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Eventually, the landlady arrives with apologies. She has just received a phone call to say the people who are supposed to be serving breakfast are going to be late. She opens up and asks if we would like “the full Monty”. After a good breakfast, we return to our room, pack up (all the washing is dry) and set off a little after 10.00 am. A bit late and somewhat lethargic with full tummies.
We haven’t walked but a hundred yards before we are uncertain whether we have taken the correct track. We return and take another one. It begins to spit with rain. The cloud gets heavier. It begins to rain in earnest.
We come across a farmer and a lad with two dogs herding sheep. The older man is in a land rover and the boy is riding a buggy in a very flamboyant fashion. The dogs seem to be working independently both of the humans and each other. They are taking the sheep toward the field for which we are headed. We watch for a while as the buggy hurtles through the air and takes 180 degree turns at breakneck speed. We ask the man in the land rover if we should pass and he asks us to hang behind until they have the sheep penned. This we do. The sheep are safely penned. However, we have to walk through the pen to get into the next field! The farmer says it is ok. The boy looks dubious. We go through the gate. The sheep huddle either side of us. We walk slowly toward the gate opposite. The sheep suddenly bolt. I see one jump over fence. I make for the gate and don’t look back!
We come to a forest. We are looking for a gate. We go steeply down and come to a mine shaft. We realise, therefore, we have been walking the wrong way and retrace our steps all the way back up again. We continue upward and there is the gate. We go through the forest and then into an area of felled trees.. It is way-marked to the right but, as usual, no path is visible on the ground. We come across a big drop so have to circumnavigate through a field with very large thistles ………………you’ve heard of the day of the triffids, well …..
The weather turns nasty again. Charl has a stomach ache. We sit under our ponchos on our sacks in the rain for a while. I give Charl chocolate. It always works. I’m having a déjà vu once more...
We arrive at another area of forest. We come down to a road, cross it and continue through the forest up the other side. For the first time today, we are confident we are in the right place! We emerge from the forest and see a track ahead leading to the valley below. Yes, we are definitely in the right place. Everything fits according to the map. At last!
We descend into the valley and take the track along the bottom. We come to another forest. Errrrrr ……. this shouldn’t be here. We check again. We are in the wrong valley. It has been one of those days. We look up. I really can’t face retracing our steps once again. We have done that too many times today. It is 5.30 pm and too late to reach the shop in Commis Coch before closing time now anyway and ….. as there is water nearby.
We decide to camp, just off the track, by a stream. We have no dinner but we did have a hearty breakfast. We have tuna sandwiches and biscuits. We hope for better weather and better navigation tomorrow and sleep like logs.
We go down into the valley and stop at a ruin for breakfast. We then take a track and farm road and so into Commins Coch.
Commins Coch is a sweet village crammed up against the hillside with the busy A476 hemming it in on the other side. We have difficulty locating the post office and village store. According to the map, it is near the telephone box. We stand by the telephone box and scout around. Nothing. A car goes slowly by, negotiating the bend. I catch the driver’s eye and ask about the shop. He replies that, “It’s around here somewhere, isn’t it?”. I notice a sign in a garden saying, “Open”. It doesn’t say what is open but I open the gate, go round the side of the cottage and am relieved to see a “post office” sign. We are so low on provisions that another village shop closure would be a real problem. We go in.
We are greeted by a frail but feisty septuagenarian, I would guess.
“Have you any coffee white?”.
“Coffee White, dried milk”.
“Any Bin Liners?”.
“Bread?” in desperation.
“No, only to order”
She can tell by my face, I am starting to panic. She says they don’t stock much (she can say that again) and mostly do orders. I say I understand, village shops etc but wonder what on earth are we going to eat. I look along the shelves. They are almost bare! There is a tinned steak and kidney pie. I will have to turn it out and heat it in a saucepan. Lunch for tomorrow ? Tin of sardines. Phew, we have a few slices of bread left. Hmmm, two apples, two chocolate bars. The woman suggests we take some plastic bags for bin liners. Ah, she’s getting the idea now. We pay but then decide to buy drinks as we haven’t any water. We pay again as a delivery man arrives with vegetables. He gets an ear bashing from our frail post mistress as his potatoes are in trays and not bags. Ah, I’ll have some of them bananas and Charl spots a lone blackcurrant pie that hasn’t been ordered! We pay, again. We have a feast.
We sit on a grass verge and enjoy the blackcurrant pie and fizzy drinks in the sunshine.
