On Wednesday I shall be off for a quick two day wander in North Wales, revisiting old haunts and finding new ones. The weather forecast is looking reasonable.
I’m used to weather changing my plans, but this is the first time I’ve had to cut short a trip because of a common cold! On Tuesday I had one of the best journeys ever up to North Wales with no hold ups whatsoever. I was feeling good. I wandered over to Maeneira to pitch my tent, contemplating an excellent few days. However, I woke up with a scratchy throat. It’ll pass, I thought.
Camp at Maeneira
My plan was an easy walk round to Ffynnon Llugwy via Llyn Cowlyd. By the time I reached the end of Llyn Cowlyd, it was obvious that I was indeed going down with a cold. The climb up to Llugwy was a bit more tiring than it should have been. After pitching the tent, I was serenaded for nearly an hour by a helicopter buzzing around doing some kind of training exercise.
A disturbed night’s sleep confirmed that I would have to reconsider my plans. Despite having a Pipedream 600 sleeping bag and the air temperature not dropping below 6c, I felt a bit cool just before dawn, a clear sign that things were not right. My original plan had been to climb Carnedd Llewelyn and then head down Cwm Eigiau, but instead I just reversed the previous day’s route, on the basis that there was very little ascent.
Lunch spot above Llyn Cowlyd
I had a lovely lunch above Llyn Cowlyd. All the while I was think about the next couple of days. I had arranged to meet Dave (Backpackbrewer) and Sean of OookWorks fame together with his partner Jo for some walking. The route that I had planned seemed unfeasible given my worsening cold. I exchanged a number of texts with them to explain what had happened.
Duomid and OookWorks hybrid inner
We met as arranged at the car park and headed to Maeneira to camp. I swapped the Scarp for the Duomid as Sean had brought the new inner that he had made for me. I was excited to see Sean’s handiwork, more of that in another post. We had a very convivial evening, apart from my increasing snuffling. It became clear to me overnight that my best course of action was to head home the next day. Even doing a couple of day walks would be too much and I didn’t want to spoil the enjoyment for the others.
Packing up to leave
The warmth of the sun in the morning led to a relatively leisurely breakfast. It seemed a shame to leave, especially as the promised good weather seemed to have arrived. At the car park we said our farewells. I drove home leaving the others to a fine day’s walk. On the positive side, I’d had three night camping and a couple of reasonable walks in one of my favourite areas. It was a real shame not to be able to do the walks I’d planned with Dave, Sean and Jo, but there’s not much I could do about it. It was a real pleasure to meet them and hopefully we’ll meet up again.
The famous tree and not a cloud in the sky
Tomorrow I will be off for a few days in the Carneddau. On Wednesday and Thursday I will be walking on my own. Friday and Saturday, I will be accompanied by Dave, the Backpackbrewer and Sean of OookWorks. Sean will be delivering my new hybrid Duomid nest, which looks superb. Unfortunately it won’t be used with my cuben Duomid as a manufacturing defect means it will have to be returned to MLD. More on that at a later date. However, all is not lost as I will take my silnylon Duomid. I will also be taking my Scarp for camping high. Effectively I will have two 2-day hikes, so there will be a bit of mix ‘n’ match on gear. The weather forecast looks very promising with high pressure building over the week and into the weekend. So, toodle pip, and you will get a week off from my blethering.
In the last few years of backpacking I’ve discovered there are places where I’ve camped that for some inexplicable reason have made me happy and have drawn me back. Next week I shall be returning to my favourite “happy place”, Maeneira in the Carneddau. I first camped here in 2004. It was my first experimental wild camp after a long lay-off from wild camping. I returned in March 2009 in the company of Alan Sloman, when we had a wonderful evening pitch in glorious sunshine after a marvellous walk from the Ogwen valley over Carnedd Llewelyn.
I was back again in August 2009, although my plans were somewhat altered by the arrival of a school group and the weather. The following year, I returned in April. Despite suffering from the worst migraine I’ve ever had, it was a joyous time as I had resigned from work and was starting a new life as a retiree. Last year I went to the Carneddau in June, accompanied by the usual mixed bag of weather.
Maeneira slide show
What makes Maeneira a “happy place”? It doesn’t have spectacular views, but it does have a magical feel. There’s a ruined cottage and dry stone walls. Was it a happy place for the family at must have lived there at one time? On a summers evening it is idyllic, but the life must have been harsh in the winter. In the morning it gets the first light and on a couple of occasions I’ve been up to see glorious dawn with a blood red sun.
It changes with the seasons. I’ve been there when it’s been almost overrun with bracken and times when it’s looked barren. Last year in June, it was festooned with wonderful tall purple foxgloves. Sometimes the grass has been nibbled low by sheep. On other occasions the pasture has been rank and scrubby.
A highly unusual feature is the trees that grow on top of huge boulders. Whether they are natural or planted by man, I don’t know but I’ve not seen anything like it anywhere else. The mixture of wild and the hand of man is somehow harmonious here.
From the perspective of wild camping it is almost perfect. A small stream provides fresh water. There’s enough flat grass for several tents. It is sheltered from winds, but not enclosed.
There are many more spectacular places to camp, but for me, Maeneira has a special magic. A blend of homeliness and welcome, tinged with the wild. I love it and I’m glad to be going back soon. If you visit Maeneira, enjoy it, respect it, ensure it doesn’t get spoilt. Happy places should be treasured.