The Begwyns is a large upland area and encompasses
a wild and rolling landscape of common land situated north of
Ffynnon-Gynydd and south of Painscastle. It rises to 415 m at
the Begwyns Round Barrow ( contained in the summit Roundabout
) and falls away to a low point of some 270 m to the NW. The whole
area of 1292.98 acres had been owned for a long period by the
Maesllwch Estate before being gifted to the National Trust by
Major G. W. F. De Winton on the 7th July 1992. Since this time
the National Trust have been overseeing and surveying the area
on a continuing basis.
The underlying rocks are silurian shales and mudstones to the north,
merging to old red sandstones in the south and the area is complicated
with some latterday glacial drifts due to the ice sheets overspilling
from the main Wye Glacier. There are a few natural mawn pools which
can dry up during the summer months and some small recently created
pools which cater for the animals grazing the common. There is one
large pond, the Monks Pond, which has been enlarged in recent times
to provide a reliable year long water supply for the Perthiduon
farm. The vegetation is mainly rough grassland and bracken, with
a fair scattering of cotton grass, gorse and some resilient hawthorn
trees. There are also some heather patches in the more peaty area
by the two mawn pools to the west of the Roundabout.
The Roundabout itself was built by the de Winton family in 1887
to protect the numerous trees which had been planted to commemorate
Queen Victoria's Diamond jubilee. These gradually disappeared
over time along with the wall which fell into total disrepair
by the mid 20c.
The trees were replaced in 1977 by the Maesllwch estate and stock
proofed by Rhosgoch Y.F.C. This was to commemorate the silver
jubilee of Queen Elizabeth 11.
The surrounding wall was rebuilt as a funded Millennium project
by the National Trust and the Painscastle Community and help was
provided by volunteers who were learning a trade . The surrounding
wall was built in just over 3 months and is standing the test
Access is provided by two styles, roughly north and south, and
the impressive circular seat was built in June 2000 under the
direction of Mr Richard Harris of Rhosgoch.
The triangulation point close by was adopted
in January 1997 by the Beagley family of Cornhill and has been
maintained by them admirably since that time.
The farms surrounding the Begwyns possess varying
common rights depending on their deeds. These are in the main
pasturage, estovers and common in the soil and the farmers themselves
have mutually exercised and managed these rights over a long period
prior to ownership by the National Trust. At a practicing level
the rights refer to the grazing of sheep, ponies and cattle, along
with the cutting and gathering of bracken for winter bedding on
the surrounding farms. There has also been selective quarrying
of rock and the shales over a long period, some of this being
used for building purposes and some to improve the various trackways
where necessary. It is worth noting that both the farmers and
the National Trust have been and are developing a working relationship
regarding the management and preservation of the area.
There is abundant physical evidence that the
Begwyns have been occupied by man during prehistoric times and
some indications for the medieval period, although at present
nothing has been discovered to suggest an occupation by the Romans.
There is also post medieval evidence of agricultural and wartime
activities, latterday quarrying and the creation / improvement
of access tracks and footpaths.
Within the Roundabout lies the Begwyns Round
Cairn, probably of the Bronze Age and a burial mounds of some
11m in diameter which has been much abused over the years by grazing
animals, human traffic and tree planting. It is now a Scheduled
Ancient Monument (S.A.M.) with a protected area of 22m in diameter.
Other S.A.M.'s of note are as follows : -
The Maesgwyn Round Barrow - GR 164 436
This is a grass covered barrow of some 19.5m in diameter and 1.6m
high. The protected area is 26m in diameter
The Bailey Bedw Ring Cairn - GR 165 442
This is a well constructed ring and possibly a
burial cairn. It is 7m across and encircled by a stony bank up to
3m wide and 1m high. The protected area is a circle of 15m radius.
The Begwyns Standing Stone - GR 153 450
( Possible Prehistoric standing stone )
This is a large split stone of just over a metre
high and a metre wide. It is nearly 0.5m thick and has a 8m diameter
Along with 11 other lesser sites the four above
are considered to be of the Bronze Age and all but one, the Maesgwyn
Round Cairn, are located in the northern half of the Begwyns.
The reason(s) for this are not fully understood and could be topographical,
geological or to do with the climate at the time, which was decidedly
During the surveying of these sites a number
of flint artefacts were found, these being four flint scrapers
and three small fragments of flake debris. The size and knapping
on the scrappers would suggest an early Bronze Age date
This site is an extensive one with several earth
platforms. There are supporting stone foundations, of rectangular
long huts and a number of small attached enclosures. There is
also a series of larger enclosures defined by earth banks.
The protected area for the site is 400 x 600 mtrs.
There are a few other possible medieval sites as yet unconfirmed
( 2014 ) and they all occur in the northern half of the Begwyns.
This may be due to climate or topography or a combination of these
and other factors.
Post Medieval to Modern
The common rights have been in use since medieval times on the
Begwyns and during this period there have been improvements to
existing roads and trackways ( a particular example being the
road from Ffynnon-Gynydd over to Painscastle, once a well used
ancient trackway - as witnessed by the very high roadside hedges
- and now a fully metalled 'C' class road.
