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')

Friday, July 18, 2014

Walk 358 -- Criccieth to Penrhyndeudraeth

Ages:  Colin was 72 years and 71 days.  Rosemary was 69 years and 213 days.
Weather:  Hot and sticky — too hot to walk!
Location:  Criccieth, via Porthmadog, to Penrhyndeudraeth.
Distance:  10 miles.
Total distance:  3694 miles.
Terrain:  Gravel, grassy and rocky paths — with steps in places.  A long sandy beach. Pavements.  Undulating in places.
Tide:  Coming in.
Rivers: No.434, Afon Glaslyn in Porthmadog.
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 in Snowdonia.  This morning we drove to Penrhyndeudraeth where we parked as near to the unfinished bridge as we were allowed.  We walked to the station to catch the replacement bus to Criccieth.  (There have been no trains since the river bridge was damaged in storms last February.)  This turned out to be a minibus, and was free!  So we were well pleased.
At the end we came upon our car parked in Penrhyndeudraeth.  We had our tea and biscuits, then returned to our caravan.
The next day we returned home to Malvern.

Today is our eldest daughter’s 46th birthday.  Maria has two degrees in chiropractic, a BSc and a Masters.  She teaches at the Chiropractic College in Bournemouth.  We are very proud of her achievements, but how did our little girl get to be 46?  Where have all the years gone?
We started today’s Walk at the exact spot where we finished the last Walk.  We hiked away from the castle along the seafront in Criccieth, passing “Britain in Bloom” wood carvings which were attached to a wall.  As we left the town, there were more wood carvings making a kind of gateway for the Wales Coastal Path.  We sat on the last bench to eat elevenses — a pie for Colin and a sausage roll for me.
We were next to the railway then, and a bit further on we had to cross over it — but the path still continued right next to the line.  We came to a rock cutting, and there we were almost walking on the line itself.  We were in no danger today because there have been no trains since last February when the bridge at Penrhyndeudraeth was damaged in a storm.  A new bridge is almost complete, and they hope to start running the trains again in September.  Walking along this stretch of the Wales Coast Path after that will be distinctly dodgy!  There was a sort of fence to keep walkers off the actual track, but it was partly broken down.
At the other end of the cutting there was a notice for walkers going the other way asking them to keep in single file, but no warning for walkers going our way.
It was too hot for walking today, we both felt the heat.  My knees were aching and I had no energy, but I plodded on because I didn’t want to give up.  I took painkillers every so often, and tried to ignore the fact that my knees are giving out.  Further on the railway curved inland so we crossed back over to the shore side, crossing a field to a track.  This took us round a big rock on the inland side.  We’d had nice views of Criccieth behind us up until then, but we lost them when we went behind the rock.
We passed some stables where a lad was leading a horse round obstacles in a field.  A woman was shouting instructions — we were not sure whether they were aimed at the lad or the horse!
Looking at the map, we wondered whether there was a short cut down to the beach from there, but in reality it turned out to be a cliff!  So we stuck to the long way round by road.
We passed a field fenced off with barbed wire and a notice warning us about Japanese Knotweed.  (Aaaarrgh!  Is it going to grow up and strangle us all?)  I suppose they wanted us to keep out because they don’t want it spreading to their properties where it can cause enormous damage.
I was failing, it was so muggy and hot.  I really did wonder whether I could last out the Walk.  But then we passed a café on the edge of a caravan site, so we stopped for a cup of tea.  It’s amazing how a hot cuppa can revive you on a hot muggy day, but it did the trick!  I felt much better.  The path from there led us straight down to the beach.
And what a beach!  Several miles of firm sand stretched before us, so firm that people were parking their cars on it, getting out all their paraphernalia and sitting right next to their vehicles.  So close that they didn’t have to walk more than a couple of steps — and that showed up by the number of grotesquely obese people there who were exposing most of their flesh to the sun!
There were even speed restriction signs, ice cream vans, the lot!  Walking along this beach was easily the best part of today’s Walk.  We had a light breeze, so it didn’t feel so hot and humid as it had before.  It was easy and pleasant walking because the sand was mostly firm.  We had wonderful views of Criccieth with its castle behind (it appeared out from behind that rock again) and the mountains of Snowdonia ahead which we could just about make out in the mist.
