Llyn Egnant, photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

Cambrian Way day 17: Pontrhydfendigaid to Cwmystwyth

May 21, 2017 · 15 comments

A gentle walk by the remains of the Cistercian monastery at Strata Florida followed by crossing some wild moorland at the edge of the Elan Valley.

Date walked: March 27th  2017

Distance: around 11 miles

Map used: OS Explorer 187 – Llandovery and OS Explorer 213- Aberystwyth and Cwm Rheidol

Guide book: The Cambrian Way (7th edition) by A.J.Drake

*************

Neil and I had stayed  the night before at the excellent Black Lion at Pontrhydfendigaid

The Black Lion Hotel Pontrhydfendigaid, photographed by Charles Hawes

Yes, I know you have seen this pic before

….enjoying a nice supper in the bar (well-kept Felinfoel) and an excellent breakfast.

Cooked breakfast at The Black Lion Hotel Pontrhydfendigaid, photographed by Charles Hawes

OK, the egg was just a tad over-poached

We met Paul after breakfast at Cwmystwyth (the centre point of Wales according to Ordnance Survey). He sped off to find a parking space, with us in hot pursuit. It was a couple of miles before we caught up with him and turned him around to return to a little lane that was actually the end of the days walk and not half way to the Elan Valley. Having deposited his car there we all returned in Neils car to the car park at the Black Lion to start the walk. (You may be hopelessly confused at this point but we knew what we were doing).

We were barely out of the village before Neil’s phone rang.

“What! But they have only just repaired that leak!”

It was his wife reporting that they had a leak in their guest accommodation. Disaster. Most of the rest of the day was punctuated by Neil making and receiving calls to placate his guests and organise a repair.  Which was very frustrating for him, poor thing.

Over to our left was the peak of Pen y Bannau (the site of an ancient hillfort) which is taken in by the Borth to Devil’s Bridge to Pontrhydfendigaid (you can’t imagine what a pain it is to have to type this name out) trail but not by ours.

Pen Y Bannau, photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

Yes, a Trig Point missed there at 352 metres

We were making a beeline for Strata Florida, Paul demonstrating his uncanny agility over the many stiles.

The Cambrian Way near Strata Florida, photographed by Charles Hawes

He should take up Morris Dancing

We followed the meandering course of the Afon Teifi, which was lined by some fine trees clinging precariously to its banks.

The River Teifi, photographed from The Cambrian Way near Strata Florida by Charles Hawes

Love the twisted branches of the trees

Crossing an open field I was intrigued by a group of buildings  called Bron – y- berlian.

Bron - y- berlian, near Strata Florida, photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

The map shows a disused mine next to it; the link I have made on the name says that the building on the left is a former wagon house – and here is your first sheep of the day

A wooden footbridge raised (presumably to avoid being swept away by the river when in spate) by some stone steps crosses the river ……

BFootbridge over the Teifi near Strata Florida, photographed from The Cambrian way by Charles Hawes

… the path then reaching  St Mary’s church.

St Mary's church, Strata Florida, photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

I nearly persuaded Neil that this was a most unusual graveyard of anonymous headstones

The real ecclesiastical interest was round the corner though. Strata Florida  is a former Cistercian Abbey founded in 1164.  It’s entrance is its best remaining feature.

Strata Florida, photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

Inside, the low walls trace out the footprint of the abbey complex.

Strata Florida, photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

 

Strata Florida, photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

Neil insisted on a pic of himself in what may have been a baptistery…..

Strata Florida, photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

Born again?

 … whilst I, not wishing to be outdone in my own blog, opted for a pic of myself (thanks to Neil) in one of the subsidiary chapels.

Strata Florida, photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

He even managed to get a smile out of me

On the wall nearest the churchyard is a large slate commemorative stone to the C14th Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym; his remains are interred in the churchyard.

Dafydd ap Gwilym memorial, Strata Florida, photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

No, I hadn’t heard of him, either

(By the way, there is  normally a charge to enter but we had arrived just a couple of days before charging was due to re-commence – and there is also a toilet block by a car park ). Having had a good poke around we returned to the church to follow the road into the Egnant valley.

We passed a typical  Ceredigion bungalow…

Cambrian Way in the Mwyro Valley photographed by Charles Hawes

Typically without any architectural merit

…… followed shortly by the water treatment works….

Water Treatment works near Strata Florida, photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

Just plain ugly

… but what I found really offensive was to see that this valley in the middle of nowhere and occupied by two farms and a flock of sheep was receiving Superfast Broadband.

Pole with Fibre broadband photographed from the Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

Whereas we are situated 6 miles form the Severn Bridge on a lane with a dozen properties and can’t get it

Once the offensive structures were behind us, it was a pleasant lane which we followed  for a mile or so beside the Afron Mwryo.

