This walk takes in part of the beautiful Mawddach Trail which is a 9 mile (15km) walk from Dolgellau to Barmouth, and also the lovely woodland at Abergwynant.
The Mawddach Trail follows the track bed of the old railway line from Barmouth to Ruabon. The line was opened in 1865 and proved to be very popular with visitors. The line was also used briefly to carry slate. As cars became more popular, the line became less cost-effective and was closed in 1965. On the northern side of the track is the river Mawddach which has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation because of the salt marsh and lowland peat habitats.
Abergwynant Woods has been an ancient woodland since at least the 17th century. During the 1960s conifer trees were planted there and most of the native trees were cleared. The site was acquired by the Snowdonia National Park Authority in 1996 and since then, work has been done to bring the rhododendron ponticum under control, remove the conifer trees and restore the native trees like the sessile oak, birch and holly. Soon after the clearing of the rhododendron began, more birds were heard in the area.
As the track follows the Gwynant river you will come across a great example of an old lime kiln. Ships and boats would carry limestone here from the Gogarth area in Llandudno, and the limestone would then be burnt in the kiln to create lime to be spreaded over the land to fertilize it.
How to get there?
On the A493 from Dolgellau to Tywyn, turn right for Barmouth and Penmaenpool Bridge (Toll), and then turn immediately right into the Penmaenpool car park owned by the Snowdonia National Park Authority. The Mawddach Trail runs through this car park.
Distance: 4 miles - 6 km
Time: Around 2 hours
Grade: Moderate Walk
Terrain: Woodland paths and minor roads/tracks. Wear appropriate waterproof footwear.
Start/Finish: Penmaenpool car park, near Dolgellau (SH 696 185) Penmaenpool car park, near Dolgellau (SH 696 185)
Post Code: LL40 1YE
Relevant Map: OS Ordnans Exp OL23 (Cader Idris & Llyn Tegid)
1. From the car park, follow the Mawddach Trail in the direction of Barmouth passing the toilets. Cross the road that leads to the Toll Bridge, and walk past George III Hotel along the road. Soon the road becomes a track. Follow this track and go through the gate.
2. After walking for about a mile from the car park, you will reach a picnic table and a gate on the left hand side of the Mawddach Trail. Go through the gate and follow the zig zag path up through Abergwynant Woods.
3. The path gradually leads you to the top of the hill. At a fork in the path, turn right to a picnic table where there is a splendid view of the Mawddach estuary. On the other side of the Mawddach river, can you see Farchynys, another woodland which is managed by the Authority and is open for the public to enjoy?
4. Retrace your steps back from the picnic table and walk straight ahead at the fork. The path forks once again, keep left this time and follow the path which climbs up through the woodland.
5. Keep left as you join another path. Follow the path down through the woods and take care, especially when wet. You will be passing Abergwynant Hall on your left.
6. As the path levels out you will be walking alongside the Gwynant river. Keep an eye out for the old lime kiln on the left by the river.
7. After passing the lime kiln, keep right at the fork and follow the narrow path uphill.
8. As the path rejoins with the track, turn right and follow the track passing the old sawmill.
9. After passing the shed, follow the path to the left before reaching the gate in front of you.
10. When the path forks, follow the path to the left, and then turn right at the next fork retracing your steps back down to the Mawddach Trail.
11. On reaching the Mawddach Trail, turn right and walk back to the car park and enjoy the lovely views around you.
Why do we have to get rid of the Rhododendron?
Rhododendron ponticum was introduced to Britain 200 years ago as an ornamental shrub and was planted in the gardens of many large houses. It likes high rainfall and humidity, together with an acid soil. When the Rhododendron actively spreads it casts a dense shade and no other plants can grow underneath it. Thus all the flowers, ferns and mosses disappear and tree seedlings can’t grow, so that when old trees die, there are no young ones to replace them.