There’s no telling what sort of jibberish is going to be coming out of my pen this evening. I am finally in front of a fire again, slowly drying and thawing out after an outlandishly exhausting 17 mile march across the Clywd National Park, taking in pretty much all of the summits that make up the mountain range within it. The photograph below was taken at around 0930 and shows my route, as I understood it to be, in my early morning optimism, with the last peak on the left being my final one. Fat chance, as I was discover during the following seven hours.
I had just completed a steep ascent onto the high ground and could see the various peaks of the Clywd range waiting for me to stroll over them on my way to Bodfari. My worry over the last few days, that the weather would be too inclement for me to navigate this longest up mountainous sections safely (I was going to do it whatever, but better weather would be, well, better), proved unfounded as the early morning shower had given way to a virtually cloudless sky and the probable prospect of decent weather, at least until I had scaled Moel Famau, the highest point on the traverse. What it doesn’t say in the instruction manual is that, between each of those peaks, there is a descent almost to the valley, only to start up on the next ascent almost immediately. Imagine a series of V- shaped ascents and descents, the top of each one called Moel something or other and you have a pretty good idea of the Clywd range. It doesn’t matter, by the way, how many Vs you decide to arrange in sequence, because after number three you are so exhausted that your mind numbs to each further one. Even my OS map was fooled and seemed to be a surprised as I was, when we arrived at what we both thought was the final Moel before we, finally and very deservedly, were going to be allowed to meander down to Bodfari, when whoosh, up we went again to the unpronouncable Penycloddiau fort. By this time it was getting dark and starting to rain and my hands, despite the gloves, were freezing from the icy strong wind that had been howling in my back from the south west almost all day.
The highest point of the trail (overall, I think) was Moel Famau (which I keep referring to in my head – remember I have had no-one to talk to for over 10 days, except people who say “Will that be all, love?” at some stage during our exchange – as Mo Farrer) at 554m. Moel Famau is famous for the Jubilee Tower, a hideous construction which squats like a giant version of Jabba the Hut in stone atop the equally hideous moonscaped summit of the mountain itself. The 360 degree views from the top are, admittedly, glorious, but the only impression I took with me was of the dark clouds rapidly forming in the south and being pushed towards us at rapid speed.
The final descent to Bodfari was a two mile walk down very steep tracks and field paths, horribly slippy and getting slippier by the minute, as the rain set in. I keep forgetting – and this happens every day – that even though the last sign that says “XYZ village 2 m” (that’s an example, not a Welsh name), gives me the feeling, after around 14 m, that we are almost there, those 2 ms are just as long as the first 2 ms of the day and indeed all the other 2ms inbetween, with the one exception that, irrespective of how far I have gone, I never really want to walk for more than 1 m at the most and my energy and feet awareness levels are at their low respectively their high points. Added to which in this part of the world, the last 2ms are invariably over very steep slippery banks or equally steep metalled roads and after 140 miles, I am still not sure which is worse.
As if to punish me for grumbling so much after what had been a wonderfully invigorating and exciting day’s walking, the last m seemed to go on forever and it was very dark and very rainy when I finally arrived at my accomodation, the Downing Arms in Bodfari. You can imagine how my entire being was screaming for a cup of tea, the chance to take my boots off and the prospect of a bath. It was 1705 when I arrived and found..the pub was shut and a sign informed me politely that the opening hours were from 1800. I resigned myself to an hour in the pouring rain sitting at a drenched bench-table by the side of the main road, watching the evening traffic go by. As it happens, my wait wasn’t quite that bad and the publican arrived to show me to the fire and to my quarters. I am not going to dwell on my room tonight, suffise it to say, if this were any other month than January, I would probably be sharing the room with 5 others in the bunk beds and arranging myself with my roommates in the outdoor shower house, the floor of which is not quite finished. I knew that I was going to have to pay the price for my night of luxury in Bodidris Hall Hotel last night. I have now experienced both ends of the scale described by “four poster bed” within 24 hours.
Tomorrow I start at 0700 – nothing is going to keep me in that room a minute longer than necessary – for the final leg to Prestatyn. Tradition states that those who have successfully completed the Offas Dyke Trail walk down to the beach and take off their boots and socks and wash their feet in the North Sea. I can’t wait.