Fate/happenstance/the Divine Plan is giving this a push. Roger Haggar of the Peaceful Places project (http://www.peaceful-places.com/) set up a meeting with the chair of Ceredigion Ramblers and the Ceredigion Access Forum and Gwenfair Owen, Ceredigion’s tourism and marketing officer. On the back of this I arranged to meet David Austin and Jemma Bezant of the University of Wales (their archaeological research at Strata Florida has revolutionized our understanding of the abbey and its place in the landscape) and their colleagues in Cilcennin Cyntaf. They are working on a reconstruction (as near to the medieval route as is walkable) of the Lon Lacs, Strata Florida’s route to the sea at Aber-arth.
Then I had an energetic Twitter conversation with @TwmsTreks (http://www.twmstreks.com/) which turned into a real meeting. He takes guided walks around the Tregaron/Strata Florida area, in costume. It started off with him dressed as Twm Sion Cati (the Welsh Robin Hood, sort of) but it is now dominated by a team of Hinterland lookalikes who will take you round the locations for the Hinterland / Y Gwyll series, Wales’s contribution to Dark Detective Drama. We are trying to persuade Derek the Weather that it would be fun to walk across the Monks’ Trod from Strata Florida to Cwm-hir in Cistercian habits. We shall see.
And I managed to shoehorn in some walking. The Cistercian Way through Ceredigion is pretty much sorted, thanks to the sterling work Ceredigion’s footpaths team have done in the last 10 years. Apparently they have a package of priority paths which they really work at keeping in good shape, plus the promoted paths and the coast path. Lampeter-Llanllyr is a promoted route, and for walkers coming from St David’s there’s a route up the Aeron Valley (or potentially a spur off the Lon Lacs when that gets going. As it will with David Austin behind it.) Llangeitho-Tregaron is another promoted path, there are good paths from Tregaron to Strata Florida and on to Ffair-rhos, then you are back on Ceredigion CC’s Pontrhydfendigaid-Pontarfynach route. Leave that to walk via Ysbyty Cynfyn and along the Cambrian Way to Ponterwyd, up the Nant y Moch, past Hyydgen, join the Glyndwr Way and down into Machynlleth, taking you over the border to Powys (see https://cistercianway.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/getting-back-on-track/ for more detail). Job done.
The missing link is Llanllyr-Llangeitho. We tried all sorts of routes from Llanllyr to Llanddewi-brefi but the idea of going via Llangeitho only came to me last summer. There could still be a lot of road walking but on very quiet minor roads, and the map showed footpaths and bridleways between Abermeurig and Capel Bettws Lleucu. With no great hopes of success I drove through Abermeurig, parked and put my boots on. There was no waymark where I thought the path must start (about OS 567 568), but a gate and a well-worn tractor track. The young farmer from Gwastad came out for a chat. He didn’t know of a footpath towards the woods but there was the path he and his family walked over to Gartheli. That I thought might be a back-up option. But the line of the footpath looked clear (if a bit muddy). Through the gate, bear left round a modern bungalow and follow the tractor track along the fence to your left.
Through one gate
then at the next gate the path on the map goes right to meet a bridleway at the top of the field.
The map shows the bridleway running below the far hedge and it looks as though you could cut across the field to the left to meet it … but that line is blocked at the top of the field. Stick to the line of the right of way up the right of the field
towards the ruins of Tai’n-coed
through the gate at the top of the field, turn left (ignoring tempting lanes to the right)
and walk above the hedge. When you reach the trees go through the bridle gate
and contour along the top edge of the field with the trees to your right
At the next fence go through the right-hand gate into the forest.
Walk up the forest track. When you leave the forest, the old line of the track has been blocked
but if you walk up to the right a little you can then bear left and walk above the fence.
This becomes a clear track. Down hill and through the gate,
look out for the gate in the hedge to your right
– woo, waymark!
Follow this track down through the ruins of Cae’r-coed (so sad, all these little ruined farms – it’s the price we pay for milk that’s cheaper than bottled water)
and down to the river. Just before the bridge, a rather off-putting notice and a very muddy section of path.
Cut above this and continue along the fence.
You are on the line of another clear track, rather overgrown in places.
Through the next hedge,
bear away from this well-marked track,
up to the right and above a copse of trees.
Head for a stile towards the top corner of the field
and into the woods. There has been an attempt to waymark the path
– it’s not quite ‘there is no path through the woods’, though it is very very overgrown round about OS 590 578.
Struggle through and you join a slightly clearer track coming down from the right.
Turn left and walk downhill to Dolau Aeron. This was as far as I got, as I had to get on to Tregaron, but I drove past Capel Betws Lleucu and checked the end of the track at 603 582. It is waymarked and looked fairly clear. From there the minor roads through to Llangeitho are very quiet and would make a pleasant walk.
So it looks as though, for the price of a few waymarks and a bit of work with a strimmer, we could have a clear route through Ceredigion. It just so happens that Ceredigion’s Destination Management Strategy says, under Walking (and I quote), ‘We need to build on this work [the Paths for People project] and to identify other national schemes to attract more visitors’. Could the Cistercian Way be the answer to their prayers?