Saturday, February 04, 2017

Current

Hello to all my regular readers! I know there are a number of you out there.
Thank you for your interest. 
Earlier this week I had my second new knee.  Same hospital and same surgeon, so I'm expecting the same fantastic outcome!  Lots of physio in the coming months, and then I'll be there!
The Grand Coastal Trek will resume some time later this year, we are determined on that.  Although there will be an approximate two-year gap in time, we will restart at the exact spot where we were forced to give up in 2015 -- in Abercastle, Pembrokeshire.  The best bits of the coast are still to be walked!!
Once again, thank you for your interest in our venture.
Rosemary
PS  Go to   www.bognorregisbeach.co.uk  to see what is happening NOW just left of Bognor Pier! (On the website, click on  'Live Webcam')

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Walk 340 -- Cemaes Bay to Porth Swtan

Ages:  Colin was 71 years and 122 days.  Rosemary was 68 years and 264 days.
Weather:  Breezy and cold, like a winter’s day!  Frequent showers, some heavy.
Location:  Cemaes Bay to Porth Swtan.
Distance:  9½ miles.
Total distance:  3511½ miles.
Terrain:  Some cliff paths, but the cliffs were lower than yesterday — some almost on the rocky beach.  Through woodland near a power station where we got lost.  Half a mile of shingle beach — leg-shattering!  Roads — winding quiet lanes — for several miles after we sort-of gave up.  Undulating.
Tide:  Going out.
Rivers: No.415, Afon Wygyr.  No.416, Cemlyn Bay.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  Nos.551 to 575 spread along the way.  (24 in all!)
Pubs:  None.
‘Cadw’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We were staying in our caravan on a remote farm in the middle of Anglesey.  It was pouring when we woke this morning, and after yesterday’s torrential rain we didn’t feel at all like walking.  But the forecast was for it to clear up ‘later’ — it lied!  So we messed about a bit, then tardily drove to Porth Swtan where we parked in a free car park.  We then walked uphill for over a mile to the village of Rhydwyn where we caught a later-than-planned bus to Cemaes Bay.
At the end we finished the Walk at the car.  It was twenty-five past six, so the Walk had taken us 6 hours and 5 minutes.  We had our tea and chocolate biscuits, then drove back to our caravan, thoroughly fed up with the weather.

We hadn’t properly dried out from yesterday, and when it was still raining as we woke this morning we really didn’t want to continue the Trek.  It was cold too, like winter.  The weather forecast said it would clear up later (it didn’t!) so we decided to go, but catch a later bus.  We drove to Porth Swtan, but as we entered the car park we were followed by a convoy of Army vehicles — they had come to meet those “sponsored” walkers of yesterday whom they had dropped off in Cemaes Bay earlier to do exactly the same Walk as we were about to do.  Now we really do question who pays for all this Army backup, especially as they completely took over the local café so these walkers could have their lunch when they arrived.  We couldn’t have bought a cup of tea there even if we’d wanted to!  Meanwhile, we had to walk one and a half miles to the nearest bus stop, then pay our own fares to Cemaes Bay. 
No wonder we were annoyed! 
We walked round Cemaes Bay, a pretty fishing village that was not all pleasure craft.  We went under the ‘tramline’ bridge, then over the top to get to the other side of the river.  Colin was pleased because, as we entered a car park, so did a host of motor bikes.  It was difficult to drag him away!  In the middle of the harbour was an old-fashioned lifeboat called Charles Henry Ashley.  I wonder how many lives it saved in its time.
We watched some dogs playing in the water, they didn’t seem to mind the cold.  Everyone was walking about in their winter coats — we can hardly believe that only a few days ago we were basking in a heatwave!

As we left the harbour to get back on to the cliff path, we passed very close to a cottage with a white wall.  A single snail had crawled halfway up it and really stood out against the whiteness.   