The Cambrain Way beside the Afron Mwyro in Ceredigion, photographed by Charles Hawes

Time for a little sit.

Cambrian Way near Strata Florida - photographed by Neil Smurthwaite

One should take advantage of seats when they present themselves

We turned left off it to follow a path running by the little Nant Egnant.

Cambrian Way by the Nant Egnanat, photographed by Charles Hawews

For the next couple of miles we climbed gradually. It was a particularly interesting in a couple of respects.  This was clearly a very old track; I  don’t remember seeing such a track edged and topped with large slabs of stone before.

Cambrain Way in the valley of Nant Egnant, photographed by Charles Hawes

That stone, clearly a sedimentary rock, was exposed on the other side of the valley from us. (I gather it is known as the Rhuddnant Grits Formation – formed around 428 to 436 million years ago).

Geology of the Egnanat Valley, photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

As we climbed, the landscape became increasingly wild, with no signs of human occupation.

Moorland below the Teifi Pools, photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

Rain had been predicted from the start of the day, but so far the threatening skies had held their water back. Which was no comfort to the doomed tadpoles who occupied occasional puddles we passed.

Tadpoles in the path of the Cambrian Way, photographed by Charles Hawes

Sad. We are short of tadpoles at home

Towards the top of the valley we had our first sight of  the dammed Lyn Egnant – one of a series of lakes we would pass by, known together as the Teifi Pools.

Lyn Egnant, photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

A sign on a gate by the dam announced “No motorbikes” – which met with great approval by Paul, who is pestered near his home above Swansea by off-road bikes disturbing their peace and quiet and churning up the paths.

Gate near lyn Egnant, photographed from the Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

I think he was growling at the mere thought of motorbikes being there.

The reed-fringed reservoir was wonderfully remote, though one intrepid fisherman had used the access road to try his luck.

Lyn Egnant, photographed from the Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

See blob on far left of the lake

Here’s our view looking back to the lake.

Lyn Egnant, photographed from the Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

I’ve made the sky extra moody for you

At the point where we decided to have a sit and a lunch break we had a shower, so after a quick bite we pressed on, our track meeting a metalled road that crosses this most inhospitable landscape.

The Cambrian Way near Teifi Pools, photographed by Charles Hawes

Extra extra moody sky

After a glance back at Lyn Egnant….

Lyn Egnant, photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

…..we headed north, dropping down to perhaps the only habitation for several miles called Claerddu.

Claerddu photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

 

Paul  reached the cottage first and tried the door – it was occupied by hikers who were clearly disinclined to have  a chat so he came away looking a little sheepish.

Claerddu photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

It was only later (though our guide book does refer to this) that I found that the cottage is owned by the Elan Valley Trust and is set up as a camping barn.  A great place to get away from it all. It even has its own little river.

The Afon Claerddu photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

The Afon Claerddu

No path is shown on the map for the next few miles as we climbed slowly on very tussocky ground, doing our best, though not always managing, to keep to a route that I had loaded onto my phone. As we reached about 1500 feet  the view back was one of those times where it felt a little exhausting just looking at where we had come from.

View to the Teifi Pools photographed from the Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

We did find a track that had clearly had some traffic before us….

View to the Teifi Pools photographed from the Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

Another view back to the Teifi Pools

… and after a bit of a puff up the hill and passing between Lyn Fyrddon Fach and Llyn Du we skirted the east side of Llyn Fyrddon Fawr.

Llyn Fyrddon Fawr photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

The next mile from there was really challenging. With not even a sheep track to help us, we made our way around and across some very squelchy ground – at times up to our knees. I had omitted to put the fact that a summit ahead called Domen Milwyn is check point No 17 of the Cambrian Way; Neil understood intuitively that this had to be climbed. So taking three different ways of getting there….

Domen Milwyn on the Cambrian Way - photographed by Neil, Smurthwaite

My route being the most awkward – thanks to Neil for this pic (Paul doing his casual look)

….., we assembled on the rough cairn on top of its 1,817 feet summit for a slightly blustery and hurried group pic.

Summit of Domen Milwyn, photographed from the Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

Just to prove to any doubters that we had made this checkpoint

From Domen Milwyn to Cwmystwyth it was pretty much downhill all the way. The skies continued to threaten rain but we counted ourselves lucky that so far we had only had a light shower.

View to the Ystwyth Valley from Domen Milwyn, photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

We still had no path to follow so it wasn’t exactly easy walking, the ground continuing to be rather spongy at times and bumpy when it wasn’t spongy.

Moor below Domen Milwyn, photographed from the Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

We did find a faint track after a while, though, for which we were grateful: this kind of ground really saps the energy.

Track leading to Cwmystwyth photographed from the Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

It looks like Paul and Neil couldn’t see the track

The feint track improved to a decent farm track with a hard surface.

