Trek Report: Wandering around Wales

Last weekend Heley and I did our final practise trip in preparation of our 380-mile walk. We walked the best part of 50 miles across and two and a half miles up during three and a half days.

It was forecast to rain for four days. The forecast was wrong. Instead we had beautiful weather to complete a route that can only be described as insane. It took Heley until the fourth day to realise how crazy the route was. If we do decide to do another practise trip, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be allowed to choose the route.

Day 1: Thursday

The first day saw us rolling up in Llangynog a little after 10 am, having been to the supermarket for provisions. Setting off at 10.30 was hardly an ideal start to the trip; getting there a few hours earlier would have made the day a lot easier, but setting off at all was at least a start.

For the remainder of the morning we walked from Llangynog to Llanrhaeadr Waterfall. Heley managed to twist her ankle along the way. The start we were making to Day 1 was becoming increasingly less ideal. The waterfall was beautiful, the sun was shining, the lady serving the tea was polite and the tea itself was wonderful. My first cup of tea of the trip was closely followed by my second. Little did I realise how long I was going to have to wait until my next cuppa.

View from Post GwynWe then started our first major ascent of the trip, first to the top of the waterfall, then onwards to Post Gwyn, a subsidiary summit of Cadair Berwyn. Wiki has this to say:

“The summit is the highest bump on the most westerly of Cadair Berwyn’s long south ridges. This ridge has a peat bog covering, with the heather being very deep. No well trodden paths have developed here and the summit is seldom visited.”

We can confirm that it is seldom visited; we can also confirm that the heather is very deep, and the peat bog is very boggy. We spent a long time walking along this particular ridge. Heley’s ankle was not happy about this; neither was my left knee.

Eventually we met the main road, where we could see some crazy mountain bikers dropping down the hill that we were climbing next.  Over and down into the next valley, we dropped past Pennant Melangell and up into the hills again for our first night’s sleep under a tarp.

Day 2: Friday

The second day saw us walking alongside lakes, rivers and onwards to another waterfall.

We made a couple of slight navigation errors. One saw us walking a mile further east than we should have and the other led to us having to walk through a large stream leading into Lake Vyrnwy.

Jungle... honestFighting our way through steep slopes covered in sharp plants that seem to sting or bite and following that with stepping from stone to stone through a stream under the cover of trees made us feel like we were in a jungle. It was a very small, tame jungle that happened to be located in North Wales, but a jungle nonetheless.

Over the dam and into Llanwddyn we got drink fizzy drinks and I had a bacon sandwich. Heley had a mint feast. Fizzy drinks, bacon and ice cream – it was the start of a very pleasant afternoon.

We walked along the lake and through some fields up to Rhiwargor Waterfall. The sun was shining, we’d arrived at an intended location, and we weren’t feeling as injured as the previous day. It was feeling a little more like the trip was supposed to, and a little less like I had drawn a crazy squiggle on a map linking as many hills, rivers and valleys together as possible.

Then the midges made an appearance. Brilliant training for any battles with the great Scottish Midge, unfortunately our current preparations were not adequate. Clouds of midges surrounded us, to the extent that we were walking around eating in the hope they wouldn’t keep up with us. To be fair, I’d score it as even. For every bite out of me that they took I have probably either killed or consumed one that had stupidly landed in my smash or my tea.

The midges made for an unpleasant start to the evening, but at least we had our new tent to play with and escape to.

Day 3: Saturday

We’d done the bulk of the planned distance in the first two days, tomorrow would be an easy day, but this one was always planned to be short but hard. Heley started off miserable having not slept well, and then slowly got worse. The midges in the morning hadn’t helped, nor had the fact my route started with a steep ascent. Then a descent, then another ascent.  This was followed by a loop around a river to a spot where we could recognise as being about half an hour walk from where we started. Then we got to walk through more bog and heather. Neither of us was very happy at this point. On the bright side, there were some absolutely stunning views up there.

RainbowIt was all over by mid-afternoon, and we finally reached our camping spot for the night. We stopped and brewed a couple of cups of tea, we chatted, Heley lit a fire using the magnesium fire starter, we pitched the tarp all in time to watch it start to rain a little. The most stunning rainbow I’ve ever seen made an appearance, along with a second rainbow, which seemed to only be there to indicate how awesome the first was.

Day 4: Sunday

We woke up early, cleared up camp and set off in the cold. We had a short walk into Llangynog, where we were meeting a friend of mine before heading on yet another walk up a hill. He had said to knock as early as we wanted, he obviously didn’t mean half past nine on a Sunday morning.

Phill and Heley up a hillThe extent of my insanity became clear to Heley after we met Karl. Karl took us on a pleasant walk along a footpath and up a hill. It was a sharp contrast to the hard, winding walks that we were now used to. It was the most enjoyable walk of the weekend, mostly along bits of footpath, our rucksacks felt light, there was no heather to do battle with, no bogs, no doubling back, and other than a few ferns, and the ascent was plain sailing.

The craziness that had been our route through some of the hills and valleys of North Wales was pretty much over, and we got to enjoy the walk. I’d put us through a few very tough days, so it was a welcome reminder of how pleasurable walking through the hills on a sunny day really can be.

