Firstly, thanks to everyone for taking a look at these pages during the last week or so. It was fun to do and kept me busy in the evenings in the various pubs and B&Bs. Some of the comments made me laugh and it was nice to know I wasn’t just talking to myself.
I have some observations I want to make on different aspects of the walk and the countryside that I wanted to record while it was fresh in my mind. Feel free to click back if you want to … this will be a ramble of a different kind.
We all know that pubs have been struggling for years now but it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. There were a couple of pubs, like the Royal Oak in Pont Robert, that were open all day until recently only opens inconsistently now apparently. The effect of that is that people won’t make the effort to go to a pub if they don’t know if it will be open or not.
The New Inn has been closed due to ‘staff sickness’ for months and is another one on borrowed time by the looks of things.
The Wynnstay in Llanbrynmair – basically the only accommodation option at this end of stage village – would need a lot of money spending on it to bring it up to be the standard a lot of people seem to expect these days. It’s comfortable and clean if a little tired, but could do with a refurb.
Pauline, who runs it with her husband, is really welcoming and friendly and prepares filling and tasty, if basic, meals but there just doesn’t seem to be the custom any more to enable the necessary investment. They have been there for thirty one years. The community use it, as both a pub and a shop and it seems to be ticking over but who will take over when they retire? If it closes there will be nowhere to stay at the end of stage six and Llanbrynmair will have lost its hub, pub and, I would argue, soul.
The Happy Union in Abbeycwmhir is run by a couple (it’s been in his family for seventy years) who both have other jobs, so it only opens in the evening but is at least well supported by the community and appears sustainable on that basis.
Y Star at Dylife has had some money spent on it (read ramblingman.org.uk’s GW blog to get an idea of what it was like four years ago) and seems to be holding its own but, again, it’s got a ‘monopoly’ for the end of stage accommodation so should be OK.
Machynlleth and Llanidloes will probably lose a couple more pubs each and maintain the rest for now but if the next generation don’t use pubs….
I don’t know the answer to it. People talk about taxation, supermarkets, property values, PubCo’s attitudes, the smoking ban and I think these factors have all combined to disastrous effect for communities and society. I also think culturally we have seen a change and, for whatever reasons, too many people have stopped visiting their local pub. Without that required level of regular support they become unsustainable. They will go for their annual pint on Christmas Eve to find a Tesco Local or a block of flats.
I have my own opinions on meat eating, obviously, but a thought struck me a few times this week seeing cattle and sheep in the fields – just lying down or running around in the outdoors and interacting with their young.
The increasing industrialization of farming and the threat of more US style units being introduced where pigs, sheep and cattle are kept inside all their lives is obscene.
The bullocks running round the field on Saturday morning were behaving instinctively and running as a herd, as they naturally do.
If we’re going to kill animals to eat them at least let them live a little first.
As I mentioned, on several days I was really lucky with the warm, dry weather. It was a bit too warm some days given the effort I was putting in and on some days there was literally nowhere to get any water, short of knocking on a door.
Similarly, there were two shops and only two or three public toilets along the whole route. I guess tranquility and solitude come at a price…
I loved the walk and would probably walk a couple of the stages again. I wouldn’t do the whole thing again – I know, I’ve still got to walk stage 1 – but neither would I put anyone off walking it. My fear would be that in five years time further pubs will have been lost and the viability of the trail will suffer.