Wales Coast to Coast

Stage Ten: Devil's Bridge to Tregaron
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Statistics and Files
Start: Devil's Bridge Distance: 16.1 miles (26.0 km) Climbing: 620 meters
Grid Ref: SN 74144 77025 Time: 7-8 hours Rating: Hard
GPX Route File Google Earth File About Ceredigion
Statistics
Start: Devil's Bridge Distance: 16.1 miles (26.0 km)
Grid Ref: SN 74144 77025 Time: 7-8 hours
Climbing: 620 meters Rating: Hard
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

Summary: Stage ten of my Wales Coast to Coast is the first of two long stages which will take me almost forty miles closer to Cardiff and in doing so the two stages will see me complete my walk through the mid Wales county of Ceredigion. At a little over sixteen miles this first one from Devil's Bridge to Tregaron involves some road walking in the first half of the stage to Pont Rhyd-y-groes and Ysbyty Ystwyth which is not a problem as traffic is light. The second half is across the rural heartlands of mid Wales which includes walking past the ruins of a Cistercian Abbey.


The Walk:

Pen Felin-wyntPen Felin-wynt
Welsh countryside near Pont Rhyd-y-groesWelsh countryside near Pont Rhyd-y-groes

After yesterday's soaking I was not pleased to see dark clouds and rain falling from the window as I enjoyed my breakfast at Hafod Hotel. A bit of company kept my spirits up. Here is a note I posted on Facebook after breakfast "To Nathan and Emma - I wish you a very lovely wedding day and a wonderful life together. I have just met Emma, her mum and her bridesmaids at breakfast in the Hafod Hotel, Devil's Bridge. Lovely people, a delightful breakfast conversation which has set me up nicely for today's walk". Rallied a little by meeting such nice people and after tending to a blister which had formed overnight after the soaking my feet had got yesterday I set off from Devil's Bridge by following the B4343 road south and towards Pont Rhyd-y-groes. The sky stayed dark, grey clouds scuttling over the land. At least they were high enough to allow me to view the low hills south of Devil's Bridge, the most shapely of them being Pen Felin-wynt. The hills were all over 300 meters high and the cloud stayed higher. Even the early rainfall I looked out to from my breakfast table had stopped. At least that was something. After two and a half miles of road I took a path leading to Craig y Fran. A lot of fields, a bit of bog and the entertainment provided by quite a lot of sheep helped me merrily along.

Building opportunity in Pont Rhyd-y-groesBuilding opportunity in Pont Rhyd-y-groes
Afon YstwythAfon Ystwyth

I reached tarmac road just short of three miles after leaving the last stretch of it and to be honest I was glad. My feet were drenched from the wet grass and bog hopping. The road walking would help my feet dry out a little and also help me progress a bit quicker which, again to be honest, was the feeling I had. The third day of rain and in particular the soakings of yesterday had affected my morale. The sunshine and euphoria of Snowdonia seemed a long time past. Don't get me wrong, I was still loving the walking; nothing can affect my passion for it. I was just a little grumpy with the weather. Anyway, back to the matter in hand. I walked into Pont Rhyd-y-groes and soon revived in spirit by an old character who runs a garage with old 1950's Shell fuel pumps still used. "Only for my tractors" he said. Brilliant! Then down the road I met another gentleman, this one lived in a house beside the roadbridge over Afon Ystwyth. He was tending his garden. "A bit of dull weather isn't stopping me getting my jobs done" he said. We wished each other a good day. Next up I started on the 150 meter climb to Ysbyty Ystwyth. It was amazing but two nice gentlemen and a hill made me feel a whole lot better.

Water wheel at Pont-rhyd-y-groesWater wheel at Pont-rhyd-y-groes
Ystwyth Gorge ForestYstwyth Gorge Forest

My enjoyable climb was halted halfway by the sight of an overshot waterwheel. I stopped to admire the industrial artifact and would have imagined it was a relic of the local lead mining activities from the Victorian age if not finding out it was recovered from a local sawmill. Back on the climb I soon arrived in Ysbyty Ystwyth where I stopped at a covered bench by the roadside for a short break. I had been walking for exactly two hours and in doing so had covered five miles. Not bad going. At my rest spot I looked across and admired the lovely view of forest covering Ystwyth Gorge. Rolling hills in the background complemented the picture. It was very pretty. While resting at the bench I also met an elderly lady motorist who stopped her car and asked me about a funny noise it was making. Not being a mechanic I pointed her to a garage I had just passed near the waterwheel. She thanked me for the information and went on her way.

Afon MeurigAfon Meurig
Best of palsBest of pals

From Ysbyty Ystwyth I followed a minor road for a mile and then left the tarmac to what seemed like deja vu. A lot of fields, a bit of bog and the entertainment provided by quite a lot of sheep helped me merrily along. Does that sound familiar? It was like a repeat of the walk from Devil's Bridge to Pont Rhyd-y-groes. There was one marked difference now though and that was the view I got when looking up into the sky. Red Kites were everywhere. I am used to seeing these beautiful birds with the most beguiling effortless flight in my home countryside around Harrogate but here they seemed to be everywhere I looked. Which is not surprising. Ceredigion is a hot spot for the Red Kite where it survived, albeit in reduced numbers, when they were wiped out by persecution in the rest of Great Britain. I was so heartened to see them soaring above me in the backdrop of a dull grey sky. A couple of sheep, one all black, one all white, then entertained me by posing as I walked past them. Twins perhaps? On the other hand my feet which had hardly dried got wet again in the bog of the feeder marshes to Afon Meurig which fed Afon Teifi and the bigger raised bog of Cors Caron. It was good I was not going that way, instead I kept walking due south to Pontrhydfendigaid.

