After a last minute plan was hatched to intercept Louise, David & Co on their journey back north from a successful week of shooting competition at Bisley, an even more last minute plan was hatched to spend a few days visiting some hills. My thinking was that if we were going to drive over to the M6 then we may as well take advantage of the mileage by driving a bit further, into Wales*. Alas, the last-minute nature severely curtailed my planning time, so as we set out, this was looking very much like a ‘make it up as you go along’ sort of a trip (with me hyperventilating slightly at the very thought!).
Mynydd Rhyd Ddu (SJ054477; 389m)
With this hill requiring a bit of trespassing, I got an early start. So early that Mick was still recumbent and in his PJs when I (up, dressed and breakfasted) jumped into the driving seat. A minute later, Mick was up and dressed too and we were off.
Leaving Mick in a layby on the A494, off I headed, past a farm and into some woodland. That woodland is the home to an off-road motorsports course, which wasn’t a problem in terms of traffic at 7am on this Saturday morning, but I did find it to be a maze of paths and tracks, requiring constant navigational attention.
Reaching the top of the course, I had two options: 1) stick to the plan and walk the public right of way for as far as possible, before picking up the windfarm track; or 2) veer completely off plan and follow my nose up through a gate I could see, in the hope that I would also find gates through other field boundaries I would encounter. I very often find with Marilyns that the route that looked good on paper isn’t the one I follow when on the ground, and today was another such example.
With only a small amount of detouring, I hit gates for every one of the four field boundaries I needed to cross and soon after the last, I was admiring the views from the trig point.
Arriving back at Colin (with 2.8 miles walked) I wrang out my socks. It turns out that those cheap shoes I bought in France to see me through to the end of the Pyrenees trip aren’t actually waterproof at all, in spite of their sweat-inducing membrane. They’ve got the really awful qualities of both boiling the feet, and letting water in but not letting it back out again. They’ll definitely be relegated to dry-weather local walks.
Foel Goch (SH953423, 611m)
A quick change of location had us parked up outside of the boarded-up church in the village of Llangwm and Mick joined me for the first half a mile of this one, before the draw of his book became too great (he really missed reading during the French trip and declared that this week will be spent mainly catching up on what he missed). Onwards I continued on my lonesome, up to the end of a lane and then onto the remains of a grassy track (which didn’t quite follow the line shown on the map), where I hurried because I thought I was trespassing. For some reason the right of way isn’t shown on the 1:25k map I was using (I now see that it is marked on the 1:50k from which I originally planned my route).
Reaching the start of the access land, I abandoned the track, as it was no longer going in a useful direction, but happily found the very faintest suggestion of another one, heading in my direction, just 20 metres or so up the hill. It got better and more obvious the closer to the top I got and thus my passage was far easier than I expected, and only slowed by the presence of so many fat juicy billberries which demanded that I picked and ate some of them.
It was rather a nice summit, I thought, marred only slightly by the overcast sky and hint of moisture in the air.
My intended start point for this one had been the car park at the dam of Alwen Reservoir, which would have given a far longer walk (with higher ascent) than was necessary, but it looked like an easy option in terms of both vehicle and walking access. The plan had also been to spend the night there, but that was scuppered when we found that we had no TV signal. It’s not something that usually features on our list of requirements for a kipping-spot, but it’s been elevated to nearly top priority this week, by virtue of the Olympics.
“Well, if we’re not staying the night here” I said “I can do this as a linear walk and you can pick me up the other side.” Aside from saving me the repetition of my outward route, it would also save a couple of miles.
“Why don’t you just walk out and back from the other side and halve the distance?” asked Mick, and in view of not knowing where I might find Mick on the other side (I assumed there would be somewhere to park, but didn't know where) and the lack of phone signal, it seemed like a sensible option.
Shod now in my Terrocs (the very pair that were retired in the Pyrenees due to being quite ‘tired’), the water that soaked my feet on this bogfest of a walk at least had a route back out of my shoes and thus in comfort I toiled my way up this hill. I’d had a late night last night (the Men’s team pursuit at the Velodrome in Rio didn’t finish till about 11), and an early start this morning, and it was starting to tell.
Nevertheless, I made it up to the top of another pleasing hill, saw that the big Snowdonia tops were covered in cloud, and made my way back down again. I lost the path temporarily through one of the bogs on the way back, in a different place to where I’d temporarily lost it on the way out.
This one came in at 4.4 miles and I was happy to call it a day with my tally standing at 3 hills.
It took us another couple of attempts to find somewhere with a BBC TV signal to spend the night. Betws-y-Coed was the answer. Who knows where we’ll find ourselves tomorrow…
(*it’s not the first time I’ve used that basis for a trip lately; my second hill-bagging trip of June came about because I needed to be at my gran’s house in Wolverhampton for an appointment at 8.30 on a Monday morning and I figured if I was driving 35 miles to Wolverhampton I may as well drive 35 more to the Welsh border and make a week of it).