Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Current

Hello to all my regular readers! I know there are a number of you out there.
Thank you for your interest. 
We have recently returned from our third trip to Pembrokeshire this year when we walked 33 miles of the coast from Little Haven to Milford Haven.  There we were defeated by monsoon-like rains, so brought our caravan home to store it for the winter.  We shall return next Spring, when the Summer bus timetable starts up again, to finish the Pembrokeshire coast and move on towards the Gower.  Meanwhile I will try to get this blog up to date over the Winter.
I am just so glad that I can do this coastal walking again after two successful knee replacement operations.  Thank you Mr Balint (my knee surgeon), you have given me back my life!
To all my readers, 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')

Friday, October 25, 2013

Walk 347 -- Dwyran to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychrndrobyllllantysiliogogogoch

Ages:  Colin was 71 years and 170 days.  Rosemary was 68 years and 312 days.
Weather:  The rain clouds cleared away and we did most of the Walk in sunshine with threatening clouds.  It was windy, but mild.  We did get caught in one blustery shower, and one lighter shower later on which caused a rainbow to form.  (Didn’t find the pot of gold!)
Location:  Dwyran to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychrndrobyllllantysiliogogogoch.
Distance:  10 miles.
Total distance:  3582 miles.
Terrain:  Grassy / muddy paths through and between fields.  Some tracks and some stony beach.  Quite a bit of road.  Gently undulating.
Tide:  Coming in.
Rivers: None.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  Nos.656 to 671 across the fields.  (16 in all!)
Pubs:  None.
‘Cadw’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We were staying in a cosy little holiday cottage near Criccieth.  This morning we drove from there to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychrndrobyllllantysiliogogogoch and found a car park tucked away next to the church which was on the coastal path.  We walked from there to the Old Toll House where we caught a bus to Dwyran.  The driver kindly dropped us on the bypass where the footpath emerges, even though it wasn’t an official bus stop.  We walked across a couple of soggy fields to where we had left the official coastal path on the last Walk.
At the end we came to our car parked by the church.  We had our tea and chocolate biscuits, drove to the station in the pouring rain to take a photo of the nameboard of this famous village, then we returned to our cosy cottage.
The next day we packed up and returned to our home in Malvern.

We started today’s Walk by walking zigzag paths between fields.  It was very muddy after torrential rain in the night, but not too bad on the actual path.  The blackberries were delicious!  And prolific for so late in the season.

We said “Hello!” to a couple of ponies at a field gateway. The light was beautiful, with bright sun low in the sky.  It felt good to be out in the countryside!
We came to a derelict milking parlour, and found a place inside to sit down and eat our pasties.  There were big holes in the roof and rubbish everywhere, it was a sad sight.  Further on we passed some cottages which were being restored, so at least there is some life left in the place.
We came out on to a narrow lane just beyond a hedge-cutter, and were relieved we could turn the other way and not have to pass it — there wasn’t much room.  We passed a pair of ornate gates, then turned along a track which led us downhill towards the Menai Strait.
We passed the skeleton of a dead sheep with fleece scattered all about.  One of the live sheep in the flock was limping badly, and we had seen another like that further back.  We wondered how well they were being looked after.  Then we passed a herd of cows who stood in a row looking at us with lugubrious faces.
At the end of the field there were steps down to the beach.  This was a ferry point across the Menai Strait to Caernarfon in times gone past.  A notice told us:  “As Tal-y-Foel became increasingly isolated by shifting sands in the Strait, the ferry could only reach its pier at high tide.  At low tide the ferry would land at Y-Foel, and at half tide the ferrymen would carry passengers ashore here at Ty-Bach-y-Foel.  Passengers complained bitterly that an extra charge was being made for this indignity.  This, and complaints of overloading the ferry, and the reluctance of the ferrymen to leave the taverns of Caernarfon, conjures up a picture of Victorian ladies being charged extra to be manhandled by drunken ferryman after a hair-raising trip in an overloaded boat.”  The ferry service was suspended in 1852, but the house was occupied for another hundred and two years.  The house is now roofless, and so covered in brambles we had difficulty in locating the ruin.  There were scant remains of the jetty on the stony beach.







