Llia, there and everywhere

4.30am garden patrol. Rufus did the checking. All clear, weather good.

I climbed back into the luke warm bed and had a think about where to go this morning. When I woke again to the damp nose of a cocker spaniel eager to get going, I’d had one of those strange, quickie dreams – this one was about climbing Kilimanjaro. While a last minute flight for both of us to Tanzania was out of the question, it put me in the mood for a hill.

Fan Llia is a long ridge rising from the Llia valley running roughly north to south. On the opposite side of the valley is Fan Nedd and Fan Gyhirich. Nestled at the northern end of the valley, near the summit of the road, is Maen Llia, an ancient standing stone that seems to mark the route ahead, as it is aligned with it’s longest edge pointing down the valley. The climb from the car park is relentless but not steep. Unfortunately, the going at the bottom of the hill is very damp, with lots of little trickles of streams flowing down and creating small but awkward ditched to cross. Once you get above a certain level, the ground is much firmer underfoot and so I always try and climb quickly at the start, which makes the route a little tougher than it needs to be.

Rufus and I left the car park at about 8.45am. Two young people (I think one might have been male but it was hard to tell with the hair cut) were in a parked car at the far end. They were trying to look as if nothing was happening, which made it seem as if I’d disturbed them. We left quickly. We didn’t want to spoil their fun. Whatever they were up to it only lasted another 10 minutes, as I heard the signature roar of the boy (or girl) racer tearing off up the road.

We got above the marsh quite quickly and then it was a reasonably rapid march to the ridge and on to the stone cairn. The clouds were beginning to clear as we reached the first stop. In the distances, remnants of mist were trapped in the dips of the surrounding valleys. The cairn isn’t at the highest point of Fan Llia so we set of uphill once more, passing the summit a few minutes later. All around me were my favourite mountains. To my left, Fan Nedd, Fan Gyhirich and beyond them, Fan Brecheiniog and Fan Foel. To my right was Fan Fawr and poking out from its shoulder, Corn Du and Pen y Fan. The sun came out and blue sky dominated the heavens. Even the chill wind stopped.

We walked on for another mile or so, passing ponies and horses grazing on the mountainside. I hadn’t decided where to go from here so we stopped again and had a think. I’ve  wanted to go around to Fan Fawr from here but this would double the distance and time, so we deicided instead to head down to Sarn Helen, the old Roman road through the valley. The drop down was tough underfoot – there were lots more of the little streams and the lower we got, the deeper their ditches became. Finally we dropped on to the road, which was rough and rutted by the streams. But it was easier going than the hillside. It undulated and twisted as it climbed up to enter the valley again, and at points I could see some kind of man made intervention to try and smooth out the surface. I doubt is dated back to Roam times, but this road served as the only route through the valley for many centuries after the Romans left and it was more likely to date back only a few hundred years.

Just before the old road met the new road (which follows the line of the old road for most of the valley), we left and kept to the bank of the River Llia so that we would be in the right place to cross the stile and get back tot he car park. But that was several miles and many stones would have to be thrown into the river before we got back.

Rufus ranged far and wide as we went back, but always popped his head up to make sure I was okay every now and then. He scrambled up and over the stile and then we were back in the car park. But it was far too early to head home, so I dumped the back pack in the boot, grabbed a tripod and we went off to follow the river south for a while. I got some nice infrared shots of the river and Rufus chased sticks I’d thrown for him.

Back home, my coffee went down well and as I’m typing this, there is the just a hint of snoring coming from the sofa on which is a tired dog.

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