbing in the school holidays at either £15 per session or for just £35 for all three activities.

The sessions run in 2011 from May 28th to June 5th, July 23rd to August 29th and October 24th to October 28th being the school holidays for the rest of the year. The sessions are open to people aged from seven upwards and being Plas Y Brenin the instructors who will work with you will be superb.

If you booked the centre for two days with 15 people and went to do these activities for one day with the other day spent doing activities in and around the centre then the cost per person would be £51 each which will give you a superb couple of days away. On top of this you only have transport and food to account for.

Activity sessions need to be booked with Plas Y Brenin (offered on a first come first served basis) and they can be contacted on 01690 720214 with the centre being booked through us and you will need to ensure that both are available at the same time.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Slea Paddlers Use the Centre at Cynwyd

At the beginning of April we had a new group use the centre the Slea paddlers. Charlie Russell, who is a junior member of the club, wrote the following after staying at Yr Hen Felin for the weekend.
‘We arrived at the centre on Friday 1st April. We came to the centre because we were going kayaking on the Saturday and Sunday in Bala & Llangollen.
The centre was brilliant and the beds where warm and cosy. I would recommend the centre to anybody who are looking for a place to stay in North Wales.
The kitchen was perfect for all our needs. There was also a drying room that was brilliant for us to dry our kit out in after a brilliant day paddling!
The only down side was Barry snoring.’
Charlie Russell Junior Member Of Slea Paddlers (BCU 3 STAR)
The team from Slea Paddlers were so impressed by the centre they have booked another weekend later in the year and we are pleased to have been able to welcome them to Cynwyd. If other groups would like to write about their stay at Cynwyd we would be pleased to hear from you.

If you are interested in knowing more about the Slea Paddlers group see their website

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Montane Sabretooth Soft Shell Jacket

It was my birthday in January and as usual I was struggling to think of something suitable to have from Kay. I had been looking at two things being a Rab Vapour Rise pull on top but must confess that I already have one of these (which is great) so although this is quite old and they have been revamped it was not top of the list. The other item I had been looking at was the Montane Sabretooth Soft Shell Jacket. Since getting my Millet soft shell jacket over three years ago this has been my favorite jacket and it has been used extensively in all weathers and on many different activities. This is a fantastic piece of kit which is really lightweight, very wind resistant and has proved a great asset to be carried at the bottom of a rucksack. Its only disadvantage is that the hood is not that big and the pockets are limited in size hence why I had been looking at the Montane jacket. This jacket is described as a highly technical soft shell mountain jacket which had received Trail Magazine 2010 soft shell award BEST IN TEST. Their verdict was that it was "An excellent soft shell for wearing in typically mixed mountain weather."
The Trail magazine test said:
The real hero is the fabric. Polartec Powershield is a truly exceptional fabric. 90% of the time that you are outside this Powershield is probably the most comfortable and effective outerwear for the majority of mountain activities. Blocking 98% of the wind, highly breathable, water repellent and extremely abrasion resistant the Sabretooth has phenomenal potential. The advantages of a softshell are obvious, stretch for active comfort, less noise than a hard shell, warmth without weight and weather protective. Featuring the classic alpine features, adjustable hood, venting pockets and active tailored fit, the Sabretooth is the outerwear that gets worn, not carried.
In the past few years the Trail magazine tests have proved to be a very, very good way of deciding which kit to buy and generally I do refer to them before buying any equipment. With this in mind I decided the Montane jacket was what I wanted to have from Kay and although she pointed out how many jackets I already had it was ordered. Unfortunately we were out of luck and although I could have got one in January the cheapest place I found it said they would be out of stock until the end of March. Finally last week the jacket arrived and its first outing will be over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend when I am assessing two D of E expeditions who are using the centre. First impressions of the Montane Sabretooth jacket are that although it is not as lightweight and compactable as the Millet Jacket it would appear to be harder wearing and all four of the pockets are large enough for map, compass hat and gloves (all in separate pockets if you choose to use them). The hood is large enough for a helmet to easily fit under it and the construction may indeed be more weather resistant than other soft shell jackets.

