Ramblers Cymru’s second Big Welsh Walk (Taith Gerdded Fawr Cymru) on 2 June was even better than the last year. Once again it was based on Tynrhyd retreat, near Devil’s Bridge Walkers Are Welcome town in Ceredigion. This year there was a greater choice of walks: 6, 10, 16 or 20 miles, and for the 6 and 10 miles you had the option of a led walk.
I arrived the day before and, with a group of members of the Ramblers’ Welsh Council Executive Committee, did a recce of the six-mile walk which was to be led by George Allingham from Pembrokeshire. As we walked, the mist came down so that towards the end we could see very little.
However, we could see that Ceredigion Ramblers had done great work opening up and waymarking a path above Tynrhyd—a couple of weeks ago it had been impassible.
That is one of the prime benefits of the Big Welsh Walk, it encourages the council to put money into getting the paths in order, with the help of Ramblers’ volunteers. It shows that it pays to have good paths because then walkers will visit, spend money and return.
On the morning of 2 June there was a bit of scrum for signing in, and completing the In Case of Emergency (ICE) cards and media consent forms, but Ramblers’ volunteers were cheerful, efficient and welcoming. The Ordnance Survey had provided complimentary maps of the routes for participants.
This year we were issued with wristbands with a number. At each checkpoint the wristband was scanned to record that we had passed through that point. Once again the brilliant Brecon Mountain Rescue team was on hand, giving up their Saturday to ensure that everyone returned safely.
At 8.30am I set off on the 16-mile route with my visually-impaired friend, Marika Kovacs; the newly-elected president of Ramblers’ Cymru, Will Renwick, and photographer Greg Fisher. At first we followed the Cambrian Way.
As is the way with this walk, people coalesce into groups then drift apart, and by the first checkpoint we had been joined by Alberto and Astrid from the Midlands.
We came to the Arch, erected by Thomas Johnes who owned the nearby Hafod Estate. It was put up in 1810 to celebrate George III’s golden jubilee,
Here Will and Greg stopped to make a video. We hoped they would catch us up, but they had other things to do and we did not see them again.
We continued along a track next to forestry which took us to the top of a rise; here I saw a tree pipit on top of a tree. You can listen to him here.
At the top we joined some walkers from Worcestershire Ramblers and together we dropped down into the forestry.
We joined the trail I had followed on my 15-mile walk last year; this took us over rough ground to the top of the Cwmystwyth valley. Because Marika and I walked rather more slowly than the others I told them not to wait for us, which meant we had to negotiate the rough county unaided—not easy for a visually-impaired person! Trickier still was the steep drop into the Cwmystwyth valley.
Marika found this method of descent rather easier on the steep sections.
We made it and reported to the checkpoint at the foot of the hill. We then walked down to the river, Afon Ystwyth. As we reached the river the sun began to come out, and I recalled that it did the same at this point in my walk last year (this section being the same). And, just as last year, it then shone unceasingly for the rest of the day.
We followed the river for about four miles to Pont-rhyd-y-groes and another checkpoint. Although Marika had been amazing, we were running late, so I did the next section on my own while Arthur Lee took Marika in the car. In my hurry I missed my way and did not follow the correct path. However, I returned the next day to ensure that the path really was there—it was, but it could do with better waymarking, for instance where it passes through the garden of Maen-Arthur farm. I shall report this to the council.
The path goes to the north of the iron-age hillfort of Castell Grogynion to Pengrogwynion, and thence to Brynafon.
By the time I reached the checkpoint at Brynafon there was quite a crowd gathered for the last section. Marika rejoined us. We walked over fields and through woods. The loveliest stretch of all was through Coed Cwmnewydion-uchaf with singing wood warblers.
After about two hours, we were on the hillside above Tynrhyd—it was much clearer than when we were on this path in the mist the day before.
There was a welcoming party outside Tynrhyd (at 7.30pm, we were the last to return).
We were given our medals and had well-earned tea and cake. I had been out for 11 hours, and it had been a wonderful day.
The next morning Kate Marshall from Ramblers Cymru interviewed Marika and me about the walk. You can watch Marika’s video here.
I hope the local businesses benefited from the 170 walkers who descended on Ceredigion. The council and our volunteers did a great job improving the paths—though there are still missing signposts and waymarks. And Ramblers Cymru staff worked tirelessly to organise a really super event. Well done all!