Dipping my Feet in (Llyn Peninsula and Pembrokeshire 2017)
Still considering walking the coastal path this coming year from May to September…
Feeling there are lots of reasons why this might not be a good idea quite yet. We have only been in Wales just over a year now, and are still recovering from a challenging ‘in-between’ year. The best thing perhaps is to keep dreaming about the possibility of doing it, seek to raise the funds over time in a relaxed way, and to do some more ‘practice’ walking in the meantime.
In March I open my Countryfile magazine once it has come through the post and it opens on a page about a walk in the exact area where I had finished the second of my trial sections last year. This fires up an interest to carry on from where I left off last year, even if it isn’t going to work for me to walk the whole coastal path this year.
So in May, I decide to head off to the Llyn for just over a week, while Nathalie is in Holland, to walk a longer stretch of the coast path, and really experience walking and camping. I feel the need to get out and clear my head while I walk and don’t really want to sleep in peoples homes this time but to camp and be alone in my thoughts… though in reality I may still feel safer in campsites some nights, so will still bump into people.
But I think a lot of this part of the Llyn – linking as it does with the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way (a walk from Holywell in Flintshire to Bardsey Island at the tip of the Llyn) - will actually be quite quiet. Will probably aim to go somewhere like Pembrokeshire for a week in September as well.
Once Nathalie has left for Holland I take a day packing my things – really tired, and could easily stay at home for a few days, but I think I better just get away and take the first few days in a campsite getting my bearings…
May 2017 Llyn Peninsula
Tuesday May 16th
Take most of the day to get to the Bach Wen campsite. I’d loved the campsite last year and want to use it again. I get there and flop at about 7 in the evening, after setting my tent up, before allowing full floppiness to set in! The route had taken me first via Barmouth, where I picked up a reasonable pair of walking boots at a very reasonable price in one of those ‘everything’ type stores with nearly every item ‘reduced’! They seem ok, but the rubber cap at the end of the shoe seems to cause blisters the moment my feet touch them. Well ok that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but still!
Word of advice to self and others: choose your shoes carefully when walking, and definitely, definitely, don’t choose shoes that will cause your feet to hurt before the journey to the start of your walk is over!!!
Then I go via Pwllheli, pick up most of my first lot of food in the Lidl there, and then take the final bus towards Clynogg Fawr, the small village where my campsite is.
Wednesday May 17th
Sleep till 11 – much needed. As I wake up I realise that I am simply not ready to start my walk today and it will have to wait until the Thursday. So, I take a short bus back in the direction of Caernarfon to get extra supplies, and primarily blister plasters for the blisters that are now forming in response to the shoes!
Thursday May 18th
Set off from Bach Wen. Have to cover a little of the ground from the final day's walking from last year, but that doesn’t matter as that was a special days walking. Come (after serious ascending!) to the western slopes of Yr Eifl and look down to the Welsh Language Centre at Nant Gwrtheyrn.
From this point on the rest is new to me.
It takes me longer than I think it would to reach this point. After a winter off am getting used again to carrying a heavy load uphill!
I really want to get to the Welsh language centre in time to have a drink at the café. It looks more and more that I’ll struggle to do this. In the end get there for 4.45… but the Ladies are so kind and say that the restaurant is still being used, so I can stay in the café for as long as I want. Make absolutely sure that I’m not going to cause resentment by doing this… I’d prefer people to say if they’d actually prefer you weren’t there! But as they clearly can’t leave anyway, and they are really kind, I can relax and sit and read... Bliss! I often find myself in this sort of situation with cafes where I mean to get there an hour before closing time, and end up about 10 minutes before! There’s always some sort of exchange of apologetic and kind words, and then, if I’m sure they are happy, I can relax and stay – hate to stay in a place if you know that really they want you out! Particularly as I’ve worked in cafes and I’ve seen the reaction from the other side of the fence! I need say no more on this!
I get to just wander around and look at the Welsh Language Centre – it’s quite a unique place where you can take residential Welsh courses, and seems a significant part of the restoration and preservation of the Welsh language. There is information in a little exhibition room about the history of the Language Centre and the valley, which used to be a village of homes for those working in the granite quarry in the mountain above. Then I sit outside in what is surely the hottest day of the year so far, on a bench looking out to sea.
I decide to get walking as I’d like to get to Nefyn and I know it is another 5 or so miles, but I don’t know what the route will be like.