We came to a notice which said, “No vehicles beyond this point”, then we came to the end of the beach where it turned inland up the estuary towards Porthmadog.  The tide had just about reached this corner where there was another notice warning us about very soft sand and strong currents around the corner of the cliff.  It was a lovely place, so we sat on a rock to eat our sarnies.  As we did so, the tide was getting nearer and nearer.
Suddenly Colin said, “She’s got her car stuck in the sand!  I turned round, and over yonder was a young woman revving the engine of her car so her front wheels spun, digging themselves even deeper into the soft sand.  She was well beyond the  No vehicles beyond this point  notice which she had obviously ignored.  Colin ambled over to help — he said later that she seemed a bit thick.  Almost as soon as he got there, a van drove up and a young man got out — with an air as if he’d done it all before — carrying a tow-rope.  He attached the rope to her car, got back in his van and started to tug her out backwards.  But he couldn’t move it, so he got out and went over to tell her to take the handbrake off!  This time he succeeded in pulling her out of the deepest sand, but she insisted on steering so awkwardly, despite his shouts to her to keep it straight, that he was actually dragging her sideways.
Eventually he could stand it no longer, so his mate turfed her out of her driving seat and took over.  They pulled her car right back on to the firm sand, then drove it along the beach well past the  No vehicles beyond this point  notice making her walk about two hundred yards to catch up with them.
That bit of entertainment over, and sarnies ate, we climbed up the steep path on the end rock to continue towards Porthmadog.  Whew!  It was hot as soon as we climbed up off the beach.  We were out of the breeze which had dropped anyway, and it was very humid.  The path was very up and down with a lot of steps — again I felt as if I wasn’t going to make it.
We had views of a beautiful little bay with a strip of sand (the tide was now right in) and we wondered if we could slither down the steep path into it.  It looked a lot pleasanter walking there than where we were.  Our path deteriorated into soft sand dunes, then we came to a bit where it had completely worn away.  It was a maximum width of six inches with gorse to the left and a six-foot drop to the right.  Impossible!  We had no choice but to slither down the dunes to the beach, where we were greeted by a toothy woman with two ’orrible dogs!  We managed to escape from them unscathed, and with relief continued along the flat firm sand.
There was a cave at the other end of this beach.  It had looked quite impressive from a distance when we had seen it from the top of the cliffs.  Colin wanted to look inside it, of course, but when we got there we found it was a mere dent in the rock.  There was nothing to it!  We had to backtrack about a hundred yards to exit the beach — on the Wales Coast Path once more.
Phew!  It was hot!  I thought I would flake out!  Somehow I managed to get up and down the roller-coaster path until we came out into the pretty harbour of Borth-y-Gest.  There we found a public convenience (relief!) and a proper deep bus shelter with decent seats in the shade (even more relief!).  Colin saw an ice cream shop, and came back with two cornets of locally made ice cream.  Momentarily I began to feel a little human again!
We continued past the marina  (How much money?.........)  into Porthmadog.  This is where the Welsh Highland Railway — which goes to Caernarfon — and the Ffestiniog Railway — which goes to Blaenau Ffestiniog — both terminate.  (We travelled on both railways on a different day.)  We could hear the steam trains from across the river and I took a couple of zoomed photos from there.  When we got to the station platform we found that there was an engine giving free rides on the footplate for a hundred yards up the track and back.  Now that was fun!
We had to wait for the Ffestiniog train to come in, and then it was our turn.  We were like two small kids out for a treat!  I had a bit of difficulty getting up on to the footplate because of my dodgy knees, but there were plenty of strong men there to haul me up.  I have never been on a steam engine footplate before, I was grinning from ear to ear the whole time.  It may only have been a short distance and took less than ten minutes, but I found it absolutely thrilling!  And it was our second freebie of the day, because the bus we had caught this morning, which replaced the train, was also free.  Afterwards we sat on a seat on the platform watching this engine taking other happy holidaymakers up and down.
Then we crossed the Cob — it was reminiscent of the Stanley Embankment leading across to Holyhead on Anglesey.  For years we had been looking forward to one day walking across the Cob (Colin recalled that it was since he was twelve — sixty years) but we didn’t enjoy it much because it was too hot!  The official Wales Coast Path was down below the embankment on the inland side where there was no breeze, so we walked along the top.  But there was no breeze there either even though it was in the wide open space of the estuary.



