Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant and Cwm Wybrnant walk
This walk takes you through the natural and social history of this Welsh upland valley. At its centre is Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant, the birthplace of Bishop William Morgan, who translated the Bible into Welsh.
Enjoy a walk through the history of the upland valley
The walk highlights several elements of the historic landscape: the wildlife and habitats, the historic buildings and a way of life now a part of Welsh upland history. You'll walk through traditional upland farmland, along forest roads and an old drover's road.
Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant car park, grid ref: SH771523
Walk to the entrance of the car park and turn left down the tarmac lane towards Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant, a modest 16th century farmhouse with huge cultural significance.
The fields on your right are marked on a map of the valley from 1838, when records show that one field, known as herben (arable) was exactly as it is today at just over 2 acres in size. The building near the south-east corner was used for cattle in winter and the snaking hedge towards the stream marks the parish boundary between Dolwyddelan and Penmachno. Another field, known as Fownog Goch on the 1838 map is wet and ploughable and would have been used for rough grazing. The sunken areas in the lower parts of the field are turbaries or peat diggings. Peat was the main source of fuel in upland areas. It was cut into slabs in April and May and left to dry. The soft rush known in Welsh as canhwyllfrwynen (candle rush) was used until the latter half of the 19th century as candles. The light produced was much poorer than the candles we recognise today and they were often dipped in animal fat, so gave off an unpleasant smell.
As you reach the entrance gate at Ty Mawr Wybrnant, you are welcome to stop off and explore the grounds, before continuing along the track over the river and to your right. Take the gate on your left and begin ascending a rough path.
Birthplace of William Morgan
'Ty Mawr' literally means big house in Welsh and while it might appear modest by today's standards, hold huge cultural significance for what William Morgan went on to achieve. As a bright young boy, at 10 years old, he was invited to be educated alongside the children of the local landlord, Maurie Wynn at Gwydir Castle. From there William went on to St John's College Cambridge, leaving with a degree in divinity and 9 languages. Making him the perfect candidate to translate the Bible into Welsh on behalf of Queen Elizabeth. This feat took a decade and in 1588 a thousand Welsh bibles were printed, which helped standardise the Welsh language and ensure it's survival.
Continue up a steep path. Pass through a small gate before turning left past a large smooth rock on your right-hand side. Keep the dry stone wall on your left.
Here you come to a section of the old drovers' road that runs between stone walls. This ancient path to Dolwyddelan was the main road between Machno and Lledr valleys. Along this road, small back or speckled cattle raised locally were driven to market. Before the railway opened at Dolwyddelan in 1879, the cattle were shod at Dolwyddelan before leaving on foot for England, where they provided the main source of beef. Porthmyn (drovers) led these cattle on foot to the Midlands, Essex or Kent. Travelling over 14-16 miles (22.5-26km) a day, it was a long journey.
Walk along the drovers' path until you come to the junction with the forestry path. Turn left. You'll soon reach seats that overlook the Wybrnant valley.
From here you gain a vantage point down over Ty Mawr Wybrnant and can only imagine what life must have been like here in Tudor times. A huge oak lintel over the fire place at the far end of the main hall dates the first floor to 1565 (the year William would have set off for Cambridge). It would replace a central open fire with smoke dissipating through a thatched roof. A sure sign that the drover's inn was doing well, with more privacy for the family, who up until then would have shared the main living hall with passing drovers. Whilst cattle would overwinter in a room at the other end of the house.
Continue along the forestry road, taking a left at the fork, until you arrive back at the car park.
A home for nature
Although the surrounding area is predominately a large conifer plantation, our rangers have been carrying out some work to thin the conifers and introduce a wider range of tree species, with birch taking hold in open glades. Today the valley feels like a quiet, hidden corner of Wales, bustling only with the chirping of birds and gurgle of the snaking Afon Wybrnant.
Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant car park, grid ref: SH771523
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