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A Perfect Day: Miles Walked 160.7
Meifod to Welshpool
When you are on a hiking vacation, the most important aspect is not elevation gain, not direction, nor is it possible lunch spots. It’s the weather. That’s why many of these posts seem to start out discussing what the day looks like. It might be repetitive to you, my dear reader, but it’s super important to Pam and me because the weather can make or break your spirit. Heck, even if your vacation plans are to sit on the beach and do nothing than read a book, the weather plays an outsize role. Look what happened on May 10th when we had so much rain that we hopped off the trail after we were halfway because we were not having fun. A vacation is supposed to be enjoyable. I did enough suffering in the Army to (finally!) know when stupid is stupid.
A day like today makes up for weeks of dumb weather. It was mostly sunny, cool, breezy, and low humidity so you could see forever. It was the kind of day that you cherish and makes you know in your bones that if you’re not outside, you have something wrong. The kind of day that makes you fizz with the excitement that it rarely gets better than this. Yeah, it was a great weather day!
There were ups and downs as usual through the rolling hills of Wales, but around every corner, the views got better and more interesting. The kind of day where as long as you didn’t have your finger in front of the camera lens, you were going to get a photo you’d be proud to show to anyone. In fact, I took more photos today than any other so far. That said, I’ll show you the true best that will hopefully entice you to want to take your own trip to Wales. Don’t worry, the Welsh Tourism Board (if there is such a thing) is not paying me to say that!
At our lunch break we had a little surprise. As we sat down, I saw two identical little faces barely peeking at us over a rise in the hill. Within seconds those two month old lambs were running right to us, which was super strange. They stopped two feet in from of Pam and stood there bleating. Every time we moved the lambs would back off a bit but if we stopped moving, they went right back to two feet from Pam. It took a few minutes for me to be able to slowly get my phone in a position where I could take a picture. I was so disappointed to see once I got the picture on my laptop that the camera focused on my feet instead of the lambs. I failed you all as a photographer in this shot, but we wanted to show you how close these babies came to us. They hung around for five or ten minutes before wandering off. When we finished lunch, we walked through the rest of the field and those two babies were the only sheep there. They must have missed their mommy and thought Pam could substitute.
We’ve been seeing wild bluebell flowers all through our trip, but as we are at a lower elevation, they have blanketed the ground so much of it had a blue hue. One of the reasons we vacation in May is to see those beautiful spring flowers.
The high point of today’s walk (no pun intended) was Y Golfa, a 341m (1,119 ft) high hill in the middle of the Welshpool Golf course. What confused me is that when I used a translation app, Golfa in Welsh means golf. So that begs the question, was the hill named after the Welshpool Golf course or was golf a common name in ancient Wales? This has bothered me all day. It’s the chicken and egg problem all over again.
No matter how it got named, Y Golfa offers astonishing 360° views of the Welsh countryside. To the west we could see the big hills we climbed and to the east some large hills outside Welshpool. With the dazzling weather we felt we could see forever. Pam, the family videographer, posted the full view on YouTube if you are interested. Y Golfa is a must visit place if you are anywhere close to Welshpool. If you are not up to the hike, I guess you could pretend to play golf, get a golf cart, and do a little off roading to get to the top. They might kick you out of the country, but that view is worth it.
On the way down to Welshpool, we passed a huge building named Llanerchydol Hall. This 1,434 m2 (15,440 ft2) building built in 1776 and was updated to with fairy-tale castellations and turrets in the Gothic Revival style in 1820. Most of the original land around the house was sold off so now it only sits on five acres. In 2022 three friends bought it with the hope of restoring it. They are hoping to crowd fund repairs, but aren’t having much luck. Across the road from the house two guys were building a huge stone wall. We talked to one of them about the house, and he said it probably cost £ 1 million and would cost a million more to restore. He didn’t think the guys would ever get their money back. However, I do admire the chutzpa of the guys who bought it for trying and wish them the best. As we were talking to the guy about the house, he had a huge rock on his shoulder that he was going to place in the wall. He talked and gestured holding this at least 50 pound rock like it was nothing. It was only as we were walking away that we realized he had that rock on his shoulder. We felt a little guilty for bothering him.