The views were wonderful, but we found it a bit of a trudge on such a hot day.  Colin was disappointed that we couldn’t get anywhere near the Boston Lodge Railway Works at the far end. 
We  don’t  do  HOT ! 
We descended steep and worn out steps directly on to the busy road which we had to cross to get us on to the official Wales Coast Path.  This took us round a corner where we came across seats, one in the shade.
We were both all in — we felt like panting alongside two dogs owned by a lady who joined us on this only shady seat!  While we sat and ate our chocolate, we agreed to follow the road directly to where we had parked the car, instead of following the paths nearest the shore, because we had both had enough (extra rules nos.14, 15 & 17).
Round the next corner the Wales Coast Path was signposted off the busy road which we were already hating.  So we changed our minds, and followed it initially to get away from the traffic.  Only a little further on we changed our minds again because it was too far to follow it all the way to Portmeirion and then loop back.  We couldn’t afford the £10 each to get into the village, and anyway we were not interested in our present hot and tired state.  We could see the top of a castellated house across a field, and occasionally caught a glimpse of the Dwyryd estuary between the trees.
We tried to follow the shortest footpath route according to the map — up hills and down dales, relishing the shady bits and hating the sunny bits.
Back on the main road we hoofed it through Minffordd and Penrhyndeudraeth, hating every footstep.  But at least there were pavements all the way.  On reaching the car, we discovered we were unable to walk down to the new unfinished railway bridge across the Dwyryd estuary because it was fenced off and we were ‘unauthorised persons’.  We were quite relieved really — I just took a photo of the road through the fencing.

That ended Walk no.358, we shall pick up Walk no.359 next time the other side of the unfinished railway bridge — because if it was finished the road next to it would be open and we could simply walk across.  It was half past five, so the Walk had taken us seven hours forty minutes.  We had our tea and biscuits, then returned to our caravan.
The next day we packed up and returned home to Malvern. 

The  Welsh  Highland  Railway 






The twenty-five mile long Welsh Highland Railway runs from Porthmadog to Caernarfon.  It passes through magnificent countryside including Beddgelert and the Aberglaslyn Pass.  It originated in 1863 as the Croesor Tramway which ran from Porthmadog up into the Croesor Valley and the slate quarries in that area.  This was a horse-worked line laid to a nominal 2 ft (610 mm) gauge.  There followed a long and complicated history, mostly of losing money, closures and bankruptcy.  The extension to Caernarfon was only opened three years ago, at the beginning of 2011.  Narrow-gauge steam engines tow trains full of tourists along this magnificent and exciting little line.
Colin and I travelled on it in April 2014. 


The  Ffestiniog  Railway 
This railway was built between 1833 and 1836 to transport slate from the quarries around Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog where it was loaded on to ships.  Originally the loaded wagons ran all the way down by gravity, so the line was graded downhill at a gentle slope of about one in eighty for much of the way.  It followed the natural contours, much like a canal, and cuttings, a tunnel and embankments were put in place so that the downhill slope was continuous.  The empty wagons were hauled back up by horses.  In the 1860s steam locomotives were introduced to hurry things up because the output from the quarries was continuously rising.
By the 1920s, newer and cheaper materials were introduced for roofing, and demand for slate dropped.  The line finally closed in 1937.
It was in 1949 that enthusiasts started working to reopen the line for tourists.  They began in a small way, opening the short stretch from Porthmadog to Boston Lodge in 1955.  It was extended to Minffordd in 1956, Penrhyn in 1957 and Tan-y-Bwlch in 1958.  Their biggest problem was the construction of a hydro-electric power station and its reservoir in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  The tunnel was blocked by concrete and part of the track was flooded.  Between 1965 and 1978, volunteers constructed a two and a half mile diversionary route including a spectacular spiral formation to raise the trackbed above the floods.  Between 1975 and 1977, three Cornish tin miners, with a small team of employees, blasted their way through granite to form a new tunnel through the Moelwyn Mountain.  The line finally reopened all the way to Blaenau Ffestiniog in 1982.
Colin and I travelled on it in April 2014.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Walk 357 -- Pwllheli to Criccieth

Ages:  Colin was 72 years and 69 days.  Rosemary was 69 years and 211 days.
Weather:  Wet and windy until 3pm.  Then it suddenly turned hot and sunny.  Breezy.
Location:  Pwllheli to Criccieth.
Distance:  12 miles.
Total distance:  3684 miles.
Terrain:  A lot of beach, then cliff paths.  A main road with a wide pavement.  Across fields and marsh at the end.  Mostly flat.
Tide:  In, going out.
Rivers: No.431, Afon Rhid-hir in Pwllheli.  No.432, Afon Dwyfach on the road.  No.433, Afon Dwyfor at Llanystumdwy.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  Nos.748 & 749 on Pen-ychain headland.  Nos.750, 751, 752 & 753 as we approached Criccieth.
Pubs:  None.
‘Cadw’ properties:  No.8, Penarth Fawr.  No.9, Criccieth Castle.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We were staying in our caravan in Snowdonia.  This morning we drove to Criccieth where we parked by the waterfront.  We walked to the village centre and caught a bus to Pwllheli.
At the end we came upon our car parked in Criccieth.  We had our tea and biscuits, then returned to our caravan.

