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Through to the Wye

From Blaenieithon

River Ithon Diary

i'm inspired by the Wye

River Ithon - to Wye Confluence

 

40 Miles total Sat 27 July -  Tues 30th  

2019

 

Source Grid Ref: SO 105 - 851. 4 interactive map click right. 4 OS Landranger 147 136

 

My walk to the Ithon started at Dolfor meaning Big Meadow but before I got there, I was told by Ryan, a local lad, that the bus from Llandrindod Wells to Dolfor some 22 miles away was free. ‘Free?’ I questioned the fact but it was true. So, I got to Dolfor for my 2KM walk to the source of the Ithon river in good spirits having saved near on £5.

 

At the track that lead to the start of the river I was greeted by two motocross or dirt bikers screaming across the landscape. I thought ‘great,’ that’s all I need but then settled down to their presence realizing complaints of this nature rarely change a thing. It was a short-lived scream of engines as they disappeared over the mid Wales hills. Soon, it was silent or should I say slowed down again because things never are silent. There is always sound in the mind, in the trees or in the spheres of the planets. ‘Aaah the slowed downness of it all.’ I love it here already.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I speak to Paul as I get ever closer to the actual source. ‘Were here Paul at the source of the Ithon.’ As my dialogue continues with him, I know he would love it. In fact, he is loving it as I know of his presence through me and all things that I see, feel and touch. Walking down the gentle slope beside the plantation to the rivers origin I hear the conversation we would have had about the scenery beyond, which constitutes plantation strips and bulbous Radnorshire hills. ‘This is nice and wild out the back here Paul,’ I say as we take in the panorama. ‘It sure is Mark. We’re in rugged Radnorshire farm land that not a lot of people are interested in.’ In my imagination I turn to him saying. ‘We love it though.’

 

I arrive at the very source, which looks like a pit that hogs have bathed in complete with a concrete pipe. It reminds me of the River Froome source in Herefordshire where an actual hog was resident. Some of these sources are simply not celebrated like the River Wye source for they dwell amid livestock and farming country that deals with other things besides pretty landscapes. Things like piss, shit and death and of course life for the animals here are worth more alive.

 

Having observed the source and connected with Paul I continue to handrail the embryonic river, which is literally a trickle amid acid grassland. A farmer has just sped away on his quad bike leaving me alone in this rugged country once more. Relieved that he has accomplished his own mission I cross a bog and get a whiff of death the kind that permeates your nostrils to speak of the realities here amid bleating lambs and the mewing sound of the buzzard’s overhead. Sure, enough a dead sheep lay motionless with its jaw and rib cages protruding out from its flesh and skin putrid in nature. Being situated on a feeder stream It makes me realize that I was wise to bring my filter because all this is flowing into the river I imagine filtering from as I walk.

 

The walking is great even on my first road section, which is brief. I pass by an old Welsh chapel thinking to myself as the cars whiz by about how much slower things would have been back in 1909 when it was built. A lot slower! The view of our sonic surroundings was one thing, ‘whoosshhh,’ another goes by but so to was our view of time although I recognise, 1909 folk would have acted speedily in their own dimension if the job demanded it. All things are relative!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back beside the river on a bridge North of Llanbadarn Fynnd, I gaze at the growing river with its carpet of sodden moss clinging to rock sharp and jagged in appearance. I look forward to seeing more as I turn to head on up into farming country once again away from the A483 between Llandrindod Wells and Newtown. It’s thirsty work with 33 pounds plus on my back so I look for water because the river affords me no access from the bridge. There to my right is a cottage complete with vans parked up. I assume someone is in. I knock but to no avail. Thank fully, as I turn away from the rear door, I see a tap attached to the wall. Buoyed by the prospect of rehydrating I drink first then fill Paul’s empty folding water bottle. Beside the road I add High5 electrolytes, which I’m keen to observe the performance of. Ordinarily the miles and the weight of the sack suck it out of me but now I may have a solution that being replace the salt and help repair the muscles whilst rehydrating. How will it make a difference though? We’ll see!

