In Tre’r Ddôl I lock the car and tie up my boots, while the others make for the bus stop. Walking over the bridge I look up and see the bus is already there and about to leave. I have to break into a run to catch it. C explains that the driver – Lloyds Coaches seem to specialise in employing grumpy men – was very reluctant to wait, and it was only by pretending to fumble in a senile way for their bus passes that the rest bought enough time to save me from abandonment.
The trip to Aberystwyth is one I’ve done hundreds of times, but from the top deck of a bus everything looks very different. Instead of hedges and the road you can see far inland towards the hills and windmills of north Ceredigion, and westwards towards the great bog of Cors Fochno.
P and Jack the dog, today’s guestwalkers, are waiting for us outside Yr Hen Orsaf. Together we stroll through the Saturday streets, past the first of today’s Y Gwyll / Hinterland locations, the grim Victorian block that serves as DCI Mathias’s police station. This is his base for solving the many sordid murders that apparently occur in this most peaceful and crime-free of counties. On the steps we pause for a group photo. There’s another to be taken as we perform the student ritual of kicking the bar at the end of the prom.
H and Ca pay to be transported up Constitution Hill on the cliff railway. The rest of us toil up the winding shale path, rewarding ourselves with coffees in the cafe on the top. Nearby a group of stag-nighters resume their drinking, in a subdued kind of way.
Reunited we set off on the path north, in bright sunshine and a firm headwind. A single paraglider tacks above our heads. We pass the lonely house called Wallog, and Sarn Cynfelin, its long shingle causeway mostly hidden by the high tide. The massed caravans of Clarach come into view ahead; we power past them, following the strenuous path to the war memorial above Borth and its long view north towards Ynyslas and the Dyfi estuary.
As we walk through the village a car happens to stop and a familiar face smiles at us: it’s our old friend S, who’ll be joining us tomorrow. The long straight street ahead seems to offer little for hikers, but then, on the right, we stumble across Uncle Albert’s Café and Ice Cream Emporium, a bright oasis supplying coffees, snacks and flapjacks of the finest quality. The affable woman serving us has plenty of local intelligence to give us, including the location of our next Hinterland murder, on the edge of the bog in front of the railway station. We notice that inside the café is termed ‘Uncle Leo’s’. Could it be that Uncle Albert has been quietly eased out of the business, or even that his body lies embalmed in Cors Fochno?
The railway station and its small museum (the haunt of the Hinterland murderer) are deserted. We cross the line and walk past St Matthew’s Church, perched on a hillock on the edge of the bog – the largest lowland raised peat bog in Britain. Pets’ graves line the path, and inscriptions commemorating the temporary removal of the pupils and teachers of Uppingham School to Borth in 1876 after an outbreak of typhoid. The path zigzags its way westwards, past the great untamed bog. Landowners succeeded in straightening the course of the river Leri, but fortunately failed in their efforts to drain all of the marshland, which stretches far off to our left. It’s a watercolour painter’s dream, a subtle, changing mix of umber, ochre, sienna and grey. Amid the rushes, grasses, sedges and mosses live hundreds of species of plant, insect and animal life, including many that are rare.
Like the river the path eventually resolves itself into a broad straight track, fringed by low water-loving trees and shrubs. Young cattle in a field on the right suddenly become frisky, bucking and careering towards us. Jack excites the worried attention of a horse standing between us and the next gate. We negotiate our way through and reach the village of Tre Taliesin, and a handsome old terrace of whitewashed cottages off the main road I’d never seen before.
Then along the main road, past houses never noticed when driving through the village, and back to Tre’r Ddôl. Jack looks tired after the trip, but we work out his human age is now 78 years, and reflect that we’d all be satisfied enough with completing eleven miles at his time of life.