Day 103 St Donat’s to Ogmore 15 April 2018

Day 103 St Donat’s to Ogmore 15 April 2018

Sunday having fairly limited public transport options, Jane and I had to be at Ogmore to catch the single bus that would take us back to St Donat’s. With my usual need to be everywhere early, we had a good half hour to wait at a place where no bus stop is actually signposted, but where a local farmer assured us it did stop – usually.

After about 15 minutes, a car stopped and we were given a lift a few miles into Ogmore-by-Sea where there was at least an official bus-stop and a lady standing by it looking expectant. Local knowledge proved correct, and the bus did turn up, carrying us through the tiny lanes to the point where I finished yesterday by 12pm. The forecast was not good, and it rained off and on, although not heavily, most of the day. TherIMG_3197e was the odd burst of sunshine over the sea, which sparkled silver. The path dropped down to the sea, and up again to the cliffs from time to time.

The mud was knee-deep, and it didn’t take long for me to slip – sitting down hard in a bramble patch. The rest of the day, I trailed mud everywhere.IMG_3202

After about an hour, we passed the lighthouse at Nash Point, and shortly after came to the Nash Point carpark café where I had an excellent bacon roll, and Jane had Victoria sandwich – highly recommended spot!

By and large, the walk was flat, with one or two steep drops down – the greasy ground made it hard going downhill, and my knee is now giving gyp. I hope it will be better tomorrow – if it is not, I shan’t walk.

For the first time more-or-less, since crossing the Severn, the Devon shore was occasionally visible – I could pick out the notch which is Porlock and I think at one point, I could spot Minehead. The coast is beautiful – very steep, vertical cliffs, with visible horizontal sediment structure in the land.  This ability to see the history of the coast’s development make it a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), known as the Monknash Coast. It is quite unstable, and in many places the land has clearly sheered away suddenly – fence posts hanging over the sea.IMG_3218

One of the prettiest parts of the path was the wooded valley on the approach to Dunraven Castle – sessile oaks, with an understory of bluebells – only a few were in bloom, but it will be a delight in a couple of weeks. There was sweet woodruff and ramsons, too, that Jane picked. IMG_3235We passed the foundations of Dunraven Castle, built in the 12th century on an old iron-age fort. It was raining quite hard at that point, which continued for about twenty minutes as we came to Aberogwr and turned up the river-valley. The views from the houses which overlook the estuary must be fabulous, when the sun shines.

As we walked up the river valley back to Ogmore, the sun came out, even though it was still raining, and we saw a lovely rainbow. An average supper (although the service was very pleasant) in a pub and then a drive back to Bristol in absolutely torrential rain. Jane pointed out that it would stop as soon as we crossed the bridge into England, and, aggravatingly, she was right.

Another silver day, with 9.5 miles covered.

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Day 102 – Barry to St Donat’s 16 April 2018

Day 102 – Barry to St Donat’s 16 April 2018

Last night was rather disturbed – the fire alarm for the whole block went off at 2.17am. I grabbed my coat, my slippers, my phone and my keys, as well as the keys to the flat (Jane had stayed somewhere else last night) and spent a few minutes standing in the street, looking like an extra from a bad soap opera – furry slippers, waterproof and nightie: all I needed was curlers. This exciting incident meant I woke late, but it did not matter too much, as there was little traffic this morning, driving back to Barry.

The downside was the thick fog – visibility was not much more than 100 yards.  I drove over the spit to Barry Island, figuring I could ignore the half-mile from the bus-stop I finished near yesterday. Unfortunately, the layout of the roads has changed considerably from my map, with the construction of vast new housing developments. With that and the fog, (not forgetting the poor sign-posting) I got completely disoriented. Eventually, I sorted myself out, and came to the top of the island, a place called Nell’s Point. Of course, it is not really an island, just a promontory, joined with a thin spit of land.

It was still very foggy – but as I walked down the west side, it became possible to distinguish between the sea and the sky, although only because of the wave movement.  Barry beach is beautiful – so far as I could tell – long, wide, flat golden sands. It was somewhat disfigured by the noisy slot machine arcade blaring bad music place at the end – but, of course, everyone has different tastes. I was happy with the Cadawaldrs next door, where I was able to buy an excellent coffee. As I returned towards the spit, I saw that the tide was way out, so was able to walk across the harbour, rather than going back to the bridge – it was a bit of a scramble down, and the sand was heavy, but it made up the time I had lost.

