The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Friday, 26 September 2014

WCP: Caernarfon to Menai Bridge


Friday 26 September (0715-1010)

Distance: 10.4 miles

Weather: Varying levels of cloud with one short spell of drizzle


It's often a benefit of having low expectations of a walk that reality will exceed expectations, and so it was for the final few miles of this trip.

In much finer conditions than yesterday (except for the one short spell of drizzle), I set out from the campsite as the day was still getting to full light, and had a pleasant walk along the Menai Straits to Caernarfon. The route along the waterfront of the town, past the castle, is an attractive (and very clean) one, which made me think that we're long overdue a touristy trip to explore the place further. 

By now I was a mile and a bit into my day and it was a good half a mile since I had realised that: 1) I had forgotten to pick up my paper map; and 2) the battery-eating fault on my phone had seen the battery deplete to 20% overnight, meaning I wouldn’t be able to listen to an audio book and that I needed to be careful with my use of the electronic maps. This was also the point in the walk where the Coast Path waymarks completely disappeared for a few miles, but I knew that it followed Cycle Route 8 for most of the way to Bangor, and Cycle Routes are always easy to follow.


And so I sped along, mainly on a tree-lined path, and occasionally along lanes or on pavement, until, before I knew it, I was just outside Bangor, which is where things went a little awry when I lost the trail somewhere in a business park and found myself dead-ending in a field. As the route at this point doesn’t follow rights of way, and as the way-markers I had initially followed didn’t bear any resemblance to the route I had drawn on the map, I had absolutely no idea where I had gone awry and which of many side-streets in the business park I should have taken. The only realistic option was to retrace my steps and, as my return journey didn’t reveal any missed waymarkers, back up to the main road I went, to road-walk all the way down to Menai Bridge.

A disappointing end to the walk really, as I should have followed the coast for the last mile, rather than being a little inland. Indeed, on arriving at the bridge I was tempted to walk back along the coast to see where the path came out. However, Mick was patiently waiting for me, and I had arrived there on foot via the nearest right of way to the coast, so I satisfied myself with that and into Colin I climbed. Excellent timing too, as within minutes it was raining. 

With Menai Bridge reached, I have now walked the whole of the coast from Cardigan to Chester, plus Anglesey, leaving me with just Chepstow to Cardigan to go. Realistically, that’s not going to happen this year now, but hopefully I’ll get to do it early next year.

(A few words about the maps I was using for this walk would help to explain what went wrong. When I came to plot this walk back in June, I decided to buy the most recent OS mapping for Wales for my Anquet software, such that I would have maps showing the official route of the path, but I had some trouble firstly in making the purchase and then in getting the maps to display. It was a lengthy dialogue with the Anquet support chap, and by the time I finally had the maps installed (two weeks later!), I had already sat with a split screen painstakingly copying the route from the free 1:25k maps available on the Wales Coast Path website onto my 1:50k maps. When I finally got my new maps loaded, I found that my plotted line almost always followed the pink diamonds on the map,  but that there were a few exceptions. The section south of Bangor was one of the discrepancies.

The other relevant fact here is that whilst the printed maps I have been carrying (except today, of course, when I carelessly forgot to pick it up) are printed from Anquet and thus show the official coast path as well as my plotted line, on my phone I have MemoryMap, with maps which pre-date the opening of the path, and thus just showing my plotted line.

Having had the opportunity to look at all mapping resources to see where things went awry, I can now see that the main basis of the problem I had was that the line I had plotted wasn’t quite right. If I’d had the paper map with me, I would have tried the version of the route shown by the pink diamonds, and it probably would have worked. However, we drove past that turn and I could see no waymarker there either.)

Thursday, 25 September 2014

WCP: Nant Gwrtheyrn to Caernarfon


Thursday 25 September 2014 (0715-1430)

Distance: 20.2 miles

Ascent: 1200’

Weather: Grey with low cloud and very mizzly spells

Number of other people seen out walking: One dog-walker at Dinas Dinlle.

The photo above shows the view I had from my seat in Colin last night (Mick popped up that hill yesterday afternoon, whilst waiting for me to emerge from the coast). From Mick’s seat, the view included the sea and Anglesey. It was an excellent place to spend the night, particularly as we were about twenty paces from the Coast Path.

There is no photo from today because being grey, misty and mizzly, it wasn’t a day for photos.

The top of the hill above was shrouded in cloud as I passed between it and the pimple to its left and the cloud only came down lower as the morning progressed. By then, I was much lower too, as the path descends steeply once through the pass, past a herd of wild goats* and towards Trefor.

