Stage 66, 7th May: Llandanwg to Borth-y-Gest
With light rain on my back and a stiff breeze I started the day with a Harlech Beach walk before crossing Royal St David’s golf course to rejoin the road. The thought of a main road and dodging cars sounded not only tedious but dangerous so I elected to follow a path running parallel to the tarmac through fields of pasture and run the risk of five, yes five, consecutive fields containing my walking nemesis, cattle. In this instance I remained untroubled as all five fields clearly had some soporific drug in the grass, as none of the beasts barely raised a bovine eyebrow as I paced through their patch.
I briefly rejoined the road and made my way around the salt marshes and dyke tops of the Afon Dwyryd estuary. I had hoped to cross the estuary to Penrhyndeudraeth (no I still can’t say it, despite Aled’s tuition) via Pont Briwet but all hopes were very thin as I knew the rickety wooden bridge was being replaced. They were duly dashed as I approached to see dozens of men in hi-viz jackets and plenty of big construction machinery blocking my way. Despite wearing black, I don’t think I could have sneaked past, even at night.
I had dreaded the eight mile inland detour but I needn’t have worried as in truth it was rather pleasant. The route took me away from the road and up through forestry and alongside hidden lakes before returning me down to the road at the grandiose church like building of Maentwrog hydoelectric power station. I mistakenly stayed on the high wall-lined road for the last mile to cross the river at Maentwrog village but ducked back into the hills on the other side to follow the Ffestiniog railway through the fresh leaved woodland and back down the valley to Penlan.
With only a few miles of my day left the coast path blatantly took a tourist tempting detour down to the edge of Portmeirion. In my opinion, this was needless and quite cynical as you have to pay to get in to the picture postcard village that once took a lead role in The Prisoner, a cracking TV series some 40 or so years ago. As I am a name and not a number, the tempting glimpse did not tempt me enough and I headed over to cross The Cob into Porthmadog and a meet up with Aled in the little bay at Borth-y-Gest.
Stage 67, 8th May: Borth-y-Gest to Llanbedrog
A grim wet forecast from Kate at home was unwanted but right again. With the rain tipping down, I waited half an hour to let it ease before venturing out to cross the beach at Black Rock Sands in full waterproofs. The beach crossing was still masochistically enjoyable and understandably devoid of people, though I couldn’t really appreciate the view with my hood pulled down and pinched in around my face.
On approaching Criccieth the rain eased and was replaced by a heavy sea-mist and drizzle. It was dry enough for me to remove my claggy waterproofs, walk along a drying road and sit on a scruffy beach near Afon Wen for lunch alongside the delightful neighbours of a static caravan park and a sewage farm. Without warning the sea mist lifted and turned to torrential rain. A hasty donning of my waterproof jacket ensued but before I could think about getting my overtrousers on it was too late and I was drenched.
By the time I reached the beach towards Pwllheli the rain had abated and I took to searching for the biggest complete shells I could find on a foreshore littered with large scallops, some still complete but not particularly appetising. The sun came out and the haze cleared for the first time in what felt like weeks. Snowdonia magically appeared inland with the clouds topping the mountains like cream on a cake. I’d left my camera in the van today for a good wet reason but that reason didn’t seem such a good idea now.
To top a pretty rotten day, Aled had a surprise up his sleeve. Whether he felt sorry for me, whether he was fed up of my pathetic efforts of pronouncing Welsh town names in the close confines of the van, or whether he just fancied some home comforts, I’m not sure. Either way, the thought was a great one as he had managed to find us a stable cottage for three nights of proper base camp. Crugan Farm near Llanbedrog was a perfect little retreat.
Stage 68, 9th May: Llanbedrog to Rhiw
It was to be a dry, sunny but pretty damned windy day. Thus it became a bit of a battle as I climbed the cliff to take a picture of the most photographed beach huts in Wales and rounded the headland at Trwyn Llanbedrog. To the west the bay opened out before me to reveal a fine view across St Tudwal’s Road to the rich boy’s play town of Abersoch. This time the seafront was not so much lined with caravan parks but instead it was the millionaire’s equivalent, trying to look every bit like Miami Beach condos. They actually seem to do it quite well and though they are not to my taste, they are a vast improvement on the anonymous rows of static caravans.
On leaving Abersoch a loud squawking drew me to a fight ensuing in the driveway of a large house. A sparrowhawk and a magpie were locked together with the hawk’s talons embedded in the magpie’s chest. I thought about separating them, but the bird of prey wasn’t going to give up a very large lunch for the sake of lil ole me. I decided not to intervene and let nature take its course. I reckoned that the magpie would put up one hell of a fight but would as likely lose.
I then walked right through the middle of yet another golf course to round my second headland of the day and walk across the top of a gorgeous unspoilt and unfrequented beach at Porth Ceiriad. I then fought my way around my biggest and last headland of the day getting buffeted by hefty chilling winds so cold that I even ventured to give my gloves their first outing since March. Down into the bay at Hell’s Mouth, I was disappointed to have to divert inland and zig-zag my way across a literal maze of fields set to pasture for what looked like millions of sheep and the token herd of inquisitive cattle. The coast path signs had annoyed and confused me all day. Work seemed to be in progress all along this stretch with new paths, old paths and closed paths not very distinguishable. I no longer trusted them and just took to map references instead. Ordnance Survey wins today. Oh and just to add….for the first time since day 3 – my feet didn’t complain once! Da daaaaaaaa!