We came to a marble picnic table. Looking closely we could clearly see it was made from fossilised coral.  It was beautiful!
Nearby were different local rocks stuck on little stands with their geology explained in English and Welsh.  Anglesey really is a geologist’s paradise — they can argue to their heart’s content and come to no conclusions whatsoever!
We were brought here two years later on that U3A field course, and I didn’t understand a word of it — and I have an honours degree in geology!  Trouble is, that was nearly thirty years ago, so most of it is forgotten.
We passed some huge rosehips, and came to a seat which was sheltered from the wind.  So we sat there to eat our sarnies even though it was still raining.  Brambles growing up partially obscured the view, but we didn’t care much because we were wet and cold.
We could have taken a path round Wylfa Head, but we didn’t because of the rain, and the short-cut path was the more obvious one.  There was no signage for either way.
We were near Wylfa Power Station, and there the signage gave us a choice of two ways — either through a conifer wood or down a road.  Naturally we chose the former which was almost pleasant because the rain was hardly getting through the foliage.
Out of the wood the path was well-maintained, grassy underfoot, and had neat steps up and over a little hill.  I photographed a speckled wood butterfly on the way.  We came very near the power station and found ourselves under a pylon at one stage.  We continued following grassy paths, and came out by a road junction.
We didn’t know where we were, we couldn’t relate it to the map at all.  We tried one way on the road, but it only led us to the power station entrance.  We tried the other way, but ended up in a car park where there was no way out.  We came to the conclusion that the map was completely wrong, and we hadn’t seen a coast path sign since we entered the wood way back.  With increasing frustration we tried to orientate ourselves.  We climbed over a locked gate and followed a track which wasn’t marked on the OS map.  We did this because I could see in the distance another track which I guessed might actually be the coast path.  We turned right on this track, and at the next gate were coast path logos.  So I had been right!  But how we were supposed to get there from the path through the wood I don’t know — it certainly wasn’t the way we came!
Our troubles were not over, and remember it was still raining.  The coast path arrow indicated we bear right and follow a track, but looking at the map (I had found the place by now) I said we should be going straight ahead.  There was no obvious path ahead so we followed the track, but when it started to twist round going back on itself we realised the map was right and the signage wrong!  The rain didn’t leave off and we had wasted a lot of time.
We started again from the gate going round the end of a copse and down to cross a mill stream.  There was no obvious path until we reached the mill stream, we just followed the map.  We could see that we were about half a mile from the coast at this point, and with relief we noted we were now well past the power station.
We were treated to a lovely vista of yellow gorse and purple heather which we really appreciated despite the rain.
The path was more obvious now and we followed it closely round a head — back on the low cliff tops now.  It started raining heavily as we approached Cemlyn Bay, a unique feature with a shingle bank.  But we couldn’t take any photos because it was raining too heavily.  And it was cold.
We walked half a mile across that shingle bank — it was leg-shattering!  It made my sensitive back twinge too.  We saw a dead dogfish about eighteen inches long, we thought it might have been flipped up on the bank at high tide.  We couldn’t photograph it, nor the colourful seaweed which looked really beautiful, because the rain was pelting down at that point.
When we got to Cemlyn Bay itself the rain held off momentarily so I was able to take a couple of pictures.  There is an artificial lagoon and old buildings there, but I couldn’t find out anything about the history of the place except that it is a nature reserve.
I’m afraid we weren’t much in the mood for nature by then, and when we saw a notice warning us that the car park is liable to flooding at high tide, we wished our car was parked there so we could terminate the Walk there and then.
But it wasn’t, so we carried on.  We walked round a head and along the cliff path, though the cliffs were quite low by now.  We could see the Skerries clearly, they weren’t far away.
We came to a choice of ways, neither signed with the coast path logo.  The signage was completely absent for the continuing coast path, a yellow arrow pointed inland.
It was still raining, we were cold, fed up and running late.  I looked at the map, and said, “Forget the Coast Path, we are going to walk back to the car the quickest way possible!”  Colin was heartily relieved!  We followed the inland path down a field until it touched on a road.  Then we followed a track where the grass got longer and longer — obviously it was not often walked.  We came to a farm where we bore left on the farm road until we came to the public road.  According to the OS map, this is the alternative coast path, though we were nowhere near the coast.  We had missed out Carmel Head altogether.
We stayed on the road from thereon.  We came to a car park where the coastal path was signed to veer off down a track back to the coast.  We sat on a wall to eat our chocolate.  We were both thoroughly fed up, cold and not enjoying ourselves at all.  We were also running late — in a mere two hours it would be too dark to see, and dangerous to be out on the cliffs.  It’s at times like this that we wonder why we are doing this coastal trek at all, but we knew that if it had been sunny and warm our mood would have been completely different.  We decided to stick to the road.
We were both tired, though Colin would never admit it.  He did admit to being fed up!  We route-marched all the way to Porth Swtan and forgot about the coastal path.  We seemed to climb uphill a long way, but we had a lovely view of Holy Island from the top.  Then it was downhill the rest of the way.  Porth Swtan is also known as Churchtown because it has a rather fine church.  We met a local man and asked him if he knew why the steeple was on the side of the church, not on the end.  He said he’d never thought about it.
By then the rain had actually stopped and there were small patches of blue appearing in the sky.  But it was still cold and beginning to get dark.  The road verges were splashes of bright colour — dark pink fuchsias which reminded us of Irish hedgerows, and the infamous montbretia.  The montbretia flowers are a bright cheerful orange which look lovely along roadsides, but I have spent most of my adult life attempting to eradicate this wretched plant from the gardens of the various houses in which I have lived because it is so invasive.  It is a dictator of plants, the ultimate bully!
Colin walked on quickly from the church so’s he could present me with a hot cup of tea the moment I arrived at the car park.  I followed more slowly behind a group of people walking down to a local restaurant.  Two of the women were wearing very high heels, and were obviously uncomfortable by the way they were walking.  Neither of them looked glamorous, just a bit stupid.  Vanity!  (Oh!  I was in a grumpy mood!) 

