Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Current

Hello to all my regular readers! I know there are a number of you out there.
Thank you for your interest. 

No!  We haven't given up!!
After excitedly getting back to walking with my new knees last year, we have other problems this year which prevent us from (temporarily) continuing our Trek.  We have a bit of financial embarrassment over a mortgage, so when our car finally bit the dust last September we could only afford to buy a small Ford Fiesta, which is not big enough to tow our caravan.  That is our accommodation when walking the coast, and we live too far from Milford Haven (which was our final destination last year) to go there, do a Walk, and come home all in one day.  So the Trek is 'on hold' for the time being.
But all should be resolved by the end of the year!  By the time the Pembrokeshire summer bus timetable kicks in next Spring, we plan to have bought a bigger vehicle, and may even have lashed out on a better caravan -- who knows?  By this time next year we hope to have completed the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and be yomping on towards the Gower.
To all my readers, thank you for your interest in our venture.
Rosemary
PS  Go to   www.bognorregisbeach.co.uk  to see what is happening NOW just left of Bognor Pier! (On the website, click on  'Live Webcam')

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Walk 363 -- Dovey Junction to Borth

Ages:  Colin was 72 years and 345 days.  Rosemary was 70 years and 122 days.
Weather:  Wall-to-wall blue sky all day, but a very cold east wind which did get fractionally warmer as the day progressed.
Location:  Dovey Junction to Borth.
Distance:  12 miles.
Total distance:  3752 miles.
Terrain:  Too much road-walking!  Several miles along a main road, then several miles along a very straight B-road.  The final two and a half miles was along a firm sandy beach — fantastic!
Tide:  Out when it mattered.
Rivers: No.442, Afon Einion.  No.443, Afon Leri.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  None.
Pubs:  None.
‘Cadw’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We were staying in our caravan near Aberaeron.  This morning we drove to Borth and parked on the seafront near the station.  We caught a train to Dovey Junction.
At the end we finished the Walk at the car in Borth.  We had our tea and biscuits, then drove back to our caravan.

