Tuesday 24 April 2012


This was a walk that Mike, (northernpies.blogspot.co.uk) had planned a few months back. Very graciously he offered me the opportunity to join him. After a plethora of e mails and messages, routes where agreed upon as where dates, travel times and where to meet. Thus it was, Mike travelling from the north and me coming up from the south and meeting on the train heading out of Birmingham. A fairly uneventful journey across to Machynlleth, apart from the cockroaches on the train? It was fairly late afternoon when we arrived and managed to get a couple of cups of tea from the station cafe just before it closed. Fortified by a hot drink and a kitkat,  we headed out of town. Our route was all uphill and with rucksacks laden with a week's supply of food we where content to take things slowly. The plan was to camp in the first convenient place once we where clear of civilization. After a wee bit of casting about we found a spot just off the Glynders Way. Wanting to keep my pack weight down, (it came in just on ten kilo with all the food packed) I had opted to take my small tent and lighter sleeping bag.One down side of the baby tent is that it is designed to pitch using trekking poles and I find a pole in the middle of the front porch a nuisance. Toying with the idea of rigging an A pole I had the idea of using both poles on the front. Faffing around with pitching tents when tired and in a rising wind is not a good idea. A blustery wind with some very strong gusts chivied the tents through the night. This was accompanied by heavy showers of rain.

Tuesday morning saw us heading off togged out in wet weather gear. Staying with the Glynders Way we found our route blocked by forestry operations. Rather than add further miles we opted to chance it. There was no sound of machinery running and it looked as if all the actual tree felling had all been done. The bridleway though had been obliterated in places. Deep wheel ruts and copious amounts of thick, glutinous liquid mud, tangled piles of brash that tripped the unwary, made the going difficult. Fortunately, although there was a brisk wind we only experienced the occasional shower. Once out of the forestry the walking was really good. High ridges with splendid views, rolling countryside and wide open spaces. Ascending another uphill bit by Bwich y Groesn we experienced more forestry work in progress. However, the bridleway remained unmolested. Large machinery worked below us, balanced on narrow platforms cut in to the steep hillside. Not a job for the faint hearted!
Making our way over to the sheep pens and sheds at Hyddgen, the ground underfoot was wet and boggy. Notices on the sheds stated "Private, Keep Out" Possibly, in the light of later events,it was understandable?  There is an old concrete footbridge over the Afon Hengwm. Seeking some shelter from the blustery wind we headed over to a small copse. After some wandering back and forward we got the tents up close to the trees. No faffing this time, got the baby tent up pitched taut with the tail to the wind. A brew of tea and I was soon snug. Mike opted for a quick study of snoozeology!?. Late that evening our sense of peace and tranquility was rudely shattered. Loud voices close by filled the air. A group of youths doing the D.O.E had moved in to the copse. Much loud chatter and noise. Smoke filled the air as they attempted their pyromania skills. Neither of us where impressed. The bits of litter and half burnt timber they left behind added further to our low opinion of such groups.
Wednesday morning was a grey dreich morning, grey cloud shrouded the surrounding hillsides.The wind had shifted and moisture laden mizzle was drifting down the valley. Mike peeped out and sensibly returned to snoozing.The group had departed and once more peace had returned. After a short amble I decided to relocate the tent. With the weather now coming down the valley, the tent was facing it directly. Also, there was a distinct hollow where I had been slowly subsiding in to the boggy ground.  The driest pace was in among the trees. Mike decided to join me soon after.
By early afternoon the the weather began to clear. We waited another hour or so and then decided to go for it. Mike had a plan, he wanted Pumlumon. With light packs we where soon heading up the hill. It soon became obvious to me that Mike was moving faster than I was. This was Mike's pre T.G.O. challenge shakedown and I was reluctant to hold him back.Thus I gave it best and allowed Mike to head on up while I meandered back. It was a disappointment, Pumlumon was a hill I wanted to do for sometime; however, my fitness levels are currently all over the place. Mike was back by late afternoon, a happy bunny and I was fair pleased for him. Later that night, eleven thirty PM to be precise, there was a profusion of flashing lights and the sound of many voices. It was a group of school kids. At least the guy leading them apologized for the noisy interruption and explained they where setting up a bivi at the other end of the wood and assured us that things would settle down shortly. Soon silence returned and Mike and I breathed a sigh of relief. Unbelievably, a couple of hours later an enormous hubbub started up again. The kids had been off somewhere and had just returned. It beggars the question as to what the group leader had been up to? These where city kids with no hill savvy what so ever. It was a dark night, conditions on the hill where, at best very wet underfoot, a lot of the ground bog. There was a chilly wind and showers of rain. As the noise continued past two AM, Mike finally had had enough and went and had a few words. He is more diplomatic than me!
Thursday morning saw the children having breakfast delivered to them by a four wheel drive. There is a track close by leading up from a tarmac road. Obviously a popular route in to the area. The small copse offers almost the only dry camping spot in the region. We where not in any particular hurry to get moving. The day was going to be a short one, we had two days to get back to Machynlleth. We started out over boggy, tussocky ground with an easy paddle across Afon Hyddgen. If truth be known, Mike would have preferred something deeper with me swimming across, rucksack, in tow!!!? A fantastic action photo, but I was content just to settle for a paddle?? Heading across country, threading our way through bog and tussock we eventually found a faint path. This in turn became a well worn path and finally a track.
 It was all forestry tracks from there, a couple more fords to splash through but nothing serious. Mike's first choice for a camp was not at all suitable and we continued on to the Anglers Retreat. A rather up market fisherman's bothy next to a large pond or small lake. All securely under lock and key. A few heavy showers of rain but after a bit of casting about we found a secluded spot. Ducks out  on the water called back and forward, geese flying overhead also filled the air with their calling.  A short day, but and enjoyable one.
There had been blustery showers overnight, rain, hail and sleet. Temperatures had dropped too. It had been taking a chance but I had opted for my lighter sleeping bag. Suspecting it may get a tad chilly I had also packed an old pair of leggings for pyjama bottoms. They proved useful.
Friday morning broke to a sullen grayness. It seemed for a moment that we may have the chance of packing up in the dry; it was not to be. Dark, plum coloured purple clouds where boiling up on the horizon and drawing closer. At first hailstones rattled off the tents, soon this was replaced with thick, wet snow. We waited to see if conditions would ease but finally conceded defeat with wet fly sheets being given a final shake before being bundled  and stowed under rucksack lids.This was an easy days walking following tracks over to the Llyfnant valley. A pleasant, secluded area. Minor roads led up back to our original Monday night camp spot. Amazingly we managed to get out of waterproofs and had the pleasure of some afternoon sun. Boots and socks where laid out to dry, tents where aired and dried, luxury!
Saturday morning dawned after a frosty night, with a vivid sunrise and cloud inversion. Unfortunately a heavy shower of rain dampened things down. A stroll back in to town and a cooked breakfast.  An enjoyable week, a good trip, or, as Mike would say, 'a cracker. Thank you Mike.