 

Crossing a field later I come across a profusion of chickens wondering a field as if on a mass litter pick. I wonder where they’re coming from and then I see the sheds to my left through a clearing in trees. They’re free range but with an electric fence all the way around the field they’re penned in as am I. Fortunately after a brief look around, I see engineers have factored in the need for the farmer to have a greater range than his chickens. There in front of a gate are plastic handles with the electric wires attached hooked to a post. Easy!

 

Now on my way towards an inevitable pitch close by I ponder the farmers idyllic life, which isn’t so idyllic when you consider the reality. The reality is the chickens and most livestock around here will meet their end soon to provide an income for farmer and family. Animal welfare, government regulation, feed, infrastructure, energy for the fence or fences, transport to market, fitness of the land, repair and so much more all play a part amid these beautiful rolling hills. Most walking from the towns or cities have a romantic view of them but I see something different. In the back end there I see pressure entwined with a lifestyle that offers much reward to. Like my grandparents who were farmers I appreciate the family run farm and the land that has evolved over millennia as a result of farming aspirations. As they taste the sweat of their day, they love it for sure similarly to how I love my backpacking. Sometimes they are deeply concerned as they navigate tricky obstacles in their day to day but mainly, I think they are content unless of course they are being squeezed by the huge Agri-corporate farms or the gigantic supermarkets, which they often are. A contradiction emerges something I try to get my head around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at Paul’s light weight Nordisk Telemark 1 tent, and without any such contradiction, I’m happy as I turn away to see where it is situated. It’s on a tiny flat spot on a harvested hill for silage or hay above the farm. It’s been cut and with no livestock it’s unlikely the farmer will be back in here. They check livestock first thing but with hay or silage now brought in this field is finished with for the time being. Looking back towards the Ithon I smile inside. What a great first day.

 

With food inside me I settle down to enjoy the dry late evening and fading light. The Radnor Forest some 10 miles away to the South East is looking bulbous and majestic as is Llandegley Rocks, which Paul and I summited back in March 2016 as we walked the River Edw the source of which is on its Eastern slopes. Beautiful memories of Paul abound here in the Wye catchment wherever I look because we had walked 10 of the Wye rivers together. They spanned the Wye’s upper reaches in the Cambrian Mountains all the way down to Chepstow in the lower Wye. I am blessed to have covered such ground with Paul. I look at Llandegely and I see him gaze out across the Radnor forest and if I look down from the Severn Sisters in the Symonds Yat gorge on the border with Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, I see him loving the Broadleaf woodland that covers the hills the Wye now passes slowly through.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I stare at this time from where I am now. In fact, I step into it and allow my twins memory to fill every part of me like the rivers and streams fill every part of the land. He flows through me, which invokes a smile then a bow of my head. I groan deeply but on this occasion the tears do not oblige me. I want to cry and feel like it as if stood on a precipice but they say to me that I’ve cried to many times. Looking back up my eyes are strained with the loss of my soul mate and one and only true friend as if like a puppy pleading for something kind to happen. ‘Paul, where are you? Where did you go?’ I ask softly and painfully. With the forest almost unmoved I stare back eyes still pleading and make it clear that I’ve not wanted to be here but am. ‘I’ve sought constantly to be with you Paul but I don’t know how to do it. I know I have to stay but it hurts brother. Ha, you’ve left me with an incomplete mission to walk these rivers, which you know I have to finish. Very clever Paul.’

 

Eventually I finish the conversation I’ve had a thousand times since he left and say, with one last stare at the forest and Llandegley Rocks, ‘I love you Paul and you father Terry.’ Yeah, they are two warriors together now and for that I am happy. I do laugh when I speak to them both. ‘Father Terry and brother Paul,’ I say. It sounds like they’re part of some monastic order, which I’m certain dad would turn into some kind of joke being a former SAS soldier with a sense of humour. I can imagine it a flower in the barrel of his gun - his love gun in heaven now. Ha ha!

