Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Current

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.
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')

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Walk 372 -- Newport (Trefdraeth) to Fishguard

Ages:  Colin was 73 years and 62 days.  Rosemary was 70 years and 204 days.
Weather:  Sunny and hot.  A slight breeze in exposed places which was very welcome.
Location:  Newport (Trefdraeth) to Fishguard.
Distance:  13 miles.
Total distance:  3842 miles.
Terrain:  Cliff paths which were narrow, uneven and steeply undulating with lots of steps.  Overgrown in many places, it had a neglected feel.  We often felt ‘imprisoned’ on a narrow strip between a barbed wire fence on one side and a hedge on the other.
Tide:  High water 2.30pm approx.
Rivers:  No.450,  Afon Gwaun in Fishguard.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  Nos.881, 882, 883, 884, & 885.  (Better than the last Walk!)
Pubs:  None.
‘Cadw’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We were staying in our caravan in Letterston.  This morning we drove to Fishguard and parked in a picnic site overlooking Goodwick Sands.  We walked to the bus stop in town and caught a bus to Newport.  There we walked down to Parrog Beach.
At the end we came to the car.  We had our tea, then returned to the caravan.

From the car park, where we parked last time, we walked on to the seafront.  It wasn’t really a seafront as such, it was the mouth of the river Nyfer.  The tide was more or less out and there were a number of small boats on the sands and in the river.  It was a lovely scene on this bright sunny day.
We walked a short way on muddy sands, then on a path which went in front of some cottages.  We greeted a group of ladies who were sitting with their dogs enjoying the sunshine and early morning coffee.  They looked very relaxed.
The path led up on to the cliffs where we were treated to amazing views.
We saw a number of different birds on the cliffs which they use for nesting, the season being almost finished by now.  It was a beautiful day and all seemed right with the world — if only my b----y knee wasn’t so painful! 
It was about a mile and a half to the beach at Cwm Rhigian along a very wiggly route.  The path was narrow and it was very up & down — not an easy walk.  But it was worth it because of the panoramic views all along.
On the beach at Cwm Rhigian we sat on a rock to eat our pasties whilst watching kayakers playing about in the water and swapping canoes between themselves.  Colin wished he could join them! 
We carried on up the cliffs, it was very hot.  Sometimes we managed to get into the shade of bushes or trees and then it was cooler and we felt better.  We loved the views, and the eroded rocks we could see at the bottom of the cliffs were interesting too. 
We descended to sea level again at Cwm Dyffryn where there was a footbridge across a stream.  We ascended again on a much better path so we were able to walk more quickly.  This path eventually led on to a tarmacked lane which took us down to Cwm-yr-Eglwrs where we came across an ice cream van — we couldn’t resist! 
We sat on a bench eating our delicious concoctions whilst watching the world go by.  There were quite a few people about by then, all enjoying the lovely day.  A lot of people were on the beach and in the water — but we had a long Walk to get on with so we mustn’t dawdle.  We had a look at a ruined church which we passed, and then got going.
We started up the footpath to Dinas Head which soon opened out to fantastic views.  It all seemed very colourful, we loved the green of the fern against the blue of the sea.
There were lots of people about walking in both directions around the Head.  We reckoned it was the most popular path we’d been on for a long time.
My knee began to be a nuisance, especially on steps.  I stopped to take paracetamol and ibuprofen in tandem, but it didn’t make any difference.  In fact it got worse the further we walked.
One chap we met, looking at my walking poles, made that tired old ‘joke’ about skis — aaaaaaargh—gh!  That was all I needed! 
At last we made it to the viewpoint at the end of Dinas Head.  There were lots of people about, but somehow it didn’t seem crowded.  We found a rock for me to sit on which was a natural armchair.  It was very comfy!  We ate our sarnies there looking out over the sea.  It was sunny with a gentle breeze — just perfect!  I could forget about my painful knees for a little while. 
As we continued along the Coast Path there were magnificent views in all directions.  In the distance we watched the Irish ferry leave Fishguard, our destination for today.  The ferry was the only one for the rest of the day — not many ferries use Fishguard these days.
We descended the western side of Dinas Head, it was a much gentler slope this side.  There were lots of people climbing up, but we were hot and tired even though we were on our way down.  We came to a pub at the bottom — wonderful!  But we ordered tea, not beer, because it is so refreshing on a hot sunny day.  Tea is a real pick-me-up.
We thought we were about halfway on our Walk at this point, a signpost told us it was six miles to Fishguard along the coast path.  In hindsight, considering the state of my knees, we should have curtailed our Walk at the pub where we had our tea and done the second half on another day.  (Hindsight is a wonderful thing!) 
We climbed a steep slope with lots of steps, and the pain in my knees was hell despite all the painkillers I had taken.  But I wasn’t going to give in! 
It opened out at the top, and we thought (hoped?) that the path might be kinder for this second half — we were wrong!  It soon closed up to a strip between a barbed wire fence and hedges which blocked our view.  It was narrow and very overgrown for the most part, we felt trapped.  We met far less people on this leg of the Walk, now we knew why. 
Mind you, when we could see the view it continued to be amazing.

