FFESTINIOG IN SPRING

By Joseph Eynon, aka Bearded Outdoors.

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Spring is definitely one of my favourite times of the year to don my hiking boots and go and explore. I tend to go around the UK throughout the year on my travels getting all sorts of weather thrown at me, but for the last few years I’ve ended up in Wales around Springtime. 

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There is something pretty special about Wales in Spring. There are the obvious attractions such as the daffodil lined lanes, the heather starting to show its colours, and the birds starting to return, such as the Puffins and Gulls on the cliffs around the coast

I was born in North Wales so the area around Porthmadog and Ffestiniog are really special to me. The grey slate cliffs and slag heaps to many are bleak but I find them to have strength and a kind of resilience. The way they appear to be holding the mountains and hills together pleases me. This is of course nonsense, but when I comes to wales I’m guilty of being romantic and at times impassioned. 

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Let’s face it, there is an element that plays a huge role on the Welsh stage, that we neither ignore or deny. The Rain! It is inevitable and the hardiest of travellers accept it and work around it. Wainwright wrote in his book, A Coast to Coast Walk, 

“There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”  

Never a truer word spoken, and in fact, not only can bad weather actually be enjoyed it can extenuate an area’s natural beauty. We all know rain brings life to nature, and we’d all rather lush, green Welsh hills than a Welsh desert, so when the rain has done its job and gone off on its merry way, it’s best to act quickly. Spring is that very time when you’ve got to make the most of the dry weather and even more importantly make the most of the wet spells. 

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Last Spring we arrived in Wales under laden skies. It had not long finished raining as we pulled up to my parents house in Bwlch-Derwin, a small hamlet not far from the edge of the Snowdonia National Park and the beginning of the Llyn Peninsula. The rain had made the grass smell like a citrus bouquet. Spotted Flycatchers had already begun to return to the lands and were darting about catching their evening snacks before the sun was to set. I already knew that it was time to start planning a springtime walk. The air was calm and the forecast was fair for the following day.

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We woke to a fine Spring day. The sun was pushing through the hazy air. The birds had rested and were now resuming their days work. We had decided to head inland, towards the village of Ffestiniog, to walk into the woods and explore the Afon Cynfal. The walk took us over farmlands and into the surrounding woodland. The trees around there are ancient. A mixture of strong broadleaf trees providing a natural nursery for samplings of Elder, Beech, Oak and Elm. Holly trees nestled themselves in-between their big cousins and the berries on the Hawthorn and Rowans were adding a splash of colour, as we made our way down to the river. The rain had been kind to the ferns and they were tall and had grown much higher than my wife even!

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After a day of Spring rain the rivers were full and abounding. The water thrusted itself over the rocks and through the wood like a barrage of cannon fire carving a new riverbed. We could hear the water a good half an hour before we finally made it to the banks of the Afon Cynfal. The river is a narrow deep body of water which has cut through the rock bed to create a spectacular cascading and turbulent flow of water. This is no more obvious than at the Rhaeadr Cynfal Falls. A small set of stairs leads you down to the falls. After the rain the previous day they were in full voice. The roar of the water and the moisture of the close air around the trees made you feel like you had stepped back in time. Back in the 17th Century when Huw Llwyd, a local magician, used to stand on the outcropped rock, known as the “Pulpit” to recite poetry and converse with the devil! Apparently he was safe as the devil can't swim.

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Following our trip to the falls the weather was dry for many weeks. The falls would have shrunk and become second-fiddle to the ones we experienced. Making the most of the days, watching the weather and grasping opportunities when they come allows you to see these beautiful sights at their richest. Spring is now well and truly on its way and nature is waking from its winter slumber. What will you do to seize natures best bits? 

I hope to see some of you out there on the nature trails enjoying the best Wales has to offer!