 

Sometimes you have to go without or limit what you have in order to practice other skills otherwise it’s all to easy.

The sheep I was looking at was a goner to. I don’t know how it happened but there before me stood on a mound of dry shit was a sheep with it’s insides suspended below it. I said, ‘your dead mate.’ The funny thing is it just stared at me without a hint of its life-threatening injury. They are made of different stuff dwelling in a dimension where no pity exists at all.

 

Further on down a dirt track I come to a road where a Rabbit lay with its legs splayed out flat to the ground. With blood and brains all about the place its head was mashed! With a brief look I turn and start my road walk into the traffic. Talking to myself I say, ‘Ha, I hope this isn’t the end of me. It’ll be fine if I walk into the traffic - always walk into the traffic’ Bizarrely an ambulance appears at the same time from around the corner whizzing by me clearly on a mission. ‘What was that about?’ I said. ‘First a sheep with its guts hanging out, then a rabbit and to top it off an ambulance.’ I laugh! Some things are just so strange they leave you only one choice. That is to cease figuring it out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camp two has emerged. I got off the main road and onto a back road to cross a field into what looks like a woodland glade. There is no livestock again. They’ve cordoned this field off to allow grass to grow. It’s secluded and set about 400 meters away from the farm. Happy amid this woodland glade I pitch, eat, relax in the sill evening and soak up the golden glow of light bursting through the trees. I get a good sleep accompanied by noisy owls first thing. It sure was a beautiful camp. I look down and thank the spot once packed up. As they say, ‘take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints.’ Nobody would know I had even been there.

 

Next stop Pen Y Bont but not before crossing a beautiful suspension bridge across the Ithon. It’s growing now almost into middle age. Meeting in the middle are the loping canopies of trees from either side of the river. Like a Wisteria tunnel it’s an enchanting sight as the water gently eases its way forward sparkling beneath as it does. I stand and admire it. In truth I breathe it in knowing that I can. ‘Aaah, Paul would love this’ I think to myself.

 

In Pen Y Bont I visit the Thomas Shop an old store that’s been there for decades. It’s laid out in much the same way stores were laid out during the early part of the century - even into the 50’s. I’m fascinated by the old Sunlight soaps, tins of Salmon, the Victorian clothes, linen, scales, boots, breads, bovrils, herbs, mincers, top hats, flowers and the old ornate till, which is ready to receive money from the rural community here amid the River Ithon running beside its garden out back. In front of me as I drink a cup of tea in the garden a short while later is Llandegley Rocks 2 KM East. It’s stands proud as some kind of sentinel for Mid Wales. It was once a volcanic island complex, which emerged some 450 million years ago. Maaan, it’s old. In fact, everything here is old. It’s a time warp!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t stick around much longer though or I may become another fixture. I have to get going. After brief consideration I opt for a 3KM road bash the end of which will bring me to Ceffnllys hill, castle and church. On top of the hill at 304 meters where the Roger Mortimer castle was once situated, I look out across to the wilds of Radnor Forest and Llandegley Rocks again. I can see clearly now the summit and trig point where Paul and I stood in March 2016. I had no real idea that the memories would be so pronounced on this trip but they are visceral as they touch every fibre of my being.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a time on the River Edw that was the source of which rises on the Eastern slopes of this mighty hill and ridge. It was one of my favourite walks for sure as we began with the family at Mellow Croft who kindly put us up in one of their cabins. Later that same evening two musicians played music in the woodland roundhouse, which they built themselves. It was a divine evening as we sparked up the burner later amid the still of the rocks above. I can’t get enough of the memory and just stand motionless trying in some way to bring Paul back to me. I get very close, let go and turn to walk down the hill towards the church on the Western side of Ceffnllys but not before glancing at the chap I previously spoke to at the bottom who is now shouting instructions from the top to his dog below who is chasing sheep like there’s no tomorrow.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the church, which is majestic for such a rural set up I meet Phillip a hiker who is hiking the Heart of Wales trail that follows the Heart of Wales rail line between Knighton and Swansea in the South. It’s become somewhat of a celebrated national trail from what I can tell. I’m really happy to meet him as our coming together ignites all manner of hiker talk amid the common ground that’s now flowing like the river.

