Monday, May 28, 2007

Wales - Day 5

Day 5 was a Tuesday and weatherwise, the worst of the 8 days I was in Wales. It didn't rain but for all of the morning and most of the early afternoon, the skies were as grey as a Welsh slate mine. As my first destination was to be a town for breakfast, I didn't mind too much.

So after negotiating the 2 gates again, I took the A470/A489 the 8 miles to Machynlleth where I picked the left turn at the A487 T-junction (yesterday I'd gone right, towards Dolgellau) and headed to Aberystwyth.

Speaking of the A487, when I'd been returning yesterday, I was going through the tiny hamlet of Corris and while enjoying the scenery, I noticed the driver of an oncoming car flash her lights at me and give me a wave. It all happened so fast and I glanced in my rear view mirror to have another look at the car and saw it was a small white one like mine. Maybe even a Clio. I was deep in thought wondering why she'd have 'flashed me' and my initial idea was that it was a 'hey, we've got the same car' sort of thing which I know went on with VW Beetle owners many years ago. It was a kind of Herbie Syndrome back then.

Seconds later I passed a white van which had lots of lettering on it and I thought I saw the words 'speed' and 'Heddlu' and knew that meant police. I'd no idea what the speed limit was at that point as it changed so often on those roads.

When I got 'home' I told my brother of the incident and he laughed and said the driver had been warning me of the speed van but he said if I hadn't been stopped by the 2nd part of the sting crew further on, then I was ok. When I got back home to Leeds last Friday, one of the letters waiting for me was a notice of intended prosecution from the North Wales Police saying I'd been caught doing 35mph in a 30mph zone ! Grrrrrrrrrr. I think when I was distracted by flashing woman, I'd pushed slightly harder on the accelerator. Sadly that's going to be my only defence.

Actually I was shocked that I was only doing 35mph !!

Back to Day 5 and back to my drive to Aberystwyth. About 12 miles from the town I drove past an old building with a huge waterwheel on one side of it and felt it was worth going back and investigating it further.

I love coming across something totally unexpected and this was one such case. I'd found the Dyfi Furnace which was built in 1755 to produce iron. It used charcoal from the surrounding woodlands and waterpower from the river.

After only about 50 years in production, it was abandoned. Later on the buildings were converted into use, first as a sawmill and then for various agricultural purposes.

The blast needed to raise the temperature inside the furnace to the melting point of iron was produced by two sets of bellows powered by this waterwheel. From this we get the phrase 'blast furnace'.

Since 1977 the remains have been excavated and conserved. There is no admission fee but the building itself is closed to the public, which is a shame. I walked up the little path at the side of the waterwheel and came upon the upper part of this waterfall.

I had the place to myself partly due to the time of year and partly, I'm sure, because it was so easy to drive past it with barely a glance. It's on a sharp bend in the road with no warning of it's presence and it was only by my turning around and finding the small car park across the road that I ended up there myself.

And what a find it was.

The only sounds were from the waterfall which managed to drown out the occasional noises from passing cars. After watching the falls from this vantage point, I walked down past the waterwheel, onto the edge of the road which at this point was effectively a bridge and up the other side of the fast flowing river. This time a narrow, well trampled grassy path, led me deeper into the woodlands and gave me a much better and more complete view of the waterfall.

Even the overcast skies couldn't diminish the scene - well not that much. Being quite deep in the glade, the sky wasn't really a factor anyway.

I'd climbed, slid and partly fallen down to this water level but the view was worth it. I was only a few minutes walk from the main road to Aberystwyth but it seemed like I was in some storybook grotto and was almost expecting to see some pixies or fairies crossing my path.

I suspect I watch way too much tv.

By now my grumbling rumbling tummy was louder than the waterfall so I went back to the car to continue on my drive to Aberystwyth.

I don't have too much to say about the town. For 9 months of the year it's population is about 21,000 but when the students go home, it's left with 12,000 residents. It has a pretty seaside front and a smart clean shopping area set back from the beach and promenade. And that's about it.

I'd spent some time finding a parking spot close to the pier and when I finally explored it, the pier was a great disappointment as it only housed an amusement arcade - a British 'institution' which should only be seen in museums and labelled 'awful places where those of low mental abilities would spend their time and money on wet afternoons at the seaside'.

I went inland and had another hearty breakfast to help fill my stomach and forget the dreadful pier. Mission accomplished, I went window shopping down the main pedestrianised street trying to avoid the usual tourist traps and shops selling everything from Welsh flags to inflatable dragons. I did see one tourist item which took my fancy as I have a US friend who likes both chess and sheep. Don't ask !

The shop had several chess boards on display in the window and one had dragons and sheep as the pieces. The pieces, especially the cute little sheep, looked like those characters in an Aardman Animation movie and I now know I should've bought it for her.

I left Aberystwyth on the A4120 as on my map it looked like a scenic road.......and it was. It lead to somewhere or something called Devil's Bridge which took my fancy.

It appears that there are Devil's Bridges all over the world, which is understandable considering how far and wide are his evil works.

This one is described on one website as follows -

"From Aberystwyth there is a beautiful road along the Vale of Rheidol to Devil's Bridge, about 9mi/15km to the east. Here the River Mynach flows down through a deep gorge in a series of spectacular waterfalls, with a total drop of 300ft/91m, to join the Rheidol. There are three bridges, the lowest of which, believed to date from the 12th century, is known as the Devil's Bridge. Tradition has it that this bridge was built by a monk from Strata Florida Abbey, 7mi to the south. The two other bridges were built in 1753 and 1901 (the highest one a rail bridge)".

