Moel Famau, or Mother’s Hill, sits proudly as the highest peak in the Clwydian Range, a stunning Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that runs between the counties of Denbighshire and Flintshire in North Wales.
There are many trails up to the summit and the ruins of the Jubilee Tower. This one begins in the car park at Bwlch Penbarras, with a steady ascent through heather and hill fort country, and spectacular views out over the lush Vale of Clwyd.
The weather can change quickly on the hill – one minute bright sunshine, the next the trees are shrouded in clouds – so it pays to take an extra layer.
This is fantastic open country, with a patchwork of heather-covered hills stretching away before you, the shadows of clouds scudding across the surface. It’s an internationally important moorland habitat although sadly as much as 40 percent has been lost to forestation and agricultural since the Second World War.
Rise from the ashes
Dotted across the landscape you’ll see a series of strange shapes and patterns cut into the heather. This is part of the management programme of cutting and burning, which encourages new heather to grow, providing food and nesting sites for upland birds, including the iconic black grouse.
Rangers have worked hard to encourage the grouse to return, creating wet flushes by digging areas of moorland, lining them with clay and then filling the peaty soil back in. Over time they fill with water and provide the boggy ground that’s ideal for cotton grass, a favourite food for black grouse. There’s now thought to be around 25 males living locally, performing their famous and noisy ‘lekking’ rituals early on spring mornings.
However, you’ve more chance of seeing kestrels and buzzards patrolling the moors, and curlews sweeping across the
sky with their unmistakable call.
Traces of history
Much of the land was cleared thousands of years ago by Stone Age man. There are ancient clues to the past, including Bronze Age burial mounds and Iron Age hill forts.
The most accessible is Moel Fenlli, which you can reach by following a signposted path up the opposite side of the valley from the car park.
On a clear day you can see Snowdon, as well as the coast at Rhyl and Merseyside, from the summit.
And of course, people can see you too: at 554m this is the highest point for some miles, as noted by the poet WH Auden.
The summit is famous for the Jubilee Tower, now a substantial if unremarkable ruin, but when it was built in 1810, a looming landmark to commemorate King George III’s golden jubilee.
On the moorland, just a few windblown rowans and hawthorns dot the horizon. Your descent takes you through the thick pine forest of the Moel Famau Country Park.
HOW TO GET THERE
Moel Famau Country Park is signposted from the A994 Mold to Ruthin Road. Follow the road to Bwlch Penbarras car park.
Follow a free interactive heritage trail as you go.
Loggerheads Country Park, Ruthin Road, CH7 5LH
Open daily for homemade lunches and afternoon teas.
We Three Loggerheads
Ruthin Road, Gwernymynydd, Denbighshire CH7 5LH
Relax in this award-winning 17th-century coaching inn.
Loggerheads Country Park
Denbighshire CH7 5LA
This park has a rich history, from its days as a centre of lead mining through to the 1930s.