The mountainous region of Bannau Brycheiniog (The Brecon Beacons) in South Wales has a long history as a military training ground. The beautiful landscape of the Beacons can prove treacherous in harsh conditions and the SAS still use this challenging terrain for training exercises.
The Brecon Beacons is home to 40 aircraft crash sites, although there are only a few sites with reamins of notable wreckage. One of these sites is the Wellington Bomber crash site at Carreg Goch, near Glyntawe.
Access to this site is a via a short but picturesque hike across the western Beacons, known as the Black Mountain region. The walk has a fairly steep climb initially but the 360 degree views from the summit are certainly worth the effort. The area feels rugged and remote with piles of rocky outcrops and sinkholes littering the landscape.
In this guide to walking the Carreg Goch Wellington Bomber crash site I provide a detailed hike description, distances, times and photos.
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About the Carreg Goch Crash Site
The tragic story of the Vickers Wellington Bomber MF509 began on the night of November 20th 1944 from Operational Training Unit, Wellesbourne, Mountford. The aircraft set out on a nighttime cross-country training exercise but developed trouble with their engine.
The engine problem forced them into clouds which resulted in heavy ice forming on the wings. The impaired engine wasn’t able to generate enough power to maintain height and the aircraft crashed into the southwest slopes of Carreg Goch. All six Canadian crew were killed.
A memorial cairn now stands in their memory with the names of crew inscribed on on a plaque. The six men killed were:
- Sgt. Charles Hamel – Pilot
- Sgt: Jules Robert Rene Villeneuve – Navigator
- F/Off. William Joseph Allison -Bomb Aimer
- Sgt. Joseph Paul Ernest Burke – Air Gunner
- Sgt. Arthur Grouix – Air Gunner
- Sgt.Gerard Dusablon – Air Gunner
Carreg Goch Wellington Bomber Walking Route Description
- Starting location: Gwyn Arms lane off the A4067
- Distance: 8km
- Time: 3-4hrs
- Elevation gain: 340m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Map: OS Explorer OL12 Brecon Beacons National Park
- How to Pronounce: Kar-reg Gor-ch soft ch as in loch
- Meaning: Red stone
For this hike there are several parking options. At the Gwyn Arms there is a small car park which is for patrons only, however there is space for parking along the lane as long as you park off the side of the road and don’t block any gates or access points. Alternatively, there is parking at Dan Yr Ogof or the campsite next door. These are both paid parking.
From the Gwyn Arms, walk out onto the main A4067 road, cross to the other side and turn left. Walk along the road in this westerly direction for just a few minutes until you reach the turn off for a farm. You will see a footpath signpost at driveway entrance. Head up the drive, through the farmyard and cross over a series of styles, following the footpath signs as you go.
Pass through the metal gate and follow the path around to the right. Use the stepping stones to cross over the river in Cwm Haffes. This might be quite tricky if the river is in full flow and alternative route through the campsite may be required!
Continue along the path, through the gorse as it begins to climb the hill. As the path flattens slightly there is a path branching off to the left which descends to Dan Yr Ogof Farm. Ignore this and instead continue off to the right to keep climbing the hill. As you begin to ascend you can appreciate views of the Tawe valley and Fan Gyhirych peak behind you.
Around 400m later, the trail again branches into two. Continue straight ahead for a more gradual ascent or turn right for a short-cut that leads directly up the hill. Walk along this well trodden path for around 1.3km. Here you will leave the main path and begin walking along smaller sheep/pony tracks. This is where navigation becomes tricky, especially in poor weather and use of a GPS or map and compass is required.
Follow the pony tracks in a westerly direction as they make their way towards the hill summit. After 10-15 minutes, upon reaching the first plateau the tracks fork. The trail to the right heads directly to the summit, but instead branch off to the left along the plateau and make your way to the small lake.
Take a moment to enjoy the flora and fauna around the lake before taking a track off to the right (not marked on maps.me). This track climbs up the hill and leads to the rocky summit of Carreg Goch (558m). From here there are fabulous 360 degree views from atop this intriguing limestone rock layer.
This is a good place to enjoy lunch and admire the views. At this point, the crash site is only 200m below in a westerly direction, however it remains hidden out of site .
There are two options from the summit. You can head south and descend the ridge along the rock tables to rejoin the marked path. Upon reaching the path turn right and follow the trail as it turns back in a northerly direction. A few minutes after turning north you will see the crash site straight ahead of you.
Alternatively, from the summit, cut across country in a westerly direction making your way straight down the hill. The ground consists or rock slabs and tufty grass but is fairly easy to walk across. Just 5 – 10 minutes after leaving the summit you will see the crash site below.
At the crash site you will find recognisable remains of the bombers wings, landing gear and main body. There is a memorial cairn with two plaques, the most recent of which was laid in 2006 to commemorate the visit of one of the crew’s surviving sisters.
From the crash site, the path continues in a northerly direction in the direction of the Camarthern Fans (Fan Brycheiniog, Fan Foel, Picws Du). There are a few more sections of wreckage to investigate away from the main site, off to the right of the path. Shortly after leaving the site, the path becomes more established and remains this way for the rest of the walk.
Follow the path northwards before it comes to a t-junction. Turn right and make your way eastwards towards the start of the hike. The path gradually descends through the valley with Fan Hir ridge and a fenced boggy area off to the left. Fan Hir ridge is the location for another aircraft crash site, Vampire jet VZ106, which crashed in 1953. Click here for a guide to visiting this wreckage.
Fan Hir ridge is also the start of an epic hike to the beautiful Llyn y Fan Fach and Llyn y Fan Fawr. See this guide to learn more.
Soon you will reach the point where you left the main path on the ascent. From here you can simply retrace your steps back to the starting point. Be sure to watch out for the left turn above Cwm Haffes, above the river crossing, where the right turn leads to Dan Yr Ogof Farm.
What is the grid reference for Carreg Goch Wellington Bomber Crash Site?
The crash site can be found at Grid Reference: SN817168
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Hiking the Canadian Bomber Crash Site – What do you need?
- Waterproofs – of course, it’s Wales and we get lots of rain!
- Food & water – filtering water bottles are very handy for safely refilling in streams and rivers. You can read more about filtering water bottles in this guide.
- Hat, gloves and warm layers for the summits
- Quality hiking boots are a must
- The relevant map and compass, and the ability to use them!
- A first aid kit for hiking
- These paths are also marked on various mapping apps. A great free option is maps.me, alternatively consider an annual subscription to OS to have access to all UK OS maps on your mobile.
These are just some of the essentials, but for a complete list of things to take on a day hike, take a look at this guide!
Prefer not to walk alone? If you’re looking for a Mountain Leader to guide you on a mountain adventure, please contact me here to discuss rates and availability.
Final Thoughts on Walking to the Crash Site
Wellington Bomber MF509 tragically crashed into the side of Carreg Goch peak in November 1944 and much of the aircraft wreckage remains to this day. All six Canadian crew were killed in the crash and a cairn at the site marks their memory. The easiest way to access the crash site is a via hike from Glyntawe.
In this guide I provide a detailed description of this Wellington Bomber crash site walk. The loop is 8km in length, takes around 3-4 hours and is classed as moderate due to the initial climb up to Carreg Goch summit.
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