Friday, September 06, 2013

Walk 339 -- Llaneilian to Cemaes Bay

Ages:  Colin was 71 years and 121 days.  Rosemary was 68 years and 263 days.
Weather:  Very sunny at first, breezy and perfect for walking.  After lunch it turned dull, then torrential rain for the latter part of the Walk.
Location:  Llaneilian to Cemaes Bay.
Distance:  10 miles.
Total distance:  3502 miles.
Terrain:  Mostly cliff paths.  A little pavement-bashing in Bull Bay.  Very undulating.
Tide:  In.
Rivers: None.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  Nos.523 to 550 spread along the way.
Pubs:  None.
‘Cadw’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  The day before yesterday we towed our caravan from our home in Malvern to the same small site in the middle of Anglesey that we used back in July.  We arrived quite late because we had an ‘incident’ as we were leaving our drive — Colin failed to clear the wall with the caravan on one side and there was a sickening crunch!  The damage looked dreadful, but Colin always comes up trumps in a crisis like this.  He beavered away with hammer, nails and bits of wire, and four hours later it was all put back!  It still looks a bit crunchy, but for a temporary repair it is terrific.  We didn’t have time to sort ourselves for an early start yesterday, so we had a ‘rest’ day which involved a pub lunch, doing a few ‘recces’ and putting the awning up in daylight.  By then we had calmed down and were ready.  This morning we drove to Cemaes Bay and parked in the free car park we had found yesterday.  We walked into the town where we caught a bus to Amlwch.  Then we walked the two and a half miles to Llaneilian where we started the Walk at the point we had cut it off last time because of the rain.
At the end we finished the Walk at the car.  It was twenty to six, so the Walk had taken us 8 hours and 10 minutes.  We were soaked — the rain was relentless and it was almost dark although sunset was officially still a couple of hours away.  We had our tea, then drove back to the caravan.  Water was pouring down many of the roads in rivers!