I could have just walked a kilometre across Trefor, but I did the right and proper thing and enjoyed the WCP route as it hugs the coast around three sides of the village. It was the last bit of nice walking I was going to have for a while…

Beyond Trefor, it was road walking almost exclusively for the rest of the day and I did have to question why I’m being so purist about walking the whole way from Chepstow to Chester. The sensible thing to do would have been to have said “Well that was a good walk” and to have got into Colin for a lift home as soon as I hit the car park to the north side of Trefor. But that’s not what I did; instead I took to the tarmac and kept to the route of the official WCP, which for the next 5 or 6 miles runs alongside the A499. It could have been worse; the A499 has been improved in recent years and for a good chunk of the distance the WCP runs along the old road (a little distance away from the new road) which has been turned into a footpath/cycleway. When it runs adjacent to the road it’s quite unpleasant, with speeding cars and lots of overtaking, so I did the only sensible thing and walked really fast, pausing only as I passed through Clynnog Fawr for a cup of coffee and cake. It would have been rude not to, as Mick was sitting there waiting for me!

I should have had a look around the church in the village, as it was remarkably grand for such a small place, but unfortunately I didn’t. Instead I strode on to take to a lane (which turned out to be busy and thus no more pleasant than the main road, as it’s narrow and has no pavement) towards Dinas Dinlle.

Finally, after a pause for lunch at Morfa Dinlle, a short section of sea defence replaced the tarmac, and a while after that I took the path I had plotted, rather than continuing on the official route along two lanes. I’ve no idea why that path isn’t the official route; perhaps it’s always deep in slippery mud, like it was today, and thus considered unsuitable.

I had intended taking to another footpath to end my day, again instead of following some more lanes. A peek over the stile at the start of the path showed freshly ploughed fields stretching out in front of me and suddenly the tarmac held greater appeal. It wasn’t all bad though, as the lane soon re-joined the coast and finally the mizzle which had been persisting on and off all day seemed to have passed by completely (it now transpires it was a temporary pause; it’s coming down again now, as I type). I could even see across to Anglesey (which isn’t far away at all, but visibility hadn’t been great) and make out where I walked earlier in the year.

Mick joined me for the final mile or so of the day and we’re now sitting about a mile south of Caernarfon, giving me just over 10 miles to walk tomorrow. 

(* I can’t guarantee that the herd of wild goats are always in that location. I also can’t guarantee that they’re wild, but they look the same as the wild ones in the Rhinnogs, not like the ones I’ve seen on farms.)

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

WCP: Porth Colmon to Nant Gwrtheyrn


Wednesday 24 September 2014 (0740-1435)

Distance: 17.2 miles

Ascent: 3500’

Weather: Breezy with sunny intervals. Warm when sun out.

After the rain stopped last evening, it remained dry all night. Or, at least, I didn’t hear any rain and the road was dry when I set foot on it this morning. Thirty seconds later, drops of rain were felt. What bad timing! Happily, it was the briefest of passing showers and the weather then improved as the day went on, with the periods of blue sky getting longer and longer.

Continuing as yesterday had finished, the path hugged the very edge of the coast all the way up to Morfa Nefyn, (where I arrived in time for elevenses), taking in every wobble in the line of the coast and going up and down many an inlet. A fine coast it is, and a fine walk.

With no repetition of yesterday’s meet-up-failure, Mick stayed put in Colin today and thus was there and waiting when I came into Morfa Nefyn. He was even in the best sort of car park - as the coast path went straight through the middle of it, I didn’t have to stray more than five paces off route to be served my coffee and cake on Colin’s sofa.

Beyond Morfa Nefyn/Nefyn, the path left the coast for a little while and I wasn’t inspired by the immediate surroundings, fearing that they were going to remain lacking for the rest of the day. My fear was unfounded and a couple of miles later I was back into a more interesting area. Interesting in this case wasn’t just coastal scenery, but industrial remains in the form of quarries.

My thought of naughtily (and lazily) taking a shortcut at the end of the day, to avoid a drop back down to sea level only to climb back up to nearly 1000’, went out the window when I was striding along so merrily that I strode straight past the turn. I’m glad I did, as the view as I rounded the corner and started a steep descent made the extra effort well worthwhile (plus it took me past the most interesting quarry workings of the day; old quarries can often be a bit of a blot on the landscape, but these were of the ilk which added interest to the view).

