Day eight – Marloes Beach and home

I awoke at 7 a.m. and I could tell it was going to be another beautiful day. I immediately resolved to visit Marloes beach and have a swim. I overlooked a short cut which would have saved me a mile or so for the sake of a few hundred yards of off-road but it didn’t matter.

When I arrived I had the beach to myself. It was every bit as wonderful as I remembered it from our family holiday here when I was about 13 years old.

Marloes

Marloes

Marloes

For a combination of the clarity and warmth of the water, the scenery and the beautiful sand, I think this is the best British beach I have ever visited. Absolutely wonderful, and to be granted the privilege of the entire mile-and-a-quarter of it to myself was an unexpected treat.

When I was dry and decent again I cycled back into Marloes village and bought half a dozen eggs, a pack of bacon and some rolls, returned to the camp site and cooked myself a wonderful breakfast. I washed up and started to pack, but I had to wait a surprisingly long time before the tent was dry, in spite of the warm sunshine. At around noon I set off for Haverfordwest (my train was due to leave at around 5 p.m.) and by about 2 p.m. I was in the town searching for somewhere to eat.

I found a restaurant with some decking overlooking the Cleddau river. I ordered plaice and chips and soon struck up a conversation with the only two other people in the place. There was something remarkably familiar about the lady’s accent and it turned out that she had been a pupil at Temple Sutton School, Southend. There is no escape.

The trip back to Southend, in which I had to change trains at Swansea and, of course, to cycle across London late at night, was fairly tedious and I arrived home fairly clost to midnight. `It had, however, been a marvellous trip.

Nude man

Seventh day – Trefin to West Hook.

I awoke fairly early and could tell instantly that it promised to be a lovely day. I had a leisurely start and chatted to a few other campers, including one Tony Pember, a member of the audax fraternity and who is acquainted with Phil Chadwick and Steve Abraham.

I made for St. David’s where I had a stroll around the cathedral before finding a café.Saint David's

From there, it was the A487 again. Typically, you are riding at about 250′ to 300′ above sea level, with gorgeous views across St. Bride’s Bay, but every so often, where a stream has cut its way through the bedrock, there’s a swooping 1 in 6 descent and a similar climb up the other side. Usually there is a village and a beach. Thus I passed through Solva and Newgale before buying fish, chips and beer at the Mariner pub in Nolton Haven. There was a stuffed albatross on the wall, the poor creature’s wings having been subjected to some intricate origami to make them fit into the glass case.

Newgale

Nolton Haven

There were plenty of people on the beaches enjoying the warm sunshine.

After lunch I found myself cycling in the same direction as a young couple and I foolishly tried to keep up with them. The lass was evidently a fairly inexperienced cyclist and had a build which promised to become more streamlined the more she practised. Each time we reached a hill I would try to keep up with her and after about the third climb I was ready to drop. I stopped in Broad Haven for an ice cream.

I eventually reached the West Hook campsite and, after pitching the tent, had a mediocre meal and poorly-kept beer at the Lobster Pot in Marloes village before cycling down to Martins Haven and finally to Wooltack Point to watch the sun set over Skomer Island.

Sunset over Skomer

Day 6 – Mwnt to our parting and (for me) to Trefin

I awoke early and it was still cloudy and cold I put an extra fleece on while lying in my sleeping bag. Charlotte slept through to 7.40 so I had a shower and washed yesterday’s shorts and top.

There was some rice left over form last night’s curry (camping stove made, of course) so I added and egg and fried it up. It was filing rather than appetising. Once we’d packed up our tents we headed for Mwnt beach via the footpath and a cowfield. Charlotte spent some time getting to know the residents better.Charlotte and bovine

On several occasions we noticed that the weather was very annoying: there was blue sky out to sea but as soon as the west wind started to rise, so clouds would form and obscure the sun. The higher the ground, the thicker the cloud. I had a pretty good swim. We were alone on the beach so I took advantage whilst in the water and had a skinny dip, my trunks draped over my shoulder, but there were too many people in the caravan site who were liable to come down to the beach at any moment so I was clad again when I emerged onto the beach. Charlotte, sadly, was hors concours so far as swimming was concerned because of the wound to her leg.

