Tuesday, June 25, 2019


Hello to all my regular readers! I know there are a number of you out there.
Thank you for your interest. 
At last we have got back to our Grand Coastal Trek after a break of 21 months due to complex problems at home.  Now well into our seventies, we find we are walking a lot more slowly than previously -- but still enjoying it enormously.  We have now reached Angle on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, and hope to continue from there later in the summer.
To all my readers, thank you for your interest in our venture.

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')

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Walk 365 -- Aberystwyth to Llanon

Ages:  Colin was 72 years and 349 days.  Rosemary was 70 years and 126 days.
Weather:  Very hot and very sunny.  There was a pleasant breeze in exposed places.  It is unbelievable weather for April!
Location:  Aberystwyth to Llanon.
Distance:  13 miles.
Total distance:  3772 miles.
Terrain:  A couple of sandy beaches, and one shingle beach which was impossible to walk!  But it was mostly cliff paths which were quite undulating.  Concrete and flat at the beginning and end.
Tide:  In, then going out.
Rivers:  No.445, Afon Rheidol.  No.446, Afon Ystwyth.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  Nos.789 to 815 (27 in all).  Nos.801 and 813 were so narrow we had to take our rucksacks off in order to get through!
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 into Aberaeron, parked and walked to the bus stop.  We caught a bus to Aberystwyth Bus Station, then walked down to the river bridge.
At the end we got as far as the village of Llanon when we had to (’had to’ because there were barbed wire fences everywhere stopping us from going any other way) walk along a shingle beach.  I couldn’t cope with the loose stones — it put my back out and from then on my knee started to play up.  We went inland — we had no choice.  It was late, we were tired, and my back and knee were merry hell!  So when I saw a bus stop I decided the Walk was over.  We waited 20 minutes for a bus to Aberaeron where we got into our car and returned to our caravan. 

