ONE – For the first time in 11 years of teaching, I was able to take an afternoon off. I’d taken on an extra Year 11 class some months ago and any hours I’d lost meant I could use them when things had quietened down. Today, I was determined to use this rare time to the fullest. I had grand plans of tackling the Snowdon Horseshoe or kayaking on Llyn Gwynant. But, things rarely go to plan. Bad weather meant that the kayak place was closed and a long weekend of driving meant I’d quickly packed this morning and left all my climbing gear at home. I sat in a cafe and started to think about admitting defeat and calling it a day. But, today ended up being one of the best days of my life. After spending an hour or so in Siabod Cafe scribbling in a notebook I headed here. I sat under the bridge, sheltering from the wind and driving rain for what seemed like hours. I could hear life pass by above me in the shape of traveling cars and weary walkers. I thought of the plans I’d written in that notebook. The wind carried some of those seeds of ideas away but others took root and the wind could not blow them away. Staying still had given me far more than a tough climb perhaps would’ve done. Staying still had given me time, space and solitude to think. I drank the last of my tea and made my way back to the car to head for home. But, a chance meeting with a bag for life changed the course of my day and my day took another turn.
TWO – On the way back to the car I spotted a bag for life snagged on a branch in the lake. I climbed down to pick it up with the intention of sticking it in the bin near the car. As I made my way back, I thought about my new plans for the blog and about how much I’d gained from this area but that I’d never given it anything back. I paused at the bin and decided to spend a couple of hours litter picking on a loop round Cwm Idwal. I’d left my waterproofs at home so had to make do with my un-waterproof coat that I used for work. I felt a strange combination of feelings as I made my way through the rain and fog. It felt great to be giving back but there was anger at how people were treating this place. There were bottles hidden in walls, nappies, baby food jars and cigarette packets squashed under rocks, bottles in the lake and countless piles of toilet paper thrown in the heather. I picked everything up. The latter threw up one particularly nasty surprise. It was beyond me how people could do this. It was probably beyond those I passed why there was a soaked man, in a stupid coat carrying a bag for life at arms length around a lake. The bag was full by the time I got back to the car but with it came the realisation that another seed of an idea I’d planted had been watered by this experience and was growing into something.
THREE – After the litter pick mission I decided I wanted to do two more things before heading home. One, was to walk through a forest. Having not had any rain for weeks, I can’t begin to describe how good it was to walk through here. The sound of rain hitting leaves and branches echoed through the trees. My boots filled with rain water and it ran through my hair and into my eyes. I could smell the damp moss on the forest floor and could almost hear the thirsty earth letting out a sigh of relief at the drought being over. I had the place to myself and imagined my boys running through here. I remembered as a child being in forests like these with my dad and us leaving malted milk (cow biscuits) near holes in trees and returning the next day to see if some mystery creature had taken them. I’m convinced that my dad probably returned to get them to save me being disappointed when I returned. We would always take a rope with us and he’d help pull me out of shallow fox holes in the ground, straining dramatically as if he was heaving a grizzly bear to freedom. Good memories. (On a side note, if you want to explore this place, check the Llynnau Mymbyr post.
FOUR – While I sat under that bridge, I had this urge to go wild swimming. It had been an idea that had haunted me for some time like a character in a book or a lyric from a favourite song. It was something that intimidated me but it was also something that had this magical draw. I felt like it was a new and unfamiliar world but one that might get hold of me if I dared tread over its threshold. I drove over to Llyn Padarn, changing my mind about whether I’d give it a go with every turn of the road. When I got there I went through the excuses about abandoning the idea; no kit, what would people think, would someone steal my clothes from the lake’s edge and run off with them like in the films? I muted those voices and decided to go for it. The water was warm, far warmer than I’d ever known lakes to be. I waded in and suddenly I was swimming. I’d heard of the afterglow that came from wild swimming; that feeling of warmth and electricity coursing through your body. It was something I’d wanted to feel and learn about and here it was, happening. I’d never felt anything like it before. As I swam, I could feel the sun suddenly break through the clouds and warm my shoulders. In front of me was Dolbadarn Castle and beyond it, Snowdon, and I was looking at them from the middle of a lake. This was the most simple of times. It had cost nothing other than throwing away the shackles of doubt yet this was the one of the happiest moments of my life. I pictured myself there like a time lapse, the sun dropping and me still in this spot in the dark staring at the distance. I made my way back to the shore and to the car to make my way back home. The afterglow did not leave me and as I taught my classes today, the lake would momentarily and without warning return to my thoughts as if calling me back. And I will be but it feels like I’ve opened a door to something here and I’ve got that nagging feeling in my chest that needs satisfying.