The climb back up wasn’t too bad either – largely, I think, because after all of the miles and ascent of the last 10 days, I’m feeling quite fit just now. The blue skies, sunshine and views also helped. It was at the top of that climb that Colin hove into view and my day was over at just half past two, giving me a good rest-up before tomorrow.

I’ve only got about 30 miles to go now until I reach the north coast section of path, which I’ve already walked. Those 30 miles look, on paper, to be sadly lacking in quality. Let’s hope the reality is better.

WCP: Rhiw to Porth Colman


Tuesday 23 September (0715-1615)

Distance: 21.9 miles

Ascent: 4000’

Weather: Before lunch: overcast but warm summer day; last 2 hours: horrible wind and rain

Only about a mile through today’s walk, I had my most incredible wildlife encounter since the stoat and rabbit incident five or so years ago. There I was, walking up a lane, when an owl flew across the road just ahead of me, and landed in a bush on the left. Nothing massively remarkable about that, but as I drew level with that bush it got spooked by my presence, flew back out and very nearly flew straight into my face. We were both wide eyed in our expressions as I ducked and it flew just over my head. Never in my life before have I had a near collision with an owl.

Alas, the day didn’t continue quite as well. A conversation with a herd of very young cows saw me drift off course, and having got back on course, I found that the path disappeared into a patch of nettles. In my experience, there are two common types of nettles: the very green, very leafy variety, past which it is possible to brush lightly without getting stung; and the tough-leaved, sparsely-leafed variety which sting you nastily if you so much as glance at them. This patch of nettles was (of course) the latter.

A while later I was forced into a detour, trespass and the negotiation of a couple of barbed-wire fences in order to avoid three dogs who wanted to tear me limb from limb. Even with the owl incident, it wasn’t going down as the most successful start to a day…

Things did then improve, and remained improved until I got to Aberdaron, where I expected to find Mick. What I found was Colin, but no Mick (and no phone reception on Mick’s network).

After half an hour of wondering what to do (and having no idea where he was and how long he would be), I borrowed a pen and begged a scrap of paper, left a note under the windscreen wiper suggesting two other places he could meet me later, and continued on my way.

Half an hour later, I realised that I hadn’t put the time on the note and thus when Mick found it, he wouldn’t be able to work out how far I might have progressed to decide where to head for. I discounted my brief thought of going back; if I got back there and found Colin gone, then we could be in an even bigger mess, so onwards I went, fretting about when and where we would meet. (Rationally, if all else had failed, we would have met at the planned end of the day, but as I hadn’t taken lunch or enough water with me, that wasn’t an ideal scenario).

Thus fretting, I didn’t pay anywhere near enough attention to the spectacular scenery through which I was walking.

Mick wasn’t at the first grid reference I had suggested, so I only broke stride to re-arrange some pebbles into the shape of my initials (in the hope that if Mick arrived after me, he would see them and realise I had already been through – oh, I really should carry a pen and paper with me!).

The scenery then got even better, but by then I was busy fretting about whether Mick would be at the next parking area, as I was getting rather hungry (I was putting off eating the rest of my snacks for as long as possible) and a cup of tea wouldn’t have gone amiss. Striding along as fast as my little legs would carry me, by and by I came over a lump and there was the road ahead of me. There were two vehicles in the parking area below … and neither was Colin. Nooooooo!

It didn’t take me too long to realise that wasn’t the car park and, whilst I’m always pleased to see Mick, it was with immense joy and relief to enter the car park five minutes later and find him waiting there. I celebrated with two egg baps and a mug of coffee :-)

Alas, whilst I was having lunch, summer suddenly got replaced with mid-autumn. The morning had seen me in shorts and t-shirt, but by half an hour after lunch I was in full waterproofs and was battling with a vicious wind.

With no choice but to carry on, that’s what I did, but with all my electronics hidden away, there are no photos to illustrate the scenery on this bit of coast. So spectacular, that I really would like to see it in more hospitable weather.

By way of a bonus to end the day, the campsite turned out to be half a mile nearer the coast than I had expected and I was more than ready to stop.

(So, where was Mick and how did we miss each other? It turns out that Mick arrived in Aberdaron just after 7.30 and decided to walk back towards me. Thinking that I was still miles away, instead of following the coast path all the way, he short cut it along some lanes. I was much further on that he though, and thus was on the bit he short-cut at the time he short-cut it. Then, getting to the farm-of-the-killer-dogs, he realised (quite correctly) that I wouldn’t make it through the farmyard by myself, so he waited there for an hour for me to come along, before deciding that he must have missed me. At the time he arrived at the farm, I was just arriving in Aberdaron. At the time I was arriving at the first grid-reference I had left on Colin’s windscreen, he was just arriving back in Aberdaron. Fortunately, he realised that he would have missed me at the first location, so headed straight for the second and decided to give it until 2pm for me to arrive there before heading on to our night-stop. I arrived there at 1315.)