Today is our 48th Wedding Anniversary!  Gosh, how time flies by — it’s only two years to our Golden!  It’s not the first time we’ve been walking the coast on our anniversary, so we’d better get on with it.

We started today’s Walk at the War Memorial in Pwllheli.  As we walked round the harbour we were appalled to discover that it would have cost £7.50 to park on the north side of the harbour last Monday whereas it was free to park on the west side where we did!  We thought the rain had stopped, but it soon started again.  We sat in a shelter to eat our pie/croissant and put on our wet-weather gear.
The marina down the east side of the harbour was mostly a construction site, so we had to stick to the road.
We came to the end and thought we had boobed because the tide was in, but the path did continue along the top of the beach.  At the beginning the path was overgrown with bushes, but we did manage to walk round them.  We were protected from the wind at first, but photography was restricted because of the poor visibility.
There were some unusual and very pretty flowers on that part of the beach, we didn’t know what they were.  They looked more like garden flowers than wild ones.
We walked for miles along the sandy beach with rolling surf to our right and dunes to our left.
We quite enjoyed it at first despite the rain because the wind was on our backs.  But as the rain intensified and we walked round the crescent with the wind more to our right, it became a bit of a slog.  We came to a “Road Works” notice on the beach!  It was surrounded by dire warnings that this was a “hard hat” area and we must not enter the “site”, etc, etc.  We ignored them all and carried on.  There was nothing on the beach itself, except sand.  Some diggers were up on the dunes trying to hold them together and planting, we thought.  But nobody was working there in this weather.
We saw a holiday chalet overhanging the edge of the soft sandy cliff, and it reminded us of the erosion we saw on the east coast, particularly around Mundesley in Norfolk.  We came to some rocks under a bit of overhanging cliff where it was less wet and windy.  So I sat down to eat my sarnies (perhaps a bit foolish, in retrospect).  Colin marched off “to look for a better place”, but having tried three different spots he came back and grumpily sat down beside me.  It reminded me of that hilarious play “East of Ipswich” – I think Michael Palin wrote it – which was on television yonks ago.  (I do wish they would repeat it.)
We marched on doggedly as the wind and rain intensified.  (It’s on days like this that we wonder why we’re doing this.)  It was hard going, really miserable now.  We saw some cormorants on the beach ahead — even they didn’t look as if they were enjoying themselves!
Towards the end of the beach it turned stony, but it wasn’t too bad to walk on.  We stayed next to the dunes because an occasional path looped through the edge of them away from the shingle.
Colin started walking up a ghost of a path leading to the top of the dunes.  Three times I asked him if it was a decent path, because it didn’t look as if it was, but he wouldn’t answer me — wet and windy weather always puts him in a bad mood.  He was determined to follow it, so I followed him.  I shouldn’t have.  The ‘path’ deteriorated at the top, I caught my foot in a loopy root and fell headlong!  I wasn’t hurt, but I was a bit shocked.  I fell downhill so my feet ended up higher than my head.  I had great difficulty getting up, I even had dirt on my face.  A man came rushing up from the beach — the first person we had seen since Pwllheli — because he had seen me fall but I assured him I was OK.  He asked, “Is that a better path?” and Colin answered, “Don’t know, we’ve not been here before!  He said, “I’m going the beach way!” and disappeared downhill, later joining his friends at the gate leading on to the headland.  I wanted to return to the beach, but Colin was still determined to carry on even though the ‘path’ had completely disappeared.  Sometimes the ferns were over our heads!  We got to the gate eventually.
By then the rain had stopped — just — but it was still pretty windy.  We were both soaked — our wet-weather gear is not as waterproof as it once was.  There was a good path over the headland.  We came across a gun emplacement at the end, a legacy of the Second World War.  The sea was rough with the wind which hadn’t yet died down, waves were breaking against the cliffs.  We should have been able to see Criccieth from the top, but the visibility was too poor.
The path improved the other side of the headland, it was more gravel-based there.  As we approached a holiday village and descended to a beach area, we lost it.  We came to an “exercise area” which seem to be springing up all over the country in a bid to encourage people to change their lifestyles and stop being such couch potatoes.  We sat on some wooden steps to eat our apples.  I was all in and would happily have given up there and then.  But then a small miracle happened — the wind died, the clouds cleared, and suddenly it was a hot sunny day.  Such a contrast!  I got my second wind and was OK to carry on.  Visibility improved, and we could see across the water to Snowdonia very clearly now.
We met lots of people now, mostly holiday-makers who were emerging from their static caravans and chalets as the sun came out.  The holiday village stretched all the way to the sewage works!  And we passed the first Wales Coast Path sign of the day — we have only walked five miles.  We could have gone down on to the beach there, where we could see an obese woman playing with her kids, but we didn’t because we didn’t want to miss the place where the path turned inland.  It was a nice path along the top anyway.
Just before a swamp, the path turned away from the shore — the place was clearly marked with a wooden signpost.  We had to do this because there was a river ahead with no footbridge over it, only a road bridge.  We went under the railway, then up a quiet road to a main road.  After that it was a slog for two and a half miles alongside the main road.  But we did have a nice wide cycletrack to walk on, so there was no traffic-dodging involved.  About halfway we passed a caravan sales outlet that sold ICE CREAMS!  Fortified by a choc-ice each, we slogged on.  At last we crossed the river, and immediately we were able to turn off the main road leaving all that noisy smelly traffic behind.
We crossed fields and the railway, which was rusty because it hasn’t been used since the bridge at Penrhyndeudraeth was washed away last February.  We came to the river again — we hadn’t followed its meanders — where it runs parallel to the coast.  We met a number of other walkers going the other way on this stretch.
It was a bit boggy, but boardwalks had been put down over the worst bits.  We sat on a wall to eat our chocolate.  After half a mile we came to the river mouth, so it would have been possible to get down on to the beach.  But it was too stony to walk, so we stayed on the good path along the top.  Now we could see Criccieth Castle ahead.  Nearly there!
We passed a bird-watching couple — then they caught up with us when we stopped to take photographs.  They asked, “Are you from Malvern?  You’re the couple walking the Wales Coast Path, aren’t you?  They were Stuart and Pat, members of the Malvern U3A Welsh Culture Group!  They had recognised us, but we hadn’t recognised them. (I am notoriously bad at face-recognition).  We had been trying, but failing, to take an anniversary picture of us using the 10 second delay timer on my camera, so we asked Stuart to take one of us, which he did.
They wished us luck with our venture — Pat said they were only walking as far as their car which was parked nearby.
We didn’t have far to go — we walked into Criccieth where we had to climb a bit of a hill to pass the castle on the inland side because the tide was too far in and waves were bashing against the castle mound on the shore side.  Then it was downhill to East Beach where our car was parked.
That ended Walk no.357, we shall pick up Walk no.358 next time on East Beach in Criccieth.  It was twenty-five to seven, so the Walk had taken us eight hours forty minutes.  We had our tea and biscuits, then returned to our caravan. 