That ended Walk no.340, we shall pick up Walk no.341 in the car park at Porth Swtan  It was twenty-five past six, so the Walk had taken us six hours five minutes.  We had our tea and chocolate biscuits, then drove back to our caravan, thoroughly fed up with the weather.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Walk 339 -- Llaneilian to Cemaes Bay

Ages:  Colin was 71 years and 121 days.  Rosemary was 68 years and 263 days.
Weather:  Very sunny at first, breezy and perfect for walking.  After lunch it turned dull, then torrential rain for the latter part of the Walk.
Location:  Llaneilian to Cemaes Bay.
Distance:  10 miles.
Total distance:  3502 miles.
Terrain:  Mostly cliff paths.  A little pavement-bashing in Bull Bay.  Very undulating.
Tide:  In.
Rivers: None.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  Nos.523 to 550 spread along the way.
Pubs:  None.
‘Cadw’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  The day before yesterday we towed our caravan from our home in Malvern to the same small site in the middle of Anglesey that we used back in July.  We arrived quite late because we had an ‘incident’ as we were leaving our drive — Colin failed to clear the wall with the caravan on one side and there was a sickening crunch!  The damage looked dreadful, but Colin always comes up trumps in a crisis like this.  He beavered away with hammer, nails and bits of wire, and four hours later it was all put back!  It still looks a bit crunchy, but for a temporary repair it is terrific.  We didn’t have time to sort ourselves for an early start yesterday, so we had a ‘rest’ day which involved a pub lunch, doing a few ‘recces’ and putting the awning up in daylight.  By then we had calmed down and were ready.  This morning we drove to Cemaes Bay and parked in the free car park we had found yesterday.  We walked into the town where we caught a bus to Amlwch.  Then we walked the two and a half miles to Llaneilian where we started the Walk at the point we had cut it off last time because of the rain.
At the end we finished the Walk at the car.  It was twenty to six, so the Walk had taken us 8 hours and 10 minutes.  We were soaked — the rain was relentless and it was almost dark although sunset was officially still a couple of hours away.  We had our tea, then drove back to the caravan.  Water was pouring down many of the roads in rivers!

