Half-light as we leave silent, empty streets of Barmouth below, past grey stone, sleeping houses, up grassy mine inclines, to close-cropped, stone-based miners tracks weaving past ruined farms and rocky outcrops framing grey sea and lightening horizon westward. The route shifts to inland slopes overlooking the estuary, ridge rising higher to the left. Rain eases, morning brightens: sail wings detach from the hillside, climbing on up-draught over the grassy farm track: Buzzards scanning morning landscape for carrion or worms. Meadow Pipits in a loose flock flit upwards then away, ‘seep, seep’ calls in characteristic halting flight as we splash through boggy hillside flashes.
The next six hours take us through all terrains: from fine, stone-based, sheep-cropped tracks to calf-deep bogs of mud, sedge and moss; dry, scrub-oak woods, green fern bright over drifts of dry leaves to open shoulders of ice-worn, bare rock and rocky crags needing hands for balance.
Fieldfare ‘shuck, shuck’ as they take to the sky, flushed from open pasture and red fruit laden Hawthorn, smaller, thin-whistling Redwing amongst them; high in the rocks, urgent buzzing alarm from Wrens, deep croak or ‘glock, glock’ high overhead from long-winged Ravens passing along ridges or between tops.
Layers of history, from Victorian Barmouth, grassy remains of mining activities and straight dry-stone enclosure walls, to drovers tracks, coach roads and stone bridges of earlier centuries, right back to hilltop fortifications of the iron age and earlier standing stones. Two separate rocky crags stand tall in the landscape, both called Dinas, or fortified place. We encircle one defending a valley mouth, experiencing the strategic quality of the other by scaling its side.
Bryn Cader Faner is a remote and impressive Bronze Age coronet stone circle marking the high point of the Ardudwy Way, beyond which all is downhill - we thought…
Wildlife Wales Activities: http://www.wildlife-wales.co.uk/