The jacket had its first real test out on Easter Saturday when I was out assessing both a bronze and silver D of E Group. On the Saturday the weather was mild but the mist descended to a level of 300 metres and it was quite cold out on the Clwydian range of hills. Although I started in just a base layer as it was quite warm first thing in the morning by mid morning it had clouded over and so I put on the new Montane jacket. Initial impression was that the cut is quite short but that is not really a criticism just a comment as the short cut easily allowed access to trouser pockets. The jacket work superbly well and I kept it on all day. The pockets are large enough to carry a map and compass with room to spare and this in itself is a bonus. The jacket was good at keeping the wind off and even when I was moving quickly uphill through heather (therefore lots of moisture) the jacket was able to deal with this and wicked it away with no effort at all. 

I used the jacket throughout the three days of assessing the silver expedition and it proved to be excellent at keeping me warm, free from condensation and dry from a light shower. All in all I would highly recommend this jacket and as it is considerably cheaper than my Millet jacket it is superb value for money. Well done to Montane on producing yet more excellent kit.

Since getting the jacket I have now used it extensively in various weathers and it has already become a favourite bit of kit. In the October 2011 Trail magazine they again ran their test on Soft Shells and the Montane Sabretooth came out as Trail Magazine Best Value and Trail Magazine Best in Test. It was the only jacket that got five stars in all the categories and the only jacket to come close was the Rab Vapour Rise Guide Jacket which is heavier, has less pockets and lost one star on performance. the only thing it does have is pit zips which can be useful so for seriously fast moving people this jacket may be a good option and Rab always make excellent kit so worth comparing.

The following technical information has been taken from the Montane Website:
The Montane Sabretooth Jacket is perfect for a range of outdoor activities, utilising Polartec Power Shield fabric for highly breathable water and windproof protection in a stretch fit for maximum comfort. This walking jacket also features a roll-away helmet hood with a wired peak and volume adjuster combined with a full length, reversed two way zip for additional protection.
Fabric: POLARTEC® Powershield®
Colour: Black / alpine red (zips)
Weight: 545g / 19.2oz (Size Medium)
RRP: £150.00

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Brenig Way

The Brenig way is a 32 mile route for walkers that goes from Corwen to Llyn Brenig. On leaving Corwen the route comes right through Cynwyd and is therefore very accessible from the centre and cottage.

The route has only just opened and takes walkers into some of the quietest parts of Denbighshire, where peaceful paths snake though natural woodlands and along steep sided river valleys.  It follows ancient drovers roads and passes even more ancient cairns, navigating its way through the Clocaenog Forest to reveal stunning views of the Clwydian range at Pincyn Llys and around Cyffylliog. It culminates in a steady, but isolated, climb along the Afon Clywedog, passing just a handful of houses, to reach Llyn Brenig at the Archaeological Trail.  This is the site of a Bronze Age burial ground, with several ritual cairns creating a sense of solitude against the stunning backdrop of Hiraethog and Snowdonia. A gentle walk around the lake is completed by walking across the Brenig dam to finish the walk at the Visitors Centre for a well-earned treat.
The route of the Brenig Way has been marked with distinctive waymarkers based on the stone cairns found along the way. It has been designed to be walked over two or three days in either direction.
By staying in the centre or cottage you would be able to complete the whole route over a couple of days and could do this with two vehicles. Due to the nature of the walk it is an  ideal route for both young people and adults. More information on the route can be found at If you get round to walking the route why not send us some photos or feedback so we can include it within the blog.

Llyn Brenig

Last time we were up at the centre we spent the afternoon visiting Llyn Brenig which is about ten miles from Cynwyd. Llyn Brenig is a large lake, surrounded by heather moorland and spruce forests. Most of the moorland around Brenig is in the Mynydd Hiraethog Site of Special Scientific Interest. The moorland management scheme within the area is regenerating black grouse.

At Llyn Brenig there is a large pay and display parking area and a visitors centre, shop and café which are open seven days a week in season and the café offers panoramic views of the lake. Within the visitors centre there is an audio visual programme that tells the story of Llyn Brenig which is steeped in history. Bronze age man used Brenig as a burial ground constructing cairn fields. Foundations of a 16th century farmhouses also form part of the site’s archaeological trail which is 2 miles long.

The sites two nature trails offers glimpses of Llyn Brenig’s wildlife and there is a walk that goes the whole way around the lake which is 10 ½ miles long and takes about four hours to complete. Bryn Maen has outstanding views of Snowdonia and the Berwyns, and there is a stream side picnic site at Pont y Brenig.

Bird hides offer the chance to see Mallard, teal, goldeneye with goosander seen in October and November. Also, hen harrier, merlin and peregrine can be seen from the hides.

There is a great outdoor play area which is free of charge.