We started today’s Walk where the cliff path left the lighthouse road, the place where we had given up and stomped off in the rain about five weeks ago.  It was lovely weather today, sunny and warm with a light breeze — perfect for walking.  Little did we suspect that this Walk would also end in teeming rain!
A girl, possibly in her thirties, was at the gate leading on to the path.  She told us her name was Sarah, and she asked us if we had seen a group of soldiers who were doing a charity walk.  She said she had found out about the event on the internet, and she wanted to walk with them for companionship.  They were supposed to be starting from that spot at 09.30.  We answered that we hadn’t seen them, but she could walk with us if she liked, though we were always slow — (that suggestion went down like a lead balloon!)  She chatted happily for ages while we sat on a bench and ate our pies, and then she went off saying, “I suppose it will be by myself again!”  I felt a bit sad for her, loneliness at any age is not a good thing.
We started along the cliff path — it was amazing scenery, lovely weather and absolutely wonderful!  It was a good path, if a little uneven in places.  We picked and ate blackberries as we walked.  The tide was in, so the waves were bashing on the rocks below and it all seemed exciting because of this.
We saw the lifeboat go out but we didn’t know why.  There didn’t seem to be an emergency anywhere — perhaps it was just an exercise.  It was so beautiful along that coast, and the profusion of wild flowers made it all the more enjoyable.
We saw a rainbow out at sea, and hoped the weather wasn’t coming our way — unfortunately it was.
We came to Amlwch Port, used mostly by small private boats these days.  It’s time of being an important port for the copper industry is long since gone.
A couple of miles inland from Amlwch lies a most extraordinary place — Copper Mountain.
We visited it on a different day when the weather was fine.  Copper has been mined there since the Bronze Age and is still extracted in a small way today.  But it’s heyday was the 18th century when the copper was mined from deep levels, many of which have collapsed.  This has left a very weird landscape of many colours where few plants grow because of the pollution.  There is a footpath all round the site and many artefacts left from those mining days.
The whole area looks like some alien planet, and as a result has been used to film many science fiction films and programmes, particularly Dr Who episodes.
As we entered the port of Amlwch we passed stacks of plastic lobster pots, and a notice telling us there was “no entry except on terminal business”.  The word “terminal” amused us, we wondered if it was the last business they would ever do!  There was a lot of notices about the geology of Anglesey which is very complex and completely different from the geology of the rest of Wales.  We passed a Visitor Centre which explained it all but we didn’t go in, we didn’t have time.
We walked round the end of the harbour and climbed some steps.  We tried to follow the coastpath signs but they weren’t very clear.  We came to a gate by a burnt bush and thought we were being directed the wrong way.  We could see a bridge over an iron stream up to the right, so we snuck along a fence to get to it.  The water in the stream was very very orange.
We came to a road — there were locked gates into an industrial site to our right so we had to turn left.  At last we came to a coastpath signpost, we don’t know how we were supposed to have got there but it certainly wasn’t the way we came.  We crossed an old railway, then turned right on a path which took us back to the coast.
Colin was ahead of me, and he found a tiny sheltered beach where we could sit out of the wind and eat our sarnies.  It was very pleasant there, we didn’t want to move.  We admired the twisted rocks in the cliff face behind us.  We hadn’t a hope of interpreting them but they made a very pretty pattern.  We conjectured that they might be metamorphic.  (Two years later we came on a geology field course, led by a professional geology professor, to this bit of coast.  She described the rocks as a mélange, which roughly translates as a “chaotic mixture”.  In other words, even the professionals can’t properly interpret them!)
We continued along the clifftop as the sky began to cloud over.  We heard a noise behind us, and when we turned round there was the Army catching us up!  Dozens of young men, a few young women, many not even carrying rucksacks – but Sarah wasn’t amongst them.  They came zipping along at a rate of knots, and we had to stand aside to let them all pass.  Actually they annoyed us intensely.  There they all were “doing good” by getting “sponsored” to raise money for Army charities.  But what exactly does this “sponsoring” mean — badgering everyone around you to cough up money while you go out to take part in an activity you enjoy.  That’s how I see it.  Now, if they were doing a useful job that no one else would do and which makes life easier or more fun for disadvantaged people, I could feel it was worthwhile.  But walking the coast path round Anglesey?  That’s something Colin and I are doing for fun!
We waited until they’d all got past, then chatted to a lady we met who was collecting litter.  She told us she belonged to the “Friends of Anglesey Coast Path”, and she didn’t think much of so-called charity walkers either.  Now she was doing a useful job that not many people are prepared to do, and nobody was “sponsoring” her!  She wished us well as we departed.
The next bit of the coast was quite dramatic with all those “mélange” rocks we didn’t understand.  The tide was right in and waves were crashing up against the cliffs below us.  We came to a cleft — which we were able to walk around on pretty flat ground, thank goodness.  Bubbles of foam were rising up from the surf below to rest on the grass at our feet.

