06 April 2018 by Rebecca Brough
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being out in the hills, away from the hustle and bustle of your daily routine. Wales is blessed with vast expanses of remote and entrancing countryside with 320,000 hectares of open access land - almost a third of all such land in England and Wales. The right to roam on foot across these spaces came about over 17 years ago through the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, and Ramblers across the country have been making great use of it ever since.
My last walk in open access land was in Ceredigion, near Devil’s Bridge on route around Craig Ddu (Black Rock in English). I was checking out one of the new routes Ramblers Cymru is developing for this year’s Big Welsh Walk. Last year I spent a lot of time in this area, but didn’t get to venture off the paths, so I jumped at the chance to explore more of this hidden landscape, only hinted at from the roads and long-pored over in map form.
It did not disappoint. I may only have been a couple of miles from the road, but tucked behind the hillocks, surrounded by rugged rocks, tussocks of grasses and the odd puzzled-looking sheep, is an experience to cherish.
The isolated bare tree, a lonely landmark on the horizon; the challenging conditions underfoot, boggy, with the ever-present risk of losing a boot to the suction created with every step; the magnificent colours of the vegetation contrasted against the cold blue winter sky; and the occasional glimpse of the majestic Red Kite spiralling overhead. Not having a defined path on the ground made it all the more exciting – I felt like a pioneer and a real explorer!
When you see the great swathes of orange-washed areas on the maps – over 15,000 hectares in Ceredigion alone – it opens up almost endless opportunities for these wonderful walking experiences. Obviously, it’s important to be properly equipped including with a good map, compass and proper clothing for the conditions. These are often remote areas and by their nature not always likely to have a strong phone signal if you run into trouble.
But they are worth the effort and if you haven’t already done so, I’d urge you to embrace the opportunity for exploration, to bravely step off the path and forge your way through this beautiful and inspiring countryside.
If it’s too daunting to go solo, why not come along to our Big Welsh Walk where you can join a led-group with an experience leader to show you the way? Take that next step and open up a new world of walking.