In early May I discovered a book on the shelf at the Bridge Inn in Conwy, entitled Walk in the Beautiful Conwy Valley by Ralph Maddern. It is a wonderfully written book, with an inspiring enthusiasm for the landscape and culture of the valley: at whose head I was currently nursing a pint, while overlooking the castle.The book was illustrated with pen and ink sketches, which not only provided a fun insight into the concerns and imaginations of the author and illustrator, but also no doubt kept production costs down. I suspect that photos, even black and white ones my have been prohibitively expensive with the technology available in 1970 for such a small run book. Viewed through a 2017 lens where photos are two a penny the book almost seems better by their absence.
Hidden amoung these sketches and maps was a simple diagram outlining the Afon (River) Conwy and its major tributaries. I have lived near this river for a large part of my life and have never seen it described so clearly. As a result of this inspiration, and possibly the fine locally brewed ale I was supping I decided to run a section of each of these tributaries over the next few months.
There has been a River Conwy for millennia. The valley floor has been made rich and fertile by the deposits left behind by the retreating ice sheets of the Pleistocene era, but the river and the valley were forming long before then. Way before the ice came that water had already found a natural line of weakness between the Silurian bedrock to the east and the older, harder Cambrian rocks found to the west.
There is still evidence of Stone Age settlements in the hills and a written history dating back to the Roman settlement of Britain. Salmon and Sea Trout can still be found in its waters and in 1991 Elizabeth II opened a tunnel crossing under the estuary.
We stand in the narrowest slice of time trying to find context in a framework which in itself is still altogether insignificant in the massive arch of geological chronology.
On the next sunny day I took a few minutes out and sat on the roof where there was space to layout the gargantuan and iconic paper map that is OL17 Snowdon and Conwy Valley along with a pen and paper and a cup of tea. I would try to tick off the 9 different tributaries and something from the main river itself as an ongoing sub project to running at least a mile everyday this year. There would only be a few rules:
- I would have to try and run as close to the course of the river as possible gullies and bramble bushes etc. permitting for at least 1/2 mile before looping around to make a minimum 1 mile run.
- I would have to physically make contact with the water at least once per run. The ceremonial sploshing of a digit would be preferable to accidental full body immersion!
- Only 1 river per day, no binge-ing.
- Avoid specific trips out to locations, try to make it fit in with another reason for going to that area, in order to save on time and petrol, also see rule 3.
- Complete the challenge before 31/12/17.
- Avoid mosquitoes if at all possible.
So today, I have ticked off the Afon Roe as the first while en-route with work. It’s a lovely little part of the river going through sheep fields under overhanging trees along the bank. In-spite of my running along beside the river it was magical to see a heron, lofting its way along the stream while the mayflies convened below. Although evidence of human intervention was visible throughout the landscape, from the subtle inferences of grazed land through to the more obviously tended trees and pylons; it was refreshing not to meet a soul on this brief excursion. The opportunity to let my mind range out, from this stream, across a valley into a landscape; washing like a wave, up to the mountains and down to the sea with a refreshed understanding of it, and its time and the creatures upon it. It was very special.
I’m running a mile each day everyday for 2017. If you feel you can sponsor me please do, as all the money raised will go to the Cleft Lip & Palate Association (CLAPA) who provide services all across the UK to support people affected by it.
Distance: 1726.4 meters recorded
(1 mile = 1609.34 m.)
Thanks as ever for all the support!