In August 1963, the family were staying in a caravan just above the beach at Tal-y-bont in mid-Wales. This is one of the earliest holidays I remember (I was six and a half), notable for our discovery of the amazingly camouflaged nest of a Little Ringed Plover, a few feet from the path that we used to get to the sea; a visit to Harlech Castle where I frightened my mum silly by walking right up to the low parapet above a huge drop to rocks below (she was too scared to come near enough to snatch me back, whereas I’ve never really been bothered by ‘exposure’); and for my first significant bit of hillwalking – related below. All-in-all a very formative trip.
The walk arose when we had been in conversation with some other holidaymakers who had described walking up to a lake in the hills with an impressive echo. We walked up into the village of Tal-y-bont, then found a footpath on the right bank of the Afon Ysgethin, initially through the village, but then into woodland close to the river. We followed this up for a couple of kilometres, then crossed by an old bridge. The walled track then ascended steeply away from the attractions of the river, and you can imagine a six-year-old whingeing a bundle that he was too hot, too tired, and that this was no longer interesting – I’d rather be looking for coloured stones in the stream…. I remember sitting down by the side of the track and refusing to walk any further (my own son Michael developed this exact same behaviour many years later, so I knew what to do).
My parents decided that they’d just have a look a bit further and set off uphill. They soon rounded a bend and went out of sight. I waited for a while, but soon became less hot, less tired and a whole lot more bored and it was only my native pig-headedness that kept me sitting there waiting for them to reappear. They had clearly judged that this was going to be a make-or-break situation and whilst not heading on up the hills and abandoning me completely, they were definitely keeping out of sight as I eventually set off in pursuit. By now I was cross with them and my determination was to catch them up to deliver a good moan. I don’t remember when or where exactly I caught up, but by that point I had clearly got my second wind and had decided that I was going to get to this ***** lake before them. Amazing what a bit of cussedness can do for a six-year-old !
We duly arrived at the lake with the echo, and all temper was forgotten as I shouted and hooted across the water.
I was told afterwards that I had walked ten miles that day, by which reckoning, it would have been Llyn Bodlyn that we reached, which does indeed have a 100m cliff dropping into its SE side. Many of the details of the walk are lost to memory in the mists of time (it’s almost half a century ago) but I can still recall being extraordinarily pleased with myself for having got up and completed the walk and got to the reward of the lake with the superb echo. The fact that I’d formed such strong memories and knew I’d walked ten miles when I was six (whether it really was quite that far or not) meant that I was never put off by long walks later in life.