Well, we met Ray the mountain guy on the Rhyd Ddu path the other day, and he recommended that we head west from Rhyd Ddu and explore some of the paths up that way, for the beautiful landscapes with fewer tourists. So we did.
We’d come from the gentle slopes of Cornwall, and although the kids are fit, I’ve been in an office job for the last couple of years and in my attempt to get fit by running prior to this trip, managed to sprain my knee. It’s behaved pretty well up Snowdon and Glyder Fach, but after 3 days of hiking, it needed a rest. Foel Rudd is a lovely, short walk over open grassland to the west of Rhyd Ddu – so we decided to wander up it as a rest day.
We ditched the car in Rhyd Ddu village and started our walk in Beddgelert Forest, heading north from the southern end — a forest track has been carved through the middle and while it’s a real cut, it’s a quiet, easy walk. Small creatures slither around on the edges of the path, where rocks warm in the sun and overhanging tree roots make myriad caves from which tiny eyes watch. To the north, Yr Wyddfa can be seen through a screen of spruce branches and lush flowers. It’s absolutely beautiful.
About halfway through, a small track branches up on the left, a magical winding path of rocks and tree roots, thick with humming and birdsong. This opens into a field which slopes up to the Foel Rudd summit. (Not gently at all — this is so steep).
My knee was having none of this. It made it to the middle of the short but steep Foel Rudd ascent before it made the same noise as a bag of crisps in a pocket – so similar that I emptied my pockets looking for the crisp wrapper before realising it was my knee. I tried to clamber up twice, but my knee just gave way, so I finally bandaged it, took a tablet, and tried again. More crunching noises and an abrupt sit down.
So I sent my kids up without me, for the first time (elder kids are teens, at the Gold and Bronze DofE stage — they can hoof up a hill without me now). It was weird watching them go (shrieking to check the map for the drop offs and NOT to peer over the cliff edges) and counting the minutes until they came back with photos to show us. My youngest showed me how to make reed rings as we lay back on the hillside in the sunshine.
There was a crescent moon over the hill as the older boys returned, and on the way back through the forest, a dragonfly landed on my head. My youngest made a musical instrument out of a pine cone.
I thought about Ray, who told me that life is to be enjoyed. I thought about how my knee should be strong and springy — and used to running up mountains. I thought about the beauty of the landscape, and always, the feeling of home. Some of my earliest memories are of the hills of Wales, the feeling of springwater on my hands and face, and the scent of the place.
I’m not sure I’m meant to visit once a year for a few days, clinging to the rocks trying to make them familiar again and crashing into the waters in desperate need of the cold. I’m meant to be here more than that.
In the evening, we headed back to Llanberis, ate at Pete’s Eats and swam in Llyn Padarn. After a hot day, there are warm and cold eddies in the shallows, and a million small fish. We watched the sun lower and only left when we were too cold and tired to move.
Foel Rudd: OK, Mud and Routes for maps and safety info. Enjoy!