Dovey Junction Station must be the most god-forsaken station on the whole rail network!  It is out in the middle of a swamp with no buildings anywhere near, not even on the station itself.  Fortunately we alighted from a train there on a sunny day — it must be miserable for anybody having to change trains there in the dark and/or inclement weather.  It is very near the railway bridge across the Afon Dyfi (River Dovey) which we had pretended to cross there because we didn’t want to walk all the way to Machynlleth and back.  We are now officially in South Wales, this river being the border between North and South Wales.
We photographed the bridge, then found our way along a very long platform to the exit.  (We very nearly didn’t find it because it was not very obvious and the exit sign had been blown round backwards by the wind.)
A track, one kilometre long, took us out to the main road, it was still lonely and bleak.  We passed some blackthorn which was very pretty in full flower — this cheered us up.  We wished it was nearer home because we would like to pick the sloes next September/October to make sloe gin!  We donned our high-viz vests and walked several miles along the road, traffic-dodging all the time.  Not much fun!  We came to a decent layby where we could get away from the traffic, but there were no seats there.  So we sat on a bank and got out our pork pies.  We realised they were too big, and only managed half each — we should have bought only one and cut it in half.  The wind was still very cold but we had lovely views across the river from where we were sitting.  We could see Aberdovey sometimes as we continued our march along. 
We came to a place called Furnace where there is a huge water wheel and a picturesque waterfall. 
We spent ages there looking around.  The buildings housed an 18th century charcoal-burning iron furnace.  There was plenty of timber around to make charcoal, and plenty of water power to pump the bellows for the furnace — but no iron ore.  That had to be shipped in from Cumbria — apparently it was easier to bring the iron to the charcoal than to bring the charcoal to the iron!  The business only lasted for fifty years, from 1750 to 1800, before it was superseded by coke-burning furnaces elsewhere.  Nowadays the buildings provide a home for bats. 
We continued for another traffic-dodging mile until we were able to slip into a side road.  There we found a bank to sit on and eat our sarnies.  We carried on for another mile to Tre’r-ddôl where there was a café.  We bought a pot of tea and had a bit of a rest.  We removed some layers because it was getting hot by then.  It was still windy, but it had warmed up. 
Thankfully we turned on to a B road, but we kept our high-viz vests on.  The traffic was far less, but it came fast when it did come because this road has dead straight stretches.  We passed a dead tawny owl on the verge, which was very sad.  We suspected it had been run over.  There were horses in a field nearby who came over to the gate to check us over.  A woman sitting in a deck chair by an adjacent house kept calling them back, but the brown one took no notice.
We came to a derelict church, a very sad sight.  It was fenced off with notices telling us to keep out because the roof was falling in on the far side.  I wonder how many of our ancient churches will end up like that, with dwindling congregations all over the country? 
The road seemed very long.  It was almost dead straight, boring and we were tired.  We passed some lambs in a field indicating that Spring is well and truly here.  We saw a wooden owl sculpture on a post in a garden, and it reminded us of the dead owl we had passed a mile or so back.
We also passed an old train carriage turned into accommodation, and it reminded us of Pagham Beach in Sussex where there are dozens of these carriages with people living in them.  Originally the intention was that they were holiday homes, but many people live in them permanently now.  When I taught in Bognor Regis Community College, from 1982 to 1997, some of my pupils were housed in them by the local Council — and they were barely fit for human habitation.  Others, usually privately owned, had been refurbished to a high standard and, though small, were very comfortable to live in. 
At last we came to a level crossing where we crossed the canalised river.  We watched a train cross the river a little further down.
We wanted to take a track going north from that point, but we couldn’t find it.  The only track seemed to go through a locked gate into a yacht club.  There was nowhere else, so we investigated it further — it actually hooked round behind the building, then there was an S-bend alongside the yacht club.  This is a public footpath, yet there were no signs.  It was a good track up to the dunes which continued round them to a car park.  (Only the first part of this track was marked on our OS map.)
Being a Saturday, there were lots of cars parked on the sands there, but the car park didn’t look full because it was huge!  Several cars were parked below high water mark, which reminded us of Bosham (in Sussex) where the locals frequently watch the waves engulf parked vehicles despite warning notices all over the place! 
We had grand views of Aberdovey across the river — it looked so near!  We have walked miles since we were there, yet there it was seemingly just yards away.  The tide was right out so we could hardly see the river.  There were vast areas of sand all around us.  The weather was still very bright and sunny, but there was a cold wind coming down the valley from the east.
We walked round the end of the dunes where we were closer to Aberdovey than we were to our car parked in Borth!  We had to go over the end dunes leaving footprints in the sand — isn’t there a song about that?  We sat on tufts of grass amongst the dunes to eat our chocolate. 
From there it was two and a half miles of firm sandy beach to walk to our car — fantastic! 
The tide was way out at first, but it crept in as we walked along.
Towards Borth we began to see little tree stumps sticking out of the sand.
It was only then that I remembered hearing about this ‘secret’ fossilised forest which appeared out of the sand after lying buried for four thousand years!
It was at its best three or four years ago when it first appeared — now it seems to be sinking beneath the waves again. 
But I was thrilled that we had seen it! 
I had forgotten all about the TV documentary I’d watched about it, and declaring at the time that I must go and see it before it disappears. 
Note to self — I must write things down. 
We also saw loads of large stranded jellyfish — they’d dried out on the beach and were floating dead on the incoming tide.  We wondered if their life cycle had come to an end and that was why so many of them had died.  It seemed strange that they could be caught out en masse like that. 
Borth seemed to take a long time to get near, but at last it did.  (Mind you, we were very tired by then so everything seemed to take a long time.)  There were man-made rock islands on the beach, as at Elmer near the very beginning of this Trek, put there to keep the beach in place and prevent flooding.
The tide was now up to the sea side of these islands, and the beach was shingle on the shore side.  So we climbed up to the prom which was along the top of the sea wall, and walked along until we came to our car parked on the road alongside.
That ended Walk no.363, we shall pick up Walk no.364 next time on the prom at Borth.  It was five past six, so the Walk had taken us eight hours and ten minutes.    We had our tea and biscuits, then drove back to our caravan.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Walk 362 -- Tonfanau to Pennal (Dovey Junction)

Ages:  Colin was 72 years and 343 days.  Rosemary was 70 years and 120 days.
Weather:  Very sunny all day.  There was a really cold wind at first, but it turned hot later.
Location:  Tonfanau, via Tywyn and Aberdovey, to Pennal (Dovey Junction).
Distance:  14 miles.
Total distance:  3740 miles.
Terrain:  First half flat — road at first, then miles of firm sandy beach — wonderful!  Second half steeply undulating — steps and narrow footpaths, lanes, a very uneven track and a road at the end.
Tide:  Out when it mattered.
Rivers: No.440, Afon Dysynni.  No.441, Afon Dyfi (River Dovey).
Ferries:  None.  (We pretended the railway bridge across the River Dovey was one so we could start the next Walk at Dovey Junction.)
Piers:  No.37, a small wooden pier in Aberdovey.
Kissing gates:  None.
Pubs:  None.
‘Cadw’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: Yesterday we towed our caravan from home to a site near Aberaeron. This morning we drove to Pennal and parked in the village. We caught an early bus to Aberdovey. Then we had to wait an hour on tiny Aberdovey Station for a train which took us to Tonfanau.
At the end we finished the Walk at the car in Pennal. We had our tea and biscuits, then drove back to our caravan.