We started today’s Walk where the cliff path left the lighthouse road, the place where we had given up and stomped off in the rain about five weeks ago.  It was lovely weather today, sunny and warm with a light breeze — perfect for walking.  Little did we suspect that this Walk would also end in teeming rain!
A girl, possibly in her thirties, was at the gate leading on to the path.  She told us her name was Sarah, and she asked us if we had seen a group of soldiers who were doing a charity walk.  She said she had found out about the event on the internet, and she wanted to walk with them for companionship.  They were supposed to be starting from that spot at 09.30.  We answered that we hadn’t seen them, but she could walk with us if she liked, though we were always slow — (that suggestion went down like a lead balloon!)  She chatted happily for ages while we sat on a bench and ate our pies, and then she went off saying, “I suppose it will be by myself again!”  I felt a bit sad for her, loneliness at any age is not a good thing.
We started along the cliff path — it was amazing scenery, lovely weather and absolutely wonderful!  It was a good path, if a little uneven in places.  We picked and ate blackberries as we walked.  The tide was in, so the waves were bashing on the rocks below and it all seemed exciting because of this.
We saw the lifeboat go out but we didn’t know why.  There didn’t seem to be an emergency anywhere — perhaps it was just an exercise.  It was so beautiful along that coast, and the profusion of wild flowers made it all the more enjoyable.
We saw a rainbow out at sea, and hoped the weather wasn’t coming our way — unfortunately it was.
We came to Amlwch Port, used mostly by small private boats these days.  It’s time of being an important port for the copper industry is long since gone.
A couple of miles inland from Amlwch lies a most extraordinary place — Copper Mountain.
We visited it on a different day when the weather was fine.  Copper has been mined there since the Bronze Age and is still extracted in a small way today.  But it’s heyday was the 18th century when the copper was mined from deep levels, many of which have collapsed.  This has left a very weird landscape of many colours where few plants grow because of the pollution.  There is a footpath all round the site and many artefacts left from those mining days.
The whole area looks like some alien planet, and as a result has been used to film many science fiction films and programmes, particularly Dr Who episodes.
As we entered the port of Amlwch we passed stacks of plastic lobster pots, and a notice telling us there was “no entry except on terminal business”.  The word “terminal” amused us, we wondered if it was the last business they would ever do!  There was a lot of notices about the geology of Anglesey which is very complex and completely different from the geology of the rest of Wales.  We passed a Visitor Centre which explained it all but we didn’t go in, we didn’t have time.
We walked round the end of the harbour and climbed some steps.  We tried to follow the coastpath signs but they weren’t very clear.  We came to a gate by a burnt bush and thought we were being directed the wrong way.  We could see a bridge over an iron stream up to the right, so we snuck along a fence to get to it.  The water in the stream was very very orange.
We came to a road — there were locked gates into an industrial site to our right so we had to turn left.  At last we came to a coastpath signpost, we don’t know how we were supposed to have got there but it certainly wasn’t the way we came.  We crossed an old railway, then turned right on a path which took us back to the coast.
Colin was ahead of me, and he found a tiny sheltered beach where we could sit out of the wind and eat our sarnies.  It was very pleasant there, we didn’t want to move.  We admired the twisted rocks in the cliff face behind us.  We hadn’t a hope of interpreting them but they made a very pretty pattern.  We conjectured that they might be metamorphic.  (Two years later we came on a geology field course, led by a professional geology professor, to this bit of coast.  She described the rocks as a mélange, which roughly translates as a “chaotic mixture”.  In other words, even the professionals can’t properly interpret them!)
We continued along the clifftop as the sky began to cloud over.  We heard a noise behind us, and when we turned round there was the Army catching us up!  Dozens of young men, a few young women, many not even carrying rucksacks – but Sarah wasn’t amongst them.  They came zipping along at a rate of knots, and we had to stand aside to let them all pass.  Actually they annoyed us intensely.  There they all were “doing good” by getting “sponsored” to raise money for Army charities.  But what exactly does this “sponsoring” mean — badgering everyone around you to cough up money while you go out to take part in an activity you enjoy.  That’s how I see it.  Now, if they were doing a useful job that no one else would do and which makes life easier or more fun for disadvantaged people, I could feel it was worthwhile.  But walking the coast path round Anglesey?  That’s something Colin and I are doing for fun!
We waited until they’d all got past, then chatted to a lady we met who was collecting litter.  She told us she belonged to the “Friends of Anglesey Coast Path”, and she didn’t think much of so-called charity walkers either.  Now she was doing a useful job that not many people are prepared to do, and nobody was “sponsoring” her!  She wished us well as we departed.
The next bit of the coast was quite dramatic with all those “mélange” rocks we didn’t understand.  The tide was right in and waves were crashing up against the cliffs below us.  We came to a cleft — which we were able to walk around on pretty flat ground, thank goodness.  Bubbles of foam were rising up from the surf below to rest on the grass at our feet.

