Day 193 Mile 193: Conwy Rivers Project part 3/10 Afon Llugwy. Betws y Coed (Chapel in the wood) has been famous as a tourist resort since the Victorians developed a love of the rustic and the mountainous ‘sublime’, and its stone-built houses in an alpine woodland setting make it one of the most picturesque villages in the Snowdonia National Park. It is probably its location near the junction of three river valleys that has made it an ideal place for a settlement dating back to at least the bronze age and on a sunny day such as this it is simply stunning. It should be noted that today’s glorious weather is not always the case, the average annual rainfall in the catchment of the River Llugwy is the highest recorded in England and Wales.
Today’s run goes along the river starting at the iconic Pont y Pair, (the Bridge of the Cauldron in English). built in 1468, and winds up through the woodland along the river bank as far as the slightly crazy looking Miner’s Bridge. This bridge is something of a relic and curiosity. These days it is simply a foot bridge and a bit of a fun way to get across the river into the woods but up until 1860 it was used by miners to cross the river via wooden ladder when commuting to and from the lead mines in the Gwydyr Forest.
It’s a very different experience compared to the other tributaries I have run so far. The river is wide and powerful, and populated by sightseers fron around the world. This is a bit awkward on narrow paths but a great thing to have so many people out obviously enjoying themselves and the day!
Some background on the Conwy Rivers Project first published 16/5/17.
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.
On the way there… (sorry, had to be done!)
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: 2862.5 meters recorded
(1 mile = 1609.34 m.)
Thanks as ever for all the support!