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Big Views and Friendly People: 35.75 Miles Walked
Llanbadarn Fynydd to Abbycwmhir
At breakfast we had a nice chat with Janet about owning her inn for 28 years. She would like to sell the business and slow down, but she knows the next owners will just close it down as the house is perfect for a country house. She’s worried about all the local pubs closing across Wales and what they mean to the villages, which often only have one. In the winters she hosts things like the Wednesday domino league that 30 of her neighbors attend. That’s the kind of thing that makes the heart and soul of a village and she’s sad that’s ending. There’s a decent real estate boom in rural Wales, but it’s all people (like me when I worked) who can bring their remote job with them. It’s a time of change.
The day started out cloudy with no prediction of rain, so your correspondents were very happy. With the first half of the day the ups, having temperatures in the low 50’s with a breeze was perfect for walking. It was the kind of day where when you stopped walking you had to put on a fleece or jacket. Towards the afternoon it was partially sunny and in the 60s. I could get used to weather like today!
We got to see our first stile of the trip. As I explained on May 5th, the landowners are required to allow walking access to their land and provide ways to get through fences. So far on this trip, that’s been gates, but on our Coast to Coast hike across northern England a lot of them were stiles. It’s not a major deal, but it’s something we associate with that wonderful trip.
Yes, we could have gone through the gate to the right of Pam, but what’s the fun in that when you have a stile? Also, it was easier to show a picture of a stile instead of trying to describe one. See, I look out for our readers! We had a total of three today so that counts for excitement for us.
What was fun today was the more we went up, the more views we got. We had lunch on the top of the 440m (1,444 feet) high Ysqwd-fordd, and no, I have no idea how to pronounce that. At the top was a chest high, pyramid-ish ordinance survey marker which was two feet wide at the base. When there’s something in a field that’s sturdy, the sheep love to use it as a scratching post. They don’t rub back and forth but walk around it to do their scratching. This creates a circular depression around the object. In the case of our lunch spot the depression was about butt high (think vertical instead of horizontal) and that made for an incredible spot to sit for lunch with your knees a little higher than you butt. It felt so good we almost stayed until dinner.
Even better, the views from our lunch spot were glorious in all directions. Pam posted a video so you can see for yourself. May that be inspiration for you to make your own trek up Ysqwd-fordd.
The way down didn’t have big views because it was through a forested area, which was nice to see on its own. These forests had a mix of hardwoods, fields, and beautiful streams. We especially enjoyed the various wildflowers we encountered.
We popped out of the forest and into Abbycwmhir, a beautiful town or 20 or so buildings tucked into a narrow valley, at 14:15 (2:15 PM for you Americans). This was our shortest stage of the entire trip and of course it was a beautiful day. I guess all our long distance days will be rainy from now on. Walking through Abbycwmhir we noticed things getting a little weird.
The village green, which contains two picnic tables and a little grassy area had about fifty people in it of all ages. They were super friendly saying “hello,” “how are you,” and “welcome” left and right. The only B&B is at the far end of town and when we got there, the owner told us if we hurry, we could catch the children’s sporting games being held at the other end of town next to the ruins of the 11th century abbey. We dropped our stuff and changed out of our wet shoes. The kids had sack races, dress ups (where kids had to run to set of clothes, put them on), and all sorts of other fun games. People were asking us about the hike and being so amazingly friendly, that we just fell head over heels in love. So much so, that we bought a house here! You might think that’s crazy to buy a house on vacation, but that’s how we ended up with a beach house on Vashon Island in Washington. Don’t worry, we now have plenty of room for all of you reading because the house has 52 rooms. We’ve already switched to Welsh on Duolingo.
After the sale we asked why people put on this celebration just for us? Do they not get many tourists here? Are they always this friendly? With a quizzical look the man said, “For you? I can see why you would think that, but we are celebrating the King’s coronation.”
Yeah, I’m joking only about 1.02%. We didn’t buy the gigantic Abbey Cwmhir Hall because it wasn’t on the market. The part about buying on Vashon is 100% true as is the coronation celebration. Everyone was so nice you instantly felt part of the community just being here. We enjoyed, the people, the kid races, and I honestly thought that I could move into this valley tomorrow.
Back to neat things in Abbycwmhir. First up is the gorgeous St. Mary’s Church, an 1866 Gothic style church built at the site of previous churches. On both sides of the photograph below are yew trees that are over 1,100 years old. Yew trees indicate ancient religious sites and it’s thought that they represented one individual living in a cell. Inside the church is some wonderful stained glass.
The other religious site is more famous, the 11th century Cistercian abbey, Cwmhir Abby, which had the longest nave in England, 73 m (240 ft). Due to various blood feuds, Welch vs. England battles, Henry VIII, and finally the English civil war in 1664, there’s very little left.
On the sinner side is the Happy Union Inn, which has been serving the town as the public house for the last 200 years. In the past it’s been the post office and general store, but it has always had the owner pulling pints in the bar. The current owner is the third generation. It has a wonderful 18th century cartoon on the side depicting a man hoisting a pint, his hat decorated with leeks, and he’s riding a goat. That’s all the advertising I need to know this is my kind of place! Sadly, it was closed today but I am going to make a special trip back to Wales just to have a pint there.
Finally, Abby Cwmhir Hall was started as a country estate in 1820 and massively enlarged in the 1860s. In the 1990s a couple purchased and restored it to all it’s glory. There were three tours a day, but COVID closed the hall permanently in 2020. That’s why I thought we could get in on the deal for a new house to host all of you.
At dinner, we were presented with an ethical dilemma. There were several choices, but there was only one real choice: lamb shank. Pam felt a little guilty. However, after the first wonderful bite, a lot of the guilt went away. She promised to apologize personally to every single lamb she sees tomorrow. We ate early so our host could attend the barbeque for the coronation with her neighbors. Seeing how much fun people had today so we didn’t want her to miss it, so we ate quickly and went up to our room. We were working on the story when there’s a knock at the door and she’s asking us if we are there. She said we were so fast that she didn’t have a chance to ask us what we wanted for dessert. We are glad she did because the berry crumble was great.
At dinner we were looking over tomorrow’s hike, which is probably 40% longer than todays with some steep downhills. Add in the weather forecast is calling for heavier rain than we had on Friday and we both were a little bummed out. No matter we are still doing it!