 

know. I do in fact meet more people only yards down a track where there’s a group of vans and 4-wheel drives some stripped-down others fully clothed. 2 young men are out front giving me the opportunity to talk once more. I like meeting with people to invoke that common sense of humanity that’s prevalent if you know where to look. Jack and Levi are very friendly as well as keen to share their work. They speak of the van they are renovating as they do the 4-wheel drive next to it, which is their grandfathers project. I’m enjoying my time here amid their wooden lodge but with a hike on my mind I yet again ask for water. They’re only too happy to oblige and with that and some gratitude I’m off.

 

I’ve been wanting to see the Alpine Bridge ever since I started the walk. Having navigated the most confusing array of fields with my hopeless 1 in 50,000 map I finally reach the gorge, which the bridge spans. The river is low enabling me to walk across its rocky bed so as to stand at a vantage point that will give me the ideal view. I’m not disappointed as I look up towards the bridge from the centre of the gorge where the frothing water enters. The rocky walls are about 30-40 feet in height and what with mature broadleaf trees on top of them the whole scene towers above me as if in some kind of temperate rain forest. And there in the distance is the bridge still, silent and sound. I love it!

 

Leant on the bridge I look back from where I was recently stood. I admire the perspective thinking of Paul simultaneously. I clasp my hands together, close my eyes and bow my head slightly as if in prayer. I am in prayer. I pray for Paul, his soul journey and our eternal connection. ‘I’ll never leave you Paul,’ I say to myself. I open my eyes to see the gorge once more. It’s still there and so to is Paul. Somewhere!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking away I’m aghast at the scene I saw down below in the river. People have taken it upon themselves to throw cans, plastic bottles and crisp packets from the bridge creating an accumulation of rubbish amid the pristine rock pools. They’re insane I think to myself. Such a beautiful spot and they choose to defile it. Their minds must be similar - full of dark pools, which they struggle to fill with light. If only they knew light was touching them right there, they would not find the need to be so spiteful because that’s what it is at the end of the day. Spite!

Llandrindod Wells is not far away now. I’ve just spent the best part of the early evening picking my way through yet another maze of fields. I enjoyed it and eventually found the track I was looking for but I tell you I will bring a better map next time.

 

In town I quickly locate a chip shop, which was recommended to me. All the guys in the shop are cool as am I, which must have had an impact as I was given a huge portion of chips to accompany my sausage and curry sauce. Now for a place to relax and eat! With that sole intent I’m not long in sitting beside the lake at the North Eastern end of the town with my new Scarpa boots off. They have performed brilliantly. I’m so happy with the way they’ve kept out water, moulded to my feet instantly and crucially motivated me.

 

Back in Hereford I decided to spend money I had saved on a good pair. Paul always championed Scarpa and so I thought it was time to invest. I went to the local Trekkit store and spent £200. I left trying to justify the cost in my mind as I had never in my life spent that much on a pair of boots. It’s funny though I saw 3 Paul’s in a row amid this purchase. I saw an old school friend Paul Hughes to speak to and Paul Outdoors off youtube prior to entering the store. And whilst leaving Morrisons 45 minutes post the purchase I bumped into my old neighbour from Newton Farm in Hereford. You guest it his name was Paul. 3 in a row all surrounding the boots. You’d have to be blind not to notice that or acknowledge it as affirmation. Still, despite this I still had this urge to share them with someone.  