I walked around The Knap, another promontory, then climbed up onto the cliffs. Behind me, I could hear two women chatting. Eventually, I entered a wood, and waited so that I could ask them to take a photo. We got chatting – they are walking the Welsh Coast Path, but, like me, not all at once. One has a son with realistic ambitions to play rugby for Wales (Yay!!) and the other has a daughter who is a contestant in the Miss Wales contest. We walked together for a good half hour, and it was lovely to make new friends.

Gradually, the cloud cleared and the sun came out, although it was not till the very end of the day that the Devon shore was vaguely visible.

The path runs along the coast, occasionally climbing up and down, with a couple of places where I had to clamber over cobbled beach.  passed the southern-most tip of Wales at Rhoose Point, and saw some interersting geological features.

The path passes a very large and ugly power station, where I was concerned that I was on the wrong side of the fence as the path was several inches deep in water at one point.

I hopped over the fence, but soon had to climb back as there were private property signs liberally scattered.

The path went inland for a bit, over fields, before dropping down to another cobble beach below Llanilltud Fawr. The evening sun was shining by now and the sea looked rather inviting.

I realised that if I moved swiftly, I would catch the 17.12 bus at St Donat’s – I hurried too much, and saw the 16.12 bus chugging away, and had to wait nearly an hour. St Donat’s is the location of the Atlantic College – it is a delightful little hamlet. Meeting new people has turned this day into Silver.

Day 101 – Cardiff to Barry 15 April 2018

Day 101 – Cardiff to Barry 15 April 2018

It’s nearly four months since my last walk, but the weather has barely improved. The spring has been absolutely sodden – with consequences for my boots. I had forgotten that the last walk I did, in January, was on the Icknield Way in Suffolk, with my friend Jon. The ground was so boggy that every few steps we had to lean on each other to try to shake the mud off, as it was so heavy it was almost impossible to lift our feet. Unfortunately, I had slung my boots in the back of the car, then gone on holiday and forgotten to clean them. The result, when I got them out was that they were solid mud – almost like plaster casts.IMG_3040

I left home later than I intended, but had a good run, and was walking away from Cardiff Central Station, where I parked, around 11.40 – a few minutes to get myself facing the right way, as there are several exits, and I was off.

I walked back down to Cardiff Bay – the development there is amazing – Yr Amgueddfa Genedlaethol (National Museum) and Y Seneddd (Assembly building) are both architecturally interesting – the former is an absolute gem in copper and slate.  IMG_3048

I walked along the Bay front, and across the Barrage. Here were lots of people around – it was grey, but not wet or cold.   The barrage takes you into Penarth, where there are some rather nice houses with sea views.

The walk itself was not particularly memorable – lots of road walking, and even those parts on the shore were easy going. There was very limited visibility. At one point, I could see Flat Holme and Steep Holme, the islands in the Severn that had looked so clear from the Devon shore.IMG_3103

The best part, was the enormous quantity of daffodils- it has been a great year for them – cultivated ones, but also the lovely Lent lilies- some early bluebells, as well – the worst was mud.

There was a long, dreary walk on the main road into Barry, then a short element close to the docks. I was tired by this point, having got up at 5.30am.  I saw a bus-stop, and thought it was time to head back – before I was there, the bus arrived. I began to run and waved frantically. The lovely bus driver stopped for me, although I was still 100 yards short of the bus -stop – you wouldn’t get that in the south-east.

A tour through the backs streets of Barry, Penarth and Cardiff brought me back to the station, and a drive down to Bristol to stay with my friend Jane finished a Bronze day.

Day 100 – Newport to Cardiff 22 Dec 2017

Day 100 – Newport to Cardiff 22 Dec 2017

Today is my hundredth day of walking. I have done 1,587 miles –  around 24% of the whole (assuming a distance of 6,500 miles). My average day is 15.9 miles. I have walked in eighteen counties (including Greater London) and on twelve different official long distance routes.

All very pleasing: just a shame today’s walk was not particularly special. I took the train back to Newport, then spent some time getting lost in the town’s backstreets as I worked my way back to the path. The Cornish pasty I ate yesteIMG_3014rday didn’t agree with me, so I had to make numerous diversions to find loos.

