The Cambrian Way 2010

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 5 - Days 8 and 9 - Ystradfellte to Rhandirmwyn


[Index of Walks] [Previous] [Top] [Next]


[Index of Walks] [Previous] [Top] [Next]

Day 8 - Tuesday 8th June - GPS 18.5 miles - 3,730 ft ascent

Ystradfellte to Llanddeusant via Carmarthen Fans

The GPS mileage figure is what I recorded from accommodation to accommodation, and includes any small detours, meandering around, and errors in route finding. In general this is about 5% to 15% greater than the mileage calculated from a map, depending upon the type of terrain, but in some cases is considerably more.

When I got up, the landlady told me she had had a few problems with sheep that had got over her cattle grid and entered her garden. She had been chasing them round and round before she eventually managed to get them out of the gate but then was left with all the droppings to clear up. I had a good breakfast at eight o'clock and got myself ready for off by nine o'clock. Most of the things that got damp yesterday had dried out with the exception of my fleece, which I had worn when the rain was not quite bad enough for me to put on my waterproofs, so I hung this through the straps of my rucksack to dry out as I was walking.

I set off up the road by the B&B at a steady plod, as I always tend to be a bit slow in the mornings until my feet and legs get settled into the pace. Each time I have walked from here I have drifted away from the correct route, so I put the grid reference of the river crossing at Blaen-nedd-isaf into my GPS to try to avoid this happening again. However, I was still lured into following a well-defined track going north and missed the one going off to the left. It didn't take much to get to where I wanted by looping around but it annoyed me that I had made the same mistake yet again.

When I came down to join the road near Blaen-nedd-isaf, I noticed that the caves at Pwll-y-rhyd were marked in the guidebook as worth a detour, so I went the opposite way along the road to take a look. When I turned off down the track down into the gorge, I had difficulty finding the cave, as there was nothing obviously visible. At first I went further along, then turned back to the bridge and found a small footpath near a parking area, finding an unimpressive cave entrance. I walked along the path a bit further but it started to peter out near the river, so I assumed I must have found what I was looking for, as I still couldn't see anything else around. Later research on the Internet seems to indicate that the cave marked on the map is only a minor part of the picture. The more interesting feature is further south where the river vanishes underground and then reappears further along, but I didn't venture far enough to see this.

Returning back to the road, I made my way to the farm at Blean-nedd-isaf, to cross the river and my heart sank when I came to where the bridge should have been to find only a deep ford there, too deep to cross without getting very wet. This was checkpoint 13B, which I reached at 10.05. After looking around a bit to make sure I wasn't mistaken with the location, I headed a few hundred yards further north to SN911148 to see if the ford there was any easier. To my great relief, there was a new bridge crossing, presumably put there because it is on the route of the Beacons Way, but not yet marked on OS maps, at least not on the free ones found on the OS website's Get-a-Map service, though these are often from a previous archive and not the very latest ones.

Click to Reduce

New Footbridge on Beacons Way (400m N of previous bridge)
New Footbridge on Beacons Way

The weather was a bit unsettled with a lot of thick cloud around but a few bright patches, so it could turn out either way. The walking was easy up a gentle slope, first along the old Roman road of Sarn Helen and then along a mostly grassy path that was quite kind on the feet. The scenery was of open heather moorland with distant views of the round-topped mountains to the north and Corn Du behind, Pen y Fan now being hidden behind it. I met a lone walker who was walking the Beacons Way and who had spent the night camping rough. He complained about all the rain he had to endure last night, which is one of the drawbacks when camping on a long distance walk.

At the top of the hill is the entrance to a National Nature Reserve set up not so much because of what is on the ground, but what is underneath, which is the largest caving system in Britain. It was about time for a rest, but I decided to continue on over the plateau until I had a view ahead of Glyntawe and the mountains on the next stage of the walk. I reached a suitable spot at 11.50 and had part of my packed lunch there, eating a sandwich and some home baking. It was quite cool so I put on my fleece, though it was still a bit damp. I had walked a bit over six miles, though I hadn't been taking much notice of this, just walking until I needed a rest.

At 12.30 I continued on down past the Mountain Rescue Centre and the large quarry, then over the hill to Glyntawe. Down in the valley it was considerably warmer, so I stopped briefly to take off my fleece. The weather was still unsettled but the cloud was generally lifting with some sunshine coming through, but still the odd light shower of rain. Walking along the main road, I passed the Tafarn y Garreg Inn, where I had called for refreshment last time I came. It was now closed and looked rather run down with some building work ongoing, though there was still a sign on an A4 page across the road trying to entice walkers in to help support the pub. There were two pubs within a fairly short distance of each other, the other one being in the village, whereas this was just a roadside inn, so in the present financial climate this must have proved to be unviable.

