Glyndŵr’s Way, day 7: Machynlleth to Llanbrynmair

June 7, 2024 0 Comments

It’s been a year since we finished the southern half of Glyndŵr’s Way, and here we are, C1, C2 and I, back in Machynlleth to start on the sixty miles of the northern half.  Ca has kindly given us a lift from Swansea to Machynlleth, so we’ve time on the way up for a coffee in Llandeilo, and a visit to the fine Canaletto (plus) exhibition in the National Library and the Aberystwyth Arts Centre.  In Machynlleth I call in at Pen’rallt Books, we eat in the Wynnstay Arms, and we spend the evening listening to jazz – the Will Barnes Quartet, playing in Y Tabernacl, MOMA – before a night in our B&B.

In the morning we say goodbye to Ca and set off.  The weather’s fine, and promises to stay fine, except for some rain in two days’ time.  On this trip we’re not joined by any guest-walkers, which is a pity, but our own company will be good enough, and there’ll be no lack of things to talk about – including the impending general election, if all else fails.

We’re soon out of the town on the Dylife road, and pass a golf course.  We agree that none of us can comprehend the appeal of golf, though we’re divided about whether it’s a dying game or whether a new generation might replace the ‘Tory party at play’ brigade.  We pass through the hamlet called Forge (Y Bontfaen), cross a stream and walk along a quiet lane, white with cow-parsley.  Near a farm a few people have put up tents.  At the farm we have a problem finding our way – one of the very few failures on what’s generally a very well-signed route.  Everything around us is bright green, thanks to the exceptionally wet spring.

One of the themes of the Glyndŵr walk is rural dereliction and depopulation, and it isn’t long before we pass the first of several abandoned farms.  Some buildings, though, have been restored – one of them an old mill, with a plaque recording the interest of Prince Charles.  The route returns us to the main Dyfi valley road at Penegoes.  This village was the birthplace of the eighteenth-century painter Richard Wilson.  His father was the vicar (the vicarage still exists, but not in the form it had when he lived here).  Wilson painted a portrait of him, and, much later, a much more impressive portrait of his local mountain to the north, Cader Idris.

Next we climb, up a large open grassy valley, with a wooded stream to our right.  Tall foxgloves on either side are almost in full bloom.  Before long we descend into the compact, attractive village of Abercegir.  The weekly bin lorry is passing through, and its smells.  We’re greeted by a woman putting out her green plastic bin.  We explain our mission.  She says she doesn’t see many Glyndŵr followers, and she tells me she thinks my face is familiar.  But my memory can’t place her, and we part, both puzzled, after she recommends a short cut past some abandoned buildings.

Another climb – below us is what looks like a David Cameron-style gentrified caravan – and then a fine hill-shoulder walk along Cefn Coch, with views across the Dyfi plain and north towards Eryri.  The stone walls here are made of flat-stones, with large, overhanging toppers.  We pass the skeletons of a tractor and other abandoned farmyard machinery – enough to form the foundation collection of a small rural museum.  Then another dip to the Dyfi at Cemaes Road, with some main road walking to cross Afon Twymyn, followed by a long ascent to a second level hillslope path with more views to the mountains in the north.  The path winds its way, mainly upward, through fields and a wood, until we find ourselves on the nose of a final tall hill, with Llanbrynmair below us to the south-east.  We skip down the grassy slope, past a tall communications tower, into the valley of the Twymyn.

Llanbrynmair was the birthplace and early home of Iorwerth Peate, and it isn’t hard to imagine, even today, how his deep attachment to his upbringing translated into his vision for Amgueddfa Werin Cymru, the Welsh Folk Museum at St Fagans, with its reconstituted rural, Welsh-speaking Eden.

In the village we find our B&B is actually a small terraced house with only two bedrooms – one of us sleeps downstairs on a bed-settee.  The only place to eat is the Wynnstay Arms, a large eighteenth-century inn with a handsome facade.  The building looks tired, paint-flaked and abandoned – signs mark it as ‘closed’ and ‘for sale’ – but our host assures us it’s open for food.  Hesitantly we cross the threshold.  Inside, P., a woman of advanced age with scraped-back hair and a sharp tongue, serves us with beers and a meal – which she seems to have made herself: she runs the place single-handedly.  From time to time a handful of regulars, next door in the bar, help themselves to pints. By the time we leave the acid seems to have been diluted.

It’s been a long day – over sixteen miles of climbs and descents – and it’s not long before we collapse into our beds and prepare for the day ahead.

Next day

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