(Conrad: I thought of you as I passed through the area shown in today’s photo.)

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Rhiw to Porth Colman - holding post

It was a day full of incident today (for example: I nearly had a head-on collision with a flying owl, and Mick and I misplaced each other for 4 hours). I've written a full blog post on the laptop, only then to find that the mobile internet connection is so poor that I can't send it. It will follow, probably late tomorrow.
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Monday, 22 September 2014

WCP: Llanbedrog to Rhiw

Monday 22 Sept 2014
Distance: 17.7 miles, plus 3.2 back again
Ascent: 3000'
Weather: glorious

There was an even more noticeable nip in the air this morning, but I bravely put my shorts on regardless, and shivered my way for the first 20 minutes of the day, until I stopped and dug right to the bottom of my bag to find my gloves. Having done that, I immediately began a sustained uphill, which would have warmed me up nicely, even without the gloves.

In retrospect, I can guess that the signpost that I didn't understand as I left the beach, meant "continue along the beach for some steps leading up to the statue". Not knowing that, or indeed that the statue was on my route, I dutifully followed the WCP markers around 3 sides of a rectangle.

Beyond the statue, which stands at an excellent viewpoint, I was on moorland, resplendent with the yellow of the gorse and the purple of the heather.

Back down at sea level, a goodly walk along a beach had me in need of a snack and as I stood, banana in hand, I saw a buoy bobbing in the water. Banana gone and the skin stowed, I looked up again to see the buoy gone and a woman emerging from the waves just ahead of me. That surprised me!

The almost-full circle around Abersoch I would have omitted if I'd known in advance how it lacked merit, but soon enough I was back on the beach with Mick walking towards me. Ten minutes later I was being served tea and croissants.

The next section was walking perfection, as it undulated high above the sea. One of those undulations in particular (on what appears to be a very new piece of path, replacing a previous inland route) was ridiculously steep, but mercifully short.

Mick met me again just before I started descending to Porth Neigwl, which was to mark the end of my day...

...The only thing was, it wasn't yet 1pm and the day was so fine that it seemed a shame to laze around the afternoon. We, therefore, did something that may appear, at a glance, to be a bit odd: we walked the next 3.2 miles of the route, and then turned around and walked back again.

There were a number of reasons behind the decision to do that, one of which was that the tide was right to walk the beach this afternoon, whereas in the morning it would have been a 5-mile inland walk on the official path. Plus, it gave Mick the chance to have a proper walk without having to drive anywhere and saved him from having to drive the little lanes all the way to Rhiw only to drive back again. Tomorrow, Mick will get up with me bright and early to drive me to the point to which we walked this afternoon.

I've snuck a peek at the map for tomorrow and seems that it's going to be rather strenuous - which hopefully also means it will be spectacular. I suspected that this peninsula would provide good walking, and I've not been disappointed so far.

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Sunday, 21 September 2014

WCP: Penrhyndeudraeth to Llanbedrog

Sunday 21 September 2014 (0725-1550)

Distance: 24.3 miles

Ascent: not enough to bother counting

Weather: Glorious!

There was a nip in the air this morning, which (combined with a weather forecast telling me it was going to be much cooler than of late) caused me to have a last minute switch of clothes from shorts and t-shirt to trousers and long sleeves. That was a mistake and the day turned out to be every bit as warm as at the start of the week, but having not realised that until about an hour into the day, I had to wait until lunchtime to put it right.

I had already called for support once, just fifteen minutes into my day when my shoes, which I’ve worn in perfect comfort for the last 250 miles, reverted to their previous grossly-uncomfortable ways. Mick duly delivered different shoes to me, although that didn’t go entirely smoothly, as he didn’t know that there is a low-lying path below the inland side of the causeway that runs to the east of Porthmadog, and I didn’t know that there was a high-level path running on the other side, and thus we passed each other unseen...

Because Mick was on the sea-ward side, he missed the full glory of this view, which was just a taster of how fantastic this day was going to be:


We both got to see this one though:


If Mick hadn’t come on a shoe-swapping mercy mission, he wouldn’t (after leaving me) have then become involved in the rescue of three stray dogs which had, apparently, been dumped in Porthmadog town centre. What is it with us and stray dogs in Wales this year?! 

