A Walk in the Clouds

The August bank holiday weekend arrived with the promise of warm sunny weather, (we have been starved of summer recently). My Saturday began at 5.30 am, when bleary eyed I got ready to go on another adventure to Wales. I had intended to join in with #Photo an Hour, but gave up half way as most of my day was spent in a car, travelling.

The previous night, we settled on visiting Cadair Idris and the glacial corrie Llyn Cau, (#1 on my bucket list). As we drove through North Wales with blue skies and golden light we could be forgiven into believing that the Met Office predictions were accurate.

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However, on arrival at the car park, the mountains were shrouded in low clouds that billowed like smoke, and a faint drizzle made us glad we had brought our waterproofs! We paid £5 for all day parking. We could have paid £2.50 for four hours but I wasn’t sure how long it would take us to walk to Llyn Cau. Snowdonia National Park gave an estimate of an hour but with my little legs that could mean two hours! In reality it did take David and I approx. one hour to walk to Llyn Cau.

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We followed the Minffordd path steeply through a relic 8000 year old oak wood, before we passed a gate towards the mountainside.

The term cadair can be translated as chair from the early Welsh language. Cadair Idris or chair of Idris in legend was where the giant warrior bard Idris sat to view the stars. It is said that if you stay a night on the mountain you will come down either mad or a poet! However Idris was shrouded in cloud the day we visited.

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Llyn Cau

According to Welsh mythology Llyn Cau is said to be bottomless and home to the afanc. The afanc or crocodile/demonic beaver (!) once terrorised the villages near Llyn Barfog (bearded lake), before King Arthur reputedly caught the afanc and imprisoned it in Llyn Cau. Stories tell of the afanc dragging unsuspecting swimmers to their doom! I kept an eye out for the afanc as we approached the waters edge.

I had imagined visiting Llyn Cau and Cadair Idris in bright sunshine and blue skies. But on the day I would have to make do with moody clouds and rain. Warmed by the strenuous hike, I soon cooled as I walked into the clear, silky waters of the lake. Terence registered a cold 14°C. While swimming I felt the landscape was unforgiving. You either respect the land or risk your life. It was a perfect day for the Afanc to emerge from the waters. I noticed I swam a little faster! Mythical creatures aside, the only audience I had were curious walkers watching me swim! I felt rather self conscious!

I thoroughly enjoyed my swim in Llyn Cau. The entrance to the water, though looked rocky was actually easy underfoot and you quickly got swimming which was a god send as the waters were rather chilly! The only downside was that our feet were already wet due to the boggy nature of the land around the lake. It was hard to find a dry path towards the lakeside.

I totally underestimated how popular the Cadair Idris path would be. I had imagined Llyn Cau to be a secluded place to swim but as we turned to leave the lake I was surprised to see the path swell with walkers and families alike. It was even busier than Cat Bells!

A note of caution. The walk to Llyn Cau and further to Cadair Idris is a steep ascent. The lake itself stands at around 350m. The path rarely levels out. I have found that the next day my thighs are sore. Even walking the Watkin Path to Snowdon I did not feel like this. For shorter legs beware of aches the next day!

Have you walked to Llyn Cau? Conquered Cadair Idris? I would love to hear your stories.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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Of Princes and Fairies.

An early start to Friday beckoned as David and I headed out on a North Wales adventure.

Our destination for the day was Beddgelert Forest. According to 18th Century lore, Gelert was a dog of Prince Llywelyn the Great. One day, on returning from a hunt Llywelyn found his son’s crib overturned. His boy gone! Gelert was discovered with blood around his mouth. Llywelyn in a fit of temper, quickly slayed the dog to later find that Gelert had saved his son from the jaws of a wolf. Gelert is said to be buried on the bank of the river Glaslyn. 

Beddgelert Forest, with panoramic views of Snowdon, a walk and cycling trails, and even a secluded lake, sounded too good to be true! I thought with it being the school summer holidays that the area would be teaming with day trippers, how wrong I was. On arrival at the free car park, we discovered we were the only visitors there, (it gets busier during the afternoon.)

The walk is a circular route through the forest and around Llyn Llywelyn. The walk is just under three miles long, on easy navigable pathways and took David and I two hours to complete, (with a pit stop for refueling). 🙂 I was excited to visit the secluded llyn as I was intending to do my first Welsh wild swim there! However on arrival the beautiful scenery was being destroyed by deforestation and the lake was coffee coloured. The smell of decomposing matter only added to my consternation. The question was whether to swim or not to swim! I decided not to swim and felt cleaner for it!

