Friday, July 05, 2013

Walk 331 -- Prestatyn, via Rhyl, to Colwyn Bay

Ages:  Colin was 71 years and 58 days.  Rosemary was 68 years and 200 days.
Weather:  Hazy sun.  No wind.  Very warm.
Location:  Prestatyn, via Rhyl, to Colwyn Bay.
Distance:  15 miles.
Total distance:  3420 miles.
Terrain:  Concrete proms and cycleways.  Firm sandy beaches.  Mostly flat.
Tide:  In, going out.
Rivers: No.404, Afon Clwyd.  No.405, Afon Dulas.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  Nos.436 just after we had crossed the river in Rhyl.
Pubs:  None.
‘Cadw’ properties:  No.3, Rhuddlan Castle which was a little bit inland so we visited it on a different day.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  No.72 after crossing the river in Rhyl where they were still landscaping the seafront whilst building a new footbridge over the river.  (Footbridge not open yet, unfortunately.)
How we got there and back:  We were staying in our caravan which was on a small farm site near St Asaph.  This morning we drove to Colwyn Bay where we parked on the seafront — free all along!  We walked to the station which was just up above us.  There we caught a train to Prestatyn (fare: £7.40 each again!) where we walked to the residential road where we had parked our car last time.
At the end we came to our car which was parked very near a toilet block — and the toilets were still open!  We had our tea and chocolate biscuits, then drove back to the caravan near St Asaph.

We walked up the road from where we had parked the car last time, past an attractive mosaic mural, to the public conveniences in the expensive car park by the beach.  Then we were able to start the Walk feeling comfortable!  From there we could walk all the way to Rhyl and beyond along the prom.  A notice about Pontins was on the corner as we descended to the prom.  The tide was in, so there was no beach to start with.  We decided to walk on the lower prom because there were too many bikes on the upper one.
It was a lovely warm day with wall-to-wall blue sky, and we felt good.  It was easy walking so we covered a lot of distance quite quickly.
We noted the ubiquitous modern windmills gracing the horizon, and small ships approaching the Conwy river behind us.  There was the occasional stretch of beautiful beach sand which the occasional family were enjoying this glorious summer’s day, but then it is a weekday during school term time so I suppose that’s why there were so few.  (It’s great being retired, and able to do what we want when we want!) 
A stretch of beach had shingle along the top, and we passed a digger taking sand from the dunes behind the prom and dumping it on top of the shingle!  Isn’t that cheating? 

Rhuddlan  Castle 
A couple of miles inland from Rhyl lies Rhuddlan Castle, another of Edward I’s “Iron Ring” of castles he built in the 13th century to subdue the Welsh.  (We visited it on a different day because we didn’t want to interrupt the Walk.)  During the construction of the castle, the River Clwyd was straightened and dredged between Rhuddlan and the sea to allow provisions and troops to reach the fortification quickly and easily.  This was a terrific feat of engineering even by today’s standards, in fact it was one of the earliest canals to be dug out in this country.
The castle withheld several sieges, even the one by Owain Glyndŵr in 1400 when the town of Rhuddlan was laid waste.  In the 15th and 16th centuries the building became less and less important, so it was neglected and began to fall down.  It was used by Royalist troops in the English Civil War, but fell to Parliamentary troops after a siege in 1646.  They partially demolished the castle in 1648, and after that it was left to go to ruin. 