Click to Reduce

Quarry at Penwyllt
Quarry at Penwyllt
Fan Gihirych from ascent of Fan Hir
Fan Gihirych from ascent of Fan Hir
Fan Hir
Fan Hir

I crossed the River Tawe by the footbridge and soon started up the steep ascent onto the ridge leading to Fan Hir. By now I was feeling a little weary, so I took it steadily with a quite a few short rests until I got near the top of the ridge where the slope eased off. I could then keep walking without stopping. I remembered that I still had some of my lunch left, having only eaten half of it earlier, so I stopped for quarter of an hour to finish it off at 14.45, by the start of Fan Hir's crags. Just when I was thinking that I was the only person around, I saw four walkers down below and then another five coming towards me down the ridge.

There was a lovely spell of sunshine for a while, but it didn't last very long, although it was clear and I could see right down to the sea in the south. Pen y Fan was in and out of cloud, but the cloud was above the lower peaks including the ones I was heading towards. Reaching the rounded summit of Fan Hir. I then dropped down a dip to Bwlch Giedd, where I rejoined the main route at the end of the Ystradfellte alternative. There were fine views overlooking Llyn y Fan Fawr and then a moderate ascent brought me to the summit of Fan Brycheiniog at 15.45 (checkpoint 14). At 2,630ft this was the highest point of the day's walk and I had a short rest and a drink by the cairn. There were some pathway repairs on the way up with a sign saying that the National Park Authority and the Countryside Council for Wales had funded them.

Click to Reduce

Llyn y Fan Fawr from Fan Hir
Llyn y Fan Fawr from Fan Hir
Fan Brycheiniog from Bwlch Giedd
Fan Brycheiniog from Bwlch Giedd
Llyn y Fan Fawr from Bwlch Giedd
Llyn y Fan Fawr from Bwlch Gieddp

Click to Reduce

Summit of Fan Brycheiniog
Summit of Fan Brycheiniog

My next port of call was Fan Foel, where there is one of the best views of Llyn y Fan Fach and the mountains that surround it. The weather was picking up a bit with some sunshine, though it didn't quite light up the scene to bring out its full beauty. The next climb up to Pics Du was the last major one of the day. It is quite steep and I was quite weary, so again I just took it steadily with several short rests, each time setting myself another target to reach before the next rest. At last the sun came out fully for a while bringing out the best of the scenery with marvellous views down to the lake and across to the surrounding mountains.

Click to Reduce

Llyn y Fan Fach from Picws Du
Llyn y Fan Fach from Picws Du
Dam of Llyn y Fan Fach
Dam of Llyn y Fan Fach
Picws Du
Picws Du

As I rounded the head of the lake by Waun Lefrith, the sun started to disappear and when I got down to the reservoir access road and stopped for a drink, the heavens opened, so I had to quickly don my waterproofs. As I walked the remaining two and a half miles to Llanddeusant Youth Hostel, the rain was coming down in stair rods, only easing off a little as I neared the hostel, where I arrived at 18.35.

As was the case when I came last time, the hostel was manned by volunteer wardens, who take it in turns for a week at a time in exchange for free accommodation for their time there. This time two women were acting wardens and they were extremely helpful. One of my concerns was in getting an evening meal, as the hostel is self-catering and I had no food with me, so was relying on the Cross Inn at Talsarn, about a mile away, for a meal. Unfortunately, the pub has now closed as such and has become the Red Kite Centre with a small café that is open only in the daytime. However, I was relieved to find out that the hostel now has a small shop, so I was able to buy enough things for an evening meal and breakfast. I had a tinned steak and ale pie followed by tinned sticky toffee pudding for my evening meal plus a few things from the free food shelf that other people had left, and I bought a tin of all-day breakfast for the morning. I had also bought a packet of pasta with cheese sauce, intending to have it with my evening meal but then decided I had enough to eat with everything else.

I was the only man in the hostel, the other hostellers being two Dutch women plus two other women and the wardens. They were all very pleasant and some were quite incredulous of the daily distances I had been walking. The wardens helped me out with advice on the best way to cook things and offered things from their own supplies to help me out. The only drawback was that the shop didn't sell beer like many hostels do, but then I was very thankful that I been able to get enough things to feed myself with. After my meal I washed out several things and entrusted them to the drying room, though it didn't have very good heating in there.


[Index of Walks] [Previous] [Top] [Next]

Day 9 - Wednesday 9th June - GPS 19 miles - 2,200 ft ascent

Llanddeusant to Rhandirmwyn

The GPS mileage figure is what I recorded from accommodation to accommodation, and includes any small detours, meandering around, and errors in route finding. In general this is about 5% to 15% greater than the mileage calculated from a map, depending upon the type of terrain, but in some cases is considerably more.

