Fire, water and slate. A week in Wales

Mawddach Estuary

Gwynedd, August.

An old cottage, walls an arm-depth thick, hidden in the dappled sunlight of a wood at the foot of a mountain.
Gold crests, nuthatches and treecreepers fly over the roof.
Through the windows comes the sound of the river.
It pours under a stone bridge draped in ivy, moss and lichen.


Darkness surrounds us – no moon, no stars, no street lights.
Pages turn, the fire crackles.
A pause: “The baby’s moving again..”


Cadair Idris and heather

A walk.

Me, my fiancee and our soon-to-be baby.
High on a ridge, purple and yellow and humming with bees.
A strong breeze, heather scented.
White clouds scud across a blue sky, over the sheer walls of the Cadair, the rock throne of the Mountain Giant, Idris.

A ruined chapel, its graveyard full of farmers and their families.
Hard, short lives.
Could they look out from their resting places they would see the fields they used to tend, still full of sheep, wagtails and crows.
I like to think they’d smile.


A ride/A swim

Geese flying in formation up the estuary, below them slow brown eddies move inland withe the tide.
The rising water creeps up the mud, pushing curlew towards the bank.

We follow the old railway to the sea on a bicycle made for two.
The end of the line.
The ghosts of Victorian holidays – bathing machines, donkey rides and iced cream.
Buried in the sand, drowned in the sea.
Now a faded town of chips, amusements and hungry gulls.

The Blue Lake, Fairbourne

A climb past the church, up to a slate plateau.
A vast metal flywheel lies at the entrance of a tunnel, we walk up the stream emerging from it.
Light, darkness, light.
A flooded quarry.
A step from a rock, a moment in the warm air, then water.
Cold, cold water; deeper than anyone knows.
Deeper than a fishing line we are told, water as deep as the sea.


A hike/A night in the dark

Blue sky, white clouds, warmth.
A lizard sunning itself on the path scuttles off as we approach.
The distance to Harlech inscribed on an ancient stone marker.
We look up at a dip in the ridge high above us – “Bwlch Y Rhiwgyr, “The Drover’s Pass.”
We would have heard them before we saw them.
Shouts and calls to warn farmers to bring in their livestock or risk losing it in the throng.
Then a half mile of men, horses, cattle, pigs and geese on a three week journey to London.
Three weeks of bogs, moors, forests, thieves and wolves.
Only the ravens calling now.

The summit of Diffwys, we can see for miles.
Snowdon sits on the horizon.
Great banks of waves roll in from the Irish Sea.
Manganese from this mountain’s heart strengthened the steel of the late industrial revolution.
Under the path the tunnels of a forgotten mine lie in silence, their props fallen, their entrances collapsed.
Wild goats roam the old tram ways that lead from it, wary, they disappear as we descend.

Fire in Cefn Cam

Clouds gather as night falls over Cefn Gam slate quarry.
We pitch our tent in the stone skeleton of a ruined oubuilding
These walls, a few broken tracks and the metal belly of an upturned cart, the last of man’s artefacts unclaimed by the moor.
Slates on the waste heap shift under the hooves of sheep, knockings and crunchings out of sight.
We light a fire, dead bracken and heather catch quickly.
We warm our hands on the flames as peat-tinged stream water boils.
After the fire dies and we turn offf the torch, we sleep in pitch black.
Later we hear wind and rain on canvas.

In the damp morning we explore.
Meadow pipits scatter before us, short calls of alarm,  little brown flurries.
Into the quarry.
Rowan trees cling to the side of a green chasm.
Standing on the edge, nerves tingle as we look down.
Water falls down to the pool at the bottom of this great tear in the ground, time passing, drop by drop.

Down to the estuary through the mossy oak woods, a shower soaking us.
Then sun, the wet road steaming in the heat.


The beach.

Standing on the grey, deserted beach, grey cloud meeting grey water.
Wind blowing little waves backwards in the shallows.
A few plover scurry about, their feathers buffeted.

Time to go home.

This entry was posted in Abandoned Places, Night, Walks, Wild Camping, Wild Places and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Fire, water and slate. A week in Wales

  1. Rob Lock says:

    It sounds like a great week, and it coudn’t have happened to / been experienced by two finer people!

  2. Andrea Burton says:

    So evocative!! Can just picture it all. What a lovely experience – and wonderfully described.

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