Stage 63, 4th May; Aberystwyth to Machynlleth
A cool overcast day is perfect for walking and I made my way around Aberystwyth seafront with some real optimism for the week ahead. The seafront which, only a couple of months ago, had made the news headlines for the devastating impact of the winter storms showed barely a sign of damage, with only one small section of paving cordoned off and waiting to be be relaid. I have been impressed by our national resilience after the conveyor belt of storms which battered the south and west coast. When we get hit hard we always seem to bounce back quickly and to me that seems so completely and utterly opposed to our rather pathetic efforts to maintain and keep things clean on a day-to-day basis. We seem to revel as a nation in the glory of achieving big things and yet lose interest when it comes to keeping it all running and maintained.
The seafront was lined with campervans and motorhomes many of whom seemed to be brewing up a breakfast. At one van a quick conversation about my little expedition ended with a generous cash donation and my optimism lifted a notch higher.
It was then up and over a few small cliffs for five miles to the long thin and very tired town of Borth before I edged around the salt marshes and broke off for lunch. Clearly my sandwiches were of real interest to two very large and inquisitive horses as they came over to nudge at me to give up some of my much-needed fuel. When I declined they took it upon themselves to start a fight. Not with me – I might add – but with each other. Back to back they stood as they kicked and bucked, landing real eye-watering bruisers on each others backsides. I was rather glad they hadn’t picked a fight with me, but I was genuinely concerned that they might actually hurt each other. Maybe they did, but the fighting stopped and they went back to munching the grass around their hooves again as if nothing had happened. Resolving domestic incidents in the horse fraternity isn’t something I have a natural talent for or even a vague understanding of and probably not something I should consider as a future career move.
I then ducked inland to cross the A487 and climb through woodland to meet up with the Cousin Hill Clan of whom two (Jane and Richard) would join me for the last eight miles into Machynlleth. It was great to have company and the last two and half hours of the day flew by as chat allowed my mind to think of something other than how much my toes / knees / back / shoulder might hurt. To top it all Richard splashed out on a handful of Magnums for us all to enjoy with Aled in the van at Machynlleth station.
That night Aled and I checked in at our campsite and then gladly joined the clan (Aunty Nancy, Mike and Jane, Tricia and Richard plus Jester the dog) for a full Sunday roast at their holiday house in Pennal. As ever, I filled my boots and took full advantage of their copious amounts of hot water and bath facilities. Well, Why not eh?
Stage 64, 5th May: Machynlleth to Llwyngwril
Having given our fee in exchange for a donation from the beautiful location at Gwerniago Farm Camp Site, my main activity today was to have to decide whether to walk along the road or hike up into the hills along the official coast path. I started by walking from Machynlleth along the road and back past Gwerniago to Pennal. It might have been another perfect overcast and cool walking day, but I didn’t like that road walk. It was dangerous. Too many high walls, blind bends and nowhere to escape if a car cut it too fine.
At Pennal I nipped in on the clan again for a brisk bacon butty and then headed out over the fields after offering to take Jester for a very long walk. Once up and inland again, I enjoyed the aptly named Panorama Walk which gave me grand views of the estuary and valleys inland and beyond to Snowdonia. Though the weather was great for walking it was rubbish for taking photos and it really wasn’t worth taking even one as in this instance the cloud and hazy mist just turned everything into a flat grey digital blur and couldn’t do justice to what I had seen with my eyes.
I eventually headed back down to sea level at Aberdovey for lunch and a spot of people watching by the beach. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay long which was s shame as there were plenty of entertaining people about and a certain predominance of brummy accents. Instead I opted for a long hike along the sand to a very drab and dreary Tywyn which didn’t entice me to hang about so I quickly crossed the railway line, grabbed a quick Mint Feast from the local shop and headed inland once again for an equally drab and dreary road which seemed to drag on for miles. At least it gave me the chance to catch up on a few phone calls, though I suspect that my chat wasn’t the most inspiring.
When I reached the main road I was feeling particularly drained and quite bored, so this time elected to follow the official coast path and went even further inland and over the hills. This lifted my spirit if not my energy and I lingered (rested) to explore a derelict farmhouse complete with abandoned personal possessions and a lovely old rusting range in the fireplace (photo).
Fortunately, Aled had booked a B&B at the Garthangharad Hotel with a welcome gratis room for me at my end of day stopover, so guess what….I had another bath!
Stage 65, 6th May: Llwyngwril to Llandanwg
With the company of a man named Aled and fluent Welsh (North Walian) speaker for the week, I was not only grateful for his ability to speak to the locals in their soft and lyrical tone, but also for being very patient with me and my very clumsy and typically English effort at trying to pronounce place names with far to many LLs, FFs and DDs in them. The whole week was becoming quite an education to me, but I’m still not sure it will stick.
From the door of the B&B I had a decent 45 minute climb to nearly 1,000 ft, with cracking views down into Barmouth Bay (photo) and across the next estuary into Snowdonia again. From here I had a rapid descent through plantation forestry into Fairbourne and around the estuary flats before crossing the long and spectacular Barmouth Bridge. I then discovered that the distance saving ferry to Barmouth was running but I was glad I made the bridge crossing as using seasonal ferries isn’t in my rules, even if they are only my rules.
I picked up my pace along the promenade at Barmouth and just missed the Cousin Hill Clan who had arrived in town just as I was heading out of it along another few miles of tedious roadside tarmac. From here I obediently followed the coast path which seemed to needlessly duck away from the road to cross a few caravan parks, as if advertising their wares. It then quickly nipped back up the road and equally quickly left it again as if having made up its mind to find the sea. I crossed some very welcome dunes and eagerly made my way along two and a half miles of deserted Morfa Dyffryn beach before crossing a huge and very nearly empty campsite at Shell Island.
With the high revving and popping sound of a high performance sports car racing around the disused Llanbedr Airfield accompanying me I then took to familiar bland MOD roads crossed the railway for the umpteenth time to find Aled in Llandanwg. In doing so, I just managed to dodge the big black clouds heavy with rain which had been looming over my right shoulder for the past two hours. Success!