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Sunday, 29 March 2015

Machynlleth to Maentwrog. 24th to 27th March. Barn owls!

Tuesday 24th March.
The journey back to Machynlleth to collect the bike, panniers and carry on towards Lake Vyrnwy was uneventful and surprisingly comfortable on the Virgin train with fewer people on it than the day before. Goodbye to Josh at Wolverhampton and onto Shrewsbury, eventually reaching Machynlleth at 3.00pm. I collected the bike, loaded up and had a pleasant cycle ride towards Lake Vyrnwy. In fact it was lovely despite a quick shower that had me sheltering from the hail in an old sheep barn. Now there were two barn owl boxes inside with a lot of pellets but no way was I going to disturb the occupants despite needing them for the year list.
It seemed like the whole route was uphill but with a light breeze behind me I breezed my way up.
I was determined to get to Lake Vyrnwy and so as darkness fell I continued onto a B road. It was beautiful with the stars bright and a crescent Moon to the west. Beneath this was a very bright planet which one I don't know. Orion was to the east of the Moon and all were occasionally covered as yet more showers passed.
Indeed another shower had me sheltering this time in a car port.
As I pushed the bike after the shower up yet another hill a barn owl went past like a huge white moth in the cycle's lights. A year tick, 165 and a reward for not disturbing those nest boxes earlier.
Another barn owl came off a post as I passed it later on.

Wednesday 25th March
Awoke to birds, lots of them. Nuthatches, great spotted woodpeckers, titmice and chaffinches. Really pleased with the photos of a coal tit.
A walk around the RSPB reserve's trail gave misty views of the huge lake and then walking to the dam the sun came over a hill and bathed the area in sunlight. A female goosander was swimming and diving for fish in the pool at its base.
After meeting all the RSPB staff at the RSPB shop and after having taken a photograph of them all, I cycled along the western edge of the lake, hearing siskins and goldcrests along the way.
Then it was the big push to reach the moorland top. Last time in 2010 I had had wheatear and ring ouzels up here. None were around on this too early date.
The hill down towards Dinas was terrifying yet exhilarating when i'd survived it. The thought of what would I do if the brake cable snapped whilst descending such a steep hill came to mind.
The day was beautiful and the scenery marvellous. I reached Dinas and met a woman from Castlecroft, Wolverhampton as I enjoyed a hot chocolate at a pub.
Next, after a couple of miles towards Dolgellau, was another huge push up another long steep hill. Snow topped some of the hills around it and the sun was starting to disappear behind the biggest.
Down the other side was fast and smooth, like skiing I thought at the time.
Into Dolgellau itself, I searched out the church but no hawfinches were there, unlike back in 2010 where I had ticked them off for the year.
Finding the cycle track along the estuary, I crossed via the wooden toll bridge to get to Coed Garth Gell RSPB reserve and walked it's steep tracks for an hour or so after hiding the bike and stuff behind a large hedge. An oak woodland on the northern side of the valley, the reserve gave wonderful views over the estuary towards the snow-capped mountains to the south, Cader Idris I think.
Back over the bridge and further along the cycle path, with a couple of miles to go before getting to Barmouth I decided to camp at a picnic spot right by the estuary.
It was a beautiful calm evening with a few waders and a couple of little egrets for company. Gorgeous.

Thursday 26th March
What a night! 2.00am, the tent felt like it was going to be ripped from the ground. The trees sounded as if they were going to fall and crush me any minute and the noise of the heavy rain on the tent was adding to the cacophony.
Sleep was sporadic due to the noise and the rain didn't stop until about 9 o'clock.
Decamped and dry, I cycled to the next RSPB reserve, Coes Arthog Bog. A lot of management work had been very recently done here as a large area had been cleared and ditches improved to increase the water level. It'll be good to come back in a couple of years to see how it matures. I love to see management work and see how interactive the RSPB are with their reserves.
A grey wagtail was searching amongst the dug up earth.
Over the bridge, again wooden, this time alongside the railway line, I reached Barmouth and the wind was now very strong and in my face. Coming from the north, or just west of that, the wind was going to make things tough.
After breakfast at a cafe on the harbour front at Barmouth, I continued north towards Harlech and stopped to look over an ancient burial chamber behind a Primary school that I had seen when I last passed this way.
The views along the Llyn Peninsula and around Cardigan Bay were splendid and Harlech Castle and beach beyond added the the scenic qualities of the route.

Portmerion, location of my favourite TV programme ever, The Prisoner (I will not be pushed, stamped, filed, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own!), could be seen distantly from the road and I reached a part where there were was a traffic light control due to road works.
As I progressed along the lane that was open, I noticed I had a van following me closely but not overtaking. Feeling a little nervous by this, I stopped and asked the 2 lads in the van what was up. “We have to follow you.” came the reply.
They were part of the road works crew and they had to convoy people through the section. They did just that and I should have asked them what speed I was doing as I seemed to race through to the end.
After another section of roadworks with yet another convoy system, I came upon an area very dear to me, Maentwrog. Here, 40 years ago this summer, I had stayed here at Plas Tan y Bwlch with fellow students on a Biology Field week. Together a very dear friend, still is after all this time, Mike 'Roy' Rogers, had climbed the high oak covered hill to reach the top despite being swarmed by clegs (horseflies). I remember how we put bracken fronds down our backs poking out by our heads to try and keep them off us. At the top we'd found a huge double pipe system with a stairway between that we'd walked down. Here was the hill. There were the pipes. Great days.
As I came into the village, I came upon the WW1 memorial and photographing it noticed a hotel the other side of the road. After cycling into the wind all day and after such a night camping, I decided to stay there.
A great room and fabulous vegetarian food. A wonderful bath and a superb relaxing evening. Thanks.

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All the very best everyone. Love to you all xx


  1. I am once again enthralled with your adventures Gary, making daily checks of your blog. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!! Hope I see you when you get to WWT Martin Mere!! In the meantime, take care,

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