214 (pm) Tre’r-ddol to Machynlleth

From Tre’r-ddol the Wales Coast Path follows the main A487, before turning off and leading uphill through woodland. From here the path follows a route just inland and running vaguely parallel to the road.

 inland coast path, Ruth hiking the Wales Coast Path

By now I’m nowhere near the coast, and getting further away with each step. Normally this forced deviation would fill me with aggravation – but I decide to relax and simply accept the route I’ve been given.

In fact, today will turn into one of the best day’s of walking I’ve ever had.

Uphill I go, and the roar of traffic from the A487 gradually fades away. I reach a field where the footpath has been diverted, creating a long and unnecessary slog around the edge of a field.

fields and mountains in the distance, Ruth hiking through Wales

Later, I will be spurred to write an angry blog post about footpath deviations, but now I’m just worrying about reaching Machynlleth before sunset.

The path has become a bridleway. I stop and sit on the moss-covered wall at the side of the path for a quick drink and a snack. Sunlight is dappling the path, the birds are singing, it’s unusually warm for October, and I feel completely at peace with the world.

woodland walking, Ruth trekking in Wales

At the top of the path I come across a country lane, where a woman has just parked her car and is getting her dog out for a walk. He is a big, fierce creature, who barks aggressively at me. I call him a ‘good doggie’, but he fails to respond to my friendly overtures.

Unfortunately, for the next 1/2 hour or so, my route coincides with hers, which means I’m never far away from the hound, and my peaceful walk is punctuated by the sound of distant barking.

Still, the views are wonderful. I can see right across the estuary. Tomorrow I will be walking along the slopes on the other side.

 view across River Dovey, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path

With my camera on full zoom I take a photograph looking back over the mouth of the estuary, and at the exposed sands (the tip of Ynyslas) where I walked yesterday.

view to Aberfyfi, Ruth hiking in Wales

My path seems to suffer another diversion around the edge of a field, but this is poorly signposted and I lose my way several times. By the time I reach a little river (the Afon Einion), I’m really worried about reaching Machynlleth before dark.

I stop on the bridge to take photographs of the river.

 Afon Einion, Ruth walking to Machynlleth

By now I have shaken off the woman with the big dog, and the rest of my walk is spent in blissful solitude.

From the river valley the path climbs again and joins a track…

 uphill again, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path near Machynlleth

… before emerging onto open hillside. I am on the shoulder of a hill, called Foel Fawr (meaning a large, bare hill) and the views are stunning.

 slopes of Foel Fawr, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path

My progress becomes even slower as I keep stopping to take photographs. It’s a wonderful place.

view from Foel Fawr, Ruth hiking in Wales

I decide I should give up coast walking and take up hill walking instead.

The bracken around me has turned into its autumn colours of bronze and gold. but the leaves on the trees in the valley are only just beginning to turn. In a few more weeks the colours will be wonderful.

coming down off Foel Fawr, Ruth Livingstone hiking in Wales

After following the shoulder of the hill for about a mile – a glorious mile of light and air – the path dips down the slope, ending in a knee-jarring scramble to meet a lane at a place called Melindwr.

Here I come across a footpath sign that provides some helpful mileage numbers. I’ve come 9 miles from Borth. But still have 6 miles to go before I reach Machynlleth.

signpost, Ruth's coastal walk, Wales

It’s 4pm. Just over two hours of daylight left. I should make it, but will have to get a move on. My normal average walking speed over rough ground is only 2 mph. I need to aim for 3 mph.

Unfortunately, the next mile or so is relentlessly uphill along a tiny road. I meet a school minibus, and some mothers collecting their children in cars. One lady stops and asks me if I am lost. I explain I’m looking for the coast path. She points me in the right direction.

endless uphill, Ruth walking from Borth to Machynlleth

Near the top of the hill the path leaves the lane and climbs up through bracken to the shoulder of another hill. Craig Caerhedyn, says my map. The way is passable but rough and overgrown…

12 overgrown path, Craig Caerhedyn, Ruth trekking in Wales

… before widening out into a clearer track. There are more lovely views. I think I am looking at Machynlleth across the valley, but when I check my map I realise it’s probably the village of Pennal.

 towards Pennal, Ruth walking to Machynlleth

As I come down off the hill I pass a gate with a sign advertising a barefoot run. 51 miles! And with no shoes! Are these people crazy?

 barefoot running sign, Ruth in Wales

Albutt Shoes must be a footwear company. I wonder why it’s sponsoring a barefoot run? It seems counter productive. But, I can’t stand here all day wondering about it. Onwards.