Track leading to Cwmystwyth, photographed from the Cambrian Way y Charles Hawes

The first property we came to was the ruin of Milwyn Cottage, its main walls demonstrating the skill of the local builders.

Milwyn Cottage near Cwmystwyth, photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

The fireplace and chimney breast were even more impressive.

Milwyn Cottage near Cwmystwyth, photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

From the cottage we followed the Nant Milwyn as it tumbled down the hillside to join  the Ystwyth.

Nant Milwyn near Cwmystwyth, photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

We passed a couple of properties and a car approached us up the track its owner rather aggressively challenging Paul as to whether we had any dogs with us and if we had closed all the gates. Paul  (wished he’d) told him that his dog had savaged several lambs and had run off and that we had left all the gates open so that the dog could find us when he had finished terrorizing the flock.

The track crosses the Ysywyth by a road bridge. The torrential river below was fascinating for all the smooth pools and gullies that it had managed to carve out from the bedrock.

The Ystwyth river near Cwmystwyth, photographed from the Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

 

From there was just a short steep climb up the lane to be re-united with Paul’s car we piled in and all retired to the Black Lion for a night of revelry and bawdy songs.

For those of you who are not on my mailing list of Knee News, my knee held up perfectly well that day thank you.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Ian Thorpe May 21, 2017 at 6:35 pm

Excellent photos and narrative as always, but I was traumatised by the idea of the leak in the guest accommodation – the sort of thing that wrecks my life these days.

Reply

Charles May 22, 2017 at 10:42 am

Thanks Ian. I am sorry to traumatise you with news of leaks. Rest assured it was sorted the next day.

Reply

Neil May 22, 2017 at 9:03 pm

I however, Ian, am paying out large sums for therapy….! Exactly the sort of thing one does not want when seeking to provide a quality service !!!!
All mended and repaired now, thank heavens 🙂

Reply

Paul Steer May 21, 2017 at 9:54 pm

I’ve always wanted to wear bells on the hems of my trousers and wave a hankie. Those skies were moody, a real wilderness.

Reply

Charles May 22, 2017 at 10:39 am

We used to have separate bell pads when I danced. We had to make them ourselves. I loved them. Yes, wild but maybe not quite as wild as I made them!

Reply

Josie Dietrich May 22, 2017 at 12:12 am

A camping barn! How wonderful. I wanted to barge in on your friend’s behalf and make myself tea. Jx.

Reply

Charles May 22, 2017 at 10:44 am

Hello Neice! How nice of you to drop by. I bet you would have been invited in for dinner.

Reply

John Kingdon May 22, 2017 at 9:42 am

You should be a TV scriptwriter! At the end of your last post you told us that we would “later find out” about your potentially life-changing knee, leaving us in suspense and guaranteeing that we’d tune in for the next instalment. And what to we get? A postscript that your knee was OK the next day. So the suspense continues and we must return for yet another instalment in the hope of reaching the denouement. Don’t mind though as the photos are fab, as usual. Though what scary mythical creature were you attempting to be at the trig point?

Reply

Charles May 22, 2017 at 10:41 am

I haven’t told you about that string to my bow? I work on Dr Who and Hinterland under a non de plume. More knee news in the next post.

Reply

Neil May 22, 2017 at 9:06 pm

Great read as always 🙂
Actually quite a leisurely days walk, I recall now, reading about it all…. Although filled with stressy phone calls !!!!
🙂

Reply

Charles May 23, 2017 at 11:35 am

Glad you remember it as leisurely. It wasn’t! Well, technically I suppose it was.

Reply

Kev the ... who cares anyway... May 22, 2017 at 9:32 pm

OMG…. The words, the WORDS…. I think the only word I could even pronounce in this whole posting was “sheep”. Oh yeah, and “knee”. Other than that, this Colonial Brain could not even begin to make any of those names sound even remotely of any known human origin!

Reply

Charles May 23, 2017 at 11:33 am

Hehe. Yes, the words can be a bit of a mouthful. Paul, being a local, ably provides pronunciations for us. And sometimes even translations.

Reply

David Marsden May 23, 2017 at 5:39 am

Good news re the knee, Charles. Like John I was on tenterhooks and expecting an abrupt stop to your adventures. You tinker. If tussocky grass didn’t do for it, then I’m hoping the knee continues to hold up. A grand walk – apart from the grumpy barn users and grumpy farmer and Neil’s grumpy tenants. Next! D

Reply

Charles May 23, 2017 at 11:31 am

Hiya. I didn’t mean to tease, honest. But this walk precedes later Knee News. Which will come later, so as not to confuse. I think Neil’s guest wasn’t grumpy. Neil made several nice offers.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

Copyright Charles Hawes (2012)