Day 302 Mile 302: Conwy Rivers Project 10/10 Afon Ddu

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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).

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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 🙂

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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.IMG_0855 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.

IMG_0854There 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.

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. Only 1 river per day, no binge-ing.
  4. 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.
  5. Complete the challenge before 31/12/17.
  6. 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.)

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Thanks as ever for all the support!

Ed

A silly earworm today from Wind in the Willows for the obvious riverbank link…

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Day 263 Mile 263: Conwy Rivers Project 9/10 Afon Porth-Llwyd

River waterfall wales running DolgarogDay 263 Mile 263: Conwy Rivers Project 9/10 Afon Porth-Llwyd. Today has been dramatic; a combination of helping-out vulnerable individuals starting a new life at university, and looking after a great friend who has recently fallen ill. As a result some downhill therapy was called for.

As part of running a mile daily this year, I have tried to trace the river Conwy and its tributaries  (see below), and a romp down the mountain following the river fitted the bill admirably.

For reasons of expedience, I left my car at the bottom of the hill in the village of Dolgarog, and walk-jogged up to ‘sight’ my route down. This took a couple of attempts, as paths disappeared into dense brambles and angry farm dogs urged me in no uncertain terms to consider alternative routes. As it happened the route I finally found exceeded all expectations (and enabled me to run very quickly downhill past the fierce dogs on my way back down before they realised I was there!)

Starting on the bridge over the river where it exits the mountain plateau, the route followed the road north for ten tarmacadamed meters before breaking off over a stile into a field; occupied by sheep and sedge and mud lubricated rock. Barreling across the ffridd as the gradient sharpened and the river dropped into a gorge on the right the land became an abode of moss and some incredible lichen.

Dolgarog lichen twig

As the path dropped precipitously into the woods, huge waterfalls opened up; prompting a sense of awe, and a strong desire not to slip in (or over) into the crackle-static of the cataract below. N.B. The falls in the cover photo are a tiny part of the section which has drops of around 90ft. but are hard to photo due to lots of leaves!

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A better shot of the waterfalls (with fewer leaves on the trees) courtesy of walkhighlands.co.uk

Winding on, the path snakes downhill; a hellish, wonderful, mix of; water, exposed rock and moss. The result is slower than running on road or track, in-spite of a massive downhill bias, and is certainly more likely to get you hurt, but, in this wet September evening it is SO much fun.

In sight of the tarmac of the bottom road I finally turned my left ankle, a good match for my right shoulder which I had pulled jumping a stile towards the start. Luckily neither of these were major, and the final run down to the village and the other end of the river, dovetailed an absolute gem of a route.

The village is partially named after a flying dragon called Garrog. This mythical beast preyed on sheep and “Dolgarrog” (The Garrog’s meadow) was the favourite field on which it swooped down from the heights above to carry off its dinner.

So serious were the losses that the farmers went on a dragon hunt armed with bows, arrows and spears. One farmer, Nico Ifan, refused to go, claiming a dream had forewarned him that the Garrog would cause his death. The other farmers laid a poisoned sheep’s carcass across a river in the heights above Eglwysbach a few miles away. The unsuspecting Garrog devoured the bait, and thus weakened, was caught and beaten to death.

Ifan finally came to gloat over the dead dragon, and in his joy at tricking fate kicked the corpse, whereupon the poisoned barbed wing of the Garrog pierced his leg thus fulfilling the warning in his dream.

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: 1762.6 meters recorded

(1 mile = 1609.34 m.)

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Thanks as ever for all the support!

Ed

P.S. Get well soon m8.

Day 254 Mile 254: Conwy Rivers Project 8/10 Afon Lledr

River tree bench Wales Cymru Afon lledrDay 254 Mile 254: Conwy Rivers Project 8/10 Afon Lledr. Today the weather has ranged from the miserable to the torrential. It is not as bad as the conditions faced by those on the other side of the Atlantic at the moment but it is none the less not exactly conducive to the idea of going outside!

However I was fortunate enough to have the afternoon off, even though I seem to have a case of the sniffles. Hence I came to the conclusion that, if I had to go out, I may as well go and do something nice.
So today I ticked off the antepenultimate river on the list in the form of the Afon Lledr.

It is suprisingly hard to get to. Not due to any particular lack of roads near it, but due to the fact that it runs through a wide glacial valley and therefore periodically floods a lot of the land around it. As such paths running closely alongside it are few and far between. This, combined with the fact that the idea to try and run along this river was taken up on something of a whim meaning I had nothing more acurate than a road atlas with me, resulted in a considerable period of time spent driving around moss naped back-roads in heavy downpours with the petrol light on my car flashing in trepidation at me.

