• Graham

It is often the case with the lesser visited hills that the way to the starting point is as much of a challenge as the ascent itself. In the case of Garreg-hir, it’s more of a Magical Mystery Tour than Satnav Simplicity. If, as I did, you approach from Newtown along the A489, the first challenge is to spot the turning onto the A470. No doubt the relevant signpost contains useful information but its efficacy is somewhat reduced by the abundance of foliage that obscures it from view. If in doubt, look out for a steam engine, for you have been following the route of the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway and for the next mile or two will continue to do so.

Like so many branch lines this essential artery for passengers and goods felt the full force of the good Doctor’s axe but such was the demand, it was almost immediately resurrected by local enthusiasts and by 1981 the full length of the line was once more operational. Pass first under the line then, via the next turning right, over it and the adjacent River Carno. Thereafter, a combination of high-hedged lanes is followed deep into the surrounding farmland until you reach a point where a bridleway runs across your bows. Here there is room for two or three carefully parked cars. En route, you will have passed that rarity, an unvandalised phone box.

The ascent of Garreg-hir itself is comparatively straightforward. Its beginning follows the track that works its way between the twin waters of Llyn Du and Llyn Mawr. Rising ground initially hides both but before long the larger of these ecologically important wetlands comes into view. Care should be taken not to disturb the area as, although a plethora of black headed gulls seem to monopolise the habitat, the surrounding reed beds provide rare nesting opportunities for curlew, snipe and bunting. Once past the first gate you get a good view of the summit ridge which aptly reflects its name, the Long Rocks. A combination of sheep and farm vehicle tracks leads to the watershed and, once up, you follow the ridge to a stile clearly visible on the skyline. After conquering this final obstacle, a succession of rocky knolls leadsto the Trig Point and, for most people, the top. For the purist there are yet a few more steps as recent scientific investigation has found a similar knoll, situated a little to the north, to be all of 9 centimetres higher.

The view from the summit is extensive covering at least five counties and like Wordsworth my trip o’er hill and vale was rewarded with a sudden assault on the senses. The crowd, however, that presents itself to the modern traveller is not in this case floral, but a host of not so golden wind turbines. There is no doubt that, unlike the traditional windmill, these whirling sails do not fit in with most people’s idea of bucolic beauty, but they should remember, before dashing off letters of protest to the BMC, that the alternative - the continued extraction of fossil fuels - could be very much worse.

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