June 29, 1989: Bwlch-Pen-Barras to Bodfari
Lovely sunshine speckled the Clwyd Valley when we arose on the morning of Thursday, June 29. Because we had only another eight and a half mile day we had decided on an 8:30 breakfast, one that would be unhurried and uncomplicated. The Hughes family dining room, facing a bank of spring flowers in profusion, was a wonderful setting.
I finished packing while watching a pied wagtail feed her insistent fledgling on the front lawn. Tosh called Den’s taxis in Ruthin; the cabbie was familiar with Carneddi, having delivered various Hughes daughters here in the recent past. We said our goodbyes after a most enjoyable stay.
Now that she had a taxi to command Tosh ordered the driver to take us back down to the village shop, where she could stock up on snacks and newsprint. I used the opportunity to take a photo of the Griffin across the street. The driver began to drive back toward Clwyd Gate but I reminded him in time that we wanted to go to the Moel Famau car park. Here we were deposited at 9:55. His services cost only £3.00!
We were now ready to begin another outstanding Offa’s Dyke day. The weather was delightful – no threat of rain, much sun, cool temperatures, with some breeze on the western sides where we walked initially. I noticed that more heather had come into bloom just since yesterday.
The Lees had actually climbed Moel Famau on a day trip at some time in the past but their route was not the one we now used, a level broad track overlooking the Vale. Behind us a woman was strolling along with a lively Spaniel and a determined Corgi. As we at last reached the foot of the summit peak everybody charged ahead of me but I was not long in following them up to the famous Jubilee Tower, an observation turret that could still be seen by us even at the end of the day’s walk. At 1820 feet, Moel Famau is the highest point in the Clwydian range.
The Lees were searching for shelter from the wind when I reached them. They were huddled in a little stairwell and here I asked the woman with the dogs to take our picture. Up top there were engravings showing what you were looking at in every direction: Snowdonia, Liverpool, most importantly for us, the ocean directly to the north. On this day of great visibility we could see ships at sea as well. It was also fun to look back in the direction we had come, with the Clwyd Forest covering much of the immediate foreground and Foel Fenlli behind. We paused for some time and had a snack – I had a delicious pear direct from Mrs. Hughes’ fruit bowl.
I would have liked to linger even longer (for again, this was a day when I was always trying to slow things down) but Tosh was chilled. We began a steep descent to the col between Moel Famau and Moel Dywyll. Harold and I spent some time watching a farmer riding through the bracken on a three-wheeled trail bike, his sheepdog in pursuit. Later we could see the sheep themselves moving off as a result of these attentions. We had another rest near the bottom of the descent and watched a fell runner run back and forth between the two summits.
After Moel Dywyll, whose actual top we again just missed, there was another descent to a sheltered crossing track. Here was decided to have Lunch, Part I. It was very relaxing and, with my hat over my face, I actually tried to doze off. Unfortunately Tosh and I were engaged in a conversation about the English Department, a topic we had managed to avoid so far, and so I couldn’t quite make it. Furthermore something in the grass crawled up my pant leg and bit me – that put a final end to any thoughts of a nap.
We were well into the afternoon before we started forward again, rising toward Moel Llys-y-coed. Once again we did not actually reach this peak, turning abruptly away from it to descend steeply to the base of Moel Arthur. What fantastic views we had ahead of us now, the conical peak with its hill fort and the dark forests behind. I must say that the descent in a rocky chute was quite jarring; I was reminded of the descent on the monk’s steps from Mt. Sinai.
In the little lay-by at the foot of Moel Arthur a granny in a pink cardy was sitting in the sun on a folding chair while the rest of her family, having abandoned their tea things, sat in the back seat of the family sedan. We too sat with our backs to a stone wall, feeling the warmth of the sun, while Tosh went to look for some privacy on the other side. Offa’s Dyke Path used to take the direct approach to the summit, a very steep scramble, but concern over erosion had mandated a more gentle approach over Moel Arthur’s northern ridge. We had no difficulty negotiating this and at the crest we were rewarded with views of our last major summit, Pen-y-cloddiau.
