Walked: Glyndŵr’s Way – Knighton to Dylife
Date: 27-30 May 2016
Distance: 60 miles
Walked with: It was a solo adventure
Weather: Dry, still, scorchio!
A strange thing happened over the second May Bank Holiday weekend. A little like entering a parallel universe that looks like our own but is somehow, magically, different, I spent four days walking in mid Wales… and not only did it not rain, but I spent the last two days walking in 25 degree sunshine. I got an actual, honest-to-God suntan. The few people I saw were walking around with bewildered expressions on their faces, staring in wonderment at the alien ball of fire in the sky… Ok, I am slightly exaggerating on that last point, but only a bit. Point is, the weather was abnormally good. For Wales.
Glyndŵr’s Way is the 12th National Trail I’ve now embarked on, and I’m planning to go back a couple of times over the summer to complete the 135 mile walk. It’s a lot more winding and convoluted than the other national trails. Carving a wobbly ‘v’ shape through the mid-Wales countryside, it starts and finishes at the border with England, with the lovely, fairly affluent feeling, town of Machynlleth at its centre.
The reason for its odd route is its eponymous hero Owain Glyndŵr, the legendary Prince of Wales in the early 1400s, and the last actual Welshman to hold that title (our present day one has rather more Germanic and Mediterranean roots). He was famous for revolting… against the evil English. Despite large sums of money on offer for his capture, his fellow countrymen (and women) never snitched on him to the more powerful English, Shakespeare wrote about him some 200 years after his death, and in the 19th century he was re-launched as the historical figurehead for Welsh nationalism. Basically, he was pretty cool, and much like the path named after him, he wandered around all over the place in mid-Wales. You can learn more about him here.
This four day walk took me through real farming country. As the area is famed for its precipitation, sheep farming dominates the landscape – making for field after field of green, lush pasture land adorned with thousands of sheep. It’s so green that it almost makes your eyes ache – the wonderful moorland of Beacon Hill Crown Estate was the only variation from the otherwise verdant theme. It was all beautiful, and uplifting. Oh – and devoid of people: in four days of walking, I think I saw a total of perhaps ten people actually on the trail… and most of those were locals who happened to be in their gardens as I passed by. One chap, who was making a BBQ out of an old washing machine drum (he’ll be ok, come the zombie apocalypse) had a very welcome honesty box stall outside his house, along with free water for walkers, which was gratefully received on hot, hilly day three of my walk. Earlier that same day, I heard – but didn’t see – a farmer in the tiny village of Bwich-y-sarnau swearing his head off at his sheep. Silently giggling to myself, I walked on…
The tranquility of the walk was only punctured the once. The town of Llanidloes, which must be in the running for most pubs per head of population in the UK, turned out to be very lively indeed on a hot bank holiday Sunday, with an England V Wales rugby game providing the soundtrack to my arrival in town. I’m very glad indeed that I brought earplugs with me!
I did actually have some company for the last hour or so of my walk to Dylife on the final day. I met Stuart, one of two other people I met a few days before in pretty little Anbeycwmhir (it has abbey ruins. And a nice looking pub that doesn’t seem to open until after 8pm), sheltering in the shade of a stone wall near Nant-y-Gwrdu… I told you it was hot! His company helped the last few miles of my walking adventure flyby, and before I knew it, the Star (previously the Star Inn) at Dylife was in view. As I approached this remote place, standing alone in a surrounding countryside full of rolling hills and nothing else, I realised that I’d actually been to that exact spot about five years before on a cycling trip! Anyway, despite the fact that I wasn’t staying there, the lovely owner Louise let me have a shower (a kindness that my fellow train passengers back to London would have greatly appreciated, had they only known) and made me a drink while I waited for my taxi. She was so lovely, and The Star (which is primarily a retreat) so cozy and welcoming, that I’ll be heading back there in July to get a day of walking in. If retreats are your thing, check out her website here.
Anyway, enough waffle from me. Have some pictures…
Photos – leaving Knighton / the fabulous moorland of the Beacon Hill Crown Estate / Bryn Mawr (shortly after Felindre) / approaching Abbeycwmhir / early start on Upper Esgair Hill / near Llidiart-y-Waun / looking over to the village of Y Fan, near Llanidloes / Llyn Clywedog reservoir / bluebell fringed path at Ystradhynod