The weather was not cheerful. A heavy fog all day meant that visibility was never more than a hundred yards, and there was a fair bit of road-walking with quantities of lorries and vans thundering along.  Route finding was also hit and miss – on one occasion, I reached a farmhouse at the end of a long, muddy track, expecting to follow a path back onto the sea wall, but seeing no sign of it. The owner was at home and informed me that the path had been allowed to grow over and was now impassable. I had to make a long detour round.

Once I reached the sea wall again, it was straightforward, if uninspiring because of the lack of views.  Eventually, I reached the river Rhymni, and walked up the east bank, then back onto a busy road, before bearing off onto a track running parallel.  The track was ugly – litter everywhere, old bits of metal, shopping trolleys, plastic containers and so forth. There were also lots of small ponies tethered. I had been surprised all day at the number of horses and ponies I had seen – more than anywhere else on the walk so far.IMG_3022

In the distance, I could see a number of caravans, and this, together with the ponies, led me to wonder if I were approaching a Traveller site. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a young lad of about fourteen appeared, with a dog on a lead.

‘You’re on private property,’ he announced.

‘No, I’m not. This is the Coast Path’.

‘It’s not. It’s private. It’s my dad’s land.’

‘No, the map shows clearly that it is the coast path’.

‘My dad just bought it last week.’

I shrugged my shoulders and carried on.

‘I’m going to tell my dad.’

I felt a bit nervous. The path wasn’t getting any more attractive – there was evidence of burnt out vans and other debris around. The lad himself didn’t look dangerous, but who knew what a father or elder brother might be like?

I carried on. He turned back and asked, in a more conciliatory tone, what I was doing.

I explained that I was walking up to Cardiff, and tried to be friendly, admiring his dog, and stroking her. He was a nice enough boy, in fact.

The path came to a point where you could either drop onto the road, or turn left alongside the caravans. I didn’t like either option much, but the road was very busy, with no pavement, and in the fog I didn’t like to chance it. The boy indicated that the path went left, and, having assured me that I would never make the five o’clock train, dropped back as I hurried on.

I have seldom been nervous on the walk (other than cow incidents) but I did not much like going behind the caravans and up onto a very dirty, overgrown outcrop of land where I could hear major works of some sort but, with the fog, could see almost nothing. The path at this point suddenly became very poorly signposted, and I had to guess amongst several tracks. I scurried on, over debris and eventually made it back onto the main road, where it was wide enough to have a footpath.

A long and tedious road-bash took me into Cardiff, where I missed a train by one minute. Great Western surpassed themselves today. The next train was cancelled, and I had to take another train to Newport and change there.IMG_3029

I can’t decide whether to walk tomorrow – I am going to family near Glossop for Christmas, and if it is foggy would prefer to drive up early.

Definitely a below average day, so ‘cotton’. 16.2 miles.

Day 99 Severn Tunnel Junction to Newport 21 December 2017

Day 99 Severn Tunnel Junction to Newport 21 December 2017

Today was certainly not as exciting as yesterday, but few days are. It was a very straightforward day. I arrived at Severn Tunnel Junction around 8.50, and retraced my steps for about half a mile, to rejoin the path. It crossed back over the M4, then went straight down to the sea-wall.IMG_2984

Looking back, the second Severn Bridge was far more visible than yesterday, despite being overcast. On the far shore, I could see Portishead where I finished at the end of October. It was too cloudy to be certain of any other landmarks.

The tidal range of the Severn river is 12m – the second highest in the world and the result is a wide expanse of mud-flats. There was not a lot of bird life visible, but all the interpretation boards told me the place is teeming with our feathered friends.

The sea wall continued more or less without interruption, before turning slightly inland and then entering the Newport Wetlands Conservation Area, which is also apparently full of migratory species, although almost the only thing I saw (other than a rookery) was a lone adolescent swan.IMG_2995

The Wetlands are well-named. For a good ten miles, I was bog-trotting in heavy mud, across a succession of fields, with the odd road crossing. Navigation was more-or-less straightforward, although the Newport district signage does not have the useful yellow tips that is on the waymarkers in Monmouthshire. I missed one sign which, although it only wasted five minutes, had the knock-on effect of making me miss the train at the end by one minute.

The last few miles were on the outskirts of Newport – not a place about which compliments readily spring to mind, although the City Council is obviously trying its best with a new walkway along the River Usk and an interestingly designed pedestrian bridge across it.  IMG_3012

The weather was warm again, overcast, misty and with little wind.

