This trip has been planned in outline for a while. The idea was to walk from Machynlleth to Pumlumon, bag Pumlumon and then walk back again by a different route, thus describing a circle, or at least a circle that’s just crashed into a lampost whilst rolling down a hill. The actual details of the actual route were deliberately left a little bit vague just to add interest.
I got the train to Machynlleth and met Dawn on the Arriva Wales train out of Birmingham New Street which, incidentally, was infested with some very sleepy-looking cockroaches. A woman on the train announced that if you killed a cockroach, all the little baby cockroaches would jump out of it’s back and your problem would be even worse. Nobody believed this, though but when the last carriage pulled into Machynlleth and, all the windows appeared to an outsider to be blacked out till a well-fed Arriva employee opened the door and thousands of big black beetles poured out knocking the man over and revealing inside several whitened skeletons, one of which had an opened laptop and another with a tin of Carslberg in it’s hand. This really happened, honestly.
Leaving the chaos, flashing blue lights and Welsh news crews at Machynlleth railway station, me and Dawn lumbered off into town and out the other side up a hugely steep hill to find a nice quiet camping spot in a discretely secluded little green valley overlooking the fires and screaming refugee columns from the little Welsh town. Luckily, we seem to have escaped before the attack helicopters arrived and I could enjoy my Look What We Found Durham meatballs and peas to the sound of heavy-duty machine guns, the constant chatter of rotor blades and the occasional whoosh and thud of a hellfire missile slamming into Barclays bank which was still open at that time. Other than that it was a quiet, if windy night.
In the morning we followed Owain Glydwr’s Way till we got to a signpost which announced that it was closed due to a patch of infectious mud and a sheep with one eye and a bad attitude towards English ramblers and that we’d have to backtrack several miles to get to the place where it was open again 1500 metres further on. One or two of us (two actually) ignored this as most of the writing was in Welsh and we could barely understand it. (See explanation above) It did use the word “Pergyl”, which is something to do with washing up powder, I think. We sploshed through the mud and tripped over the forest brash that had been left lying around but it was without injury that we appeared 1500 metres later at the path closed sign at the other end.
We progressed on to a lovely, contouring path and up through busy, perilously teetering forestry operations to an area of plateau which sported several Dewey tops, two of which I bagged whilst Dawn did more sensible things like guarding the rucksacks and watching out for the arrival of Spring.
We descended, with a few navigational challenges to the isolated sheep station at Hyddgen and down to the foot of Hengwm, where the substantial Afon Hengwm roared impotently beneath a concrete footbridge. Hengwm is wet. In fact, it’s soaking. Soppy is the word. We found a dryish bit next to a small copse of conifers and settled in for the evening.
After a while, there were voices. A party of DofE sprogs arrived and occupied the wood, noisily. they lit a fire, smokily and noisily and their mentor or whoever he was arrived and instructed them noisily. They were obviously on some kind of high and, as a storm stormed in off Carmarthen bay, with it’s driving rain and roaring winds, the playground noises from the plantation continued far into the night. It wasn’t the quietest wild camp I’ve ever had.
The weather in the morning was, frankly, pants. It chucked it down big time all morning. The kids dissolved or something. We moved into the shelter of the wood. Dawn had, apparently been slowly sinking into the bog. Inside the wood it was still raining, but it was less windy. Quite cosy, in fact. The rain stopped. A full tour of Pumlumon, which had originally been planned, was probably a bit ambitious for what was left of the afternoon, but a short circuit of the two Easterley tops – Pen Pumlumon Llygad-bychan and Pen Pumlumon Arwystli could be done.
Dawn walked with me a little way and I continued climbing a cairned shepherd’s track above Llyn Llygad Rheidol which took me easily on to the tops, both of which were bagged in clear, cold weather and fuelled by Dawn’s orange chocolate drops and a few jelly babies (yes, yes, I know it’s cruel…). I followed an ATV track down into Cwm Gwerin which sports several nice camping spots and a few deep pools and down into the lower Corrie, which is as wet as any place which is not actually a lake. The next mile took the longest – a struggle with tussocks , bogs, compromised drainage, slop, sponge, squirty places and small streams. A buzzard laughed it’s beak off from above whilst resting on a thermal. I returned to Dawn with soggy socks and with black fountains from me laceholes.
We settled in for a quieter night than the previous night………… Oh aye, that’ll be right, then….
To be continued…..