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.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Art At Cynwyd

We are very lucky at Cynwyd to have had several pictures painted for us and then displayed within the Centre. Most of these have been done by John Johnston who is a gifted artist from Northampton and he has worked with us to produce paintings of the surrounding area.

Many of the paintings are for sale and you can check these out and Johns other work at his website

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Kit We Like

What kit do we use when doing activities at the centre? We will regularly update this blog with new kit we use and like so check back to see whats new.
Waterproofs are a must when working outside (or even visiting the supermarket) and the best we have found is those made by Paramo. Their waterproof coats and trousers are very breathable, fully waterproof, strong and can be mended with a needle and thread if damaged so all in all they are a winner. There only downside is that they are a bit hot and heavy but in heavy rain or winter conditions they are a must.

If we are going to be outside all day in the Autumn, Spring or Summer we tend to fall back on a very old Buffalo top. This with a base layer and under a thin Mountain Equipment waterproof will keep you warm and dry for hours and although we like the Paramo kit this combination works very well especially if you are standing about waiting for groups.

For outdoor trousers we like most things by Rohan but our favourites are by Mountain Hardware. Some of their trousers have great pockets that can fit a map into and they slope so you can access them when wearing a rucksack which is a superb feature.

For base layers there are so many to choose from. We currently use a Berghaus base layer and a couple of very old Karrimor ones that have stood the test of time. There are so many base layers about and we think most of them work pretty well.

For rucksacks we favour Lowe Alpine and are currently using a Mountain Attack Pro which is very good. We recently purchased a Deuter Guide 35+ which is proving good and for a few months we have been looking at what Millet (not Milletts) the French mountaineering company have on offer. We have one Millet rucksack at present and this has proved good. 

Soft shell has now proved a real hit. My favourite soft shell jacket is by Millet and this is excellent. It is very light, very thin, packs away to nothing but gives fantastic protection when you put it on. Mountain Equipment make similar products which are worth looking at as well.

For a stove we use a Jetboil which is excellent. I have used this for over three years and it is worth the money. There are other similar stoves available so keep your eye on the ones from Primus which will probably start to drop in price soon.    

Other things we like are sporks which we have a few of. You can get these in lots of materials and Vango do a folding steel one with other companies doing the same product but in titanium to save on weight. At the other end of the market you can pick up a plastic spork for under £2 and this would be useful on expeditions.

This is just a sample of the things we use but when we buy or see other things we will add some more updates.

The Berwyn Mountains Ridge Walk

Looking down to Llyn Lluncaws from Cadair Berwyn

The centre at Cynwyd is at the foot of the Berwyn mountains which are a superb range of hills mostly overlooked by hillwalkers due to them not being in the Snowdonia National Park. Like many other people when we used to travel to North Wales we saw the drive from Llangollen to Corwen as a slow section that needed to be done as quickly as possible before we could get into the National Park. We first visited the Berwyn Mountains as part of the Northampton East District Scouts District Winter Expedition (see specific blog on this). This opened our eyes to the area and since then we have returned again and again to do day walks and expeditions within the area. In 2005 Northampton District Scouts bought the former Youth Hostel at Cynwyd and this started us doing more activities within the Dee Valley and on the Berwyns.

Track into Pistyll Rhaeadr.
A picture by John Johnston
Our favourite walk from the Centre is the whole ridge walk. For this walk you will need to travel by car to Llangynog. Leave the Centre and turn left onto the B4401 heading towards Bala. At the sign for Pale Hall (next to a pub) you turn left and at the next junction you again turn left. You are now heading to the start of this walk in Langynog which was once a busy lead mining and quarrying village. Llangynog is situated in the Tanat Valley at the foot of the Milltir Cerrig mountain pass. You need to park in the main village car park which has toilet facilities in it. This car park is free and from it you can look up to Craig Rhiwarth which rises impressively behind the village. On Rhiwarths east side Cwm Glan-Hafon is the back way to the highest Berwyn Peaks. From the car park follow the lane that skirts the foot of Craig Rhiwarths south flank. Take the bridleway on the left hand side and head up into Cwm Glan-hafon. Just after you get to the footpath/bridleway junctions take the right hand bridleway and cross the river to the other side. Turn left at the track and follow this to Nant Ddial. Turn right onto the zig zag path to the moorland col and then descend the quarry track into the Afon Rhaeadr valley. At the footpath turn left and head to Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall. At the waterfall there is a café and toilet facilities and this makes a good place for a break.

Once you have sampled the delights of refreshments at the Pistyll Rhaeadr café you need to take the footpath to Llyn Lluncaws. To do this leave the car park and up the road which very soon levels out. After about 800 metres take the path on the left across a style and into open access land. You will head on this clear footpath under Cerrig Poethion to Llyn Lluncaws which makes an excellent place for lunch or a snack. The path that you have been following is a long drag of ascent but is achievable by even novice walkers and by keeping a steady pace you soon reach the Llyn. From the Llyn follow the permitted path up a short but second really steep section of the day onto Moel Sych. The path is close to the edge and you need to be aware that not everyone is happy with this and certainly with young people close party management is necessary. The hard work of the climb pays off with some spectacular views down the valley and novice walkers will be impressed on what they have achieved. You can rest now in the knowledge that most of the hard work of climbing is done. Once on the ridge continue north east to the summit of Cadair Berwyn and the highest point of the day at 830 metres high. For a shorter walk you can return to Pistyll Rhaeder using the permitted path south east to Trum Felen which makes a good descent.

Cadair Berwyn to Cynwyd

Cadair Bronwen
A picture by John Johnston
If continuing on the whole ridge walk you need to head north east to the trig point at 827 metres and then along Craig Berwyn. The ridge walk navigation is made easy as a fence on your left hand side keeps you on track. Following the fence line down to the junction of the fences where you head north west for 100 metres before heading north down to the saddle and junction with the bridleways. From here you have two options either head up (with now weary legs) to Cadair Bronwen or follow the bridleway down to eventually meet the B4401. To finish the full walk go on to Cadair Bronwen then head north east still following the fence line over ground that is not the easiest to walk on as it is heather. You are going down now and although the descent from Cadair Bronwen is not easy you eventually hit the good track and memorial stone to Wayfarer a cyclist. Here there is a book to sign in at and a great place for your final rest of the day before returning to the centre. You now need to head east down the good track. After about 400 metres you come to a sheepfold and just after this you need to take the right hand fork. The track eventually becomes tarmac and then turns into a B road that comes out on the B4401. Before you get to the B4401 you come to a gated road on the right hand side. Walk along this road and either take the footpath on the left or continue along this mainly unused road. Once you get to the junction turn left and head back into Cynwyd down the road on the opposite side of the river that passes the centre.

This walk has been used many times by staff at the centre and is our recommendation for a great day walk that offers impressive views and definitely tired but jubilant participants.

Walk Information

Distance 23km (14 miles)

Ascent 1208 metres

Time 8 – 9 hours