Pam has wanted to see a castle in Wales, but the castle I found for her on May 12th at the Caffi JoJo wasn’t enough. She deserved a visit to a real castle.
We went a mile and a half off the trail to visit Powis Castle. This was originally a real castle from 1111, but through time became an aristocratic country house. The best concise history is on Wikipedia and is worth a read. The house itself is made of sandstone, which is a soft rock, but a mineral in the sandstone gives it the reddish color and makes it incredibly strong. In the picture above, Pam is standing in front of the oldest part of the castle which is from the 1300s. We also had tea in the courtyard behind where the photo was taken. Pam says it’s important to say that she had a scone, too. If it matters, I had a chocolate chip cookie.
We were too late to go into the castle, but we were able to see something far better, the gardens. The big highlight to us were the 400 year old yew tree topiaries. In the photo below, the left side shows the melted wax looking yew trees. The whole 400 year old topiary is between 15 and 20 feet tall and run for at least 75 feet. There’s a path farther to the left of the photo where you can walk into the yew trees and see them from the inside. We could have spent hours looking at all aspects of those old yew trees, as well as the many younger others across the entire garden. The National Trust, which owns Powis Castle has a cool article describing the huge amount of work necessary to keep them up.
We only had about 40 minutes to see the garden and we could only scratch the surface. We took a lot of photos but two captured how special the gardens are. The first is one of the many wisteria bushes that were nearly in full bloom. They were the biggest we have ever seen.
The second was that they have peacocks strutting around the garden and I swear they have been trained to display on command. The only problem is that he was only looking at Pam when doing his big sexy dance. When I tried to maneuver to take a picture he’d turn around or follow Pam. I think he was trying to make a play for her. Years ago when we were visiting Pam’s parents in St. Louis, we went to the St. Louis Zoo, one of Pam’s favorite places. They have peacocks roaming around and there was a five year old boy utterly fascinated in the male peacock displays. He was oohing at every fan out and tail wiggle. He turned to his dad and asked him, “Dad, can humans do anything like that?” Without missing a beat his dad wearily replied, “Wait until you are 21 in a bar.”
Our B&B for the night, Tynllwyn Farm, is a little outside Welshpool and was only 1.5 miles from Powis Castle. The tour company said we could walk to it but to avoid a particular busy road. Plugging the address into Apple Maps, it seemed straight forward and didn’t go down the mentioned road. Off we went and it was bad. The “non-busy” road was insane with cars doing 45-50 MPH and adding to the excitement the shoulder was maybe two feet wide. Even better, the shoulder was covered in nettles. It got the adrenaline rushing and honestly was a little scary. We were stuck and had to get past the hard part, which we did. To make it even more fun, Apple Maps has the wrong address for the B&B, which was close but on the wrong road.
We called Roger, the owner and he immediately came to get us. We were instantly calmed down with him and knew we were in good hands, so our day remained perfect. Tynllwyn Farm is an impeccably restored manor house and has huge views. Roger had tea waiting for us in the sitting room after our showers and we were joined by a couple, Renee and Gareth from Nova Scotia, Canada. They are hiking Offa’s Dyke, another trail that intersects at Welshpool. We had a marvelous conversation and loved that they had done more of these hiking vacations than we had so got to pick their brains on other possible hikes to add to our list. The Pennine Way had been added! The conversation continued over a fantastic dinner from Jane, Roger’s wife. In all, a delightful evening.
While Welshpool is the end of Glnydŵr’s Way, the dynamic duo of Pam and John are not done hiking. We are officially going to end tomorrow by stopping at the end marker in the middle of Welshpool and continuing hiking south on Offa’s Dyke to go back to Knighton, the city we started from. We can’t wait!
Thank you so much for reading!