The Horseshoe Pass is where I go when I want to go for a walk but can’t think where to go. The Ponderosa Cafe is in a brilliant location; it can be really bleak and horrible up there (like today) or gloriously sunny and a perfect Sunday day out. In the summer, many people don’t even leave the carpark and you can hear the kids screaming from half a mile away.
Today it was quiet, even though I didn’t get there until 10:30. I started the day in a B&B down the road in Llangollen following an evening on the Llangollen Railway “Rail and Ale” train. Following a HUGE breakfast, I dressed appropriately for a cold, wet, Welsh day in the hills and drove up the pass. I could just about see the radio masts to the North, so the weather wasn’t too bad compared with previous times I’ve been there. There was a white van, with three tents next to it, on the grass opposite the cafe. I’ve never seen anyone camp there before but I doubt anyone bothered them at this time of year.
I had a rough plan to head East and follow a circular route via Worlds End and Offa’s Dyke Path then drop down to the car from the North. Of course, I started off by following the wrong path – my eyes were streaming from the cold wind and I just couldn’t be bothered to read the map properly! I altered my route slightly and was soon back on the intended path.
I’ve become very dependent on my GPS and I made every effort not to look at it today. Yes, I did look occasionally but only after I had worked out where I was (down to a 6 figure Grid Ref rather than my usual “somewhere round here”). Navigation is a mix of direction, observation, map-reading and timing and it’s often the timing I get wrong. I was quite pleased with myself when I calculated that it should take me about half an hour to find one of the turnings I needed and, hey presto, there it was after 29 minutes – helpfully marked with a clear sign. (I’d even ignored a turning, after about 15 minutes, which looked quite tempting.)
Only the foul-weather walkers were out today and I only saw three people on the hills. Two were sitting, eating their lunch, under the limited shelter of the trees at Gribin. I met the other one during a sleet storm and he greeted me with the words “Are you a nutter?!”, to which I replied that I was wondering what sort of wierdo he was. We agreed that we were both right in our opinions and wished each other an enjoyable walk.
The going was very soft in some places and it was quite hard work to stay upright with my feet slipping away in the mud. The bleak stretch of Offa’s Dyke Path, going NW towards Llandegla Forest, is mainly covered with duckboards which definitely helped – apart from where the sleet was slippy or where the boards provided a perfect slipway for a raging torrent of water.
By the time I reached the radio masts, the visibility had closed in quite a bit and I couldn’t see the Ponderosa until I was a couple of hundred yards from it. I declined the opportunity to visit Watkins Tower; in fact I don’t think I’ve ever been there – so there’s an option for next time.
Back at the car, I was glad to change into warm, dry clothes and drink my flask of hot-chocolate. I talked myself into needing a plate of chips, despite still being quite full from breakfast, but (un)fortunately the cafe had stopped serving so I had to behave myself and go home for my tea.
Distance walked: just under 10 miles. Total ascent: about 450m, I think.