Across Wales Avoiding Roads
On this particular trip to Mid Wales I decided to forsake the simple YHA hostels and instead spend some time bothying. My plan was to stay near the Teifi Pools and then return to England trying where possible to avoid tarmac.
Stocking up in Tregaron at the excellent Spa (open 7 days a week to 10 pm) I ran into that week's Dolgoch warden. Upon hearing my plans he tried to tempt me to the pleasures of Dolgoch but to no avail. Out of Tregaron it was road to Strata Florida Abbey and the farm at Tyncwm. Here the track climbed steeply north over the flank of Bryn Eithinog to come out just south of the Teifi Pools.
From here it was a short hop to my overnight accommodation a somewhat luxurious bothy (flush toilets and calor gas), which I later had the pleasure of leading a ride to at the Tregaron 2007 Easter Meet. It was a clear night and as the bothy was situation in a depression there was no sign of human life in any direction.
Setting off early the next day I headed due east until I forded the Claerwen and picked up the track known as either the Monks Path or the Ancient Road. It was believed to have linked the Abbeys of Strata Florida and Abbey Cwm Hir. Climbing up to over 500 meters by the apex I noticed a small building above some rocks and over looking two small lakes. The dwelling turned out to be about the size of a boathouse and looked as if a fishing club used it.
According to my copy of "The Drovers Road of Wales" (Goodwin and Toulson 1977) its name is Uchaf and it was used then as a place of retreat by a religious order. Quite understandable as it must be one the remotest dwelling in Britain. Looking north you can really appreciate the remoteness of this area and with few obvious landmarks just how easy it would be to get lost in poor conditions.
From here the track levels out crossing Carn Ricet there are clear signs of motorised vehicles, which are in danger of ruining this green road. After Carn Ricet it is a steady drop down to Pont ar Elan at the north most point of the Elan valley reservoirs.
About a mile of road followed until at 917714 I headed due east by the track that drops down to the Wye via the rocks of Llofftyddgleision. I wanted to cross the Wye by footbridge shown just by Pont Marteg (the location of a greasy spoon truckstop). However, I was unable to locate a route to it.
Rather than go upstream several miles to the next crossing (near the former Nant Y Dernol hostel) I decided the river looked very low and managed to wade across. Easy, the only problem was I ended up in someone's back garden, fortunately I think the residents were absent!!
After a bacon sandwich of dubious quality and cup of tea in a plastic cup I continued towards St Harmon using some of the old railway line. It was here I went past the only open pub or shop I was to see all day. I was later to learn that at Gilbarco there is a visitors centre attached to a nature reserve.
From here the last section of rough stuff was up to Bwlch Y Sarnau. This is a surprisingly high and remote village above Abbey Cwm Hir. By now it was mid afternoon and the route was re planned to get me as swiftly as possible to Clun and the hostel. Even so it was still a 12-hour day before I rolled into the common room. All reference to OS 147 Elan Valley and Builth Wells.
by Steve Griffith