Links:

 

Video: 3 Day Backpack Ithon P1

Video: 3 Day Backpack Ithon P2 C Soon

 

EDW Diary

 

Mountain Waters

 

Thomas Shop

 

Llandrindod Wells

Ithon

Well, my body needs some love so I stand and turn towards the tent to get my head down. In the morning I feel rested and ready for the second day. With a cold soaked breakfast, I pack my gear up and head off firstly to relieve myself stealthily and healthily and then I head South passed a plantation to where I meet Tim who confirms my location. Locals are handy when you are armed with only a 1 in 50,000 map. It’s my fault, I condensed the route into four segments to fit on 1 A4 piece of paper. With a total of 5 sheets altogether I thought I’d be sorted but there wasn’t enough detail. Still, it’s a challenge and I like that about limited information. I have to reach out, communicate and use my intuition. Dad being SAS would no doubt agree. Sometimes you have to go without or limit what you have in order to practice other skills otherwise it’s all to easy.

 

Not far from my encounter with the friendly local from Wolverhampton (?) an old farmstead emerges as if ready to collapse any minute. It’s in poor shape but in assessing it in relation to the calm dry day I decide to enter whereupon I find an old VHS video right at my feet extoling the virtues of Jesus. Someone had faith! I love what you can read into these old places if you pay attention. To my left on a window is an old ‘gin’ or trap, which were banned in the 1950’s. It’s a brutal bit of kit but reminiscent of old school ways. Delving deeper I find a grubby baby bottle complete with its teat. There was child rearing here once! I gaze at the disgusting accumulation before me, which is a jumble of household and maintenance things now redundant as if waiting for its owner to return. He or she won’t but in vacating the place other sentient life have responded to the space now gifted to them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The House Martins have found a great new home in the rafters as have the Long-Tailed Tits or House Sparrows for there amid a muddle of wires above my head is a dome shaped nest beautifully woven to form a home. I take photos fascinated by how other life moves in once humans move out.

 

I’m reasonably high up in the hills at about 400 meters. Below is Llanbadarn Fynydd, which is complete with a 17th century inn, village store and church. I’m tempted to go down but realize this would take up too much time. I decide to continue along the tops towards Yr Allt my target at over 400 meters 3KM away. This means dropping down into a saddle then rising back up slightly. What a bugger though the landscape is a mish mash of plantation and trackway hardly any of which are marked on my 1 in 50,000 map. I’m going to have to orientate roughly and pick my way through as best I can in the hope of picking up some features or at least seeing that saddle beyond.

 

Thank fully I get to high ground where I do indeed see the saddle, which is clearly marked on the map. Just to make sure I take a compass bearing from where I think I am. Walking a couple hundred meters I come across Glyndwr's Way a trail to commemorate the life of Owain Glyndwr the Welsh freedom fighter who led an ill-fated rebellion in the 1400’s.

 

On top of Yr Allt I feel good having navigated the maze of plantation and hill to my rear. I’ve only covered about 12 KM in total but it feels like more on account of the hills and the rapidly changing landscape. My route now sees me drop down again, towards a cottage, which seems to be on fire. As I walk up the gravel drive, I realize it’s rubbish burning and not the cottage. 3 people are stood outside. Knowing most are friendly I wave and shout, ‘have you any water you can spare please?’ Without hesitation a woman with dark brown hair in a pony tail replies happily, ‘do you want a cup of tea as well?’ Of course, I’m happy to oblige. For the next hour or so we talk about life, love, loss and change, and oh yeah, the bargain that is their cottage. Claire, Christine, George and their smiley branded pet sheep, who they give biscuits to, were like the butterfly that sends a ripple down the line. My mood buoyed, only this time by the generosity and kindness of people, it is bound to get passed along. Thank you, guys.

