Present: Claire (organiser), Alan, Sarah, Bruce, Gaby, Mike, Pokey, Annie, Keyna, Laura, Gary, Dave H, John
The weekend started promisingly, with bright sunshine lighting the way into Wales on some exceptionally pretty (single-track) roads between desolate sheep-covered hills and abandoned slate quarries. Upon arrival, everybody indulged in a game of ‘my tent is bigger than yours’, with the upshot that Keyna and Laura could have pitched theirs in the porch of Alan and Claire’s 2 bedroom mansion. Bruce and Sarah carried the highest tent award, with Mike and Gaby winning the prize for instant tent – just undo the zip.
The campsite was idyllic, next to a stream, but unfortunately also hosted an international midge convention over the weekend. Despite the warm temperatures, everybody sat round the BBQ in long trousers and tops (and balaclavas, in some cases). Still, it was reasonably late before we gave up and retired, in view of Claire’s proposed 9.00 start on Saturday.
Amazingly, we all set off not long after 9.00 and drove to a reservoir in the Plynlimon hills. The plan was to take in the 5 Plynlimon peaks, arranged in a horseshoe around the reservoir, and the sources of the Wye and Severn. The weather was unrelentingly hot and sunny, and we were all glad we had packed full waterproofs – it is Wales, after all!
After a hot, sweaty and breathless ascent of the first 2 peaks, we settled down to lunch with a magnificent view of (nearly) Cader Idris and Snowdonia, but for the haze. The source of the Wye was found to be somewhat disappointing – basically a dry gully on an unremarkable hillside with a little plaque. Whereas the source of the Severn was much more impressive – a largish stagnant algae-covered pool with a large signpost pointing out its significance in Welsh and English. And it had a lovely big path going right to it! Paths, although clearly marked on the map, had been conspicuous by their absence from the actual landscape, and the walk had taken in a lot of tussocks interspersed with the occasional (very unexpected, judging by the exclamations) bog.
At Llyn Rheidol
The Wye, allegedly
More worthy of photographing
On we went to bag the last 2 peaks, and then it was downhill most of the way over an unlimited supply of ankle-turning tussocks great and small, bogs, downright swamps and a few river crossings. Wearily, the intrepid explorers struggled on through the afternoon heat, inviting visions of cold pints of beer/cider/Pimms tantalising before their eyes. We arrived back at the cars by 6pm, and the well-deserved pints materialised shortly afterwards in the Devil’s Bridge Hotel. Aaaah!
Back at the campsite, the midges were, if anything, even more numerous and hungry than the night before. We doused ourselves in all available insect repellent sprays, but discovered that these midges seemed to actively like DDT. Bruce was dispatched to the forest with Gary’s saw and instructions to bring back some wet wood to smoke them out, but only succeeded in smoking ourselves. Nevertheless, Alan kept our spirits up with a nice campfire sing-along. As we finally retired after 11, we can proudly say that the midges didn’t win.
Citing weary ankles and friends in Shrewsbury, Gaby and Mike departed the next morning, still scratching. Other people went on short walks and in Gary’s case, a small outing on his road bike (the clothing matched the bike, which we found most impressive). Claire, Alan and Keyna stuck to the intended Sunday walk and drove even deeper into Wales to a starting point near Strata Florida. As with the rest of this part of Wales, the well defined path from the road dissolved into bogs and tussocks after a few miles. We were delighted (not) that the midges decided to join us for lunch on our nameless peak, with views down to the Elan Reservoirs. Then it was on to the Teifi Pools – actually quite big scenic lakes rather than the even bigger bogs we imagined – and the scenery was dramatic, very reminiscent to the wilds of N.W. Scotland, which certainly came with a ‘wow’ factor. It was well worth the long drive back to civilisation before commencing the journey home.
Gaby Broadfoot, Claire White