Gwynedd Coast path, day 18

September 11, 2017 0 Comments

Caernarfon to Bangor isn’t one of the Wales Coast Path’s happier stretches.  On a day of near continuous rain it really can’t be recommended.  And if, on top of that, you get lost not once but three times, it can turn into a bit of a torment.

Normally a bus journey is a fine start to the day.  Not today.  The Sunday Arriva service from Beaumaris to Bangor takes half an hour longer than a car.  It starts by going in exactly the opposite direction, to Llanddona, then winds its way tortuously through Llansadwrn and Llandegfan to Menai Bridge and Bangor, visiting Ysbyty Gwynedd on the way. The Bangor to Caernarfon bus also takes big detours, including to Ysbyty Gwynedd – Arriva take no chances with your health – and Y Felinheli.  So it’s late before the three of us (M is our brave guest) start walking, and we forego the usual coffee.

Everything starts well.  It’s not raining, yet.  Beyond Caernarfon Castle the path passes the town walls and the marina, giving us views to Anglesey. Then we walk on a tarmac cycle track, along the course of the pre-Beeching railway from Afon Wen.  It’s green and well dog-walked, but enclosed by trees and without views.  Then the rain begins.  We descend into Y Felinheli, pass the old Ferodo works, scene of a bitter industrial dispute in 2001, and take refuge in the Garddfon Inn.  This is a village for those who like to spend their money on sailing, or at least being seen in, expensive yachts, and a whole industry has grown up around them.  Climbing back out of the village we go astray, for the first time today, and fast traffic flashes past a few feet from us.  Now we’re on the perimeter of the Vaynol Estate.  It once belonged to Thomas Assheton Smith, owner of the Dinorwic slate quarry.  He signalled his supremacy to outsiders by building a high stone wall around his lands.  It’s capped by irregularly shaped slates laid side by side – the nineteenth century equivalent of barbed wire.

We’re now at huge swirling roundabouts, almost impossible to cross as fast streams of cars sway past in waves of aerial water.  Coast Path signposts have given up the ghost and we’re not certain which way to go.  By a Premier Inn we enter the Parc Menai Business Park, a big estate of sheds for accountants, lawyers and various agencies – a development that’s no doubt responsible for the hollowing out and decline of Bangor town centre.  Since it’s Sunday there’s no one about.  The whole place looks like a set from The Avengers.  A couple of Path signs appear, high on lamp-posts, but with no directions.  At a junction we choose what turns out to be the wrong option. Twenty minutes later we’re back at the Premier Inn, having reached the end of the Business Park, crossed a large field, come to a halt at an impenetrable wood, and despondently retraced our steps.  Finally we negotiate the two roundabouts and find a different way, possibly via a former coast path route, of getting to the south end of the Britannia Bridge.  We stand alongside the rail line and under the road.  Rotting concrete and leaking pipes suggest the bridge hasn’t been well maintained since John Morris reopened it after the famous fire of 1970.

It’s been raining for hours now and the tree canopy gives no protection, but the next stretch is the best this walk can offer – a winding track through green beech and birch woodland between the two bridges, ending in Bangor University’s arboretum at Treborth.  The star attraction is an ancient Lucombe oak.  Just as we emerge from a lane at the south tower of Telford’s great suspension bridge a car passes close to us.  Its front wheel hits a deep pothole, and a sheet of water hits M and me face-on, soaking us inside as well as out (the driver comes back to apologise, fair play).  Again we miss the non-existent signposts pointing us to a woodland path, and trudge, three miserable, wet figures, into the centre of Bangor on the main road, past a Bangor City match being watched by a group of diehard supporters huddled under a miniature stand.  The rain stops for a brief time, but we’ve missed the bus we planned to get, and have to plead with Ca to come and give us a lift home from Upper Bangor.

This hasn’t been the best of our Coast Path days.  The weather can’t help being what it is, but what’s made the walk much worse is the extremely poor signposting along the route.  If you’re thinking about walking it, our advice would be: prepare much better than we did, and don’t expect help from the path planners.

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