We set up and started today’s Walk by 7.30am — is that a record?  It was certainly lovely to be out at this early hour on such a beautiful day.  Passing an ornate lamp, we crossed the bridge over the River Rheidol.  This seems to be a much more significant river than the River Ystwyth which comes out into the sea at the same point.  We cannot understand why the town is called Aberystwyth — surely it should be Aberrheidol? 
We made our way past buildings to the riverside and walked down in front of bijou riverside residences which overlook the harbour and the marina within it.  The bijou residences were new and box-like, and cynically we wondered if they were tomorrow’s slums.
We crossed the River Ystwyth, a mere stream, which also empties into the harbour.  We noticed there were no railings on the south arm of the harbour, so we decided not to walk it for safety reasons.The coast path led south along the back of a shingle bank.  The local people had got together to prevent a development on this site — and they won!  Good on them!  The site is now a nature reserve.
At the top of the hill on the east side of the Ystwyth we could just see a tall column like a factory chimney.  A notice told us that this was erected in 1858 as a memorial to the Duke of Wellington.  At the bottom of this notice someone had put a large stone, on it was written “Litter is pollution, You are the solution”.  Colin climbed on to the shingle bank to see if there was any sand exposed on the beach for us to walk on.  There was, so that is what we did.
At the end of the beach we had a big hill to climb — it seemed a long way to the top.  Every time we thought we were just coming to it, more hill was revealed to us.  We were passed by a girl student who was out for a run.  She was very friendly and stopped for a chat.  Then she ran on to the top and back down — Oh!  To be young again! 
We did, eventually, reach the top ourselves, and there we were treated to wonderful views of a blue sky, blue sea, green hills, interesting geology, yellow gorse and blue violets.  We sat on a bank and ate our pasties while we soaked it all in.
As we descended we passed the back of a caravan site where a man was strimming the grass, and it was so noisy!  In recent years we’ve spent a lot of time sitting on caravan sites, and so often our peace has been disturbed by these loud mowers and strimmers — they ought to be banned!  We exited on to a lane where, almost opposite, was a gate leading into a field.  There we had to climb an almost vertical hill.  My left knee didn’t like it at all, so I started taking paracetamol and ibuprofen in tandem to ease the pain.  We took a long time getting up.  Two men were following us on the same path, but they never quite caught us up.
We came out on to a lane where there were lots of primroses.  Round the next corner a track led off to the right and it was signposted Coast Path.  We seemed to lose the two men there — did they not see the sign and go the wrong way?  We descended slowly, gently enough not to upset my knee which was twingeing, down a lovely grassy track for about a mile.  This was a lovely part of the Walk, I really did enjoy it — the views were fantastic and the walking gentle.  The path evened out to a flat track parallel to the shore, and we still had amazing views on this lovely sunny day.
We approached a ruined farm.  Just before we reached it Colin noticed an arrow pointing us up and around behind it.  I would have missed it and carried on through the farm — we wished we had afterwards!  We seemed to lose all signage until I noticed a post lying on the ground.  Colin stood it up, and we worked out we were supposed to go sharply inland up a steep hill.  Oh dear, my poor knee!  We struggled up several contours, then bore right following the footpath signs.  We saw the two men again — they were down by the derelict farm.  They were dithering about and appeared lost, so Colin waved to them and pointed to the wooden signpost we were passing.  They either didn’t see us or ignored us, because they carried on in a straight line.
Then, to our dismay, our path directed us downhill again to their level!!  We couldn’t believe it!  And the slope was steep enough to really upset my knee.  We could have stayed on the level which was a much shorter track, and my knee wouldn’t have been nearly so painful.
The two men were ahead of us now despite their hesitation by the derelict farm where they had made the right decision and we had made the wrong one.  The path continued through a gate and down to the cliff top (all of this was new and not marked on the OS map).  We went diagonally across the next field — blow sticking to the footpath, we’d had enough of that!  In a field ahead the two men seemed to be dithering again.  Then one went uphill towards a building, and the other followed.  We heard them talking to some hikers coming the other way.  We were a bit lost too, and got out our map — it was difficult to see where we were because the paths we were on were not marked on it, and there was no signage within view.  Then two ladies appeared from behind bushes, so we asked them if that was the way — they said it was.  Where was the signage to say we divert up there?  The ladies lived locally, and they agreed that the signage on this part of the Wales Coastal Path was “fuzzy”.  We told them about our project and gave them blog cards (are you still reading it, ladies?)  They were impressed and said we were “brave” — No!  Just mad! 
Hidden behind the bushes was a gate — this led to a track which soon reduced to a footpath.  But at least we were going the right way!  It was a bit of a mountain footpath really, along the side of a hill and not always horizontal.  But we had stupendous views!  We passed wind-blasted trees and bright yellow gorse, and were thankful that the weather was calm and sunny — we didn’t like to think what it would be like on that exposed path if it was wet and windy.
We passed interesting rocks and walked up and down steep slopes.  We passed a gate leading to a nature reserve, but that was steeply downhill so we ignored it.  We sat on a bank to eat our sarnies.  The two men were a little ahead of us doing the same, but they soon moved on and we didn’t see them again.  We caught tantalising glimpses of a caravan site round the hills ahead, it was out on a spur.  But we still had a lot of ground to cover before we got there.  There seemed to be a lot of uphill, my knees didn’t like it at all.
At last we were above the caravan site — downhill all the way now, so we were fooled into thinking!  We sat on a wall to eat our apples.  Colin saw a bright green lizard, but it had gone by the time I looked.  We continued down almost to sea level, then had to go a bit uphill in order to get round the caravan site.  I was extremely tired, my knees were painful especially the left one, the sun was very hot and a man on a motor mower (Yes!  Another one!) nearly drove me mad with the noise.  The path took us round a field behind the caravan site.  We sat on a bench because it was there.  Colin ate his crisps, but I don’t eat crisps ever since I read in a walking magazine that their nutritional value is so low they take more energy to consume than they put back into your body.  Junk food!  We filled our water bottles at a tap near the caravan site entrance.  We drank a lot of water because we could replenish it, and immediately felt a lot better.
From there we had to go up a road, uphill and away from the sea.  We were not happy about this — there was a bridle path going down to the beach, could we have crossed the river down there where it spreads out and is sometimes shallower?  We could hear the traffic on the main road getting nearer and nearer, not a sound we had heard since we left Aberystwyth.
We were almost at the road when, at last, we could cross the small river.  Then we followed a long lane back to the shore.  Halfway along we passed a road leading off to the right back to the caravan site, so it seemed.  Had we been cheated?  But we hadn’t — looking at the map later we saw that it led to a different caravan site on the south side of the river.
The coast path continued along the beach — shingle!  My heart sank!  But by now the tide was sufficiently out to reveal a strip of sand.  So we tried that — it was a little soft but pleasant to walk.  The sand ran out where there was a gate into a field, and the way continued along the edge of several pastures.  Trouble was, there were stiles instead of gates and I am finding them increasingly difficult as I get older.  (Stop moaning, grumpy old woman!) 
We passed a row of old lime kilns, and sat on a bank in cool shade to eat our chocolate.  There were clumps of primroses everywhere.
We climbed over a stile and the path turned into a track which took us towards a church.  We didn’t look at the map properly because we were so hot and tired.  An added difficulty was that we were on the corner of two maps, and we hadn’t bought the connecting map because it was completely inland, it didn’t show the coast at all.  We crossed a stream and went straight down to the beach which was shingle again.  We couldn’t see a path anywhere, but a woman in a nearby house told us we were going the right way.  The trouble was, the path shown on the OS map went along the edge of fields at the top of the shore.  But that had long since fallen into the sea and everywhere there were “Private” and “Keep Out” notices.  So we retreated to a footpath which went diagonally across to the beach further down.  We passed an open area with benches and litter bins — their village green I suppose.  It looked a pleasant spot.
We came to metal steps which lowered us down to the beach below soft cliffs — shingle again!  It was impossible to walk on but there was no other way.  I found it particularly difficult because of the state of my knees.  (I said I’d rather walk along a main road, that’s how bad it was!)  We came to another set of metal steps and thankfully climbed them — if only we’d known how near the path up from the beach was we’d have carried on despite the difficulties, hindsight is a wonderful thing!  At the top of the steps we had no choice but to walk inland for about a mile between two barbed wire fences.  (All of this path was on the inland map which we didn’t have, so we were walking ‘blind’.)  We felt very tired and cross.  We came to the main road.  Traffic!  No Wales Coastal Path signs!  We felt abandoned.
We saw a bus stop, and noted there was a bus to Aberaeron in twenty minutes.  Colin wanted to continue, but we didn’t know if the lane we were turning on to was the right one.  There were no signs and we had no map.  I said, “No!  I’ve had enough!”  We waited for the bus. 