Along our walk we did see lots of wildlife. There was an abundance of butterflies; commas, red admirals, peacocks and ringlets were among the ones I spotted. There was heather, field scabious and self-heal growing along the paths with dragonflies darting about like mini helicopters! I’d never seen so many! The star sighting of the day was a goldcrest flitting about the conifers.

At noon we decided to head back along the A4085 for an impromptu visit to Llyn Cwellyn – the fairies lake! We’d visited Llyn Cwellyn the previous year. You can read about that adventure here. There are many lakes in Snowdonia that are associated with tales of menfolk and fairies. Llyn Cwellyn is just one of them. A man happened upon a group of fairies dancing at the shores of Cwellyn. Entranced, the man joined in with their dance. After a while he grew bored and decided to go home. On his return to his village he discovered that his parents had died, his sweetheart had married another and he had been gone for seven years! At this revelation the man died not long after, lonely and of a broken heart. It seems time for fairies is much slower than our own!

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Llyn Cwellyn

However being lost in time was the least of my worries. It was midday, and I feared the Snowdon Ranger car park would be full. We had also seen that there was only one shingle beach from which to access the llyn. I imagined the lakeside path to be full with families enjoying the scenery. How wrong could I be? Luckily we found parking and paid the £2.50 for four hours, though we wouldn’t be there that long (unless we discovered some fairies!)! Many walkers headed towards Snowdon, so on arrival at the shore, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was deserted! It was just David and I and the lake!

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Swimming in Llyn Cwellyn

I was determined to kick start my Welsh wild swims, so from the shingle beach I waded out into cool, clear waters. The entrance into the lake was one of the best I’ve experienced. The llyn’s bed was soft shingle and I walked out until I was neck deep in water. Terence said the temperature was 17° but it felt colder due to a mean wind that whipped across the surface. I swam watching butterflies flitter across the water and floated on my back while RAF planes flew high above. It was a most enjoyable swim, one of the best this year and no I didn’t spy any fairies!

As I shivered back on shore the only disappointment was that Wilson (camera) hadn’t recorded my swim. We estimated that I was in the water for 15 minutes.

So our adventure turned out to be a day of ups and downs. Ultimately it was a perfect day for my first Welsh wild swim. There are around 200 llyns in Snowdonia alone. I won’t get to swim all of them, but at least I have made my first attempt.

Where do you think I should swim next? Have you tried wild swimming? What were your experiences?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

‘The Road Goes Ever On and On.’

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Friday the 12th February was International Darwin Day. Coincidentally David had taken a day off work, so we both headed off on our second adventure to Wales. Again we drove towards Snowdonia National Park, this time to Llyn Idwal.

The valley or cwn around Llyn Idwal is recognised as Wales’s first National Nature Reserve and a site of special scientific Interest. The area is famous for its rock formations (moraines) and rare plants. Notables, the likes of Sir Edmund Hillary, visited Llyn Idwal to prepare for his ascent of Everest. Happily, I also read that Charles Darwin also visited the area before embarking on his voyage on the Beagle.

So on the day, David and I walked in the footsteps of some of the world’s greatest men.

However the weather didn’t measure up to the forecast and when we arrived at the National Trust car park (off the A5,) there was a thick blanket of white cloud all around. We paid £5 for the day as we didn’t know how long it would take to walk around the lake. There is a charge of £2.50 for four hours for people who are more experienced and more equipped! As you can see I still sported my Parker!

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Photo by David Evans

The first thing you notice is the snow capped mountains, (Glyderau or Glyders.) It was nice to finally see some snow! The designated path takes you over a stream with a pretty waterfall.

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Then the path meanders around most of the glacial, fresh water lake. We took the path anti-clock wise.

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Most of the path is navigable except for the Idwal Slabs and boulder field which is beneath the towering heights of the Devil’s Kitchen. I am no climber (some would say not much of a walker, either,) so David left me to explore.

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While David was scurrying over the rocks like Gollum, I turned and appreciated the view of the lake below me. The name Idwal comes from the myth of the Gwynedd princes. Idwal’s father, Prince Owain one day entrusted the care of his son to Nefydd Hardd (a bondsman.) However under his care Idwal drowned in the lake. Some tales tell of Nefydd’s son, Dunawd, having pushed poor Idwal into the lake due to his jealousy! As punishment, Nefydd was forced to give up his lands and was banished from the kingdom of Gwynedd. Owain, in his sorrow named the lake after his son. The tale recalls that no bird will fly over the lake because of this tragedy!

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Llyn Idwal

We found the area very popular with tourists and walkers alike, and as we took our leave of Llyn Idwal, there were coaches full of students arriving, all hoping to do what David and I had done. Walk in the footsteps of Charles Darwin.

Do you like to go walking? Where are your favourite walks in the UK?

Christine x