Meanwhile, I continued through picturesque Borth-y-Gest and onto the first of many lovely beaches, all with views of mountains in one direction or another.


Black Rock sands is an enormous area of sand, on which many cars had apparently enjoyed making hand-brake turns very recently. It was reasonably quiet from a traffic point of view this morning, but there were lots of people out and about, in common with most of today’s beach areas. The firm surface there made for fast and easy walking and, having walked its length, a rare pull up a hill (and back down the other side) saw me soon striding towards Cricieth, which is an attractive place when approached from the east, as I did.


Having completed his dog-rescuing duties in Porthmadog, and resolved our dwindling supply of groceries, Mick caught up with me as the route takes to the main road for a couple of miles between Cricieth and Pwllheli. After lunch and a change back into summer garb, I then had an afternoon of mainly beach walking. A large martial arts tournament/meet was in progress on one bit of beach, just outside of Pwllheli; I fear that I accidentally got myself in some of the spectator’s photos and videos.

I’m pretty sure that I haven’t been to Pwllheli before, and it didn’t grab me as a place I wanted to explore further, so I just shuffled on through, meeting Mick as I walked three sides of the huge harbour.

Once of the big benefits of Mick walking back to meet me at various points of the days is that he’s already recce’d the route, so, for example, this afternoon he was able to lead me around a bit of headland which didn’t look passable from a distance. If I’d been alone, I would have walked a longer road route.


After a couple of days involving stretches of path that were okay, but not deserving of superlatives, today was back to walking perfection (helped, of course, by the gorgeous weather). Even the section of main road paled into insignificance when the day was viewed as a whole.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

WCP: Dyffryn Ardudwy to Llandecwyn Station

Saturday 20 September (0705-1400)
Distance: 18 miles
Ascent: only around 500'
Weather: overcast but warm and dry

Where possible I try to end my walking day at our night-stop, so as to save Mick from the trouble of shuttling me back and forth. Last night's campsite (the one that wasn't where I expected it to be) turned out to be at the very edge of my 'acceptable distance to detour to a night-stop' range. As a result, the first mile and a half of today was spent re-tracing my last mile and a half of yesterday, to land me back on the beach.

No nudists were seen in the nudy area, but there was a scattering of runners and dog walkers for the first half-mile of sand. After that I was on my lonesome until I passed through the enormous campsite which is Shell Island, where most tents were coming to life.

I wasn't overly enamoured with the section alongside the old Dyffryn airfield, but I repeated one bit of it thrice when I returned to pick up my dropped sitmat (the peril of keeping it in the same pocket as the map).

What was lacking in that short section of path was made up when I soon after crossed a lovely area of salt marsh. Alas, that was followed by a trudge along a road (albeit with an interesting chapel to distract), before I made my way down to walk the shore to Harlech.

I recognised, from quite a distance, Mick walking towards me on that section, and I was soon in Colin being treated to an early elevenses of an egg bap.

Another patch of uninteresting terrain (fields; concrete track past a rubbish dump) led me back into happy-making surroundings (with mountain views emerging through the haze) and as I walked the sea-defence opposite Portmeirion, I wondered what I would make of the sight if I wasn't familiar with what it was.

At Llandecwyn station I met an obstacle of which I had been forewarned last night. The bridge over to Penrhyndeudraeth is closed for major rebuilding and the coast path is routed significantly inland to Maentwrog. In amongst my unwritten rules of this walk is a clause which says that I'm not prepared to take a large inland diversion at a place where ordinarily there would be a walkable bridge. So, having walked as far as I could along the closed road, I returned to where Mick and Colin were parked and called the end to my day. I do intend to walk the omitted kilometre at some point in the future, but for the current trip, I will start tomorrow at Penrhyndeudraeth.

(Comments: thank you to the commenters. I do like it when my phone trills with a comment! I will respond when I next find myself with the combination of a 3G signal and an electric supply.)

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WCP: Tywyn to Dyffryn Ardudwy


Friday 19 September 2014 (0740-1725)

Distance: 23.4 miles; Ascent: 2500’

Weather: cloudy morning, sunny intervals later. No rain :-)

Number of offensive plants which attacked my bare legs: many


Today wasn’t such a good day, perhaps because there were too many miles on hard/flat surfaces for my liking. It’s all comparative though; the weather was good and most of the surroundings superb.