That ended Walk no.365, we shall pick up Walk no.366 next time on the main road in Llanon.  It was half past five, so the Walk had taken us ten hours.  We caught a bus to Aberaeron where we got into our car and returned to our caravan.  We were disappointed that we’d cut short our planned walk, but perhaps eighteen miles over that sort of terrain was a bit ambitious.  The next day my back went, and I’m convinced it was triggered by walking along that shingle beach.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Walk 364 -- Borth to Aberystwyth

(We were accompanied on this Walk by friends who live locally — Keith, his friend Liz, and his dog Billie.  Colin knew Keith at Bishops Castle School back in the 1950s)
Ages:  Colin was 72 years and 347 days.  Rosemary was 70 years and 124 days.
Weather:  Hot and sunny.  A cool breeze in exposed places.
Location:  Borth to Aberystwyth.
Distance:  7 miles.
Total distance:  3759 miles.
Terrain:  Mostly cliff paths which were very undulating.  Concrete and flat at the beginning and end.
Tide:  Going out.
Rivers: No.444, Bow Street Brook.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  No.38, Aberystwyth.
Kissing gates:  Nos.784 to 788 (5 in all) on the cliffs.
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 didn’t catch the train, instead we met Keith, Liz and Billie the dog who had travelled on it from Aberystwyth.  We walked down to the seafront together.
At the end we finished the Walk at the main river bridge in Aberystwyth.  Keith and Liz had parked near the station this morning, so they walked with us to there and pointed out the bus station just around the corner.  We said our “Goodbyes” after a really lovely day, and caught a bus to Borth where we alighted very near our parked car.  We had our tea and biscuits, then drove back to our caravan.

