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Almost Made It (Not the Hike, but Other Bets): Miles Walked: 104.1
Machynlleth to Llanbrynmair
Today was momentous in the adventures of Pam and John on Glyndwr’s Way. Machynlleth is the farthest western point on the hike and now we turn our faces to walk to the east. We’ve been walking for exactly a week and still have a good way to go but we almost, but not quite, achieved goals we’d been hoping for the entire day.
After stocking up our lunch provisions at the local grocery store, we were heading out when a stunning blue Ford Capri pulled up next to us on the sidewalk and we heard a big “hello!” It was Bernie and Karen from The Old School House B&B where we stayed on May 9th. They wanted to see how we handled all that rain yesterday and if we were OK. They are such nice people! If any of you reading this ever visit Wales, we require you to stay with Bernie and Karen because you will never find hosts as nice as them.
Given today’s walk was the longest of the entire trip we mentally prepared by simply enjoying the fact that it was mostly sunny today. Given the alternating sun/rain day pattern we had the balm of sunshine after yesterday’s buckets of rain and that was all we needed. I still slathered myself with sunscreen because while I’m loving the sun, I don’t want to add a sunburn to our list of problems.
Walking out of Machynlleth we came across the “Happy Bench,” which made us, well, happy. The idea is that if you sit on a bench with the Happy Bench sign, “…you don’t mind someone stopping by and saying ‘Hi!’”. Their other motto is “Nobody deserves to feel lonely.” Sadly, I can’t link to the sites about Happy Bench because they are only on the three big social media sites and those social media sites promote hate, envy, divisiveness, and selling your personal data as thier business model. It makes me unhappy that someone can’t spend a little bit of time to create their own web site instead of making billionaires richer. (If you need to create a web site, use Wix, which is what Pam uses for the Purple Crayon web site.)
On the edge of town there was the usual sheep pasture, but with a twist. A farmer must love golf because they created a nine hole par 3 golf course but keeps their sheep on it. We had to laugh about this being the only golf course that has sheep as an obstacle. What do the rules say about when a sheep eats your golf ball?
The first three miles were flat, but we soon experienced some big ups. They were all worth the heavy breathing because with all that glorious sunshine the views were so good. There’s something about working to earn a view that makes them even sweeter. We sure earned them today. My Apple Watch told me that we did 3,247 feet (990 m) of elevation gain across the entire day. That’s some serious up, but nothing we couldn’t handle.
At lunch, I had to deal with my first blister. Walking in the wet shoes and socks yesterday gave me a small blister on my “little piggie had no roast beef” toe on my right foot. As I have a PhD in blisters from my time in the Army, I had it all fixed up. Just so you all know, Pam is far tougher than I am because she has no blisters at all. I’m jealous of her because I always seem to get a blister or two on these hikes we do.
When we were up high in all that sun, it was neat to see the rain coming down in various other valleys in the distance. It added to the day and made us feel even better about the wonderful weather we were having in our tiny part of Wales.
We saw something new today. There were several old slate rock walls made before the advent of wire mesh. I’m mesmerized by these walls and can’t imagine the effort that goes in to making them. In pondering how they got all that those slate pieces up to the high hills, I noticed around several of them were old 100 to 200 foot ditches in the middle of the fields. Instead of hauling the slate pieces up from a quarry somewhere, they quarried the stone right from the fields. The slate in this area was laid down in an ancient seabed and is of various thicknesses across Wales. Looking at the seam thickness in some of those high ditches, it seems plausible the rock came from them. Some of these walls are individually in the hundreds of feet long. If that stone had to be pulled up in horse drawn carts, it would have taken thousands of loads. Just to make clear these are my educated guesses and not something I researched. Sadly, no one is going to expend the effort to make new walls or even fix crumbling ones so these are true relics from the past.
As we were walking up the last up in the late afternoon, one of those single cloud rain showers hit us. The kind where it spits on you but all around you is sunny. Through the magic of refraction and water droplets in the air, we saw our first Welsh rainbow. It wasn’t super bright, but it almost ended on a random sheep, who probably didn’t care at all.
Most of the lambs we have been seeing are a couple of months old, but we saw several fields of week old lambs near the end of the hike today. In one field, one poor little guy had managed to crawl under the fence and get to our side. He was freaking out with fear and his momma was bellowing at him. We were trying to figure out if there was a way to capture him so we could lift him over the fence but after five minutes of frantic running, he found a hole and was soon reunited with momma. He was so cute. (Note that Pam made me remove the phrase “and tasty looking” at the end of last sentence.)
As we hustled the last bit into rainy Llanbrynmair I looked up the location of our B&B on my phone. When we got there no one answered the door and the place looked closed. Since it was raining, we hadn’t looked at the building so stepping back to see if we were in the right place, and we saw a For Sale sign! That is not a sign you want to see on your lodgings after 18.5 miles! After fumbling around in the rain with the instructions from the tour company, we saw we were looking at the Wynnstay Arms when we were supposed to be at the Wynnstay House, which was directly across the street. Even with wet shoes and being mostly damp we thought it was hilarious!
Instead of just a room like a normal B&B, we have an entire two story apartment with two bedrooms, a kitchen, and living room. We are living in luxury. The B&B owner was very kind to turn on the heat for us so we could use the radiators to dry out everything. We now have our stuff scattered across two floors and four rooms drying on the radiators. Unfortunately, the house now has the smell of Pam’s socks which is a mixture of foot sweat, bog water, and with a good hint of sheep poop. My socks have no smell.
To make the Wynnstay sage even funnier, the Wynnstay Arms is open for dinner as it’s the only pub in town. The B&B owner said the lady that owns the Wynnstay Arms is a bit of a character so just go with the flow. We found her as nice as can be and we loved talking with her. When we asked about the For Sale sign, she said “I’m 82 and I’d like to finally retire after working here since 1987.” We took her recommendations for dinner and Pam got her excellent seafood lasagna and I got the pork dish with a Welsh name, which turned out to be an English breakfast for dinner and I loved it. We wish we could have spent more time talking to her, but she was busy with the locals.
Thank you so much for reading!