Cambrian Way #7: Strata Florida to Ponterwyd (Days 16-17)

Ice cream and tea consumed I got on my way, leaving sleepy Strata Florida behind and heading along a lane that would take me to the Teifi Pools. Climbing up gently over grass, I gained a trackway and soon saw the first of the lakes – Llyn Egnant.

Llyn Egnant

I stopped to refill my water from a small stream feeding into the lake and climbed up away from it, gaining a view back to the previously hidden Llyn Hir and Llyn Teifi.

Llyn Hir and Llyn Teifi

Now came the bit of route I was a little less confident about – heading north over largely pathless moor. The first step was finding the spot to head towards Claerddu bothy. I needn’t have worried, it was quite clear courtesy of a pair of parallel vehicle tracks through the grass. So soon I was at the bothy.

Claerddu Bothy

I took a look inside, read through the visitor book, and planned what I was going to do for the rest of the afternoon – I’d decided to stay. That thinking soon evolved into the knowledge that it left me with a much bigger last day, and surely it made good sense to push on. A bit of dithering later and I’d changed my mind, shouldering my pack once more and following the fence north in search of more lakes and a camp spot.I did leave a Social Hiking card behind though.

In Claerddu Bothy

Soon the bothy was a distant sight backed by Llns Egnant, Hir and Teifi.

Looking back to the bothy and the Llyns

Having drifted off a bit to the right I re-found a trodden route that took me up on to a ridge with Llyn Du to my right. Soon I was at the summit, such as it was, of Esgair Garreg naw llyn. Below to the left Llyns Fyrddon Fach and Fyrddon Fawr made quite a sight.

Llyn Du
Llyn Fyrddon Fach and Llyn Fyrddon Fawr

Almost my last chance to gather water for camp, so I filled up from an outflow waterfall from Fyrddon Fawr and made a beeline for Domen Milwyn ahead. Meanwhile the sheep tracks took a long curve out to the left. I wish I had done too, as I soon found myself surrounded by questionable ground. Attempts to skip across the boggy bits saw me go knee deep in swamp and falling over. Soaked through I clambered westwards to the relative safety of the sheep track and this time stuck with it, the circuitous route eventually taking me to the foot of the steep sided Domen Milwyn. I hauled myself up and looked for a camp spot.

Domen Milwyn

Not an ideal spot as it was exposed to the westerly wind, but nothing the Scarp couldn’t handle. On the plus side though, I did have a mobile phone signal, so it seemed like a fair trade. I got inside and started working on my swamp-sodden lower half.

Camp on Domen Milwyn

It blew all night and periodically the sky unleashed broadsides of rain against Monica. More in hope than expectation I looked out at sunrise time to see a wall of mist. Not keen to venture out into it, I lingered as long as I could, packing up everything inside the tent, only emerging to pack away the fly. Dropping off the summit outcrop, I immediately found myself in the lee and felt what a much more comfortable night may have been like. Too late now.

I headed north to find the fence alongside Nant Milwyn to use it as a handrail down to Cwmystwyth. Emerging into walled farmland I found myself confronted with a gate apparently locked with a chain but definitely on the right of way. Metal grill at the foot, and slippery in the rain, it was a difficult climb. Many curses were sent forth into the sky casting aspersions on the farmer’s parentage. Signage I would describe as “reluctant” saw me somehow down to the farmyard. Through the gate and just passing the house I was confronted with a “hello”, “excuse me” from a female voice, then the same from a male. Thinking they wanted a chat I paused. Shortly, a further, older male voice emerged and his first words confirmed my earlier curses weren’t wasted: “I have to tell you that you have strayed from the definitive right of way, and are now trespassing”. He paused, clearly gathering himself for a discussion of this point. Foolishly I engaged in battle, admitting he was right – I could now see the waymark I’d missed as it required me to look backwards to see it. Some old pony about the last trespasser having cost him £80 for a torn jacket. How that could be so when they’d clearly be walking down his driveway to the road. I couldn’t help thinking that if he’d spent the money on a sign people could see then maybe he wouldn’t have this problem. I considered this the moment to share my thoughts about the quality of his gates. Met with plain denial. We parted, the score 0-0. The correct gate was an absolute shambles, bound together (poorly) with a bit of railing. Practically impossible to open one handed, it almost needed to be dismantled to get through. I made sure it shut firmly though – VERY firmly, so firmly that it probably registered on the British Geological Survey’s instruments.

The fun wasn’t over though. A dog flew out of a barn on the road through Cwmystwyth and had a go at me. This is a not uncommon occurrence for me. Anyway I concluded that Cwmystwyth is probably Welsh for “village of arseholes”.

The Arch

The road was my friend though. With fine misty rain continuing and everything below the knee still sopping, I didn’t fancy a waterlogged forest to stuck to the road. Soon I was a The Arch. Then a few miles along a bridleway brought me into Devil’s Bridge. Now the station cafe was my friend. Although not a close friend at £5.20 for a meagre microwaved jacket potato and beans.

At Devil’s Bridge

The rain was still continuing so I ploughed on, my thoughts purely focussed on finishing for the day. The path took me along the wooded hillside alongside the railway line, and a steep descent later a crossing of the Afon Rheidol at the last checkpoint for this section – Pontbren Pwlca.

Forest above the railway
Crossing Afon Rheidol at Pontbren Pwlca

I climbed back over the over to Ystumtuen and briefly scouted the area atop the hill overlooking Ponterwyd. At this point the appeal of camping out had faded. I decided to take my chance in Ponterwyd and walked down the road to the A44 and found myself at the George Borrow hotel. A shower and an epic kit drying later and I was starting to feel human again. A pie and a couple of pints soon finished the job, and I relaxed knowing that the following day’s walk consisted of 100m along the road to the bus stop.

2016-07-06 Cambrian Way

2016-07-07 Cambrian Way

2 thoughts on “Cambrian Way #7: Strata Florida to Ponterwyd (Days 16-17)

  1. I remember both those gates only too well, the first of which was almost the cause of a nasty injury to the crown jewels after trying to clamber over it in the rain. That second excuse for a gate didn’t exactly shout ‘This way please’ with all that bailing twine and jumble of rusting iron bars. It’s times like these that the text of Drakes guidebook rings true when he talks about the problems with rights of way in mid Wales.

    I’m beginning to realise that you are a far more sensible chap than myself when it comes to rain and wet ground. Those short sections from Cwmystwyth to the stone arch, and from Ystumtuen to Ponterwyd were both extremely boggy and frustrating. I sat in a pillbox in Cymystwyth wringing out my socks, only to sink into the mire again on the way up to get to the forest track. And the sheep track over from Ystumtuen soon disappeared into a mile or so hacking through deep billberry bushes before emerging in a see of mud at a farmyard. I arrived at the George Barrow more than a little bedraggled and spent an hour sheltered under a garage forecourt.

    All character building stuff.


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