Other well used grassland tracks have been modified and consolidated
with the quarried shales and some ditches have been crossed by
'Clapper Bridges' as the one at GR 149443. This ditch was possibly
used to drain the area of the two mawn pools above the bridge
in order to improve the grazing. This .area is shown on the 1832/33
OS map as being one large lake ( similar in size to the Monks
pond ) and is still quite boggy during the winter months when
water egresses out of the now shallower ditch.
The Bamford Hay Rake
This unusual relic was discovered in a little
visited area on the Begwyns. It was identified by Paul Greenow
as a Bamford Hay Rake and was probably abandoned in the early
The apparent suspension is probably not due to geological erosion
alone but more likely to be from a combination of weathering and
sheep treading, as they rub off their woolen coats when the weather
warms up. Traces of this can be seen in the photograph opposite.
Some temporary but important events occurred during
World War Two when the War Agricultural Executive Committees implemented
farming changes for a second time. The effect of the "War Ags"
was to increase the productive land in the UK by over 1.5 million
acres between 1939 and the early 1940's and this included large
areas of the commons of Ffynnon-Gynydd and the Begwyns.
Milk, potatoes and cereals were considered to be essential to the
food supply and a large part of the Begwyns was commissioned for
the grazing of cattle and the growing of mainly potatoes. Some 300
acres were fenced off and ploughed, initially for growing oats and
afterwards for potatoes. These were clamped and stored on the common
to be used as and when required.
Two nissen style huts with concrete bases were built to house the
necessary equipment and a loading ramp constructed at GR 139 435
to service transport of the produce from the Begwyns. The huts were
also used as repair sheds and shelters for lunch breaks and foul
weather conditions. Land-girls were employed to work with the farmers,
and also a few POW's. They all helped in the construction, planting
and running of the scheme.
After the war and around 1949 the graziers held a meeting and after
a spirited discussion agreed that the land should revert to common
usage. Today there is little evidence left of any extensive crop
growing, but there are however some remaining legacies worthy of
Approaching from the west the first of these
can be found at GR 139 435 and is the loading ramp mentioned above.
The second can be found at GR 143 435. These are
the two concrete bases; all that is left of the nissen style huts.
The third is the small dam and related water
troughs which were constructed for the benefit of the cattle and
can be found in the area of GR 149 436. The water was piped from
the dam to the troughs to provide a reliable and safe supply.
The fourth was a post-war event and is known locally
as 'The Bomb Hole' . During the war ammunition was safely stored
in a variety of depots ( A large one was created at Gwernyfed )
and these became redundant with the advent of peace. After a few
minor and trial explosions it was decided to dispense with the remaining
ammunition in one fell swoop and the Begwyns was the favoured and
chosen site. In due course the ammunition was sited at a safe distance
from the road at GR 178 443 and the demolition team at a even safer
distance in the ditch to the southwest. The bomb-blast was successful
but ruptured the bed-rock below, allowing a spring-line to create
a small lake which has remained largely full since that time.
In the aftermath there was significant structural damage to some
local farm buildings and this resulted in token monetary compensation
The prime recreational activity on the Begwyns
both past and present has always been walking in its various forms
and the foremost of these is walking for exercise by individuals
- sometimes with their dogs. To a lesser degree there have been
organised groups at an archaeological, historical and ecological
level and since the mid 20th century the Outdoor Education Centres
have used the Begwyns for hiking, pony trekking, map reading, cross
country skiing, mountain biking and also camping. These activities
have also been pursued at a personal level by numerous hardy individuals.
- click here
for one example
Jogging and running have been a feature at a personal and organised
level and one activity of note is an annual 10K cross country run.
This was instigated and supervised in 2006 by the Hay Hotfooters
Running Club. The Club was formed in 2004 and their Begwyns 10k
race attracted over 200 runners by 2015. It starts at the Roundabout
and finishes just right of the highest point of the road from Ffynnon-Gynydd
to Painscastle. Base camp is just to the left of this road.
Another annual activity is organised by the Hereford & District
Driving Group, their latest rally on the Begwyns being on Monday
the 25th August 2014.
Ornithologists have been observed and also instances of kite flying.
Numerous people have pick-nicked in the Roundabout complex and in
the sheltered hollows that abound in the area as a part of their
Regrettably there have been instances of off road driving by both
scrambles bikes and 4x4 cars although these seem to be of nuisance
value only at present.
December 3rd 2014
Amended June 7th 2015
Wales, A Physical,
Historical and Regional Geography. Edited by E. G. Bowen,
M. A. F.S.A.
National Trust archival material
The Hay Hot Footers Running Club
Hereford and District Driving Group
Mr Paul Greenow
Mr Fred Lloyd
Mr A A Nicholls of Croesfeilliog
Mr J. Perrin
Mr Aubrey Price of Llwynpenderi
Other local farmers