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.)