We met Keith, his friend Liz and his dog Billie at Borth station and walked with them straight down to the sea front.  (Keith, who lives in Aberystwyth, is an old school friend of Colin’s from nearly sixty years ago.)  It was really nice to have company for one of our Walks — the first time this has happened since 2003 when we were walking the Suffolk/Norfolk coast.
We passed a weird standing slate with a hole in the top, supposed to be some kind of sculpture, we thought.  It was covered in writing in Welsh, which even Keith and Liz couldn’t make out though each speak a smattering of the language.  Then we passed a Nisa supermarket which was housed in a most extraordinarily shaped building.  We were disappointed that the prom stopped as soon as we reached the village proper, forcing us to walk along streets between rows of houses.
We started to climb the cliffs before the houses ran out, and wonderful views began to reveal themselves.  We had a stiff climb up to the War Memorial at the top of a hill.  Following that we walked right down into a deep gully almost to sea level, then up even higher to the top of another hill — followed by a very steep and difficult descent into a second gully.  BUT — the gorse, which was growing everywhere, was so bright it almost hurt our eyes, and the views were truly spectacular.
After the first gully we sat on a bank to eat our pies.  Keith and Liz said they were relieved when we had indicated in an e-mail that we would have frequent refreshment stops on the way.  They were perfect walking companions for us, sauntering along at our slow pace.  In fact we were surprised to find how fit they were, coping with the steep slopes far better than me.  They had done this Walk before but the other way round, and Liz particularly had found it hard with the two deep gullies at the end when she was tired.  They said it was better to walk it this way round with the tough bits at the beginning when we were fresh.
From the second hill we had a glorious view back along the whole of the Borth sandspit all the way to the River Dovey with Aberdovey on the other side.  We felt quite proud of ourselves looking back at all the walking we had done.
After the second gully we came across a lost lamb — it had managed to get out of an adjacent field on to the coast path and couldn’t remember where the hole in the fence was to get back.  Keith tried to distract Billie, but the lamb was very distressed.  I walked on, remembering a time many years ago when we had tried to help just such a lamb on a cliff path in Devon — I put my back out resulting in months of excruciating pain!  Keith, a countryman, was keen to reunite the lamb with its mother, but they couldn’t catch it although the three of them had surrounded it at one time.  (I was watching the drama unfold from the next grassy knoll.)  It escaped and ran further down the path, dashed off through the gorse (Ouch!) and came out in a field — the wrong field!  It was still bleating through the fence for its Mum, but at least it was off the cliff path now.  We all felt there was nothing more we could do, so the others came on and caught me up.
The path was still undulating, but not so steeply — it was much more reasonable.  The gorse was still blinding, and the blackthorn blossom wasn’t too bad.  The views were just as spectacular, the geology amazing, the weather wonderful and the company great — in fact everything was perfect!  Billie was very good — he never wandered off even though he wasn’t on a lead.  He ran back and forth all the time keeping us all in a ‘herd’.  We came down, more gently this time, to a footbridge where a house was being built.  We sat on a bank and ate our sarnies, and stayed on for a long time in the sunshine just chatting.
We climbed over the next mound, and down to a caravan site complex.  There we caught our first sight of Aberystwyth Harbour.  We thought the shops there were all shut, but Colin found one round the side which was open.  We bought ice creams — they gave us the strength to climb to the top of Constitution Hill where we bought a huge pot of tea for four in the café there, and Liz bought us Welsh cakes to go with it.  There is a magnificent view of Aberystwyth from the terrace.  We all felt really relaxed and content.