We came out on a road leading down to Bull Bay.  We had to walk alongside the road for about half a mile, but there was a pavement.  Down in Bull Bay we passed a pub where the Army sponsored walkers were having lunch and swilling beer — no soggy sandwiches gobbled down whilst hiding from the wind behind a rock for them!  They seemed to have taken over the whole pub, and we wondered who was paying for the backup they had.  Was each individual paying for himself?  Was it paid for out of their sponsors’ donated money?  Or, since it was the Army providing the backup, was the Army paying for it?  ie, the taxpayer — that’s you and me, folks!  We passed them by with increasing annoyance and strode out on to the cliffs again.
We passed a house which was right on the edge of the cliff, we were really glad we didn’t live there!  We sat on a bench to eat our apples, but as we were about to get up and go the Army turned up again.  So we had to wait until they had all passed before we had room on the narrow path to proceed.  They were walking very fast — well, they were all about fifty years younger than us — and probably got to Cemaes Bay before the rain set in, which we didn’t.  Perhaps that was one reason why they annoyed us so much!
More and more spectacular coastline, Anglesey really is a fabulous place.  The rocks are very varied, a chaotic mixture indeed.  But the sky got more and more dull, the clouds got lower and lower and the wind got colder and colder.  It occasionally spotted with rain, so we would put the cameras away — then get them out again because the views were so fantastic.  We did this several times.  I put on my kag for warmth, and put the hood up because my ears were suffering.  Very different from the beautiful weather this morning at the start of our Walk.
Ahead we could see the abandoned brickworks at Porth Wen.  It was built round about 1900 and only functioned for less than fifteen years, until the start of the First World War.  Apparently the bay is very tricky to navigate, and the difficulties of bringing in supplies and taking the finished bricks out by sea is what finally made it non-viable.  (Someone didn’t do their homework before setting up a business, methinks.)  The path led us round the bay, down to sea level, then through the front garden of a house!  We saw a woman in a window we passed very close to — she was standing at her kitchen sink.  She must get really fed up with people forever walking through.  I couldn’t stand that lack of privacy.
We continued up through a field of cows, than up steeply behind the redundant works.  We could have gone down to look at them, but we didn’t because of lack of time, and we were aware that the weather was deteriorating rapidly.
We came out at the top by a limestone quarry.  We were by a winch, and the wheels were still there.  I reckoned we were at our 3500-mile point on the Grand Trek all the way from Bognor Regis, so it was time to take a selfie.  There was no one about who could take a shot of us both, so we balanced a stray asbestos sheet on top of a bush and took the picture using the delayed timer.
When we started this trek back in 1998, I calculated that it would be approximately 4500 miles doing it according to our ‘rules’ (using ferries to cross rivers etc.)  But that would mean we only have 1000 miles left to walk, and we know now that it is a good deal more than that.  I might have been up to a thousand miles out!
It started to rain heavily at that point, so we hurriedly put the cameras away and donned our overtrousers.  We hoped it would only be a shower, but it wasn’t — it was torrential!  And it lasted for hours and hours and hours with very little pause.  It was unbelievable that only forty-eight hours previously we had been enjoying a heatwave.
The path was wide and easy for a little while, grassy and leading gently downhill.  But soon it became narrow, uneven and rather tricky in the wet.  It kept going down into deep gullies with long flights of steep steps downwards — up to seventy to a flight — then a similar number back up again.  It was not the kind of weather in which we wanted to be out on cliffs like that.  The galling thing was that if we had started today’s Walk in Amlwch instead of going back to Llaneilian, we would have finished before the rain started.  Now we were out on the cliffs in a storm, just like we were five weeks ago, feeling cold, wet and miserable.
There was no way out, so we ploughed on.  We managed one short cut missing out a rock with a tower on top — it was a hundred steps up and another hundred down the other side, so Colin reckoned.  It didn’t look very exciting anyway, especially in the mist and rain.  We sat on a wall by a redundant “works” and ate our chocolate.  I took a photo of it from under Colin’s umbrella because I felt we had missed so many photo-opportunities on this interesting coast because of the wretched rain.
Then we climbed yet another set of steps, and carried on…..and on…..and on.  I managed a couple of pictures from under the umbrella, but if the weather had been fine I would have probably taken dozens.  It is a beautiful coastal path, but we were not enjoying it at all.
We unexpectedly came to a cemetery!  I reckoned it must have a road leading to it, so we got out the map which we hadn’t looked at for some time.  Sure enough, there was a ‘white’ lane leading up from Cemaes Bay which we had hardly noticed before because we had planned to follow the cliff path all the way round.  The lane cut out the last headland, and led straight down to the car park where our car was waiting — it was only half a mile.  Blow that last bit of the cliff walk!

That ended Walk no.339, we shall pick up Walk no.340 in the car park just to the east of Cemaes Bay — no going back to complete the cliff path.  It was twenty to six, so the Walk had taken us eight hours ten minutes.  Despite being only teatime on an early September evening, it was almost dark due to the heavy rain.  The tea we drank in the car was very welcome, but the toilet block was shut for the day, which made things awkward and uncomfortable.  There were temporary ‘Portaloos’ because the permanent block was being refurbished, and there was no disabled access so we couldn’t use our Radar keys.  While sitting in the car drinking our tea, the intensity of the rain increased so much it felt like buckets of water were being poured down the windscreen!  We drove back to our caravan site along rivers rather than roads, and found the corner of our awning had collapsed due to the weight of water on the roof.

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