Glyndwr’s Way

Glyndwr's Way starting point

Glyndwr's Way starting point

Day 1 – Dual inversions

We came across Glyndwr’s Way whilst walking Offa’s Dyke, from the LDWA events we’d taken part in and, after picking up a leaflet in the Offa’s Dyke (OD) centre in Knighton, decided that one day we’d undertake it. As with OD, we have planned the walk over a number of Easters – in this case two – which gives sections of approximately 73 and 62 miles respectively. It also breaks conveniently across railway lines and our first holiday took us from Knighton to Machynlleth staying at B&Bs along the way.
As the train from Shrewsbury sped through Church Stretton the Shropshire hills shone brightly with deep fresh snow. It was clear that on our first day we would encounter snow and so it proved up be, not long after the very steep climb out of Knighton. At first we could skirt the drifts in the fields but soon we were knee-deep and making very slow progress. The route undulates constantly and sections of snow-bashing alternated with farm tracks.
Snowy lane out of Knighton

Snowy lane out of Knighton

On one high meadow, at around 420m, we noticed a lamb perched upon the inverted tummy of its mother, bleating and looking very distressed. After several attempts we managed to right the ewe and noticed it was lame. We reported this to a neighbouring farmer and he relayed the message on. This ewe and lamb were just two of the thousands we saw over the 5 days of walking. Their behaviour was so cute and predictable and added greatly to the enjoyment of the walking.
Cute, or what ?

Cute, or what ?

Down in the valley we chatted to the farmer for a while and then set off on his carefully way marked diversion. A short while later we decided to make our own diversion by avoiding a very steep snow-covered descent by using a country lane. Whilst doing so the same farmer came by in his red pickup truck and corrected us!
After Llangunllo we had a painfully long traversal of a snow-filled green lane before starting the ascent and crossing of the Beacon Hill park. This is wild and remote moorland with a confusing array of paths but, as always, there were just enough waymarks to keep us right.
Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill

It was always possible to miss the worst of the snow but by the time Felindre, and in particular Brandy House Farm, came into view we were very tired. This probably contributed to the second inversion of the day when a small patch of snow triumphantly managed to upend the whelk, so that she did a passable imitation of our earlier Ovis aries friend!
At Brandy House Farm our host greeted us warmly and served tea and hot-cross buns whilst we took off our sodden boots and socks. We had booked an evening meal and were served a fabulous home-made lasagne with salad and potato wedges. Showers and sleep followed swiftly and easily …
Day 2 – What’s the postcode for the sea ?
The Brandy House breakfast special was accompanied with fascinating chatter about previous walkers and visitors, and drifted into the topic of GPS devices and SatNav. One car-based couple on hearing they were not too far from the coast apparently asked what the PostCode was for the sea!
Our own navigational challenge was in actually leaving such a homely place – we shall return.
We passed through Felindre and started the long pull up onto the hilltops. To miss the worst of the drifting snow we took a farm road South of Felindre, passing Killowent Farm, and climbed steady to the ridge. We passed through field after field of ewes and lambs and at times the noise was deafening! We also spotted a couple of interesting devices by the path side – bird-scarers they turned out to be.
A bird-scarer

A bird-scarer

Crossing the bwlch we reached another farm road where a snow-plough had recently been in action – and I’m grateful they had, for the snow was quite deep on this side of the hill. However, there were signs everywhere that the snow was melting.
At an elevation of over 400m a narrow farm lane was the last place you’d expect to see a traffic jam – but here was a selection of vehicles – landrovers, a tanker, a breakdown van, and a car – all queuing up; the tanker had broken down!
We had a quick break at the New Inn in Llanbadarn Fynydd which was also populated by a large group of walkers and a wonderful black labrador, patiently waiting for the next crisp. A fine pub.
Climbing onto the hills yet again, we were passed by a trio of runners running the whole of the Way. Maybe not before tea, but certainly quicker than we were travelling!
Now permanently above the 450m contour we headed South over wonderful moorland and eventually descended into the valley by Bachell Brook, and headed into Abbeycwmhir for a comfortable stay at Erw Fair Guest House.
Snowplow-cleared lane 450m up on the hills