Colin noticed bushes which were leaning horizontally, and we conjectured that it must be extremely windy a lot of the time up on these cliffs.  We’ve certainly been lucky with the weather today, it could have been hell and those bushes were the evidence.  But we’ve both been sweating buckets, it’s been so hot.
Then the gullies started — one deep one, and half a mile later we descended to a stony beach.  Some of the steps to get down were HUGE!  I couldn’t have got down without my walking poles, and the path was horribly overgrown.
We crossed a narrow wooden bridge, then ascended a good stony path — a refreshing change from the difficulties of the descent.  At the top we sat on a fence by a gate to eat our first chocolate — we had packed two each for today’s long Walk! 
We walked up a zigzag lane with the sun in our eyes because we were going due west.  Because of our temporary blindness we almost missed the path leading off taking us back to the clifftop, but luckily Colin noticed it before we had walked past it.  Again the path was narrow and overgrown between a barbed wire fence and hedges to seaward — it felt like a long thin prison.  My knee pain got worse and worse, I don’t know how I bore it at times.
The scenery we were passing was fantastic!  It included a rock arch, and was easily the best coast for rocks we have been on for this entire trek.
But the sun directly in our eyes was horrid, and our progress was slow because of my painful knee.  We came to a holiday park and hoped that things would be better after it.  They weren’t.
We went up to a “Castell” owned by the National Trust, but even that was over-grown.  We could see the houses of Fishguard ahead, but first we had another gully to cross — we couldn’t believe it!  The sun, by now, was behind a cloud but there was no sign of rain, thank goodness.
We eventually came out in a fort with guns!  (Well, cannons.)  It was interesting looking around.  The fort is in a prominent position overlooking the little port of Fishguard.
We walked down the road to the river bridge where we came across a sculpture celebrating the herring industry which was very important in this area at one time.  Even that had a cannon next to it.  Our route was all on tarmacked paths from now on, which was just as well because it was beginning to get dark.
We walked alongside the river on the north-west side for a little way, then started up the hill.  It was me who noticed where we had to turn off on a path which went back on itself, Colin almost missed it because he was so tired he was walking along in a kind of a daze.  This path took us up high where we had good views over Fishguard village and the river bridge.
Then we went down and down.  We thought we may have gone too far along the high path and missed the car park where we left our car this morning, but it was not so — we came to it spot on!  It was full of young people sitting in their cars chatting from car to car. 

That ended Walk no.372, we shall pick up Walk no.373 next time in the car park overlooking Goodwick Sands.  It was twenty past nine, so the Walk had taken us twelve hours.  We had our tea, then returned to the caravan.  We had enjoyed the first half of this spectacular Walk, but not the second half.  We couldn’t believe it had taken us twelve hours!!  I’m wondering how much longer I can continue with my increasingly painful knees.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Walk 371 -- Cardigan (Aberteifi) to Newport (Trefdraeth)

Ages:  Colin was 73 years and 60 days.  Rosemary was 70 years and 202 days.
Weather:  At the start threatening showers came to nothing.  The sky cleared and it was very sunny for most of the day.  A strong wind nearly blew us off our feet at times, but it was not cold.  Towards the end it clouded over turning to drizzle and then rain.
Location:  Cardigan (Aberteifi) to Newport (Trefdraeth).
Distance:  18 miles.
Total distance:  3829 miles.
Terrain:  Tarmacked lanes at first which were mostly flat.  Good tracks towards the end, again these were mostly flat.  But the majority of the Walk was very challenging, not helped by the strong wind.  We climbed steeply undulating cliff paths, many were overgrown and there were huge steps in places.
Tide:  High water noon, low water 6pm – ish.
Rivers:  No.448,  Afon Teifi in Cardigan.  No.449, Afon Nyfer in Newport.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  None.
Pubs:  None.
‘Cadw’ properties:  No.11, St Dogmaels Abbey which we visited on a different day.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  Two days ago we towed our caravan from London (where we had been visiting our grandson) to Letterston in Pembrokeshire.  This morning we drove to Newport and parked on Parrog Beach.  We walked to the bus stop in town and caught a bus to Cardigan.  There we walked down to the river bridge.
At the end we came to the car.  It was very late, so we got straight in and returned to our caravan.