Llyn Brenig is well worth a visit if staying at the centre and can be found by going back to the A5 and heading towards Betws Y Coed. After about 9 ½ miles you get to the right hand turn to Cerrigydrudion and you will see the brown tourist signs showing Llyn Brenig which you can follow right to the lake.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pistyll Rhaeadr

The waterfall Pistyll Rhaeadr is one of the seven wonders of Wales and is well worth the visit. The waterfall itself has an 80 metre drop and is very impressive even in the summer. From the centre you can get to it by taking the road to Bala then turning left towards Llangynog. This road takes you around the other side of the Berwyn ridge. Once through Llangynog travel on to Penybontfawr and from here take the left hand turn to Llanrhaeadr-Ym-Mochnant. Once into this village the small side road on the left takes you up to the waterfall, this is signposted. Once at the falls itself there is some parking on the road or you can park in the main car park which is just £2.00. You can walk to the bottom of the waterfall where there is a bridge that crosses the river and you can walk from the car park up into open country and stand at the top of the waterfall. If you do this with young people you need to be very aware that it is a sheer drop and looking over the edge has the risk of falling. There is a café in the main car park and you can easily spend an hour or two at the waterfall and in the surrounding area. I have been to the café with a group of adults who all had a cream tea before trekking off to tackle the main peaks of the Berwyn ridge and then the walk back into Cynwyd.

For me the best way of getting to the waterfall is by walking in from Llangynog. This is a great walk that can be done with people who are fairly young although with younger ones it would be better to be met in the car park of the waterfall so you do not have to walk back to Llangynog. Details of this walk can be e-mailed to centre users. There is a free car park at Llangynog and you get into open country very quickly giving a complete sense of isolation but in reality you are never very far from a road.

The waterfall is well worth visiting and gives an enjoyable half day trip as part of your programme of activities whilst staying at the centre or cottage.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Llangollen Railway Thomas the Tank Engine weekend

On Saturday 26th February we took the opportunity to go to Llangollen railways Thomas the Tank Engine day which was one of the two days being run over that weekend. We were up before dawn that day as our oldest daughter was awake early asking if toady was the day when we were going to see Thomas. We arrived at Llangollen station for 10.00 am and saw Thomas arrive for the day and then did our first ride on the Thomas train which spent the day going up and down the length of the platform at Llangollen. At this point it was raining but after visiting the imagination zone for some colouring and face painting we went outside again and by this point the sun had appeared and continued to shine for the rest of the day. Trains arrived and departed all day and we travelled up to Berwyn station and back into Llangollen for our longest journey of the day. More colouring, some time to watch an episode of Thomas on video and another ride on the Thomas train filled the rest of the day and we finally left at about 4.30 pm. We did not get time to take part in the main train ride or to visit the puppet show at Carrog station as we were too busy at Llangollen. The staff at the railway were all superb entering into the spirit of the day and the activities entertained two little girls superbly. At £14.00 per adult and £9.00 per child with under 3’s free we thought the whole day was brilliant value for money. We finally left with two very tired little girls who had both enjoyed themselves tremendously. More Thomas weekends come up later in the year and you can combine these with a trip to the Centre (for groups or multiple families) or the cottage (for one family). We will certainly be visiting the Thomas the Tank engine weekends again later in the year and recommend them to everyone. A really, really great day out.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Additional Activities

The following are our top ten suggestions for activities that can be carried out in periods of spare time or in the evenings. These are all activities that we regularly use at the centre when we run our activities. Please feel free to e-mail us at with any other suggestions that you may have. All the activities will require some planning and you will need to assess the risk of each activity based on the age and experience of your group. These are available as an A4 sheet when you make a booking at the centre

Watercolour Painting

Equipment:-          Watercolour paint
Time:-                     1 – 2 hours

After you have been out doing activities get your participants to reflect on what they have done and draw or paint a picture of their days events.

Painting With Nature

Equipment:-          Various plants and leaves (not wild flowers)
Time:-                     1 – 2 hours

Instead of using water colours add a new dimension by making your own paints using natural materials such as grass. These need to be crushed with a small amount of water to produce natural paint.

Floating Candles

Equipment:-          Floating candles
Time:-                     1 - 2 hours

Take an evening walk just before dusk to an area with a lake or stream that has a small inlet. Float the candles in the water and light them. Allow everyone to watch as the candles reflection shimmers in the water. Make sure you extract all your candles before you leave. This activity can be done on the beach in rock pools.