I’ve reached a place called Caerhedyn. I’ve realised that even two-house no-places appear on the Wales OS maps. There is really not much here at all.

Caerhedyn, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path, Machynlleth

It’s nearly 5 o’clock. The sun is low in the sky and the valley has fallen into shadow. I hesitate and reassess my plans for the day.

If I carry on down the road I can reach the A487 in 10 minutes or so. From there I could walk on pavements (if there are any) towards Machynlleth. The alternative is to continue following the official Wales Coast Path and run the risk of getting caught in the dark.

But I can’t bear the thought of the busy road. And I remember I have a torch in my rucksack. Yes. I’m going to carry on.

I walk along a track and head up the Llyfnant Valley. A couple of teenage boys are coming down the path and clearly heading home for tea. Otherwise, I meet nobody. It’s a beautiful solitary walk, climbing steadily among trees, following the banks of a pretty river.

up the Llyfnant Valley, Ruth hiking in Wales

Further uphill and the nature of the path changes. This is a logging area. Great machines have cut swathes across the hillside. The trunks have been gathered up, but smaller branches, roots and debris lay strewn across the route.

 logging path, Ruth walking to Machynlleth

I walk quickly, almost jogging now. The ravaged landscape and the darkening sky combine to create a sense of urgency.

At last I reach the top. Forty minutes until sunset. Perhaps an hour of reasonable light left. Only 2 miles to go before I reach the lamp-lit streets of Machynlleth. I should make it.

top of the hill, Ruth Livingstone, long distance trail, Wales

The path takes a right-angled turn and heads down another valley.

I’ve left the forestry industry behind and now I’m in sheep country. They seem startled to see me, and I start a minor stampede.

valley of the sheep, Coed Garth-Gwynion, Ruth hiking in Wales

I make progress at a brisk trot, grateful to be going downhill. My path joins a lane and I’m walking on easy tarmac.

getting dark, Ruth hiking in Wales

I meet a jogger wearing a fluorescent yellow jacket. And I remember I have day-glow armbands in my rucksack. I stop to put them on. There is no traffic on the road, but it’s still a road.

A few minutes later and I realise I needn’t have bothered. The road double back on itself, and the footpath heads off across a field to my left. Actually, not across the field. More like straight up!

It’s a long hard climb. Too steep to go faster than a crawl speed. The photograph below does not do justice to the cruelty of the slope.

steep hill Gelli-lydan, Ruth on Wales Coast Path, Machynlleth

At this point I feel the Wales Coast Path is having a good laugh at my expense. But, when I reach the top of the climb, I find I’m back on a quiet road. There’s still a further uphill climb to make – but at least the ground is firm underfoot.

Near the top of the hill there is a footpath junction, where another National Trail – Glyndwr’s Way – joins up with the Wales Coast Path.

 Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path, near Machynlleth

A few hundred yards further along and the footpath turns off the road. The river valley is open below me and there is Machynlleth, with the last rays of the setting sun lighting up the hillside. It’s a beautiful sight.

 Wales Coast Path into Machynlleth, Ruth Livingstone

I decide I should time every walk to finish at sunset. There is a wonderful feeling about coming down out of the countryside with dusk falling and the sky darkening.

a23 ancient lane leading down to Machynlleth, Ruth walking in Wales

The path becomes a sunken lane and is stony underfoot, the surface slippery beneath a layer of autumn leaves.

I watch my step, anxious not to fall. And, as the path gets steeper, I realise I am walking down a set of steps

 Machynlleth Roman Steps, Ruth's coastal walkThey must be old. The surfaces are worn smooth with age.

