Ken had fascinated me from our very first telephone conversation.
He seemed a bit prickly, a hard nut to crack, which, of course, only whetted my journalistic appetite to find out more about him. Then, when we finally met, I knew it was going to be far from easy to gain this enigmatic man’s trust.
His ice-blue eyes remained guarded as we chatted, even though he spoke enthusiastically and knowledgeably about his subject. Understandable that he should be suspicious, I suppose, when a woman arrives on the doorstep of your isolated cottage and expects you to tell her all about your search for rare, butter-yellow, Welsh-gold.
Why did he allow me to interview him for an article if he was so reluctant to share any information? He and his colleagues in the gold business needed some publicity for their exquisite hand-made jewellery, but I could tell that Ken was uncomfortable with the intrusion, preferring instead the solitude of the mountains to the company of an inquisitive female journalist.
I must have made some progress, because, the next day, Ken took me to the river, where he negotiated the steep bank as nimble as any mountain goat. I, on the other hand, picked my way gingerly down through the thick bracken, yelping at the odd nettle sting and swatting at the swathes of gnats dancing around me in the dappled sunlight.
‘You wait there!’ Ken shouted, pointing to a flat area of rock, although I could hardly hear him above the roar of the water.
Here, in a tributory of the mighty Afon Mawwdach, Ken waded out through the torrent into a slightly less turbulent bit of the river and began to pan for gold.