Today's stroll was triggered by an 'I need to go for a walk' message from John last week. So we rendezvoused in Llangurig, roughly half way between Timperley (Manchester) and Whitland (Pembroke), on a frosty morning, for a circuit over rolling hills and through planted forests on this 'blank on the map' for both of us.
A track sporting a dusting of snow (above) rose from Llangurig, past a sheep farm with objectionably smelly feed, up Pant-gwyn Hill.
We paused to admire a stand of Scots Pine, where the reflected sun and the ground cover had thawed any snow that had stuck hereabouts.
The path faded as we rose to a small summit at 512 metres, before plunging into forest along a marked path that drew us south west to emerge after a while above an expansive view towards the mid-Wales coast. The path down to a minor road negotiated some bog and peat hags, easily avoided by keeping to the frozen verges. Here we enjoyed elevenses by a Welsh Water information board that explained that we were at Blaen y Cwm, the northern tip of a tranche of 70 square miles owned by Welsh Water since around 1950. Welsh Water claim to be saving the natural wildlife and beauty of the area for the public. This, on the one hand, involves a ban on camping, and on the other hand the information board displays a plethora of engineering works and despoiling of the countryside which is deemed quite acceptable.
I acknowledge that such projects may be necessary to supply water to the cities, but why they should be accompanied by draconian restrictions on harmless activities like (responsible) camping?
Turning immediately away from the road, we headed over Craig Lluest. Only a short step on the map, but steeply up to a zone of deep tussocks...
Beyond the tussocks a frozen flooded track led back into the forest, much of which had been felled since our maps had been surveyed. Silent windmills under the clear blue sky seemed to have been planted in place of the felled trees.
By early afternoon the low sun was already casting long shadows.
Continuing along forest tracks we noticed they had been prepared for a motor rally - Wales Rally GB, the final round of the FIA World Rally Championship. A couple of official cars passed us, but luckily we were allowed to continue on our way. As I write this, two days later, I discover that stages have been cancelled due to ice! Health and Safety rules get everywhere, it seems! The tracks looked quite driveable to me.
Beyond Nanty we met this friendly donkey with a very thick fluffy coat. He took quite a shine to John and bawled in distress when we escaped from his field.
Our route took us past farms strewn with unkempt agricultural debris, and beside the infant River Wye that the local farmers have despoiled with their rubbish. A new walking route, the Wye Valley Walk, was apparent here. Luckily, the marsh over which it passes was well frozen today, but normally it could be a very wet experience. Interestingly, the route cunningly avoids the public footpaths through farmyards and keeps its distance from habitation where possible.
It was calm, and the river views, away from the debris, were fine.
We'd been moving slowly. John was not at his most lively, being stricken with grief following his wife Alison's death last month after a long illness. So instead of a final hour in poor light on the south side of the Wye on the Wye Valley Walk, we opted for a half hour stroll back to Llangurig beside the A44, which was mercifully free of traffic.
There's a fuller photographic record of this walk, viewable as a slideshow of 26 images - here.
Here's an outline of the 22 km route, which involves 700 metres of ascent and took us just under 7 hours, including breaks of well over an hour.
Today I used the Hi-Tec Altitude Ultra boots given to me by Darren on Saturday. First time worn outdoors, with trainers in my day sac in anticipation of 'rubbing' problems (new boots often irritate tendons in my ankles).
Were they comfy? Well, I noticed that they were still on my feet at 8 pm after a 3½ hour drive home (thanks in part to some idiots failing in their game of dodgems on the M56 motorway).
So, yes they were comfy. Very comfy.