When I got there I found entrance turnstiles on both sides of the road taking you to different parts of the area below the road. I had a choice to make and I didn't like that. I was on holiday and retired and didn't need the stress of having to make a decision......and on a full stomach too.

I took a photo of the sign on top of one entrance and decided - to drive on. I'd seen a lovely waterfall already and anyway I overheard people coming up from the bowels muttering that it wasn't worth the entrance money and that you could hardly see the falls for the vegetation. Nope, my valuable pension pennies stayed firmly in my pocket.

I joined up with the A44 and drove east to Llangurig and then onto the seemingly neverending A470 again to points south. It had cleared up a lot but still quite cloudy.

Now and then the sun would shine through and as I crested yet another hill, it seemed to be lighting up the picturesque scene before me.

I eventually came to Llandrindod Wells and decided it was time to start back even though I wasn't all that far from home as the crow flies.

I went up the A483 towards Newtown and as usual, found beautiful scenery all the way. What is it about this part of the UK ? It does seem to have been blessed.

It was mid afternoon by now and getting brighter by the minute. I looked at the map and tried to find the best route back and as time wasn't really a factor, I looked for roads with a little > or < on them to show they had steep gradients. Unlike for Mr. Custer, the more arrows the better.
I did good.

When I got to the outskirts of Newtown, I decided I wasn't ready to end this trip so I headed south on......yes the A470 again. I swear every 3rd road in Wales is the A470.

I reached Llanidloes and had my first run in with the Welsh language. Let me set the scene while you look at another typical view of the area.

I got to a junction just outside the town and I knew I wanted the B4518 northbound. To make matters simple, the B4518 went the other way too. I just needed to work out from the signpost which road to take........and remember that here in the UK, minor road signs do not give compass points so the sign wasn't being helpful by having B4518 North on it.

I compared the sign to my map and couldn't make it out at all. The sign gave a town name on one road to the right and I couldn't find it on the map at all. It had 2 names on the road to the left but one was "Town Centre" so that was no help. Under that was some long Welsh name and I couldn't find it on the map either.

I was next to a huge furniture store and went in to ask for directions. The owner was a friendly guy who went back outside with me to look at my map and point me in the right direction.

He told me I needed the road on the left and at that point I told him that the town mentioned under "Town Centre" wasn't on my map.

With the sort of look reserved for adults talking to little children, he said that it wasn't a town name but was Welsh for........"Town Centre" !!!

I'd forgotten that in Wales, road signs of all sorts from directional signs to warning signs, are in English and Welsh. I'd never seen one for town centre before and so didn't make the connection.
I mean you wouldn't, would you ? D'oh !

He also gave me a suggestion for the final leg of the drive home as he told me to leave the B4518 before it hit the.......yes the A470 once again and take a road so minor that it didn't even have a number.

The B4518 took me past Llyn Clywedog and the Clywedog Dam. It didn't look impressive when I first saw it at ground level but as I climbed up the steep road, the view to the left became more and more scenic.

For a change there was a viewing area at the top of the hill so I was able to pull off the road and take in this view back down to the dam.

It was one of those occasions when one's eyes take in a lot more than a standard camera lens can manage and it cried out for a panorama shot.

I went and got my tripod but to be honest I've never managed a decent panorama with it and so in the end I just did the old 'hand held swivel at the waist' trick. On reflection I should've used the monopod but forgot about it.

Again it wasn't great but still manages to capture a little of what I was looking at. Better than nothing would be the phrase of choice.

A few miles on and I came to the turnoff suggested by Furniture Store Man and I think I was on the single most visually stunning road in Wales if not the UK. It was breathtaking and so ironic that I can't even tell anyone it's number as it doesn't have one. I tried Mapquest but no joy. Maybe if some UK reader of this blog has an Ordinance Survey map of the area, they could post a comment and let me know the name or number of this road.

First the road rose steeply up to a plateau and presented me with a typical mountain top view. This was very different from the lush green sheep filled valleys I'd seen till this point.

The sky was almost totally blue but the far off fluffy clouds only added to the ambiance.

I could see for miles and on the far ridge I saw the line of wind turbines which I could also see from my brothers house. I'm finishing this post with 2 photos of this view and this first one is a long shot to show how the narrow road wends it's way through this landscape. I'm not sure how long this road is but I had it 100% to myself. Not one other car passed me or came towards me and when I did get towards the end of it just on the outskirts of Machynlleth, I realised that I'd been on this road before.........for a few seconds on Sunday when playing golf.

This was the same road that we had to cross to get to the 2nd hole and again after driving off the tee on the 9th hole. What a small world.

This final photo just zooms in a bit on the ridge with the wind turbines as in some odd way, they didn't spoil the view and actually, in my opinion, added something to it.

In total I'd probably only driven about 130 miles all day but I'd been out and about for just over 8 hours.

The next day was to be warm and sunny and I couldn't wait.............................

1 comment:

Daphne said...

I know all that part of Wales slightly - some parts better than others, but it's almost all gorgeous - and it's been great to enjoy your trip to the area by proxy.

Lake District next please.

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