The extensive areas of blanket bog support three distinct vegetation types. In each heather (Calluna vulgaris) is a dominant plant, but in one hare’s-tail cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum) is co-dominant, in another deer-grass (Trichophorum cespitosum) and in the third purple moor-grass (Molinia caerulea). The most extensive area of dwarf-shrub heath is around Glaslyn, where heather is dominant, in contrast to areas dominated by bilberry and crowberry (Empetrum nigrum) on and around Foel Fadian to the north. A number of uncommon plants occur in wet flushes and on rocks and cliffs scattered about the site. Starry saxifrage (Saxifraga stellaris) occurs near its southern-most limit in Britain.
Most of the birds characteristic of upland Wales are found on the Pumlumon range, either feeding or breeding there. Birds of prey include peregrine falcon, red kite, merlin, hen harrier, short-eared owl, kestrel and buzzard. Ring ouzel, golden plover, red grouse, common sandpiper, wheatear, whinchat and teal breed there, and Greenland whitefronted geese roost during the latter part of the winter on Bugeilyn, the best lake for aquatic plants and animals on the mountain.
This wealth of habitat and species means that Pumlumon Fawr and the area around it have been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The site extends from Pumlumon Fawr itself, which is located in the south, to Foel Fadian, which is some distance to the north.
Historic LandscapePumlumon Fawr form part of the Upland Ceredigion Historic Landscape. It’s considered an area where natural forces and human activity, acting together over the last six thousand years, have contributed to produce a landscape of great beauty and variety, which is considered a national asset that is essential both to Wales’ national identity and to its individual 'sense of place' and wellbeing.
This very extensive area, which includes the summit of the mountain, lies across the county boundary separating Ceredigion from Powys. Included in this area was part of Cwm-hir Abbey’s Cwmbuga Grange. The unenclosed character of most of this land probably ensured that the Crown claimed it. It included the Crown Manor of Perfedd. Records of Cwmbuga Grange indicate considerable sheep-walks and summer pasture - a function that has generally survived across the whole area to the present day. Though there are now no occupied settlements in the area, historical sources indicate that in the 18th century a pattern of dispersed settlement existed. Many of these settlements were referred to as lluest, which may indicate that their origins lay within a system of transhumance. In 1744, Lewis Morris, the Deputy Steward of the Crown Manor of Perfedd, described them as "small cottages which were originally summer houses for shepherds and have an inclosure of a few acres of ground annexed to them". Morris seems to have described a system in decline as some of the settlements he lists were deserted. By the end of the 18th century they had declined dramatically in numbers, and by the mid 19th century had all but gone leaving a deserted landscape. Plynlimmon Lead Mine commenced production in this remote area in 1866 and continued until 1891.
Apart from the metal mines mentioned above, the recorded archaeology consists of Bronze Age round barrows/cairns and find spots, and post-Medieval settlement sites and associated remains. The round barrows/cairns located on summits, such as the group on Pumlumon are dramatic elements of the landscape. Post-Medieval settlements, which are concentrated on the lower slopes, indicate a populated landscape until the 19th century.
The area is also the location of one of Wales’ most significant historic events, the Battle of Mynydd Hyddgen, which took place in a valley just to the north of Pumlumon. The battle, which occurred in June 1401, was part of the Welsh revolt led by Owain Glyndŵr (1359–c. 1416) against English rule between 1400 and 1415, and is considered to be the first victory in the field won by the Welsh leader.
The battle began when a large force of 1,500 English soldiers and Flemish mercenaries from Pembrokeshire attacked the army of Glyndŵr, which was encamped at the bottom of the Hyddgen Valley. They had marched north on the orders of King Henry IV in an attempt to quash the growing rebellion, Glydŵr having raised the banner of Welsh independence the September before. Glyndwr had been marching south with a small force of some 120 mounted troops with the aim of pursuing a guerilla war in the English controlled south.
There is only one account of the battle, which can be found in the 'Annals of Owen Glyndŵr' written by the poet Gruffydd Hiraethog many years later in 1550.
”The following summer Owen rose with 120 reckless men and robbers and he bought them in warlike fashion to the uplands of Ceredigion; and 1,500 men of the lowlands of Cerediogion and of Rhos and Penfro assembled there and came to the mountain with the intent to sieze Owen. The encounter between them was on Hyddgen Mountain, and no sooner did the English troops trurn their backs in flight than 200 of them were slain. Owen now won great fame, and a great number of youths and fighting men from every part of Wales rose and joined him, until he had a great host at his back.”
