Stage 61, 1st May: Mwnt to New Quay
With heavy rain to start the day, my hopes for Ceredigion weren’t improving. I spent the first hour or so inching forward along slippery muddy paths edged with knee-high clumps of wet grass, which were very quickly exposing the fragility of my boots waterproofing. Though my boots fit like slippers and seem to be quite tough yet lightweight, their water resisting qualities seem to last barely a few miles and I am soon squelching my way to a sock change as the water seeps in where my toes crease the upper.
By Aberporth the rain has stopped but clouds hang low and heavy over the cliff tops. Ceredigion is taking its revenge on me for my lack of enthusiasm yesterday. It’s tough walking. Lots of steep climbs, quaint inlets to round and slippery slopes to descend. The inlets at Tresaith and Llangrannog are both hidden until I am literally on top of them and at the latter I take a break to reminisce and reacquaint myself with some excellent chips from the Beach Hut (not a day for ice cream). I briefly catch up with Phil and Stuart who sit with me to enjoy their full fish and chips whilst I cram mine in accompanying them with some cheese and marmite sandwiches and a pork pie.
From Llangrannog it’s up and over again to cross a long winding cliff path cut into the edge of tall cliffs and feeling every bit like a scene from Middle Earth. The path was….errr….supposedly closed, due to a landslip. However, the barrier tape was stripped back and it certainly looked passable to me. Indeed it was passable, but not for the faint hearted as the cliff had slipped away and the path was now perched precariously on the steep slope with deep cracks filled with newly deposited scree and loose earth (photo). To miss this section by traipsing inland via the signposted diversion would have spoilt the highlight of my day, so in my head the dynamic risk assessment was worth it.
Another drop from the hills brought me to the once pretty hamlet of Cymtydu now dominated by yet another static caravan park. I sometimes wonder why planners allow these modern-day shanty towns to sprout up in such idyllic locations only to completely spoil the place. I’m sure it’s a good way of generating an alternative income, but surely there is a more aesthetically pleasing way of skinning that cat.
With a final climb and traverse it was on to New Quay and an exhausted meeting with Stuart and Phil (Tweedledum and Tweedledee). I was mighty grateful for their company and an evening of slightly coarse schoolboy humour.
Stage 62, 2nd May: New Quay to Aberystwyth
A cool overcast day with a drying breeze was perfect for walking. New Quay seemed very quaint out of season and presented a picture postcard scene (photo) as I rounded the shingle topped beach at high tide for a low cliff and woodland walk to Aberaeron. Here the coast opened out with the sea bounded by a wide expanse of lowland farmland edged by soft low banks topping scruffy shingle and silty beaches. The smell of fertiliser hang in the air and lines of ubiquitous static caravans were always there to blight any potentially pretty spot. The path ran parallel to the main landward A487 West Wales coast road only briefly closing together to skirt another caravan park near Llanrhystud.
From here things improved dramatically as the path crossed rolling green hills. The grass was truly lush, soft under foot and sprinkled liberally with sheep poo. The occasional derelict farm, not spoilt by a field full of static caravans, allowed the mind to picture a rather juicy and probably very expensive renovation project. My wishful thoughts were brought to a halt as I crossed into a buzzard’s nesting ground and found myself aimlessly flailing my walking pole in the air as the huge defensive bird duly and angrily buzzed me till I was out of range.
One last climb of the day was followed by a long sharp drop and almost aerial approach into Aberystwyth. With a final sweep around Tanybwich Beach I met up with Stuart and Phil for our last night and a good plate full of pasta to top up my carbohydrates.
Rest Day, 3rd May: Aberystwyth
A day to take stock, do some laundry, say my thanks and goodbyes to Phil and Stuart and wait for Aled (a former work colleague and friend) to arrive.
The totals? 1,243 miles, 218,400 ft of ascent over 62 days of walking, averaging over 20 miles and 3,500ft per day.
The body? Lighter….much! Not sure of my exact poundage loss since I started training last year, but my waist certainly has a dramatically reduced circumference even if I am probably developing an ice cream belly.
Sanity? I think it’s still there….somewhere. I do feel enormously guilty for being away from home for so long. That feeling doesn’t settle or dissipate and seems to get worse on days when I’ve enjoyed myself. I fear telling my family that I’ve had a great day sometimes as I am fully aware that they are back in the real world and that the grass needs cutting again. I miss home too, but I can’t admit that here, can I?
Gripes? Not really….and I shouldn’t complain as it was my decision to attempt this walk. But I would be lying if I said it was easy. So for a bit of honesty, here is my little catalogue:
- The blisters I had early on have now healed or toughened to a callous. My feet and toes are sore every night and I can barely hobble around for an hour or two after I’ve sat down for a rest. By morning once I slip on those slipper-like boots they seem raring to go again.
- I also suspect – not confirmed – that I actually broke a toe on Stage 3. It took six weeks before I felt comfy on it again, so fingers crossed.
- My back aches a smidge – but that’s my own fault for having naff posture. Back straight Mr Hill!
- My right shoulder does hurt….but nothing a bit of Wol taught and self-administered reflexology and a large dose of ibuprofen can’t keep at bay.
It must be hard when the family are not actually that far away but can’t get to see you. Sounds like you’re doing well though and what surprises me is a) how long you’ve been walking and b) how far you’ve come. Over 1,000 miles is, frankly, amazing. From my own very limited experience of walking all day every day solidly for 6 weeks once, and losing half a stone, I guess your waistline will shrink regardless of the ice cream. 😉