We walked for half a mile along the beach and didn’t find the shingle too demanding.  It was well packed down.  The cliffs were sandy with stones in, and the isolated trees looked very wind-blown.  The path continued along a tarmacked lane.
We sat on a memorial bench to eat our sarnies and apples.  We had views of Caernarfon on the opposite side of the Strait, but a bright low sun was behind the town so it was difficult to look that way.
A huge black cloud appeared as we were eating, so I put on my wet-weather gear.  Colin didn’t, saying it was “nothing”.  When the road turned inland, we continued straight ahead on a footpath alongside fields.  Eventually we entered a wood.  The black cloud had disappeared by then, so I removed my wet-weather gear — Colin had been right with his ‘nothing’ analysis.  It was a real pastoral scene as we descended across a field to a road.
There we had a choice of routes — should we go a little bit inland across fields or risk the beach again?  While we were making up our minds a lorry came careering down the road and screeched to a halt when it reached a stationery car parked in the way.  Meanwhile a Landrover drove up from the beach, and the driver asked us if we had seen two Shetland ponies.  We hadn’t, and the Landrover drove off into a field while the lorry stayed where it was, too wide to pass the car.  Both drivers were anxiously looking for their lost animals — I hope they found them.
We decided to risk the beach and started walking down there.  Another black cloud appeared which Colin again dismissed as “nothing”.  But it started raining, hard, he had been wrong about this cloud!  We both hurriedly donned full wet-weather gear, and put our cameras away.  The Landrover emerged from an adjacent field — he still hadn’t found his lost ponies.  I wonder if they had been stolen.
At the beach we found a good track which led us through woods just above the top of the beach.  If only it would last — it didn’t!  All too soon it spat us out on to the stony beach, but the shingle was pretty packed down and it wasn’t difficult to walk.  It was quite windy now that we were exposed to the Strait, but the rain didn’t last long.  We were reluctant to take off our wet-weather gear because it was so wet, so we just loosened it and let it flap in the wind.  The Strait was quite narrow at this point, hardly more than river-width.
The sun came out as we left the beach, which had become impossible, and followed a muddy path up to the main road.  It was quite a slog uphill, we didn’t enjoy it and we were not looking forward to the main road.  But a lovely rainbow filled the sky as we emerged on to the tarmac — that cheered us up!
We removed our partially dry wet-weather gear and put on high-viz waistcoats.  We both hate traffic-dodging along main roads, and we could have taken the official coast path which went a lot further inland at that point.  But it was a much longer distance to walk, and we were tired.  To add to our misery, it started to rain again.  But it wasn’t much and it soon stopped.  It produced a bit of a rainbow again, but that was only momentary.
After about a mile we were joined by the official coast path again.  Because nowhere else could be found to put the coast path along this stretch, the edge of the adjacent fields had been commandeered to site the path, and there was now a wall between us and the traffic.  An end to car-dodging, for this Walk at least — hooray!  It was a bit overgrown and squidgy at first, but further on we were walking on new boardwalks — well done the coast-path people!  The rain kept coming and going, so I fished out my cape again.  Further on we were on pavements, and passed a spectacular entrance to a National Trust property.  Also we crossed a footbridge over a stream which was right next to the road.
As the road led steeply down towards the shore, we came to a gate in a wall with a notice about a ‘permissive path’.  It said the path was only open between dawn and dusk, and only at low tide.  As we descended steep steps we hoped the tide wasn’t too far in.  It wasn’t — it had ebbed enough for us to get round.  We descended to sea level in brilliant sunshine.
Across a small inlet was a huge boat moored by a small cottage — we reckoned the boat was worth more than the house!  The steps led down to a concrete path along the bottom of a high wall.


We went round a corner to a little jetty which was chained off.  There we caught our first sight of Britannia Bridge.
Colin was interested in the fossils in the stones which held up the concrete path, but I reminded him that they might not be local since they were part of a manmade structure — we didn’t know where they had been sourced.  We descended to the beach which was packed stone and no trouble to walk.
There is a statue of Nelson on a plinth just there.  A couple from Australia were looking at it and asked us if we knew why it was there.  We didn’t, so one of them tried to look it up on the internet using her tablet.  She didn’t find an answer to her question.  The only link I can think of which Nelson has with this area is that he once said the Menai Strait was one of the most difficult bits of sea to navigate because of the strong currents and tides.
We left the beach by the Nelson statue and walked up through a churchyard to the car park by the church where our car was waiting.

That ended Walk no.347, we shall pick up Walk no.348 next time in the church car park at Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychrndrobyllllantysiliogogogoch.  It was four o’clock, so the Walk had taken us six hours twenty minutes.  We had our tea and chocolate biscuits, and then it started to rain — cats and dogs, it pelted down for several hours!  We couldn’t believe our luck in finishing the Walk in time!  But we still wanted to photograph the nameboard at the local station.  We drove there, but there was no way we were going to get out of the car in that torrent!  Fortunately the old nameboard was displayed on the end of a building, so Colin parked facing it and I took the picture through the windscreen with the wipers going like the clappers!
Then we returned to our cosy cottage, relieved we weren’t in the caravan and didn’t have to take an awning down!
The next day we packed up and returned to our home in Malvern.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Walk 346 -- Maltraeth to Dwyran

