I had a super drive down yesterday – just on six hours, which, considering I did not go near a motorway, was pretty good time. I chose a leisurely route, with time for morning coffee at Chipping Norton, then along the A40 all the way to Caerfyrddin/Carmarthen, although the journey was marred by the news that the Ford factory at Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr/Bridgend is to close with the loss of 1700 jobs. What with that and the works at Porth Talbot being under threat, the whole economy of South Wales will be badly hit, and it is already a poor area.
Talking economics, rather than staying at ordinary B & B, I am self-catering, in part to keep the cost down. This is not a cheap hobby if I eat in cafes and pubs twice a day for ten day at a stretch. My first location is just outside the town, on the coast path route. I have a little suite to myself – bedroom, bathroom, kitchenette, conservatory, and a deck overlooking the river. It was warm enough yesterday to sit out in my shorts – today is a complete contrast. It has been one of the wettest days of the entire walk – the only days as bad might be the morning at Beachy Head, and a couple of wet afternoons with Chris and Tom in Essex in the winter of 2013/4. The forecast was bad, so I was pleased when I hopped off the train at Gowerton at 8.45 to find that it was overcast, but dry. Between 8.45 and 10.15, there were no more than a few flurries, but by 11.00 we had moved through ordinary rain to what some of my friends call double rain.
The path is straightforward. I can see why the M4 relief road has been cancelled – the back road out of Gowerton is serving as an alternative route already – despite being single track in some parts, there was a constant stream of traffic in both directions. Eventually, the path veeredoff into woodland, then a footbridge over the A48, and through more woodland, before joining the main road as it crossed the Llwchwr estuary. The original rail crossing was built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and much of his work remains, although it was updated in 1907.
I was excited at the prospect of seeing the Llanelli Coastal Park – twenty (20???) years ago, it was one of the Millennium Commission projects that I worked on. Previously, the whole area to the south of Llanelli was industrial wasteland, but now it has been reclaimed, and there is a track running through for cyclists and walkers. I would have preferred the track to be a bit narrower, and perhaps less of it tarmac’d. It is hard underfoot and does not blend into the landscape, but I suppose it is easy cycling. The path runs through wetland, past a golf course, and sometimes comes close to the shore, although for long stretches the raised railway obscures the view. There are some nicely-designed seating areas, with slate and interesting levels in the grass, and in some parts, a profusion of wild-flowers – lots of cow-parsley and oxe-eye daisies.
Near North Dock, I could see the leisure centre, which I knew had a café – despite having brought sandwiches, I was cold and wet, and desperate for a cuppa. I was worried it might be closed – not many people would want to be out in today’s weather, but actually, it was packed, and was rather fancier than I anticipated. I opened the door, and the waitress did her best to hide her lack of enthusiasm as I stood in the doorway with water pouring off me.
I had a bowl of soup, then had no alternative but to put my wet coat back on and march off purposefully. I did not hang about and got to Penbre/Burry Port station around 2.30. I had to wait half an hour for a train, which was a cold and dispiriting experience, but at least it was on time. I am sitting in my little conservatory, with a stray ginger cat for companion. I was asked by Mrs B & B not to encourage it, but although I ignored its cries yesterday, I couldn’t bring myself to leave it out in this weather. I hope I don’t get thrown out for breaking the rules.
Distance 11.6 miles and a Bronze day.