Having thoroughly enjoyed myself exploring the quieter areas of mighty Snowdonia national park, I was pretty buoyed to be heading off again on my final leg of this amazing adventure.
The plan was fairly simple, do the middle, that is to join up sections between Bala and Harlach that I had yet to complete, a journey of around 30 miles or so once looped.
I arrived early to my spot, the land still shed it darkness, it was a little after 7am on a rather chilly November morning, the frost had crept in over the last few weeks and the world glistened and sparked in the pale morning light as I drove to my destination. Dolhendre Isaf is better known for the little caravan park that offers some amazing door step adventures, I had checked google before hand seeking a car park or a space to plonk my car and was pleased to see a little spot just over a bridge, however when I arrived some building work had taken place and the space was now a dumping ground for a rather large pile of hardcore. I drove back and forth unsure where to park and finally settled on sticking it next to the phone box which seemed to be out of the way of traffic.
I changed into my gear, prepped Millie and off we set, the familiar beep of my watch starting signaled Millie to start running (she is well trained to this now), the roads here held little in the way of name, my original plan was to head off onto Castell Cardochan and run west across the open area of Waun y Grifafolen, but having discussed with people more familiar with the area and hearing of the certainty of the bog of doom, I opted to navigate around this area and instead took a footpath that linked Craig-y-tan and Baurthmeni.
As per my usual routine, my path became something of a mission in itself, I was pretty certain that this was rather less than visited area, the absence of footpath signs and any actual path on the ground signaled the usual palaver of getting temporarily misplaced in the space. Despite this the world began to come alive with a color I have become familiar with over the course of running Wales, a pink hue bathed the land in the most amazing glow, the crystal white frost picking up the warm pinks and red.
I trudged across the land, familiar with the wet that seeps from underneath in Wales, we walked some and ran some, stopping periodically to recheck my position, a farmer looked on but paid me no more attention as I definitely looked lost. Across from Coed Dolfudr I took the path across a small footbridge here I had to utilise the handle on my Gopro to bash open the latch, frozen solid in the early morning it was fairly impossible to open otherwise.
I joined the road by the farm, but as I neared what was supposed to be the footpath, I lost track of where it went. A farm sat stead fast in the way with no actual sign the path was there, a rather boisterous farm dog sounded its disapproval at our presence and with no visible through road I opted not to try this and instead try to cross the river further up.
From the farm, I was able to spot a rather impressive looking waterfall in the distance and started making my way to it. Again there was no formal path, so the usual slog through the undergrowth was had as I headed in its general direction, the roaring and elemental sound produced by big waterfalls always fills me with a sense of wonder. I stood for a few moments and gazed at the sight, before following a rough sheep track along the Afon Lliw, having seen that the footpath ran directly opposite my side, I intended to try and cross and thus rejoining the path at this part, unfortunately this was not going to be possible, despite the river only being some 5/6ft wide, it was more than waist deep and ran quickly, with the temp today below 3, taking a dip was not on the cards and I had to make the decision to turn back, this pretty much dealt a death blow to my plans to complete Snowdonia, only 20 miles short I had no choice, there was no real way of joining this up and my time was short.
I headed back down to the road, passed the farm and took another look for the path, which appeared to go straight across the farm yard, but with both gates tied shut, there was no real way of getting through. I ran the road, not passing another person, in fact in the whole time I had been out so far I had not seen anyone else. People often talk about how busy Snowdonia is, yes the actual mountain is, but Snowdonia national park is a lot bigger than one place.
The roads are barely used in this part of the world, life is quiet here, roads are covered in moss and grass advertising the lack of footfall, all the while the hills of Moel Llyfnant and Ban y Merddwr capped in a dusting of snow offered a glimpse into an alpine style view and adventures yet to be had.
I backtracked following the route with ease, passing dense forests and quiet lanes and farms, I cut through the dense and rather spooky woodland of Coed Wanalt, despite the rather spooky nature of this still and quite woodland, I cant help but feel more at home in its presence than other habbitats, a short and downward paths led me towards the back of the caravan park where I was soon back at my car.
I made the decision to head back where I had come from and make the ascent to Castle Carndochan, there was no formal footpaths signs here, a dirt track led upwards past newly installed electrical substation and past disused mine workings where gold was mined up until 1902, quartz boulders were also found scattered around the hillside and contained gold. perhaps it was worked during the castles time and the Roman presence in the area may not have gone un-noticed but there is little archaeological evidence to suggest they mined here.
There was a steep gradual climb up along a rough farm track where the direction of the track dictated I cover some rougher uneven ground, more bog followed and slowly the remains of the castle began to take shape. I have always been more fascinated by the boulder/rubble remains of castles than actual still standing castles, they were remarkably well preserved with quite well defined structures, the lay out still noticeable today.
From this vantage point, it offers an outstanding view across to Lake Bala and the Roman fort of Caer Gari, although there is little evidence to suggest the Romans occupied this area, but given its strategic point it would hard for the Romans to have not had anything here. I looked out across my original planed route, which from the vantage appeared quite a straight forward affair, but I was made aware that the area was pot marked with underground streams, hidden bogs and other risky walking bit that would make any crossing difficult even in good weather.
I recorded a Facebook video, mulled over my time spent running across all the parks and you know what, I’m happy. I didn’t fully complete my ultimate goal, but I have learned a lot about myself and my abilities. what I am capable of and that if I put my mind to it, I can achieve some pretty awesome things.