Cemmaes Road

We really lucked out on the weather for this trip. After a cooked breakfast beneath a clear and sunny sky, we walked along the Glyndwr’s Way in the opposite direction to yesterday – heading for a small village called Cemmaes Road.

As the walking guide promised, this really is one of the most beautiful stretches of the trail, especially in the April sunshine, and yet we had it to ourselves. We’d planned on stopping for a lemonade at the village pub, but unfortunately it was closed. It very conveniently had an outside loo and picnic table though, so we made ourselves at home nonetheless.

Lunch stop

Lunch stop

Whilst enjoying our picnic, a car pulled up and two hilarious Polish guys asked for directions to a place they pronounced as ‘Towin’. After they explained that they lived in Newtown, did not have a map, and had changed their plans for the day once in the car, we established that they were trying to get to the beach, and so pointed them in the direction of Abergele, but not before they’d asked why our map covered such a small geographical area. They found the idea of a small scale map for use when walking, running or cycling etc very funny indeed!

We retraced our steps, enjoying yet more lovely views over the Cambrian Mountains, and arrived back at the cabin a little dehydrated, because a certain person who shall remain nameless, had decided that ‘HE’ didn’t think we’d need the extra nalgene bottle I’d packed, and so had taken it upon himself to unpack it before we’d left. After a few glasses of water, we decided that we felt brave enough for a dunk in the swimming pond without our wetsuits. We each managed three quick dunks before the cold and my swearing sent us running for the hot tub.

Why I then thought it’d be a good idea to wash my hair and rinse it with cold water from the tap, I’ll never know. The ‘ice cream’ headache came on instantly, and sent me running whilst screeching for the warmth of the hot tub again. I can safely say, that the campsite residents now knew for sure that we were a bit quirky. When the came time to help Rich rinse his hair, I treated him to warm water.

Snowdrop the Goat

After a very peaceful night in the Cabin by the Lake, we rose at 7.30am and were greeted by two geese landing on the pond. Dee had mentioned that two had been seen in the area, so this felt like quite a treat.

Compressed geese

At 9am we headed over to the house for our pre-arranged goat milking session! ‘Snowdrop’ was thankfully on form and didn’t mind a stranger’s cold hands, but isn’t producing much milk at the moment. After cuddles and a few pictures, we then helped feed the chickens. We both love chooks, and can’t wait to have our own when we’ve a bigger garden.

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Back to the cabin for a late breakfast. When living with modern conveniences on tap, you forget how much longer chores take when you don’t have access to electricity and warm running water. We do love going off grid and back to basics though. Everyone should try it at least once, to remind ourselves how much we’ve come to rely on such luxuries, and why it’s important to help conserve resources!

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Making the most of having the Glyndwr’s Way on our doorstep, we then headed up to Ffridd Pentrecelyn. We’d planned a circular walk using smaller footpaths, but as seems to be the norm in large parts of mid-Wales, footpaths and signs are non-existent other than on national trails. So instead we made full use of the wind farm tracks to get up high and enjoy the views across to Moel Eiddew abd Mynydd y Cemmaes.

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Home to the cabin for tea and cake, followed by a quick foot paddle in the pond to cool our tired feet. The geese seem to have decided to stay, so we’ve nicknamed them ‘Trixie’ and ‘Dixie’. They seem quite comfortable sharing the pond with us, and it’s a privilege to be able to watch then up close. Not even changing into our wetsuits and going for a dip scared them off, but then I suppose we do just look like giant frogs. So much so that the frogs themselves kept popping up to take a closer look.

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Cabin by the lake

Whilst we couldn’t avoid traveling on Good Friday, we could stop off wherever we fancied en route, and today we discovered the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre just outside of Church Stretton. Not only does it have free parking, a museum, craft shop, and a cafe, but it also has a fluffy mammoth at the entrance.

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Embracing our inner child, we both decided to have a panna cotta and a coffee for lunch, and then to follow the very pretty ‘Riverside Ramble’ directly from the ‘Roundhouse’. This beats lounging around at a motorway service station any day.

Unfortunately the coffee then necessitated a loo stop at Caersws. As the public toilets and service station toilets were both closed for maintenance, I rushed in to ‘The Red Lion’ pub and offered the proprietor 50p if she would let me use the facilities! I’m not sure if it was my Welsh accent, or the look of desperation, but she refused to take my money, and beckoned me out back.

There then followed a thirty minute drive to Cemmaes and our base for the next 5 nights – Gwalia Farm’s Cabin by the lake. Rich had booked it as a special Christmas pressie, and since then it had been listed in the Guardian’s ‘Places to stay’. Consequently it’s now booked months in advance, and it’s not difficult to see why. The closest we’ve come to staying somewhere like this before was in Quebec, thirty miles down a gravel road. We have our own swimming pond, the cabin is gorgeous, and the Glyndwr’s Way is literally on our doorstep. Oh and did I mention the wood fired hot tub?

After settling in and unpacking, we decided that Rich would be in charge of all things fire, and I’d do the cooking and washing up. Without any cochlears, he finds staying upright hard work sometimes, especially when it’s dark, and we didn’t want to increase his chances of falling off the decking into the pond or stream.

Dee had forewarned us that the hot tub would take 2.5 hours to heat up once the water had been replaced, but thanks to Rich’s hard work, by the time we’d eaten dinner – cooked in the al frescoe kitchen, the water temperature was a very pleasant 38 degrees.

Wearing our swimsuits and wellies we legged it from the warmth of the cabin to that of the tub. After an hour’s immersion we’d psyched ourselves up for the mad dash back to the cabin, but once you’re dry, dressed and drinking hot tea you do feel lovely and warm, and ready for bed.

