The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
Where’s it Near?
Our August Bank Holiday trip was a visit to Tyncornel and Dolgoch hostels, deep in the Elenydd wilderness of mid-Wales. Try to describe to anyone where you’re going and they’re pretty much bound to ask: “but where’s it near?” This is not easy to answer. It’s not near anywhere. The area on the map looks fairly blank, with the Cambrian Way snaking through the middle. It turns out the Cambrian Way isn’t nearly as well defined on the ground as it is on the map. Bits use farm tracks, but then other parts are barely there at all. It’s rough walking on foot, much more challenging for the couple of mountain bikers we saw. Our Saturday walk was south over the hills, taking in stunning views, tumuli and even a standing stone. It was all rather trackless and ankle-turning hard work on what proved to be one of the hottest days of the year. By the time we got down to a proper track we were sweaty and tired, but the view that awaited was enough to revive us. The River Doethie sits in a stunning incised green valley with the surrounding hills fringed with purple heather. The footpath contoured beautifully up the east side of the valley wading through shallow streams and waist-high bracken, emerging close to the track to the east of the hostel. The front runners arrived back at the hostel in good time to get the kettle on for the rest. It was a long hot walk and we were all very dehydrated.
For Sunday’s walk an intrepid band took the long way to Dolgoch hostel. With more ankle-breaking terrain and sweaty hotness, we took to the hills and the Cambrian Way just north of Tyncornel. Passing from top to top along the ridge, we descended down to a crossroads with a phone box - the only point of interest for miles and memorable from our visit 15 years earlier. Firstly we had lunch, then we were attacked by hounds, then the hot weather lured Trudi and Gavin into abandoning the rest of the walk in favour of wild swimming. Depleted by a third, the rest of the party carried on, climbing up on forestry track above the trees before making our way down to the Nant Gwinau. Here the track wound to and fro, repeatedly crossing the river. It wasn’t just a little splash, it was ankle deep, boot swamping wading accompanied by the odd 4by4. Not the most fun section of the walk. By the time we emerged in the rather lovely valley of the River Towy we had all got soggy to some degree, however from here it was a scenic valley walk down to the welcome sight of Dolgoch hostel with its tea and hot showers. After a super meal from John and Judi, we had a relaxing evening enjoying the dark skies and an early night.
Monday and we walked back to Tyncornel on the more direct route, via the little chapel at Soar-y-Mynydd. Then all too soon our wilderness experience was over and it was time to go home. Where were we again?
Our annual pilgrimage from Chelmsford to Maldon started with a packed bus ride. We’d parked up in Maldon and waited patiently for the bus. To our astonishment it arrived already quite full, with only a couple of seats left. What on earth could be the draw for so many to travel to Chelmsford on a Sunday morning? Certainly it wasn’t a walk along the Chelmer Blackwater Navigation - by the time we walked over to Marconi’s statue we were on our own.
It was a lovely day for a walk, though: warm, sunny, just an occasional light breeze – lovely. It was a pleasant walk through Central Park, with a brief stop at the war memorial to admire the new benches and statues installed for the WWI anniversary. Next it was out along the river, past the Records Office and on under the viaduct into the Chelmer flood meadows. Here the riverside was lush and green, frequented by dog walkers and butterflies – and us, of course. Approaching Sandford Lock we were distracted by three police cars driving up and down. A chat with a fellow walker revealed that they were looking for a disturbance. We never discovered if they found it: they headed towards the fishing lakes and we carried on along the river. Up until now it had been very quiet, but now we became aware of throbbing engines. Still not the disturbance the police were looking for, but a convoy of 4000 bikers on the A12 travelling from Dunton to Tendring in aid of Essex Air Ambulance.
Bikers passed and we were back to peace and quiet with only the odd canoeist or paddle-boarder for company. Then we started to see groups of D of E-ers – all hopelessly overloaded and looking quite depressed about how their day was going. Luckily we managed to find a spot free of morose teenagers to have our lunch, before we headed on to Papermill Lock for tea and cake at the traditional halfway point.
The remainder of our walk was uneventful and we arrived at the statue of Byrghtnoth in Maldon approximately on time.
Please send any comments on these pages to Dave Plummer