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Back in my room, I perused the Llanwrtyd Wells Town Walk map I had bought at the hotel’s reception, which appeared to be doubling as the local tourist office. Given the weather – it had been mizzling all the while I had been out exploring – and the weather forecast, I decided not to be too ambitious for my afternoon’s exercise, and just do the western half of what was proposed, one way along the River Irfon and back the other.

On the back were very useful instructions and local information.

A wooden footbridge took me over the river, and set me on my way westwards. It was not long before I was in the countryside.

Here the river is in the middle distance.

I could hear a pheasant in a wood to my left, caught a glimpse of it, but was unable to take a satisfactory photo.

I soon left the road, and found myself on a very soggy path beside the river,

which improved somewhat from time to time.

The prescribed route left the river for a bit, and I started to curse myself for having left my walking pole in the car. It was very slippy underfoot, and

just past this rise I slithered onto my back. My small backpack took the worst of the fall, and only my dignity was hurt, as I was obliged to turn over on to my knees in order to get up, thus muddying the knees of my trousers. Good job I had a spare pair (of trousers that is) in my room. I found a sturdy fallen branch to steady me on the rest of the way.

Victoria Wells Holiday Park. It seems to have ceased activity around 2016, and appears now to be occupied residentially.
Dinas Mill

I arrived at St David’s Church, in old Llanwrtyd. “The Celtic cross inside the church [which I couldn’t visit as it was closed] suggests that a church has existed on this site for 1440 years.” (leaflet). From Wikipedia I subsequently learnt a lot more about old Llanwrtyd, including, “The name Llanwrtyd combines the term for church (“llan”) and an otherwise undocumented personal name Gwrtud or Gwrtyd, but the earliest reference to it “Llanworted” appears only in 1543. It is speculated that the original dedication of the church has been replaced by the present one to the more famous saint in whose diocese it was during the Middle Ages.[1] The name is more traditionally derived, however, from ‘Llanddewi wrth y rhyd’ (David’s church by the ford).[2] The church is held to have been founded by St David in the 6th century. The curving boundary around the west side of the churchyard and its location beside the river supports the contention that it was established well before the Norman Conquest. “

There being a bench conveniently placed, it being 1 o’clock, and I being halfway round my circuit, this seemed to be as good a place as any to eat my two biscuits and an apple, all I needed after the full English (vegetarian) breakfast I had had. This was my misty view. (I escaped ‘proper’ rain entirely on this walk.)

The road bridge took me back over the Irfon, and I looked back.

After a while I came to a footbridge marked on the map. As I had to leave the road at this point, I was a little worried that I was intended to cross the river using this apparently flimsy structure.

But I didn’t, and in any case it was less flimsy than it had appeared.

The river turbulented on. (Yes, I’ve made that word up.)

And the path continued to be very wet at times, but here its base was gravelly, so much less slippery. I was grateful nevertheless for my branch.

“.. you will see a group of buildings on the left. These were the original pump house and bathing house when the town was in its original heyday as a Victorian spa resort. Here the pure sulphur spring was hermetically sealed in a massive marble and mosaic circular pedestal covered with a disc of plate glass.” (leaflet)

“The springs here were first discovered in 1732 by Theophilus Evans who claimed to have discovered the healing properties of ‘Ffynon Droellwyd’ (The Stinking Well) when suffering from scurvy”. I approached the Dol-y-Coed Hotel which “was once the centre of leisure including tennis courts and bowling greens in the Dol-y-Coed Park.”

(Oops!)

Except that it turned out to be no longer a hotel, but the premises of what is now the town’s largest employer.

They’ve clearly let the staff off early on New Year’s Eve. And/or they’re all working from home.

I was unable to find out what this building near the hotel is – perhaps it’s ‘just’ a private home that likes dressing up. I wondered whether it was a care home, but can’t identify it if so.

Back at the hotel I waited until it was fully dark to slip out in order to take some photos of the town’s Christmas lights. Sadly the street lights distract the camera more that they do the human eye.

The red kite sculpture, right, featured in yesterday’s post, turns grey in these conditions.

This notice at the entrance to the hotel, the start of the evening’s Mari Lwyd torchlit procession, gave due warning. I had already been advised to move my car away.

The hotel’s restaurant was full for the New Year’s Eve dinner, and I had been asked if I would share a table with five locals who had booked in. I could see that this would help the proprietors, releasing the solo table I would have been at, but hesitated quite a lot, for Covid reasons. However I agreed, was reassured as we assembled that the others had taken LF tests that day (as I had the previous day), and I had a very pleasant evening in the event. Two of my companions were a couple who had moved to the area from Essex four months previously, two had moved there from Kent six years previously, and the other was Huw (I do hope he spells his name like that!) the Milk(man), who had been doing the job for 34 years. He had a lovely kind face, and I was told he was real social worker to his customers. He can work up to a 15-hour day, and does so seven days a week. I’m sure he has a fund of stories.

We were to assemble for the Mari Lwyd procession at 10.30 in the Town Square, outside the hotel. A band had started up well before we finished our meal, after which I collected my outdoor gear and camera.

It was tipping with rain, and I hurriedly snatched these poor pictures.

This man carries the Mari Lwyd, a hobby horse with a horse’s skull as its head.

The rain, the crowds, the torches, the anticipated inability to cope with umbrella and camera – not a to mention a torch had I chosen to – I near panicked, and chickened out before the 90-minute procession set off.

Nor did I even stay in the hotel’s bar with my table companions. I went to my room and saw the new year in watching ‘When Harry met Sally’!

But I had been invited to the Kent people, Marion and Pete’s, for coffee the next day, and I was looking forward to that, and to meeting their menagerie.