Ramblers’ Welsh Council this year was held in the dramatic setting of Nant Gwrtheryn, the Welsh language centre on the cliffs of the Llŷn peninsula in Gwynedd.
On the night before the event, some of us stayed in the prosaic Travelodge in nearby Porthmadog; the best bit was the misty early-morning walk I took with Chris Hodgson, chair of Ramblers Cymru. He led me to the harbour from which slate was exported,
and then around a lake created from the Afon Glaslyn, with views of the Moelwyn range.
Nearby, Moel-y-Gest beckoned us to climb it, but sadly we hadn’t the time.
We set off early for Nant Gwrtheyrn, which is near Llithfaen on the western side of the Llŷn peninsula. The sun came out and the drive down to the centre was breathtaking, on a switchback road among the quarries.
I had last been here on 5 August 1995 when Ramblers Cymru organised a walk around Wales to celebrate the organisation’s sixtieth jubilee. It was a memorable day, and baking hot. We met at Trefor, in the shadow of the magnificent hill Yr Eifl to the north of Nant. A minibus took the walkers to Nefyn, where the late Michael Griffith (chairman of the Countryside Council for Wales), Geoff Williams (who had organised the event), and I made short speeches in the car park, and I read out a jubilee message which was repeated in Welsh.
We walked north-east along the coast to Nant, where we were shown around. We were running late so, rather than stop for tea in the café, Michael and I left the group and walked up the steep road back to Trefor. We were both keen swimmers and we stopped for a dip from Trefor Beach before heading our separate ways.
Nant, then known as Porth y Nant, was a village serving the surrounding quarries, which closed in the 1970s. The abandoned village was then occupied by the New Atlantis Commune of hippies who did much damage, but it was rescued, renovated and developed into the Welsh language centre. The comfortable accommodation in the old cottages is arranged around a green space.
The Ramblers’ meeting was held in a room with a balcony and a wide view of the sea, making it hard to concentrate. I was on the look out for choughs, though sadly didn’t see any. However, there were plenty of ravens among the crags, and I think I saw a peregrine.
A high point of the day was the arrival of Max Grant, our much-loved activist from North Wales Area, former member of Ramblers Cymru’s executive committee and rights-of-way and access guru. He had a stroke a year ago but, through his own grit and determination, and steadfast support from his partner Margaret Thomas, he has made an amazing recovery. He walked in to the meeting room to a round of applause: an emotional moment.
The meeting began with updates on the work of the year, and after lunch there were workshops to discuss various Ramblers’ topics. Ramblers Cymru are pursuing many projects with great energy and success: Paths for People (working with communities and highway authorities to boost the path network), waymarking and improving the Cambrian Way, organising a walking festival to celebrate the seventh anniversary of the Wales Coast Path, to name a few.
In the middle of the afternoon we had a walk around the centre, led by local Rambler Margaret Lowe who told us of the history. I spotted coal tits and treecreepers.
We returned indoors for more workshops, and I was glad that we had a spare hour before supper. A few of us walked on the path which runs south-west along the side of the cliff. There was a spectacular sunset.
We reconvened for dinner, with an inspiring speech from Ramblers Cymru’s president Will Renwick
and an energetic Twmpath, led by Twmpathology.
On Sunday morning, after a short night, I was up at 6am to accompany my visually-impaired friend, Marika Kovacs, to the beach. We wanted to fit this in before I joined the organised pre-breakfast walk. It was a fine morning and the tide was out.
Marika hunted for pebbles and we both took a couple home to remind us of our visit to the sea.
Then I joined the official walk, along the cliffs where we had been the previous evening and beyond, to stunted woodlands which are designated as a site of special scientific interest.
The light on Penrhyn Glas headland was beautiful.
All too soon we had to head back to the centre
passing feral goats and kids, neatly camouflaged among the rocks.
That was the end of our walking opportunities. After breakfast we had a morning of formal AGM business and talks.
From the balcony we spotted a raptor floating on the thermals against the dark rock of Penrhyn Glas. Despite having my binoculars I cannot be sure what it was; it was large and reddish brown. The best fit is a marsh harrier but it did not seem the right habitat. I emailed Nant the following day and they are making inquiries. I do hope we can solve it.