It pelted down overnight – not that we cared, snug in one of the most welcoming guesthouses in West Wales. First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Glangwili Mansion lies tucked into a cleft of the wooded hills north of Carmarthen. If you’re going walking – or biking, or kayaking, or just exploring the hills and forests – the gentle and humorous guidance of owners George and Linda Reid is just the ticket. ‘Alltwalis, that’ll be great on a day like this,’ said George on his doorstep, looking heavenward at grey skies. ‘Plenty of shelter, and great views down in the Aeron Valley.’
A green lane rose from Alltwalis, its mossy banks trickling with flood streams, under a canopy of oak and hazel leaves where the last of the rain was pattering. Up at the crest of the hill it was all green folds and wooded slopes, running away into a thin grey haze on all sides. One of those mornings to be either in by the fire, or out among the elements. At Cefn-maes the farmer went haring over his wet pastures on a quad, his sheepdog frisking before him. Beyond the farm we skirted a stretch of rushy ground, half heather moor, half black peat bog, hedged with wild cherry bushes whose dark red fruits hung heavy with glassy raindrops.
The woodland path we followed into the Nant Aeron’s secret valley was edged with straw-filled droppings the size of croquet balls, far larger than anything a native British animal could possibly produce. Oval footprints eighteen inches across were dinted deep into the narrow track. We looked at each other. It couldn’t be … could it?
The path descended past little wooden cabins perched among the trees, down to where there were glimpses of another world in the valley bottom – lily pools, gardens and lawns, an open-topped meeting place, flags with the ‘Om’ symbol. ‘Subramanium Temple, Sri Ranganatha Temple,’ said the notice on the gate. A big scarlet shed by the track marked the terminus of both droppings and dish-sized footprints. Who would have guessed it? Elephants in Cwm Aeron, and Hindu prayers arising under Pengraigygigfran.
A single-track lane led out of the valley. We picked wild strawberries from the hedge and savoured their sweet tang as we climbed past Llwyncrychyddod. On the hill above Alltwalis we stopped to watch three ravens mobbing a kestrel. Barking harshly, tumbling and feinting, they drove it north and out of sight down into the valley of the elephants.
Start & finish: Mason’s Arms PH, Alltwalis, Nr Carmarthen, SA32 7EB (OS ref SN 445318)
Getting there: Bus (www.arrivabus.co.uk) service 41 (Llandysul-Carmarthen)
Road: M4, A48 to Carmarthen; A485 towards Lampeter passes through Alltwalis
Walk (5½ miles, moderate, OS Landranger 185):
From Mason’s Arms, right along A485; in 50 m, first right. Past houses, fork right through gate (444318; yellow arrow/YA); bear left up grassy incline, through gates (YA) and on up for ½ mile. At top, through gates (YA) at Gwarcwm (441323). Ahead along road for 100 m; right (fingerpost) on track to Cefn-maes (436326). Ahead through farmyard; at barn bear right; in 20 m left over stile; along fence, then over field to gate (YA). Across next field, over stile (432329, YA); on with hedge on right and moor on left, over stiles (YA) for ⅓ mile to cross stile with left and right YAs (426329). Left along forest track.
In 150 m, don’t go through gate, but bear right (‘Coach Park’). In 30 m at gate (425327), fork right off track (YA) on woodland path (YAs) to reach stony forest road crossing (424326). Left; in 200 m, bear right (YA) down path for ½ mile to tarmac road (420321). Fork right downhill, then left at temple entrance along valley road. In a little over a mile, left beside field gate up lane (423306). In 250 m, beside entrance to Llwyncrychyddod (424307), keep ahead on tarmac lane (bending left), not stony lane (ahead). Follow lane (tarmac, then rough) up for ½ mile to barn by gate (428313). On with hedge/fence on left, over crest of hill for ½ mile. Cross gate (434317); on down overgrown green lane, skirting obstructions to reach Pant-y-llyn (436318). On along road to Gwarcwm; return down green lane to Alltwalis.
Lunch: Mason’s Arms, Alltwalis (01559-384044)
Accommodation: Glangwili Mansion, Llanllawddog, Carmarthenshire (01267-253735; www.glangwilimansion.co.uk) – wonderful secluded location, really comfortable; very helpful hosts.