We came out on a road leading down to Bull Bay.  We had to walk alongside the road for about half a mile, but there was a pavement.  Down in Bull Bay we passed a pub where the Army sponsored walkers were having lunch and swilling beer — no soggy sandwiches gobbled down whilst hiding from the wind behind a rock for them!  They seemed to have taken over the whole pub, and we wondered who was paying for the backup they had.  Was each individual paying for himself?  Was it paid for out of their sponsors’ donated money?  Or, since it was the Army providing the backup, was the Army paying for it?  ie, the taxpayer — that’s you and me, folks!  We passed them by with increasing annoyance and strode out on to the cliffs again.
We passed a house which was right on the edge of the cliff, we were really glad we didn’t live there!  We sat on a bench to eat our apples, but as we were about to get up and go the Army turned up again.  So we had to wait until they had all passed before we had room on the narrow path to proceed.  They were walking very fast — well, they were all about fifty years younger than us — and probably got to Cemaes Bay before the rain set in, which we didn’t.  Perhaps that was one reason why they annoyed us so much!
More and more spectacular coastline, Anglesey really is a fabulous place.  The rocks are very varied, a chaotic mixture indeed.  But the sky got more and more dull, the clouds got lower and lower and the wind got colder and colder.  It occasionally spotted with rain, so we would put the cameras away — then get them out again because the views were so fantastic.  We did this several times.  I put on my kag for warmth, and put the hood up because my ears were suffering.  Very different from the beautiful weather this morning at the start of our Walk.
Ahead we could see the abandoned brickworks at Porth Wen.  It was built round about 1900 and only functioned for less than fifteen years, until the start of the First World War.  Apparently the bay is very tricky to navigate, and the difficulties of bringing in supplies and taking the finished bricks out by sea is what finally made it non-viable.  (Someone didn’t do their homework before setting up a business, methinks.)  The path led us round the bay, down to sea level, then through the front garden of a house!  We saw a woman in a window we passed very close to — she was standing at her kitchen sink.  She must get really fed up with people forever walking through.  I couldn’t stand that lack of privacy.
We continued up through a field of cows, than up steeply behind the redundant works.  We could have gone down to look at them, but we didn’t because of lack of time, and we were aware that the weather was deteriorating rapidly.
We came out at the top by a limestone quarry.  We were by a winch, and the wheels were still there.  I reckoned we were at our 3500-mile point on the Grand Trek all the way from Bognor Regis, so it was time to take a selfie.  There was no one about who could take a shot of us both, so we balanced a stray asbestos sheet on top of a bush and took the picture using the delayed timer.
When we started this trek back in 1998, I calculated that it would be approximately 4500 miles doing it according to our ‘rules’ (using ferries to cross rivers etc.)  But that would mean we only have 1000 miles left to walk, and we know now that it is a good deal more than that.  I might have been up to a thousand miles out!
It started to rain heavily at that point, so we hurriedly put the cameras away and donned our overtrousers.  We hoped it would only be a shower, but it wasn’t — it was torrential!  And it lasted for hours and hours and hours with very little pause.  It was unbelievable that only forty-eight hours previously we had been enjoying a heatwave.
The path was wide and easy for a little while, grassy and leading gently downhill.  But soon it became narrow, uneven and rather tricky in the wet.  It kept going down into deep gullies with long flights of steep steps downwards — up to seventy to a flight — then a similar number back up again.  It was not the kind of weather in which we wanted to be out on cliffs like that.  The galling thing was that if we had started today’s Walk in Amlwch instead of going back to Llaneilian, we would have finished before the rain started.  Now we were out on the cliffs in a storm, just like we were five weeks ago, feeling cold, wet and miserable.
There was no way out, so we ploughed on.  We managed one short cut missing out a rock with a tower on top — it was a hundred steps up and another hundred down the other side, so Colin reckoned.  It didn’t look very exciting anyway, especially in the mist and rain.  We sat on a wall by a redundant “works” and ate our chocolate.  I took a photo of it from under Colin’s umbrella because I felt we had missed so many photo-opportunities on this interesting coast because of the wretched rain.
Then we climbed yet another set of steps, and carried on…..and on…..and on.  I managed a couple of pictures from under the umbrella, but if the weather had been fine I would have probably taken dozens.  It is a beautiful coastal path, but we were not enjoying it at all.
We unexpectedly came to a cemetery!  I reckoned it must have a road leading to it, so we got out the map which we hadn’t looked at for some time.  Sure enough, there was a ‘white’ lane leading up from Cemaes Bay which we had hardly noticed before because we had planned to follow the cliff path all the way round.  The lane cut out the last headland, and led straight down to the car park where our car was waiting — it was only half a mile.  Blow that last bit of the cliff walk!

That ended Walk no.339, we shall pick up Walk no.340 in the car park just to the east of Cemaes Bay — no going back to complete the cliff path.  It was twenty to six, so the Walk had taken us eight hours ten minutes.  Despite being only teatime on an early September evening, it was almost dark due to the heavy rain.  The tea we drank in the car was very welcome, but the toilet block was shut for the day, which made things awkward and uncomfortable.  There were temporary ‘Portaloos’ because the permanent block was being refurbished, and there was no disabled access so we couldn’t use our Radar keys.  While sitting in the car drinking our tea, the intensity of the rain increased so much it felt like buckets of water were being poured down the windscreen!  We drove back to our caravan site along rivers rather than roads, and found the corner of our awning had collapsed due to the weight of water on the roof.