Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Walk 334 -- Conwy to Llanfairfechan

Ages:  Colin was 71 years and 62 days.  Rosemary was 68 years and 204 days.
Weather:  Extremely hot and sunny.
Location:  Conwy to Llanfairfechan.
Distance:  8½ miles.
Total distance:  3444 miles.
Terrain:  A lot of concrete and tarmac cycleways.  Some sandy beach.  Partially undulating.
Tide:  In.
Rivers: None.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  No.442 near Conwy Marina.
Pubs:  None.
‘Cadw’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We were staying in our caravan on a small farm near St Asaph.  This morning we drove to Llanfairfechan where we parked for free on the seafront.  We walked up to the station and caught a train to Conwy.  There we walked down to the bridge.
At the end we came to our car parked in the seafront car park.  It was extremely hot, so we moved the car a few yards so we could sit in the shade of a seafront shelter to have our tea and chocolate biscuits.  We returned to the caravan, which was in the shade of some trees by that time in the afternoon.  We took the awning down, and the next day we returned home to Malvern. 
A very successful trip! 

We started today’s Walk at the three bridges in Conwy, and walked along the waterfront which last Saturday had been busy with a European market.  There were stalls and street music, people from all over the Continent, and Britain’s smallest house was open where, for a modest fee, people were being shown round by a lady in traditional Welsh costume.  We had bought ourselves an ice cream and sat on a wall to listen to the music.  The atmosphere was very jolly.
Today it was much quieter, the smallest house was shut and the people walking about were mostly old grockles like us.  We came across two memorials.  One was to Keith ‘The Fish’ Robinson, 1940 – 2005, who traded at his fish stall on the waterfront for forty years and was also a lifeboatman.  The other was to the crew of a fishing vessel called Katy which was lost in January 1994.  Three fishermen never came back — Sam Rowlands-Roberts, aged 22, Cochyn Hughes, aged 30, and Robbo Hall, aged 20.
We walked through a stone archway in the ancient town walls and passed a fancy letterbox with a picture of a man on a horse blowing a horn.  A cycleway led us along the riverside.  Phew!  It was hot!  We came to a picnic table which was tucked just inside a wood in the shade!  It was the perfect spot, and we didn’t want to leave.
Sitting at the table we had a lovely view of the estuary naturally framed by trees.  Even though it was early and we had only just started the Walk, we lingered there and ate our pasty/quiche.
But we had to make a move in the end, and soon came out to a road.  We crossed a bridge over the A55 near where it came out of the tunnel.  This tunnel was opened in 1991, and was constructed to ease the major traffic problems in the little town of Conwy.  A tunnel was chosen in favour of a bridge so that the fabulous views of Conwy from the distance would not be spoiled.  (Wish they had thought of that in the 1950s when they were constructing the road bridge which hides Thomas Telford’s famous suspension bridge from view.)
A bored tunnel would have to be laid very deep and the cost would be prohibitive.  The idea of an immersed tube tunnel was muted — it originated from the sewer pipes which are led across the bottom of a number of rivers in this country.    It was thought that if such a pipe was enlarged widthwise to accommodate a two-lane highway and tall enough for all kinds of road traffic to pass through, then that would make a much more cost-effective tunnel.  Six reinforced concrete units were built inside a bunded cofferdam basin on the western shore of the river.  These were then lowered into place guided by divers.  It was sealed and drained.  It has been such a success that other such tunnels have since been constructed — eg. under the Medway in Kent.
The area where the tunnel was constructed was turned into a nature reserve, and the cofferdam basin was converted into a large marina.  We came to this marina very soon.  Looking at the moored yachts we concluded there was a lot of money about!  There was new housing on most sides of it — lovely when there is no wind, like today, but personally I couldn’t stand that constant plinking of ropes against masts which you get in yacht basins.  It’s a form of torture for me!
We came to the mouth of the river.  The tide was coming in fast, and a lot of boats were using the high water to go out to sea.  We rounded the corner on the beach and left the river behind.
We continued along the sandy beach, but it was a bit soft so it wasn’t easy walking.  But a slight breeze made it almost pleasant in the hot sun.  We passed sea holly and a huge jellyfish.  A heron down by the water was unperturbed by us walking by — it was too intent on looking out for its dinner.

