So my adventure continues – this stage takes me from Llanidloes to Dolgellau. I am still wild camping every night, and haven’t taken a ‘day off’ from the trail yet (there’s one coming in this leg though…) My biggest issues so far have been condensation and drying my gear, and stopping for long enough to let my body rest, but getting cold in the process.
Day 23: Monday 11th March 2019
I didn’t sleep well last night at Llanidloes as I was on a bit of a slope, plus it was windy with rain on and off throughout the night. The tent had done really well though, as I knew the pegs hadn’t got a solid fix. When I woke, only two of the four pegs were still in the ground, but the tent was still standing! It did occur to me in the night that it was flapping more than usual, but I just couldn’t be bothered to get up and check it. I left at about 6.30am in a very cold wind – my little weather station showed 4 degrees, but it felt freezing.
My route today took me east on roads, following the Severn Way to the Hafren Forest picnic area. You can walk from here to the source of the River Severn, and it is also the official start of the Wye Valley Walk. This is a route I have made a mental note to return to another day with my family.
It was overcast but dry when I reached the picnic area at about 9am, so I stopped to make coffee. From here I headed roughly north-west to Machynlleth, and got there at 4.30pm. It was a good walk through the woods on very quiet roads, then I pushed on over the top on the high road (which was shut to traffic due to the high winds forecast). I stopped in a pub for a meal and sat right next to a plug socket to charge my equipment – I am getting rather good at this.
The weather had held pretty well today – it looked like rain several times, but it didn’t quite reach me. Road walking was quiet but it did become a bit of a slog, especially with the wind over the top. I did get my first views of a snow-capped Snowdon, though!
My problem now is the weather forecast. High winds are coming until Sunday, but I will probably reach Snowdon on Thursday. Do I miss Snowdon out, or wait for better weather in a B&B? Food for thought tonight.
Day 24: Tuesday 12th March 2019
Windy and very wet last night, which woke me a couple of times. I have made a decision, though – I am going to stay in Machynlleth for two days to sit out the wind on Snowdon. It’s impossible to climb it safely at the moment, or perhaps at all – there’s a weather warning out for high winds for most of the week.
Even with the delay, it will still mean walking in the wind and rain at the end of the week for two days to reach the base of Snowdon, but at least I will have sorted everything and rested my joints and muscles. I still have a very tight muscle causing pain in my lower right leg, and my left knee and hip has also been painful lately. This is possibly a result of all the road walking lately.
I got up in heavy rain and packed up totally inside the tent. I then took the tent down and put it dripping wet on the outside mesh pocket of my rucksack. My plan was to head back into Machynlleth to a cafe, then my wife had arranged an Airbnb room with the wonderful host Ann for a couple of nights so I could rest up and sit out the storm.
Whilst I was in town, I tried to sort a load of washing for the laundrette, but even if I stripped naked I didn’t have enough for a full load, so I hand-washed everything once I got to my accommodation. I was extremely appreciative of it once I’d settled in, and could hear the rain hammering down outside. I’ve made up my mind that the rest will do me good, and I will make up the days lost by being quicker later in the walk. I am worried that I may not finish at all if I don’t stop now, and if I try to walk (and climb Snowdon) in gale force winds. I just don’t want to take that risk.
I am still able to say I have wild camped every stage of the walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats, as I have backtracked to this accommodation! Planning my route around the weather is the major advantage of camping, as I have no bookings to make or meet. I don’t need to panic that I am behind schedule, and can sit out the storm here. However, I can’t shake the feeling of guilt when I’m sitting around though – I should either be getting on, or should be at home.
Day 25: Wednesday 13th March 2019
My first day off!
Reading that the summit of Snowdon has 60mph winds today has made me realise that I’ve made the right decision to wait in Machynlleth.
A day of reflections:
Forget the issue with the same colour bags for food and rubbish, as I’ve somehow lost the food bag. So that solves that problem, but I do miss it – it was useful and I don’t like change.
I’ve spent some of today sewing up the top of one of the corner pole sleeves on the tent as it annoyingly used to keep coming out. I’ve also swapped the insoles in my boots from the supplied ones, as they seem to be feeling a little thin and rougher than the Fresh Feet green foot beds I’ve put in. This has changed the pressure points too, so hopefully my feet will go longer before starting to hurt.
Boots update: you can read my original review of the Inov8 Roclite 345s here. Originally I suspected that the laces being round would mean they came undone more easily. I was wrong; I’ve had no issues with laces and the round lace loops lock the laces in place nicely. The boots have done over 300 miles now over a variety of terrain, and they are showing slight signs of wear. The bottom corner of the mesh has some holes developing and the soles have worn a little. I can already say that these are wearing better than the Inov8 Roclite 325s because by this mileage, they were already worn halfway down. If I cleaned these boots up a little, they would still look like a tidy boot around town.
Things I have had to purchase along the way:
Meths for the stove – this has been harder to find than I expected. However, I’ve only used about 500ml so far so it does last a long time. It’s a really efficient little stove and I could always use fuel gel or fuel tabs from outdoor shops if I get completely stuck.
Wet wipes – disinfectant type wipes are not available everywhere, but they have helped enormously with my hygiene and cleanliness. They are far more effective than I thought.
Food – I find it hard to carry enough useful calories and have used cafes and pubs a lot. This has helped with charging everything as nearly everywhere I have been has allowed me to plug things in. It’s also been essential for my morale to sit in a warm place and have a nice meal, good company and a chat. The food I’ve bought and carried has quite often been pasties, sandwiches, biscuits, chewy bars, chocolate, nuts, pasta salad and fruit cocktails, but I’ve got fed up quite quickly of the same old things. Apart from chocolate milk – I haven’t got sick of that yet!
I do buy fruit and healthy things when I can but these are often heavy and to get enough calories, add a lot to my pack weight. It does put me off buying it, if I’m honest!
I still enjoy olive bread and fruit loaf when I can get them, and if I’m buying for a few days I will get real butter which I spread generously on it all. I also buy Pot Noodles which aren’t high calorie, but they are tasty, warm and easy. Cappuccinos or double mochas are also essential supplies for a warm drink morning or evening. I always feel better in the tent when it’s damp or cold after a hot drink -as long as I’ve remembered water!
Day 26: Thursday 14th March 2019
Time to leave my comfy accommodation, and I walked out into lashing rain and a gale. Before I left Machynlleth, I posted home my can opener, my Rab leggings, a long-handled spoon and more diary notes.
Route 8 cycle ride is recommended – I enjoyed walking it after leaving Machynlleth, despite the foul weather. I climbed to over 400 metres, walking steadily through the forest, then the views opened up as I descended to Dolgellau. I didn’t stop here for long, as I didn’t feel I deserved a sit down meal after my day off yesterday. I grabbed a kebab and continued on the number 82 cycle route north.
It was a funny day today. I didn’t feel right after my day off, and couldn’t get back into my stride. I spent the whole day really worried that I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere to camp tonight, but I did eventually find a rough piece of unused ground hidden behind a wall (no fences or gates climbed – wild camping rule number 1). I just had time to make coffee and eat a fruit salad, then sorted out before it got dark. It was good to be back on the move again.