Eventually we tore ourselves away and made our way down the steep zigzag path to sea level.  The cliff railway didn’t seem to be working that day — not that Colin and I could have used it anyway, it is against our rules!
A notice told us about the bar at the beginning of the prom: 
“Kick the Bar” is a local tradition which involves walking the length of the promenade to kick the railings at its northern end.  Some say it started when the male college students used to “kick the bar” to attract the attention of the female students lodged in nearby Alexandra Hall, once a female-only hall of residence.  Another story says that college students were once encouraged to walk the length of the prom to “kick the bar” in order to get fresh air and exercise, in order to reduce the spread of tuberculosis in the college. 
Whatever, both Keith and Colin — in their seventies the pair of them — spent the next five minutes proving they could “kick the bar” with both feet at the same time.  Boys never grow up! 
Fifteen months ago, this whole prom was destroyed in winter storms.  It has now been restored to its former glory, apart from the bandstand where work hasn’t yet been completed.  It’s a lovely waterfront with tulips ablaze in little gardens and lined by coloured houses across the road.  There were lots of people about on this sunny day, and we enjoyed the atmosphere as we walked towards the pier.  We did notice that a lot of the passers-by were obese, but I didn’t take pictures of them as I did at Skegness.  It’s become too much of a regular scene these days — and many of them are young which is very sad.  Can’t they see what they are doing to themselves? 
At the pier, Keith took a picture of Colin and myself with our heads stuck out of holes in a cartoon picture!  I wanted to walk to the end of the pier as it is in our rules, but we couldn’t find our way through.  In the end we discovered it was a zigzag route through the “Musies” (which is what I have called seaside amusement arcades ever since one of my students at Bognor School wanted to put “playing at the Musies” on his CV as his main hobby!) then through a darkened billiard room before we found an insignificant door leading out to the end of the pier.  They really didn’t want us to find it!  From there we were able to see that the cliff railway was now working.  Dogs were not allowed in the “Musies” so Keith stayed out on the prom with Billie.

Aberystwyth has been a University town since the 1870s.  We carried on along the waterfront past the original University buildings, many of which I’m sure, are ‘listed’ because they are so beautiful.
On the end tower were some mosaics, and there were mosaics set in the wall at eye level.  There was a sculpture on top of the wall — we’re not sure, but we think it was made to commemorate the University accepting women students from as early as 1884.  Keith told us that the woman who posed for it came back to Aberystwyth when she was a hundred to see what she had looked like when she was young!
We rounded a minor headland and were presented with what looked like another Aberystwyth — talk about déjà vu!
There was another beach with students playing on it, another row of coloured houses, more tulips in blazing colours, and lots more mosaics in wall cavities illustrating the history of the town.  Above the wall with the mosaics we could see the scant remains of an ancient castle, but we didn’t go up there today.
We could see the bridge over Afon Rheidol which seemed to be a much more important river than Afon Ystwyth.  We wondered why the town isn’t called Aberrheidol.
We walked to the end of the road and continued on to a wooden harbour arm called The Bar.  Liz tried out my walking poles because she is thinking of getting some, but she had great difficulty with co-ordination when using them.  I’ve had other friends who’ve experienced the same difficulty, but I’ve always found them very simple to use, and very helpful on a long hike too.

We sat on a weird seat which was celebrating metal mining, and another seat had curling snakes for it’s legs and back.  The small harbour is now a marina for leisure craft.  We walked along the river to the bridge.

That ended Walk no.364, we shall pick up Walk no.365 next time at the bridge over Afon Rheidol in Aberystwyth.  It was quarter to six, so the Walk had taken us eight hours.  Keith and Liz had parked near the station this morning, so they walked with us to there and pointed out the bus station just around the corner.  We said our “Goodbyes” after a really lovely day, and caught a bus to Borth where we alighted very near our parked car.  We had our tea and biscuits, then drove back to our caravan.
My left knee started complaining again today, especially when I was going steeply downhill.  Maybe it is not as ‘cured’ as I thought it was.  It was OK when I was walking along the flat, and chatting with friends helped to take my mind off it.