Luckily persistence paid off and I was rewarded by a beautiful little lane running directly alongside the river. The few houses along the way had obviously stood for centuries, presumably tending the lichen screed dry-stone walls which in turn alternated with the trees and ferns in marking the edge of the lane.

I was joined for some time by a particularly large buzzard who swooped lazily down the road in front of me and made for an awe inspiring sight as he flew, like an unpainted wooden glider between the darker trees.

It was definitely worth the effort, but nice to be having tea and a biscuit as I type this in the warm and dry afterwards though!

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: 1654.0 meters recorded

(1 mile = 1609.34 m.)

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Thanks as ever for all the support!

Ed

Day 248 Mile 248: Conwy Rivers Project 7/10 Legends of the Afon Crafnant

Day 248 Mile 248: Conwy Rivers Project 7/10 Legends of the Afon Crafnant. Today’s run finds me (on the way to Aberystwyth) at the head of the River Crafnant, where it first emerges from the lake that bears the same name where it then drops by about 600ft to meet the river Conwy and hence the sea.

It is a beautiful place full of ancient woodland and wonderful stories, such as that of the Crafnant Water Horse. According to legend, if a person caught and mounted the it, the mythical beast would flee away to Crafnant Lake and plunge in; the person would never be seen again. I have still never heard a good reason why anyone would have thought that this was a good idea in the first place!

The valley which the river has carved out is home to the sessile oak, which was sacred to the Druids, who lived in Wales at up until the time of the Roman invasion. Not far away stands an obelisk commemorating Taliesin, a 6th-century bard. Most scholars believe him to be of Irish descent but it is known he lived in the surrounding hills. In those times bards would have been resident in the courts of many warrior kings, and Taliesin was said to have attended King Maelgwyn Gwynedd. After a fiery row the departing bard predicted that a yellow creature would rise from Morfa Rhianedd (Llandudno) and kill the King. It has since been proven that when the King died in roughly AD 547 there was an outbreak of yellow fever!

Many of Taliesin’s more fanciful poems recall tales of magic and mystery, some of which relate to the heroics of the great King Arthur, who some believe was his one-time master. It is probable that he spent time in the court of Urien of Rheged, a northern leader whose kingdom occupied much of modern Cumbria and south west Scotland. Many people link Urien’s deeds with those of the mythical Arthur, so again there may be a grain of truth in the stories

Returning to the present the woodland today is alive with birds, something which has remained unchanged since the time of the Druids who first expressed huge respect for the wren, calling it ‘The King of the Birds’. The wren is sometimes called ‘The Bird of Taliesin’, tradition telling that Taliesin was once transformed into a wren, his favourite bird. To this day the wren is one of the most sighted birds in the Crafnant Valley.

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: 2225.6 meters recorded

(1 mile = 1609.34 m.)
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Thanks as ever for all the support!

Ed

Day 230 Mile 230: Conwy Rivers Project 6/10 Staying Downstream of the Goblins

river moss rocks waterfall walesDay 230 Mile 230: Conwy Rivers Project 6/10 Staying Downstream of the Goblins. The Afon Dulyn (the Black River) is a small river cutting its way down off the mountains from Llyn Dulyn, yes you’ve guessed it, the Black Lake. It makes its way down the west side of the Conwy Valley gouging a deep cleft through the Cambrian strata that marks out the far boundary of the Carneddau range and thus tells of a very old history.

Today’s run starts in the village of Tal-Y-Bont just above where the Dulyn meets the Conwy river and follws the Dulyn gorge up from its starting point behind the Bedol Pub and up into the hills. Y Bedol is Welsh for “The Horseshoe”. The next building to the north was a smithy and farriers and presumably somewhere back in the mists of time hence how the inn earned its name.

river moss rocks waterfall walesThe run up the gorge feels close, and the river feels dark under the trees and particularly ancient rocks and woodland. The path is narrow and at times precarious and it is easy to see how people became so suspicious of the lake that feeds this water-course.

Llyn Dulyn (the Black Lake), which is overlooked by tall cliffs, is said to have a dark reputation. In the past it was said to be visited regularly by the ‘Tylwyth Teg, goblins and rain-makers’. Other stories involve disfigured fish living in this lake, which apparently have bulbous eyes and deformed bodies. The lake covers an area of only 33 acres yet is extremely deep reaching to a depth of 189 feet, so the oddly shaped fish may well have some basis in crepuscular evolution more than superstition. In 1942 a plane crashed into the foreboding rocks to the west of the water, and pieces of it eventually wound up in the lake, where they are to this day. This cemented it as a place of ill fortune in many people’s minds. So I’ll stay down by the river rather than going up to the lake today… just in case!

