At the top of the forest I turned right into a stretch of about three miles of pathless bog. It took about as long as the five miles of road to negotiate, probably longer, stepping my way carefully between clumps of grass, feeling ahead with my sticks, pushing through sometimes chest high reeds. Not impossible, just tiring. I fell over once, clumsily sinking backwards as one of my poles unexpectedly sank deep into the water and I wasn't balanced enough to keep upright. Fortunately I didn't get wet, easily could have as there was a lot of water on the ground but I just slowly turned over, cushioned on the reeds, with my big turtle shell on my back and pushed myself upright. There was a hostel ahead , Ty'n Cornel. I thought it might be a bit early to stop there and I didn't want to spend money on a bed when I could camp. On the other hand, it's one of two independently run hostels in the area, sold on as unprofitable by the YHA and kept going by the love and dedication of volunteers. I wanted to at least stop in and see what was there. It was raining again as I came towards the small farmhouse building and the forecast told me it would rain all night. I knocked on the door and it was opened by the fat and friendly volunteer warden who led me into the dark hallway where I could see through to a front room with open fireplace and rocking chairs. He offered me a cup of tea and I knew I had to stay there for the night and learn more about the place, its history as a farmhouse and hostel, last lived in in 1953, sold to the YHA by the farmer in the late 60's on condition he remained as warden. One of the most remote hostels in Wales, I'll go to it's partner, Dolgoch as I walk up the river Teifi, whenever that will be.
There was only one bad thing that happened at Ty'n Cornel but it was awful. You had to use a sheet sleeping bag, with space to post a pillow in at the top, it made the sheet taught between the pillow and the bed and I woke up in the middle of the night with the muscles of my neck in solid spasm. It hurt, a lot and, two days later they still haven't relaxed. I get a stiff neck every so often when I sleep strangely or the variety of bundled clothing I use as a pillow isn't quite soft enough. This was awful though, I couldn't raise my arms above my head or even put a hat on without pain. I set off, I had to, stopping every so often to work the muscles of my neck and shoulders, trying to soften away the tension.
I walked from Ty'n Cornel down the Doethie Valley, the grey skies overhead tamped down the beauty of the place but it was beautiful even wothout the gilding sunshine. The valley wove south, hills coming together like interlaced fingers, steep sides covered with bracken and moss, trees growing in the cracks made by the descent of water to the river. No road, just a well worn path winding around each curve and turn of the river, decidious trees everywhere, just the looming pine forest at the top of one rise. Eventually I came down into woodland covering both sides of the river and it was a rare pleasure to see the entire side of a hill covered in Decidious trees, so blooming and different to the ranks of pine which spread, rigid and silent in their man-made rows.
I slept in a church last night, arriving in the porch in a drizzle of rain and deciding to read my book there for a while and think about whether I wanted to go any further and find a hospitable field or nestle into the stone floor and keep dry. The very fact that I'd stopped at the church was a sign really, I definitely didn't want to go any further, I just had to run the gauntlet of the warden coming to lock up. I heard someone inside the church and as they came towards the front door I worried that I'd scare them, anyone would be scared to open the door and find a silent figure in a darkening stone porch. The little lady took it well, not jumping too much and we had a conversation about what I was doing. "Do you want to sleep in the church?" she said and I said Yes. I could tell she felt sorry for me and had to politely fend off offers of a heater and food, my pride not allowing me to appear too needy.
I lay down to sleep on the luscious red carpet, bats squeaking and flapping above me, rattling plaster down from the walls. I managed to knead some more of the tension out of my neck and could sleep in batches, waking up every so often to ease myself into a new position, pain in hips, pain in back, pain in neck. There's a lot of tension in me at the moment and it doesn't always allow me to sleep very well.
Sue rustled at the door this morning, inviting me for breakfast. A lovely, kind woman, she said I looked exhausted the night before so she had to help me.
Today it's been a short walk over the hill and down to Llandovery so far, then a few hours in the hotel where Sue left my bag. I'm planning to walk a bit further today but need to plan my route out before I leave. I know I'm heading South and then East over the Beacons but that's it. I'm trying to keep my spirits up but it's easy for me to feel low at the moment, it all seems like very hard work. And it is!