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.