My knees have been painful for about nine months now, especially my left knee. It is really impeding my walking. I was taking ibuprofen every day, and had to have regular blood tests to make sure it was doing me no harm. My GP sent me to a physiotherapist, a private one “which we use sometimes” but paid for by the NHS. I didn’t like him: (a) because he didn’t do anything for me, (b) because he made sexist remarks, but mainly (c) because he kept his pet dog in the treatment room!! He petted his dog and put it in a cage — then, after a cursory wash of his hands, he started working on me! On my last visit I saw his obese assistant (can you really have faith in a physiotherapist who is obese?) who made ageist remarks and told me I’d never get my knee sorted unless I paid for it! I was glad to get out of there.
Then I got an appointment with an orthopaedic practitioner at our local hospital. He was very good, and said the state of my left knee was so bad the whole knee needed replacing. He referred me to an orthopaedic surgeon. When I eventually got an appointment with him, he recommended an MRI scan knowing full well that I have a steel pin inside my left femur the length of my thigh! Of course, the scan was blurry and told us nothing. What a waste of NHS money! At my next appointment the orthopaedic surgeon gave me a cortisone injection directly into my knee. Miracle! All of a sudden I could walk normally with no pain! I kept expecting it to hurt, but it didn’t. So now I’m looking forward to another season of walking the coastline.
The wind made it very cold at the start of today’s Walk, despite the bright sunshine. We wore kags for warmth, and Colin even wore a fleecy hat. From Tonfanau Station we walked down the road alongside the railway, passing locked gates across the road and a kink in the footpath to stop vehicles going any further. The railway crossed a river, and nearby we came to a brand new footbridge across the same river. This bridge was not marked on our OS map. It looked very new, and had obviously been built recently for the Wales Coast Path. We walked over a non-slip surface which was almost like a carpet.
There followed a long boring walk into Tywyn. The railway, up on an embankment, was between us and the coast so we couldn’t see the sea. The back gate to one of the houses was a perfect circle — very Chinese. I do love a circular shape to a portal, somehow it’s calming. At the first level crossing we turned right and went straight down to the seafront.
We started walking along a concrete prom, but then we noticed that the tide was far enough out that we could walk straight along the beach beyond the ends of the breakwaters. So we went down there and walked along the sand. By now I had removed my kag and gloves, but Colin was still wrapped up in his — he said he was still cold. It was lovely to walk on a big sandy beach again. The tide was going out fast, so the beach got bigger as we walked along.
We passed by Tywyn town without really seeing it because we were so far down the beach. We did hear the whistle of the Tallyllyn Railway once — the station is in the town and the little steam train runs seven and a quarter miles inland to Nant Gwernol. As with all these little railways in North Wales, it was built in the mid 19th century to carry slate from the quarries to the coast. Despite the slump in the slate industry, this railway was still in use until 1951 when it was taken over by enthusiasts to be run as a tourist attraction. In the 1940s it was the inspiration behind the famous Thomas the Tank Engine books which are still enjoyed by children today — our grandson Adam, aged four, practically knows the stories by heart he has had them read to him so many times! We travelled on this railway on another day, and I first travelled on it back in 1962 when on holiday in Barmouth with my parents and siblings.
At the far end of Tywyn we sat on some steps and ate the rest of our pasties (most of which had been consumed when we were waiting for the train at Aberdovey station earlier this morning). We watched families with pre-school children playing on the beach. There were the usual number of obese people about — such a shame as they were mostly young. I removed my jumper as it was now much warmer, and continued wearing my fleece. Colin removed his kag, at last, but still kept on his gloves and fleecy hat. Then we walked for several miles on this fabulous beach all the way to Aberdovey.
We passed some artificial rock islands which had been put there to keep the beach in place — as at Felpham and Elmer to the east of Bognor (see the beginning of this blog/journal). We passed a fisherman’s tidal net with one big fish caught in it. And we passed several stranded jellyfish, some quite big in size
It was glorious walking along that expansive beach, we really did enjoy it. And we were not alone this time, there were several other couples doing the same thing on this lovely sunny day. Particularly, there were lots of people below a walkway over the dunes, but there was a car park above that spot
We passed a driftwood “sculpture” at the bottom of the dunes. Also a wartime pillbox — we think it had tumbled down and was upsidedown — reminding us of darker and more dangerous times not so very long ago. There were surveyors measuring the dunes near it — they told us the dunes are receding at an alarming rate.