I was down to breakfast at 7.50 and had my tin of all-day breakfast, which was basically a tin of baked beans with sausages and bacon. I also made the pasta, which was supposed to have milk added but tasted quite all right with water instead. I didn't need a packed lunch, as I would reach Llandovery at lunchtime and would be able to do shopping there.

Both of my Compeed dressings had come off my heels, which is what is supposed to happen after a few days. My feet had got a bit wet from the heavy rain, so this had helped to accelerate the process. Both heels had blisters that were still not healed and were still in need of some protection, but I only had one dressing left until I could buy some more in Llandovery. However, one of the wardens had some with her, as she supervised groups of children doing outdoor activities and was often called upon to tend to blisters, so she very kindly gave me one for my other heel. The other warden, who came from Wrexham, also gave me some of her home baked buns.

Whilst I was having breakfast, a man came to remove some asbestos. It is surprising just how many things used to contain this, and many organisations have set about ridding their buildings altogether, though much of it poses no real danger if it is bound up with other materials as is often the case. I was well aware that things like thermo-plastic floor tiles had asbestos mixed with the plastic but had only recently become aware that the tarry felt material underneath stainless steel kitchen sinks also contained some. It was this that the man had come to remove and, although all the advice when dealing with asbestos is to wear a protective mask and clothing, he happily worked without any of these, just lying underneath the sinks and using a scraper to remove the coating, some of which was quite well stuck on and proved quite difficult to remove.

Like many aspects of health and safety these days, things have gone a bit over the top, and a lot of cost and effort has gone into removing supposed risks that pose very little or no threat. In fact much of the official advice regarding asbestos is to leave it where it is providing the asbestos fibres are unlikely to be released into the air, either because they are bound up in some other substances or are painted over. Nevertheless, many organisations feel it necessary to go a step further and remove it altogether. We even have the case whereby my nearest hospital is going to be completely demolished and a new one built alongside because the old building contains asbestos. It would cause too much disruption to attempt its removal whilst still trying to run hospital services in there.

I inspected my washing, some of which had dried, though some other things were still quite wet. I put on some of the damp things to dry them out, but didn't do so with my socks, as I needed to look after my feet as much as possible, so dry socks were far preferable.

As is the case with most hostels now, energy saving is a big issue and most toilets and shower rooms as well as some corridors have low energy lighting operated by motion sensors. This is all well and good except that they often only come on for a couple of minutes at a time unless further body movement is detected. Sitting on the toilet for a while generally results in being plunged into pitch-blackness unless arms are waved around at regular intervals to activate the sensors. This is also a little counter productive, as the life of low energy lamps is considerably reduced by excessive switching on and off, so what is saved in energy can be wasted by having to replace lamps more often.

By the time I had sorted everything out, making breakfast, washing up and sorting out my washing, it was 9.25 before I got off. I found the right track and kept a careful eye on my GPS and map, as I had missed my way a little last time I was here. The footpaths were fairly well marked, but the main thing was to go up to the right after a while to keep above the boundary of the common. The weather was very unsettled and there was a moderately heavy shower just as I reached the road east of Talsarn, but it didn't last long enough to need waterproofs. Along the road, two of the women who had been staying in the hostel came by in their car and wished me well.

Soon I was off the road again and onto the common, which has quite a lot of tracks running over it, but there were white posts marking the main route making it easy to follow. After Fedw Fawr, however, I started to think that the posts were leading me in the wrong direction, as they didn't follow the track marked on my OS map, so I spent the next mile going one way and another trying to find my way along steeply sloping hillsides and tortuous sheep tracks, only to find that I should have followed the white posts after all. The problem was that my 1:50,000 OS map didn't show this track at all, so I had highlighted the only track that was shown, whereas the correct track is shown on the 1:25,000 maps. I had now overshot the route down to the road, so just headed to the nearest point along the road near Sarnau and then to Myddfai, where I stopped for a rest, a drink and my two homemade buns at twelve o'clock. I hadn't done much extra distance, but I had wasted some time and effort in the process.

The weather was still unsettled with one or two light showers, but otherwise it was quite warm and calm. I set off again at 12.20 along the road, then on lanes and paths, being quite careful, as it is easy to take a wrong path, though they are now better marked than they used to be. I came to where I had had a problem previously with a diversion round a disputed right of way. I had been told off by the landowner for walking on his private track. This time I took the waymarked diversion at SN763321, which leads up the hillside a little way to join a parallel track, then rejoins the original one further along past the disputed section. A little care was needed where the tracks rejoin, as it was necessary to double back towards the start of the private track, turning left just before reaching it. This diversion is now shown on the latest version of the OS maps, but is not quite correct in the guidebook.

