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/ Mid Wales tussuckometer

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pasbury on 13 May 2018

I’m considering a walk from Rhayader up into the green desert and maybe take in Drygarn Fawr, alternatively I might approach from the west (Teifi pools).

Recent experience with tussocks has been character forming but not something I want to do all the time - what are the worst tussock ridden bits to avoid and are there any areas with good going underfoot. Or is it all equally torrid?

timjones - on 13 May 2018
In reply to pasbury:

I'm not sure that there are any really easy options.

The attraction of the area is it's lack of engineered or over trodden paths.

Embrace the tussocks ;)

Moley on 13 May 2018
In reply to pasbury:

If you are going, go now as the tussocks grow worse over the summer. There are paths through much of the elan valley area, but don't rely on the map for them, unless you know where they are your chances of finding them can be slim.

It is quite normal to spend half hour floundering through tussocks and then find an invisible trod 20m away! As a rule avoid damp areas as tussocks are worse there, keeping to higher ground generally better, also have a look on satelite view and you can sometimes pick out a trod that way.

I spent 20 years running over there so knew it pretty well, but it could still reduce one to tears when it went wrong!

Tim Sparrow on 13 May 2018
In reply to pasbury:

At times you will think you are in the best place on Earth. At others, the worst.

Some of the most diabolical soul destroying stuff is south west of the Claerwen, where you may approach from.

I once resorted to running /wading in a lake as it was just too tough to move around it on (dry) land.

Post edited at 18:45
1
pasbury on 13 May 2018
In reply to timjones:

> I'm not sure that there are any really easy options.

> The attraction of the area is it's lack of engineered or over trodden paths.

> Embrace the tussocks ;)

It sounds like one has to literally embrace them at times!

timjones - on 13 May 2018
In reply to pasbury:

It's a long time since I've been up there but IIRC the approach to Drygarn Fawr from the Abergeswyn road isn't too bad.

mysterion on 13 May 2018
In reply to timjones:

> It's a long time since I've been up there but IIRC the approach to Drygarn Fawr from the Abergeswyn road isn't too bad.

The breaks leading up from the forestry road can be fairly treacherous, as in sinking in up to your waist. Onward to Drygarn Fawr is fairly tussock-free.

Post edited at 19:50
pasbury on 13 May 2018
In reply to all:

Any tussecologists in the house? I’m interested in how they form and why, I can’t imagine they are a climax vegetation community. Are they a reaction to reduced grazing pressure?

I’ve noticed (though my memory is selective) that many upland areas have become more lush and my assumption is that overgrazing doesn’t happen any more because upland sheep farming is uneconomic except in those areas where it’s subsidised for picturesque reasons.

Tussocks are only one manifestation of this ‘lushing’ of former upland pasture.

Moley on 13 May 2018
In reply to pasbury:

If you want an idea of what hell must be like for a walker/runner try the bridleway (it's only on the map, nothing there) between SN 808583  and SN 820586.

Tim mentioning running up the reservoir, was this the late Nev Tandy's Reservoir Roundabout? If the levels were low in January we could run up the reservoir bank at the top NW end of reservoir, avoid the hellish tussocks section up from Nant Brwynog to Claerwen farm?

We call the tussocks "babies heads" and I have no idea why or where the expression came from. Hopefully it wont offend anyone.

 

Forgot to mention, might be tempted by this night walk over the area (if you are interested.  https://www.ldwa.org.uk/MidWales/E/20161/mountain-moon-walk.html

Post edited at 22:17
pasbury on 13 May 2018
In reply to Moley:

I also find it hard to find a pitch for my tiny tent in this sort of terrain. One would think it easy but it’s not, finding a small patch of flat turf is almost impossible.

pasbury on 13 May 2018
In reply to Moley:

So; as a thought experiment what would I encounter trying to follow the parish boundary between Gorllwyn and Drygarn Fawr;

  • Pleasant turf
  • Long grass
  • Small tussocks and some wet ground
  • Continuous bog
  • Occasional large tussocks and bog
  • Continuous large tussocks (and/or bog)
  • All of the above apart from pleasant turf
  • Unspeakable hell

Probably a choice between the last two??

Post edited at 23:15
alan moore - on 13 May 2018
In reply to pasbury:

I did a circuit of the two from the head of Caban Coch reservoir and don't think the going was that bad.

It was a long time ago though, and might have blotted it out.

