Another middle-of-the-night sleep disturbance: this time at 4am, when I woke to find myself on a deflated mat. Attempts to re-inflate it failed miserably, with the air coming out as fast as it was going in. I gave up and simply lay on the flat mat. At least I had a thin closed cell foam section underneath as well.
On the arrival of day, I found the cause – not a hole as such, but a long straight slit into one of the sections. It’s enormous, but I couldn’t understand how this just happened in the middle of the night. I don’t even have anything that could make such a big clean cut, and certainly not in my sleep. I wasn’t lying on sharp ground either. I concluded it must have blown out somehow.
Day 3: Ysgŵd-ffordd to Llanidloes – 32.46km, 1042m ascent / 1297m descent
I knew before starting that today would be difficult. And not just because of the nocturnal events related above. A lack of places to get water would mean a huge carry, or the need to aim for a more certain supply in the form of a campsite. At the back of my mind was the idea of pushing on to Llanidloes, or as a minimum Cwm Farm, adding between 2.5 and 6km to today’s planned distance, which was already at 24km (15 miles).
The descent from Ysgŵd-ffordd was pleasant, through a wood before some easy country lanes. The Way then became more awkward in sloping fields, and it was a relief to reach Abbeycwmhir.
For somewhere that on paper has a campsite, shop and pub, it was pretty dead. The pub was shut, and there was no sign of any current shop – just some ancient scales and shop fittings in a window opposite the pub. I’d like to think that if I had plowed on yesterday, the campsite would have been a goer, but there was also no sign making that easy to spot either. I could have been well and truly screwed.
Leaving Abbeycwmhir, sloping woods gave way to more road walking as the rain showers came. A climb over Upper Esgair Hill brought me to today’s second and last chance of refreshment – Bwlch-y-sarnau. The cafe of course being shut.
The cafe, albeit very much a diy effort, I’d really hoped would be open, but of course COVID was cited as the reason. No tea, no toilets, and most of all no water. So strict rationing for the rest of the day then.
After dropping down from the village through grassy fields, I entered a lovely patch of woodland, which qualified as the best part of the day, but didn’t quite making up for the crushing disappointment I’d just had.
By the end of this stretch of woodland, I’d decided the best plan was to push on today for a campsite at either Cwm Farm or Llanidloes itself. Then I thought why not go the whole hog and get a B&B ? I’d already had 3 nights in the tent, so a B&B would be welcome irrespective of other factors.
It proved a bit tricky to find one in Llanidloes, for a sensible price, and which I could book online there and then. But I got it done somehow and could focus my attention on the job in hand. In committing myself to Llanidloes I’d also committed myself to the best part of 20 miles today. The one consolation was that this would eat up some work that had been planned for the next day though.
I got stuck in, knowing this would be hard going. The road gave way to a long series of tracks winding their way along the hillside to Trinnant. As a rain shower came in, I huddled under a tree and gave my walking a boost by putting some music on.
The difference was noticeable, as the music provided pace and momentum and filled in any patches of boredom. The sun also came out and the views opened out. A distant sight of Snowdonia added a further spark.
Just as I began to think today might not be so bad after all, I left the road at Pant-y-dŵr and hit a very rough grassy field sloping downwards into a wood. Signage wasn’t great, and I missed the cross-field turn and found myself descending into the wood. Attempts to fight my way back up through the wood were painful and I found myself, somehow, on the wrong side of a barbed wire fence.
Luckily there was a patch of eroded earth where I could wriggle under the fence to get myself back on track. There was much cursing and even when after I was clearly back on the path and had left the Field of Doom, the next bit was sloping and quite potholed. I nearly lost an ankle to that. More cursing.
This was a classic case of a farmer doing the minimum to tolerate the presence of the right of way. A pointless down and up the field, when a couple of hundred metres on an existing track would have saved it all. I made my feelings on the matter quite clear to anyone who might have been in earshot.
This one segment could have ended the walk. It certainly undid the positivity of the tunes.
The Field of Doom behind me, and I hit the roads, a never ending succession of twists and turns and constant teasing, designed to draw out what small shreds of motivation and energy I might still have left.
Cwm Farm came, and in my head it was a simple, albeit painful, roadwalk, but I’d reckoned with the cwm the farm is named after. Down then a long drag back up and I was finally on tarmac all the way into Llanidloes.
Sitting in the Mount Inn later that night, I was nevertheless glad I’d pushed on, as I was now looking at a more reasonable couple of days into Machynlleth. It could be that enduring one horrendous day of disappointments, has saved the walk…