I’m not sure why the Coast Path has been re-routed onto a road just outside of Tywyn, and perhaps I should have tried the old route (which is a public footpath), but I figured there probably was a reason and so trod the tarmac where, during the middle miles along its length, the lure of so many ripe blackberries slowed me down.

A couple of cross-country sections did ensue, and just before Llwyngwril I decided to take a bit of a short-cut so as to trade a section of lane for a shorter section of main road. That short-cut did make for a long delay (Mr Frodo) as first I encountered an angry farmer who was not at all happy to find me on his land (my GPS track has since proven that I was, in fact, slap bang on the right of way) and then I discovered (when I had got out of his sight and cut back down to where I wanted to be) that there is no evidence of the right of way on the ground. My already scratched-to-pieces legs gained even more streaks of blood.

Second breakfast was had with Mick in Llwyngwril before I packed him off for the circuitous drive around to Barmouth. I would also have had some circuitousness, as at this point the official Coast Path route meanders around a bit in some lumpy terrain and goes via the Blue Lake before dropping down to Fairbourne. Lopping off a couple of miles, I took the route I would have selected if I’d been plotting from scratch, further justifying my decision on the basis that I’ve walked the omitted hillside sufficient times in the past not to feel the need to walk it again.

Along Fairbourne beach, along the sea defence and over the railway bridge saw me into Barmouth, where Mick joined me for a detour up Dinas Oleu to visit my parents’ tree. It was at the tree that I knelt down, trapping a mature stinging nettle very firmly between the back of my thigh and the back of my calf. Ouch!

Back down at sea level an ice cream (from the very ice cream kiosk where I worked for seven years through my teens) fortified me enough to make me declare that I was going to walk another couple of miles.

That couple of miles turned into 7.5 (some of which was due to the selected campsite not being where I thought it was), rather too many of which were along the A496. I did follow the beach for as far as I could out of Barmouth, but once forced inland there is, for a distance, a lack of rights of way to get one back onto the sand. I finished the day rather fatigued, making me declare that I’m having a short(er) one tomorrow!

(Today’s photo is looking up the Afon Dysynni just north of Tywyn, taken from part way across the shiny, new pedestrian bridge)

Thursday, 18 September 2014

WCP: Furnace to Tywyn


Thursday 18 September 2014

Distance: 24.4 miles; Ascent: 4500’

Weather: cloudy morning, sunny by mid-afternoon


Today was an inland day necessitated in order to cross the nearest bridge over the River Dyfi. For some reason, I didn’t perceive that an inland day in the midst of a coastal walk would be good or interesting; in that perception I was proved completely wrong.

Whilst my day didn’t start on the official Wales Coast Path (having diverted down to last night’s campsite, I took an alternative route to pick it back up further along this morning), it saw me with woodland on my left (mainly birch) and a bank of bracken on my right and it was a whole lot more attractive than those words make it sound. Then, back on the official path, came a walk alongside a delightful stream. The only mar on the first couple of hours was the recently widened forest track, which screamed ‘wind farm coming soon’ to me.

Arriving in Machynlleth a minor diversion was taken to visit Mick and Colin, residing in the car park, and after second breakfast and a cup of coffee, Mick joined me for the walk to the edge of the town, before he turned back in search of a newsagent and TGO Magazine (mission successful; he has his TGO Challenge application form).

Out of Mac, an attack of laziness caused me to shun the official route uphill through forestry, and instead take to the road for a short while to pick up a riverside path, which on paper looked more nicer. A complete lack of waymarks and a number of obstructions and missing stiles dulled what should have been a perfectly pleasing walk.

Back on the official path, I knew that I didn’t need to pay attention to the map any more. The route is so well marked that the map feels almost superfluous. Oh, such complacency! Five minutes later I overshot a turn and having backtracked, my inspection of the junction (a turn off the road out of Penall, as it heads into the MacDonald resort) still didn’t reveal any waymark. They were, however, perfectly plentiful going through the resort and beyond.

The next bit of route saw me climbing up to follow an elevated byway in glorious surroundings, made even more so in the afternoon sunshine. Mick missed the best bit of that walk, meeting me shortly before I descended down to Aberdyfi.

I would have ended my day at Aberdyfi (4 miles in a straight line from yesterday’s lunch spot; 27 miles walked to get there), as had been my original plan, but it was only 3pm which felt a bit early to stop, particularly when the next few miles were flat and easy along the beach. So, onwards to Tywyn I went where, whilst I set about removing half a beach from my feet and footwear, Mick disappeared off and came back brandishing two ice-creams. What a star!