 

Moving rapidly downhill and back up again I soon find myself on top of Ysgwyd – ffordd at 440 meters where I’m rewarded with views that make my heart sing. There 9 KM to the East stands Pool Hill at over 500 meters where Paul and I started our very first river walk along the Lugg in July 2013. Then we were accompanied by our good friend Erica. A few years before that though we ventured there with our mum Pat as a birthday outing. We were turning 40, which called for something special. In response to asking where we wanted to go Paul said to mum with complete faith and knowing, ‘the Lugg source.’ It appeared an unusual choice but it turned out to be an amazing day as the 3 of us explored the hill and the Lugg source, which was then a small dry depression in the land. I gaze almost numbed by how much has changed and look around me to see the Brecon Beacons in the distance further South and other valleys I know nothing about. Yet!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soon my 1 in 50,000 map is playing up again. It’s a maze of trails and choices on top here. I opt for intuition and map orientation again and pick up the trail as I head towards Beddugre Hill meaning Victory Hill.

 

Prior to getting to its base I meet with a wonderful chap by the name of Richard who is tending to a fence on his property. With my bottle empty again, I ask if he has any water. This is turning out to be very simple. I haven’t had to use my filter once. He leads me to the rear of a barn down the end of a track where a caravan sits all private and solitary. He tells me he spends many hours here just sitting peacefully. As he proceeds with replenishing my bottle, I proceed to tell him about my river hikes and Paul. Listening intently, he turns to me and says, ‘I know how you feel. My son David died aged 30 some 11 years ago.’ I offer my own sympathy and ask if he would like to see some photos of Paul wo which he said yes. After kindly listening to my stories he reaches into the caravan and shares with me a photo of David. It was one of the most tender and touching moments on the trip so far as two people still grieving exchanged stories about the ones they loved and lost. It felt as if we were meant to meet. Being most certainly kindred, we were!

 

Navigating the river for a short while I’m greeted by an old farm hand in his tractor. We talk briefly about farming and the way ahead at which point I bid him goodbye. I enjoyed the meeting but must press on. It’s getting to that time again where a camp will have to be found but not before some gruesome yet amusing interlude with a sheep and a Rabbit.

 

I’ve never seen the likes of it before. Only on youtube have I seen a crocodile rip open the insides of a Zebra leaving the Zebra to walk with its stomach dangling down announcing firmly that that’s how it’s going to stay.

I always used to share my new gear with Paul but he’s no longer here to do so. On the way home therefore, I popped in to see Lofty an old family friend and former colleague of our dad. Many may know him as John Lofty Wiseman the author of the SAS Survival Handbook but we know him as just Loft or Lofty. I like to chat with Lofty about all sorts. On this occasion I thought I’d share with him my new boots knowing what he likes in life. He loved them and spoke enthusiastically about the boot and paying for what you get. My only thought was that of sharing my new gear but in true Lofty spirit he had something generous on his mind when he asked out of the blue. ‘How much were they?’ In response and without thought I said, ‘£200 Loft,’ With that he turned away towards a draw and turned back around saying, ‘Here you are that’s for one boot.’ I was taken by surprise but knowing of humility I said almost without pause, ‘I’ll accept that Loft,’ to which he remarked, ‘I know you will.’ He knows of the Wye Explorer project and the efforts made amid my grief and I know Lofty would not support me in that way if he didn’t feel I earned it. I felt very good and optimistic leaving his home that day. Thank you Loft!

 

Back at the lake with its dragon fountain in the middle I did think as I glanced at my new boots about dossing down there underneath the café, which resembles a large waterside boathouse. On the surface as I ate another few chips with curry sauce threatening to drip from them it looked ideal and then I saw a rat run past me at break neck speed. Yeah, water and public equals rats. I’ll find somewhere else. I don’t want them sniffing about my sack as I sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The shelter I found after eating my chips in what was a delightful place in essence was next to a preschool. In fact, I think it was the entrance to the preschool garden. A metal door divided the shelter, which spanned either side creating what would be a defined sheltered gateway like a Japanese garden gate. Now in the dark of the evening it’s just a shelter to me, which is just as well because it’s forecast to rain a lot tonight.

 

I got a reasonable sleep on the hard ground but vowed to get an air mat. There was a little rain but not much. It’s a delightful morning illuminating the empty car park and street scene before me. The town is still tucked up in bed so I have time to have a breakfast bar, something to drink, sit, gaze and pack my gear ready for the last leg of my River Ithon trip.

