Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Encircling a cloud shrouded Moelfre

28th February 2009

By the end of last week, I was gagging for blue skies and sun so, being the outdoors type that I am, it was maybe inevitable that I would find myself among hills at the weekend if there was a chance of any sun on offer. Suitably enough, Saturday was offering, and my mind turned to another excursion into Welsh hill country where I hadn’t been for over a year and a half. I was to spend a few good hours in the vicinity of the Rhinogs with low cloud stopping any ambitions to ascend a hill in their tracks.

That’s not to say that there wasn’t sun too, but the clag attenuated things somewhat. On the train journey from Macclesfield, I saw plenty of sunlit hill country while we crossed Shropshire and I might have been tempted to stop off at Caersws at the same time as another bunch of walkers if the Rhinog plan hadn’t crystallised strongly in my mind. From there to the west, great wads of cloud were about and often obscured the sun too. The skies were clearer after passing Machynlleth and I assumed that Cadair Idris was in part responsible for the lumps that pervaded overhead. Still more were ahead of me after reaching Dyffryn Ardudwy, following a journey that took in busy trains. An alternative culture event (manga or anime, anyone?) in Telford certainly drew folk in droves, but the school midterm break might have it hand in this too. Things were set to be far, far quieter on the return leg.

The first thing that I needed to do in Dyffryn was acquire a map, a need that is so unlike me. Having maps is a task that is always on the to-do list, so this mishap was unusual. Nevertheless, I soon fulfilled my needs in the Village Store and I was very grateful for the chance. Needing to get a new map was not even close to the end of the world, since I do have some ideas worked out in my mind anyway and the one that I already had did predate the advent of the Open Access areas that allow such peace of mind in exploring more remote parts. Saying all of that, I would have felt very “naked” without one and it’s certainly not something that I’d leave to chance again.

Dyffryn Burial Chamber, Dyffryn Ardudwy, Gwynedd, Wales

My cartographic needs duly fulfilled, I set off on my wander. My first stop turned out to be burial chambers of a type that is familiar to me from Ireland. We call them dolmens and it was intriguing to see similar constructions along the west coast of Wales, even if they were not of the same size; our ones are capped by boulders that cause one to wonder how they were placed where we find them at all. After that piece of prehistory, it was back to the modern task of hiking along public footpaths and quiet roads.

Moelfre, Dyffryn Ardudwy, Gwynedd, Wales
The tarmac mercifully ran out after Cors y Gedol Hall to be replaced by a hard core track. Behind me, I left the coast while the countryside in front of me contained significant and not so significant attractors of clag. Moelfre was one of these while Diffwys was shrouded too. On a fairer day, the temptation to mount the latter might have been there, but the shrouds kept ambitions on a short leash.

I stuck with the track bound for Llyn Bodlyn until it passed the summit of Moelfre and I then began to ascend its shoulder after that few kilometres of gravel bashing. A sound grassy hillside more than capably replaced it and I continued until I found the wall through which I was to pass before taking a left turn to motion towards the top of Moelfre. As it happened, I decided not go all the way to the top. Standing in the midst of murk didn’t seem worth the effort and there were rather more stone walls about than was suggested by my OS map. I probably had the best views anyway and could see Llyn Erddyn across the valley from me.

Foel Wen with Rhinog Fawr and Rhinog Fach behind, Llanbedr, Gwynedd, Wales

Having satisfied myself, I began my descent to reach a bridleway that I had intended to use. My northbound course took me from one valley to another and with new hills to see. Foel Ddu lay across from me while Rhinog Fawr, Rhinog Fach and perhaps Y Llethr nestled behind lesser bumps. These heights weren’t so clag-bound as those that I had been seeing earlier, but cloud remained abundant, limiting sunshine to spouts from any openings.

Once the bridleway had returned me to tarmac, I had decided to start returning to Dyffryn Ardudwy using a mix of quiet single track roads and rights of way. The tarmac element was well gated to keep sheep where they were put, so the possibility for any traffic was much reduced, so the countryside still could be enjoyed and admired without there being any interruption. Looking at the map now, I suppose that going to Llanbedr might have made more sense, but that wasn’t what my train ticket said so I stuck to the original plan. Not long after passing Moelfre, the sun escaped from the clouds to yield a magical display and allowed time for a spot of photographic activity. It didn’t last so long though, which was probably just as well since I needed to continue on to bring a good day’s walking to an end before night fell. Sun and blue skies may have been in short supply at times, but there was easily enough of both to keep me happy.

Travel arrangements:

Return train journey to Dyffryn Ardudwy, changing at Stoke-on-Trent, Wolverhampton and Machynlleth on the outbound portion while the return trip only involved a change at Wolverhampton.

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