The walking from here is absolutely beautiful… on a day like today… perhaps one of the most beautiful walks I remember doing. Woodlands flow gently down the cliff into the sea, with bent and curled trees – presumably shaped by the wind over years. Bluebells carpet the floor of the ‘sloping forest’ and cascade down into the sea. The path winds around the cliffs through the trees and the bluebells, with the sun shining down and through, and with a view out to sea. It is glorious, like another world, or at least a tropical island!
The path eventually rises higher and higher and then I carry on walking around the top of the grassy cliff edge. I find a couple of places that would work for wild camping, but my confidence in wild camping is still not that high yet.
In the end, I feel I need the safety of a campsite this evening, so from the top of the cliffs, sit down, get out my list of campsites that I had written out from the Wales Coast Path website, and call one in Nefyn called Wern Campsite, thinking now that I will make it there that night. I get through to a lady who sounds so friendly and assures me that I will be fine knocking even if I’m late, as it is her son in law and daughter who run the campsite. I do arrive there as it is turning dark, and the man who opens the door is the owner of the campsite. He is not offended by me arriving late and is extremely friendly and explains where things are and where to pitch up. I feel safe and welcomed. This does not always happen when you arrive late at a campsite you’ve never been to before.
Friday May 19th
This simple little campsite is getting better and better in the light of day. They only charge me £8 for the night, say I can leave the tent up till any time, if I want a late start today, and they have a fantastic hut with a coffee shop. I decide that yesterday’s effort of walking all day, needs some recovery, and so leave the tent up and wander down to Nefyn to explore and enjoy the beach and look for a coffee shop, and to postpone the long job of packing stuff and tent up!
Sunbathe, read, even have a dip in the very cold sea, and then decide the hut on the campsite looks like the best option for coffee – chat to the campsite owners while I sip coffee – they’re so friendly. In the end, after I’ve packed up and had a shower, I don’t leave till 5pm with only 4 or 5 hours of light left… But I’m happy with that and feel relaxed… many would approach these sort of things with a much more goal orientated approach, but that is not me and if I’m going to sustainably long-distance walk, I will need times within that of pure relaxation as well.
I made my way along the tops of Nefyn and Porthdinllaen beach. That whole stretch is quite long and really stunning the way the semi circles of cliffs around each of these beaches, plummet at an almost completely vertical drop to the beaches below. These are stunning beaches (and we had visited Portdinllaen the year before, when we spent some time exploring North Wales in our first year here), but with benches all the way along the two walk-ways at the top, this is really the busiest and most ‘built up’ part of the whole North Llyn Coast from Caernarfon down to Bardsey Island. Only Caernarfon itself is busier and that is how wild this section of the coast is.
After Porthdinllaen, feel the need to stop for somewhere to sleep. But seem not to have any options other than Porthdinllaen golf course (Nefyn & District Golf Club). This has got to be one of the most picturesque golf courses in the world. I know there are a few that practically disappear into the sea, or up a mountain, but I can’t imagine many better placed than this. I seriously consider camping on a few rough patches of ground on the golf course, but decide against it, at the thought of being chased by an older man wielding a golf club as a weapon, and me running half the way down the coast to get away from him… as well as the danger of oversleeping in the morning and being woken up by a misplaced descending golf ball that makes a shot gun like hole in my tent canvas and ends up creating a cartoon like bump in the centre of my forehead!
After the golf course I begin to enter the much wilder and solitary part of the Llyn. I lovvvvvvvvvve the quiet here! It begins to feel wilder and you can sense the stillness in the air. The stillness seems to be more than just physical. This of course, is now not just the Wales Coast Path, but also the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way – goodness knows how many Pilgrims over the years have walked from here down to Bardsey Island.
This is perfect!
I find a little spot down in a ‘mini-valley’, with a ‘mini-estuary’ from a stream running out to sea. Covered by cliffs and a higher path on either side, it seems the perfect place – hidden and away. And then just as I am sitting there thinking of setting up, a teenage girl and a mother come out for a walk. I feel like they look at me suspiciously – most likely this is the insecurity of an inexperienced wild camper, I’m sure they didn’t, but anyway I carry on.
Eventually come to a spot overlooking the sea, where the cliff descends in levels of grassy flat sections down to the sea. This means I can set up tent just below the top of the cliff on a nice flat of grass. I think to myself, 'If I can’t wild camp here, I can’t wild camp anywhere.' And it is beyond idyllic going to sleep looking through the inner tent with the outer tent door open, looking out to sea, and waking up to enjoy this fantastic view.
Saturday May 20th
The only thing that would add to the view this morning… would be a cup of tea, but I simply can’t be bothered to carry a mini stove as well as everything else. It is perfect and I absolutely love the quiet feeling of this part of the coast. It feels away from everything. And I sit, like a happy pilgrim, contemplating, thinking and doing nothing.
Still manage a 7.30 am start to the walk! This is early!!
I walk and so enjoy it. I come across beautiful sandy beach after beautiful sandy beach. Porth Towyn and Porth Colmon are two of the most stunning. I really enjoy the rockier sections, watching the seals pop their heads up above the water, float on their backs, roll about on rocks and make all sorts of groans and noises as they do – theirs is the perfect life really! I have to go inland to stop for a Gammon and chips at a pub (The Lion Hotel, Tudweiliog), but it is really worth it and my first proper hot meal since I started. I enjoy stopping to read at Porth Towyn and by the time I have walked by the long stretch of beach called Porth Colmon it is getting late and I need to find a campsite.
There are a couple by the beach, but I don’t feel comfortable with them – they feel like places with an ‘atmosphere’ and possibly some drugs as well. So I head inland by a country lane. This is not a great decision, as walking the coast path the next day I see that there would have been plenty of great places to wild camp if I’d carried on for a few minutes.
In the end scare an older lady with a campsite in her garden as she is obviously concerned who would knock at 10.30 at night, and so says I can’t stay - then I see that there is a field opposite with a few caravans in and a sign for camping outside. I can’t see where I would book in, so I set the tent up, and feel as unsafe here as I would have in the ones nearer the coast. Still, you only learn by doing these things, and as I have to remind my sometimes perfectionist mindset – it’s ok to get it wrong with these things.
Sunday May 21st
Walk back to Porth Colmon and sit on a cliff top, looking out to sea at 7 in the morning. Suddenly as am sitting on a grassy bank, a stoat jumps out from a hiding place, looks at me and quickly scuttles away. But what a cool encounter with the wild! The stuff of dreams. They are such jumpy, nippy little things.
Start walking round the coast again and begin to feel really low and weighed down in my heart, as well as from my pack, as well as an unsettled nights sleep. And to make it worse I am struggling to regulate my layers – this morning I started with too many on, some left from the night before, having started so early in the morning where it felt cold, and then it got hot and then cold again and then hot again. But I simply couldn’t bring myself to take any layers off. So I began to sink!
There are some amazing beaches, and more seals popping their heads in and out the water, like comic deep sea divers – I have never seen as many seals, or as many beautiful beaches so closely together, but today I’m not really in the right frame of mind to enjoy it.
Eventually stop on another unimaginably beautiful beach called Porth Lago, sit and read there for a little while, finally take layers off (!) and carry on.
I’m really looking forward to reaching Porth Oer (also known as Whistling Sands), as I had seen the beach on the BBC documentary 'Coast' and been impressed by it, both the beauty and the fact that the sands make a squeaky sound beneath your feet. They had said on 'Coast' that we have a few beaches like this in the UK, and they explained the science of the whistling... Plus when you see a place that you’ve seen on TV, it feels a bit like seeing a celebrity. It feels like you have reached a famous place and are lucky to be standing there somehow…
Anyway, as am walking round the coast, the path really clings to the edge of the cliff, and I become more than a little worried about toppling off, particularly with my heavy pack. Decide to walk the other side of the path following the coast from inside the fields, but this means jumping over a few fences of barbed wire.
…Oh well, I might reach my destination partially torn to shreds, but at least I won’t be at the bottom of a cliff!
So, feeling a little defeated and dejected, sit on a log, looking down towards Porth Oer.
Just then, a little older lady, comes bouncing and bounding, perhaps even skipping up to me. She is called Jean, and she is walking the whole coast path. She is 71, and she is going to do it in under two months, where as most people need three! What’s more she is wild camping all the way around it.
We discover that she camped in the spot I lost my nerve with the night before last. She said that the people were just interested, not suspicious.
She camped there last night rather than the night before – so she has done what I have done in two days, in one day!!
