Friday, 26 August 2011

Day Nine - Clynnog Fawr to Caernarfon, 16.2 miles.

The grand finale. Sort of. An uneventful 16 miles really, till near the end anyway. 8 miles of lanes and paths. 4 miles of cycle route. 2 miles of lanes to get back to the coast. 2 miles along the Menai Strait into Caernarfon.

All a bit dull compared to the previous 8 days until I got to the 3 miles to go stage. The weather started with clouds over Yr Eifl, then they disappeared to leave another lovely day, though it felt cooler with a strong breeze. Around mid-afternoon cloud started to build up to the west and over the high mountains, but otherwise it stayed clear. So with 3 miles to go I had my back to the breeze when a boy overtook me cycling and said, "You're going to get wet in a minute." I turned round to see the blackest of black skies just behind me. A quick look at the map and I spotted a hamlet about 1/4 of a mile away with a chapel marked. I tried jogging but as I went up my backpack went down and vice versa so I walked at full speed, just reaching the chapel porch in time. The thunder clapped and the rain bounced off the tombstones. I predicted that it would be just a shower as it was so heavy, and sure enough after 15 minutes it stopped. I set off again with a short walk left to the coast. After 10 minutes I could see another shower approaching. I sped up again and by some miracle another chapel appeared, standing all on its own by the coast. Again I hid in the porch but this rain had a more persistent look. I only had two miles left along the Strait so I had a decision to make, either get togged up and get it over with or wait for a glorious finish in the sun. I opted for the latter and sat there reading my book. God did seem to be looking after me today and after 50 minutes it stopped to allow me my glorious finish, though not in the sun.

As usual the finish was an anti-climax (no brass band again), despite the lovely last stretch. In fact I have no idea if there is an actual end/start, so I touched the castle and raised my arms aloft to bemused looks from the tourists who hadn't gone home. Then I met Paul, former (I think) Head of a school in Connah's Quay, and he seemed very impressed, though he didn't have a trombone on him.

And so to the car, a pub and a few reflections on the Lleyn Peninsula Coastal Path and beyond:

1. The route.
Well the intended route speaks for itself but there is still work to be done. I fully appreciate that attempts have been and are being made to buy / negotiate rights of way along the coast itself, however where the route is forced inland the waymarking has to be improved. These sections have obviously been unchanged for some time so there is really no excuse, that is if this walk is to be given the status the Council obviously wants it to have. And if the All Wales Coast Path opening next year is to be viable. The improvements to the coastal sections, however, have been considerable.

2. The towns and villages.
They really are lovely on the whole, but I have done a U-turn on Caernarfon and Porthmadog. Every visit I have done to Caernarfon has been to see the castle, the shops opposite and the park across the foot bridge. I have never delved deeper until now, and it's a dump. Porthmadog on the other hand I have always thought of as too touristy, but it's really quite lovely, especially the harbour area where I watched children crabbing for a good hour.

3. People.
It's incredible how many people I passed or spotted on this trip who were either arguing, shouting or crying. And British children are much nicer at school than they are with their parents. 4 of the 5 campsite owners gave me discount because I was a backpacker (£5 was the most I paid, except in Rhyd Ddu) and both of the B&B owners were lovely. Alun at The Ship is God.

4. Rain.
I was chatting to a few people before I set off about the weather I could expect, and I was saying that it never actually rains as much as people think it does. I still stand by this. Despite the weather being 'changeable' for much of the walk, I only had a total of 6 hours rain during my walking time over 9 days. Not much really as I averaged about 10 hours walking a day.

5. Ascent.
I wasn't expecting to be walking uphill a considerable distance on this coast path, but three of the days involved quite a lot of climbing. Two of these surprised me a bit, but the third was due to my determination to climb a mountain at some point. The total ascent for my walk was 4551 metres. The actual coast path only would be quite a lot less.

6. Day Two.
I don't know what happened to my blog for day two. Lost in hyperspace somewhere. Basically it was 19 miles, up and over into Cwm Pennant, along the valley and down to Porthmadog. Then I actually started the coast path for 3 miles and camped just short of Black Rock Sands. Weather was good, then not so good, then lovely to finish.

7. Where next? Well for once I have no favourite for my next walk. People have been telling me to get out of Wales, but there's plenty of mileage left in this fine country yet, so who knows?

8. They really do need to put some more dolphins in the sea.

-- Posted from my iPhone

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