laughed at us in Llanwrtyd when we said that we were going to venture
across the mountains to Tregaron. It was not a vulgar jeer, for the
inhabitants of Llanwrtyd have had to humour spa patrons for too long to
be impolite, but a superior laugh of the omniscient person who says,
“It cannot be done.”
Llanwrtydians’ farewell handshake was a sad one. Undaunted by their
heart-rending appeals to desist from the venture, and with that hatred
of exaggeration which is the hall mark of all journalists, discounting
their accounts of the perils of the path, we turned a last look at
pillars of Society were there to see us off, the Church in the person of
the vicar blessing our escapade, and high finance represented by the
bank manager, All that was so dear to us in Welsh life was symbolised by
the scene on the Square in Llanwrtyd. Looking out of the car window, we
saw an Italian fish and chip shop, a Baptist chapel, Barclays Bank, and
the entrance to the bar of the Neuadd Arms Hotel.
bidding farewell to these, we were cutting ourselves adrift from the
Wales of today. It hurt, but we were determined to cross those dread
mountain fastnesses to Tregaron.
sped along rapidly, the photographer and myself in one car and a
business man leading the way in a red Western
Mail van. The Irfon Valley was a profusion of trees, the
late-burgeoning oaks, yellow in colour, contrasting with the bright
green of the beeches.
one side of the road the Irfon flowed, tumbling here and there in a
miniature waterfall. Lambs, not having seen such monsters as these
machines, scattered anxiously. Chickens dashed out of the way in a
panic. Dark, dignified larches were silhouetted against the fresh green
of the May fields. We rushed past a farmer on a grey horse, riding to
his isolated farm on the hill. We were getting nearer to the Wales of
Church stood out sturdy and stolid. “Now the track begins,” we
reflected, as we turned to the left beyond the church and almost crashed
into a gate.
opened the gate to let the cars in, and on we went on a narrow path
covered with stones, each of which seemed to be waiting with the one
passion of breaking the springs of intruders’ cars. Between the bumps
we could look down at the valley below, see oaks and mountain ash
scattered here and there, and admire the thin broken white line of a
waterfall. The profusion of trees had disappeared and most of the hills
around were bare, except for clumps of hawthorn. The further we
advanced, slowly and gropingly, the more rugged became the scenery and
the blacker became the rocks. The path was so narrow that a big touring
car might easily have been caught in a wedge between two rocks, or in
another spot might have slipped to its destruction into the valley
far the only living beings had been the sturdy mountain sheep and their
lambs. But soon, feeling like an Arab in the desert, who sees camels in
the distance, we saw below, near the river, three people digging. We
left the cars and ran down, followed by three or four friendly
sheepdogs, until we came to a man, his wife, and a girl preparing peat.
And Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Llanerch-yrfa, certainly knew how to cut the
peat quickly and cleanly.
da,” they said, and we were greeted with Welsh warmness. They had dug
a deep ditch, and as Mr. Jones cut each block of brown peat, Mrs. Jones
or Miss Jones placed it by the side of the ditch.
waved to the peat-diggers as we went onwards on the road beneath the
rocks. Before long we came to a river near a farm. As the cars splashed
their way through the geese flew excitedly away. Then we heard a shout
from the car in front:
is the path?” Indeed, it had disappeared. There were, it is true, a
few marks of horses’ hoofs through some small dry reeds, which led
into another stream. So we decided to follow those, plunge through the
river, and climb the hill again, where the road became dear.
lucky there are pebbles in these streams,” said the photographer, as
the wheels were baptised for the third time; “If it were earth we’d
get stuck.” Then came a hill-climbing test. On the driver’s face
there was a look of grim determination as he climbed up the gradient,
and as each bend threatened to send us skidding. No one should attempt
to go up that hill or the other hills on the Abergwesyn-Tregaron road
unless he has good nerves and driving ability.
never seen anything like it in my life,” said the man of business when
we reached the top and looked down and the drivers panted. I nearly
offered some hay in reward to the car, but met with a blank look from
the bonnet. The view, however, was worth the nerve-strain. Behind the
rugged lonely hills peeped a hazy blue range of mountains. We were
ourselves about 1,500 feet high and in solitude.
long the path took us into a farmyard, and a farmer’s dark son, a good
Cardi type, with humorous brown eyes, told us in Welsh that we had gone
the wrong way.
le yw hwn?” I asked.
Gwm Tywi,” he replied.
had reached the top of the Towy Valley, but here the ruggedness of the
scenery was a contrast to the luscious greenness of the Towy near
Llandllo. The two or three farms in this part of the Towy Valley were
spotlessly clean and almost dazzling with their newly white-washed
miles we then drove on across what is perhaps the loneliest stretch of
bare heath in Wales. We greeted one farmer who was leading his horse and
had several dogs racing around him. There were again glimpses of blue
mountains in the distance and a white patch of lake when we passed Llyn
long we were descending beneath a dark, overhanging cliff into the plain
again, trees re-appeared, and children darted out from cottages. The
perilous journey was over, but no crowds were gathered to meet the two
drivers who had fearlessly conquered the Abergwesyn-Tregaron route. No
reporters swarmed around us; the Tregaron Post Office did not send a
single cable across the Atlantic to announce our triumph.
hyperbole apart, the Abergwesyn-Tregaron is a
tough venture for any driver, even in fine weather, as we had.
it is more than a venture: it is a form of suicide.
it is worth venturing, for he who crosses the mountains there can not
only see some of the finest views in Great Britain, but can boast if
he reaches the other side of being both a good driver and a brave man.
May, 20th, 1933.
For useful tourist information about Tregaron &
surrounding district, please visit