If you were informed by a visitor to these shores that he is about to visit the Lakes, it would be reasonable for you to believe that he was about to undertake a trip to Cumbria. As a rule, it is assumed that this type of watery beauty is confined to the north-west of England. Nothing could be further from the truth as my recent visit to Lynn Clynedog proved. An expanse of water, small yachts beating back and forth, quite as Swallow and Amazonish as Coniston or Windermere.
The reason for the visit was to climb Bryn y Fan, a steep but easy Marilyn that rises above the Bwlch y Gle dam. The start is another down the rabbit hole beginning. The bikers who delight in taking the curve of the dam at high speed will fail to notice the modest gravel track that quickly falls away into a wooded wilderness. Soon the trees give way to open meadow and the day’s challenge is clearly laid out. The bracken-covered hillside rises steeply above you, gaining almost a thousand feet in as many yards, but help is at hand. A bridleway zig-zags it way from the bottom right-hand corner to the top left-hand skyline. Although still steep in parts, it is indubitably easier than any other approach to the summit
The young and fit will no doubt see this as a challenge to be accomplished in the shortest possible time at the fastest possible speed, but in one’s ninth decade, discretion is the better part of valour and preference should be given to a more measured approach combined with suitable pauses to admire the unfolding view. Nevertheless, whichever gear is selected, the final gate will open and shut and the last zig allows its fellow zag to reach the bridleway’s final resting place. Up to this point all has been straightforward enough but the final 100feet or so have to be negotiated with, first, a path that the passage of feet has beaten through the bracken, followed by a more tenuous path that tackles the steepening ground. Once again, the Trig Point is not quite the summit which occupies a rocky knoll a few yards further on.
It is customary at this point to mention that the view is worth the effort, but this would be an understatement. Starting in the west is the great bulk of Pumlumom Fawr, leading the eye north past the more shapely Cadair Idris to the southern bounds of Snowdonia with the Arans, Rhinogs and Berwyns before culminating in the Stipperstones and the gentler Shropshire hills. But don’t let it all go to your head. Once you decide to return, care should be taken to find the right line of descent. Any misjudgement could well lead to a ferocious battle among steep bracken disguising moss-covered rocks. Only when you are once more safely ensconced on the beaten track should you be free to ignore your feet and look around you. If you are lucky, you might find something of interest flying high above you.
Forthis is red kite country or rather, Red Kite, as every entrepreneurial venture from garage repairs to haute cuisine seems to claim this once reviled bird as its own. As with most raptors, the red kite has had a rather chequered career, falling in and out of favour as the demands of the time dictated. In Tudor times they were an urban bird performing the same important role in public sanitation as the vultures in twentieth century India. Both went into rapid decline, the kite the victim of the farmers’ desire for greater profit and its Indian counterpart by the introduction of an anti-inflammatory drug, diclofenac, advantageous in the health of cattle but fatal to vultures. Now a different audience flock to watch these graceful birds and boost the tourist coffers of Mid-Wales.