The Skirrid

It’s not very often that we get offered free accommodation for a night, but that’s just what Lizzie and Stephen did yesterday, as they’ve no new guests coming to The Hayshed for a few days, and they knew how much we were enjoying the barn and its surroundings. We’ve well and truly fallen for this place, not to mention the simple lifestyle – no health or career concerns, just a case of deciding what to eat, where to walk, and when to sleep.

With the day dawning bright and clear again, we decided that we had to head up Skirrid Fawr given that we’ve driven past it so many times on this and previous trips. Conveniently, this hill (known locally as ‘Y Skirrid’ or ‘The Skirrid’) has a National Trust car park just off the main road to Abergavenny. This convenience however, along with the fact that you don’t need a map to get to the top, means that it’s a mecca for tourists, so much so that the main path up – the Beacons Way, had become a mud slick.

There’s no denying that the ridge does provide fantastic views of the Black Mountains and back towards Monmouthshire, but if you want to enjoy it at its best, go up early in the morning, or at dusk, otherwise like Cat Bells in the Lake District, or the tourist path up Snowdon, you’ll never be alone, and will inevitably be asked for directions by less well equipped/experienced walkers.Take a map people!

Desperate to leave the crowded trig point behind, we followed the Beacons Way down the north eastern side of the hill, and then the fence line at the bottom back round to Caer Wood. As expected, we saw no-one else on this stretch, but still got to admire great views of Sugar Loaf and Blorenge in the distance. Neither of us are anti-social, but we do like peace and quiet when out in the wilds, and will always try to avoid the crowds. Serenity is good for the soul.

Bryn Arw

After driving through Llanvihangel Crucorney, we parked Skyra in the not unexpectedly deserted walkers car park opposite a pub called ‘The Fox Hunter’, and walked down to the by-road at Stanton Manor Farm. From here we continued up past Little Stanton Farm, followed the fence line round to the nose of Bryn Arw, and then on up to the ridge.

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Despite it being a cloudy day we had wonderful 360 degree views of Sugar Loaf, Crug Mawr, Skirrid and Hatterall Hill, so would highly recommend walking up Bryn Arw if you want such views without having to go high, or join the crowds on the adjacent hills.

From the summit we continued northwards along the ridge line, before dropping down to Coed-y-Cerrig Nature Reserve for a cuppa and snack bar out of the wind. From there we pulled back up to ‘The Pant’ – our dream home (remote and surrounded by good walking), and New Inn Farm, before following the by-road back to Pen-rhiw and the lane to shelter in the car from the by now heavy rain.

Welly wobbles

Since we’re now under strict instructions to incorporate at least one rest day into our walking trips, today we obliged. After a very satisfying fry up, and copious amounts of tea, we headed into Monmouth.

It’s a very compact and pretty market town, but still has everything you need including several supermarkets and banks. After strolling up to the Shire Hall we found a coffee shop with free wifi, and settled down to catch up with what was happening in the rest of the world.

Back to Skyra (our car) to change into our wellies for a stroll along the river Monnow, and before I’d even left the car park I’d managed to take a very impressive fall over a kerb whilst fiddling with my camera. That’ll teach me. Rich later admitted to having stifled a laugh, which was very wise as I landed hard on both of my baddy knees, and it bloody hurt! Still at least the wellies look good, with all the sparkles.

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The sparkly wellies - with my sparkly wedding dress!

The sparkly wellies – with my sparkly wedding dress!

After failing to try to find the entrance to the castle, and concluding that it probably wasn’t a wise idea to trespass on private MOD land, we headed back to the Hayshed for tea and gluten free Christmas pudding. Rest days are hard work.

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Sugar Loaf

With the day dawning lovely and sunny again, and with just the right amount of crispiness in the air, we couldn’t not walk up ‘Sugar Loaf’. This peak lies on the Eastern side of the Brecon Beacons, and on a clear day provides amazing views over the national park.

Dervla got a bit confused near Abergavenny, and tried to take us to an altogether different village, but fortunately Rich realised what she was up to just in the nick of time, and used our trusty OS map to over-ride her directions. Thanks to Dervla’s antics, I don’t think I’ll ever trust a GPS device for walking in the wilds! Give me a map and compass any day.

We parked at ‘Porth-y-parc’ – a car park with amazing views over the town, and followed the track to the junction at Twyn Gwyn, and then on up to the summit. We saw one fellow walker close to the car, otherwise had the slopes to ourselves. Despite feeling tired, and having to wade through knee deep snow on the north east side of the mountain, Rich announced that  “I’ve not had this much fun in months!” Proof indeed that getting out and about works wonders for the spirit, chemo n’all.

Note to self – don’t even think about hiring the High Beeches holiday barn. Having enjoyed perfect conditions on the hill, and successfully cleared four days worth of mud off our boots in the snow, I sent Rich on ahead a few minutes away from the car so that I could make a loo stop. I then followed in his footsteps, on a designated footpath, past High Beeches farm, only to find Rich standing by the gate waiting for me. As soon as I approached the gate, the farmer popped his head over the hedge and casually announced “I could have shot you then!”

Me: “Sorry?”

Farmer: “I could have shot you”

Me: “Ummm, why?”

Farmer: “Because he didn’t see or hear me” – pointing to Rich.

Me: “He’s deaf”

Farmer: “Oh. I’m sorry. Did you enjoy the hill?!”

Had we been anywhere else, I’d have been surprised at a stranger demonstrating such passive aggressive behaviour. In Wales sadly, not so much!

Fortunately we escaped, and no shots were fired.