We sit having a coffee in the Porth Oer café, and I am amazed by her. She started walking 20 years before after a personal grief - she started with trails like the West Highland Way. And she grew to love long distance walking. Her family and children think she is nuts, and constantly worry about her falling off a cliff somewhere.
But she is a revelation, and really knows her stuff. She tells me in no uncertain terms – in fact to be honest she tells me off in that kind but firm way that you could only receive from a grandmother! - that my pack is way too heavy and that I have way too much stuff and that I need to buy all the lightweight stuff I can. Her pack is half the size and about a third of the weight of mine, and her walk is about 10 times longer than mine. I don’t know how she does it. I simply don't know how she manages with so little.
Any way somehow it feels like a great encouragement, and whilst I may never get my pack down to her size, and very much doubt I will do the walks I do as quickly as she does hers, still I take this as wisdom to help me enjoy my walks, and food for thought as to how to apply it.
I decide it’s time to finish it for a day. I’ve worn myself out. I need to cut inland to Aberdaron, the village right at the tip of the Llyn – have a day out from walking tomorrow, and then come back out to this spot and carry on the 6 or 7 miles round to Aberdaron the coastal way with views of Bardsey and then beyond.
I get tips from the bus driver and go up to a beautiful little campsite (Gwersyll Dwyros Campsite) on a hill above the village. It is in a beautiful position with views down over the sloping fields to Aberdaron beach. I feel myself begin to relax.
Monday May 22nd
Spend day in Aberdaron. Spend time in the church (St Hywyn’s) that is visited by a lot of pilgrims on the way over to Bardsey.
Read about famous poet R.S Thomas who was vicar at this church.
Visit Porth y Swnt National Trust creative interpretation centre about the local area.
Have a coffee in Becws Islyn Bakery with an upstairs section. Can you beat that – a coffee shop and a bakery all in one?
Tuesday May 23rd
I chatted to the owners of the campsite when I arrived about Jean who I had met, and they were a similar age, but were wowed by her 2 month trek and wild camping. Had mentioned to them what she had said about my pack, so today when I leave they offer for me to leave some of my clothes, as I’ll be coming back through Aberdaron at least once before I go home.
I decide to walk out through country lanes back to Porth Oer to continue, and that proves to be a really good decision, as it’s a nice variation from walking by the sea. See a mother cow on the way, who has obviously just calved, as a very young looking calf is standing near her. She practically has a meltdown at me simply walking by her on the road, even with a fence between her and I! I have heard people say its good to be very careful when walking through fields with calves in – if possible to totally avoid, and certainly avoid walking between mother and calf. Now I know why! And I am not even in the field.
The path from Porth Oer to the tip of the Llyn opposite Bardsey Island is amazing – wild and away from everything. It’s the wildest bit of the coast path I’ve walked yet, for sure. I don’t see a person all day, once I’m away from Porth Oer!
Most of this section is National Trust property and it’s beautiful. I come to the top of a hillock looking out in the direction of Bardsey, but the clouds and mist are up and around me. I walk down and begin to walk further around the coast.
However, a path stops me in my tracks. I begin walking it, but it is by far the scariest path I have ever attempted to walk, it seems to topple a long way down into the sea, and the path goes through the middle of the sloping edge, so attempting to climb further up would be less rather than more safe. Perhaps it is being out here alone, perhaps it is the cloud and mist, but I feel I cannot go on. I cannot do this tonight. I will have to camp here on this small corner of land between the hillock I have just climbed over and the path ahead.
So… I set up my tent. The mist thickens and I begin to feel very alone out here, and slightly concerned that I will be ok. But I get my tent up, get in and begin to feel peace… Then I sit outside as the evening begins to come in and the sun comes up and the mist clears, and I get a vision of Bardsey Island. As I see it, I sense God’s presence and become aware of his protection and unconditional love and the way ahead in life seems clearer. I sleep and have many dreams that night.
Wednesday May 24th
Right so I’ve got to attempt this very scary path. It’s the only easy way from here to get over to the rest of the path, save walking all the way back and ending up back where I started yesterday. I think about it, and decide the only way to do this is to let go. To not completely hold onto my life. Whilst it is very unlikely that I will topple and fall… this is quite scary and I can’t know for absolute certain, so the only way is to let go and walk it. I do and am fine, but my heart is definitely in my mouth till the path levels out a bit.
Pass by Porth Meudwy, the cove where pilgrims get a boat out to Bardsey.
Then continue on to Aberdaron. Don’t spend too long, but meet a lady I spoke to whilst I stayed here for 2 nights and she says, ‘Back again?’
And now I am going down the southern part of the Llyn.
I walk and walk and walk, thinking of Jean… and with a little less weight on my back as the stuff is still in a bag back in Aberdaron. I sail by.
Come through past a National Trust garden, and over some very ancient looking rocky hills.
Hell’s mouth bay (Porth Neigwl) is a four mile stretch, but the coast path now heads inland.
After following a lane, begin walking through some fields back towards the bay. In one field, I feel some cows walking right behind me once I have passed them, but decide to ignore them. Then the coast path goes through a field with about 30 cows, and they all look up the moment I get near, but I just feel unsure of them - they look a bit frisky! I really don’t fancy it, so I opt to go round through another field nearby, which is not on a public footpath. However this is even worse… this is worse - it’s a bull, presumably a Welsh Black… He’s probably the boyfriend of at least one of those cows (!) and now I am committed to walking this way… So for the second time today - at least it feels that way to me anyway - I take my life in my hands, and walk right by him to climb over the gate and onto a pathway now off of the coast path. I walk by with head down, telling myself I believe he won’t go for me… and he doesn’t – just keeps his head up, looks at me, stands still, and I’m out the field. But I am shaken… and tired now.
Look for somewhere else to camp. But in the end come back to this path and knock on the farm door, and ask if they know of anywhere nearby that I could camp. They offer to drive me to a good campsite just outside Abersoch, a well known tourist town, just about 10 miles away. I say yes. And in fact I feel the Lord is in this, prompting me to take tomorrow as a day for fun and play, rather than push myself to walk further as I will see Nathalie on Friday so tomorrow is my last full day.
Jean's advice was so helpful in terms of how to reduce my pack weight a bit, and she was a great encouragement, but I don’t need to do my walks in the way she does hers or as speedily. It is ok to take days out. I don’t need to feel that I need to get my walks done as quickly as possible
Thursday May 26th
That was such a good decision. Have a great day ambling around Abersoch. Spend time in a great coffee shop. Walk around the three different beaches by the town. Sunbathe and stare out to sea. And eventually camp in the dunes that night.
Friday May 27th
Awake early and watch some teenage kids go out on the calm sea on a small wooden boat. It looks idyllic, and I wonder to myself why life isn’t more like that… for all of us? How did it get so busy, so pressured and so driven? The Lord has been teaching me to rest and play for some years now, but still this image speaks to my heart. Just the simplicity of going out and having fun on a boat.
Get a bus back inland to Abersoch and get my stuff.
Then get the little local mini bus, the Llyn Coastal Bus, all the way round the coast to Nefyn. There is a brilliant moment where the driver stops right in the middle of the road to talk through the bus window, so as to talk to a friend who is himself in a farm vehicle! This is the Welsh pace of life and I love it – why rush? And why worry too much about stopping to chat in the middle of the road? (I love that well known Welsh post card with sheep causing a blockage to a single motorist, and the slogan 'Rush hour in Wales'!) The Driver says he’s a volunteer, which is so cool, to keep a service running round such a remote area. We arrive in Nefyn at the campsite I loved early on in the walk. I set up my tent there ready for two more nights with Nathalie coming to join me.
I go to the coffee shop in a hut on their site and have one of their Welsh breakfasts – with white pudding instead of black pudding. It tastes great, and probably is better not to think too hard about what it’s made of.
Whilst I could wait here I then get a bus back to Caernarfon via Trefor, and go and meet Nathalie in Caernarfon. She is slightly shocked by just how Greek I look, and takes a while to adjust to just how much sun I have caught!
We now drive back in the direction I’ve come to Nefyn and the beautiful campsite.
Nathalie enjoys looking out over the turquoise waters.
Saturday and Sunday May 28th and 29th
Have a great two days with Nathalie, even though it lightly but persistently rains on the Saturday.
We have a coffee in the campsite coffee shop, and the owner sees us, looks at Nathalie and puts his thumb up at me. Well she is gorgeous, what can I say?
We walk out to Porthdinllaen despite the rain, attempt a barbecue in a bin-shaped thing (other people seem to be doing this ‘bigger style’ - circles of people gathered around massive fire pits etc… but, hey, simplicity is good!) on the Saturday night, and then head back to our home in Betws Gwerfil Goch on the Sunday.
