A wandering Mynydd Maen

Me and Mynydd Maen

I, Trefor Beese, was brought up in Pontnewydd, now part of the town of Cwmbran. My father took me up Mynydd Maen, the mountain above Cwmbran at a very early age. Little did I know back then that not only would I spend time wandering on Mynydd Maen but I’d also spend time chasing a name wandering on a map.

My father, Stan and cousin, Alan photographed by me on the summit of Mynydd Maen, June 1957

I have ascended this mountain at least 80 times since 1957. As a founder member of Gwent Mountaineering Club, back in 1976, I know that every Club walk up the mountain has been listed in the Club’s summer and winter programmes as “Mynydd Maen”.

The name “Mynydd Maen”

“Mynydd Maen” has always been the name on Ordnance Survey quarter inch (now 1:250,000) maps. Also on all AA, Streetezee, Collins, Phillips, and AZ maps licensed from the Ordnance Survey (OS).

Before the Ordnance Survey was founded in 17911, this mountain between Newbridge and Cwmbran at grid reference ST259978 was historically known as “Mynydd Maen”. There was no town of Cwmbran at that time. Grid references were not yet in use.

The first OS mapping of this part of South Wales took place in the early 1800s based on sightings taken from Mynydd Maen and Ogmore Down, Bridgend. “Mynydd Maen” (at the highest point), and new names “Mynydd Twynglas” and “Mynydd Llwyd” were names on the first Ordnance Survey map (OS First series 1 inch to the mile Sheet 36) published in 18332.

OS First Series 1 inch to the mile sheet 36,
Engraved at the Ordnance Map Office 1833

A second survey, 1873-1881 introduced an additional name, “Tŵyn Calch”, just north east of “Mynydd Llwyd”. This “New Series” map, sheet 249 Newport was published in 18913.

In 1936 the Ordnance Survey erected a triangulation pillar on the summit of the mountain. This was one of a number of primary survey stations erected at this time as part of the Re-triangulation of Great Britain that took place from 1936 to 19624. This survey pillar or ‘trig point’ had and still has station number PP073 and the name “Mynydd Maen” .

A wandering name

After 1891, OS cartographers began moving the names “Mynydd Maen” and “Mynydd Twyn glas” around on the different revisions of the leisure scale OS maps. This happened many times over the next 120+ years. As well as location of the names, changes also occurred to the font, size and orientation of the labels. The names wandered!

The name “Mynydd Maen” was eventually positioned on the leisure maps at the minor elevation (prominence 3 metres) about a mile south of the main summit (at grid reference ST 25880 96780). The main summit (with its trig point named “Mynydd Maen”) eventually seemed to become named as “Mynydd Twyn glas” on the leisure maps. Mountaineering books, magazines and the popular Hill Bagging website – the online version of the database of British and Irish Hills – all identified the mountain as “Mynydd Twyn glas”. People in Cwmbran and Gwent Mountaineering Club, though, continued to call the main mountain “Mynydd Maen”. The OS 1:250,000 map also continued to name the mountain as “Mynydd Maen”.

For some years I made the case to Ordnance Survey to alter the naming of the mountain at ST259978 (the highest point) on their leisure maps from “Mynydd Twyn-glas” back to “Mynydd Maen”. I did this with the backing of Gwent Mountaineering Club and the British Mountaineering Council, and help from family and many friends.

Everything in its place again

I finally succeeded. The changes were made early in 2023 on the OS “Master Map”. Happily, all the 4 original names are now back in the correct places. OS have added the name “South Top” to the elevation at ST 25880 96780 (about a mile south of the summit), and a “massif” name “Mynydd Maen Commons” along the south ridge.

Map extract, with permission from Ordnance Survey, showing the revised name placements

It has taken until October 2023 for this change to cascade down to the 1:25,000 map; but it is yet to appear on the 1:50,000 map. If you subscribe, the change is visible on the on-line OS Maps app. I first spotted it on 10th October 2023. The Hill Bagging website will soon reflect the change as well. However, it is likely to be some time before printed paper maps are revised.

Trefor Beese
October 2023

  1. History of the Ordnance Survey (OS): https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/about/history ↩︎
  2. OS First series 1 inch to the mile Sheet 36: https://visionofbritain.org.uk/maps/sheet/first_edition/sheet36 ↩︎
  3. OS New Series 1 inch to the mile Sheet 249 Newport: https://maps.nls.uk/view/239766406 ↩︎
  4. The Retriangulation of Great Britain, 1935 – 1962: https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/documents/resources/history-retriangulation-great-britain-1935-1962.pdf ↩︎