The house in the woods

Having spent my first day of freedom of the Christmas holidays travelling from almost the furthest west of the country to almost the furthest east (I returned a borrowed car to my brother in Suffolk, then immediately jumped in another car with my sister and her husband, and drove back again) today I wanted to get out for a walk.  So we set out to do a circular walk in the Dyfnant Forest, starting from the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust reserve of Dyfnant Meadows.

dyfnant meadows-2

Graham slogging up the hill at Dyfnant Meadows

It’s a steep climb from the entrance to the reserve up to the top of the field – my lack of hillclimbing practice soon told. I stopped –
under the premise of taking photos – for a breather, while Bert and Graham bounded on ahead. Well, Bert bounded, Graham kind of plodded…

The wild and windy weather that we’ve had over the past couple of weeks has stripped the trees of any lingering leaves, leaving them bare branched and stark, and the lanes and field edges deep in leaf litter. In contrast, the conifer forests cloaking the hillsides look dark and rich green. I’m not a big fan of these plantations. I grew up in an area of Wales surrounded by them, and I find them gloomy and
oppressive.

So we were quite surprised when we got to the top of the hill to discover there was a house in the heart of the forest. And a lived-in and loved house, too, with smoke coming from the chimney, and a polytunnel and veg plots in the garden. The footpath actually goes right through the yard, and as we approached, a flock of free-ranging chickens came running to greet us – making me miss the chooks we left behind in Shetland even more than usual.

Friendly donkeys!

Friendly donkeys!

We were beginning to feel decidedly jealous of the whole set-up – this is exactly the kind of house and bit of land we’d like to find – when suddenly, on the other side of the house, we were greeted by a pair of friendly donkeys and three curious sheep, who desperately wanted to say hello. Then we met the house’s tenant, out with wheelbarrow and dog, an extremely cheerful fellow, who went on to describe his life at the house, the parties he has, and how he looks
after the donkeys for the house’s owner… making us even more
jealous.

The largest of the stones at Cerrig yr Helfa

The largest of the stones at Cerrig yr Helfa

Eventually we continued on our walk, heading up Mynydd Dyfnant through the trees to the mysterious old stone row of Cerrig yr Helfa. It was described, in 2002, as having disappeared completely into a bog, but there are very definitely at least four stones there. There are apparently seven stones in total – though it has also been described as ‘The Growing and Shrinking Stone Row of Cerrig yr Helfa’, so perhaps stones mysteriously come and go…

Another of the standing stones, this one attracted me with its lovely colours

Another of the standing stones, this one attracted me with its lovely colours

We didn’t see any stones disappearing or appearing, nor did any magical things occur (at least not to our knowledge), so we carried on, heading downhill now, accompanied by goldcrests tweeting, heard but unseen, and a lone male bullfinch calling. From the opposite side of the valley we could look across to the reserve and just see the chimneys of the House That Made Us Jealous peeking out over the top of the hill.

Looking across to Dyfnant Meadows from the other side of the valley

Looking across to Dyfnant Meadows from the other side of the valley

It was a lovely walk, and I’d like to go back and explore the reserve itself properly sometime soon. Certainly come spring, when it has orchids and blue butterflies among its attractions. And I ‘d quite like to say hello to the chickens and the donkeys again too.

But for today, our bellies told us it was time to go, so we popped into the nearby small town of Llanfyllin and had a thoroughly satisfying pub lunch and a pint of Brains’s Rev James in the down-to-earth and very welcoming, if somewhat contrarily named, Old New Inn. The perfect way to round off a good walk.

If only every day of the Christmas holidays could be like this…

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