In comparison to the southern half of Glyndŵr’s Way, logistics for the northern half were a piece of cake, an afternoon and three days taken in one hit in October 2016 after picking up the southern ‘bits and pieces’ a few days before. It’s an interested and varied 65 miles through mid-Wales, well worth the journey, with as you will see two good wild camping options.16 October 2016. Machynlleth to Abercegir, five miles.
In between the hill-dash of Rhiw Goch and the belated first stage the day after, I’d attended the annual general meeting of the Mountain Bothies Association in All Stretton. That left me handily placed to drive to my B&B in Welshpool and catch the first Sunday train to Machynlleth. Cunning or what?
There was enough time for a leisurely Sunday roast too, in one of Mach’s many pubs. The walk thereafter was about as simple as it gets for Glyndŵr’s Way, starting with a roadwalk to Forge – this mile must indeed have featured on the roadwalk on that bad day back in ’92. Indeed, it’s only after dropping back down to the main road at Penygoes that the Way really gets into earnest, climbing up to contour round the low moorland of Bryn Wg, with good views of the Tarrens to the north-west. But it’s not long before you’re back down in the hamlet of Abercegir.
17 October 2016. Abercegir to Nant Nodwydd, 20 miles.
The weather forecast was pretty bad, so though the start was dry it was a case of waterproofs on from the start, just in case – and despite the B&B guy’s promises that it would stay dry. Well those soon turned out to be false, before I’d got properly high onto the moorland of Cefn Coch indeed.
This is a tough stage, with over 4000ft of climbing, essentially three big rises and falls (and a smaller one right at the finish). Cefn Coch, and the descent to the Dyfi tributary Afon Twymyn at Cemmaes Road, formed the first; a steady climb up to forestry before a return to the Twymyn (or strictly, its tributary the Rhiwsaeson) near Llanbrymair, the second: this stretch was not helped by a new gate near Commins Galia that should have had a waymark but didn’t, meaning that I took a seemingly logical descent down a minor road before realising what was wrong. In the rain; it doesn’t help. I’d factored in the possibility of adding a mile to the day by diverting to the cafe at Llanbrynmair, but though I was making good time, couldn’t face having to divest and then return to damp outerwear.
So up it was a third time, steeply at first, onto Cerrig y Tan, and higher still, to moor-top watershed forest. At least though the rain had become showery rather than continual, and by the time I was back in a valley (Nant yr Eira) it had ceased. I was now over the watershed of Wales, the rivers here all heading to the Severn. In early planning I’d thought of pitching tent on the slopes of Pen Coed, the final and smallest rise of the day, but a more detailed look had shown the Nant Nodwydd not far beyond. There was a sheepfold here, and it proved a good and sheltered spot.
18 October 2016. Nant Nodwydd to Allt Dolanog, 16 miles.
A slightly easier day, with a good opportunity tor a half-way break. It’s downhill first, to the Afon Banwy at Llangadfan, before heading up into the dark Dyfnant Forest. Though there were good sunny intervals throughout the morning, yesterday’s wetness was still making itself felt, with one forest path in particular essentially a stream.
But you’re on your way now to Llanwddyn, on the shores of Llyn Efyrnwy, or Lake Vyrnwy if you’re English. The present village replaced one drowned in the 1880s when the present lake ie reservoir was created by the eponymous dam, and today it’s a tourist spot. I’d long marked it out for a lengthy (90 minutes as it happened!) lunch stop – though I had a fright at the first cafe I tried, as it took a Tuesday closure. As well as a long time over a bacon baguette, I had a chance to look round a small exhibition here. The lake, the largest of its kind in Wales, still supplies water to Liverpool, with some diverted into Bombay Sapphire gin.
There’s some steep up-and-down through forest before Pont Llogel, also on the River Vyrnwy. Just beyond, I spent a bit of time bandaging red bits of feet beside the Nant Llwydiarth, though in any case a trick of wild camping in a place it’s not legal is not to arrive too early. From here the going is fairly easy, at least in comparison with the previous day and a bit, through undulating farmland, much of it on good tracks. In time I could see ahead of me the common land of Allt Dolanog, where I found a good spot beside the path, just out of sight of farms. I’d had to carry water for the night the three miles from Nant Llwydiarth, so it was good to take off the weight and settle in.
19 October 2016. Allt Dolanog to Welshpool, 19 miles.
I struck camp early (for me) and was soon down at the village of Dolanog. It’s on the Vyrnwy, and for the next seven miles Glyndŵr’s Way is never far from it, and often riverside. Part of it is coincident with the Ann Griffiths Walk, a short (seven-mile) trail honouring the life of the eponymous hymn-writer (1776-1805).
That is not to say all is easy. One farm, Gwern-Fawr, has insisted on driving away the walking hordes by a path diversion which is in a deplorable, slippy state. Over I went, and limped to a woodpile just out of farmer’s sight for the inevitable patching up. At least it was an easy path from there to the big village of Pontrobert, and there were no more alarms through the rolling farmland that followed. Slips aside, it had been an easy morning.
At Meifod, I stocked up at the village shop. Eating their sandwich at the thoughtfully-placed table outside, I saw that the magazine rack stocked several tractor magazines and almost nothing else. From here, the afternoon has some bits of toughness to finish with. Immediately out of Pontrobert, there’s a steep climb over Broniarth Hill, and five miles of switchback follow, with some steep stepped sections through woods. No chance of getting a stride on.
Finally, the last moorland, known as Y Golfa, comes into view. Alas to get there there’s a dodgy little path, first through arable farmland where the farmer makes no concessions to the walker, and then across a boggy bit of ground that doesn’t seem to be the obvious line up on to the hill. Never mind. It passes. The top is glorious, with wide views into England, and great for tracing back memories of Offa’s Dyke Path, where I had rediscovered my love of walking all those years ago.
Not far now. There is pretty parkland through the grounds of Llanerchydol Hall, then a traffic roundabout whose main claim to fame is the terminus of the narrow-gauge Welshpool & Llanfair Railway, a few paces from the final town of Welshpool. The town itself seemed to be a bit ho-hum – later that evening, maybe my extensive search missed all the good places to eat – but there’s a little park by the canal with the official end-stone for Glyndŵr’s Way, captured nicely in the evening light.
The only option in the small hamlet of Abercegir is Yr Hen Felin. It’s very comfortable, and those who feel that the staple of a 1950s childhood the golly is unfairly traduced will feel especially happy here. The other two nights were wild camps, the first by a stream above Llangadfan, the other on moorland above Dolanog – as mentioned in the text, water has to be carried up to the latter, but both were to prove fine and untroubled spots (subject to the usual disclaimer that wild camping in England and Wales is legal only with the permission of the landowner). Finally, in Welshpool I stayed at Severn Farm, very much a working farm with helpful people.