The tide was slowly going out revealing a nice sandy beach.  We tried to walk on it but the sand was too soft.  We retreated to the steps which were wide enough to walk along.  Some were corroded, and workmen were mending them.
 By now Colin was desperate to change his pad again.  (Don’t these medics understand what a devastating effect these so-called ‘minor’ medical conditions have on people’s lives when they keep cancelling his appointments?)  We went up to the upper prom to look for a loo, and there across a piece of wasteland was a workman’s “Portaloo” — he was saved!
I waited on a bench, and when he came back we ate our first snack of the day — a pie for him and a slice of quiche for me.  Two nursery workers passed us with ‘triplet’ push chairs — three babies each!
We continued on the lower prom where we passed fishermen looking very busy — I don’t think!  Later we had to go up to the upper prom, and walked along by their newly painted railings.
We passed a mosaic mural, then came to a stone circle outside a public convenience.  (When Colin was so desperately searching for facilities, I hadn’t seen the letters PC on the map because of my eye defect.)  Don’t know what the stone circle was about.  We passed “Waterworld” with an external water slide (a bit like Bognor Butlins) and bought ourselves an ice cream each.
We were well into Rhyl by now.  We passed a party of school children who were up on a platform.  They shouted and waved, obviously having the time of their lives, so we waved back.  Further on we passed a kiddies’ water park with several Mums standing in the fountains alongside their children.
We passed a building that was wood effect concrete, a children’s playground that included a climbing wall, noted numerous gulls on the beach (why no humans?) and a run-down entertainments centre which was closed even though it said it was open.  We felt that Rhyl was a bit of a run-down resort — like Bognor, only nicer!
As we approached the river we could see fishing boats taking tourists out for a sail along the coast.  Bet they make more money doing that than fishing — and a lot safer too.  A brand new footbridge was being constructed across the river, part of the Wales Coast Path initiative.  We couldn’t make out whether it was going to be a swing or a sliding bridge.
However, it was not yet open so we had to go a little further along the river to cross on a blue road bridge with lots of other pedestrians and cyclists.
On the other side of the river the wild flowers on the waste ground were gorgeous!  We tried the first road we came to in order to get back to the beach, but the ground looked as if it was still being landscaped and we couldn’t get through.  So we retreated and went along the next road.  We passed a notice advertising a “Roast Dinner  £3.99” which reminded us of when we took up such an offer way back in St Andrews, Scotland.  The meal was horrible!  The meat was tough, and we couldn’t understand how any cook could make a roast dinner so tasteless.  You get what you pay for…   
We passed a man with a strimmer at a kissing gate (noisy!) and walked along the cycleway behind the dunes.  We sat on spiky grass to eat our sarnies.
The tide was now well out so we were able to walk on the sand for miles — great!  We had this beautiful and vast beach practically to ourselves!  We passed the occasional family having fun.
We passed the occasional seagull.  But mostly we were on our own.
Colin got desperate for a loo again.  We didn’t know how far we had walked along the beach, so we couldn’t work out from the map how far it was to the nearest one.  He looked up and thought he saw the roof of a public convenience above the sea wall.  I thought it would be wishful thinking because he was getting desperate, but he was right!  We had walked further than we thought, and were at Abergele.
More comfortable now, we sat on a bench to eat our apples.  We walked along the cycleway for a bit.  Colin stopped and talked to all the dog owners, of which there were many.  He loves dogs (I’m indifferent to them) but he doesn’t want the responsibility of owning one — they are expensive, and a tie.  So he enjoys other people’s dogs without the disadvantages.  Trouble is, it makes for slow-going and I keep having to wait for him.
We went back on to the beach.  The expanse of sand was now vast!  Again we passed occasional families having fun.  The beach began to get rocky, so we went up on to the cycleway again.  We passed an interesting playground with a spider’s web climbing frame (how I would have loved that kind of thing as a child!) and then we came to a giant crab made of recycled glass.  Very clever!
The beach looked good again, so we went back down.  Once more we had this vast area virtually to ourselves, though we did pass the occasional bait-digger, fisherman and couple walking their dog through the shallow waves.  It was idyllic!
We also saw a lot of jellyfish washed up on the shore.
The beach got rocky again.  When it got impossible we clambered over what we thought were barnacle-clad rocks to get to the cycleway.  It wasn’t until we read a notice board up there that we realised this was the unique (well, unique in Wales as they usually occur in warmer climes further south) Honeycomb Worm Reef we had heard about recently on a ‘Countryfile’ programme on TV.

The worms live in fragile tubes which they build from cement-like mucus that binds sand and shell fragments to form a honeycomb-like reef structure.  When the tide covers the reef, the worms poke their heads out of the tubes and use their tentacles to feed on plankton.  When the tide recedes they sink back into the far end of the tubes they have made so they don’t dry out.  After reading this we went back on to the reef to find them.  We were not absolutely sure that we photographed the right things, but they looked like honeycombs to us!
We continued along a cycleway and came to a small river where children and dogs were happily playing. We crossed on a footbridge where a notice ordered “Cyclists Dismount” but none of them did.  (I’m not sure that I would have dismounted either, had I been on a bike.  It’s “Elfin Safety” gone mad!)  We passed a public convenience which Colin gratefully used while I sat on a bench and ate my chocolate.  Colin ate his whilst walking along, but I can’t successfully eat and walk at the same time — it gives me indigestion.
The road (A55), railway and cycleway were now all squashed together to get by along the bottom of the cliff.  There was no question of a beach now, we were all shored up with huge rocks and concrete three-cornered things.
There were loads of wild flowers through the fence to our left, especially orchids — tall and beautiful.  The cycleway took us up high to get over a quarry entrance (limestone, we thought) and then down the other side with cyclists whizzing past us.  We approached the quarry jetty and went up and over that — it was a bit of a roller-coaster.  When we were up high we could hear the traffic on the A55 very noisily above our heads. The traffic was constant, and we heard the occasional train on the line which was also very near.

We came down towards Colwyn Bay.  There were wild flowers in profusion — nature beautifies an ugly landscape.  We got down to the beach again but we were too tired to walk on it, we only wanted to route-march until we reached the car.  We had both finished our supplies of water even though we had brought extra — it had been a hot walk.
We passed a parked car, and sitting on the pavement next to it was a man working on his laptop.  Down on the beach another man was conducting business on his mobile phone.  Is this the shape of modern life?
The prom widened out to accommodate a large building with a flat top and wind socks flapping in the breeze.  We concluded it was a helicopter landing pad, but why there?
We passed a couple sitting on the beach in a windbreak-tent.  We could only see their silhouettes with the sun shining through from the other side.  It reminded us of Eric Morecambe’s camping sketch which he did years ago, and we both started to laugh.  That man has the power to make us see the funny side of life even twenty-nine years after his death!
As we approached Colwyn Bay Pier we thought it looked a bit dead.  Sure enough, it is completely derelict with warning notices not to enter.  A sad sight.  Our car was parked a little further along the road.

That ended Walk no.331, we shall pick up Walk no.332 in Colwyn Bay just past the pier.   It was twenty-five to seven, so the Walk had taken us exactly nine hours.  Our car was parked very near a toilet block — and the toilets were still open, much to our relief and comfort!  We had our tea and chocolate biscuits, then drove back to our caravan near St Asaph.

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