Glyndŵr’s Way, day 11: Meifod to Welshpool

June 14, 2024 2 Comments

The negatives: rain has fallen overnight; the morning’s cloudy and windy, and it feels colder than ever; our boots are still damp inside.  The positives: Eleri has fed us well over two days, to counter the hunger caused by long walking; we’re back in the fine village of Meifod; there are not too many miles to go before we can celebrate the end of Glyndŵr. 

By the time it reaches Meifod, Afon Fyrnwy has left its salad days behind and grown mature.  Now it flows gently across a broad plain.  There’s more level ground here than we’ve see for some time.  We cross the river and turn up along a lane called ‘Ffordd Glyndŵr’, one of the few references to Owain on the route of the Way.  Someone has placed a large pot of wild flowers in the middle of the path to welcome us as we climb into woodland.  We skirt the northern flank of Broniarth Hill.  At the top we emerge into a clearing, with a view down to Llyn Du.  C1 and I can’t help recalling Brenhines y Llyn Du in Caradoc Prichard’s Un nos ola leuad, and wonder whether this mysterious lake too has a powerful tutelary goddess.  A strange oval shape lurks nearby in the bracken: could this be another phantom pop-up coffee bar?

We don’t visit the lake but walk high round it to join a minor road, where there’s a signpost back o ‘Pentre’r beirdd’.  A village reserved for poets sounds to us a good idea.  After a while a path leaves and moves eastwards.  We struggle up a long slope in a field, as a huge buzzard cries far above.  At the top is a strange collection of objects: a ruined house (older than it looks, with wattle and daub exposed), more abandoned agricultural machinery, and an old tree trunk covered in large pancake-like fungi.  Past some woodland we find ourselves in Pant, which turns out to be an old farmhouse surrounded by ‘Hidden Valley’ caravan park, complete with miniature red Japanese bridges.  At the top of a lane we go astray, pass through a farmyard, and have to scramble, in an ungainly way, over a difficult gate to regain the Way on another road.

A little way along the road we meet the first Glyndŵr Way walker we’ve seen, one of a very select group.  It could be we’ve underestimated the number, since most walkers, like us, will be moving in a clockwise direction, to make sense of the only available Way guidebook.  This man, not a youth but ultra-fit, is walking anti-clockwise, and plans to stay tonight in the King’s Arms, Meifod, before going on to Machynlleth, and from there down the Coast Path to Fishguard.  Our mouths drop open in admiration and he marches off down the lane.  (Earlier we asked a woman who lived alongside the Way how many ‘completists’ she saw, and she replied, perhaps fifty a year.)

Somewhere along our course today we seem to have crossed an invisible line.  The hills are lower; sheep are now scarcer, and cattle more common; modest hill farms are replaced by large, even ostentatious brick houses; and there are few Urdd Eisteddfod signs, which must mean that Welsh has given way to English.  For the second time in two days we get into a slight dispute with bullocks, and escape their field with alacrity.  Beyond Trefnant comes a steep wood, Figyn Wood, the last big challenge to our lungs.  From the other side there’s a long view across the Severn to the twin peaks of Y Breiddin.

We’re left with one remaining hill, called Y Golfa.  As we approach, we realise that part of it is used as a golf club by the good people of Welshpool.  The path leads across it.  We need to stop to eat our sandwiches, and the only available bench is beside a teeing off area.  We decide that the bench belongs to the Way, not the golf club, and take our seats, sitting in a row.  As we munch, a succession of middle-aged men, most with stout little legs and big bellies, visit the green – it seems like a stage set, with us as the front-row audience – and give their balls what seem to us to be inexpert hacks.  Perhaps our presence is off-putting.

As we eat, two more walkers come past us.  They’re not doing the whole of Glyndŵr’s Way, but they’re as serious in intent as our friend of a little earlier.  They’ve been up Tryfan, and tomorrow, one of them tells us, they’re planning to walk the Nantlle Ridge.

We leave the bench, climb to the trig point on the top of the hill, and then follow a ridge east, slowly descending a track alongside a long wood, until we reach a tarmac lane that runs past the Gothic Revival mansion of Llanerchydol, and its estate, full of tall, handsome trees.  (The current owners are trying to attract yoga and mindfulness types who don’t mind living amid a bit of dilapidation). 

The estate had three lodges.  Clearly the number of lodges you owned was part of the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ competition among the monied elite (Welshpool had two other big estates, Powis Castle and Leighton).  By the time we reach the lower lodge we find ourselves on the edge of Welshpool.  Welshpool’s a handsome town, and we saunter down the main street, past the Montgomery Conservative Party HQ (Craig Williams’s famous gambling exploits are yet to be exposed), past the preparations for the Tour of Britain cycle race, that starts from here in the morning, past the Royal Oak Hotel, our excellent stop for the night, past the canal and the closed Powysland Museum, to a small park at the side of the road.  It contains a vertical slate marking the end of Glyndŵr’s Way.  Each of takes a commemorative picture of the other two, exactly as we did beside the slate in Knighton a year ago, and we trudge back to the hotel to collapse into much-needed baths.

The following morning C2 retrieves his car, which he’d left at the start of our walk.  We escape the cyclists and pay a visit to Powis Castle: the ‘hanging’ gardens, warm, colourful and full of abstract topiary; the house, dark and oppressive with the weight of ancestral privilege; and the museum, with Daniel Trivedy’s subversive tiger installations.  After that C2 delivers C1 and me to the station and the long train journey home.  We reflect that after eleven long days of walking each of us has been a loyal and determined follower of Owain Glyndŵr.

Comments (2)

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  1. Aled Eirug says:

    Annwyl Andrew,

    Diolch yn fawr Iawn i ti am fynd i’r drafferth i ddisgrifio siwrnai mor ddiddorol ac mewn ffordd mor atyniadol , mewn ardal sydd yn anaml yn cael llawer o sylw.

    Cofion cynnes a diolch eto,


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