Gwynedd Coast Path, day 14

July 12, 2017 0 Comments

Bus journeys to the start of walks are always welcome.  Today we’re off, the five of us, to Tudweiliog with Bysus Nefyn.  Strangely, the bus visits Nefyn, our final destination, before rattling along to Tudweiliog, but otherwise doesn’t deviate from the road to reach remote villages on either side (there aren’t many of them), so we’re there in good time.  The driver is a genial man.  He talks non-stop to one of his workmates, who stands and leans over him through the journey. 

Tudweiliog has a post office, and I go in to buy some postcards.  The shopkeeper is puzzled.  Whether it’s because she’s thrown by my southern Welsh or because no one has asked her for a postcard for twenty years is hard to tell.  Most of the aging postcards are bent in their metal holders, and the smaller ones I do buy have distorted colours, as if Llŷn landscapes need to be improved on.

Unforecast drizzle is falling as we set off from the village on a path to Tywyn, the point on the coast where we finished yesterday, past an unusually elegant gate and a flock of sheep blocking our way.  The eternal question arises, whether to put waterproof leggings on or not.  We decide against and the drizzle slowly stops.  But overnight rain has already soaked the grasses.  Our boots and trousers are soon wet, and the path has muddy patches needing detours.  It’s easy walking here than yesterday, lowish level and with fewer inlets forcing descents and ascents.  The first couple of bays are sandy, the rest stony.  Flowers are fewer, but grasses of all kinds are in flower.  When the sun eventually breaks through in the afternoon they release a rich mix of scents as we swish our way through.  Birds seem even commoner.  Oystercatchers pipe with piercing cries like opera sopranos as they swoop in twos or threes across the coast rocks.  Unlike our Swansea Bay birds they’re not in groups, and they’re much louder.  In flight they tweet one another like obsessive teenagers afraid of losing contact.  Over the fields inland skylarks sing, and swifts dance over pools in streams and pools above the sea.  At last, after peering at black carrions for several days, we spot a pair of redfoot choughs

Rounding the headland at Penrhyn Cwmistir we’re rewarded twice, by the view to the north – the tops of Yr Eifl are beginning to lose their cloud cover at last – and by the sight of twelve grey seals in two adjacent bays below.  Big bulls lay beached at the entrance, guarding members of their families inside the bay, who dive and surface or relax on low rocks.  The seals sing in bass baritone.  Their songs hang and drift in the sea air.  Half a mile along the coast we can still hear them.  Little wonder, as C. says, that many cultures hold that in the bodies of seals are trapped the souls of lost humans.

The bare countryside behind the wild sea suddenly gives way to the most extreme example of manicured landscapes, a golf course.  It stretches along the whole of the narrow peninsula of Porth Dinllaen.  Our heroic tramping along the coast path is mocked by the effortless gliding of tubby people in electric buggies from green to green.  Even more ridiculously, one of the tees is sited directly under the window of the coastguard station.  We shuffle past as fast as we can, to the north, sheltered side of the peninsula.  We visit the lifeboat station, a big baroque statement rather like the Mumbles one, and back on the path we hop from stone to stone at sea level towards Tŷ Coch and a good pub lunch.  There are more people here at Porth Dinllaen than we’ve seen on the coast for many miles.

Historically Porth Dinllaen stands as the memento mori for the ambitions, if not the fortunes, of several Victorian speculators.  Several thought that it would become the port of embarkation for Ireland, instead of Holyhead.  Even more wanted to bring a railway here, but it stubbornly refused to venture beyond Pwllheli.  Now it’s just the pub and a few houses, fixed for ever in the National Trust’s aspic.

Next we pad along the long, level sandy beach towards Morfa Nefyn, turning back often to try to capture the Perfect Photo of Port Dinllaen.  Like us, the sea has lost all energy.  Tiny waves collapse at its edge, and the afternoon’s become warm.  A single jellyfish with jagged, electric striations lies stranded.  Half way along we climb to the cliff-top, rejoin the Path and follow it towards Nefyn.  Before it gets there we deviate down a steep path to the beach.  The bay is fringed by small painted chalets, built on scaffolding and entered by wooden steps at the front.  Each is individually painted and decorated, which gives the row a less rigid and bourgeois feel than the National Trust beach huts at Llanbedrog.  There’s a steep climb up the road to the town, past the old stone watchtower, from which the herring fleet could once be seen.  We can find no coffee shop and the maritime museum is closed. We content ourselves with an ice cream and a rest on a bench at the main crossroads.  Nefyn is a busy place but has its share of abandoned shops, as well as a perfectly preserved garage with two ancient petrol pumps, one upright, the other collapsed.  As elsewhere in Llŷn the chapels too have closed, including Moriah, with its jaunty but derelict red and cream facade.  Along comes the bus to Pwllheli.  It’s the same happy driver in charge.  This time a younger man sits in the front seat and holds him in a non-stop stream of conversation.

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