A slower start today due to the constraints of staying in a B&B or pub. I generally love the day leaving “proper” accommodation, though: it’s like a reset back to the start of the walk when everything is fresh and new. Of course if the weather’s poor, it just feels like going out from the warm and dry into whatever combination of cold, wet and wind is being offered.
In the case of this walk, with problematic logistics, such a day is a chance to set out on the day’s walk with more certainty over the day’s provisions and water.
Day 4: Llanidloes to Foel Fadian – 29.59km, 1230m ascent / 837m descent
Today’s walk fell naturally into 3 parts – to the Llyn Clywedog reservoir; from there to the Hafren Forest; and then onto camp on the northern extremity of the high land that extends north of Plynlimon. There was no real option other than to wild camp tonight, which of course meant that even though I started the day with a full load of 3L water, at some point I would need to stock up for camp. In my mind, though 1.5L of that initial starting amount was earmarked for camp until such point that I could top up and stop worrying about it.
Having done a load of work yesterday, I’d bought myself a slightly easier couple of days overall into Machynlleth, although I did still need to do a decent amount today to make sure I kept the benefit of that. I couldn’t afford to take it too easy today, or I’d still leave a big day for tomorrow.
There were a few challenges with signage leaving “Llani”, although this was in part due to not studying the street plan properly. In Llani, the Severn Way is the big news, and as it coincides with Glyndŵr’s Way for the first bit, the trick was to pretend I was on the Severn Way.
Glyndŵr’s Way playing second fiddle seems to be a bit of a theme, and I’m sure that if the Cambrian Way were more fully waymarked (which a project is underway to do), then that would be dominating the signage in the territory I was due to head into today.
The Severn Way split off on its journey to the sea just after Llanidloes Golf Club, leaving me making my way through various sorts of farmland. Some easy road walking and then easy tracks brought me to Bryntail Mine, and the reservoir.
With the first section of today’s walk done, pretty simply and without any drama, it was break time, and although I could have stopped down by the river, I held on in hopes that one of the higher up car parks might yield something better to sit on, or even some form of refreshment.
It paid off, and by the viewpoint over the reservoir, there was a cafe – a vegan, gluten free cafe, but nevertheless refreshments I hadn’t lugged by myself. I settled down with a latte, made from “milk” extracted from god knows what, and a piece of raspberry chocolate brownie, whose structural integrity was achieved by some form of magic.
Continuing on, I caught up with two DofE teams I’d seen slogging up the hill ahead of me. One taking a rest (seemingly of the “that’s it, I’m not moving a step further” variety), and one a few hundred metres ahead enjoying the shade of a tree. I caught them just as they were moving off into a land of head high bracken. I led the way, and then left them for dust in the succeeding fields (and more bracken).
A lovely wooded section followed, along with a bit of a climb, to bring me out on Mynydd Du, and looking across a valley to the Hafren Forest.
I was soon in the forest itself, and then approaching the Hafren Forest Bunkhouse. Darren, who runs it along with Sarah, had suggested on a mutual Facebook group that I drop in to say hi, and so I did. After I explained Darren’s “invite” to Sarah, out came tea and Welsh cakes and an hour’s natter, during which I learned that Darren and Sarah are wardens for this stretch of Glyndŵr’s Way. I may have mentioned the state of the bracken!
I also chatted to Darren on the phone, and he shared his local knowledge in terms of camp spots. Before I left Sarah filled me up with 4L of water.
Back on the trail, I negotiated the next farm, which Sarah had warned me about, some disruption to the signage, resolved by making sure at each point I looked for the next sign after the current one, before striding out – a good tactic generally. At this point, I was pretty pumped, and was walking about as strongly as I’ve ever done, despite the instant 4kg increase to my pack weight.
The way climbed upwards through an overgrown gully that was allegedly a byway, and which left me with a bit of a guessing game at the top. For the first time on the walk, I pulled out my phone to see where I was on the map. Finally having an app (Memory Map) which can properly display the route, where I am, and any other markers I’d added, was a joy, and I used it a lot more from here on in.
The scenery changed as I got higher, becoming scrubbier and more heathery, and my pace slackened. Soon I reached a familiar spot where the Nant Ddu and Nant Goch combine to form the Afon Clywedog I’d crossed much earlier in the day. I passed this way when walking the Cambrian Way, and indeed it was here I first saw a Glyndŵr’s Way marker and sowed the seed of the walk I’m now on.
This also had potential as a camp spot, with plentiful water and shelter, and even a reasonable flat patch. But it also had midges, and was before I wanted to stop. Deep down I wanted to cap the best day yet with a high camp with views, although if I’d known the latest weather forecast, I might have stopped here!
I decided to simply carry on until I found a spot that fitted the bill, provided I didn’t actually start heading down the other side of the plateau. When I got to it, I briefly investigated Glaslyn and its environs, but the ground wasn’t anything to write home about, and I suspected midges. To tell the truth, by now I really had my sights set on Foel Fadian.
I climbed up to the trig and took a good look around. A decent flat spot, that I could orientate the tent end on to the wind direction, good 360° views. Decision made.
It wasn’t until after I was settled in the tent that I became aware of the existence of Storm Evert due to hit the South West overnight, and cause a bit of turbulence in the bottom half of Wales. I seemed to be largely clear of it, so surely it would be ok ? …..