Welsh Mountains Are Special
For my entire adult life, I have loved walking. Living on a boat has given me plenty of opportunity for extremely rural rambling albeit along some near perfectly flat terrain. As much as my day to day towpath trudging is a great part of life, over the last year I have really got back into “proper mountain walking”, and I LOVE IT!
There are three main compelling elements of walking in the big Welsh mountains;
1) The incredible scenery
2) The challenge and fatigue of chaining hilltops together
3) There are a lot of incredible abandoned mining relics, which are both fascinating and often eerie to behold!
Having lived most of my life right at the feet of the first low hills of Wales, I have been blessed to spend a lot of time building up my stamina on some very steep inclines and amidst the classic, rolling hill scenery of hedged fields and sheep dotted farmland. This is the sort of environment I always refer to as "somewhere that Hobbits might live".
As shown in the picture below, on a sunny day these relatively low hills have that fantastic, postcard, olde-worlde appeal. As if you could walk down past the hobbits of the Shire and find you had been transported back into the 1800's. One of the benefits of these rolling hills and easy access is that you can get up a lot of them in a single walk. Make no mistake, rather than a calm, easy hike, my mountain-master friend (aka Stu!) will create a mega route that might see us out walking for 8 hours, bagging hilltop after hilltop along the way!
That brings us nicely into the second compelling item on the list. The outright challenge and physical realities of this kind of walking. I live 99% of my life safely inside my comfort zone in all areas of existence! So getting out into some amazing scenery, and using it as a reward for tackling some of the punishing inclines, weather conditions and double digit miles long routes, is a fantastic way to both challenge and reassure myself that I am still young-ish!
Setting out for a walk in the morning, not making it back until after tea time and feeling ready to collapse into a heap... may not appeal to everybody, may not even be sensible... but I love it. Sometimes the weather can turn in a matter of minutes, and as you begin your third big ascent of the day, watching a hailstorm close in on you from down a valley... all you can do is laugh! There may not be any tangible achievement at the end of the more trying days, but the quiet sense of having "conquered" a set of hills, or not been beaten by the weather, is a rare moment of pride for me.
Finally, on my list of mountain top positives, is the extraordinary amount of discarded, abandoned and derelict quarry's and mines around this particular part of the world. Welsh slate is an iconic material, and I cannot express just how much history this has left on the landscape. Huge piles of broken slate spoil weighing innumerable tons can be seen for miles. Old slate buildings in various states of repair, litter the landscape in unfeasible remote areas, and very often old machinery and fragments of a lifestyle long lost can be seen slowly rusting and rotting into obscurity.
There is something incredibly sad about these places, a forlorn and depressing feeling of the passing of time that has left them so irrelevant and unloved, soon to vanish from memory altogether. Equally, the hardiness and difficult, dangerous lifestyle is something I am very grateful that myself and many others cannot begin to imagine!
The sheer amount of material discarded amongst the landscape tells of the herculean effort it was to extract, the mountains scarred by cart tracks and narrow-gauge lines, show that once the rock was blasted and dug out, the transportation of the material then became its own heroic process.
The thought of the injuries and deaths that happened, in an era before modern medicine, or even a hope of a rapid medical response or rescue from a hill top, makes the efforts of the anonymous workers all the more worthy of remembering.
On that dark note, I will wrap things up! Needless to say I have really enjoyed getting back into the mountains! I have kept it broadly offline for a while as I enjoyed having it as a "just for me" thing. But with some of the recent incredible places I've been and things I've seen, I thought it would be worth sharing with a few more people!
Keep it boat worthy,
Keep it interesting,
(Want more Dan Brown? Take a look at my boat life books HERE, and my three YouTube Channels; HERE, HERE & HERE!)