Mynydd Preseli

That’s the view over the Preseli mountains, over which Charlotte would have to ride later in the day on her way back to Haverfordwest station. Before we reached Cardigan the sky began to clear quite nicely.

We said our farewells and I headed off on my own, feeling a little down. I’m not that good with my own company and I definitely prefer that of someone else. However, the weather was doing its best to cheer me up and, for the first time on trip, I was treated to long spells of unbroken sunshine.

Somewhere in North Pembrokeshire

I found a very nice pub in Nevern and bought some lunch and then it was back onto the A487 into Fishguard. There were two chevrons to negotiate and I walked up the hill into the town. I can’t stand cycling really slowly when there’s fast traffic coming past.

I saw two promising-looking beaches on the map – Aber Bach and Aber Mawr. They were very pretty and I thought about a spot of wild camping there, but I didn’t really feel comfortable with that as I didn’t have sufficient water-carrying capacity.

Somewhere in North Pembrokeshire

After a few more miles I found myself in Trefin and its camp site. I pitched my tent, cooked some food, had an excellent shower in the new block and then had an early night.

Day Five – Pontrhyfendigaid to Mwnt

We had an early start with wet tents and didn’t hang around. We passed through Tregaron and anyone who knows anything about Tregaron knows that there’s quite a bit of climbing to be done, whichever way you leave. We took the B4342, heading west, but there was precious little in the way of anything except remote sheep farms along that road. Several times I had to get off and push and after a while Charlotte suggested tea. She got her stove out and was Mother. We had some fig rolls as well.

We cracked on and it wasn’t all that long before we reached the A487 again and we kept up a remarkable speed for such heavily laden cyclists. We happened upon a “greasy spoon” style café and went in for a lunch of the “all day breakfast” variety and Charlotte managed to check her emails. It turned out that there was a quite significant one which required her early return to London, which was a great disappointment to me. I felt that, although we had been through some lovely countryside, the Pembrokeshire coast was going to be the icing on the cake. We headed off to the campsite at Mwnt which, although it is in Cardiganshire, I regard as being the most northerly of the lovely beaches for which the Pembroke coast is renowned.

We pitched our tents in the lee of a hedge and I went for a stroll along the footpath towards the sea. It was very spectacular but there was nowhere safe for a swim.

Mwnt

We decided that if the weather was pleasant, the following morning we would have a look at Mwnt beach proper, about a mile north of the camp site, right by the conical hill in the above photo.

Day Four – Furnace to Pontrhydfendigaid

I woke quite early and lay in my tent for a while. There was a tapping noise and my initial reaction was to wonder what Charlotte was up to in her tent. However, as my mind became more focussed I realised that the sound was coming from higher up.

I unzipped my inner tent and then the door zip in the fly sheet. I watched the oak trees near our tents and then ascertained the source of the sound: it was a greater spotted woodpecker, behaving like a tree creeper. It was patrolling the tree’s boughs looking for insects, tapping every so often to remove a flake of bark so that it could reach the creature underneath. It occurred to me that it was the first time in my life that I had seen a greater spotted woodpecker before it had seen me. They are quite easily alarmed and are most frequently seen at the top of tall trees emitting their alarm call.

During our packing up process I caught Charlotte out.

Charlotte emptying her bladder

I remarked on how skilled she was with her she-wee. However, she was merely emptying her water carrier.

Charlotte emptying her bladder

We made for Aberystwyth along the A487, which was fast, fairly busy and not pleasant. There was rain in the air and we had no great desire to rush on into bad weather, so we took a look around the town and then locked our bicycles by the Constitution Hill funicular railway and took it to the top of the hill where we visited the Camera Obscura and the café. Charlotte took advantage of a power point and charged her various devices.

We left Aberystwyth on the old railway path, which takes you out of the town to the south without the hindrance of traffic but we stayed on it perhaps a bit too long and Charlotte, who is more accustomed to bashing out the miles, was unhappy with the surface, even though the trip along the Ystwyth was very pretty.

It was unclear where we would camp tonight: I had a plan that perhaps some wild camping up by the Teifi Pools might be in order, but the weather was closing in and somehow being in the clouds some 1500′ above sea level whilst trying to cook our dinner didn’t have a great deal of romantic appeal about it. We headed for Bont (the local name for Pontrhydfendigaid), found a pub and had a confabulation.

We asked the landlord of the Black Lion about camp sites. There were two marked on the map, but one had become a designated site for static caravans and the other had closed down. He said we could camp in the pub garden. Not only that, he would look after our luggage if we wanted a pre-dinner unladen trip up to the Teifi pools. All this seemed like too good an opportunity to miss, so we locked our panniers away in an outer bar and off we set.

It was lovely being able to cycle unladen again and it did help a great deal, but we still seemed to take an age to ride from Bont to the pools. It’s probably not a lot more than 5 miles, but involves almost 1000′ of climbing so it took us at least an hour and when we got there our decision not to camp there seemed vindicated. It was very overcast, quite breezy and we didn’t see anywhere that was flat enough for us to pitch a couple of tents.

Teifi pools

Charlotte at the Teife Pools

It took us hardly any time to get back to the pub – certainly not more than 20 minutes – and we pitched the tents in the garden and then settled down to a nice pub meal in the warm. We both ate well and I went, feeling completely knackered, to pay the bill. I was charged £50 which seemed a bit steep but I didn’t really question it until Charlotte pointed out that it was probably about £20 overpriced. When I challenged the landlord he said, feebly, that the breakdown was in the bin. I told him that I knew exactly what we’d had to which his retort was “You’re not accusing me of swindling you, are you?” I interpreted this as saying that I could challenge him if I liked but we might be turfed out of the garden at about 10.30 at night with nowhere to find a bed. He offered me coffees and large quantities of Penderyn whisky in lieu. It was not a position I enjoyed being in, so I accepted this offer but, given the quantity of whisky he allegedly gave us and my lack of hangover the following day, I’m pretty sure it was the homeopathic variety.

We packed away wet tents quite early the following morning.

Third day – Dyffryn Ardudwy to Furnace

I awoke at 6.30 and trespassed on the camp site’s land in order to use their facilities. For breakfast I had more porridge and a honey sandwich.

Once we’d packed up the tents we made for Barmouth and its famous old bridge of the Mawddach estuary. Although the sun was shining, the weather was not especially warm for August. This didn’t matter to Charlotte, who was showing a fair bit of leg and arm.Charlotte in Barmouth

We timed our arrival at the north end of the bridge perfectly, as a steam train was approaching.Steam train on Mawddach Bridge

This ancient bridge is of a wooden construction and trains are limited to 10mph when they are crossing. I had been here before once or twice, but Charlotte’s acquaintance with it is due to her having ridden the arduous Bryan Chapman audax, a 600 kilometer ride from Chepstow to the Menai Bridge and back, which uses the bridge.

After Tywyn we took the Happy Valley road to Cwrt and on to Machynlleth. It was almost traffic free and very picturesque.Happy Valley

 

Dyfi esturay

We had a bit of climbing to do and earned this lovely view of the bridge near Dovey Junction station. We had lunch in Machynlleth and visited the Co-op for supplies and it was there that I spied the evocative T-shirt bearing the slogan “Save a mouse – eat a pussy”. After that we bimbled gently towards the village of Furnace, so called because there’s an ancient blast furnace there.

There was also a camp site and we decided it was for us. It was run by an elderly couple, was well tended, the loos and shower were clean and it cost only £4 per night. After I cooked my meal I was washing up under the hot tap and I’m afraid I earned our landlady’s displeasure: washing up was to be done outside under the cold tap. She looked very hurt and I felt extremely guilty.