The sand got too soft to walk comfortably, so we went up a path to the dunes.  This was OK at first, but it turned into soft sand as well so we returned to the beach.
We had to cross over some beach stones to get there, and came across some lovely fossilised coral in amongst them.  The beach sand was firmer now, and quite crowded as we passed a car park.
The beach ran out of sand eventually, so we had to take the sandy dune path.  It was somewhat undulating, and too soft.  We kept coming across people sunbathing in all sorts of nooks and crannies, and I almost trod on a man’s towel.  So we cut across to a main track, and that was better.  We passed some wild flowers, and after that it was tarmac all the way to Llanfairfechan.
We were on a cyclepath between the railway and the A55.  As we approached the next mountain the road and the railway both entered tunnels, but we didn’t.  The cyclepath led up over the railway tunnel and was cut into the side of the mountain.  We were in the shade, of course, because the sea was to our north.  And blessed shade it was too on this blistering hot day!  So, before we emerged, we sat down and ate our sarnies.
Reluctantly we moved on — out into the sunshine with traffic noise again, for the A55 had already come out from its tunnel.  Our path crossed over the railway again so that it was blocking our view of the sea.  But then there was an archway under the railway which led us out on to a little stony beach.  We wish we had known about it before, it would have been a much nicer place to sit and eat our lunch in the shade and out of earshot from the traffic.  We had good views of Anglesey and Puffin Island which seemed very close now.
It was a long hot walk down into Penmaenmawr where the A55 is only just up above the prom.  There was graffiti-type art painted on the wall below the road, it was colourful and bizarre — we liked it.  Further along we were delighted to find young children’s drawings of the local neighbourhood displayed along the prom.  I particularly liked one where the child had drawn a giant bird sitting on the top of one mountain and a group of tiny people on top of the next peak!  We bought ice creams and sat in the shade.
There is no real beach in Penmaenmawr, especially when the tide is in.  We passed a happy group of mothers and toddlers playing in a beautifully clean paddling pool — no sign of any algae as at Llandudno.  We passed broom in brilliant flower, and Puffin Island was now very clear.  It was glorious!  (Except the sun was too hot for us — neither of us cope very well in hot sun.)
Penmaen Mawr mountain loomed.  Now here was a challenge for the engineers designing the A55, the railway and the Wales Coastal Path!  The mountain, which was still being quarried, seemed to come down straight into the sea.
Up until the mid-nineteenth century the only way to pass was along the sands at low tide, or by a treacherous track across the cliff face.  As we came into the lee of the mountain we reached Brundrits Wharf.
The mountain was first quarried for its stone, used to make cobbles, in 1832.  Then the stone was taken away by sea, so that is when the wharf was built.  When the railway came in 1847, sidings were constructed so that some of the stone could be carried away by rail.  Nowadays the stone is taken away by lorry.  The railway sidings were redundant by the 1940s, and the last ship to carry stone from Brundrits Wharf sailed away in 1960.  Most of the artefacts were demolished in the 1980s to make way for the road.
We began to climb, a zigzag path under the A55.  It was certainly noisy when we were under the road, the rumble of the traffic was continuous.  We emerged next to the road which was still higher than us and seemed to be held together by huge bolts.  Next we were higher than the road and going over a bridge.
The railway and road then went through tunnels but we had to climb over the top, there were no tunnels for us.  There were a confusing number of signs, we didn’t know which way to turn.  We could have crossed the road and walked alongside it, but we elected to use the raised cycleway where it was cooler, quieter and much safer.
Despite the fact it was all tarmac and concrete, the wild flowers still managed to flourish.  Nature always has its way!  We route-marched on even though we were both very hot.  We just had to keep going with determination, otherwise we would have wilted.  We were relieved that today was a shorter Walk than usual, and the last this session.
The signs were confusing as we came down into Llanfairfechan.  We nearly crossed the railway, but halfway up the bridge ramp we realised it was only access to a bus stop on the A55 with no way further on.  We eventually found our way through residential streets using our initiatives because there were not enough signs, and through a little tunnel under the railway.
We came out on the prom.  Colin was relieved, “Is this where our car is?” he asked.  Yes, it was a little further along the seafront.  Thank goodness for that!  We were delighted to see more children’s drawing on display along the prom, but we were really too hot to appreciate them properly.

That ended Walk no.334, we shall pick up Walk no.335 in Llanfairfechan on the seafront.   It was three o’clock, so the Walk had taken us five and a half hours.  We moved the car a few yards so we could sit in the shade of a seafront shelter to have our tea and chocolate biscuits.  We both have sunburnt faces, we can’t understand people deliberately sitting out in this hot burning sun!
We returned to the caravan, which was in the shade of some trees by that time in the afternoon.  We took the awning down, and the next day we returned home to Malvern. 
A very successful trip!

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