Glyndŵr’s Way Day 8: Llanwddyn to Pontrobert

Published 22 May 2013

A decorative wooden bench with a fish motif

Glyndŵr’s Way

Stage: 8 of 9

Distance: 12 miles, 19 km

Walked on: 30 April 2011

“Okay, I think I’ve found the worst shower on the Glyndŵr’s Way,” I pronounced after the end of a relatively easy day of walking. And truly the shower was a work of art.

An electric job, it had all the buttons and dials you’d expect a shower to have, it was just that none of them seem to actually do anything. The shower just dished out water of whatever temperature it fancied providing at the given moment in time. Icy cold one minute, then scorching hot seconds later. Twisting the dial to make it hotter only served to do the exact opposite, whilst turning the dial to colder just made it feel like you were showering in sheets of ice.

And then there was the water pressure. The water didn’t so much as pour out, than dribble. And if anyone dared to even flush the toilet anywhere in a fifteen mile radius, the shower lost the ability to heat anything at all. Most of the water ended up on the floor anyway; the shower curtain too short to reach the ground which meant it spent most of its time flapping around wildly instead, occasionally whipping the legs of the poor unfortunate who was trying to wash themselves.

The diabolical shower seemed to match the pub’s sole B&B room rather well. It had the look of once being a granny flat, but one where the granny had moved out (for whatever reason – let’s not speculate why) and the owners hadn’t cleared much out but simply shoved beds in any empty space. Whilst investigating the room, I randomly opened a draw and found a broken wall clock in it. I closed the drawer again, and didn’t dare look anywhere else in case I found anything worse.

There was even a kitchen, with rather manky looking lino and a washing machine optimistically plonked in a corner. Would we be expected to make our own breakfast in the morning using the ancient looking cooker? Well the fridge was certainly bare but there were all the other essentials. Pans, plates, cut crystal glasses, you name it.

Old drovers road at Pen-y-ffridd

The stresses of the demonic shower didn’t provide a particularly relaxing way to end what had been a pretty simple day of walking. Our penultimate day of the trip had been our designated “easy day”. Nothing strenuous on the radar, and a relatively low mileage to complete. Just a simple stroll from Lake Vyrnwy to the village of Pontrobert and we’d be done.

Fuelled with a fantastic breakfast, featuring a healthy portion of homemade black pudding, we’d headed off watching out for the wild but relatively tame pheasants which wandered round the village. Our guide book promised that we’d be swamped by them, but they seemed more content to hide in the trees than come out and say hello.

The lake was surrounded by forest which meant a stroll through the trees was inevitable. What we weren’t quite expecting was a signpost to direct us up a near vertical side path in order to head on our way. Eventually levelling out, it turned out to be a rather nice path to walk along with greenery and wild flowers in abundance and the sounds of pheasants squawking coming from all around. Then the Way headed through a patch of new plantation – the trees barely at shoulder height – before the path entered the village of Pont Llogel whose 2 metres of Wills and Kate bunting showed that we were truly in a highly royalist area.

The path left the village on the banks of the River Vrynwy, through a site of special scientific interest. A sign informed us that the Forestry Commission were helping to keep the area special, and had been digging up coniferous trees to allow more light to get to the other plants and trees. It also provided a simple walking route for people to see the best an the area, offering an hour long trek down the river and then back to the car park.

An hour’s walk, eh? I studied the sign idly, wondering what distances the Commission believed were generally achievable in that time. Casting my eyes slightly to the right of the sign gave the answer: a mere mile. Even someone fighting their way along London’s overcrowded Oxford Street on a busy Saturday – a place so renowned for slow walkers that there’s been several serious suggestions that the pavement should be split into fast and slow lanes – would struggle to walk slow enough to cover a mile in an hour, even in December when the street is full of Christmas shoppers. And that’s even taking into account the delays caused by having to weave in and out between other shoppers. Out here on a wide, flat and very empty path next to a river, well the only possible way I could imagine the trip taking more than 30 minutes was if everyone walking it was required to do so using walking sticks or zimmer frames.

Catherine strides on

“Busy today! You must be about the tenth lot to have gone through here!” called out a farmer as we passed through his yard. He’d clearly seen more people that us. Given it was a Saturday and fantastic walking weather, we’d been surprised not to see anyone else other than Xin, a fellow Glyndŵr’s Way walker whom we’d met first in the pub Llanbrynmair, and who had sped off early in the day. We knew there should be two other Glyndŵr’s Way walkers out there who we’d also met at the Wynnstay – a retired couple who seemed to walk at incredibly fast pace – but we hadn’t seen them. As for anyone else, well it had just been like any other day on our trip – next to no one around except the odd farmer here and there.

The quietness of it all was one thing in the Glyndŵr’s Way’s favour. Compared to walks like the West Highland Way or Coast to Coast where you end up walking as part of a massive convoy every day, the Glyndŵr’s Way was wonderfully peaceful. But it makes you wonder where everyone was. True, mid Wales is one of the least populated places in Britain, but with large cities like Birmingham not that far away, it felt like someone else should be out there, even if they’d just come for a gentle stroll.

Might not use this bridge...

Compared to most of the hamlets and villages we’d passed through, Dolanog was positively heaving. We spotted one person who was leaving the local community centre, which had just finished its coffee morning, whilst two other people were idly wandering around the village.

The local dogs weren’t too shy either, and in the distance we heard two canines barking frantically at us. Raising eyebrows we noted that the yelping was getting louder and louder, nearer and nearer. Then out of a field two dogs came racing towards us as fast as their legs could carry them. Expecting the worst we froze and awaited our fate, which from one turned out to be an enthusiastic welcome by jumping up and down in front of us, waiting patiently to be greeted by a pat on the head. The second, a large border collie, stood a more respectable distance away, as if, after making all that noise, it was now suddenly too shy to come and say hello.

It was just after lunch when we left the village and with just three and a half miles left until we got to Pontrobert we dawdled and ambled, making the most of our unusually lax itinerary. The path mostly hugged the river, usually on a wide and grassy path, but every now and then it would head upwards on a narrow ledge, covered in the leaves of many an autumn.

Pontrobert soon came in sight, and after battling with our room’s truly amazing shower we adjourned for a late afternoon in the Royal Oak’s beer garden. Pints in hand, a toast seemed in order for a job done.

Royal Oak, Pontrobert

“Ah, this is the life,” I said, raising the glass.

“It is indeed,” replied Catherine. “Apart from the shower anyway.”

Next time: the bunting is out as we reach our destination.

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