I combined a visit to the Ramblers’ Welsh Council in Lampeter, Ceredigion, with a meeting with townspeople to discuss their aspiration to become a Walkers Are Welcome town. I hope they go ahead with this. I find it particularly pleasing when towns which are not on the main tourist-track achieve the status because it can make a real difference to the town’s hwyl—its mood and outlook.
Lampeter is surrounded by lovely, unsung, countryside and has many paths on which the town council does valuable maintenance work. Lampeter Ramblers publish books of walks and use public transport when they can. There are iron-age forts on the surrounding hills. The town is lively with many independent shops. The council has created a heritage trail around the town, with information-packed notice boards. There is a lot to explore.
The town, on the north bank of the River Teifi, grew up at the crossing of old routes: the road along the northern bank of the river meets the road from Carmarthen which crosses the river at Pont Stephen, enshrined in the town’s Welsh name Llanbedr Pont Steffan. Stephen was probably a Norman lord.
We stayed at the lovely University of Wales. It received its royal charter in 1828 which makes it the third oldest university in England and Wales after Oxford and Cambridge. The quadrangle (1819-22) was by C R Cockerell who later designed the Ashmolean museum in Oxford and has the air of an Oxford college.
Outside the front entrance is a castle mound dating from about 1080, which may have been built by the aforementioned Stephen.
Ramblers’ weekends are always busy, so the only time for a walk was early on Sunday morning (7am). Kay Davies from Lampeter Ramblers led us around the town.
We followed the old Drovers’ Road to the common (Y Cwmins) which is now a car-park but was where stock once grazed and the market was held.
We walked past the church, with rows of touching, tiny gravestones for people from the workhouse.
Then we went to the Rugby ground, famous as the first in Wales, the idea having been brought from Cambridge in 1850 by the Reverend Professor Rowland Williams. Kay told us how Ceredigion Council had wanted to sell the pitch for development but her father and others researched it and found that it had been dedicated to the people of Lampeter who died in the First World War, with the gates as an elegant memorial.
Beyond the rugby ground we could see a long ridge, the Long Wood community woodland, a co-operative with public rights of access.
Later I wandered past the site of the old railway station to a gate which tells a story. The Ramblers applied for this path up to Cwm-Rhŷs and a quarry to be added to the definitive map but they lost after a public inquiry and a good fight. Lampeter Ramblers are a feisty bunch.
I returned to the university via the fine war-memorial by Welsh sculptor Sir William Goscombe John.
I hope that Lampeter will soon be a fully-fledged Walkers Are Welcome town.