Thursday 29 September
Distance: 25.8 miles
Weather: Sunny intervals
Yesterday afternoon I walked up the River Taf to the nearest crossing point at St Clears. Today I crossed the Taf, strode/splashed/waded all the way down to the coast at Wharley Point, before heading inland again to cross the River Tywi at Carmarthen, so the reality was that only a few minutes of the day were really on the coast.
The WCP does, however, try to keep as close to water as possible, except where the route nearest to water is a pavementless A or B road, whereupon the path tends to take a more indirect route through fields. It is perhaps for those reasons that this section seemed to be little walked – and even I gave up with the official route after a while.
The first bit that irked me, after I’d already slogged through fields of cows and long wet grass, playing ‘spot the gate’ was this:
I was annoyed with myself as much as the route planners. Why does the route do that big V instead of just following the right of way which goes across the top edge of the inverted triangle? And why had I not followed the line I’d plotted on the map, which did take that top edge?
The next bit which was ‘interesting’ was also my own fault to an extent, in that the route shown on my 2014 1:50k map had changed to a longer road-based walk by the time my 2016 1:25k map was published. However, when I got to the turn for the 2014 route there was a WCP waymarker and a gate so I followed it and soon found out why the route had been changed. That field was a serious muddy bog, with one water obstacle into which my walking pole disappeared right up to the handle. I did, however, find a way across that obstacle without going in much above my ankles, and I was sure that once I cleared that field the going would get better and drier.
It didn’t. I sent a text to Mick comparing it to walking in the Everglades, but with more cowpats and fewer aligators.
Back on the current WCP route, things didn’t get much better and it was here that I noted the first indications (after having to climb a few 5-bar-type farm gates which I couldn’t easily open) that few people come this way, like this WCP gateway:
I did get a bit of a watery view on this section…
…but it didn’t seem worth the trouble, so I vowed to stay on roads for the rest of the day.
My resolve remained for a while, although in part because I strode straight past the next turn without even seeing it, and I had intended to cut across Wharley Point as well, but when I got there I found that it was National Trust land and the path looked nice, so I took it. A good choice, as for the only time of the day, I found myself on a nice bit of coast path, with the sea to my right.
Rounding the headland, Llansteffan was ahead of me and the tide was low enough to walk the beach. There was no doubt in my mind that it was a viable route on this occasion, because Mick had walked out to meet me.
First glimpse of the sand at Llansteffan
I arrived at Colin for elevenses looking like I’d been mud-wrestling:
That’s my left leg. They were both equally spattered, both front and back. My socks were so caked in mud and silt that I set out in my still-sopping shoes (which were last dry as I set out on Monday morning) but with fresh socks on.
It being a bit early for lunch when I reached Llansteffan, Mick drove on the 4 miles to Llangain to meet me again, and I risked my life by ignoring the WCP route and taking to the B road, which I considered justifiable not only from the point of view of avoiding more mudfest fields and tricky route finding, but also because it runs closer to the coast.
More B road ensued after lunch, until the WCP left the road to take to a cycle route into Carmarthen. Carmarthen had been my originally intended end-point for the day, but I had decided to continue on the basis that today’s weather wasn’t bad at all, whereas tomorrow is forecast showery, so it seemed sensible to push on, thus arrangements had been made for Mick to meet me at a given grid reference later in the day. He was therefore surprised to find me walking towards him up an aisle in Aldi in Carmarthen. It turned out that the path went across the end of their car park, so when I saw Colin parked there I thought I’d stop for an unscheduled break.
I took the opportunity to set out not just in my third pair of fresh socks of the day (very fresh – I’d just bought them in Aldi!) but also in dry shoes, on the basis that so little of the rest of the day was off-road that I would hopefully be able to keep my shoes dry.
I did manage to keep my feet dry, but only with much faffing around certain areas of the path, where cattle had created huge mud-baths right in front of gateways, and where fields were just plain waterlogged. With all of the rain that has fallen this week, it’s not a good time to be crossing fields!
Approaching the point where Mick was to meet me I decided that rather than being ferried night and morning, I may as well continue on to our night-stop, which was only 4.5 miles further. Thus, I finished the day at Ferryside, which sits about 1km across the water from Llansteffan, where I had stopped for elevenses. I’m guessing by the presence of a Ferry Farm on the east side of the river and a village called Ferryside on the west side, that there was a time when it was possible to cross the river here, and to save a long journey around. Oh, to have had a canoe at my disposal today…
Sunset out of Colin’s side window, looking over to Llansteffan. The nobbles on the second hump from the left are the remains of Llansteffan Castle.
(eeeh, that was a bit of an epic post, although I suppose it was quite a long day. Congratulations to anyone who made it all the way through to the end.)