Abnib Real Ale Ramble 2006

In case you hadn’t guessed, the destroyed tent I posted a picture of to my blog a few days ago wasn’t Jimmy‘s at all, but another tent we saw while on the Abnib Real Ale Ramble. Jimmy has since gotten his revenge by ensuring I play Medieval II: Total War, which has occupied most of my life since we got back. Pictures from the entire weekend, mostly taken on JTA‘s (borrowed) camera, which had a habit of turning itself off without warning, are available on Abnib Gallery.

In the end, it was only Ruth, JTA, Claire and I that went to Llanwrtyd Wells for the Real Ale Ramble this year. Claire and I borrowed Jimmy’s tent and camped on the local rugby pitch, where the toilet/shower block (which doubles as the local scout troop hut) was unlocked for us. Of the three nights we camped, there were only other people camping there on one night: three tents appeared a little way from ours during our first day’s rambling, and disappeared again the following morning. The temperature was tolerable, given our heavy-duty sleeping bags, but the torrential hailstorms made camping a more exciting experience than we had anticipated, and it almost became necessary to re-peg the tent during one of the more violent storms.

Ruth & JTA, meanwhile, set themselves up at Ardwyn House, a B&B near the self-catering cottage in which we stayed last year. I’ll leave it to them to describe the comparative life of luxury they were allowed to live there. Still; it must be said that our campsite had a higher showers-to-guest ratio than them, so perhaps we win after all. On our final night, after returning from the pub, we all had a great and very tense game of Illuminati in the library (yes, their B&B had a library) and drank champagne to celebrate Ruth & JTA having been together for approximately three years. Again, suppose that’s more something for them to blog about.

We did the 15-mile ramble on the first day, which remains, like last year, about twice as hard or more as the 10-mile walk (which we did on the second), even without a broken foot. The pouring rain of the previous few days – accompanied by scattered showers on the first day – resulted in very wet conditions, and at times the mudslides made it difficult to stay in the same place, never mind making progress up an embankment. On several humorous occassions one or another of us would lose our balance and hurtle down into the mud, but we were prepared for this with waterproof or semi-waterproof clothing pretty-much all round. The number of “beer tokens”, each worth half a pint of beer (also exchangable for hot and cold drinks and, sometimes, soup) was reduced this year to three per day, but the enforcement had been relaxed, and on the second day I recall that Ruth drank three pints of Cambrian Ale without handing over a single token while we sat at a picnic bench by a river.

The evenings took us, predictabley, to the Neuadd Arms, for a great number of intresting beers (Over The Edge, Red Dragon, Cambrian Ale, Russian Stoat, and a few others come to mind as being well-worth-tasting) – and some equally interesting conversation with strange and unusual people: we met a man who’s life was taken over by bonsai trees, a woman who graduated in Biology from Aberystwyth in 1985, and a lecturer who’d “disappeared” from his classes to come along to the festival, among others – but also, this year, to the Stonecroft Inn, where, in a gazebo out the back of the pub, they had a fabulous selection of ales, ciders and perries to try, as well as a flamethrower-like space heater that felt wonderful to stand in front of after a wet day in the hills.

Norman, the 70-something old man who beat us around both walks last year, was around again, and still managed to get around the walk faster than us, although we might have beaten him on the second day were it not for the abandoned beer tent at Station 1 and, therefore, the temptation to hang around for a second drink before hitting the trail again. He is, as I put it at the time, “a one-man walking machine,” before I realised how stupid that sounded. A few other familiar faces were to be seen, too: folks we’d seen last year giving knowing nods as if to say, “Ah, it’s you again.” Although, more often, they were saying things like “You’re camping? In this?”

One final highlight of the weekend that I’ll share with you is of a meal at the Neuadd Arms. On their menu they list a number of curry dishes, all rated by heat with a series of “radiation” symbols by each, from one to three. Except for their Phaal, which has five, and promises a medal to anybody who can clear their plate. Claire, being Claire, tried it. She didn’t manage to clear her plate, but that’s probably for the best, because the room was starting to feel warm and tingly as a result of the heat exuded by the dish. We all tried a taste of it, once she’d admitted defeat, which was quite painful – but tasty. Claire’s promised to get herself into “curry training” for next year.

Right; time to start planning the Abnib Real Ale Ramble 2007!

Further Reading

Abnib Real Ale Ramble 2005

Well, Claire, JTA, Jimmy and I made it back safely from our weekend of rambling across the mountains of mid-Wales and participating in one of the biggest Real Ale festivals in the UK. Some photos are up on Abnib Gallery: all from my mobile, so far, but I’m sure that JTA and Claire will add a few that they took, soon. I’ve also put together a comic-book-esque collage of some of our activities [354K, JPEG], for if you just want the highlights and can’t even be bothered to read on.

Highlights (and other bits-of-interest) included:

  • Llanwrtyd Wells is even smaller than the maps imply. Jimmy went exploring, and 15 minutes later he’d seen pretty much the whole town. On another occassion he wandered into an unstaffed bookshop (breaking the door handle on the way) and took a book, leaving some money on the counter for the shopkeeper upon his return. Nevertheless, even with Jimmy’s directions, Claire and I couldn’t find the chemist.
  • We managed to have not only a “Geek Night On Location”, playing two games of Scotland Yard (a copy of which was conveniently left in the chalet we rented) but a “Troma Night On Location” too, watching The Machinist and Sin City.
  • Our preferred drinking establishment, the Neaudd Arms, had, at one point, 74 different ales on. There were closer to 40 by the time we got there, but several other ‘regular’ ales were also available on tap.
  • I think I’ve broken a bone in my foot (one of the ones from where my little toe connects to).
  • We did the 10-mile walk on the first day, and (with the exception of Jimmy, who wasn’t well) the 15-mile one on the second. Thanks to my limping, mostly, we ran late on the second day, and this, coupled with the bitter cold in the valleys, meant that the beer station operators had given up and gone home, leaving us to drink as much as we liked (rather than having to trade in tokens, as was expected of us). So we did.
  • On our first night, the chalet was so cold that we all repeatedly woke up shivering. Claire solved this, in a dream, by imagining some HTML tags helping to tuck in her duvet, and slept soundly thereafter. Jimmy – not knowing HTML, presumabley – had to suffice with turning on the fire.
  • For the weekend, we played “Jimmy’s Game”, who’s rules were as follows: none of us were to make any “another game, with the inevitable consequence that we all spent the entire weekend “out of The Game”.
  • We all want to go again next year, if not before!
  • The second day was so cold that beer left standing would begin to freeze after a few minutes.
  • We’d finish each day – perhaps in order to undo what health benefits might have been given by the walking – with a huge fried supper: sausages, eggs, bacon, mashed potato loaded with cheese, tomatoes, baked beans, and mushrooms. Plus desert of swiss roll or sweets. I’ve never seen Claire eat such a full plate before. Perhaps I need to make her climb hills more often.

That’ll do for the highlights. I’m sure you’ll be able to read more on other people’s weblogs soon.

Further reading: