Wales Coast Path, day 83: Rhosneigr to Aberffraw

May 29, 2018 0 Comments

Rhosneigr is a bloated seaside village, with some forgettable seafront houses, but once past them we’re walking south into the morning wind on a long, dune-edged beach, Traeth Llydan.  The sun has gone today and the distant mountains are reduced to grey silhouettes.

A wind surfer races across the water of the bay.  Reaching its end, he flips his board, leaps in the air and reverses direction.  Tugging the blue and red sail to take up the wind, he speeds back to his starting point, all with apparent ease and nonchalance.

Past the bay and up above the shoreline, pink thrift bursts from clefts in the rocks, themselves dressed in equally vivid yellow lichen.  Then the flowers start to multiply, spring squill joining the thrift to clothe the walls and land to our left.  Beyond another bay, on a headland, we spot what looks from a distance like a wartime sea defence or a nuclear bunker.  Eventually, with the help of the OS map, it dawns on us that we’re looking at a constriction that’s thousands of years older – the massive neolithic burial chamber Barclodiad y Gawres (‘the she-giant’s full apron’).  It was excavated in the early 1950s by Thomas Powell and Glyn Daniel and later restored in a heavy-handed way, with a heavy concrete entrance and a circular cap over the rebuilt mound.  We point our cameras ineffectually into the gated, gloomy interior, taking on trust the elaborate patterns – lozenges, spirals and zig-zags – incised on the massive stones within.

Next comes Porth Trecastell, a bay with a curved rim, well hidden from the sea.  In English it’s called Cable Bay: it was once the terminus of an underwater link to Ireland, first laid in 1871.  As we reach the car park by the road, a van and trailer pull up beside us.  The trailer’s labelled Môn Ar Lwy, which turns out to be a witty pun (eats / on a spoon), since what it sells is Anglesey’s top ice cream.  The owner says that if we wait for his kettle to boil we can buy his coffee; and while we wait, why don’t we try his ‘hufen iâ clasurol’?  He’s a former secondary school teacher – he recalls the secondary in Holyhead as an ‘ysgol ryff’ – who retired and, with his wife, turned his hand to making fine ice cream.  Now they supply it to outlets all over the island, and sell it at the National Eisteddfod.  (There’s a fault with the kettle, and it’s twenty minutes and a few ice creams later before we get to drink the coffees.)

The next section south must rank as the Flower Coast of Wales.  For a week or so at this time of year the slopes and cliffs are covered with sheep’s bit scabious, sea pinks, violas, sqills, celandines, sea campions, primroses, vetches and other flowers.  Normally, walking through such a natural carpet of blossom happens only in dreams, and this is a rare experience, even more intense than seeing the spring flowers of the north Pembrokeshire coast.  Birds too are everywhere, especially skylarks, and oystercatchers.  The oystercatchers stand on rocks by the sea, with their impossibly bright orange bills and elegant legs, as if they’d been created by contemporary Scandinavian designers.

For some time the air has been full of noises.  Motor bikes – a whole army of them, by the sound they make – are racing round Trac Môn (Anglesey Circuit) to the south.  Now the Bodorgan Estate forces the (permissive) path to leave the coast and skirt the eastern edge of the Trac.  Across a large field the noise grows to a crescendo – screaming, squealing, roaring and bellowing – but we can see nothing.  Soon we’re nearer still and edging the fence of the Trac, and the noise is deafening, but still we see nothing: a long rampart shields the view of the bikes.  Finally we snatch a glimpse through a hedge, of machines flashing inanely past.

Down a lane past another Bodorgan Estate house and a small white house named, unpromisingly, Ty’n Twll, we’re back at the coast and suddenly see one of the wonders of Anglesey, St Cwyfan’s Church, perched on its tiny island linked to the bay by a low-water trail of stones and pebbles.  The island was surrounded by a high stone wall in the nineteenth century to counter sea erosion, which gives the plain white building a defiant, fortified air.  It’s only two hours before high tide, but M and I decide to skip over the quickly submerging stones to visit the simple white church, which dates mainly from the fourteenth century.  We linger only a couple of minutes, but the tide’s coming in fast and we’re almost too late coming back.  The grit path has gone under water and we’re forced to hop precariously from one wet boulder to another.  The others, eating their sandwiches in safety, watch us with scorn and amusement.

The narrow path continues south, past small bays and inlets below us.  In one of them a land artist has perched little piles of stones on the shore rocks, to create tiny figures, and a perfect arch.  On spikes of flowering gorse skeins of spun silk, grey like plastic, are home to tent caterpillars, just emerging into the warmth.  Then we round Trwyn Du and turn east, along the estuary of the Ffraw.  On the opposite shore the dunes are fringed by a continuous strip of bright, white sand; the dark shapes of occasional walkers give the scene the air of a Dutch painting.  The tide’s high and as we come to Aberffraw village it’s easy to image ships sailing up the river to dock below the medieval court.

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