As we rounded the corner into the Dovey estuary, the sand got softer making it a trifle more difficult to walk. There were terrific views across the river to Borth, with the tide out it looked so near it seemed as if we could walk across. But we knew we couldn’t — the river is far too deep. We wondered if there had ever been a ferry, surely there had?
The first bridge is miles up the river at Machynlleth and that is where the official Wales Coast Path goes, but we are going to count the railway crossing at Dovey Junction as our crossing point.
Aberdovey appeared above the dunes, a pretty town of colour-washed houses. We walked right round on the sand until the river forced us to leave the beach. We used the public loo, then sat on the beach near the closed Tourist Information Office (it’s only April and the sun is shining!) where we ate our sarnies. We tried to buy a tide table in the local shops, but were unsuccessful. In fact, the harbourmaster told us they don’t do them anymore — that was a lie! (I do so hate it when people would rather lie than admit they don’t know!) We walked on the little wooden jetty where there was a worn bollard and lots of fishing tackle.
We walked along the waterfront for about a hundred yards, then we climbed 48 steep steps between houses. Following that, the path continued to rise steeply uphill, almost vertically it seemed. Phew! It was hot! By this time we were both stripped off to our shirtsleeves and drinking lots of water. Our consolation was the wonderful view over the estuary behind us, and the bright gorse and blackthorn flowers all around us. The gorse shone out in such a brilliant yellow it almost hurt our eyes!
The path levelled out as it continued inland on the side of a wooded valley. The trees around here are not yet in leaf though they are just coming out at home — must be warmer there. We came to a fallen tree, but managed to struggle past. The stiles we came to were very posh with non-slip strips on the wood, not seen that before. But the steps up to them were very big — my poor knees!
We climbed up a very steep field to a farm, then turned left along a track to a tarmacked lane. Even this continued up and up, we never seemed to reach the top. We tried to walk on the grass at the side as this was softer, but it was a bit uneven. Colin saw a wild pansy, just one, and was delighted about it. I suppose it was because of its rarity — I didn’t think it was anything much. To our left was a beautiful rural valley, called “Happy Valley” on the map — I was much more enthralled with that.
Behind the fence was a pretty Jacob-type lamb that was bleating because it had lost it’s Mummy! We felt so sorry for it, but soon ‘Mummy’ heard it calling and they were reunited — Aaaaaaahh! 
We sat on a bank to eat our first chocolate (we had each brought two) to restore a bit of energy. A woman with a dog stopped to chat, she reassured us that there wasn’t much more uphill. At last we walked down into a dip to a farm. As we opened the gates to go through, the farm dogs went ballistic and took no notice of their owners calling them. We escaped unscathed on to a rough track which was very rocky, twisty and steeply uphill again
We still had a great view over the estuary, but it seemed a long way away from there. The track was flooded at times, but we always managed to bypass the puddles without getting our feet wet.
We passed a small standing stone that looked like a grave-stone. It had an inscription marked on it which said, “Carn March Arthur”. This meant nothing to us at the time, but later I looked it up on the internet and gathered that it is the fabled grave of King Arthur’s horse! There were initials scratched on the stone, some dating back to the 1920s.
We began to go downhill at last, but my dodgy knee didn’t like it at all, particularly over rough ground. I found it really hard going. At one point I was thankful to take a ‘short-cut’ over a field. We sat on a bank there and ate our apples. On the way down there were times when I thought I wouldn’t make it, but I kept on. I was finding steep downhills much tougher than uphills because of the pressure on my knees, especially my left one. We could see Dovey Junction Bridge in the far distance — Colin took a telephoto picture of it.
At last we came to a farm where we emerged on to a tarmacked lane. I found this easier walking, but after a few yards the lane went steeply downhill round twisty bends. This really hurt my knees and I was very slow. We got to the bottom at last, and came to a main road. There we made a decision not to go down to the railway bridge across the river nor to follow the Coast Path down that way (additional rule no.17) because I was dangerously tired.
There was a brand new footway/cycleway alongside the main road, and we were delighted. But our euphoria didn’t last long because it ran out after a hundred yards! “What are pedestrians supposed to do?” “Put on high-viz vests and stomp on, of course!” Which we did. The traffic was not too heavy. We sat in a bus shelter at Cwrt to eat our second chocolate, and we soon came to the village of Pennal where our car was parked.
Looking at the map, we had actually walked further inland than the railway bridge at Dovey Junction — and if there ever had been a ferry between Aberdovey and Borth, we shouldn’t have been walking inland at all.

That ended Walk no.362, we shall pick up Walk no.363 next time at Dovey Junction Station.  It was seven o’clock, so the Walk had taken us nine and a quarter hours.  We had our tea and biscuits, then drove back to our caravan.