Friday, March 20, 2015

Mountain Bandit Routes

The term Bandit Run, is generally a term used by paddlers to describe river trips where there are access problems with landowners and anglers and paddlers have to boldly do the run and be damned. Often facing abuse and even physical violence from those on the river bank. The trip down the River Dee (The Welsh one) between Bala and Llangollen is a notorious bandit run which I’ve done once. And a beautiful stretch of river it is and its criminal that it’s not a public right of way. In fact-as I’ve mentioned on a blog before- only 8% of English and Welsh rivers do enjoy open and free public access.

Despite the general public enjoying a greater degree of open access in the mountains and countryside in general, there are still many peaks where access is problematic. Yesterday I walked up the modest peak of Garn Prys; technically an Arenig outlier on the very edge of the Snowdonia national park, this little 1700 peak is a fine hill which stands in isolation from its neighbouring peaks and which has a unique geological make up. A sub strata of an attractive purple slate is overlaid by a strange conglomerate rock which outcrops across the summit. Obviously the result of volcanic upheaval aeons past, this granite like rock suggests a Cornish moor or sea cliff. Unique in Wales in my experience.

Approaching Garn Prys via a bridleway to the south

When I first mentioned a trip up Garn Prys I was told about access problems and angry farmers chasing walkers off the hill. A quick perusal of an OS map confirms that there are no public paths up the hill. I eventually sneaked up on the hill from the west. Walking up Blaen y Cwm to the saddle at Foel Frech; looking around for farmers; cocking my ear for the sound of a quad bike and then legging it until I was out of sight!

Yesterday’s ascent was more leisurely. Following a pleasant bridleway until it reached the road then the aforementioned ritual was re-enacted before another lung busting push to reach a point where I was out of sight. Sure enough, fences had to be climbed as there are no stiles of gates to enable access to the upper reaches.

It still strikes me as a strange state of affairs when there are peaks in Wales-and presumably England-where there is no recognized access and you have to undertake a bandit run to gain the top. It’s certainly not uncommon to find upland areas like this without public rights of way. Looking at a hillwalking site, its log book records a fair few ascents of Garn Prys but the comments suggest total confusion as to routes up the hill, with clambering across farm land and scaling fences pretty common.

It’s certainly an issue which demands the full attention of the Welsh Assembly which has shown a greater willingness to action progressive policies than the Westminster establishment. 

1 comment:

  1. In light of a recent plea by a one-time Ramblers Association Director to "Step off the paths and erode idea of trespass" (Grough: 27 April 2015 - link below) I am pleased to be one of a loose association of bandits who have quietly roamed the hills for a number of years, disregarding ownership perceptions. Among such expeditions, Garn Prys was certainly memorable.