Snowplow-cleared lane 450m up on the hills

Day 3 – Tranquility Base
Suitably rested and fuelled we climbed steeply through woodland before heading along the Clywedog valley to Bwlch-y-sarnau – a tiny hamlet we’ve visited on a number of occasions, one of which when it had no roof, due to it being replaced!
A boggy woodland led us to peaceful country lanes. We stopped walking and just listened to the silence, and the distant bleating of sheep – punctuated by a woodpecker from a nearby copse. As we stood in the lane a local farmer pulled up in his 4×4 and we had a lovely chat. In fact we’ve chatted more with farmers and the like on this walk than on many previous, and all were friendly and interested in our journey.
Abbeycwmhir

Abbeycwmhir

Shortly aferwards we walked through forestry where sections of trees had been marked with with yellow ribbon either encircling their girth or hanging loose from branches. These were not old oak trees, more a mixture of conifers. We suspected the ribbons were markers for future felling. (Incidentally, in the final dell before Llanidloes we did see a yellow ribbon on an old oak tree!)
We contoured below the Rhydd Hywel windfarm but only glimpsed a handful of the 103 turbines that provide power to 25,000 homes. We later met a couple who lived within sight of this farm and who still didn’t like it spoiling their view. Some debates cannot be resolved.
Organic produce?

Organic produce?

One other feature of this walk has been the various contraptions both old and new that we’ve seen discarded by the wayside :- various farm implements, an old mangle, a burger-van with hatch still open, a buzz-saw, and even a hammond organ! We also passed a notice advertising a Mr Fixit in all manner of electrical and musical instruments – high on the lonely hills, miles from anywhere!
Mr Fixit !

Mr Fixit !

There were some very steep descents and ascents during the second half of the walk and it seemed an age before we hit the final stretch of road into Llanidloes. Still, the sun was now shining and the 2 km downhill passed easily. Soon we were being shown to our luxurious room at Lloyd’s Rooms and Dining; what a wonderful place!
Dam good show

Dam good show

Finding food was a lot harder, however; Easter has filled all the available restaurants and we just managed to find a small table near a door in a bistro to enjoy a (too rare) steak. Another good nights sleep followed.
Day 4 – An Eggscellent Day!
Easter Sunday at Lloyd’s – Intellectual conversation with our hosts Tom and Roy, and a dish of tiny Easter Eggs on the breakfast table. We are definitely coming back here for a longer stay; they have dinner parties in the evening which must be pre-booked well in advance, but I think we would have fallen asleep sometime during the five-course, four-hour, marathon!
Back on the trail, and this was a day full of interest. The Clywedog Dam is impressive and (of course) the route took us to the very foot of the dam only to have to climb the 100m back up to viewing area on the other side. Still, there was a reward in the shape of the Red Kite Kiosk were we enjoyed a fine cup of tea and hot-cross buns – and more gifted Easter Eggs! All this made me feel terribly guilty at not having sent my own Grandchildren any! (Shame)
The reservoir itself is some 6 miles long and in a very beautiful setting, with lots of sailing and fishing activities and a wonderful wild nature reserve at the North-Western end.
Clywedog Reservoir

Clywedog Reservoir

From here we crossed easy fields and came close to the hamlet of Llwynygog – a purpose-built community of 20 or so properties for forestry workers, created in 1951. (See half-way down this article for more information on Llwynygog)
After a steep climb onto the moors and a chilly windy trudge we descended to our stop for the night at the Star Inn, Dylife. A 17th Century Drovers Inn, this has seen better days and is apparently up for sale. Unfortunately, we cannot recommend this place at all.
Day 5 – Three Rs
For several days now we had seen the forecast for Easter Monday as being nothing but rain all day, and it certainly started that way. We had decided that should this be the case there was little point in climbing up and down hills in thick mist and rain seeing nothing, and we would be better walking the minor road direct to Machynlleth, some 9.5 miles – which is what we did.
There were a few items of interest along the way – a Millenium statue and a memorial to Wynford Vaughan-Thomas, the Welsh broadcaster – but mainly it was tarmac, sheep and Rain.
Wynford Vaughan-Thomas Memorial

Wynford Vaughan-Thomas Memorial

Once we arrived in Machynlleth we soon found the Quarry Cafe – an outlet for the Centre for Alternative Technology which lies a few miles away – and had delicious soup, pizza and chocolate cake!
Then it was off to a fine B&B, Maenllwyd, for a lengthy spell of Relaxation and Reading.
Reward!