After today’s excellent weather, as I type this (8.15pm) the wind is howling outside. I do hope it calms itself before tomorrow, although I understand there’s a very strong chance of me getting wet the next couple of days.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

WCP: Llanrhystud to Furnace


Wednesday 17 September 2014 (0725-1700)

Distance: 23.3 miles; Ascent: 4500’

Weather: Glorious, but with a bit of a breeze


It was another lumpy one today (except for the flat bits…), which had a definite feel of Welsh hillside. I suppose it was Welsh hillside, it just happened that these hills abutted the sea. Up, along, down and back up I went, in yet more wonderful surroundings, with no climb being more than 400 feet.

Once again, solitude prevailed for the early part of the morning. The lack of a trodden path in places, combined with the apparent age of the cobwebs on some of the kissing gates, suggested that not many people venture onto the bit of path heading out of Llanrhystud, although it is well trodden again in the approach to Aberystwyth, which is where (again, just a few minutes before 10am), I met my first other walker.

A couple of miles later, I was disproportionately pleased to be standing on Constitution Hill. I lived in Aberystwyth for three years in the 1990s and, rather negligently, failed in all that time to go up the little pimple which is Constitution Hill. It’s not even a hill that demands effort, as a train runs to the top. Hopefully, it goes without saying that I didn’t choose the train today, but huffed and puffed my way up instead.

Beyond Aber the path was comparatively heaving. I must have seen ten other people! Another three were first heard and then seen to be having a whale of a time in the sea just before Borth. By then, Mick was with me and upon reaching Borth (15.5 miles into my day), I declared it lunch time and a good long break was had.

Just north of Borth lies the river Dyfi, which (unfortunately, for me) doesn’t boast a bridge particularly near the sea, and thus (in the absence of having a canoe in my back pocket), a large inland diversion is required. In fact, I will only just get back to the sea proper at the end of tomorrow.

The inland diversion starts with absolute ease, as it crosses dead flat marshes. There a dredger was dredging a drainage ditch. One of the dredged items was a bloated cow. Oh, the smell as I passed by!

Off the marsh and back into the land of lumpy, Mick joined me again and together we wandered down to our night-stop at Furnace. On paper it was a long day, but todays lumps were far gentler than those of two days ago so my feet weren’t dragging at the end of the day and I can probably muster the energy to trek all the way over to the distant shower on this campsite!


(Today’s photo is Aberystwyth promenade, which no longer shows any evidence of last winter’s destructive storms. The lump at the end of the prom is Constitution Hill.)

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

WCP: New Quay to Llanrhystud


Tuesday 16 September (0725-1400)

Distance: 16.2 miles

Ascent: A wholly more reasonable 2500’

Weather: Wall-to-wall sunshine


I had contemplated having a lie in this morning, as the day looked, on paper, to be comparatively easy and thus there was no call for an early start. I was happy, however, with my decision to go out at my usual time, as I enjoyed the absolute peace and quiet of the early morning.

There were no boats on the water, no cars to be heard on the nearby lanes and (of course) no other people on the coast path (I wasn’t to pass anyone, other than dog-walkers on the beach at New Quay, until a few minutes before 10am). The peace wasn’t shattered until I wound my way back down to sea level in New Quay, where an industrial unit was turning rocks in an open-air washing-machine-esque piece of equipment. It was only 8am and it was making a heck of a noise. although I was soon back out of earshot.

Had the tide been lower or receding when I approached the beach on my way out of New Quay, I would have omitted a bit of distance and road walking, but as it wasn’t lower or receding I went the long way around, to join the beach further along, rather than risking an accidental paddle. A while later I acquired a dog who decided that it would prefer to come with me rather than continue with its owner. It finally turned back just before I left the beach, no doubt much to its (hollering) owner’s relief.

Just before Aberaeron (a very well-presented town, with colourful houses), Mick joined me for the walk back into town, where Colin and elevenses awaited me. It was the bonus for me caused by tonight’s campsite having an uncommonly late check-in time, leaving Mick in campsite limbo.

Lunch was had on the metal steps which were to take me away from the shingle beach at Llanon. Two minutes after restarting I discovered a bench just after the top of those steps. Always annoying when that happens!