I have been dealt a triple whammy this year.  As a child I was the sixth in a family of eight, and my eldest sister, Veronica, was eleven years older than me.  Like me, she led a very active life in retirement and seemed to be in good health for her 81 years.  She loved gardening, hiking, playing bowls and above all — dancing.  Twice a week she went to her local dancing club and danced the night away with her husband and friends.  Last February she rang me up and said, “I’ve got ovarian cancer and it’s at quite an advanced stage!”  I was struck dumb!  “How long have you known about this?” I managed to ask eventually.  “Only a couple of weeks!” she replied. 
She died twelve days later! 
Veronica was like a second mother to me when I was a child.  Because our mother had so many children, Veronica took on the task of helping care for her younger siblings.  I had long hair until I was six, and Veronica used to brush and plait it for me each morning before she went to school.  When I started school, she used to meet me off the bus and see me across a main road to my school before cycling on to her own.  It was Veronica who taught me to knit, a skill in which I take great pleasure to this day.  It was Veronica who took me to the cinema for the first time — we saw  Alice in Wonderland  and I remember her laughing because I was frightened of the Cheshire Cat and hid under the seat!  Veronica took me and my brothers to our first pantomime, and to Chessington Zoo before it became a theme park.  She paid for my dancing lessons out of her first pay packet.  To lose Veronica is like losing my mother for a second time.
My eldest brother, Frank, was nine years older than me.  He was a Salesian priest and had lived in Malta since 1970.  He taught maths and geography in various Salesian schools there, but his main interest was keeping disadvantaged and disaffected boys off the streets by interesting them in sport.  He was an athlete himself — he used to run marathons and cycle all over Europe, even in his fifties and sixties.  When he retired from teaching he instituted an athletics club in Malta which he continued to run for many years, enthusing the children — for by now girls were allowed to join — to do their very best, and more.  In his late sixties Frank was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.  Slowly he began to lose the ability to run, and then he could no longer even ride his bike — his first love had always been cycling.  Then he lost the use of his legs and had to resort to a wheelchair.  But he never lost his enthusiasm for his athletics club even from his wheelchair, and continued to encourage the children to do their utmost on a daily basis.  The Parkinson’s affected his heart, and he had stents put in.  He told me, “I have to take 21 pills a day, I don’t know what they are all for!” 
Frank and Veronica were always very close — they had been through many frightening experiences together during the War when they were little.  The last time I spoke to Frank, on the phone, he said, “I always envied Veronica her good health!”  He had a fatal heart attack a couple of weeks later, dying just 3 months after Veronica.  He was 79.
Over the past months my knees have deteriorated considerably, particularly my left knee.  Some days I can only hobble, and I have taken to using crutches when I go out to save myself from falling when my knees give way.  They are so painful!  I am determined not to give up on the Coastal Trek because it is something I have wanted to do ever since I was a child.  But unless I can get effective treatment, I’m going to have to.  The thought of never being able to walk in the countryside again, through a wood or along a beach, fills me with gloom.  In fact, I am quite seriously depressed, but all my GP can offer me is ‘Happy Pills’ which I don’t want to take.  Pills are not the answer! 
Now, after that rant, I will get on with writing up today’s Walk. 
St  Dogmaels  Abbey 
We visited St Dogmaels Abbey on a different day towards the end of this break because we didn’t have time on the Walk.  My knees were giving me hell, and I could barely hobble about.  The abbey was built in the 12th century and abandoned in the 16th after Henry VIII’s mob had routed out the remaining monks — usual story.  The building was left to rot and there is not much of it remaining today.  A group of people were standing in the middle of the ruins singing jolly Christian songs on the afternoon of our visit.  We declined to join them, though we would have been welcome had we wanted to.