September/October 2019 Pembrokeshire
Earlier in the summer came to the conclusion that walking the coast path wasn’t for this year. It is a 3 and a half month job, at my pace, and it just doesn’t feel quite right yet.
Decide to do one final walk for the year down in Pembrokeshire as I’d love to see St Davids, and that part of Pembrokeshire. I’ve been to Fishguard before, but never down to St Davids, so perhaps I could walk down from Fishguard to St Davids.
Currently my thinking is then next year to try a couple of non-coast path walks, and then, perhaps, depending on situation, attempt the whole coast path in 2019.
Saturday September 30th
It’s a long travel from our part of North Wales down to Fishguard, but fairly easy in the sense that the TrawsCymru buses go all the way. Normally you could get a day ticket on these buses, which covers the whole lot, but today it’s even better - this Saturday is still within a trial period where the Welsh Government are giving free weekend travel on the TrawsCymru buses to hope to encourage more people to use them, which will be great for those who take up the offer, and also great for the environment.
What more can I say about how living in Wales is brilliant -
Prescriptions are free! Even weekend buses at the moment are free!
People, and even the government, think a bit differently and I really like that.
So I travel on the T3 from Corwen near my home patch over to Dolgellau.
Then pick up the T2 from Dolgellau to Aberwystwth. Pick up a KFC £1.99 snack box. Why is it always KFC snack boxes on these walks? Just one piece of chicken with chips for £1.99 – but that moment of the crispy tasty skin on the chicken. Surely there will be a place for KFCs in the coming kingdom?
Finally take T5 down to Cardigan and then change for the continuation of the T5 to Fishguard.
Mill around Fishguard and get shopping.
Then begin my walk with heavy pack – despite dear old Jean's advice!! (Will need to invest at some point in some lighter, and most likely more expensive equipment that will do the same job as what I have, but be lighter weight – and maybe give up on taking books to read?).
I am firstly going inland for two nights to stay at Ffald y Brenin Christian retreat centre, where I have been before, before carrying on my walk along the coast from Fishguard on Monday. I’m doing this because this time I want to have a bit of time for rest and reflection before setting out around the coast path. So the walk takes me into the Gwaun Valley.
It takes me two and a half hours to get there, but it would have been much longer if it hadn’t been for a kindly local who stopped the car and offered me a lift, as he knew of the centre and seems to know what is and isn’t on there.
He would have happily taken me further, but I underestimate how close we are to Ffald y Brenin and say, ‘no it’s fine drop me here’, and it still ends up taking an hour and a half to get to the centre!
Still this is great, as I wanted to do some walking as part of getting there, but the rain comes down gently and persistently and makes a gentle but extremely effective assault on my clothes and bag, and unfortunately clothes in my bag.
I take the rest of the weekend hanging them up and drying them out!!
I have intended to camp on Ffald y Brenin’s grounds as they didn’t have any cottages/ retreat rooms available when I called, and anyway, I only have £12 out of my £70 for this whole time, to give them for staying.
But still as I’m approaching, a little glimmer of hope appears somewhere in my mind that there might be space at the last minute for me to go in one of the cottages or rooms.
When I arrive a guy on the team called Roger welcomes me. And he says, ‘Do you really want to camp in this? We’ve had a cancellation for the hermitage’.
It takes me a while to accept this and I mention finances, even though I know they work on a donations basis – but his kind face, and looking out at the drizzling rain, and thinking about my wet clothes, win me over to the idea of two less nights in the cold.
It feels like a bit of a gift.
Sunday October 1st
Day in retreat centre Ffald y Brenin, and some good time for reflection and
journaling. I just sit and think, and my thoughts go on to all sorts of topics. It’s rainy and I hardly leave the hermitage. Enjoy my microwavable meals! But most importantly it’s rest and everything stops.
Monday October 2nd
Leave Ffald y Brenin, and walk the lanes down into Fishguard - on the way manage to loose my favourite blue hoody.
Have a coffee in a local bakery/coffee house. I can’t get over this combination of bakery and coffee house you sometimes get in the countryside. It is at least a part of my idea of heaven!! Perhaps with a KFC on the second floor!
