Day 302 Mile 302: Conwy Rivers Project 10/10 Afon Ddu. Today I managed to take advantage of the weekend sunshine to tick off the last tributary in this side project. It was a wonderful final stage, through woodland within sight of the river, until the trees gave way to reed beds and the River Ddu met the River Conwy (just about visible in the right foreground of the photo).
It is a wonderful mix of gravel, rooty trails and long grass to run through; with the gravel bed of the river to the right until it was swallowed by the reed-beds which seem to grow up to about 10 feet high in places. This masking gives a very different impression of space as the only way to gain a real sense of location is by the tops of the hills which form either side of the valley and peer out in their late autumn deciduous colours above the raw ochre hues of the wintering rushes.
It is particularly nice to finish the run at the main confluence of the river and thus draw this side project to a sense of culmination. It has been fascinating exploring the veins and arteries of this river system and intriguing to find how different each of the tributaries have been. This has held true in a number of ways. The most striking is the ecology and once again reinforces how diverse an ecosystem the UK actually is. Beyond this are so many other variables such as terrain, weather, stories and memories all of which are amazingly diverse for such a small area. What a wonderful mini-epic adventure 🙂
* * *
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.
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: 1761.4 meters recorded
(1 mile = 1609.34 m.)
Thanks as ever for all the support!
A silly earworm today from Wind in the Willows for the obvious riverbank link…