Ages:  Colin was 71 years and 168 days.  Rosemary was 68 years and 310 days.
Weather:  The rain clouds cleared away and it was mostly sunny and warm, though the wind remained strong.
Location:  Malltraeth to Dwyran.
Distance:  9 miles.
Total distance:  3572 miles.
Terrain:  A cycle track on the sea bank.  Beautiful forest walks.  A sandy beach.  Some quiet roads.  Boggy tracks and fields.  Stepping stones across a river.
Tide:  In.
Rivers: No.424, Afon Cefni.  No.425, Afon Braint — which we crossed on stepping stones,  HELP! 
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  Nos.652 to 655, all towards the end of the Walk.
Pubs:  None.
‘Cadw’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None, because I was brave enough to cross the stepping stones!
How we got there and back:  We were staying in a cosy little holiday cottage near Criccieth.  This morning we drove from there to Dwyran where we parked just round the corner from a bus stop.  From there we caught a bus to Malltraeth and alighted right next to the car park where we finished the last Walk.
At the end we finished the official Walk in the fields south of the village.  We walked across a couple of soggy fields and emerged on the bypass.  We crossed this and walked into the village, soon realising that we weren’t on the road we thought we were.  I was walking on looking at the map, trying to work out where we really were when I practically ran into our parked car!  So we had our tea and chocolate biscuits, then we drove back to our cosy little cottage.

We crossed the bridge over Afon Cefni which was canalised in 1824, but I can’t find out why.  Was it something to do with the copper industry?
The estuary on the southern side of the bridge is an important nature reserve.  We walked across “The Cob” which is a raised bank alongside the estuary.  My!  It was cold out there!  A bitter wind cut across the sands — I put my hood up and Colin got out his furry hat.  We were both still wearing our full wet-weather gear, which is also windproof, because we didn’t trust the weather despite the clearing skies.  (There had been torrential downpours until the early hours, and we had left the cottage in the rain this morning.)
After about a mile we came to a picnic area which was much more sheltered as it was amongst trees.  We sat at a picnic table and ate our quiche/pasty.  There was a permanent step there to mount horses, and we watched two girls use it to set off on ponies accompanied by a woman walking with a dog.  We followed the same track into the forest because it was the official coast path.  It was a wide track with hardcore, but was actually quite muddy after all the rain we’ve been having.  It was not the type of forest path we had been led to believe it would be from looking at the map, more like a rough muddy road.  We found it to be a bit soul-destroying.
After a mile or so we turned right through a muddy puddle on to a delightful forest path.  This was much better!  It was great to look upwards through the trees to the blue sky beyond.
The path took us out to the estuary which was marshy.  We could see a manor house in the woods on the opposite side — we had passed entrances to this estate when walking along a lane on our last Walk.  It was windy out in the open but not cold because, unlike The Cob, we had trees partially sheltering us on one side.  We could see the pony riders ahead, we must have been following them.  We also saw dragonflies and butterflies in the sunshine — that’s more like it!
The track led along the edge of the forest, then it turned in.  We saw strange flowering palms, very pretty but they looked totally out of place in this forest setting.  We wondered who had planted them, and why.
We could hear the wind in the trees and the waves on the shore which wasn’t very far away now.  It really made us feel good.  It was very sheltered where we were and we began to get quite hot.  So we removed our wet-weather gear.
The path came out on an earth road by a huge rock which looked like a sleeping dinosaur.  It looked man-made, then we thought it may be an erratic because it seemed so out of place.  We looked at the map and realised it was an extension of the rocks which make up Llanddwyn Island — Colin was the first to deduce that, and admitted he wouldn’t have thought of any such thing before he started studying geology with the U3A (University of the Third Age).
Two huge JCBs were working on the earth road.  One was a heavy roller, and as they passed us the ground vibrated like an earthquake.
The road led down towards the beach, we could see the sea through the trees.  We turned off the path, made our way over a bank and came out on the sands.  It was lovely!  It was not nearly so windy as it had been earlier and the sun was warm.  There were quite a few people there, many were speaking Welsh.  We had wonderful views of Snowdonia across the water, and of Llanddwyn Island stretching out towards the rest of Wales.
The tide was right in, so Llanddwyn Island really was an island — most of the time it is accessible without getting your feet wet, but not at that moment.  Also we were anxious to finish our Walk before we began to lose daylight, so we decided to miss out Llanddwyn Island as being a dead end we didn’t have to walk.  But we hadn’t realised the significance of the island, nor of the strange rocks on the beach.
Two years later we revisited this beach with our local U3A Geology group — a trip led by a university professor.  She told us that this area is a geologist’s “Mecca”.  The rocks on the beach are pillow lavas which only occur on constructive plate margins at the very bottom of oceans.  The geology is complicated, but to put it simply Llanddwyn Island is a remnant of a defunct ocean which was here hundreds of millions of years ago.
And beautiful the rocks are too, many coloured minerals are exposed.  (On that visit the tide was out and we walked the length of the island.)
Llanddwyn Island was also revered as a holy place by our ancestors.  Dwynwen was a 5th century saint who lived as a hermit on the island after her love affair turned sour.  She was said to be the patron saint of lovers.  (Surely not the right person if she couldn’t manage her own love affairs!)  If a woman scattered breadcrumbs on her holy well on the island, then laid her handkerchief over them, she could tell that her lover would be faithful if the eels in the well disturbed this arrangement.  (I wouldn’t have relied on it!)  This practice became very popular in Tudor times when the chapel was built, and it made the area very rich.  (Another medieval scam?) 
Getting back to the Walk, we walked about a mile along this beautiful beach.
Though the tide was right in, the sand was not too soft to walk on.  With the wonderful views of Snowdonia across the strait it was absolutely glorious!  We approached the sand cliffs where the tide was too far in for us to walk comfortably.
We came to a dip in the cliffs — it looked like a decent path inland, it was well-walked and we weren’t the only ones using it today.  So with a last look at the wonderful view of Snowdonia across the water we turned into the forest.
The path led us up and down through woods.  We could see the official path which runs parallel to the beach but we had to climb over a fence to get to it.  It was not a barbed wire fence so that wasn’t too difficult, but why was it there?  We came to “Trim Trail”, a picnic site with gym apparatus like parallel bars, and there was nobody there.  But we both wanted the loos which we knew were around somewhere, so we looked on the map.  We deduced we must climb a sandy hill behind “Trim Trail”, and there we saw just below us the roof of the loo block in a huge car park.  The toilets were clean, open and free — well done to whoever was responsible for them!  Feeling much more comfortable, we sat at a windy picnic table to eat our sandwiches and apples.


