Can there be anything more depressing than to meandering home under clear, starlit skies and wake the following morning to grey clouds, gusting winds and heavy rain?
We’d slept remarkably well… perhaps, in part, thanks to the copious amounts of cider we’d consumed (okay, four halves…but that’s a lot for me!). The first unwelcome discovery of the day was that I was absolutely covered in midge bites; the second, our washing was wetter than when we’d hung it out.
Eager to get going, we quickly packed up and headed into town for supplies.
Beddgelert was reduced to just two elements on this grey and miserable morning – stone and water. A few feet below us, the Glaslyn and Colwyn rivers rushed past, making me feeler even wetter. I’m starting to wonder if Harri and me are incompatible with Beddgelert … everytime we venture anywhere near it rains. Yesterday evening was the glorious exception because my memories of April 2012 are of walking in the rain, driving in the rain and sitting inside our cottage looking out on the rain.
A blue plaque reveals to visitors that external scenes from the 1958 Ingrid Bergman film ‘Inn of Sixth Happiness‘ were filmed in the Beddgelert area (with the Snowdonian landscape masquerading as the Shaxhi province).
The narrow gauge Welsh Highland Railway has a station a Beddgelert (it was re-opened in 2009 after being closed for 73 years) and it was quite exciting to see the train steaming over the level crossing in front of us.
We’d barely set off along the lovely riverside path when the heavens opened once again. Huge boulders and stones became very slippery underfoot and with the River Glaslyn gushing through the gorge a fair distance below, the walking was somewhat nerve-wracking. There are really helpful (some would say, essential) metal handholds secured in the rock face at the really scary section around Craig y Fwtres – just don’t look down!
I don’t mind admitting that I was mighty relieved when this particular rocky and uneven section of the walk was over and, after a stretch of woodland walking, we finally joined a nice, solid path with no handholds required.
When we reached open moorland, the summit of Cnicht was clearly visible. Cnicht. Pronounced with a hard ‘c’ at the beginning and end. I think that’s probably my all-time favourite name for any mountain. Cnicht. It’s wonderful.
Just as I was breathing a sigh of relief that we didn’t have to climb to the summit of Cnicht (it’s an optional extra) and were instead following the old coach road through Croesor, the lane became practically vertical. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate hills? This one is a killer, believe me.
By now there were spectacular views of the long tidal estuary of the Dwyryd (meaning ‘river of the two fords’) which marks the beginning of the gorgeous Llyn Peninsula. I was disappointed our route wouldn’t be taking us back to that magical place, but as Harri rightly pointed out, our aim was to walk between Wales’s traditional ends and not meander all other the place, revisiting all the places we love.
Although it meant stopping walking earlier than we’d have liked, we had little choice but to end our day this side of the Afon Dwyryd at Penrhyndeudraeth,
The Grade II listed 154-year-old wooden Pont Briwet Bridge, which crosses the estuary, closed permanently in January 2014 amidst safety fears. The crossing had carried trains (Cambrian Railway) and cars across the estuary and was open to cyclists (but not pedestrians as there was no pavement).
From the original schedule, Harri expected the new crossing to be open by the time we walked O Fôn i Fynwy but in the time-honoured tradition of large-scale public sector projects it’s been running a little late. In early June, the train crossing was set to re-open on the later date of July 19; this didn’t happen and the new promise is to open again ‘on or before 1st September’. Pedestrians and other vehicles will have to wait until December 2014 (but don’t hold your breath).
The good news is that when it’s finally complete the new crossing will form part of the Wales Coast Path and walkers will no longer have to do a big detour inland. It seemed pointless (and confusing) to include a detour in our book which would not be required within months so Harri thought the best solution would be for us to catch the replacement bus to the other side of the estuary where we could join the 24-mile Ardudwy Way to Barmouth.
Llandecwyn, on the other side of the estuary, has little, if anything, to offer in the way of accommodation so the plan was to camp at Penrhyndeudraeth. I love a plan… except that it was cold and miserable when we walked into town. The campsite was also full of nice, cosy caravans with not a single tent anywhere to be seen.
It was late afternoon and actually quite nippy when we approached the reception block,only to find it locked and deserted. I don’t think I’ve ever been so pleased to be locked out of anywhere.
It wasn’t easy to find bed and breakfast accommodation in Penrhyndeudraeth. It’s not the most prepossessing of towns and seems to have long surrendered any tourism ambitions to nearby Porthmadog. Lesser mortals would undoubtedly have given up but the prospect of spending the night under canvas spurred us on. Our perseverance (desperation?) eventually paid off and we found a room at the very comfortable Cae Gwyn where we turned on the heating and sizzled indoors while the skies outside grew blacker and blacker.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. When we were planning this walk through Wales, we’d dreamt long, warm summer evenings spent lazing outside our tent, perhaps reading or maybe just reflecting on the day’s hiking. There’d be a stream a close, but safe, distance away where we could wash and fill our water bottles. We’d not even ruled out sleeping under the stars.
So far, the reality had been very different and tonight, once again, the miserable UK weather had forced us to seek alternative accommodation.
We were feeling pretty glum and sorry for ourselves as we shared a Chinese takeaway so we thought we’d misheard when a BBC weather woman uttered the word ‘stable’. We listened in disbelief as she promised a change in the weather; a change, it would seem, for the better.
I so wanted to believe she was right, that proper summer weather was on its way at last. After all, I thought, tomorrow is another day.
‘Never too old to backpack: O Fôn i Fynwy: a 364-mile walk through Wales’ by Tracy Burton is available from Amazon’s Kindle Store and other online bookstores priced at £2.99.