Today’s planned Walk was a long one due to lack of access points.  So I downed loads of painkillers, grabbed my walking poles and we got going.  There were no kissing gates on the whole Walk — we felt cheated!  (Doesn’t Pembrokeshire County Council believe in them?  There were plenty in Ceredigion.)  There I go, ranting on again — get on with writing about the Walk, girl! 
We started the Walk wearing full wet-weather gear because yesterday had been an horrendously rainy day and it was still pouring when we got up this morning.  We crossed the bridge over the River Teifi in Cardigan which meant we were now in Pembrokeshire.  Following the road on the west side of the river, we passed a redundant loo block which was fast becoming overgrown with bushes.  (But we had just used toilets in Cardigan, so we were OK.) 
We failed to find the path by the river which was shown clearly on our newly-bought OS map.  We concluded that it must be overgrown or eroded and slipped into the river.  The road we were on was narrow and fairly busy.  The ‘official’ Wales Coast Path route would have sent us uphill and across several fields, so we ignored it and made do with the road, which was nearer the shore anyhow.  We soon came to a place where we could access the riverside, and what’s more — the sun was shining!  We sat on a bench and divested ourselves of our wet-weather gear.
We ate the pies we had bought at Tesco that morning.  The pastry underneath was soggy — we might have known because of all the accolades on the packaging, “We only want to make you happy!”   “Tweet us!”  “Like us on facebook!”  and other such rubbish.  No thank you — your pastry was soggy!  It was a good path by the river, easy to walk.
We came to a green with a children’s playground.  Colin stopped to chat to a man about his dog while I read a notice about an “answering stone”.  Apparently it was where they used to bless ships on their way from Cardigan Port, but there is no port there now.  We think there was supposed to be an echo across the river, but we tried it out and there was hardly one.  (We have heard better echoes at Lathkill Dale in Derbyshire.)  We continued to a mermaid statue and a mosaic footprint — don’t know what that was all about, but there were good views of the river from there including Cardigan Island which we weren’t allowed to view from the other side because it was someone’s ‘private’ view.
Colin stopped to chat to some women and their dogs without any inkling that we had a very long walk ahead of us, which is the reason we got up at 5 this morning.  He has no idea of time, and never has had!  Eventually I managed to drag him away, and we followed the estuary up to Poppit Sands.  It looked a very nice beach, but we didn’t go down on it because there was only one entrance/exit — hence a dead end.
The lane turned slightly inland, was narrow and uphill.  We had to squash into the hedge every time a vehicle came by, luckily they were few.  Colin saved a snail which was trying to cross the road — goodness knows why because he hates snails, and if he finds them in the garden he chucks them into the road to get run over!
It was getting hot, so Colin unzipped his trouser legs to turn the garment into shorts.  But he couldn’t be bothered to remove his boots to take off the lower parts, so he left them flapping around his ankles like oversize socks.  He looked utterly ridiculous! 
We came to a farm entrance where we were amused by the notice the farmer had put up to deter people from parking in his way.  There was a campsite there, but it was very windy and I wouldn’t have liked to camp there.  There was one brave taker whose small tent was flapping in the wind.  The path doglegged around the farm, where a ‘shop’ was open, through a gate and turned into an uneven cliff path up to Cemaes Head.
We’d been dawdling and taking far too long over these first ‘easy’ miles.  As we turned south-east at Cemaes Head the wind caught us and several times nearly knocked us off our feet.  It was gusty and quite strong — we didn’t feel entirely safe up there on the clifftops.
The path was narrow, uneven and very steep in places.
There were a lot of stiles, which I find quite difficult to get over these days, and there were no kissing gates to amuse us, just ordinary ones.  This Walk was proving to be a lot more challenging than we had anticipated.
Despite these conditions, there were quite a few people walking this part of the Coast Path in both directions.  (We are in Pembrokeshire now, where the Coast Path has been established for many years.  The Coast Path in Ceredigion is just as lovely, but practically deserted.) 
We came to a ‘corner’, and found a place where we could sit on a bank sheltered from the wind by bushes.  So we sat there and ate our sarnies.
When we got up I started walking off in the wrong direction—somehow I had got disorientated.
We came to a notice warning us that the path onwards was “remote and rugged with numerous very steep hills, no escape routes, high cliffs to seaward, no water and no facilities”.  We carried on to wonderful views, lovely flowers and amazing geology!
It was wonderful to be by the sea again, there were a lot of ‘white horses’ out there.  It helped to clear my muzzy head after my family bereavements.  The wind was a bit strong in places, but it wasn’t cold and we got used to it — after all we had weathered far worse conditions in Scotland.  Yes, it was uneven and steep, especially one gully where we had to descend a lot of steps to a footbridge and then climb the other side.  Some of the path was horribly overgrown which made progress difficult.
