There seemed to be no end to the heatwave, nowhere to go to escape the glare of the sun. Not that I'm complaining, I have enjoyed the current phase of liquid gold, but taking photographs of mines and quarries in this weather results in very stark photographs and is beyond my skill level.
Petra suggested having a look at the Coed Felinrhyd, which is near to our home- we'd never been before. It looked like a handy trip without too much sweaty driving, but I wasn't too enthusiastic...another forest, close to a power station...
Of course, I was hugely mistaken. The place is really special, as I hope the photos show. We took a path close to the Afon Prysor- the river was very low- but this was to prove an advantage. We soon encountered a wonderful old bridge, about six feet wide with no parapets, but with ivy growing down like Lianas. Because of the low water, we were able to get quite close and take some shots from the river bed. I think for the best photographs, you would need early morning light, but my shot here gives the general feel, I hope.
The path started to ramp up in a series of steps through ancient oak and birch woods. I wondered if Tolkien had been here, and had been inspired to create the woods of Lothlorien, as I was feeling the sense of enchantment with the place. What put the icing on our cake was the discovery of a mine (well, a trial, really) above the path. The tip had been degraded by the construction of the trail path, but there was a fair preponderance of rustic slate about. There is a record in Wilkinson's Gazetteer of a gold mine on the north bank of the river possibly on the same lode- we will have to investigate.
We carried on- up until this point, we had the place to ourselves, but soon we noticed a school group doing some gorge walking in the river. The place is so enclosed that after walking a very short while from them, we couldn't hear them shouting.
We eventually reached the Rheadr Ddu, normally a raging torrent- it was barely a trickle.
I get the feeling that in wet weather, this would be a waterproof footwear type of walk, but during the heatwave it is a delight to wander and not encounter bog in Wales, even if the waterfall was non-existant!
There was a great variety of wildlife...from signs of badger activity to the unmistakable sound of wood warblers, long tailed tits, redstarts and flycatchers. Sadly, the moss and lichens that the reserve is famous for were all under great stress- great banks of moss were fragile, dry confections of light green fibres. We did note some wonderful trees in the woods, including some amazing oaks that had survived attempts to kill them in the 'forties and 'fifties.
This woodland was rescued by the Woodland Trust, who had to fight a stiff battle against the invasive rhododendron and the widespread coniferisation of the area. I didn't see one rhododendron, so they have succeeded there. I noted some dog's mercury and wood sorrel in some of the clearer areas. Some of the conifers, being mature trees, have been left to protect the oaks and ashes from the weather, although I did note quite a few with the dreaded red circles on them.
I can recommend this place if you like a peaceful walk with plenty of trees and wildlife, or if you just want to sit for a while and enjoy the peace of one of Wales' oldest woodlands.
Maps: OS Explorer OL18 and Landranger 124
Grid reference SH656389
Woodland Trust web link for the reserve
Parking for five or six cars is available in a lay-by across from the Power station at Maentwrog.
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