Sunday, 29 July 2012


This weekend brings us to Llanrwst, and another temporary holiday site run by South Lancs DA. This one wasn’t cancelled. The weather was fine. No dramas on the roads, so limited story material, but I’ll just tell you about the walk we did on the Saturday which, it has to be said, was pretty spectacular.
We started by getting the train to Betws-y-Coed, from where we walked upstream alongside Afon Llugwy as far as the Miner’s Bridge, a steeply angled footbridge. We’ve crossed it before but today its name took on more significance later in our walk. This time we didn’t cross the bridge but angled straight up the hill to the right instead. 
Crossing the road we headed along a path through the forest that climbs steadily for about half a mile before twisting up through a rocky stream bed and emerging into meadowland reminiscent of Switzerland. There are fine views of Moel Siabod and of the Carneddau, all framed by pines and oaks set amongst meadows filled with wild flowers. It really is very special up here.

Gantry over the old mine shaft at Cyffty Lead Mine
The paths don’t quite match those on our map, but then it’s an old map, full of holes and frayed edges, maybe it’s time to treat myself to a new one. We headed for a group of cottages which the map calls Hafotypencraig, then took a path across the fields to an old mine working. This was a fascinating place, because up here, miles from anywhere, someone has taken the trouble to excavate the old mine buildings, fence them, and provide captivating information boards about it all. There is a gantry that bridges the main shaft and allows you to look down into the hole beneath your feet. It is a lead mine called Cyffty, and it dates back to the 1850’s. It is idyllic now. Perhaps not so much back in the day.
Artist's impression of Cyffty Mine in its Heyday (Chris Hull - taken from information board at the mine site)

We followed the road, now, heading for Llyn Geirionydd, then followed a path uphill past more mine workings, and on cresting the brow of the hill the view of the lake below was fabulous. We followed the path down the hill, diagonally, through deep ferns, then spent a few minutes sitting beside the lake.

Eglwys Sant Rhychwyn
The rest of the walk was simply a return to Llanrwst, with nothing much to offer, except then we came upon an old church, hardly signposted at all, which turned out to be 1000 years old and still in use. 

Eglwys Sant Rhychwyn was built in the eleventh century and is known locally as Llywelyn’s Old Church because Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd, worshipped here in the twelfth century. Pushing open the ancient twisted door and stepping inside it seemed it hadn’t changed at all in all the intervening years. There is a rack on the wall, a coffin bier, for carrying coffins around the hillsides. The stone font is the original font and still in the same place.
 I am not an old church person and I am seldom turned on much by history, but this felt old, and there was a real atmosphere about the place – a sense of deep tranquillity. It was quite wonderful.

We hit the road again, a steep downhill section for a long way, the kind of descent that makes your toes hurt as they are pushed harder and harder into the front of your shoes. 

Fairy Dell - undisclosed location somewhere in Wales
So we went off on another tangent and followed a footpath down through the woods. A stepped path down beside a woodland stream, an idyllic stream, the kind of setting where fairies might live. And of course, being manx, I believe in fairies and I know fairy dells. And if ever there was a fairy dell this would be it.

Did we see any fairies? That would be telling.

But I’m not saying where it was, either. 


Staying at a temporary DA site in Llanrwst this weekend. Good lay lines. No rain so far. Planning a day walking in the mountains.
It was a good day. No disasters so not much of a tale. But the walk was most excellent, there was history, scenery; lakes mountains and bogs, one of the best walks we've done for a long time. So as soon as I get my laptop in range of a decent wifi signal (I'm a bit slow typing on a phone) then I will post route details and photos.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Site Closed

One of the big events of our summer this year is the National Feast of Lanterns, the Camping and Caravanning Club’s annual rally. We’ve not been to it for a few years because the early September date always clashes with Mad-Week at the day job, when time off is banned. So when we saw that this year’s event is in the middle weekend of our summer holidays in August we couldn’t wait to get the cheque in the post. The NFOL usually has about 2000 vans and tents, there are marquees, trade stalls, arena events, and every night there is a cracking live show. It really is a brilliant weekend.

So we were devastated to get the email this week advising that the record-breaking wet British summer had claimed another victim. The NFOL is cancelled. We are disappointed; I can’t imagine how the teams of volunteer organisers must feel, some of whom have invested three years of their lives into this thing. It is very sad.

But we shrugged our shoulders, hitched up the van, and headed out into Britain’s wet wilderness for some caravan therapy. (Actually we had to change the battery before we left because it seems to be knackered. And the caravan side-lights didn’t work, but we didn’t need them, we’d be there before dark. But was this an Omen?)

We headed for a temporary DA site at Lyme View Marina. We’ve been before, good location, with a fine walk over the moors to the National Trust’s Lyme Park. You’d think finding it would be easy, but we made the mistake of trusting the SatNav. When she takes you the wrong way in a car you pull into a side road and do a three-point turn. No problem, it’s just annoying. Try it with a caravan on a single-track, with passing places, reversing into a farm gate. Wild.

It didn’t help that there were none of the usual direction arrows fixed to lamp-posts. The DA’s are normally very good about this. We should have suspected something. But we found a road to the marina ourselves, one that we recognised from last time, and we wound our way up the hill, over the canal bridge and into the boat yard that leads to the site. At the end of the boatyard, taped to a chained and locked gate, was a damp sheet of A4 with the words “Site Shut” in dribbly felt tip. So now we had our second lesson in extreme caravan manoeuvring. Boatyards are magical places, with anchors and chains and other vicious chandlery scattered at random, ready to gouge and tear into the tender flesh of caravan walls. It took us quarter of an hour to get out.

So, where to go now? Not back home, please; the rain had stopped and the chances of the first dry weekend of the summer were high. There were other sites we knew. Each number we called was answered by a machine, ‘at the tone please leave a message.’ We didn’t want to leave a message, we wanted permission to pitch, and before it went dark. Because the side lights still didn’t work and it was already 7:40 pm.
Third time lucky, the Caravan Club site at Buxton - Grin Low – could take us. Just a few pitches since it’s the first day of the school holidays. But we had to get there in twenty minutes. The SatNav said we could do it, but we know that our SatNav is calibrated for Lambourghini’s driven by suicidal maniacs, and we had the Pennines to cross. But we made it. Just. And even though all the cupboards had emptied all over the caravan floor by the time we got there, we felt our luck was changing. Even better, just as we pulled onto the site, the side lights on the caravan started working again.