Candle Lit Cairns

Equipment:-          Stones
                                Night lights
Time:-                     ½ - 1 hour

Just before dark build a hollow cairn (a pile of stones usually found on mountains) out of the stones. Place a night light in it and light the candle. Sit and watch the light reflecting on your day. This is very effective if you are out on the mountains in the dark especially if you are wild camping.

Pumpkin Lanterns

Equipment:-          Pumpkins or other suitable veg
                               Night lights
Time:-                     1 – 2 hours

If you do not have a supply of stones or if you are doing your activity in October you can make lanterns instead of cairns.

Scavenger Hunt

Equipment:-          Plastic bags
Time:-                     1 - 1½ hours

Send groups out to collect as many different items as they can in the bag provided. This can be on a theme e.g. leaves and can be done in a large or small area.

Ice Mobiles

Equipment:-          Jam jar or other container lids
Time:-                     ½ - 1 hour plus overnight

This is an activity for when you know it is going to be frosty overnight. Pour water into your lids and place a leaf or other natural item into the water. Run a length of string through the water in your lids connecting a group in lids together. Leave them outside overnight so that the water freezes displaying the leaves in ice. Hang them in the trees as mobiles. Once the temperature rises you will only be left with some string.

Twig Stars

Equipment:-          Long green twigs
Time:-                     ½ - 1 hour

Make two triangles out of the green sticks. Interweave one triangle into the other to make a five point star.

Wind/Prayer Flags

Equipment:-          Coloured material (the more the better)
                                Long sticks or string
                                Sticky tape
Time:-                     1½ - 2 hours

This activity can be done in the garden or when at the top of a mountain. Cut out some triangles of cloth and make up some flags. Either place them on sticks or string them together. Have a different coloured flag for each person. Each person can have a private prayer or thought that will be carried on the wind once the flag is flown. Take the flags out when you do an activity and fly them in the wind.
Boat Making

Equipment:-          Anything natural you find when out and about
Time:-                     1½ - 2 hours

As you are out and about gather some natural materials (twigs, leaves, long grass) and make up some small boats. Float these on the river and see which ones work best. You could even have a race with them similar to playing Pooh sticks.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Llangollen Railway Comes to Corwen

In August 2010 Llangollen railway finally secured the go ahead to extend the steam railway to finish in Corwen rather than where it stops now in Carrog. The estimated completion of the extension into Corwen is in 2012 and this will bring many tourists into the town. The town of Corwen may start to receive the level of tourism that Llangollen itself currently has. For Groups staying at the centre in Cynwyd this will mean that they are within walking distance of the railway station and will allow the younger Groups who use the centre to have a great day out in Llangollen with a 1¾ mile walk in the morning and afternoon. By going from Cynwyd on the nature trail walk that follows the old railway line into Cynwyd this could be a very educational and inspirational walk.
For older groups who want to do some walking they will be able to time their walks so that they can combine the walk up Moel Fferna with a trip on the Llangollen railway back to Corwen then the 1¾ mile walk back to the centre at Cynwyd. Alternatives to this for a full days walk would be to walk up Moel Fferna in the morning travel by train back into Corwen then go up through Pen Y Pign and onto Liberty Hall before descending back down into Cynwyd, a very suitable experience for 10 to 14 year olds.
Longer walks from the centre along the North Berwyn Way but dropping into Glyndyfrdwy before taking the Llangollen Railway two stops (Carrog and Corwen) and then doing the walk back to the centre will make a superb days adventure. The use of the railway (which is very reasonably priced) will add a special, memorable experience that will be a great way to spend a day in the countryside around the centre.
We will update the blog on progress with the Corwen extension and look forward to reports from our users on their adventures combining the railway with walks from the centre. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)

If you are visiting (or looking to visit) the Centre at Cynwyd why not look at the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) website. This has a lot of information with regard to the Welsh countryside and some great articles and information which can be downloaded as part of the planning for your trip.

The Countryside Council for Wales, in partnership with the local authorities of Denbighshire and Wrexham, wants to extend the existing Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that is currently the Clwydian range to cover southern parts of the Clwydian Range, the Vale of Llangollen and parts of the Dee Valley. This will mean that the AONB comes to the outskirts of Cynwyd and will give recognition for the fantastic countryside that the Centre is based in.

The consultation period available for making comments on the proposal to extend the Clwydian Range Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has been extended and will now close 31/1/11.

A series of evening meetings and drop-in events have been held across the proposed extension area. We are now giving people more time to make their comments by submitting the written response forms. The new closing date is Monday 31/1/11.