It’s a pity the light is too dim for further photographs, because when I reach the end of the path I see a sign.

Roman steps? How wonderful. Yes, very old indeed.

In the town the street lights are coming on and traffic is heavy with people coming home from work.

Tomorrow I will cross the estuary and head back towards the sea. But I can’t complain about today. It’s been a fantastic walk. Full of variety. Full of challenges. Wonderful.

Notes: Later I learn that Allbuttshoes is not the name of a shoe company, but the name of a blog run by a lady called Lynne Allbutt, who has run 51 miles across Wales, barefoot.

Miles walked today from Borth: 16 miles
Total along Wales Coast Path = 603 miles
Total distance around the coast: 2,210 miles

Route this afternoon:

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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17 Responses to 214 (pm) Tre’r-ddol to Machynlleth

  1. Wow! Well done for completing it before it got dark….I remember thinking the same thoughts when I saw the sign for the 51 mile barefoot run!!

  2. Alan Palin says:

    Hi Ruth, well done to doing 16 miles over quite challenging terrain. It was some 6 years ago when I completed Glyndwyr’s Way, basically a large circular route around mid-Wales, but on my doorstep.

    I estimate now that I may catch you up somewhere in Lancashire, as I need to walk to Cardigan, the the Amroth to Chepstow, then Minehead to Chepstow.

  3. jcombe says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed this walk. I certainly did, I did it earlier this year. Whilst certainly not really coastal it is still a very lovely walk and also quite remote. I did it the other way so it got easier as I went though!

    The stretch through the woodland, where the trees had been chopped down was subject to a closure order when I was there, due to the tree operations. The diversion was along that A-road all the way (and it was a long diversion too). So I ignored it and continued through the woods. The path was fine, but it was the weekend, so there wasn’t any work going on. Good to see the closure has gone now.

  4. Julie Elliott says:

    Oh yes, the rising panic as its getting dark…! I think you were calmer than I would have been.

  5. earthoak says:

    Glad you made it before dark – and also admire your navigation skills; away from the coast the path is always trickier to decipher. All the photos are great – but the header photo at the top of the page is stunning – the greens and blues mixed with autumn colours is a wonderful sight!

    • Not sure if I have many navigation skills! My Garmin is the only reason I don’t spend my time completely lost.
      Thank you for your comment on the photos. This time of year is so wonderful for photography, when the sun is low and slanting across the landscape, and everything is golden. I love it. (It has to be sunny, of course!)

  6. Gayle says:

    I’m generally pretty relaxed about footpath re-routes, but I do recall that one annoying me due to the combination of extra distance and lack of obvious reason for it. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I had a rant to my husband about it when he met me later in the day. (As an aside, the funniest diversion notice I ever came across, albeit only a temporary one, was a 12km detour due to a closure of a <50 metre section of path. Needless to say, I didn't follow the diversion!)

    I had to smile at your photo of the barefoot running sign, with its request that it be left in place as it will be removed after the event. It was there (and the nails already rusty) when I passed through on 17 September 2014. I guess they forgot to go and collect that one and everyone since has heeded the request not to remove it!

    • Funny what we notice and remember about our walks. It’s often the quirky odd things – like the barefoot running sign. Or the annoying stuff – like the detour. There should be an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for the most ridiculous diversion ever. I think your 12km detour would win the prize!

  7. Marie Keates says:

    The barefoot run sounds slightly strange. I’m not sure I’d like walking barefoot on that terrain. Commando’s running group often do naked runs but this just means without GPS watches or tracking devices. I e had a few walks where I’ve been chasing the light so I understood the sense of urgency and slight feeling of panic that goes with it. Glad you made it in the nick of time.

  8. deevmom says:

    Hi Ruth,
    I am just reading this now and wanted to tell you about two sisters in the US who hiked the Appalachian Trail, barefoot. They wrote a book about it called “The Barefoot Sisters.” I love your blog. I am a hiker in the US. Dee Kysor

    • How interesting. Can’t believe they did it barefoot!!! Bad enough hiking long distances with BOOTS on your feet 😱 Shall have to look out for the book (I love reading walking books, don’t you?) Best wishes.

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