We had a few photos taken of us near the top, and wandered past a few caves and back down into Llangynog.


The idea of ‘train hard and the real thing comes easy’ has its pitfalls; for example, being demoralised, tired, and injured. On the bright side, we’ve come through everything really well. We encountered more than enough problems, from tough terrain and troublesome plants to issues with insects and injuries.

I can’t say I enjoyed every minute of the trip, but that was never the plan. We needed to make sure that we took advantage of this trip to fully prepare for our walk around Scotland, and I think we managed to do that. We coped with everything my route threw at us, and kept on going.

Next stop… Scotland.


Please remember to visit our Donation Page to help us to raise money for DC Boxing. More photos of the trip can be seen on our Facebook page.

Phill’s Ely trek report

The first warm-up trek for our 350 mile trek has been completed. We covered almost 50 miles in 2 days. It rained.

We set off during the worst of the rain, but moving along at a good pace, we felt we were getting there quickly. About 10 miles in, I began to suffer. My feet were wet. I knew I’d be getting blisters on this journey, but had no way of preventing them whilst pools of water formed inside my “waterproof” boots.

Almost as bad as following the sun all day.

We probably should have paid more attention to which direction we were travelling in

We could see Ely Cathedral in the distance, my mood lifted, and onwards we continued. We sort of knew the route; it was just a case of following the river. We were content, making good time and everything was flowing nicely. We chatted, we walked and we rested when we needed to. We did not look at the map properly. We couldn’t pinpoint where we were on the map exactly, but we were following the river, so we must be right. I’m glad we learnt this particular lesson during our warm-up trek. Here’s a picture, can you guess what we did wrong?

Yes, we quite happily followed the river round a bend and started walking in the opposite direction. We ended up walking up the A10 to get back on track, adding hours to our journey, and leading to a long hard trek past our campsite into Ely. Also, I accidently left my phone’s GPS switched on, so the battery was dead by the time we arrived in Ely.

Fizzy drinks, sandwiches and ice-cream saw us watch the sun set before another 3 mile hike through to our campsite. We phoned the campsite to say we running late. The owner said not to worry and to just knock on the first caravan on the right.

Happily arriving at our destination, the first caravan looked deserted, we phoned up again and were told to knock on the door and to ask for Michael. We did so and out came a rather unhappy Michael. He wandered back into his caravan. Then he wandered back out and apologised, noting that he wasn’t going to lie to us, he had had a few. Travelling towards his office, he realised that keyless he’d not have much luck with the door, and so returned to the caravan to get his keys. Twenty minutes later and we were finally ready to pitch the tent.

Once we got sorted and settled down it was 11pm, so straight to bed. I slept quite happily most of the night, but was perhaps a little on the warm side. In the morning we had a nice cup of tea and got ready to set off.

It was then we were greeted by Michael, who asked if we stayed there last night, whether he had met us, and whether we had paid. He then quite happily wandered back off, and we set off on our journey. The next two hours were pleasantly uneventful.

Just after 11am we were wet, hungry and demoralised. We also had the misfortune to stray slightly off the path, walking along a track, which bent around right back to the footpath. I say misfortune, we were walking past caravans through a Marina and although we were hungry, we weren’t doing too badly. As I said, it led straight back to the footpath so we were fine. Had we known we didn’t have to walk around the outside of the marina, we would have saved ourselves a couple of hundred metres, so there was a little wasted effort on our part.

However, like a Brothers Grimm fairy-tale, we had our first Hansel and Gretel experience. We encountered a particularly vile woman, who was extremely concerned that we were quietly walking through private property within metres of a public footpath. Could we not read a map? Sarcasm and bitterness obviously ran through her veins. We felt suitably accosted and apologetically scuttled off as quickly as possible, before she could potentially eat us. So there we have it, perhaps not a cannibalistic witch, but certainly a troll under the bridge.

From there we stopped for lunch during a break in the weather, perhaps earlier than we should have, but certainly in need of nourishment. We definitely need more food that we can snack on whilst walking.

Tuna and rice, along with a good cup of tea, helped ease the pain of the journey, and we set off just as the weather decided to rain again. I left my warm jacket on and promptly had to take it back off a couple of hundred metres later when I realised I was now too warm.

To make up 20 miles for the day we walked a little towards Cambridge, then away a little, then towards again. This, along with the stop-start rain, made for a very up-down journey. The sun is shining, we’re heading towards Cambridge, all is good. Oh dear, we’re walking slightly away from Cambridge, it’s raining on us again, and Heley has just navigated us round a neat little circle, not so happy now. Up, down, up, but we continued through it, and at least everywhere else we visit is not going to be a twenty minute car journey from home.

Getting back to Cambridge was good. We were greeted with glasses of coke and waddled off to kickboxing. I say waddled, Heley walked, she was more or less blisterless. With my heavy old waterproof boots I managed to achieve 17 blisters; I waddled.

I learnt a lot this weekend. I’m glad I’m getting new boots, I’m glad I’m not walking alone, and I now realise that somewhere between 350 and 380 miles is a bloody long way to walk. I’m quite looking forward to it.Sun setting over Ely