We cross the A470 and climb out of the other side of the valley on a very steep country lane. It is hard work. We can’t seem to find the path up to the wind farm. There doesn’t seem to be so much as a gap in the hedge where the path should be. After several false starts, we decide to take the access road. This, too, is very hard work but we gain height very quickly and are soon up amongst the windmills.
They look so much bigger than I imagined once underneath them and the whirring noise surprises me also. It is a long walk through the wind farm but we enjoy every minute of it. We even sit for a while to watch and listen.
At the end of the wind farm is a patch of forest where we intend to camp. We find a small clearing but the water we anticipated is no more than a bog. It is flat but the grass is very long and there are lots of flies and midges. Charl looks for water, while I unpack. I think the chances of water are slim but, once again, Charl does not disappoint.
We have tea and biscuits and then I heat the meat pie in a saucepan and mix it with pasta! It tastes remarkably good but then anything does after an enjoyable day’s walk.
We descend into the valley and up the other side so are opposite the wind farm. Now we must negotiate the moor. The way is undefined. We have to cross a fence but can see no sign of a stile. We consult the map but ……….. where is the compass? We look in the map case several times, unable to believe it. We have all the old maps out in case it has got tucked away somewhere. Ah, it may have got folded up inside the tent. We unroll the tent but no sign of the compass although the tent does dry in the sunshine after the heavy dew this morning. We use the GPS and are in the correct place according to the co-ordinates so straddle the fence.We follow vehicle tracks down into the valley. It is already very hot. We haven’t any water yet but we do have an apple.
We reach a farm track. We are not quite on the correct path but it will take us in the right direction. It is very pleasant walking. There have been wonderful views all day today.
Charl suddenly realises he doesn’t have his hiking pole. He has left it where we last consulted the map! I sit by the side of the track while he goes back to retrieve it. I tell him to take his time as it is very hot. I sit on my rucksack and remember it is the cricket final today! I switch on the radio just in time to hear the last two wickets go down. South Africa are all out for 107 and England leave the ground to a standing ovation.
Charl returns. He hasn’t been gone too long. The pole was not as far back as we first thought. I strap the radio to my waist bag. It is so hot we arrive in Mallwyd with hardly saying a word.
England win with only one wicket down and overs to spare.
Mallwyd seems even hotter but there is a garage/shop/café. We have large mugs of coffee and I have a real egg custard tart. Charl has the last cream cake which I didn’t spot. We find a small piece of shade outside to have a smoke.
I am very hot and tired and have to concentrate very hard on the shopping. We have about another two and a half miles to go so I don’t want too much to carry but I must get all the essentials as there isn’t a shop in Dinas Mawddwy. In fact, there is not a shop at all until we reach Barmouth. When planning the walk we had thought we might walk the Arrans from Dinas Mawddwy and so maybe visit Bala where we could shop. We manage to stuff all the shopping into our sacks including a four pack of kitchen rolls which we squash flat. Kitchen rolls I find are a very useful camping item and are also very light. They can be used for nose blowing, loo roll, sandwich wrapping, various first aid requirements, mopping up spills in tent, plates etc. the list is endless. I also buy some coffee white at last!
We sit on a verge and down ice cold drinks, the last item on my shopping list.
We soon arrive in Dinas Mawddwy. We chat for some time to the owner of the camp site who says we should complain about the lack of signposts etc. We are not as concerned as he is. After all, it is not a national trail and we are enjoying the desolation and the testing of our navigational skills which are proving to be sadly lacking.
After doing the washing, a good camping meal of sausage, eggs and bacon, and a refreshing shower, we discuss said navigational skills and lack of them and decide it would be foolish to continue without a compass. We will have to go into Dolgellau to buy another. We need more gas too. Unfortunately, tomorrow is Sunday so we will have to hold up here for a day, go to Dolgellau on Monday and continue on Tuesday.
The owner of the camp site is having a “welsh language” evening. He is a Scot. He prepares a bbq. Lots of people arrive with children and sit round the bbq. There are drums for the children, Scottish country dancing, games of rounders, followed by some incongruous choice of music ie: Frankie Lane and the Rolling Stones.
We fall asleep knowing we can have a Sunday “lie in” tomorrow. Just as I am dozing off, I feel a sting on my arm. ............... Oh no, not again.
We have tea at around 7.00 am and wait for the sun to come over the mountain to clear the midges. It is a very well laid out camp site with hammocks, pic nic tables and bats and balls for the children. The owner of the camp site comes over for a chat and tells us this is no way to walk the Cambrian Way (ie lounging about in the sunshine). We explain about the compass. He says his wife’s mobile is up there somewhere also. We ask about bus times to get us to Dolgellau tomorrow. He says that we can catch the school bus at 7.45.am
We walk to the Red Lion for lunch. My legs are like planks. My body thinks my rucksack is still on. It is so hot the air feels solid. It feels cool in the Red Lion when first entering compared with outside but. once used to the temperature, it feels as hot as ever. We have a traditional beef roast and, for desert, I am served an enormous strawberry sundae. I just stare at it. Someone from across the way asks if I need help with it. We walk back. It feels even hotter and now my legs are full of beer too.