Criccieth  Castle 
An imposing gatehouse!  And that is more or less all that is left of Criccieth Castle.  It was built in 1230, long before the reign of Edward I, by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd.  When Edward I came rampaging across Wales in 1283, he captured this castle for the English.  It was then remodelled, but it was never very big. 
It was built on a small knoll overlooking Cardigan Bay, and there is only a certain amount of room up there.  It may be a small hill, but it is very steep and commands sweeping views in all directions.  In 1294, Madoc ap Llywelyn, a relative of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd who originally owned Criccieth Castle, began an uprising against English rule.  Criccieth was besieged that winter. Its residents survived until spring when the castle was resupplied.  The castle was used as a prison until 1404 when Welsh forces captured the castle during the rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr.  The Welsh then tore down its walls and set the castle alight. Some stonework still show the scorch marks.  It has been a ruin ever since.

Penarth  Fawr 
Penarth Fawr is was built in the mid 15th century and has 18th century renovations. It was built by Madoc of Penarth in 1416, to a design known as an aisled truss hall house.  Most of the original 15th century features still remain.  The core of the house is an open hall, heated only by a central hearth on the floor, with private quarters at one end and service rooms at the other. Smoke from the central hearth escaped through a vent, or louver, in the roof. The position of the louver is marked a small louver truss. The fireplace is dated to 1615, when a first floor was inserted into the high-roofed open hall.  The most striking feature of Penarth Fawr is the elaborate truss system that braces the structure. The trusses are showing signs of age and have required recent repairs, but show in beautiful detail how a house of this period was built.