 

There’s always this sense of abandonment when walking through towns in the early morning. It’s true people have abandoned the town momentarily. The retreat happens like clock work as does their emergence from their sleep and or slumber. I admire the town the quiet of which lends it a unique view. It won’t be long and the stillness will be shattered by the throngs of people keen to do business, meet with friends and generally hang out in what was a grand spa town once. Yeah, I like Llandrindod Wells as did Paul for it acted as a conduit for some of our best trips together. You can get into the Cambrian Mountains from here by public transport and as I’ve just proven the headwaters of the Ithon.  

 

Outside of town I cross over a bog-standard road bridge beneath which the Ithon flows and turn off left for my longest road bash yet at 5KM. The Ithon isn’t a tourist river so there are no rights of way that I can follow through to its Confluence with the Wye nearly 2KM South of Newbridge On Wye. I’ll take it steady because road walking with weight on your back can impact upon your feet and knee joints, which when considering my walk into Builth Wells from the confluence would not be a welcome strain.

 

This is an amble ramble. There is an infusion of tranquillity on these backroads that inspires me to let go of my cares. It’s soon over though as I hit the B4358 into Newbridge on Wye. It’s surprisingly busy and remembering the rabbit from earlier I walk into the traffic. In truth dad always said to do so, which is a lesson Paul and I never forgot.

 

In Newbridge on Wye I sit in a small park admiring a statue of a native female farmer complete with a crook staff in one hand, a duck in the other whilst at her feet another duck follows as if loyal. It’s a beautiful statue as she walks with a purposeful gaze whilst wearing old style bonnet headwear. If ever you wanted to know the traditions around here all you need do is look at this or talk to Mr Williams across the road who was tending to a gravestone when I approached.

 

Mr Williams had lived in the village all his life and as it turned out was tending to a mates gravestone that had been there since the 1960’s. Now that’s dedication for you. His father he told me reached over 104 years. Aaaah old timers I love em. He was in his 80’s and not ready to ‘put down his tools’ yet he said.

 

With a bit of local banter behind me I’m nearing the confluence of the Ithon and Wye. It’s spitting and I get the feeling that this is the rain they were speaking of the other day. I look up to see storm clouds knowing without doubt that it’s going to bucket down. I’m cool with that as I get my waterproofs on. By this time, it is raining, which I combat even further with my brolly. I always bring it after Paul showing me its virtues on previous adventures. He would laud it’s use and the wisdom of Nicholas Crane who would also use a Brolly. Nicholas Crane is a global adventurer, writer, presenter of Coast on TV and was elected as president of the Royal geographic Society in 2015. He’s not to be sniffed at and neither is the brolly if it can keep you dry. In fact, our dad, a jungle veteran, would always say, ‘it’s keeping dry that’s the thing.’ And he was right!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The brolly works but in clambering over a fence and walking through a thick wood dripping with rain from every leaf as if in a jungle I had to fold it up. This meant I got increasingly wet as if I were literally forest bathing. Above me is an old abandoned bridge that carried, until the 1960’s, the Cambrian rail line and there to my left flowing through the two giant pillars is the Ithon playing a merry tune with the spherical rain droplets upon its colourful surface. It’s an enchanting view whilst in addition the clear water offers me an unfettered view of the rocky bed below that breaks its surface in parts creating yet more merry dances as it broadly enters the Wye.

 

There is no protest or repellence merely an acceptance of the Ithon’s waters. They are two but one a bit like myself now what with Paul residing within me. In fact, I look at how the waters are merging to become one and I liken it to Paul’s departure. He’s not gone he’s merely become part of a larger body relinquishing his old course as he did so. It’s all connected! Not one bit of this river system is unlike life. With that I sit in the rain with my brolly looking at the Ithon and Wye feeling the nature and its eternal message. Satisfied I gather my things and look back. There beside the confluence I see Paul gazing down the river enchanted by it to. He was with me all along as were the rivers who are also my firm companions.

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