Anyone interested in the proposal is encouraged to attend to find out more and have their say. The consultation document explains the proposal.

If you have any comments please fill in the Response Form then Email it to by 31 January 2011.

Follow the link below to read more:-

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The District Winter Expedition 1995-2007

In 1995 Northampton East District Scouts undertook a project for the National Scout Headquarters called the Scout Action Research Project (SARP). This project looked at how we could effectively work with Scouting for 13 to 18 year olds.

We decided that what was needed was an adventurous activity to kick off the project and so the District Winter Expedition was developed. The idea was to take a large group of older Scouts for an adventurous weekend doing mountain activities. What started in 1995 was such a success this expedition continued for thirteen years as a weekend activity. In 2003 this activity became an annual Explorer Scout event.

Over the thirteen years that the District Winter Expedition took place we had well over 400 people take part in this event and stayed in many different areas.

We stayed at Cynwyd Youth Hostel twice for this expedition and this developed our love for the Berwyn Mountains and Dee Valley area and led in 2005 to us having the knowledge of the Youth Hostel to allow us to recommend its purchase to Northampton District Executive.

The format for the expedition was a weekend away leaving on the Friday evening and travelling to our venue. Saturday was a full day walk in Groups of seven usually two adults to five young people. Saturday evening was a main meal and leisure time and then Sunday was another activity like an incident hike, climbing, caving or other activity. The Sundays became quite exciting trips with things like hiking to the Llangollen railway then travelling into Langollen on the train all with a story around why we were doing it. Sunday afternoon was a meal in a local cafe and with the numbers we had we usually took the venue over and then we travelled home.

2007 saw the last Winter Expedition being organised for the District as the birth or our daughter meant that we were unable to commit to it further and nobody else took up the challenge. We still maintain that the formula we developed for this event stood the test of time and in all the hundreds of activities I have run for the Scout Association this event still stands out as the best.

Listed below are the details of the expeditions giving the year and area visited, the main peak ascended and the venue we stayed at.

1995 Peak District
Kinder Scout
Castleton Youth Hostel

1996 Brecon Beacons
Pen Y Fan
Llwyn-y-Celyn Youth Hostel

1997 Berwyns
Cadair Berwyn
Cynwyd Youth Hostel

1998 Peak District
Kinder Scout
Glenbrook Activity Centre

1999 Arans
Aran Fawddwy
Cynwyd Youth Hostel

2000 Berwyns
Cadair Berwyn
Penybontfawr Scout Centre

2001 Carneddau
Creigiau Gleison
Crafnant Scout Centre

2002 Eifionydd
Moel Hebog
Bryn Gwynant Youth Hostel

2003 Snowdonia
Glyder Fawr
The Old School Lodge Deniolen

2004 Lake District (Five Days)
Lamgdale Pikes and Coniston Ranges
Langdale and Coniston Youth Hostels

2005 Snowdonia
Nantle Ridge
Snowdon Ranger Youth Hostel

2006 Lake District
Fairfield Horseshoe
Grasmere Youth Hostel

2007 Peak District
The Roaches
Hartington Hall Youth Hostel

In 2004 we had a very special ten year anniversary of the Winter Expedition with a five day trip to the heart of the Lake District. This was open open to sixty Explorer Scouts aged 14 -18 and we did five days of exciting and adventurous activities. We stayed at Langdale Youth Hostel which is near Ambleside and participants all  took part in the following activities:-

  • High mountain walk - The Langdale Pikes
  • Two day mountain expedition with overnight stop at Coniston Copper Mines Youth Hostel
  • Rock scrambling
  • Mountain biking at Grisedale forest
  • High ropes challenge course courtesy of Go Ape at Grisedale forest
  • Water activities on Windermere
  • Climbing
Throughout all the expeditions the main catering was done by a dedicated team of adults usually led by Phil Joyce this allowed the participants to concentrate on the activities.

For each expedition all specialist activity equipment was supplied i.e. maps, climbing and water activity equipment but we asked that all participants had a proper pair of walking boots for each expedition. For each expedition a training evening was held which allowed participants to learn navigation skills, have equipment advice offered and generally find out about everything that was happening during the expedition as well as meeting the staff. This also allowed parents to ask any questions that they had. The training evening was always held a few weeks before the expedition took place.

We are very pleased that over a number of years the District Winter Expedition was at the heart of Scouting in Northampton East and Northampton Scout District activities for 13 to 18 year olds.