We began a steep descent to the Llandyrnog road. Just as we were about to leave bracken for grass two brothers came racing down the hill, the older managing to win the race by tipping the younger into the ferns. They waited for their parents in an exhausted heap at the bottom of the hill while we had Lunch, Part II. After a few minutes Tosh got antsy –I forget whether it was too hot or too cold – and decided to go ahead for a while. Harold and I followed in about ten minutes. We crossed the road and a car park and found a footpath along the upper margins of a pine plantation. Tosh was sitting under the first pine.
The sun had brought out the odors in the pine resin and I noticed that some insect had spun little spitballs in the grass hereabouts. We climbed up through the last of the forest and a stile put us onto the flank of Pen-y-cloddiau. I paused to put on some sun cream but a bee took a profound interest in what I was doing and the Lees had to finish fastening my pack after we had started moving rapidly forward.
Pen-y-cloddiau is a relatively plateau-like summit. Our path took us inside the ramparts and it was a very gentle approach to the summit at 1442 feet. On the descent I felt some discomfort in my hot boots so when we reached the crossing lane at the bottom I stopped to apply some tape. I got no blisters on this trip, and was much relieved that an ingrown toenail, discovered only a week before departure, had responded well to my medication. Tosh was using this little bottle too.
Opposite us sheep were scratching themselves on trees and chewing cuds in the shade of a derelict pine grove. We began a descent toward the Vale, passing the ruins at Bwlch Uchaf, and continuing on a good track down to Ty Newydd farm – which seemed to be the final resting place for several Reliant Robins. It was now quite warm in the late afternoon sun but not at all unpleasant.
We began another long hillside contour in bracken before dropping down even further to cross several fields – often guessing at where the next stile might be. Ahead of us there were charming views of our village, Bodfari, and the dramatic bluffs nearby. We worked our way around Grove House, a very large country house with a number of stiles, fields, gardens, and barking dogs. A little road walking followed and then more fields to take us up to a bridge over the River Wheeler. On the other side was the A541.
I walked into a store (with almost empty shelves, something that puzzled us immensely) and asked for directions to Station House. We had to turn to our left for a few blocks and just off the main road we could see our goal. A man whom I took to be Mr. Hastings was working in the garden. He came up to the gate to greet us, invited us to take off our boots, and went to look for Mrs. Hastings. It was 5:05.
Station House was a most interesting establishment. It had once been the home of the manager and the waiting room of the Bodfari train station – closed in 1962. It had been taken over only a few months before by the Hastings. He was a retired major, with an OBE, and clearly knew how to run a tight ship. Mrs. Hastings now appeared to take us to our comfortable if overstuffed rooms and to serve us tea. The Lees went to have a bath but Tosh filled the water so high that some of it flowed through the escape outlet and the Major came rushing upstairs to give poor Harold (the inheritor of this water) a rocket. I followed the Lees into the bathroom – without incident.
While we had been at Llanbedr I had discovered a brochure for a fancy restaurant up the street. At 7:00 we decided to have a look at the Denorbin hostelry, an overgrown pub with changing rooms for bride and groom, 100 brands of whiskey, smorgasbord and carvery. It was next to a charming church. They had the brand of scotch that Harold wanted, but my lager was warm. A dozen ladies looking for a function room came crowding in – only to be sent up another level. Photos of the owner’s racing cars dominated our little snug. We then decided we didn’t want to have dinner at this pretentious outpost so we took off, with the help of directions from a local girl, down a back path that lead us to the highway and the Downing Arms. This is what Mrs. Hastings had recommended in the first place. Upper Bodfari had enjoyed the additional disadvantage of smelling like silage.
I let the Lees go ahead to the pub while I phoned Dorothy from a callbox near the council houses. They had occupied a small table in the dining room but we were moved to a nicer table near a window for our meal. The place was obviously a favorite with the local gentry and there was an extensive though inexpensive menu. I had scampi again, Harold had the chicken curry, and Tosh had the local trout. There were some scrummy deserts, with some exotic ice cream flavors. We walked back to Station House in the twilight and went to bed at about ten.
To continue with the next stage of our walk you need: