The sunny day disappeared as we walked through the short steep-sided gorge – following in the footsteps of Victorian tourist to the Water-Break-its-Neck waterfall, around a mile from the village of New Radnor ( Maesyfed – the Welsh name), in the county of Powys, Wales.
It was a spectacular sight. Yet, beyond the sound of the water it was strangely silent.
We made our way back along the narrow path. I thought we would be taking a slow ramble along the walking trails in Warren Wood – so named for the labyrinth of rabbit warrens that kept the locals fed for centuries, now dwarfed by towering beeches, oaks and conifers.
Husband had other ideas. ‘Let’s walk up the road to the top of Warren Wood,’ he said, pointing vaguely to the left as we left the path. ‘We could get some brilliant photographs.‘
‘How far is it?’
I’ve been caught out by “Not far”, before. Why do I always believe him?
If only I’d read the Nature reserve signage:
“In the 1800s The Victorian landowners planted trees on the moorland, to provide a landscape of scenic beauty thus creating a forest, part of Radnor Forest which was once a royal hunting ground. In those days it wasn’t an area covered in trees but an unenclosed piece of land, legally set aside for the Norman kings to hunt deer. Today, Radnor Forest is a land of hill farming and moorlands, steep narrow valleys and hills, rising up to the highest point in Radnorshire, Black Mixen at 650 metres.“
Note the words, ‘steep’, hills, and 650 metres. What we didn’t know, was that the wide concrete road in front of us was not only steep but has many twists and turns – and always upwards before it got to 650 metres.
Two and a half hours later, with stops for photographs, we reached the top… I thought. We sat on a convenient rock, drinking from our second bottle of water.
‘We could go on for a bit longer?’ Husband said.,looking around. ‘The road carries on.’
‘The proper road stops here not up there.’ I pointed to the dirt track behind us. Steep dirt track.
I’I bet we could get brilliant photos, though. I’ll go and check.’ Ten minutes later he was back. ‘Come on, it’s a fantastic view.’
We walked in silence. Well, to be honest I had no breath to use up in conversation.
‘Ready to go back?’ Husband asked.
I didn’t think I could face that road again. ‘We could try going that way?’ I point to a gentle downward sloping track.’It looks like it’s going back to the start.’
‘It does.’ I insisted.
I should,perhaps have said, before now – I have little sense of direction. We
stumbled/slid down walked for over an hour with the wind whistling through the tall conifers that lined the ever-steeper, downward track. I became increasingly aware of a brooding silence, each time I said cheerfully,’It has to lead to somewhere…’ and, ‘We’re going in the right direction…’. Until we weren’t… we rounded a corner- to see the road end in a turning point for the Forestry Commission. A thick forest faced us…Hmm…
Back we went,stopping every fifty paces to catch our breath. To be fair there were only a few recriminations. Although I did hear some mutterings – which I ignored. Later,we worked out that we had walked thirteen miles – seven more than we had planned.
The following day
we creaked our way rambled sedately around the fields where we were staying near Bettws Cedewain, a place in a sheltered valley on the banks of the river Bechan. around five miles from Newtown. The village grew around the crossing of the river where a church was founded by St Beuno in the sixth century. I read that the name of the village is thought to derive from the Welsh word ‘Betws’ – which means a prayer house or bead house where the number of prayers had been counted on beads by the earliest church-goers in Cedewain.