Second day – Bangor to Dyffryn Ardudwy

I awoke around 6, lit the bush buddy and prepared porridge followed by sausage for breakfast.

The camp site cost us £5, which wasn’t too bad and we packed up and made for Llanberis, which was where we intended to camp but for Charlotte’s mishap. Thankfully she could still cycle without problem, but it seemed that her swimming would be sadly curtailed. The weather was fairly sunny, but none too warm. We stopped at Craig-y-Llyn, my sister’s former abode, for a photograph.

Craig y Llyn

In Llanberis we stopped at a camping shop and I bought a small fold-up padded mat.

It was a fairly long grind up Llanberis in which Charlotte, naturally, left me well behind, but I made it to the top without dismounting. We stopped at the café for lunch – I had chilli with rice and we both had cake. The descent to Beddgelert was lovely – I topped 36mph. I could have gone faster, but with full camping gear one wonders what the bike might do. We rode through to Penrhyndeudraeth and on to Harlech for some supplies.

When we arrived at the campsite at Dyffryn Ardudwy the campsite owners wanted £17 per pitch – the same for a cycle tourist as they would charge for a Range Rover with caravan and awning. We weren’t going to support this disgraceful profiteering so we wild-camped on a flat area of grass between the camp site fence and the dunes. It was a beautiful evening, sunny and with a breeze. I found plenty of fuel for the Bush Buddy by the simple means of picking dead twigs out of the stunted trees which provided cover for our tents.

Charlotte descending from Pen y pass

Touring in Wales with Charlotte

Unusually, I was ready a good hour before I needed to leave the house, was in plenty of time for the train, I arrived at Euston only about half-an-hour after getting out at Lpoo St, Charlotte arrived quite soon after I did, and we had time for a cup of coffee whilst the public address system repeatedly issued a high-decibel announcement asking for Mr. Sands to do something-or-other before getting onto a horribly crowded train. We put the bikes where they belonged and then found some people sitting in our reserved seats and then read Charlotte’s kindling source (a copy of the Grauniad that she’d bought) in which I completed the sudoku, but the quick crossword was just too ambiguous. We ate the butties we had brought with us and not long after arrived in Chester where we had to change trains and where enormous crowds seemed to want to get onto our train. We engaged with a staff member who kindly informed us that, depending on which class of locomotive we were to be provided with, as cyclists we would naturally be expected to be left behind if the train were too crowded.

As it happened, it was a 4-coach 158 and the staff members on the train were very helpful in clearing people and luggage out of the cycle spaces. We then nattered with two old ladies form Wrexham. At Rhyl, two other cyclists joined the train, one of whom was a real tourist, as he had a Dawes Galaxy and was wearing a Clarion CC cap.

We alighted at Bangor, loaded our luggage onto the bikes and set off towards the Menai Bridge where Charlotte persuaded a passer-by to photograph us. We had just negotiated a quiet side road past Treborth Hall and near some botanical gardens and just as we were emerging onto the main road I heard a squeal and turned to see Charlotte lying in the road, still partially attached to her bike. The poor gal had had a “clipless moment” and, worse still, had a deep gash at the back of her left calf.

As luck would have it, the lady form the B & B across the road was well versed in first aid. She patched Charlotte up, stored our bikes in her garage and gave us a lift to the hospital just up the hill where Charlotte was tended by a doctor with a trolley full of sharp needly things. Eventually Charlotte emerged with five stitches covered by a piece of heavy-duty clingfilm glued firmly in place. We got a taxi back to the Treborth estate because we had seen that there was a camp site there. Charlotte chooses very well-appointed places in which to have her mishaps.

The camp site was fairly rudimentary: the loos almost worked but the cisterns filled extremely slowly. There was hardly any hot water in the taps but we were encamped by a small area of woodland and, after a sullen start because the wood was wet, I managed to prepare a very nice meal of basmati rice with fried salmon (I had cycled the mile or so to Waitrose, on Anglesey, to buy these). We slept pretty well.

Charlotte's bandaged ankle