A mixture of spring warmth and cloudless summits14th February 2010
It’s amazing where a moment of curiosity might take you. The weekend before saw me checking out the travel possibilities for Keswick while pondering the reality of a day outing to Dyffryn Ardudwy was what was to follow it. The trouble with the latter is that the last train back is often at around 16:30 and that constrains the amount of time available for exploring the nearby hills. However, an 18:30 return journey made things a little more interesting, even if it added a late finish to an early start. That extra time available made reaching the top of Diffwys a possibility.
It wouldn’t have been the first time that I ever thought of reaching Diffwys. Various forays around Dolgellau may have sown the seeds when northern hills looked better lit than the clag attractor that is Cadair Idris. A Spring Bank Holiday weekend stay in the area was when the prospect really came to mind an out and back walk from Barmouth wasn’t going to happen in the time that was available to me on a gloriously sunny Sunday. That reality may have been the cause of extending my explorations to the north with some recce around Harlech of a sunny December day when low cloud hogged the Rhinogau. Next up was a wet weather walk from Tal-y-bont to Dyffryn Ardudwy via Pont-Scethin at the end of the following June. That wasn’t what I intended but I left the train a (request) stop too early and needed to make the best of the wilder surroundings that were new to me. Last February saw me drop in with notions of reaching the summit of Moelfre but low cloud discouraged me and a circular hike around the hill was what ensued.
In many ways, the route for last weekend’s stroll echo that of a year before. Starting from the (right) train station, I headed for the nearby burial chambers and passed them on a right of way that took me onto Fford Gors. Road walking conveyed me towards and past Cors y Geddl Hall to reach a gravel track that has seen my footfall a few times already. Moelfre loomed ahead of me and there were ample views along the coast of the hills to the north. In fact, I’d venture that Snowdon itself could be seen, stained with streaks of winter whiteness. More hilly humps lay to the west of it and took the eye out the Llyn Peninsula.
While I didn’t rush along, I didn’t dawdle either as I walked closer to the foot of Moelfre until I picked up the boggy track down to Pont-Scethin. The bridge itself is a well maintained specimen but it looks a little out of place with the rutted tracks that feed it. Having passed the bridge, I checked my map and two mountain bikers passed me. Every time I saw them ahead of me, they seemed to be walking more than cycling but the ascent was steep so it was understandable. I too made my way up the steepest incline of my day with views of Y Llether, Moelfre, Rhinog Fawr and more giving me excuses for rest breaks on the ascent. After all, with no one following me, it was not as if I was holding up anyone else.
When the gradients levelled off, I found the wall that I was to shadow on the way to Diffwys. Time consciousness was creeping into the fray yet again but the out and back walk to the top of Diffwys didn’t look to be too far away. Of course, that didn’t mean that it was quick hop there and boggy conditions underfoot along with undulations such as an unnamed 642 metre high top meant that patience was of the essence. However, there were views over towards a dark looking Cadair Idris and many other hills such as the Arans to savour and the shelf containing Llyn Dulyn was coming into sight too. 360º panoramic vistas were going to be my lot and I was able to pick out the Mawddach estuary too.
Some residual streaks of snow lay on the ground as I carried on higher but the only time that the white stuff intruded on my progress was when I made for the stile that took me across the wall to Diffwys’ trig point. In truth, I reached it a little later than I would have liked but the knowledge that I’d be retracing steps kept my head level and I took a short break and enjoyed the surrounding scenery. Diffwys may not be the highest of hills but it is well placed and you can see for miles around it on a clear day, an occasional happenstance if my experiences are typical.
Going to the top of any hill is only half the battle because you have to get back down again and that’s when things can go awry. Having a train to catch and running later than was ideal wasn’t the most compatible of situations then but I didn’t suffer any misfortune on its account. In fact, good progress was the essence of the return journey to Dyffryn Ardudwy’s train station. Even so, it amazed me how long it took to get down by Llawlech and leave the sight of Llyn Erddyn behind me. With that out of the way, I managed to get from Pont-Scethin to the train station with ten minutes to spare, a satisfactory outcome. In the latter stages, a head torch was pressed into service until I was under street lights and was another of the contingencies that allowed me to make as much use of the day as I did. Even at 18:30, there was some some colour in the sky but it was far from enough to ward off the darkness that encroached at the end of what had been a glorious day’s walking.
Return train journey from Macclesfield to Dyffryn Ardudwy with a change in Wolverhampton.