Fluffy poodle sheep at PontrhydfendigaidFluffy poodle sheep at Pontrhydfendigaid
PontrhydfendigaidPontrhydfendigaid

Just north of Pontrhydfendigaid, while looking down to the village I crossed a field of sheep I could only describe as the glamour models of the species. They resembled poodles with shapely groomed woolly faces. They were quite friendly and like the young black and white sheep I met earlier, up for a photo shoot! Next up I walked downhill to the village of Pontrhydfendigaid. As I approached I got a good view of the Cambrian mountains I would be climbing to tomorrow. For now though it was time for dinner. I walked down the main street, pretty as a picture with rows of cottages, all painted and coloured in different shades and hues of cream, blue and green. And to my delight at the Afon Teifi road bridge a small shop with an attached cafe sorted me out with the perfect lunch. Cheers Siop y Bont. It was the best part of the day. Just after noon. Eight and a half miles covered, just over half way. Pleasant shop staff. Good food and drink. And I swear I saw a hint of blue sky. Straight outside the cafe I met a wandering Minstrel. Well, a chap a bit like a hobo who told me he wanders for a living. "Have you got anywhere permanent" I asked. "I have a cottage here but I never stay" he said, suggesting he lives a completely outdoor life. Good for him.

Afon TeifiAfon Teifi
View to Strata Florida AbbeyView to Strata Florida Abbey

I must have been dreaming. There was no blue sky as I went on my way from Pontrhydfendigaid, heading west for a mile and following the course of Afon Teifi to the site of a former Cistercian abbey. This one with a exotic name suggesting hot days and sandy beaches was nothing like when I arrived outside its high walls. Strata Florida Abbey looked dull, dank and sad and in complete desertion on this miserable and now raining again day. At the abbey I stopped by the roadside wall to shield from the wind which was picking up and making the donning of my poncho cape a comedy. I managed. Just. Then with no time to linger I headed south on a path leading into a plantation forest which offered some respite from the rain. I had rejoined the course of the Cambrian Way at the abbey and followed it into the forest but left it before exiting. A winding path leading to Garn Gron was a tempter but it was the wrong way for me today. And anyway with the cloud coming further down to the land I would not see anything up there anyway. Head down I crossed rural uplands to Penffordd from where I followed the road into Tregaron. Rain bounced knee high off the tarmac on occasions. Safe to say it was not the best part of my Coast to Coast walk. For about five miles all I looked at were my feet. They got me to where I wanted to go though.

TregaronTregaron
Twm Sion Cati or the Welsh Robin Hood?Twm Sion Cati or the Welsh Robin Hood?

I arrived in the town of Tregaron all damp and miserable. Not me, the town. The Teifi was bubbling after the all the rain of the last few days while a few hardy locals were walking about the streets and shopping, heads down and slumped under hoods. It was no weather for hanging about. I found my refuge for the night, the Talbot Hotel in the town square where a statue of Reverend Henry Richards, the Apostle of Peace stood looking over the town. Later on, in the evening I met a chap who went by the name of Twm Sion Cati. Being a dedicated walker himself he welcomed me to Tregaron and to the Cambrians. When I told him of my stage up to the Cambrians tomorrow he said "Blimey, that is a long way". A couple of weeks later, when back home after my walk discovered that Twm Sion Cati was the name of a man reputed to be the Welsh version of English folk hero Robin Hood. Had I been hoodwinked?

From my evening Facebook post: "Today the blister on my left foot exploded which is a good thing. It has been tender all day but well dressed with my first aid kit and medical skills which got me through the stage. I set off from Devil's Bridge and walked by road and tracks across fields, wet marsh ground and a section of forest to Pont-rhyd-y-groes where I met an old character who runs a garage with old shell pumps still used. "Only for my tractors" he said. Brilliant! Another gent in the village was gardening. He also said hello. Then I climbed to Ysbyty Ystwyth and stopped for a break on a bench by the church. As I took the world in an elderly lady pulled up beside me in an elderly car and got out. She went round to the passenger side front wheel, noticed me sat on the bench and said "Do you know anything about cars. It is making a funny noise". "Not really" I replied but added "however, I noticed a garage down the road where two chaps were replacing wheels on a van". She answered with a relieved tone "oh good, I thought the garage was shut. Thank you". I continued on after my Samaritan moment by road and then fields, more bog, farming tracks and then across more fields to Pontrhydfendigaid. I didn't have the confidence in my feet to cross marsh and high ground with my foot the way it was. In Pontrhydfendigaid I stopped at the post office cum cafe for lunch and as in Corris a few days ago I was fed for a bargain. The staff were so friendly too, my opinion of the people I have met on my journey is very high. And on leaving the cafe I met another, an old chap with a small rucksack, akin to a wandering hermit. He was extremely interesting to talk to as he explained how he spends his days wandering on the trails around the countryside surrounding the village. And what countryside, the foothills of the Cambrian Mountains are so enticing. This is an undeveloped walking area for sure. After Pontrhydfendigaid it was paths by river to an old silent abbey and then more tracks, fields and then road in pouring rain to Tregaron. I ambled though as my ailing foot could not accelerate. After checking in my hotel, showering and applying new dressing to my foot I feel confident about tomorrow. It is a long one.

Footnote 1 - Twm, thank you fit taking the time out to meet me.

Footnote 2 - Cannot understand what they are talking about in the bar.

Footnote 3 - it's not all about mountains. Towns, villages, characters, meetings, conversations and more are making this walk a thoroughly rounded experience.

Footnote 4 - roll on tomorrow!"

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