The path continued from a corner of the car park through woods to the eastern edge of the forest.  There we turned north-east and walked along the edge of the forest, just within the trees, for about a mile.  The sun was shining brightly and we loved the interplay of light as it fell between the trees.
Newborough Warren was on our right, not the sea.  There are paths across the Warren, but they are tidal and come to a dead end when they reach the Menai Strait.  So we didn’t walk them, there was no point.  The Warren has been grazed by ponies ever since the myxomatosis crisis of 1954 wiped out the rabbits.  (Colin and I both remember how scrubland shot up that summer because there were no rabbits grazing.  I was nine years old, and remember the grassy slopes in Arundel Park disappearing under a mass of ragwort and brambles.)
The path turned away from the forest — there was still the Warren to the right but now there were fields and a pond to our left.  We came to a car park cum picnic site with a weird sculpture of marram grass stooks.  A notice told us, “This sculpture depicts the ‘gafrod’ of marram grass, harvested and drying in the sun.  Newborough residents used to harvest the grass every two years and leave it to dry from its green colour to a golden yellow.  ‘Gafrod’ was a local term for the bundles of marram standing on end, gathered and tied at the top with a plaited cord of marram.” 
We sat at a table to eat our chocolate.  A group of ponies were carrolled in a pen at the side of the car park.  Some men turned up with a horse-trailer and started inspecting and sorting them.  They all spoke in Welsh so we had no idea what they were saying.
We walked along a road for a short way, then turned down a track towards Afon Braint.  Colin saw a stoat, but it had run away before I caught sight of it.  As we approached the river we were getting a little worried because we couldn’t see the footbridge we thought was there.  That’s because there wasn’t one, there were stepping stones!  (We should have looked more carefully at the map, it is clearly marked as stepping stones at that point.)
The stones were real rocks which had been squared off, and they were more or less flat-topped.  The gaps between them weren’t too big, though one in the middle was a bit wider.  The river was running fast after all the rain we have had, and the crossing looked daunting.
Colin was confident, but I was a little nervous — this type of situation is where my lack of 3D vision becomes a real handicap.  I glanced at the map to look for an alternative route, then I said, “I’m not going back to that b****y road!”  In my own time I leapt safely from stone to stone with great aplomb, even over the bigger gap in the middle.  I was quite proud of myself!  (Colin did take a photo of me doing it, but that was one of the ones that got deleted.)  We then had only a quarter of a mile to go — along a marshy river bank, then through some fields until we were at the nearest point to Dwyran.
That ended Walk no.346, we shall pick up Walk no.347 next time on a footpath just south of Dwyran.  It was half past three, so the Walk had taken us five hours fifty minutes.  We walked across a couple of soggy fields and emerged on the bypass.  We crossed this and walked into the village, soon realising that we weren’t on the road we thought we were.  I was walking on looking at the map, trying to work out where we really were when I practically ran into our parked car!  So we had our tea and chocolate biscuits, then we drove back to our cosy little cottage.