Reward!

Day 6 – Home, James
And so Part 1 of our walk along Glyndwr’s Way was over. It was every bit the remote and wild walk we wanted it to be and we would thoroughly recommend it to those who do not like to spend every night in a brightly-lit tourist resort, and are prepared to work hard each day – for much of the route is either hilly or over rough exposed land.
Just time for a gentle walk around the T-shaped village, grabbing a quick geocache en route, before our train home.
What a great walk – roll on Part 2.
(70 miles, 9000 ft ascent)

Lakeland 100 – Recce 3

The heat is on!

Pooley Bridge

Pooley Bridge

Just four days after taking part in this recce, my wife and I were trudging the hills above Knighton, knee-deep in snow. A cold wind blew and the miles of Glyndwr’s Way crawled by. This is by way of contrasting the weather on the third Lakeland 100 recce – from Pooley Bridge to Ambleside – which was warm and sunny. Both extremes uncommon for the beginning of April but serve to highlight the versatility required of the British trail runner.
The formula for this weekend was the same as those previous – talks by guest speakers on the Saturday evening and a coach journey on Sunday morning to the start of the leg to be recce’d.
We could only stay for the talk by Marc Laithwaite on nutrition, which was clear and detailed without going off into esoteric side themes that many fitness books tend to. I heard from other runners that the other talks were really interesting and I’m particularly sorry I missed the demonstration on how to pack all the required kit into a small bum-bag!
Descent into Howtown

Descent into Howtown

Pooley Bridge was bright and cheery on Sunday morning but my position at the back of the second bus meant I was also at the back of the loo-queue!  Most of the hundred or so runners were on their way up the gently rising lane to Barton Fell by the time I set off. Still, with such fine views and easy going my body soon woke-up and settled into a comfortable rhythm, encouraged by the delightful run down into Howtown – a descent of some 200m over 4km. Perfect. (I very much doubt I will feel this way on the main event, after having already traversed 50 miles!)
Fusedale

Fusedale

The journey down Fusedale starts innocently enough but after crossing the stream a second time the gradient steadily increases until the shoulder of Gowk Hill is reached. (I made a small navigational error here and crossed the stream by the two ruined buildings before turning left up to Keasgill Head.  RTFI)
After crossing the High Street ridge there’s a short section of hags, but these soon gave way to a wonderful stretch of running over the springy moor of Bampton Common before picking my way down from the small cairn near Low Kop directly to the footbridge in Fortingdale Bottom.
Footbridge, Fortingdale Bottom

Footbridge, Fortingdale Bottom

The path alongside Haweswater undulates frequently and has many changes of surface, but it is generally easy going and the Mardale Head checkpoint was soon reached.
A number of runners were basking in the glorious sunshine, fuelling their muscles for the punishing climb ahead, for that is what the long, long 300m pull up to Gatescarth Pass is. It was hot work, sweat streaming down my face, but all things must pass and the descent is on a good surface and easy going.
Mardale Head

Mardale Head

It’s not far down the valley road to Sadgill and then the next climb, over to Kentmere. A 4×4 was hacking up the track after depositing a trick-motor-cyclist who proceeded to bounce around the fells making a hell of a racket.
Kentmere Checkpoint

Kentmere Checkpoint

The next checkpoint was by the church at Kentmere and chance to chat with Jan and Paul who I’d met on the last recce. The Garburn Pass is a long stony slog and I soon caught up with my wife who was enjoying a far more sensible local walk. The descent to the Troutbeck valley is rough and hard work but the views compensate.
The Whelk, Garburn Pass

The Whelk, Garburn Pass

There is a wicked little pull into Troutbeck village before the easy contour round to Skelghyll Wood and the rough descent into Ambleside.
Windermere, from the Troutbeck-Ambleside track

Windermere, from the Troutbeck-Ambleside track

The recces finish is quite low key – just sign off with Marc outside the running shop and, er, that’s it. I found great coffee at Esquires Coffee House before driving back to meet the Whelk at Winderemere, where we were staying at the excellent Broadlands B&B.
Apart from the steep sections this 30-mile leg is straightforward. I can see the need to keep my muscles stretched as the rocky surfaces of the Garburn Pass would soon cause cramping.
Thanks, as always, to Marc, Terry and the team for a well-organised weekend.