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: 1965.2 meters recorded

(1 mile = 1609.34 m.)
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Thanks as ever for all the support!

Ed

For today’s earworm my mind was too full of endorphins from running up hill and talk of the weird so this wonderful chestnut sneaked its way in 🙂  

Day 214 Mile 214: Conwy Rivers Project part 5/10 Afon Machno

5 arched stone bridge in Wales over a rushing riverDay 214 Mile 214: Conwy Rivers Project part 5/10 Afon Machno. This evening finds me further into the mountains than normal, hence I get the chance to tick off one of the more ‘remote’ runs today 🙂 The Afon (river) Machno is the first major tributary of the River Conwy, which it joins south of Betws-y-Coed.

Roughly halfway down the valley sits the village of Penmachno, an ancient settlement which quite literally spans the river; the two parts of which are linked by a quintuple-arched, stone bridge.

The river and it’s surrounding elements have a very different feel to the last few runs I have done along the river Conwy tributaries. It is the complete antithesis of the ornamental gardens  I found down the Hireathlyn, or the tourist honey pot that was Betws-y-coed, the Afon Machno has a routed beauty all of its own.

The textured stone of the walls and houses, verdant hills and lichen bedecked contours tell of a weight of history and an exquisiteness which has stood strong against wind, rain and invasion for millennia.

Tradition has it the Iorwerth ‘Snubnose’ the father of Llywelyn Fawr (ruler of Wales 1200-1240) is buried here and the parish church of Saint Tudclud contains five early Christian, inscribed stone slabs dating from the 5th or 6th century. The Carausius Stone, which bears the Chi Rho symbol has been suggested to be the grave stone of Carausius, a Roman military commander who usurped power in the British Isles in 286 and was assassinated in 293.

Just down the road is the birthplace of Bishop William Morgan (1545 – 1604 probably!). He was one of the leading scholars of his day, having mastered Hebrew in addition to Latin and Greek. Morgan was the first person to translate the Bible in its entirety into Welsh, an act which was hugely significant, culturally and linguistically, and the effects of which are still with us today.

It is amazing what you can so easily overlook as just being a few houses a pub and a load of sheep!

For more background on the Conwy Rivers Project please have a read of the blog post first published on 16/5/17 here.

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: 1741.6 meters recorded

(1 mile = 1609.34 m.)

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Thanks as ever for all the support!

Ed

A good earworm for a tired but musical summer’s evening…

Day 210 Mile 210: Conwy Rivers Project part 4/10 Afon Hiraethlyn

Day 210 Mile 210: Conwy Rivers Project part 4/10 Afon Hiraethlyn. Today finds me running alongside the Afon (river) Hiraethlyn, sometimes Erethlyn in old Welsh and it is beautiful. What started as a relatively mundane run down a farm track has taken me into the back of Bodnant Gardens and the scenery has been so enhanced by the planting and care lavished on the area as to give the impression that I have stumbled into some magical kingdom in the early morning light.

The gardens were founded in 1874 by Henry Davis Pochin, a Leicestershire-born Victorian industrial chemist who acquired fame and fortune inventing a process for clarifying rosin used in soap, turning it from the traditional brown to white. These were developed by five generations of one family, they was gifted to the care of the National Trust in 1949. The garden spans 80 acres of hillside and includes formal Italianate Terraces, informal shrub borders stocked with plants from around the world, and The Dell, a gorge garden, a number of notable trees and a waterfall.

This stretch of the river has such a different feel to all of the others I have met with so far on this adventure. There is a manicured beauty to the landscape and a forthright grandeur to the ramrod trees, tended grass and considered planting. It is an incredibly impressive place, and the amount of time invested in it (both in the short and long terms) is truly awe inspiring. A little part of me cant help but feel that this slightly misses the point of the welsh landscape. They have created a place of great majesty and beauty here, in one that had it already, a bit like building a roller-coaster on a mountain so that people can be elated by the feeling of going downhill quickly.

However the place is astounding and it is wonderful to run in a completely different environment through winding paths passing show-standard flowering plants from across the globe whose names surpass my parochial botanic knowledge and just bask in the beauty of a place understood only on a surface level of pure amazement.

On a side note, good luck to all the people doing the North Wales Half Marathon today which goes through the village in a bit! 🙂

For more background on the Conwy Rivers Project please have a read of the blog post first published on 16/5/17 here.

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: 2203.3 meters recorded

(1 mile = 1609.34 m.)

View more on Strava

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Thanks as ever for all the support!

Ed