The smiley lady at the Coed-y-Brenin forest centre took our £2.50 and gave us a pack of trail and mountain bike route maps. The car park was full of school kids all booted up and ready for a long walk and so we drove off to another car park much deeper in the forest called Tyddyn Gwladys (which translates as Gladys smallholding which we rather liked – we made up a story of Gladys working in a small isolated telephone exchange on the edge of the forest and returning to her cottage each night to tend her chickens and cow – but I digress).
Our first walk at Coed-y-Brenin took us alongside a stream chattering over stones, past the remains of an old gunpowder works, a mine where Welsh gold was extracted to make royal wedding rings and then to a beautiful waterfall. The trail was just 3 miles and it whetted our appetite for a further exploration of the forest.
The path wound up by a stream and then higher in to the forest. We hiked past some isolated cottages with mountain views and finally almost vertically up through trees clinging to the hillside. The photos level out the terrain but it was much steeper than it looks! Some of the trail paths had been over tree roots which was uncomfortable walking (even in our hiking boots) but this forest path, and other steep climbs on the route, were the reason for its ‘strenuous’ rating.
Finally we made the top of the hill – some 960ft- not as spectacular as the surrounding mountains but so very beautiful. We looked over to the Rhinogs. My parents were long distance walkers. My Mum had told me of her walk beginning at the Roman Steps and up Rhinog Fawr Mountain. Apparently the steps name is misleading and they are the remains of a medieval packhorse trail from Chester to Harlech. The sun was hot but the breeze cooled us so walking was pleasant. Occasionally we saw the markings for cycle trails – one was named after the Adams Family another was called the Dragons Back.
We had packed sandwiches but just when we thought there was nowhere to eat them we found a fallen tree made in to a makeshift bench. Homemade bread, beetroot and cheese tasted very good.
Tolkien was influenced in his descriptions of landscape by the Welsh mountains and also by the Welsh language and we felt like a couple of Hobbits trekking along the silent forest. We didn’t see another person all day although we did get our literary references muddled and Benjamin thought he saw Mr Tumnus by a shadowy lamp standard.
The whole walk took just over four hours with plenty of time to enjoy views and take photos and we are planning a return trip to trek off and discover more of the secrets of Coed-y-Brenin forest.
Later in the week we popped in to the forest centre for a cup of tea. It’s a great place with a buzzy atmosphere full of walker and bike type people and very friendly so anyone and everyone would be welcome. And the cakes looked might good too.
Coed-y-Brenin forest centre is near Dolgellau in North Wales.
All photos copyright TheBigForest except the forest centre which is copyright VisitWales (2012)