Gwynedd Coast Path, day 17

July 15, 2017 0 Comments

Ca has joined us from Swansea.  Yesterday it took her almost ten hours to make the journey of 150 miles by train (Swansea to Carmarthen), bus (Carmarthen to Aberystwyth) and train (Aberystwyth to Pwllheli), including two connection stops of an hour each in Aberystwyth and Machynlleth, and a serious train breakdown in Machynlleth.  To put it simply, long distance public transport in Wales is a national disgrace.  If I were a member of the Welsh Government I’d feel deeply ashamed that nothing has improved since 1999, and that for many people Wales remains two separate countries.

This morning the bus to Caernarfon is almost full, and noisy with friends and strangers exchanging conversations in Welsh and English – the model of how a bus journey should be.  When we arrive, H tells us that her blisters have got the better of her, and she decides not to join us.  So only three of us take the second bus, to Dinas Dinlle.  We guess that only the most fearless of Express Motors drivers are allowed on the Dinas Dinlle route, which consists mainly of minor, single track roads, taken at the usual headlong Llŷn bus pace.  The weather’s cooler today, with a westerly breeze.  A long curtain of dark cloud lies over the mountains of Snowdonia.  But no rain is forecast.

It doesn’t take long for us to leave Dinas Dinlle and its few undistinguished buildings (including one painted a frightening shade of yellow), walking north along the sea wall.  In half an hour we arrive at Caernarfon Airport, surprising busy with light aircraft and helicopters.  Just inside the entrance is a private air museum, but when we learn the cost of entrance we turn tail and flee.  Soon we reach the shores of Y Foryd, a saltmarsh sea inlet and bird reserve, and start to walk around it.  At first we’re on a raised grassy berm, then on a path, and finally on a series of minor roads.  In an unseen field to our left sheep are complaining loudly in chorus, like backbenchers howling at one another in the House of Commons.  Later, in a detour to cross the river Gwyrfai by an old stone bridge with handsome voussoirs, we pass through the hamlet of Saron.   Its chapel, founded in 1862, is closed, like so many others in Llŷn, and a notice attached to the telephone box warns of its imminent removal.  A small playground is the only public facility left.  Back at the inlet we sit in a bird hide for a few minutes – no birds are unwise enough to come close – then park ourselves on rocks outside an empty second (or holiday) home to eat our sandwiches at the water’s edge.  Birds we can’t identify call to one another far across the marsh, and a gang of gulls on a mudflat some distance away send sorties in our direction once they realise that we’re dealing in foodstuffs.

Across the mouth of Y Foryd we can make out Fort Belan, built by Thomas Wynn, later Lord Newborough, in 1775 when the country was in a panic about the American revolution and fearful of raiders from the sea.  When the Americans failed to turn up the Newboroughs adoped the fort as their personal hideaway, later adding a harbour for their steam yacht and a watchtower for their telescope.  A little further on, we spot, isolated in the stubble of a cornfield on our right, the ancient church of Llanfaglan.  It’s been adopted by the Friends of Friendless Churches, and for good reason – inside it’s a gem.  Walking across the field and pushing open the heavy door, we’re transported back many centuries.  The box pews, benches, pulpit, altar and other woodwork all belong to the eighteenth century, and many are inscribed with initials and dates.  Little seems to have changed since.

A narrow road follows the coast.  Regular cars pass, all driven by elderly, well-fed men.  We wonder whether a meeting of the local Freemasons has just finished, but it turns out they’ve come from a round of golf at the Caernarfon course.  On the shore a couple of men are raking among the seaweed, maybe in search of whelks, and a heron stands, motionless and meditative, by the sea’s edge.  Beyond them, across the Menai Strait, is the low, sandy coast of Anglesey, the scene of a future leg of the coast path.  This has been a calm, pastoral walk so far, but suddenly, across a grass field to our right, appear the turrets of the Eagle Tower of Caernarfon Castle – a sudden burst of stone grandeur, or a menacing demonstration of alien oppression, depending on your taste.  Before long we round the corner of the coast and find ourselves right opposite the castle.  All that remains is to cross the bridge over the Seiont and join the happy tourists eating ice creams in Castle Square.

So ends one of the most enjoyable stretches of the coast path.  We’ve been lucky with the weather.  The landscape has included some of the best available in these islands.  We’ve had good company in the walking.  And it’s been a particular pleasure to start most conversations in Welsh with a high expectation that you’ll get a Welsh reply.  We’ll remember Llŷn.

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