Anglesey Coast Path, day 1

September 10, 2017 0 Comments

Anglesey has more than enough cars – far more than enough.  This struck me the last time I was here a few weeks ago, when it took an hour and a half to go a few miles, and it’s even more obvious today.  A crawling queue to cross the Britannia Bridge, then a slow snake along the winding coast road from Menai Bridge – only to find that Beaumaris is hosting a two-day food festival.  All the foodies within a hundred miles have converged here (in their cars), leaving nowhere to park unless you own a Dinky car.  Edward I unaccountably failed to create enough car parks when he founded the town in 1296 (though admittedly he didn’t need to, having already expelled all the Welsh who lived locally).  We give up the search and go back to Menai Bridge to repeat the short journey, this time on foot.

Travelling by foot is something that foodies and other people on Anglesey might do more of, because the car has become an intolerable plague here.  Perhaps Ynys Môn councillors should declare the whole island car-free on at least one day a week.  Visitors would be required to leave their vehicles on the mainland and cross the two bridges on foot.  Anyone wanting to go further would walk or be issued with bicycles, free for the day.  Those insisting on motorised transport could use a vastly improved network of electric minibuses.  Peace would be restored to levels unknown since before the industrial revolution, air pollution would subside, and levels of health and well-being would soar.

Awaking from this dream, four of us walk along the choked main road – just crossing it is a major undertaking – east from Menai Bridge.  First stop is Oriel Tegfryn to see C H-J’s exhibition of Hansel and Gretel illustrations, opened the night before.  We pale when we see the axe in the witch’s back, the smoking oven, and one picture with the words ‘bad mother and weak father’.  We reflect that the Grimm brothers and Sigmund Freud lived not too far apart in time or space.

Soon the path leaves the main road, climbs to Llandegfan and follows a marginally quieter road eastwards, with views across the Menai Strait to the mountains, from the Carneddau to Llŷn, bright in the afternoon sun.  The great bowl of Dyffryn Ogwen opens up opposite.  Below us we can see Henry Hare’s dark and cavernous University building in upper Bangor, with its stunted cathedral-like tower.  To its left is Penrhyn Castle, the neo-Norman pile the Pennant family built with the proceeds of sugar, slavery and slate, and Port Penrhyn, the terminus of the early railroad they built that transported slates to the world, before Lord Penrhyn’s intransigence during the Great Strike of 1900-1903 destroyed the industry.

On the road we’re met by an untidy procession of runners and walkers taking part in the Ring o’ Fire race.  They look like the survivors of a defeated army.  Numbers are fixed to their thighs and water bottles strapped to their backs.  The expressions on their faces range from extreme distress to acute pain.  It turns out they’ve already run and walked for 35 miles today and plan to continue to Holyhead tomorrow.  Some of them are so drained they’ve no spare energy to raise a greeting or a smile.  They probably look on us strollers, if they see us at all, as smug and over-fed.

The road narrows to a lane, but still we have to stand aside every minute or so to make way for passing cars, before we leave and follow a blissful footpath past a row of ancient oaks and up a winding path through scrubland.  The kissing gate technology here is pleasantly antique.  This is an old track, part of the Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path, created before the Wales Coast Path was dreamed of, and its signposts, with a picture of a tern in flight, make a nice contrast to the usual conch.

We pass Pen Parc, a big, institutional-looking house, walk down its drive and join Allt Goch Bach, a carless lane that leads down a steep hill into Beaumaris.   By chance we meet A1 and A2, invited walkers last time, in the street.  They’ll join us on later walks.  We find our cottage and follow the complex instructions to open its front door. We realise we’ve left both cars in Menai Bridge, so C and I wait for an Arriva bus.  It’s late, crowded and takes a bizarre, wandering route along single-track lanes.  When we get back to Beaumaris there’s nowhere to park the cars anywhere close to the cottage, but a group of sherpas, M and P and C H-J, miraculously appear to lug our luggage down the road.  At last we can relax, abandon the cars, and enjoy the evening, and the week ahead.

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