There is no shade in the camp site at all. Charl rigs up a canopy using the hiking poles and ponchos. The heat doesn’t seem to affect the owner’s wife who lays on a towel in the sun all day. We chat to her later with her brother-in-law who, as it happens, comes from Suffolk, knows the area where we live and reminisces about the Rendlesham “UFO” incident.
It is very warm overnight and although we sleep with the tent open, we are very restless.Day in Dolgellau
The bus arrives. The driver is not very pleased to see us. Charl holds out a £20 note. Anyone would know a £20 note to a bus driver is like a red rag to a bull. He says, “This is a school bus and I can’t change that, anyway”. We ask how much it is. He shakes his head and does a lot of tutting. Charl finds a £5 note. The driver says it will be £4.80 return but he is not happy.
It is a very slow ride to Dolgellau. The old guy who is driving the bus keeps crashing the gears and coming to a dead stop on several occasions.. We travel uphill at around 10 mph with the driver cursing the bus all the way, going something like ........
“Never driven such a crap vehicle in all my life. Gear box buggered. They can find another driver as from today as far as I’m concerned. It was a woman driver did this. Doesn’t know how to drive with five gears. All the school kids sit in the back of the bus and that don’t help."
At least at this speed we can take in the scenery at our leisure even if we have to listen to "Victor Meldrew" for most of the journey. The sky is post card blue and the hills deep, deep green.
Dolgellau is just how I remember it apart from the weather. The last time I was here it was coming down in sheets.
We buy an “oggy” each. This is a huge meat and leek pasty. We sit in the recreation ground in the shade and have breakfast. I receive a text from my daughter Karen: "Mum, got btn, itches from ankle to knee." I reply: "Get anti histamine tabs!"
We do everything we need. Charl chooses a new coat (his long loved buffalo has finally fallen to pieces) and arranges to pick it up later. I buy postcards and stamps, send home used maps, get money out of bank, buy gas, a compass, tent sealer and a little shopping. We see a specialised coffee shop. I have a double espresso. What a kick! And you can smoke. What a luxury! The shop is very relaxed with every newspaper under the sun (except The Sun) strewn around. I hear a snippet of conversation from the table behind ......... “…….for itching and hives, it says, one a day”.
I need more stamps, having written all my cards. The woman in the post office asks if we are on holiday and where we are from. She says her son lives near Ipswich and how nice the surrounding area is around Woodbridge. These little coincidences never cease to amaze me.
We have a ploughman’s in a bistro and return to the bus station. We find a bench in the shade.
An elderly woman passes. A little later she comes back the other way. “On holiday are you, up at the camp site?" We say we are in Dinas Mawddwy. We chat about the weather. She says, “It was worse yesterday. At least there is a little breeze today. We are in dire need of rain but I suppose you don’t want it to rain till you go home do you now. Enjoy the rest of your holiday.”.
An elderly man passes with plastic carrier bag.
“Having a rest are you?”
We say we are waiting for the bus and wanted some shade.
“Ah yes, on holiday are you? Yes, I’m just off to Quicksave. Ah yes, you have to get a few bits you know. Yes, we go to Portmaddog. Ah yes, Portmaddog. You been to Portmaddog?”
We say that we have, a few years back.
“Ah yes, Portmaddog and Pormerrien. Yes. I live here you see. Spoilt for choice. Ah yes. Spoilt for choice. Enjoy your holiday.”
I move up the wall so I can see when the bus arrives but there is only a thin sliver of shade so I move back into the alleyway. The man walks by again.
Aren’t people just lovely?
A lot of busses move into the station at once. It is a bit confusing. We try to spot "our" kids. Someone is guiding various children to various busses. Charl goes to ask about our bus but comes back non the wiser. I’m so fagged with the heat, I just stand and watch, look useless and hope someone will come to my rescue. It works. A man comes over and says, “Do you want Dinas Mawddwy” and at the same time the girl from the camp site arrives and says, “It’s the silver bus”.
We get on the bus and sit behind the driver, different to the one who drove us here. “Gears work on this one do they?”, Charlie remarks. “They do on the other one”, says the driver, catching on immediately, “If he only knew how to drive it!”