Day Three: Sunday, 29th April 2012 – Sodom to Llanbedr Dyffryn Clwyd

Despite the previous evening’s forecast, the weather at seven o’clock was dry and still; rather grey, but the hills that we were about to climb were clearly visible to the south. However, during breakfast up at Fron Haul, we could see the bleak weather roll northwards from those hills.

The hills still visible from Fron Haul at breakfast
The hills still visible from Fron Haul at breakfast

As we set off, it started to drizzle. We took the path once again to Bodfari, passing a couple of dykers coming the other way. They were on their last leg up to Prestatyn; they were camping and carrying their gear and had rambled through an atrocious week of weather up from Knighton. The two lads were much younger than ourselves, but even so, our admiration knew no bounds. By Bodfari, the drizzle was getting heavier, and we struggled into our waterproof over-trousers in the bus-shelter. Little did we know that this would be the last shelter afforded to us all day. I packed my camera in a dry part of the rucksack, and there it stayed all day. Today’s photos are all down to Julia; she truly suffered for her art. We were passed whilst we were doing our ‘bus stop contortions, by a couple, Elaine and Paul,  whom we had bumped into during our climb out of Prestatyn on the previous day.

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Climbing out of Bodfari; spirits still high
The walk over the Clwydian Hills proved to be arduous beyond our previous experience. The winds from the north-east surpassed 70 mph. The rain came down with increasing force, and added up to more than 4 inches for the 24 hours. These measurements for wind speed and precipitation will have been made at altitudes much lower than our position up on the border hills. But it was not only the inclement weather, it was the terrain and the total lack of shelter which made the walk so frightening.
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Up on The Clwydians; visibility poor
From Bodfari, we skirted Moel-y-Parc before reaching the top of Pen-y-Cloddiau. Already, the visibility was extremely limited, and it was impossible to discern the outlines of the iron age hill fort. We then dropped down to a car park before climbing Moel Arthur. Again we descended to a second wind swept car park, before climbing steeply to Moel  Llys-y-Coed. We then followed the ridge of the Clwydian Hills,  a roller coaster of descents and ascents before reaching Moel Famau (1,820 ft). This last peak was topped by The Jubilee Tower, built apparently to celebrate the the jubilee of George III in 1810! It was rather unreal to reach this tower to find a group of about  a dozen ramblers huddled on its leeward wall like a flock of timid sheep. We descended from the tower as quickly as possible to Bwlch Penbarras where a narrow lane meandered westwards to the village of Llanbedr-Dyffryn-Clwyd. Fortunately, the landlord of The Griffin Inn, Dave, was able to drive out to rescue two frozen, soaked and frightened ramblers.
On reaching the pub, we discovered that the contents of our rucksacks were as sodden as the clothes in which we stood. Luckily, Dave and his wife, Jill, allowed us free access to their tumble dryer. Everything was soggy, even our cheque book!
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The photo does not convey the wind, wet and cold!
There is nothing that can be done to influence the weather. In retrospect, we should have given more credence to the forecast and found a way of spending this Sunday without venturing onto the hills. But the lack of shelter on this 10 mile stretch of The Offa’s Dyke Way seems to be a wilful lack of respect to the welfare of ramblers. I cannot see why a simple shelter could not be constructed at one or both car parks to the north and south of Moel Arthur. This would allow ramblers to eat their packed lunch or adjust their waterproof clothing without the risky business of standing still in wet, windy, cold conditions. There is no doubt that what we did was foolhardy, but on the other hand, rambling should be considered a pastime for ordinary folk rather than just an endurance game for the knobbly-kneed purists.
As it happens, every cloud has a silver lining. We ate extremely well that evening at The Griffin. Nachos and Thai fish cakes were followed by Thai green vegetable curry and roast chicken.  Créme brûlée brought the meal to an edifying end. Paul and Elaine, who were staying nearby, also dined at The Griffin. It was quiz night and participation was obligatory! So, Elaine, Julia, Paul and myself formed a team rather optimistically called “Chepstow, here we come!” We were victorious, winning a stolid bottle of Merlin’s Welsh Cream Liqueur. It was so heavy that none of us wanted to carry it south so cracked it open there and then, reliving the horrors of the day and insisting that all within The Griffin did their bit to drain the formidable vessel.
Stile count for the day (the least of our worries): 17
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