set me well on my journey, taking me from my hotel, , in and dropping me where I’d left the path on Wednesday evening, already high above , with rising to the south. The path follows a road for several miles, and for those who do not want to walk, a drive along this is well worth while, with views the length of the .
Barely a half mile in, a car slowed as it passed and I heard a voice, "Hello". At first I thought this was someone else who had found me on my way, but then realised that they had simply read the banner on my back.
The car contained two women, one who had just moved to the area, and the other her visitor from further afield, taking a day out together and enthralled by this road with its aptly named ‘‘ and leading to ‘ ‘. As we chatted we realised I had walked only a short way above her house on the way out of two days before. I hope it takes less time to become a ‘local’ in than .
The road continues to gain height slowly, wending its way beneath the escarpment of ‘‘ or ‘ ‘. The former is named after the mountain beyond, and must mean something to do with ‘church’ as ‘eglwys’ means church in , but I will have to look up what the ‘eg’ ending means.
Eventually the road drops to the valley floor, but the path continues to maintain height (phew) as it cuts along the scree slopes below the scarp, passing a few farms, and just up the slope two trees that have small walls around them, almost as if they were some sort ofparkland amongst the scree. I assume the walls came first, and the trees simply took root in one of the few stable places in a shifting hillside, but I could not work out a purpose for the walls themselves.
Across the valley is a forestry plantation on a long low hill. The hill appears almost perfectly rectangular with a triangular cross section, as if it were a flow bed or grave.
was said to be a giant, and while the ships of the sailed across the to rescue , had to wade across as no ship was big enough for him. The reports came to the ,
"A forest is approaching across the sea, and in the midst of the forest a mountain with a sharp ridge and two lakes either side, with beacon fires burning in each lake."
Thesends a message to ,
"What is this approaching from?"
"Ah," she replies, "the forests are the sails of the armies ofand the mountain rising between them my brother come to rescue me from my disgrace at your hands. The ridge is his nose and the two lakes his eyes each side, but, woe to you and all , the beacons are the fire of vengeance burning in ‘s eyes."
So the bloodybattle began, the took the advantage, but one of the gifts that had given when the first took for his wife, was a cauldron that had the property that when a dead body was thrown in, it would awake again to life, except dumb.
As the living armies perished at each others’ hands, thezombie army grew, and it seemed as if the would be slaughtered against the shoreline. At the moment of despair, ‘s brother, whose pride had initially caused the troubles (a long story, involving horses tails), threw himself down amongst the dead, and when when he was cast into the magic cauldron, pushed, -like, against its side, bursting the cauldron, and his own heart.
Robbed of their army of living dead, theforces collapsed until all that stood upon the blood-soaked mud were a dozen of ‘s closest companions, and himself, mortally wounded. It was then, when died, that his head was cut off and taken to spend a year and day of feasting with his remaining companions, before its interment in .
But of his body, the legends say nothing, except here, in sight of, a giant grave mound.
Eventually the path leads to the valley head, and switch-backs across a slippery concreted ford. In a clearing a large group of anorak-clad youngsters are gathered and eating early lunch with laden rucksacks scattered around. Older leaders shift cars around, either having just dropped them off, or simply met them midway to ensure none have been lost. I assume it isor something similar. I notice one group clustered, heads bent over an .
I recall startingat my own high school, and finished everything except ‘hobby’. I was never a collector (didn’t have the attention span!), and couldn’t do after school activities as was caretaker at the church and so every day after school I shifted chairs, washed dishes and brushed floors. My free time was spent walking through the bushes in the local park imagining myself in a distant jungle, other games of imagination (usually involving things going ‘bang’), and reading late into the night.
