A path slants out of Cwm Nantcol through Coed Crafnant. Among sessile oaks, migrant birds throng after exhausting journeys from Africa. The air is melodic with the velvet diminuendo of willow warblers; leaves of the trees haven’t yet opened, concealing their perpetual activity among high branches. Pied flycatchers – miniature magpies in stroboscopic dance-mode – spill down to flit along tracks and across fields by Pont Crafnant.
The wood is flower-carpeted in glorious progression through these spring months. There’s ramson, its white flowers garlic-scented, its triangular stalks delicious to nibble or gather and chop into salads. There are bluebells, of course, in such profusion the shimmer of them seems more emanation than substance.
The earliest flowers are the wood anemones, with their foxy scent. Poet Robert Graves knew and loved this path from before the first world war. It sidles round Carreg Fawr, splashes through brief mires where heath spotted and early purple orchids are already showing, to arrive at the mitten-shaped Gloywlyn, the “shining lake”. I make a point of walking this way every spring, usually packing a rucksack with tent, stove and sleeping bag to pitch camp on dry ground at the southern end of this remote and lovely mountain lake. It’s one of my favourite places in the Welsh hills, and one of the great panoramic points among them. Yr Wyddfa broods northerly under a grey pall of cloud. When night falls there’s Enlli’s lighthouse winking from 40 miles across the sea. I came here recently on an evening when the full moon appeared suddenly from behind Rhinog Fawr and soared, silvering the lake and its surrounding grey crags.
Then, the drake teal from the pair that’s flown up from the estuary to breed here traced a rippling dark path across the water. I focused my glass on shadows where I sensed rather than saw movement. One of the rangy hill-foxes who are tutelary spirits at all these Rhinogydd lakes emerged into moonlight and drank from the lake margin. He pointed at the teal, which veered sharply away. The fox lifted his muzzle, snuffed the breeze, glared at my tent with eyes glinting like pearls, and was gone.
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