Sorrowful tones and a scraping sound assailed my ears that Sunday morning at Glandyfi, and I looked round to see Jack industriously cursing himself and wiping butter from everything in his vicinity. It transpired that he had been sleeping on the butter all night, and half a pound of butter can be spread an amazing distance. Sleeping bag and groundsheet received the most plastering, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening and watching Jack work. It was a great pleasure to see him up at 8am, a most unearthly hour to his way of thinking. And mine.
The rain was still inexhaustible, though nothing but a hard wind remained of the hurricane. Dry, warm clothing awaited us at the farm; we breakfasted, packed up, and were streaming along into Machynlleth by ten-o-clock. We tackled Corris Pass manfully, and marvelled at the volume of water in every stream. The rain was merciless and nothing we wore was proof against it; ere we reached the summit we were at last nights point of saturation again, and therefore happy. Happy with childish delight at every cold douche over our feet, at our streaming hair splayed like battered wheat over our heads. With a swoop we descended to Minffordd at the foot of the Tal-y-Llyn Pass, and with the wind now dead behind, we found it no more than a heavy drag. Cader Idris was a line of cliffs with a hundred streams down its hundred-crannied sides and the grey swirl of storm clouds enfolding the broken summit-crags. Tal-y-Llyn was far behind down the valley, a gloomy reflector of the gloomy heavens. And all the hills were lost in mists. The run down to Dolgellau was hectic. The brakes on the wet rims were a long ere they started to grip, and in that space we needed them. The many bends below Cross Foxes were taken at a steep angle that, each time, left us wondering why we did not conclude on our necks. In Dolgellau we shook ourselves much as a wet dog does after a swim, and went in a place for lunch.
After that came ten drenching miles of the Mawddach estuary to Barmouth. To anyone who will show me ten other miles containing so much beauty I will be forever grateful. Each mile impresses one as the culmination and the climax, the be-all and end-all of loveliness till the next takes you into further raptures, on and on, beauty transcending beauty till the mental outlook can take nothing more. Mountains and streams, a river in-tide, rocky banks and sandy dunes, ravines, woods, flowers and roses. These things in bewildering successiveness and other things unwritten give themselves to you on the Mawddach estuary.
From Barmouth we pursued the coast road and saw the darkness lifting from the sea. While we watched the mad torrent fling itself across the road when a bridge could take no more at Llanbedr, the sky turned from grey to broken white, and the rain ceased after a constant deluge of thirty-six hours. It seemed a great pleasure to ride unfettered, to towel our soaked hair and keep it dry, to feel our clothing like dish-rags no more !
Sunday, in Wales, a land as commercially dead as the proverbial dodo. Bigots have passed a law that no-one must open a shop on Sunday, and bigots enforce strict adherence. A meal and a newspaper are the only articles allowed for sale, and in the case of the newspaper, to go by the average Sunday paper, that is the one and only thing which might be better prohibited. Wales, like the rest of Britain, must have its chapels and divorce court news, however ! So at Harlech we were without cigarettes – a calamity ! But we had been in Wales on many a Sunday……… a side-door of a side-street shop smuggled cigarettes to us with the air of criminals, and regaining the main street we stole past the sole policeman with skulking stride and burning cheeks. We had evaded the law ! And what a law !
The weather improved by leaps and bounds, which was unlike Jack’s singing which always remains at a certain low level, and I had just reason to rebuke him. Thereafter, for several miles the puritan peace of Wales was disturbed. We had tea behind a hedge at Maentwrog, a sweet little place in one of the sweetest valleys in all Wales. We followed our usual custom of eating the whole of our stock, and thereafter found ourselves in the terrible position of being without food on Sunday in Wales. It was a hard climb to Blaenau Ffestiniog, but it was harder by far combing out Blaenau Ffestiniog for food. We damned that law to the alleged inferno where bad Christians are sent, and we knocked and punched a dozen side doors almost from their hinges ere one less biased lady, influenced no doubt by our haggard looks, provisioned us, bidding us hide all we had obtained ere we went out. To hide the stuff we got was nigh impossible, and a great bulge of brown paper covering bread was eyed by a policeman who stood at the very shop door. We grinned in triumph that he might deduce how happy we were, and rode away.
We tackled Garddinan Pass, a 1400 ft route of unpromising, industrial beginning, but blossoming into a glorious mountain crossing with a view down the Lledr valley that leaves one sobered and thoughtful. There rise the swelling sides of Moel Siabod in many colours, there on its little rocky eminence, hardly visible in the growing dusk, is ‘Dolwyddelen’s Tower’, and there the mazes of the Dale delight the eye, charm the mind. “What more seek ye, Wanderers?”, quoted Jack as we tumbled down to the cork-screw bends that took us to the river Lledr. The river Lledr in swollen pomp rushing down the rocks; the river shouting and chattering back at itself; the white fleck bearing down on the racing back of the flood; the thousand white streams pouring from the mountains in many a magnificent cataract of thirty-six hours growth; the washed shiminess of bare rock and fresh moss on cleaved rock; the roses clean and bravely blooming; the green finery of summer and all the majesty of summer in fields, in hedgerows; the scentedness of twilight – the dusky sky not yet swept clear of cloud……. “What more seek ye, Wanderers?”.
“Ye Olde Fish Inn” lent us the most beautiful campsite of our holiday; by the river the field stood and beyond sound or sight from the road. Boy Scouts, camping a couple of fields away, sent their chief to talk to us, and he was a man after our own spirit. Last night he had been washed out completely, and his patrol had been forced to fly to an old barn. The river had overflown its banks, and even while we talked the work of salvage was going on.
The ground was beyond reproach, and after previous sites, thought ourselves on a feather bed. We slept long………