Thankfully I woke feeling much more optimistic than last night which was a relief to Harri (I’m such a grouch when I’m physically tired!).
Spending so much time in rural surroundings has made me realise what a townie I am deep down. I absolutely adore vast landscapes, like Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons; however, these past two weeks I’ve realised how much I hate being deprived of my everyday ‘essentials’… like internet access and supermarkets. Honestlu, the prospect of visiting Machynlleth’s proper supermarket this morning.had me giddy with excitement. Harri had to remind me – several times – that anything that went in the shopping trolley would ultimately end up in our aleady-heavy rucksacks.
With that sobering thought in my head, I strolled around the aisles clutching a tiny wire basket while Harri popped to the post office to mail another map home.
Weight aside, another drawback of the warmer weather is that food just doesn’t last. It’s tough having to walk past favourites like melons, nectarines and oranges in favour of processed foods but the fresh stuff just isn’t appetising when it’s warm and squashed. And fruit is so heavy… imagine trying to climb Pumlumon with a watermelon strapped to your back!
We left Machynlleth via Glyndŵr’s Way, a long-distance trail which loops around Powys for 135 miles, starting at Knighton and heading west to Machynlleth before turning round and heading back for Welshpool. Unlike the other waymarked trails we’ve followed on our journey, Glyndŵr’s Way is a designated National Trail (one of only three in Wales). This is a crucial status for any route because it means there is one person – a trail officer – who is responsible for maintaining, adequately signposting and promoting it. As a result, walking a National Trail tends to be a more enjoyable experience than following local footpaths or a council’s own promoted routes (where any signs of maintenance is often sadly lacking).
Anyway, after yesterday’s bogs and disappearing footpaths, it was good to know we’d be on solid, waymarked ground again… all day!
We left Machynlleth through the lovely grounds of Plas Machynlleth; the house and its grounds were presented to the District Council of Machynlleth in 1947 by the 7th Marquess of Londonderry and are now owned by Machlynlleth Town Council (who have added some amazing and absolutely huge benches).
We wandered past an imposing slate monument to Owain Glyndŵr, erected in 2000, and up the steep Roman Steps. These stone steps are uneven, weathered and worn (and probably very slippery when wet) but they didn’t look quite old enough to be Roman (and likely aren’t because the nearest Roman fort was four miles west of Machynlleth at Pennal [Cefn Caer]). Of course, those of us who are familiar with real Roman ruins can spot a fake a mile off!
On the hillside, the scenery was faultless: beautiful views back towards Machynlleth for the first few miles, then wonderful undulating high farmland. It was a glorious sunny Saturday in June so we were surprised when we didn’t see any other hikers for hours.
The ascent to Glaslyn was tough, there’s no other word for it. Harri is much better on hills than me so he went full steam ahead as I trailed behind, pondering how rabbits and sheep are able to live alongside one other harmoniously (the rabbits only disappearing when they spotted us) while, throughout history, human beings have been intent on killing their own kind.
As we climbed, the gorgeous and verdant hills gradually gave way to a more desolate landscape of steep ravines and heather moorland. These are the steep slopes that George Monbiot describes in Feral as looking ‘like the hills of Afghanistan’ and ‘the monotonous, impoverished moonscape’.
Peering down at the erosion gullies and lack of vegetation below, it’s hard to disagree with him. The Cambrian Mountains are not one of Wales’s most lush landscapes, perhaps why they attract so few visitors compared to other Welsh mountains. This is serious hiking terrain, not a place to snap pretty landscapes
As we approached Glaslyn Lake, we spotted our first walkers of the day (the old car park rule never fails) – a couple with a teenage son.
The 540 acre Glaslyn reserve is managed by the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust which claims it is their ‘wildest and most regionally important site’. It certainly wasn’t their most popular – despite the fine weather, we were the only people there.
We’d been undecided what to do about tonight’s accommodation; the intention was to camp at Devil’s Bridge tomorrow night so Harri thought it might be an idea to stop at a B&B tonight. The problem is the Cambrian Mountains are not exactly teeming with accommodation establishments and when Harri phoned ahead, it was only to be told, ‘sorry, no room at the inn’.
We were just trying to talk ourselves round to another night of high altitude wild camping (I personally favoured walking through the night, anything was better than a repeat of our Carneddau experience), when Harri spotted a sign pinned to a farm gate. Bron y Llys B&B.
Deciding to investigate was probably one of the best decisions we have made on this journey. This time there was most definitely room at the room and better still, there was room at the dinner table (dinner is an optional extra at this remote establishment but it’s good value and the food was delicious).
Maya and John are fantastic hosts and our room (Hafan) was in the modern annexe and was absolutely fabulous with simple wooden furniture, including a proper writing desk, and a huge king-size bed covered with an opulent oriental throw.
We joined the other guests Rachel and Steve (coincidentally from a village very close to our own home) for dinner and enjoyed a really pleasant evening. It was just so nice to have an excuse to ‘dress up’ again, i.e. use my curling tongs and wear the one floaty top I’d brought with me,
One of the things we loved about Bron y Llys was its overflowing book shelves. This place is just as much a library as it is a B&B! It would make a perfect writer’s retreat for someone who wanted to remove themselves from the distractions of urban life for a while, but who loves good food and conversation.
We finally fell into our king-sized bed at around 11pm, tired but nowhere near as exhausted as we’ve been some nights. We’d enjoyed our return to civilisation but tomorrow we had a lot of miles to walk… and another summit to conquer.
‘O Fôn i Fynwy: Walking Wales from end to end’ by Harri Garrod Roberts is available as a Kindle ebook from Amazon, in Made for iBooks format from Apple’s iTunes and in other digital formats from Smashwords.
‘Never too old to backpack: O Fôn i Fynwy: a 364-mile walk through Wales’ by Tracy Burton is available from Amazon’s Kindle Store and other online bookstores priced at £2.99.