Travelling up on a bank holiday was always going to prove a wee bit tricky. Instead of Birmingham, my change of trains was at Crewe. With the train running late I had a word with the conductor. Ten minutes later he was back with a plan. Basically I had two minutes to change trains. The train I required was on the next platform. Thus, if I walked the length of the train down to first class, this would put me directly in line with the connecting service. The guard on that train would keep an eye out for me. It worked too, out of the door, across the platform in double quick time and on to the Welsh train. The conductor was a most peasant chap too. "There's nice now, now you can sit back and enjoy your journey."
It was a coach from Harlech due to the estuary bridge still being out. Unfortunately that also meant all road traffic was diverted. Thus it was around four when we reached Porthmadog. Not wanting to waste time, I headed straight out. Across to Tremadog and then it was a long steady pull up through the woods toward Fach Goch, now a climbing club hut. The area is evidently a popular location for the climbing fraternity with some lovely rock climbing on offer.
My aim was for Llyn Cwmystradllyn reservoir. The walk up had been in a tee shirt but the temperature was dropping as the evening wore on.
Found a pleasant spot to camp, glad to stop.
During the night I was sick, unsure as to why? Early morning it began raining and seemed set in for the morning. It was an easy call, Tuesday was nominated aa a slack pack day. The rain eased early afternoon and I went for a lazy stroll.
Wednesday saw a fairly late start. There was no great rush. Rather than take the path that led directly up by the disused Gorseddau quarry, I headed more or less directly uphill to take in a couple of minor tops.Very wet, boggy ground. A steep descent threading my way round rocky outcrops saw me on the high ground above the old quarry. An ideal spot to camp.The one problem was decent water. Eventually I descended down to the bowels of the quarry and drew water from a freshet issuing down the wall. Heading back to the tent, a military helicopter cam low over the crest of the hill. Spotting me, it changed direction to pass directly overhead, hovered for a moment and then went on its way, interesting? With low cloud settling on Moel Hebog, I opted for a smaller top, Yr Ogof, steep but fun.
Thursday dawned to a chilly morning with low cloud and mist. This was going to be a long day and I was away early. It was down through boggy ground, with a careful eye on the map. Nantmor, minor roads, paths and tracks, saw me working my way across country. Heading up toward Bwlch Bach, the sky a purple bruised hue, with thick mist descending. Soon visibility was nil, a nuisance. The intention was to leave the path I was on, descend down to Llyn Stwlan, pick up another path and continue on down to the Tanygrisiau reservoir. Casting about I eventually eased down the old quarry gravity incline. That was daunting, hairy. The whole slope was covered in slabs of discarded slate. It was like descending a steeply pitched roof with all the slates on the loose.
Coming around by some old ruined barrack blocks. It gave pause for reflection. In a lot of the more remote quarries quarrymen would be housed in barracks such as these. often arriving early Monday morning and staying until the following Saturday midday. Conditions where primitive, squalid even. There was no health and safety. The average life span of a quarryman was forty four years at best. They worked long and hard for little return and with most basic of tools.
The wail of a train whistle from the Ffestiniog railway, sad, mournful! Now a popular tourist attraction, I wonder if folk ever consider the original purpose of the railway. The thousands of tons of slate it carried out to the ports. The immensity of the labour involved, the sheer cost of human endeavour?
Steep gravity inclines, one after another, ruler straight and true, led on downwards. Oh my, oh so hard on the knees. It was a relief to be finally down and to find a camping spot. The day had been a long one. Not a great mileage, some twelve, thirteen miles, quite possibly a tad more, but I was wearied.
Friday was to be another cross country day. Once more it had to be an early start. The morning was a fine one, there was even a wee bit of sun. Following a track that ran alongside the railway, I was heading down to the valley. The track plunged downward through ancient woodland. A battered sign said something about it being a private road. Difficult to read with my poor eyesight! It led me though directly to where I wanted to go. A path, sign posted, led me across a field. One problem, the exit was barricaded. A tangle of sheep fencing, barbed wire and thorn. Hot, bothered and bloodied, I finally broke through. A quick scuttle across the main road and then began the long ascent out of the Vale of Ffestiniog. A pleasant bridleway, despite some terrible muddy spots, suddenly did a vanishing act. Some careful map checking and the other end of the bridleway was found. Onwards led me over to Llyn Trawsfynydd. The reservoir was surprisingly low. To my surprise the bridleway marked on the map is now a specially constructed cycle path. To be honest I have mixed feelings about it.
The way on led me up and over Cym Moch. On the map, a bridleway and signposted thus. It is odd then to see access gates chained and padlocked. How does one get a horse over a ladder style? The path was obscure in places, often disappearing in wet bog. It was a steady plod onward and I was feeling the pace a wee bit. It was something of a relief when I came by Bryn Cader Faner. The way on was familiar to me and I could relax a wee bit.
The camp site at Merthyr farm was fortunately not too busy and I was glad to find a quiet corner to pitch the tent. What simple pleasure, what bliss to luxuriate in a hot shower, washing away the travel stains and easing weary bones. Clean fresh clothes afterwards. The day had been long, the mileage much the same as the previous day, possibly a bit more .A good week though.