But it was just so wonderful to be out on the cliffs again, I felt as though all my anxieties were blowing away in the wind.
We found another sheltered bank on which to sit and eat our apples.  From there we could see the lane coming up from the hamlet of Moylgrove so we knew approximately where we were.  Further on Colin complained that the lane didn’t look any nearer, but I thought it did.  (I think he was getting tired) 
The path led us behind a cottage where we met an old man, obviously a local.  He told us there were four choughs flying around on the clifftops squeaking for food because their parents had decided they were old enough to find their own.  We thanked him politely for the information, but we didn’t see any of them.
We descended lots of steps to sea level and crossed a stone footbridge at the inner end of a tidal inlet.
Climbing up the other side we found we were directly above a couple of blowholes which we had seen while descending.  I videoed one of them — very exciting!
We started on the next bit of the Coast Path passing a notice which told us it was 8½ miles to Newport.  Help!  Best get on with it then — there’s no way out!  This path was better maintained at first, so the going was marginally easier.
We came to where the path crossed over a natural bridge.  The sea came underneath us into a collapsed cave.  It is a pretty unique place, very dramatic.
A couple of cyclists came down the steps to it pushing their bikes — mad! 
We came to another notice telling us the way on was “remote and rugged…etc…etc..” and that we still had seven miles to go.  It was already gone 5pm — we were not making very good time, mainly because my knees won’t allow me to walk very fast.
So we plodded on….and on….and on….over stiles, through gates (not kissing!), down steps, up steps — it was never-ending!
My knee had been OK all the morning, but by lunchtime it was giving me gyp so I took paracetamol and ibuprofen in tandem.
We came to one hill that was particularly steep, we were almost on hands and knees to get up.  I don’t know how I did it — the wind didn’t help, it was so strong as if it wanted to fell me.
We were both so tired!  We had stopped talking ages ago, and I had put the camera away because I couldn’t be bothered to take any more pictures.  We thought we could see the “end”.  We thought that as soon as we got round there we would see Newport.  Oh!  How we were fooled!  Round “there” was another gully with a steep climb up out of it.  After that there was another one.  When we got to a third one I nearly collapsed.
The sky had clouded over by then and there was a mist approaching from the sea, though fortunately it never reached us.  We stopped so I could put on my kag for warmth.  Colin did the same.  Then I bolted down my second chocolate — I don’t think I could have carried on without the extra boost of energy it gave me.  We stomped on in silence.  How we did it without having an accident I don’t know.
At last we could genuinely see Newport, but it seemed a very long way away.  I had to concentrate extremely hard not to trip — too easily done with my lack of 3D vision — and a number of times I caught my foot on a stone.  There was a steep descent, which I didn’t find easy at all with my gammy knees.  There were too many stiles — I find them quite challenging these days.  Then the path along the side of the cliff was so overgrown it was almost impossible to see our way through.  Several times we slipped on mud or tripped on a root which we couldn’t see because of too much undergrowth.  Then we came to another gully — cruel!  The steps out of it were HUGE! 
At last we reached the car park above the beach, we were relieved that we had reached ‘civilisation’ before it got quite dark.  But we weren’t finished yet.  Colin got it into his head that we could paddle across the river at this point to save walking up to the bridge and back.  He wouldn’t believe the map nor listen to reason, and disappeared off to ask some people who were walking their dogs way over yonder.  He wasted half an hour over this nonsense, and by then it was quite dark.  He can be so pig-headed at times! 
It started drizzling as I marched off towards the estuary following the path marked on the map, and he followed complaining loudly as only he knows how.  (It was all my fault, of course!)  I don’t know where he got the idea from that there was a “new” bridge halfway along the estuary — it was all rubbish which he wouldn’t believe until we didn’t get to it.  There was only one bridge, the road bridge marked on the map.  And did I get an apology?  You’ve got to be joking!  Then I had to wait while he put his overtrousers on — I couldn’t be bothered because I knew I could change out of my wet things as soon as I got back to the caravan.  I just wanted to get there!
It was pitch dark and pouring with rain as we crossed the river on the road bridge.  We walked the last mile in total darkness under trees.  BUT — the toilets at the car park were CLEAN, FREE, WELL-LIT and OPEN!!  Well done the local Council! 

That ended Walk no.371, we shall pick up Walk no.372 next time in the car park on Parrog Beach.  It was twenty past ten!  I don’t think we have ever finished a Walk so late (apart from Cape Wrath which was somewhat exceptional).  It had taken us thirteen and a half hours!  We got straight in the car and returned to the caravan.
We agreed that we had bitten off more than we could chew with this Walk, and were thankful that we had completed it safely.  We must never attempt a Walk this long again, especially with my knees in the state they are.  Smaller ‘bites’ along the coast in future!