As I walk beyond Fishguard leaving its coloured buildings behind, and wind up towards the cliffs that carry on south along the Pembrokeshire coast path, I meet a man who I talk with about walking and camping along the way. Just as I am leaving, he says, ‘Just remember if you get stuck you can always come back and knock on my door. Its number 44.’
My mouth stands open because God has often spoken to me through this number. I don’t know the symbolic significance of the number, but it means something to me. And this felt like God saying, ‘Don’t be afraid as you head out into the unknown yet again. You can always knock on my door. I’m always available.’
I get a little way along the path, until I decide it’s time to camp.
Skip over some barbed wire into the corner of a deserted field and set up here. Just before going to sleep I go and double check that I haven’t accidentally set up in a field of cows.
Sleep quite well.
Tuesday October 3rd
Walk a long way along the coastal path. This section is quite rocky and with the weather up and down today, I don’t enjoy it that much. See seals, and birds, and I’m sure it could feel beautiful on another day, but I am struggling a bit and my mood is a bit low, and so don’t take it in so well.
Camp just by the edge of the path, high up on a cliff. The wind is blowing, and it certainly feels like I’m alone, though I see a tractor in the distance and wonder if he can see me. My tent is a very obvious red! I do need a green one at some point, to blend into the landscape!! Somehow for wild camping that feels like a better idea.
Wednesday October 4th
Have a dream which is vivid and baffling… spend most of this morning thinking about it. Walk by a number of coves… and then by Abercastle, a small harbour.
Still feeling low, but have a brainwave to head back in land to try and find a coffee shop and store in which to buy a few supplies. There have been none so far on the way.
Head inland and get to Trefin. Still feeling really low. Sit in The Mill Coffee Shop with lots of art for sale on the walls, and after scones (with cream and jam of course!) and tea, begin to feel better.
But I realise I’m not going to make it to St Davids today.
I see that a bus from the town heads over to St Davids.
I only have one full day after today, and I again make one of those decisions to choose rest over ‘striving just to get as far as I wanted to at the beginning for the sake of achieving’.
I realise that if I finish the final 10-15 miles to St Davids on foot in these next two days on top of what I have already done, the whole week will end up feeling like hard work. Was it more important to do the walk precisely that I had set out to, or was it more important to enjoy myself, which is the point of the walks?
It is the best decision, and I feel myself relaxing as soon as I have made it, and I feel there is something significant about this destination of St Davids, of what it represents for Wales.
Arrive and walk down towards St Justinians harbour and bay, about 2 miles beyond town where there is a campsite indicated on the map. Get to it, and it’s only something like £4 a night, but it doesn’t feel good. See a sign for another attached to Pencarnan Farm over the road, and go down there. What a great decision! It has great facilities, plenty of space and numerous walks down to beaches, and is only 15 minutes walk from Whitesands Bay, an awesome blue flag beach. It has to be one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen on my travels.
Thursday October 5th
Love walking around and exploring St Davids. I do a couple of walks today out in different directions around the coast path, but without my pack, and being in a dream destination with wonderful sandy beaches, and amazing Celtic ‘spiritual history’, I relax and enjoy my time immensely.
I have a moment in the Cathedral looking at the timeline engraved into the wall, and find myself reflecting again that Celtic Christianity and its free and non ‘top-down’ approach, is the roots for Christian history in our Islands. It represents a different and more free way, that I believe we need to recover - in a way that fits within our own era… to undo all the years of structure and religiosity.
Yet a thought stuck me – that it is even possible to see a different way, and yet still apply it or ‘preach’ about it in a way that is still arrogant and pushes that your way is right and all other ways are wrong, even if your cause is good. The Celtic saints were anything but arrogant. I spent some time looking at the icon of St David, and sat in the cathedral hoping to be injected with a dose of the humility that he and many of his contemporaries carried in pursuing and sharing a message of peace.
Friday October 6th
Pack my tent up and head into St Davids town. Pop into the chocolate shop, and tell them that I work a few days a week for Gwynedd Confectioners up in North Wales, as I’ve noticed some of our products in her store. She says warmly with her wonderful South Walian accent, ‘Well I never, you work for Gwynedd, I had a delivery only the other week’, or something like that…
And then I get my bus back to Fishguard, and pick up the T5 from there and begin the long and laborious way home to Corwen via this and a few other TransCymru buses. But it’s all in a £10 day ticket, and I’m happy to be home.
Whitesands Bay, St Davids.