With a busy Bank Holiday weekend planned, there was never going to be much time for walking and camping but I realised a few years ago that A Day’s Walking doesn’t have to be done in the conventional order of Morning – Afternoon – Evening; if you set off in the evening then you can walk, camp and walk again and still have the best part of two days at home to catch up with Real Life.
I wanted a point-to-point walk, so that meant using public transport rather than my car. Have you seen the price of rail tickets? And how come a single is 90% of the price of a return? Deterred by the cost of two single tickets, I changed my plan from a linear to a large horseshoe walk.
The train was 15 minutes late arriving at Llanfairfechan and my optimistic aim of reaching Pen Y Castell before dark was now looking even less achievable, but I stuck to the general plan and headed South. No GPS, just head away from the sea and towards the hills. The hills which were covered in mist (very helpfully disguising the climb which lay ahead).
The weather was quite close and muggy and I was glad I’d chosen to wear shorts and T-shirt rather than anything heavier. Hopefully the midgies would be having a night off?
I found a sign-post for the North Wales Path and began the climb up Garreg Fawr. The mist was soon all around me but the path was wide and clear so I just kept going Up and South looking for the point where the path made a sharp turn to the West. Unable to see any distant points of reference, like the double line of pylons which should have been crossing my path shortly, I stopped to have a closer look at the map. When I looked up I became aware of a ghostly shape emerging from the mist – a young, white horse staring at me. I put my map away and the horse vanished back into the mist.
As I climbed higher the mist cleared from the path and had rolled downhill into the valley. I could now look for a flat patch of ground, away from the path, to pitch my bivi tent. With the light fading, I put my couscous on to cook whilst putting up the tent. The midgies soon spotted me so I slapped on the insect repellent but they seemed content to merely pester rather than bite.
I ate my dinner watching the mist climb half way up the hill then change its mind and slide back down to the valley.
Lying in the bivi tent with the “viewing window” unzipped I watched the stars appear as the evening got darker. Just starting to fall asleep, I jumped up at the sight of a shooting star. I hoped that this was the precursor for a meteor shower that I just can’t see from my light-polluted town, but I only saw the one.
By 6am the light was returning and I took a look outside. The mist was now everywhere and, not yet having the benefit of the warmth from the sun, I went back to sleep.
By 8am I was packed up and walking. The mist made navigation interesting. Once again I was on good paths but couldn’t see anything in the distance and not all of the paths were marked on my Landranger map. I turned on my GPS to record my track and was pleased to see when I got home that I’d been where I thought.
The mist cleared once I’d reached the outskirts of Conwy and I followed the minor roads into the town. On a future trip, without the pressure of a railway timetable, I’d take the various footpaths, bridleways and even Byways Open to All Traffic which you don’t see too many of these days – although my map may be out-of-date.
In total I walked about 15 miles and was away from home for less than 24 hours. A short trip that made the most of the limited time available.