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Diaries from my Wonderful Walks in Wales

October 16, 2012

Misty and Mystical


October has arrived so quickly this year!

After a year where the seasons have been truly topsy turvy, at least autumn is authentically mellow, misty and magical.

The colours are magnificent now, the bracken turned to an auburn red that glows in the late soft sunlight, the leaves every shade from citrus yellow through burnt orange to dark plum.

Yesterday began damp and drizzly, with the sky hanging down in soft grey pillows of clouds, but it was mild and the air smelt sweet. I had promised two lovely lady guests a trip to the craft centre in Corris to source hand made quilts and candles, thinking I might walk Oscar as they looked.

We drove up through Machynlleth, up Afon Dulas, marvelling at the stunning spectrum of colours in the forests and on the open mountains. The mist and rain softening the spectacle, and making it all the more romantic.

The lights of the craft centre, set into the hillside, made it very welcoming. Each little section houses a different craft. The smells of leather, the perfume from the scented candles and the wafts of coffee from the café drew us in. The walk temporarily forgotten and poor Oscar abandoned in the jeep!

My ladies spotted the ‘King Arthur’s Labyrinth’, with its boat ride deep into the mountains and before I knew it, I was donning a hard hat to be taken on a magical mystery tour.

The tour combines all local legends and folklore with the Arthurian legend; but much more fascinating to me than the tapes and tableaux was the story of the caves themselves. This was told to us by our tour guide, whose family had been miners for generations in these very caves. The caverns are old slate mines, dating back over nearly two hundred years.

There is no outward sign of the industry below ground, just a large cave entrance.

There are over nine miles of tunnels hewn out of the rock, joining the huge caverns from which the slate was mined.

Each of the tunnels is just high enough to walk through, some now flooded and making deep silent waterways. The marks of the picks still clear on the rough walls. An amazing testimony to the hard labour that created them.

The miners worked in teams, or ‘bargains’; two tunnelling through the ‘bad rock’ to locate the seams of slate, two labourers carting away the rubble, two face men, perilously hanging from chains , high in the caverns , working on the rock face, and two on the surface, dressing the slate slabs.

They had only the most primitive tools, and only candles made with mutton fat to light the impenetrable darkness.

Now, the spot lights show the huge caverns they made, but they must never have seen this for themselves.

It was a relief to emerge back into daylight and see the brightening sky.


We decided to continue with the ‘Arthurian’ theme, and take a look at the site of Guinevere’s village on theTal-y-llynLake

We continued North up theDulasValley. With our new found knowledge we now noticed the little Corris railway, which took the slate and rubble away. Driving up further to Corris village we noted the black slate tips shining in the damp sun. Obviously where much of the rubble from the caves below had been dumped. Looking at surrounding hillsides, more and more evidence of all this activity. Derelict little stone sheds, next to the old shafts, clusters of walls and slabs of slate littered the slopes.

Climbing further toUpper Corris, we leave all this behind, looking northwards towards Cader Idris. A bend in the road reveals the glorious view; majestic Cader Idris as a backdrop, a perfect patchwork of russets, greens and purple; the deep jade green solid patches of conifers, contrasted by the the shimmering golds of the beech and birch.

And below, glistening in the sunlight, theTal-y-LlynLake.

We drove down, turning left before the pretty little Minffordd Arms pub, parking just by the shores of the lovely lake. The air was still and silent and the water like glass, reflecting the mountain behind.

Oscar, free at last, quickly broke the spell, diving noisily into the water, shattering the image.

We followed the road all along the shore, drinking in the amazing views, watching the sky lifting into blue. The light turning to golden, intensifying the autumnal splendour.

To our left, the steep slopes of Mynydd Rugog, with its craggy summit. The rocks shining black in the damp air, with cascading waterfalls and tumbling crystal streams enhanced by the mornings rain. We reached the Tyn-y-Cornel Hotel, set in a perfect location on the shores of the lake, looking across to Cader Idris, and resisted the temptation of tea!

Leaving the road now, to follow the footpath taking us a complete circle around to the opposite shore; walking first through a lovely reed bed and into a patch of conifers.

The footpath is narrow, and right along the waters edge. The water still and deep, bordered by flat black slatey stones reminding us of the caverns.

Looking east along the whole stretch of the lake, we can see the lozenges of cloud hanging along the valley beyond. The sky, now blue, reflecting in the glistening water.

We cross over the wider shore, where the film crew built Guinevere’s village, only to burn it down! The film captured the magnificence of the site, which was a perfect backdrop for the battle scenes.

Looking at the deep dark water, we almost expect to see the hand of the lady of the lake and Excalibur rising up!

Making our way back along the east end of the lake, the ground is soft and peaty, and there are brambles still full of juicy blackberries and tangled wild  roses laden with crimson rose hips. Bullrushes and reeds frame the water, looking yellow in the golden light.

Back to the car, we are all exhausted after our day out.

Time to head back home to the fire and a proper afternoon tea!

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