There were only 3 miles to be walked after lunch and Mick joined me for the final one, which wasn’t the most inspiring walking of the day, being along lanes on an inland diversion to a bridge. He missed out on the rollingness (as contrasted to yesterday’s violent ruggedness) where gorse and bracken (and in places wild roses) abounded. There were still blackberries and sloes, but not in the same quantities as yesterday.

(I apologise for the poor composition of today’s snapshot of Aberaeron harbour. I really should have moved so as not to include the pole in the foreground!)

Monday, 15 September 2014

WCP: Mwnt to New Quay


Monday 15 September 2014 (0735-1520)

Distance: 19 miles; Ascent: eleventy billion feet (perceived) or 6000’ (actual)

Weather: Very fine, again

Number of dogs which tried to steal my sandwiches: 1


In the 209 days of the year up to 28 July, I went for 172 walks. In the last month and a half, until yesterday evening, I didn’t go for a single walk. Today proved to be a brutal re-introduction. Superb walking, hugging the coast all day, and all in good weather, but the ups and downs meant that by the time Mick found me, less than a mile from the end of the day, I was having no thoughts as to pushing on any further.

Other than incredibly nice coastal scenery, a striking feature of today was the sheer quantity of blackberries and sloes lining the path. I’ve already picked a couple of kilos of blackberries at home, and jam has been made, but it still seemed such a shame that people weren’t out in droves enjoying the sea air and picking such perfect fruit. The only blackberry picker I passed all day was within yards of New Quay. In fact, except within half a mile of car parks, I barely saw anyone all day (and of the few I did encounter, I caused one to scream!).

The excitement of the day came at the bit of path (between Llannagog and Cwmtydu) which plentiful signs told me was closed due to a major landslide. You just never know whether such closures are for good cause, or because of over-zealous risk assessments and each time I passed one of the closure notices, I pondered whether to go and take a look at the issue, or whether to take the inland diversion. The decision was made where a bit of graffiti had been added to one of the notices saying “10/9/14 We enjoyed this walk. Council obliged to put up these notices for insurance reasons. We are 66. No problems with walk.”.

My view in hindsight is that the author of that graffiti believed that ‘no physical obstruction’ equalled ‘safe’. My assessment was that the signs saying that the land is extremely unstable were absolutely spot on. The sizes of the cracks (which in places ran straight down the path) told me that the path is going to land in the sea sometime soon. However, my own risk assessment also suggested that it was highly unlikely to give way during the minute it would take me to clear the area, during a period of dry weather. I certainly wouldn’t have set foot on it if it had been wet lately.

I do hope that work is carried out to re-instate a path around the landslide, and that the temporary diversion doesn’t become permanent, as the rest of that path is truly lovely.

Just a mile away from my destination for the day, I saw someone running towards me and that someone turned out to be Mick. Around he turned, slowing down to my (snails) pace, and retraced his steps back to New Quay. I was so knackered that (to his surprise) I accepted his offer to carry my bag.

I’ve looked at tomorrow’s profile, and it looks to be gentler than today. I suppose the downside of an easier walk will be less rugged surroundings.

Welsh Coast Path (WCP): Outside Cardigan to Mwnt


Sunday 14 September 2014 (1620-1835)

Distance: 7.1 miles

Weather: Quite splendid

Had September gone entirely to plan, I would be 14 days through a walk around the Welsh coast by now, all walked in fine weather. The silver lining is that, even though I’m two weeks late in starting what is now a severely curtailed trip (starting from Cardigan, rather than starting from Chepstow), the incredible weather is still holding. At 6pm today I found myself walking along a stunning bit of coast, looking down at people sunbathing on the beach below. That’s surely not normal in the evening in mid-September?

Even with the warmth, shorts may not have been the best choice of leg wear. Whilst almost the entire section of the trail that I walked today follows roads, I decided to take a little detour to see if I could take an alternative route along a beach. The answer was that yes I could … but it was significantly further, involved a back-track and a fight with brambles before culminating with a clamber over a fence. I would say that I’ve learnt a lesson, but the reality is that each time I see a potential beach-based alternative to a road walk, I’m likely to give it a try.

The day (albeit a very short day) didn’t finish entirely smoothly either. At 1755, I was (as it later transpired) about five minutes away from Mick, who was sitting in Colin in a field waiting for me. That field wasn’t quite where I expected it to be, which left me taking an unnecessarily circuitous route and (thanks to a lack of phone reception to aid me locating him) wandering randomly around lanes trying to find him. Find him I did, but not until forty minutes had passed since I had been standing five minutes away! All good for the step count, I suppose…

I shall be taking the more direct route back to the coast tomorrow morning!