Saturday, 12 July 2008

Bog snorkelling and revival (Holiday 3)

5th July

Bog snorkelling and revival

While the Williams’ sisters were battling it out on Centre Court, an even more gruelling contest was taking place near us, at Llanwrtyd Wells. It’s the sort of thing that puts the Great into Britain. It’s the annual World Bog Snorkelling Championships. It’s raced on mountain bikes weighted down with lead in their tyres, in a bog - ‘I kid you not’ - submerged entirely, using the snorkel to breathe with. They don’t travel many yards, but it’s good filthy fun. It takes place this Saturday and Sunday.

If you think I’m making this up, you can look it up on, I believe.

We’d been up in the hills and happened upon the town of Llanwrtyd Wells; and decided to follow the blue signs ‘To the Bog’, which led to a narrow lane. Down the lane we met some young lads on mountain bikes, and asked them if the races were still happening. ‘No, but they start again tomorrow at 11.’ We drove on far enough to see the site (or whatever you call a bog stadium) and turned away, disappointed. However I guess it lacks something as a spectator sport, unless brown wet riders emerging from a bog reminds you of our primitive origins - which it doesn’t for me personally. However we got back in time to see Laura Robson winning Wimbledon Junior, which was impressive. I hope media hype doesn’t spoil her.

Meanwhile, if you’re ever in that part of Wales, do look out Capel Soar y Mynydd, round the top end of Lyn Brianne reservoir. We came on it by chance looking for somewhere to picnic while it rained. It’s an isolated white-washed chapel attached to a cottage, built in 1747. It’s an unspoilt early Methodist chapel in a beautiful situation, above a small river, and worth visiting for that reason alone. But it’s special for another reason, which warms my heart: ‘In the year 1779 a remarkable awakening began in this out-of-the-way place. A homely exhorter, of very ordinary preaching talents, but of great piety, Jack Edward Watkin by name, was preaching at the place on a Sabbath afternoon, when suddenly the fire kindled....’ From there a revival of faith spread across Wales, lasting three to four years. Never despise small beginnings.

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