A bronze day, taking me 15.9 miles.

Day 98 Avonmouth to Severn Tunnel Junction 20 December 2017

Day 98 Avonmouth to Severn Tunnel Junction 20 December 2017

I haven’t worked out the overall score for today, but although it feels in general like a bronze day, or perhaps a silver one, it is going to be recorded forever more as a diamond day, because of the sense of achievement, and the particularly special part I completed.

Today, I crossed the Severn Bridge. I have now completed all the way from the Humber Estuary to the Severn Estuary (except the last element along the Thames that will be the final weekend, and the 4 miles at Bigbury that are still haunting me). I think I can say, however, that I have completed the south of England and am now in beautiful Wales.

It was generally an easy day. I left at the crack of dawn from Clifton Down station and reached Avonmouth just as it was getting light – around 7.30am. The road through the docks was incredibly busy and smelly (there was definitely something very dead somewhere) and I could almost feel my lungs being coated with black slime as the lorries thundered past.IMG_2848

Eventually the path (part of the Severn Way) leaves the road and runs beside the railway track, between hedges of brambles.  At Severn Beach, the path becomes a promenade, where the early fishermen were out in force.

The fog that had been expected yesterday, turned up today, so although it was not cold, I could see very little of the view. There was no sign of the lower Severn Bridge, although I could hear traffic and the beeping of horns.  It was quite strange, as the bridge is so enormous, to know it was there, but invisible.  It did not emerge from the mist until I was no more than 30 yards away – and even then, I could only see the couple of pillars nearest me.  The sun was struggling to come through, and I hoped that it would come out to allow me to see the upper bridge, which was my crossing point.IMG_2861

I passed under the bridge, the trucks on the M4 roaring over my head, and continued along the promenade, which meandered for about half a mile, before turning inland and becoming a very easy track along dykes built to manage the salt marsh. Looking back, I could see the mist clearing and part of the bridge now visible. Ahead, there was still no sign of the second bridge.  The sun was trying harder, and the grass was glossy green.

The path led onto a lane, and I rejoiced to see the tip of what I thought was part of the bridge, only to realise it was a metal pylon from previous engineering works, but after another ten minutes, bits of bridge became fleetingly visible as the mist rolled back and partially broke up.IMG_2892

I reached Aust around eleven. I was so hungry I could have eaten my own arm. Normally, I don’t worry too much about food when walking, but obviously, I had not had enough breakfast. I debated walking into Aust to see if there were a shop, although it did not look hopeful, and I was reluctant to add a half mile each way. I whipped out the phone (normally well hidden and turned off when walking) and saw that the motorway services were not far. So I elected to cross the motorway, on a walkway across the toll-booths of the M48 and grab an early lunch.

Fortified, I returned to the south side and began the big adventure. The upside of it being misty was that there was little wind. I muffled up and pulled on my hood, but was not particularly cold. There is a walkway on either side,  but I had decided on the south side, as my original idea of going to Chepstow was superseded by the decision to carry on as far as Severn Tunnel Junction.IMG_2921

As I walked over, stopping for frequent pictures, I was amazed at the number of motorway maintenance vans that tootled up and down the walkway. Not sure where they were all going as they trundled along at 10 miles per hour, stopping for a chat as they passed each other.

Crossing the bridge took about twenty minutes.  I then joined the Wales Coast Path. I must say I am hugely impressed with the signage. At every point where there might be confusion, there is a marker, and the ones at the stiles are tall, with yellow tips, so you can see them as you scan the far side of a field, looking for the exit.

The path was easy, behind various factories, then down along the estuary shore. There was so much mud in parts, it nearly sucked my boots off, but the trip was uneventful. The only bovines were docile Welsh Blacks, not feisty Friesians, and so they paid no attention to me. I passed an ancient holy well site, dedicated to the Celtic king, Tewrig, who scored a nifty victory over the Saxons not far away. The statue of IMG_2934him showed him crowned, but unshod. An early example of ‘all fur coat and no knickers’, I suppose.

I won’t bore you all with the appalling Great Western Rail service back to Clifton Down:  suffice to say, it was not the highlight of the day.  17.5 miles

Day 97 – Weston-in-Sea to Portishead 31 October 2017

Day 97 – Weston-in-Sea to Portishead 31 October 2017

Today has been a very mixed day, and I am glad to be on the train home.

