The blustery Bank Holiday weather saw me tucked away beneath the Epynnt ranges before I headed to Shropshire to see an IFA as part of tidying up my affairs before resuming my travels. A quick trip to Sheffield to see Penny included a good walk around local hills and a trip to the extensive Treacle Market in Macclesfield which had the atmosphere and range of produce reminiscent of French village life.
A ride in to Lluest Cwm Bach bothy to see how the whitewash had turned out (a refreshingly bright makeover has further improved this unique gem) formed part of a good loop from Llangurrig to Rhayader and back via Cwmystwyth during which I also inspected Nant Rhys.
En route to North Wales we completed the delightful Precipice Walk near Dolgellau and explored the tracks around the old Brithdir copper workings that lie near another bothy : Nant Rhys.
Our stop for the night was unplanned but after checking out Cae Adda campsite on the southern shore of Trawsfynydd the sublime location, deserted field, excellent facilities and warm late afternoon sunshine made the decision for us and we enjoyed a a memorable night as a waxing gibbous moon rose - Google it !
Saturday saw us scale Cnicht - the Welsh Matterhorn apparently - followed by a loop round the extensive Croesor quarry workings : long since abandoned but still presenting a fascinating array of old workings, buildings and inclined planes. A strong draught issuing from the main level indicated extensive workings deeper in to the mountain - this fact later confirmed by a mines enthusiast who told us that a 6 hour through trip is possible with an abseil down in to workings that start on the other side of the range. However we were content to amble back to the village of Croesor and head north to the far side of the Carneddau for a wild camp high above Dolgarrog on a warm and sunny evening.
An early start saw us heading past the last occupied house sitting remotely at the head of the spectacular valley before a steep climb and an airy ridge saw us lunching below Carnedd Llewellyn.
As we reached the sumit the erratic clouds cleared only to surround us later as we descended north leading to a slight navigational error easily corrected at an early stage by Sarah's new Garmin.
Passing above Dulyn bothy we were back at the van after an eight hour day to share our quiet pitch with a couple in a blue Type 2 almost identical to my first air cooled VW back in the mid 80's.
We needed an easier day on the Sunday so parked at Tanygrisiau to explore other workings that led back to Croesor as part of a walk through a fascinating part of North Wales' industrial heritage.
Back at Cae Adda we had the tranquil site to ourselves and on the Monday started from there to circumnavigate the lake on a new cycle/walkway that passed the former reactor buildings now partially decommissioned. A new teashop nearby is to be highly recommended and after passing through Trawsfynydd village we took the metal walkway across the southern half of the lake to return to the site for another memorable evening.
Tuesday morning saw us walking the 'New Precipice Walk' on the southern end of the Rhinogs which is more demanding than the original but less well signed and offers a panoramic view over the estuary and across to Barmouth.
Finally we drove south stopping for a treat at the Cross Foxes pub which has had a much needed but sensitive makeover and checking out another T4 camper that is for sale - a nice example with only 90k on the clock, a decent conversion and in good order. However it would need the pop top changing to a high top for my needs which would add 20% to the asking price but I will retain the details just in case as my old girl topped the 300,000 mile milestone last week and is due an MOT this week.
East of Aberystwyth we found a remote and idyllic place I had stayed in last year that I felt would make a fitting finale to our week and we were rewarded well with no other occupants, a sunny evening, dinner cooked over an open fire and coffee under a full moon - it reminded us both of many special nights in similar circumstances across Europe and in particular New Zealand and Oz.
A quick trip to Shropshire saw the last tweaks to my financial arrangements and Mum's affairs before I head south in 3 weeks and I then returned to Brecon for the start of the 2014 Brecon Beast charity mountain bike event.
The usual suspects gathered on the Friday to erect signage, check gates, and assemble the bones of a feed station with a long day on Saturday seeing everything in place for the 900 or so riders who turned up for a mass start. Hundreds of riders had camped the night before and enjoyed the excellent catering provided by the Leisure Centre whilst others arrived in droves as the morning mist cleared.
A safety and pep talk brought us to 9am and with the crowd cheering a police escort took us down towards Llangorse and the first of many steep ascents - Crad and I saw the last rider through and then followed on removing the signage which set the tone for the day as other volunteers, marshals, sweep riders and the Mountain Rescue all chipped in to ensure the day ran smoothly. Back at event HQ another dedicated team had issued numbers, checked details and were in place to welcome the riders back with T shirts and applause.
A few minor injuries were as expected but good weather limited these and again the event was voted a major success with the riders expressing their appreciation to all involved to which I would like to add personal thanks to Dale, Crad, Jason and Al for another few days of laughs and mickey taking that seem to epitomise this remarkable event - in fact I might phone Al in person.......... ( an in joke).
So what a year - losing Dad exactly 12 months ago has been a massive jolt to the family and his many friends and resulted in many changes during that time - we have come through it as generally you do and Mum could not be in a better place surrounded as she is by two adoring grandchildren, the rest of the family, new neighbours and friends and a cosy house that reflects Dad's style and tastes but also has a definite aura of Mum's strength and personality about it. The opportunities for cultural and social exchange are remarkable in England's smallest town and the rolling Shropshire Hills are a joy to travel through.
My plans revolve around a migration south for the approaching winter and will as ever be reported here along with my progress at this link.
Piccies to entertain and amuse may well appear here and an invitation to join me in Portugal before Christmas, Morocco after February and Italy in the Spring is extended to anyone with a sense of humour and adventure.