O Fôn i Fynwy – Day 14 (Dylife to Ponterwyd)

After a delicious breakfast of fruit salad, yoghurt, pancakes and maple syrup it was time to bid farewell to Maya and John, Steve and Rachel (who were lucky enough to be staying another few days).

I was a little bit disappointed we didn’t have longer to explore the lovely garden at Bron y Llys but after lingering so long over breakfast, Harri was now keen to get started on our 20-mile day.

Despite the distance involved, Harri was hoping we could push on to Devil’s Bridge today to make up for yesterday’s four-mile shortfall. There’s a really nice campsite there too (Woodlands Caravan Park) and after last night’s extravagance, we felt we should tighten our belts again (a little difficult after all that delicious food!).

We retraced our steps to Glyndŵr’s Way and followed it for about four miles, me constantly turning to admire the spectacular views back towards the Dylife Gorge. I was a little concerned about the sheep grazing peacefully at the plateau edge; one false move and…

Looking back at isolated Dylife with the gorge far right

Looking down on the few houses that comprise modern-day Dylife, it’s hard to believe this was once a thriving, bustling community of over a thousand people, with three inns, a grocery store, a post office, a butcher’s shop and a blacksmith. By the mid 1860s, there was a school, a monthly fair and four places of worship. True, it probably looks more scenic without the mining industry but it’s sad that all the facilities have disappeared, including two of the pubs (the third, The Star Inn, was being refurbished when we passed through but is now open for drinks Tuesday to Friday evenings).

We walked through the alpine-like scenery of the Hafren Forest, stopping to talk to a young German man who was hiking around the UK for six weeks before heading back to Liverpool. Today’s destination was Machynlleth via the Wales Coast Path and he was confident he’d find his way without an AA map (he had a small-scale map of the whole area). We weren’t so certain about that but admired his courage (and his ability to carry such an enormous pack) and wished him well.

The narrow and less impressive end of Clywedog reservoir
The narrow and less impressive end of Clywedog reservoir

With a good solid track underfoot, I was in good spirits although the sunshine had all but disappeared. We passed the narrow end of the Clywedog reservoir and were surprised how many people were gathered there, many relaxing in camping chairs. Harri guessed they were bird watchers because the dam – so impressive Land Rover produced a 1995 advert featuring a Defender 90 winching up the face of the dam under its own power – is six miles away. Watch it if you get chance… it’s a good one.

Llanidloes signpost
Is this the way to Llanidloes ?

Soon after Clywedog, we joined the 25-mile circular route of Sarn Sabrina which eventually lead us to the Source of the Severn. We climbed steadily on forestry tracks until we reached a signpost announcing we were nearly there and directing us onto the well-worn route across the Cambrian Mountains.

There’s nothing on the ground to suggest this is the birthplace of the mighty Severn, a waterway which meanders 220 miles through Wales and England and passes through Newtown, Welshpool, Shrewsbury, Ironbridge, Worcester, Tewkesbury and Gloucester (to name but a few). In fact, there’s very little to see except a wooden post in a bog …oh, and people. The Source of the Severn is another of those tourist honey-pots… plus there’s a car park nearby.

Approaching the Source of the Severn on Pumlumon
The stone path approach to the Source of the Severn on Pumlumon

At 2,467 feet, Pumlumon Fawr is the highest point in Mid Wales and the massif’s five peaks dominate the northern side of Ceredigion. On a clear day in March, we were treated to far-reaching views across Cardigan Bay, Snowdonia in the north and the summits of Pen y Fan and Corn Ddu in the Brecon Beacons in the south.

Pumlumon on a clear day
On a clear day, the scenery from Pumlumon is breath-taking

Having tackled it on several other occasions, but from the other direction, I was under no illusion that the climb was going to be tough but not quite this bad. I hadn’t anticipated just how much longer we’d be walking without decent views.

The combination of grey skies and desolate landscapes are guaranteed to send my spirits plummeting. Pumlumon Fawr from this direction is a tough, monotonous climb with no obviously marked routes (the easiest way to walk is from a farm car park off the A44 but Harri seems to prefer the tougher ascents!); as such, it’s easy to wander off course and this is exactly what happened.

After several false starts, we eventually managed to get back on track and climbed to the cairn summit. By now, there was a huge grey storm cloud looming overhead so we chose not to loiter.

Black cloud settling in
On a not-so-clear day it’s best get off the mountain quick

Fortunately, the rain held off and we were able to get off the mountain without a soaking. It’s barely three months since we were last year but everything looks so different now. The ground is much drier but without the amazing views Pumlumon felt bleaker than it had done in early spring.

We came off the mountain at last and strolled down a pretty lane towards Ponterwyd. Now the sun felt hot and we were tiring rapidly. Harri had amended the route slightly so that it was shorter but the climb to Devil’s Bridge was going to be tough in the heat, no doubt about it.

Sheep above Clywedon reservoir
It’s rare to meet another hiker on Pumlumon

There was a tough decision to be made. Did we carry on walking to the Devil’s Bridge campsite, do a few more miles and wild camp somewhere between Ponterwyd and Devil’s Bridge, or check if the George Borrow Hotel had a room available?

I think you can probably guess the answer to that one!!


UPDATE: Being something of a perfectionist, Harri spent a lot of time planning O Fôn i Fynwy; however, the route was never set in stone and we always anticipated it was likely to change as we walked it and checked out the possibilities.

Until today’s walking, we’d been really happy with the way things had gone; however, despite our wonderfully uplifting night in Dylife, Harri was never not with this section and eventually made the decision to change it so that it passes on the other side of the mountain.

Sadly, it means Bron y Llys is no longer en route for those hiking the whole O Fôn i Fynwy route but of course there’s nothing to stop you visiting this lovely peaceful – and very welcoming place – anyway.


‘O Fôn i FynwyWalking 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.