It started very well. I had a lift down to the seafront at Weston and, after attempting to leap out of the car in a bus stop and being sharply beeped by a bus, got onto the beach just about where we left last night. The morning was fine again – there was rain about 6am but it had gone off, and although it was not so warm or bright as yesterday, it was still very good. Slightly windier perhaps.IMG_2781

I had a lovely walk along the firm packed sand at Weston, then rounded the headland to the north, past the old burnt out pier at Birnbeck. Alongside what is known as the Toll road (despite tolls having IMG_2786disappeared some 150 years ago, there is a track through a rather pleasant stand of trees. After a mile or so, it drops down onto the beach at Sandy Bay. Another walk along the sands for a good couple of miles and I was eating up the planned 18 miles.

At the north end of sandy bay is a National Trust headland. I climbed up and could see across to Portishead. A brief discussion with a man in a van who told me I was about trespass, led me back to the right path, just beside the river Yeo. According to the map, you can’t cross the Yeo for miles, but I had been informed that a new crossing had been made for walkers and cyclists, so I had my eyes peeled, but could see nothing. I continued along a lane until I reached a point where a bridle way was supposed to cross the fields to Wick St Lawrence. The sign pointed across a field, next to a lane which read ‘private’. I must say the signage in Somerset is terrible. I haven’t seen a coast path sign since south of Weston. The gate onto the bridleway was tied shut. Undaunted, I hopped over, and walked through a field. Only when I reached the end could I see there was no way out, and that the bridleway must be along the lane. I returned and managed to open the gate this time.

Along the lane and into a field which had a helpful notice written on a plastic picnic plate ‘bull in field’. IMG_2812This was hard to believe. Even the most cantankerous farmer wouldn’t keep a bull on a bridleway. I looked around and the field appeared to contain only sheep. Some very poor signposting later, I emerged onto a track. This decanted directly into a farm yard, with a padlocked gate at one end and more scrap than Steptoe and Son’s yard. I could see another track, so, thinking that must be the exit I followed it through piles of rusting junk. Another locked gate. Up and over.

Finally, a third gate, which could be opened, and I emerged to see three startled people in the lane. I was prepared to give them a piece of my mind about the locked gates, had they challenged me, but they confined themselves to a surprised hello.

I kept walking along the lane to Wick St Lawrence, hoping al the time to see a sign for the river crossing, but nothing. Eventually, I decided to google it. Fortunately, I had signal. All I could find was articles about delays to its construction. I found an article from another coast walker describing her long, tortuous and, ultimately unsuccessful journey to find it. I concluded that I might as well just follow the road, over the M5 to Hewish – the only place where a crossing is visible on the map.

Unfortunately, this was so far that I knew I could not make my rendezvous with Jane at Portishead for. Lift to the station. Disgusted with the whole thing, I left a message asking if she could rescue me early. She was tied up for an hour, but could come then, she said. I agreed to meet in Kingston Seymour. This meant continuing east and then meeting the A road, before turning back north and slightly west to cross the river. As I walked along the S road, I saw a bus pass by and thought that might be a better option. I found a stop and saw that I had 25 mins to wait for a bus to  Clevedon, back on the coast. I left a message for Jane to revert to plan A and waited for it. It was not especially late, and I arrived in Clevedon town centre about 1.45. I had got cold waiting, so had a quick but excellent coffee and friand.

There was a good 15 mins walk to get to the seafront, but I picked up the path thee that goes all the way to Portishead along the cliff edge. I was IMG_2831glad I had not given up. The walk was pleasant and easy, with the sound of the sea in my ears.  I made excellent time, and was quite surprised when I came to the end of the path considerably earlier than expected. As usual, there were no way markers. I walked up the road, and found myself in one of those housing estates that are like a maze. I asked the way to the main road.  The man looked surprised when I mentioned my destination, but directed me. When I got to the junction, it looked nothing like the map – no wonder I was surprised at my speed. I had not come nearly as far as I thought. I had at least 2 miles to do on the road. Thoroughly annoyed by now, I snagged another bus, and got to the meeting point with just enough time to buy food for the train.

After a long wait at Bristol Parkway, I am now on train, but feeling rather grim. I think the sandwich I ate has disagreed with me. Looking forward to my own bed. My knees are hurting. And so are my ears. A woman on the train is yakking without drawing breath. Not a silent second from Bristol to Didcot so far.

16 miles of a below-average ‘cotton’ day.