Lord, what a beautiful Welsh Borders day; one of those fabulous cold winter afternoons when the sky is untroubled blue, the air’s as clean as a whistle, and you just know that from the heights of the Shropshire/Powys border you could see for a hundred miles.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Photo’s: Andy Harrison
Absolutely the day to explore the three peaks of the Breidden Hills, then, with my godson Andy Harrison, enthusiastic walker and geologist.
‘It’s always amazed me,’ mused Andy at the summit of Moel y Golfa, ‘how you can have three hills so close, but so totally different in geology. Where we’re standing is what’s left of a huge volcanic body that erupted about 450 million years ago. Then Middletown Hill,’ – he pointed across to a smooth rounded dome – ‘is the tuff, the ashes and waste, chucked out by the volcano. And that rough crumpled hill to the north, Breidden Hill itself – it’s dolerite, a tongue of magma that pushed out from the volcanic chamber and cooled.’
We gazed across the green plain where the River Severn lay in meanders and oxbows of brilliant enamelled blue, out to Cadair Idris nearly 40 miles off on the coast of west Wales, to the whaleback of the Wrekin, to the minuscule bump of Helsby Hill forty miles to the north and the shallow ridge of the Long Mynd and Wenlock Edge to the south. Here was my hundred-mile view, and food for speculation, too, in the blocky stone pillar on the summit of Moel y Golfa. Its inscription eulogised the Romany Chell or leader Uriah Burton, (‘Big Hughie’) – ‘a fighter for the weak, good to the poor, never beaten in fisty cuffs, a man who led his people into the twentieth century’. What more fulsome obituary could anyone want?
We dipped and swooped up to the Rodney pillar on Breidden Hill, ‘erected by subscription of the Gentlemen of Montgomeryshire’ in 1787 to honour Sir George Brydges Rodney, Admiral of the White. What on earth might Admiral Rodney and Big Hughie have found to say to each other, supposing they had ever met? Maybe they’d have blacked one another’s eye and then shared a glass of something convivial – so we speculated, anyway.
Whether anyone of note is buried in the Iron Age fort on Middletown Hill, neither history nor grand monuments relate. But the third of the Breidden summits gave Andy and me a last prospect over the Midlands and Welsh Borders, bathed in evening sunlight and looking good enough to eat.
Start & finish: Middletown car park, near Breidden Hotel, Middletown, Powys SY21 8EL (OS ref SJ 301125).
Train (www.thetrainline.com; www.railcard.co.uk) to Welshpool (5 miles)
Bus: X75 (www.tanat.co.uk) Welshpool-Shrewsbury
Road: M50, M54, A5 to Shrewsbury; Middletown is on A458 Welshpool road. Car park beyond Breidden Hotel.
Walk (6½ miles, hard, OS Explorer 240): From car park turn left along A458. In 100 yards take tarmac track on left of road. In 100 yards, cross road (298123); up path to right of house; in 70 yards left through gate (yellow arrow/YA) and up slope of field to cross stile (296124). Path hairpins to right and climbs. In 200 yards, sharp left (297125, YA), steeply up through trees, aiming for ridge (occasional YAs). Once there (293127 approx), bear left along ridge to Romany monument (291125) on Moel y Golfa. Continue along crest of ridge, then scramble down rocks; on down through trees, soon following white arrows, for a good half-mile. Where track steepens and bends left on Golfa Bank, look for cairn of stones on right, turn right here (285117) on level path through trees. In 200 yards fork right (fingerpost) to house and road (284121). Left along road for ¾ mile; then left (292130), following bridleway up to crossing of paths at New Pieces (293134). Continue on bridleway; in ¼ mile, at footpath crossing, left (295137, YA), up and over saddle to T-junction of paths. Right to forest road (296141). Left; in 250 yards fork right; through gate, and zigzag left and right up to Rodney’s Pillar (295144).
Bear right off summit from pillar, steeply down grass path (YA), through fence in dip (297143); on east (YA). In a couple of hundred yards, through kissing gate; on down into valley. At saddle under Brimford Wood (303144) bear right (YAs) down to cross track (blue arrows); on down to cross stream (305142 – very muddy!). In 30 yards right through gateway; on with hedge on left, to follow lane to Belle Eisle Farm (307137). Right along road; in 50 yards, left to skirt Belle Isle Cottage; fork right (YAs) up very steep path to saddle between Bulthy Hill and Middleton Hill (308135). Right to summit of Middletown Hill (305133). On down to saddle between Middletown Hill and Moel y Golfa (301131). Ignore YA pointing ahead, and turn sharp left, steeply down to A458 and Breidden Hotel.
Conditions: steep, muddy; not waymarked throughout; for confident map and GPS/compass walkers
Lunch: Breidden Hotel (01938-570250; http://www.ukpubfinder.com/pub/35028)
– Chinese, Thai and English cooking
Old Hand & Diamond Coedway (01743-884379;
More info: Welshpool TIC (01938-552043); www.visitmidwales.co.uk