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!

Very alike but not the same

26th April 2010

This past weekend has been a lazier one than the one before it, when I took myself down to Dyffryn Ardudwy with the idea of walking to the top of Y Llethr. Fatigue had a lot to do with the stasis as did floundering with options as to what I could be doing; it is difficult to get more enthused for one idea over another when your brain is tired. That option perusal hasn’t gone to waste because it has added ideas to the proverbial shelf for future outings, especially with a bank holiday weekend ahead of us. Thoughts of taking in sections of long-distance trails in places like Northumberland, Pembrokeshire or even the Isle of Man have come to mind, so who knows what might come of them.

In the midst of all this mulling over prospective escapades, it struck me as to how easy it is to make reaching a hill top the fulcrum of a walk. A long-distance trail needs room to breathe and so takes up more room on the landscape, whereas hummocks can be stuffed next to anywhere. The observation also illustrates how you can gravitate towards summits when there are few other objectives about, something that can lead you down a slippery slope that takes you up more gradients. However, if I have anything to do with it, I’ll be following up the ascent of Y Llethr with trail walking for the sake of variety if nothing else.

Returning to the Welsh outing in question, the idea came from a previous hike to the top of Diffwys from Dyffryn Ardudwy. Spying Y Llethr across the valley from me was what set the brain to thinking. There is a horseshoe walk that takes in Crib-y-Rhiw as well, but it isn’t something that I’d try on a day trip from home. In fact, sorting accommodation in the area for a night or two would be well rewarded with some poking around Rhinog Fawr and Rhinog Fach made possible along with the aforementioned horseshoe. Terry Marsh’s Great Mountain Days in Snowdonia has put a few possibilities into my head, and they aren’t all walks to summits either; he starts the Diffwys-Y Llethr horseshoe from Talybont, an interesting choice. After all, this is a wilder side of Wales that guarantees plenty of space and calm for those times when you need to escape the frenetic pace of the modern world. It’s as near the emptiness of the Scottish Highlands as you’ll find in the principality.

My Y Llethr hill outing was to have me reprising much of my walk to Diffwys with a twist. For the sake of variety, I used a different way from Dyffryn that avoided the megalithic tombs that I usually pass. That landed me further up Ffordd Gors and Cors y Gedol was passed without much further ado to pick up the non-metalled track for Llyn Bodlyn. The turn-off for Pont Scethin that I followed at the start of February was passed and not taken. What I was after was a clear path to my left that would take me up the slopes towards Y Llethr. I was already seeing signs of where I was headed when a labouring mountain biker passed me and later left the road to gain some height, using part of the path that I needed.

Llyn Bodlyn & Diffwys, Dyffryn Ardudwy, Gwynedd, Wales

That cue from one of the few people that I encountered on my walk was more than useful. He may have gone left at a fork unmarked on my OL18 map but once off the gravel track yet still on sound ground, I easily made out the direction that I needed. Going uphill granted views over Llyn Bodlyn without the gradients being overly harsh. Still, they were sufficient to make my pins remind me of what I did to them on the side of Moel Siabod the week before. Next up was the wall on Moelyblithcwm that I was to shadow loosely for much of the way. The track that I was following stayed with gentler gradients even if that meant wandering away from the wall for much of the time. Eventually, it sent me through boggy ground from which I emerged to find a stile that brought me over the wall to the final steep approach to the top of Y Llethr.

Y Llethr from Moelyblithcwm, Dyffryn Ardudwy, Gwynedd, Wales

Crib-y-rhiw, Dyffryn Ardudwy, Gwynedd, Wales
Steady unhurried progress was what the final steep pull up to the flat top of Y Llethr. The summit was left to come towards me in its own good time with vistas opening up more and more as I gained height. Moelfre was an unmissable feature through my out and back yomp, and it was to the west of me now. To the south, Crib-y-Rhiw lay temptingly at hand with Diffwys beyond the ridge. Maybe it was that proximity that put walking up Y Llethr into my head last February. Cadair Idris and others like it lay around too, though they were hazy on the day.

Rhinog Fawr & Rhinog Fach as seen from Y Llethr, Dyffryn Ardudwy, Gwynedd, Wales

Once on the summit, I could gaze upon Rhinog Fach and Rhinog Fawr to the north; the views were finally verging on being 360º. It was at this point that I was joined by two walkers coming up from the other side. After exchanging a few words, I wandered over a little to gain better views of Rhinog Fawr and Rhinog Fach before descending on a route of my own making before I reached the stile that I had crossed earlier. Beyond the stile, I stayed with the wall and encountered some very soft mossy stuff underfoot before things dried up ahead of a stony canter downhill before I again picked up the track that had brought me uphill and stuck with it for the rest of the descent to the reservoir track. By now, the sun had changed position such that good photographic fodder was on offer behind me and I didn’t waste it, even if it were to cost me time.

Y Llethr & Diffwys, Dyffryn Ardudwy, Gwynedd, Wales

Knowing the distance that I had yet to travel after reaching the Llyn Bodlyn track, I paced myself so as not to miss my train home. Photographic pit stops were unavoidable given how the evening was going even if I was mindful of the time. From Cors y Gedol Hall downhill, I stayed on Ffordd Gors like I did last February. Though there were a few hours left in the day, the sun was beginning to lower as I shortened the distance I had left to travel. It had all the hallmarks of an idyllic end to a good day’s walking and acted as a reminder of summer too. All the while, I stocked up on refreshments in Dyffryn and caught that train home as planned. The sun may have been declining as it travelled down the Cambrian coast, but the enjoyment wasn’t over so quickly.

Travel arrangements:

Return train journey from Macclesfield and Dyffryn Ardudwy. Changes on the outbound journey were at Stoke-on-Trent and Wolverhampton. On the way back, they were at Shrewsbury (due to the small matter of only two out of the four carriages continuing for Birmingham) and Wolverhampton.

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