03 Jun Into the hills
Yesterday and today. What days we had.
At last we left the rolling hills and lush valleys behind and ventured onto the stony trails among the ridges, peaks and moors of northern Wales. This feels more familiar. This is terrain we love for its sense of wildness. Open heather-clad country and scattered farms. Sheep are the only livestock that thrive here. And skylarks.
Those softly serene rolling hills that we traversed for days have been a joy. But they deceive. The lush grass makes for hard walking, especially when it’s damp with rain and the humidity is high. Heavy ground drags the feet, drains the energy. Boots soak through. Mud collects on their soles. More weight to carry up and down, up and down.
In the valleys cattle graze on moist long grass. Cows with new calves are watchful. We are too, unsure how they will react if they sense we’re a threat. Their big doleful faces give nothing away. Heifers or steers usually ignore you as you walk through their fields but yesterday we encountered an aggressive bunch. Fierce youths they were as they fixed us with their eye, bullied us off the path, pushing us towards a fence. It was their patch and we were intruding. It felt menacing – though probably it wasn’t. They’re bigger and they outnumbered us 5:1 at least. Respect – we climbed the gate and trudged up the neighbouring field.
The stages of the walk seem to conspire against the rhythms of our days with tough climbs coming late on in the afternoons when we’re starting to tire. Then, at the end of many a steep climb there’s another high stile to heave yourself over. The weather has conspired too – against the long views at least. Cloud and mist frequently settled over hilltops. The odd frustrating marker board tells us the sights we might see on a fine day: Liverpool, Snowdon. We ponder the difference between mist and fog. The Met Office is clear (excuse the pun): if visibility is under 1km it’s fog; over 1km it’s mist. Much of the time we’ve had fog.
But these last two days our luck has changed. The fog was gone for a while yesterday and today it stayed away. Stiff ascents and long descents across the Clwydian hills brought rewards. We climbed three or maybe four – Moels they’re called: Fenili, Famau, Dywyll, Arthur and saw for miles. Our first glimpse of the sea, yonder at Prestatyn.
Living at walking pace for a while. It’s glorious all this. Being out here, up here, weary, thrilled and awed. And lost in thought much of the time.