Thinking back, I could easily have hadas hobby, but the only thing I thought of was reading, so was tasked with keeping a reading diary for my teacher. The combination of my slow and unreadable handwriting and forgetfulness for anything regular meant it never happened. I would lie to say I have better self-discipline today, but…
I had confused with the spectacular (I think where the opening scene of ‘ ‘ was filmed). In fact seems to refer more to the way the lush long valley gives way to -esque ‘blasted heath’, black bog covered in still-brown heather, with a pathway in places made by pairs of parallel eight-inch planks. As I get to the end of the bog towards the forest, mountain bikers pass peddling hard uphill. had told me this was mountain bike territory and how he had once tried to ride across the boardways, at risk alternatively of getting stuck in the gap between boards, or cast off from the sloping boards into black oil-slicked bog to either side.
The way down towas uneventful, a long descent through forest and woodland. Partway up I meet three women, in accidentally matching cerise/purple walking gear, who were wondering about the right path up until they saw me coming down.
Thein says it is under new management and is open for food including “kick a***” all day breakfast, but the doors are locked and the lights off. Happily the across the green is open and I eat a toasted sarnie, while using their free … and working … .
is tiny but manages two old chapels and an , reminder of the long rivalry between dissenters and established church that writes about repeatedly. The church says outside that it has refreshments, and the post office too has a small table for occasional teas, so a hamlet of culinary choice. Next door to the post office is an old cottage with a large black anvil outside. A man in his garden across the road shouts across to explain that this used to be the old forge and that the street name means ‘free street’ in , so it must have been a blacksmith going back many years.
Leaving, the path cuts across open farmland, towards the hill range that will form the next day and a half of travel. However, soon the signs become less and less legible, with the circle where they belong still incised in the fence post. This could simply be wear and tear; however, each round sign is held by three small steel or brass screws; the screw holes are clearly visible, but there are no rusty remains, each hole is clean and open, suggesting unscrewing. I know some landowners resent walkers crossing their fields, but if it is deliberate obstruction, it is short-sighted. All it means is walkers wandering over more of the their land trying to work out the way, rather than sticking to the footpaths.
After a short unscheduled detour due to the damaged signage, I re-find the path and start the slow ascent of the first foothills of the long ridge of the. The path breaks clear of farmland and rises past a radio mast and signs to fishing and teas and cakes. Later I meet the owner of (one of) the fish lakes and discover that what I took to be signs for a single lake were in fact for two lakes. Originally the lakes served different markets, one was coarse fishing and the other trout, but then the other one changed from trout to be coarse fishing too, leading to just a little rivalry.
I also learnt about the. Anyone who has driven in the will recognise the brown tourist signs pointing to historic sites, accommodation and tourist venues. I had thought that these were placed and chosen purely on amenity grounds, but I discover that individual venues have to apply, going through a long bureaucratic process, and then have to pay the county sign writers exorbitant fees to make the signs. Authorities differ in their rules, some allowing brown signs on main roads (where passing tourists will actually see them), whilst others do not want to clutter principal routes with excessive signage and restrict brown signs to minor roads. … and I just thought they were signs.
Earlier in the trip I had discovered that the whole northern section of theis an invention, based not on the most likely route of the , but on the criteria for a ‘ ‘. Given there is therefore no need to actually ascend the at all, it seems strange that, at several points along the range, the path rises nearly to the top of several hills and then does not rise quite to the top, especially when the top is a hill fort. So, at several places including this day and the next, I took short diversions from the formal route, which was skirting a contour line, to go over the top, and so see views across to in the west and, eventually, the sea in the north.
At, the main pass over the into , there is a substantial café/restaurant, which is currently closed and for sale. I later learn it has been on the market for 18 months, a sign of hard economic times.
Eventually, after another ascent and descent, I get to thewhere meets me to drive me down into and to chat about the . Around 350,000 people stop at the each year, and the idea is to place a kiosk there, in the style of an old shepherd’s hut. The idea is that it would be an amenity to tourists in the area and also act as employment for young people in an area that has few prospects after school. The project is still gathering funding, but used to work for the council, so knows her way round the funding systems. Look out for the hut late this summer.