How the Welsh managed to defeat such a large force is unknown, however it may be related to the way the armies fought, the small, light and mobile force of the Welsh, probably armed with bows (the Welsh were famed for their skill as archers), probably outmanoeuvred the heavily laden English army which would have been burdened by the presence of women and children and hindered by the boggy valley floor.
A monument commemorating the event is located at the Nant y Moch Dam, located several kilometres south of the probable site of the battle.
Mountain ConditionsThis section displays the weather forecast for Devil's Bridge (known as Pontarfynach in Welsh), which is located to the south of the mountain. Remember that Devil's Bridge is around 200m, while Pen Pumlumon Fawr reaches 752m. This means that when looking at temperature the adiabatic lapse rate must be taken into account, which in Wales is a drop in temperature of between 0.5 and 1°C per 100m in altitude. Exposure and wind speed can significantly lower temperatures.
When to Climb and Essential GearIn the spring and summer the weather is usually quite mild and although the weather is usually warm showers are common, and full waterproofs and quality walking boots are essential for all outings.
In winter the area is much quieter as most tourists prefer to visit the area when it's warm. In winter conditions an ice axe and crampons should probably be carried. Despite the areas comparatively low altitude it can get very cold with temperatures dropping to near Arctic levels, many inexperienced walkers and climbers have been caught out in these conditions most are rescued safely by mountain rescue teams however occasionally the consequences are more serious.
Red Tape and AccessNo red tape here!
Although unlikely it's worth checking the countryside access map provided by the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) regarding whether or not any restrictions on movement in the area are in place.
Countryside Access Map
For climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers, the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) runs a Regional Access Database, which holds mountain/crag specific information on matters of conservation and access, including issues such as nesting restrictions, nature designations and preferred parking.
Regional Access Database
If you are in any doubt about any particular access arrangement, or need to report an incident, you should contact your local BMC Access Representative or the BMC Access Officers for Wales: Elfyn Jones.
Getting TherePumlumon Fawr is located in the northern Cambrian Mountains, just to the east of the university town of Aberystwyth. The only realistic way to get to Pumlumon Fawr is along the A44, which runs between Aberystwyth (SN 583 185) and Llangurig (SN 908 798). Don’t bother with the southern side of the mountain; turn off onto an unclassified road at Ponterwyd (SN 749 808) and head north towards the Nant y Moch Reservoir. After around 6km turn right at a fork in the road (SN 762 864) and drive along the road until it ends. Park at the end of the road (SN 774 879), it’s impossible to drive any further anyway. Note, that when parking, make sure you're not blocking any of the track entrances that are to be found here.
Camping and AccommodationCheap camping and accommodation is relatively scarce in the local area, although the local towns and villages such as Aberystwyth and Devil's Bridge do offer plenty of options. For a comprehensive guide to the accommodation in the area, Ceredigion County Council's tourism website has some excellent pages providing details on what’s available throughout the area:
Ceredigion County Council's Tourism Website
In my personal opinion wild camping is the best option, I guarantee you no one else will be camping for miles around.
GuidebooksThe Cambrian Way – the mountain connoisseurs walk by A.J. Drake
Cicerone Guide: The Mountains of England and Wales Volume 1 Wales by John and Anne Nuttall
Cicerone Guide: Hillwalking in Wales Vol 2 by Peter Hermon
Pumlumon Bouldering by Steve Muncaster
Cambrian Mountains Society
Carmarthenshire County Council
Ceredigion County Council
Powys County Council
Countryside Council for Wales
British Geological Survey
The National Trust
Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments in Wales
Cefn Croes Wind Farm Campaign
An explanation of Top Trumps
Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust
The Wildlife Trusts: Water and Wetlands
Mountaineering and Climbing Organizations
British Mountaineering Council
The Climbers' Club
Welsh Tourist Board
Mid Wales Tourism Partnership
Carmarthenshire Tourist Board
Ceredigion Tourist Board
Powys Tourist Board
Mountain Weather Wales
Weather from the Met Office
Weather Channel UK
Welsh Public Transport Information
Uk Train Timetable
Hillscape: The Self-guided Walking Specialists
Youth Hostel Association in Wales
Dolgoch Bunkhouse YHA
Mid Wales Campsites
Maps and Guidebooks
Harvey Map Services
Climbers' Club Guidebooks
Mid Wales Climbing
Welsh Language Board
Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg Welsh language pressure group
Yr Urdd (Welsh Youth Association)
Welsh-English / English-Welsh online translator
Welsh-English / English-Welsh Online Dictionary
Welsh-English / English-Welsh Online Lexicon