Anglesey Coast Path, day 3

September 12, 2017 0 Comments

A day without rain, the Met Office predicts.  There’s rejoicing in Beaumaris.  All our guests are gone this morning, and C, H and I wait again outside the Spar for the 9:05 bus to Llanddona.  This time the driver’s too polite to express incredulity that we want to go there.  From the pub in Llanddona we walk down the same steep hill as two days ago.  While C and I visit the public toilets, H says she’ll see us later and starts out.  It turns out to be much later.  We’d made the fatal error of not agreeing which route to take.  H wisely sticks to the official Path, away from (and out of sight of) the beach.  C and I stride out over the wide sands of Traeth Coch (Red Wharf Bay).  Twenty minutes later we realise our plan to rejoin the Path further on won’t work.  Ahead there’s a river in our way, Afon Nodwydd.  Beyond that a boggy saltmarsh blocks our return to the Path.  And we’d be racing against the incoming high tide.

Luckily, as we’re pondering what to do, we turn round and spot H waving her arms on the sands far behind us.  She rescues us from our ineptitude and shepherds us all the way back to the path.  We start the walk again, almost from scatch.  Beyond Afon Nodwydd the Path runs along the top of the stone seawall protecting farmland from watery attack.  On the saltmarsh tall, elegant dark grasses sway in the wind and whisper among themselves.  At intervals are wooden passing places, ornamented by someone with shells and bits of netting, perhaps to propitiate the god of the sea.  Beyond the end of the wall the path continues, just above the waterline.  To H’s horror, most of the other users of the path are dogs and their indulgent owners.  Passing, one of the owners says, ‘Don’t let her jump at you!’  Too late, muddy pawmarks decorate our trousers.

At the head of the bay is Pentraeth – just a couple of low bridges and a scattering of houses, but, we agree, the serenest place we’ve found so far on Anglesey.  The wind has vanished.  We’ve arrived with the high tide, but the sea is perfectly calm at our feet.  Gulls glide on the water, and a group of terns suddenly rise and wheel to the south in a flash of black and white.  We stop for a snack on the nearest of the bridges.  A plaque near it commemorates the death of Hywel ab Owain Gwynedd, ‘prince and poet’, in a skirmish at this spot in 1170.  This injection of past violence seems alien to the natural tranquility of the place.  Some of Hywel’s own poems, though, share the dreamy, peaceful aura of the place:

Karafy gaer wennglaer o du gwennylan;
myn yd gar gwyldec gweled gwylan

I love a bright fort on a shining slope,
Where a fair, shy girl loves watching gulls.
(tr. Gwyn Williams)

Further on the tide has infiltrated the path and we have to skip from rock to slippery rock.  It’s a relief when the path leaves the shoreline as some large private houses take possession of the coast.  It regains the sea at the Ship Inn.  Here large numbers of retired folk from northern England are gathered for a pint or two, many, no doubt, from the caravan villages in the area.  For this is the beginning of Caravan Coast, an almost continuous string of temporary homes that only ceases beyond Benllech, where the sand runs out.  At times it looks like someone has thrown caravans randomly across the landscape.  At Benllech they litter a whole coastal slope and ruin a sea cliff.  Goronwy Owen, the eighteenth century poet born here, would have had some salty words to say about the place today.

In spite of the caravans the path does it best to give us a coastal treat.  It leads us up and over headlands, across fields and along narrow lanes, and gives us regular views of the crumbling sedimentary cliffs.  To our delight there’s a large sewage works, its perimeter guarded by a wall topped with rococo barbed wire.  Finally it delivers us into Moelfre, a refreshingly ordinary place without a large number of holiday and second homes, but with a fine homemade ice cream parlour.  The bus to Menai Bridge is the first bus we’ve caught on Anglesey that goes straight from A to B.

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