A little further along I missed the path forking off left up the hillside but was able to double back along a farm track to rejoin it higher up. On the way down the other side of the hill at Cefn-yr-allt-uchaf I seemed to lose the waymarked path and was faced with a pair of wide gates that were tied up between the buildings and blocking my route. The guidebook showed the route going between the farm buildings, so I climbed the gates with some difficulty and picked up a path that was also not waymarked but led me the right way. Looking afterwards at the latest online OS map, the route bears off left before the farm, presumably because of a legal diversion.

After dropping down the hill and crossing the river, I arrived in Llandovery at 14.00 and set about doing various things that I needed to do there. First of all I found a Post Office and posted three of my OS maps back home including the one that covered Llandovery itself, as the next map started to the north of town after some miles of road walking, and I thought I could manage to find the route to there without a map. The next thing was to find a supermarket to buy things for lunch for today and tomorrow, then a chemist to get some more Compeed blister dressings. Having accomplished all of these, I sat on a bench near the information centre to have a rest and to eat some of my lunch. The sun came out for a while, but there were still some black clouds looming in the sky.

Click to Reduce

Llandovery
Llandovery

After four days through the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons, this part of the walk is bound to be an anticlimax, but looking at it objectively, there is still some very good scenery and good walking in the area, even if it isn't so dramatic. I set off again at 15.10, heading out of the northern end of town and onto the A483. I knew I had to take a left turn up a minor road, but couldn't quite remember what it looked like at the start. My OS map for this part was now in the post and my next map didn't start until near the end of the minor road a few miles further on. The sketch map in the guide was also not all that clear, so I took the first road that I came to, which looked vaguely familiar. This led up by the church and by a nursing home, which definitely didn't look right, so I went back down the hill and continued along the busy main road to the next turning, going along a winding section where the road narrowed and had no pavement or verge. There were several vehicles that came quite close as they passed. When I got a bit further along, I saw a sign for the nursing home I had found previously on the quiet minor road and realised that if I had just continued a bit further I would have rejoined the main road having bypassed this awkward bit.

I soon found the turning I was looking for and started the steady uphill climb with not many views because of all the trees. A sudden, heavy shower came on and I sheltered under a tree wondering whether to put on my waterproofs, but it eased off again before long, so I carried on without them, taking shelter once or twice more as other showers came and went. I could also see some patches of heavy rain in the distance, but also some sunshine. After a few miles, near the top of the hill, the views opened out more giving some fine views of, amongst other things, the Carmarthen Vans. Just past the top of the hill I stopped for a ten-minute rest and finished off the rest of my drink. My feet were feeling very tender, possibly because there had been a lot of road walking today, though there is often no logical explanation as to why feet feel tender one day and not another.

After I set off again, I was soon into the range of my next map, which was quite a relief, as I felt as if I were walking blind without one to follow, even though I had only been walking along the road. The road walking ended and I then had to take more care with navigation and had to backtrack a little in one or two places where I wasn't sure of the route. As I neared Rhandirmwyn, I took extra care to find the path alongside the River Towy. In the past, by the time I had got this far, I was more interested in getting to my accommodation than worrying about the exact route, but this time I was taking more effort to follow it wherever I could. The turning just past Gwernpwll Farm was easy to miss, but I managed to find it and soon reached the river, which made a more interesting end to the day's walk, though it did mean that it was a bit longer walk up to the Royal Oak Inn in the village than if I had just carried on along the main track. It was also quite a steep climb up the road to end off the day, though I would have still had this whichever way I had come. I arrived at 18.40 and soon settled into a nice hot bath to relax my aching feet. There was a heavy downpour just as I arrived, so I just got there in time to avoid a soaking.

Click to Reduce

Towards Rhandirmwyn
Towards Rhandirmwyn
Royal Oak Inn, Rhandirmwyn
Royal Oak Inn, Rhandirmwyn

My wife Jean rang whilst I was in the bath, as she knew that I was unlikely to get a signal on my mobile. After a pint of bitter and ordering my meal, I went across the road to the phone box whilst I was waiting, as there was no payphone in the pub. Back in the pub, there was a local farmer sitting at the bar chatting with the landlord and it ensued that I would pass through his farm tomorrow, so he urged me to make sure I closed the gate, as he had recently had sheep escaping because of walkers leaving it open. A chap came in through the door and said there were three nice black sheep on the road outside. The farmer made some comment that this was quite normal and that there were sheep that ran loose around the village, which didn't impress the chap who had pointed them out. When he had gone, the farmer said 'How does he know they are nice sheep' They will be nice when they are roasted and served up with some rosemary.'

I sat down with another pint to await my meal of a cheeseburger in a bun with chips and salad, and as I was waiting, a large group of mentally disabled people came in. They were obviously known to the landlord, but whether they were at a local college, or were on holiday I wasn't quite sure. They were all very pleasant and it was good to see them taking part in normal community life.


[Index of Walks] [Previous] [Top] [Next]