It has been a month now since I completed the most recent section of my coast walk through Ceredigion and Gwynedd in Wales.
Aside from the saviour of meeting up with friends new and old alike, this last Welsh leg was not a particularly happy walk for me. Once again I finished with sore shins and feet, courtesy of long stretches of tarmac and hard sand walked in dreich. It felt like an ordeal, something I was enduring rather than enjoying.
Over the cliffs from Cardigan to Aberystwyth, I walked comfortably and well. Three days, each with around 1000m of climbing and magnificent scenery. Colourful towns like New Quay and Aberaeron connected by undulating cliff paths, occasionally exposed like the superb ‘Path of Doom’ between Llangrannog and Cwmtydu. Alas no dolphins, but I did see choughs and a fox and was even divebombed by a buzzard.
From Aberdyfi northwards, things changed. Gwynedd is beautifully scenic. The southwestern tip of Lleyn from Abersoch to Nefyn is a great walk, wild and quiet. But, aside from the expansive beaches (Morfa Dyffryn, Morfa Harlech and Black Rock Sands – Morfa Bychan), much of the way to Lleyn is routed on main roads or pointless inland diversions.
By Lleyn the damage had been done. My shins had suffered again, certainly on the road between Criccieth and Pwllheli if not on the many hard miles that preceded it.
Much is promoted about long distance paths like the Wales Coast Path, but it is not enough to stick up a few signs along existing rights of way. For long stretches it verges on a fraudulent marketing, since it is neither coastal nor a path. The A497 is NOT a path!
I fear for the England Coast Path (due to open fully in 2020) if it follows the same lazy thinking. I walked an open section between Minehead and Brean back in the spring, and I’ll tread some more in Cumbria and Northumberland.
Looking North then South
So through August I’ve been at home, avoiding by design the holiday crowds (who most probably stayed at home to shelter from the rain). I’m in that odd position of feeling well rested but restless. I can’t sit still (except for extended evenings watching athletics, Outlander or “I Know Who You Are”) and need to get walking once more. Will the feeling of eagerness be tempered the first time the concrete lid comes over the land and the rains fall? I keep smiling inside …
It’s an eagerness that is partly to do with seeing an end, in time at least. My intention was always to finish in October. So although there are many more miles to tread, I am almost into the last two months of this adventure for this year.
I shall be back on the trail from 30th August, starting in Liverpool, heading north to Carlisle. I’ll then transfer over to the northeast coast at Berwick and head south, pausing to meet Carolyn somewhere south of Humberside (Grimsby or Cleethorpes sound bright enough). From there, my only ‘must’ is to walk from north Kent home, so expect a mix of road trip and even cycling on the flat roads of the Wash, East Anglia and Essex!
If you are in any of those areas and can help me out with a bed or a meal or a space to pitch Nemo (my trusty tent), I’d be hugely appreciative. And please keep the sponsorship donations coming in. We’ve just topped £2000 (including Gift Aid) and I am so grateful to everyone of you who has donated – wouldn’t it be great to double it.