Moley on 13 May 2018
In reply to pasbury:

I remember walking that ridge many years ago, must have been early spring as there was snow. There should be the watershed boundary stones up there, basically follow them which will be on the high ground. You may find some tracks 

I walked it with a friend and don't recall any tussock problems up on top there, early season. Bit of a boggy section about half way, certainly no unspeakable hell.

keith-ratcliffe on 14 May 2018
In reply to pasbury:

I walked that area by aooroaching from the Rhiwnant valley a long while back and encountered really bad tussocks on the headwater area of the stream but the top ridge itself was quite good going.

Moley on 14 May 2018
In reply to pasbury:

> I also find it hard to find a pitch for my tiny tent in this sort of terrain. One would think it easy but it’s not, finding a small patch of flat turf is almost impossible.

Not easy, best chances of pitching are on top somewhere and water is usually down the bottom somewhere! Have seen tents right  on top of Drygarn F. recall there's a little bit of grass up there.

I've camped beside Claerwen where the Nant Brwynog goes into the reservoir, also up by Llyn Gynnon - but these have been on my fishing trips hence being beside the lakes.

pasbury on 14 May 2018
In reply to Moley:

(and others)

Great info thanks. Against my better judgement I feel a plan coming on...

Siward on 14 May 2018
In reply to pasbury:

I recall tussocking, as we called it, many years ago on Pendle Hill, or Simon's seat, or somewhere similar. Tussocking was to somersault head first down the slope of grassy tussocks. Great stuff, we were indestructible in those days of course. 

Tim Sparrow on 14 May 2018
In reply to Moley:

> If you want an idea of what hell must be like for a walker/runner try the bridleway (it's only on the map, nothing there) between SN 808583  and SN 820586.

> Tim mentioning running up the reservoir, was this the late Nev Tandy's Reservoir Roundabout? 

Ha, yes I have been down that “bridleway”. Almost impassable, even heading downhill. A forestry road mocks you 100m away. 

No, it wasn’t running in Claerwen, but round north side of Lyn Gynon. I actually cut straight across the eastern half, never above waist deep but quicker than the bank!

 

Welsh Kate - on 14 May 2018
In reply to pasbury:

As others have said, the tussocky hell that is south-west of Claerwen. Around Llyn Gynon is a mixture of tussock hell and slopfest.

Drygarn Fawr from Abergwesyn, on the other hand, is easy!

Post edited at 23:45
lone - on 15 May 2018
In reply to pasbury:

Go via the Rhiwnant valley and ascend to the mines at the top of the minor's track, then cross the stream (above the waterfalls) to gain Esgair Ganol, cross over the nose of Esgair Ganol and drop into the small valley on the opersite side, you'll need to cross the stream half way up the valley (crossing at the "450" contour height number on the map will do, I found the ground too poor to reach the fork in stream higher up the valley) and go up Nant yr Ast, follow Nant yr Ast towards its source and then cut across good ground on faint track to Drygarn Fawr. It's pretty low on the tussock scale this way. 

Solaris on 15 May 2018
In reply to pasbury:

I read in an account of similar landscape in Iceland that it's freeze/thaw action, though why the tussocks should be just so indescribably delectable in the Green Desert by comparison with other parts of the UK (or Iceland), I've no idea.

Bulls Crack - on 16 May 2018
In reply to pasbury:

Grazing level is certainly a factor but there'll be various reasons - climate change, natural succession and  I've seen purple moor grass come back stronger after it was burnt off to provide young shoot grazing. 

Tussocks themselves are the result of those species not having well developed rhizomes and stolons that act to spread the grass out into a sod/turf.

 

Mike Peacock on 16 May 2018
In reply to lone:

That's the route I did. I found the going pretty easy, and the Rhiwnant is lovely. I recall occasional hard going on the traverse to Gorllwyn but nothing too bad.

pasbury on 17 May 2018
In reply to Bulls Crack:

Which begs the question; why are those species there? Is it an ecosystem out of balance? Are the tussock forming grasses imposters or just a tough remnant?

I wonder if the presence of trees would change things.

Post edited at 23:44
Bulls Crack - on 18 May 2018
In reply to pasbury:

Not imposters just adaptable. Molinia spp for example are native but have become increasingly dominant in some habitats. Lots of factors involved from grazing and other land management practices to a changing climate, pollution, water table changes . Some evidence points to changes in some areas beginning during the Industrial Revolution. 


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