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Monday, 16 July 2012

Persistence Produces Perfect Plynlimon Poddle

hengwm cap in a bower

Regular readers may remember that back in April me and Dawn had a damp time around Plynlimon and Hyddgen and a torrid time involving certificate-seeking DofE kids. This time would inevitably be different and the reason for this, of course, would be that Dawn had done lots of research, including fighting her way up barbed-wire defended lanes, deep in wet bracken, fighting her way through seething wobbly swamps and persuading bunkhouse proprietors that we were , in fact, responsible hostellers and it would be OK to let us in for a night. In view of this determined slog, it was good to keep myself out of things like navigation and negotiations with accommodation providers and let Dawn do all the hard work. She’s better at it than me anyway….


And so it was that we met yet again in a railway carriage hurtling out of Birmingham New Street towards the Welsh coast in the form of the University town of Aberystwyth, of which we saw little since we quickly caught a bus for the interior before somebody stepped up to try to stop us doddering off into the wild interland near some kind of forestry commission visitor centre thingy.

first bit

We plodded for a bit and camped near a hill-fort with some midgies. I was attacked at various times by a couple of fairly lethargic sheep ticks and a huge black beatle.. as you were… beetle. I amused myself in the evening by bagging Disgwlfa Fawr, which was just round the back of the tent and which turned out to be a Marilyn some 1663 feet high and only lightly defended by some tussocks and one of Alan Sloman’s barbed wire fences (I still have three holes in my right leg from this) It rained during the night.

Dawn at the top of plynlimon

The next day – probably Tuesday by now, we set off in the drizzle towards Plynlimon. This variously involved lots of deep, wet grass, a deep, wet forest, lots of contours and some hill fog. At one point, I left dawn in some trees whilst I went off to bag Y Garn, a subsidiary outlying top of Plynlimon with a cairn on the top. This wasn’t much of a surprise as Y Garn means “The cairn”. Returning to dawn’s sheltered spot, we continued up the easy ridge to the top. After failing to reach this spot back in April, to say that I was chuffed to sit in the cairn/shelter on the top and scoff chocolate would not be an understatement. I was, in fact, as smug as a senior banker who’s just been bailed out again and is now able to buy that lovely Scottish estate with the deer-stalking and the place on the Loch for the yacht.

hengwm camp

We followed some fences , eventually emerging at about 500 metres from the Welsh clag on the steep sides of Hen Gwm – the Old Corrie. We knew a place by a ruined farmstead at a stream junction and sploshed off to find it. It seems that we may well have been camping on the farmhouse lawn. There are still garden flowers there and the site is in a green bower amongst trees and sheltered a bit from the lively and cold wind blustering up the glen. We stayed there till Thursday which left plenty of time for mooching around and exploring and, maybe a dip in the beck high up in the corrie(just me).

carn hyddgen summit 

On Wednesday we bagged Carn Hyddgen, a 500+metres lump across the valley, sporting two huge and ancient cairns. Somewhere around Hyddgen was the site of Owain Glyndwr’s victory over the Crown in the fifteenth century. Its an empty place now with a special and remote feel to it.

Dawn paddles Afon Hengwm

upper hengwm

This is, however, a very soggy area and , by this time , my boots were seriously wetted out and I had just the one pair of dry socks left, which I was determined should remain dry. And so, on Thursday , after paddling Afon HenGwm once again, I saw little point in ripping me tootsies to bits in wet boots and socks and, realising that the next severalteen miles would almost certainly be mainly soggy, I opted for the most waterproof option and hung my boots on the back of my pack and forayed forwards in bare feet. For bog-trotting in summer, I have to say that this is the most efficient,and, the most enjoyable way of travelling. None of this tiptoeing around the soggy bits – just splosh right on through. You get mucky feet and legs, but peat falls off skin once it’s dry and skin dries remarkably quickly. Once on the hard track at the Northern end of HenGwm, I had to put the boots back on, but I didn’t bother with socks and, during the day, since we were on dry tracks and the day was fairly warm, the boots started to dry out.

At one point, I left Dawn once again whilst I nipped off to bag Clypin Du, a HuMP/Dewey with a fab view of Cadair Idris and the Arans and, not too far off route.

pen y darren camp

We followed good tracks all day across moors and through forestry and roughly along the Northern edge of a huge escarpment that runs East-West (ish) above the Dovey valley and which occasionally reveals spectacular views to the North. We ended, just as the fine day ended with approaching cloud and drizzle, quite close to the top of Pen y Darren, another HuMP/Dewey with a huge and ancient cairn on the top. It rained all night and variously blew a hoolie or became spookily quiet and calm. This was our longest day, which I later measured at around eleven miles, and, it did feel quite tough at times.

a waterfall!

Finally, on Friday we packed wet tents and headed for the fleshpots of Machynlleth, about seven  miles away. We started with a long downhill – clearly , one of the advantages to camping high up and we rambled the dales and lanes and golf courses of Afon Dyfi, ultimately turning up in Machynlleth in early afternoon.

We spent the evening in the local bunkhouse (Dawn arranged this) and, as a reward, I made the dinner and stupified myself with beer and wine, all of which I enjoyed immensely.

Dawn’s version of the walk is here

approaching the fleshpots of Machynlleth

This was, of course, Dawn’s walk. She did all the work for it, I just turned up, really, and followed her through the tussocks and the bogs and the dripping trees. The route she made had the right “ticks” on it (not the sheepy ones) and there were a few bonus hill-bags as well. And a couple of the days were satisfyingly tough. And (there’s more..) – the area is beautifully void of roads and, even much in the way of paths and, apart from a possible passing of our campsite late one evening by a small group, we saw nobody at all for four or five days, the last ones being a pair of off-road bikers from Birmingham who insisted that everything they did was legal. Not seeing any huming beans for for days Is A Good Thing.

So – It were a right good do….  I’d do it again.


Dawn said...

It was, at times, hard going but some times persistence pays off! An enjoyable trip and we had fun.

Alan Sloman said...

If all these barbed wire fences are mine, then perhaps I should go about the place and gather them up. I could take them down the scrappy and get wonga for them.

They'll have to be cut up into manageable lengths first though, so if you come across one of my fences, could you snip it into lengths of no more than a few feet please?

I've already started on the ones I have come across.

Nice walk, btw.

Alan R said...

Luxury bunkhouse accomodation, nice weather, beautiful scenery, whisky, cool bathing, flat grassy campsites. Sounds tough, not sure i would have coped. But somebody has to do it.

Mike Knipe said...

Dawn - A cracker - but can we do better...?
Alan - I'm not sure what all this barbed wire does for us, apart from damage. Can we sue somebody, I'm full of holes..?
Alan - I made it sound easy. it were 'ard, though. Have you ever tried to sup 75 cl of scotch in four days? Not easy! But with practise....

chrissiedixie said...

Great looking trip, but not convinced by the walking barefoot lark - think my feet are far too sensitive for that...

Dawn said...

Gates on rights of way, padlocked or tied with wire and and then having barbed wire wound around the tops, nasty!!!

Jules said...

Looks good, and drier than your last attempt! Which can't be bad.

Never tried to do 75cl of scotch in 4 days, but just back from a brave attempt at a bathful of Chianti in a week. Did I manage it? Find out in next week's exciting installment.


What is it about walking and drinking?

Mike Knipe said...

Chrissie - I only do the barefoot thing where there's sloppy bogs and NO STONES cos my feet is delicate too... Sphagnum's great, though - all cool and soft ans
Dawn - I still have holes from the barbed wire.... and kicking a boulder a couple of days ago..
Jules - Walking and drinking... like cheese and pickles, fish and chips, laurel and hardy... we just have to relax and accept that that's just the way it is...