Frustrated, on reflection I think unfairly, by what I perceived as my slow progress up the west coast of Wales I decided, unwisely, to condense into two the three day’s walks between Aberporth and Aberystwyth, which left me completely exhausted for the remainder of this series of walks.
Towards the end of September local buses hereabouts move from their summer to winter timetables. The bus company undertakes to have all timetables updated within one week of the changeover which I discovered means that for a short period every timetable seems to show different departure times. One day I planned to walk south to Aberporth and then catch a bus back to Aberystwyth: six and a half hours walking, twenty miles, non-stop, top speed over some exceptionally steep ground (rising to 555 ft. at Penmoelciliau), only to find that I had missed the bus by 25 seconds!
Of all the coastal towns I have seen on these walks I liked Aberystwyth the most. The grand sweep of the seaside promenade; a university town with a faded Georgian charm; the sea on the doorstep a ten minute walk from excellent rail and bus connections. I was surprised to discover that it was Oliver Cromwell who had destroyed Aberystwyth’s castle. I had encountered his destructive legacy in Pembroke on a previous walk (Walk 27 of this blog) but had no idea that his depradations had taken him this far.
In many of the little harbour towns facing the graceful curve of Cardigan Bay I noticed Georgian terraces where all the houses were painted in delicately contrasting pastel shades. Many of the place-names incorporated the prefix Aber-, denoting a town situated at the mouth of a river, hence Aberystwyth: “the harbour at the mouth of the River Ystwyth”.
I read recently that butterflies are almost extinct in many parts of the country; certainly I have hardly seen any in some 4,000 miles of coastal walking. But for several days, south of Aberystwyth, I was thrilled to find the countryside was full of them! Red admirals, tortoiseshells, and brown & yellow speckled wood butterflies!
Moving on after three nights in Aberystwyth I settled for two nights in Machynlleth. Inland at the first crossing of the River Dyfi, Machynlleth is a pleasant market town with a distinctive clocktower and boasts five bookshops. Wales’ national hero, Owain Glyndwr, convened the country’s first parliament here in 1404 and it is now the Green capital of Wales: ecology and alternative energy as well as runes and spells.
At Llwyngwril I came across of a novel form of street art: “yarn bombing”. All over the village people had positioned knitted figures, even a knitting-lined bicycle!
The weather broke on my way up the coast to Harlech: rain fell in torrents and, particularly in the mornings, the view was completely obscured by a thick blanket of fog. I stumbled along the beach towards Harlech, the ghostly forms of dog walkers suddenly materialising out of the murk. The fog was so thick in Harlech that I could hardly see the castle built by Edward I in 1289. I felt a slight association with Edward having come across him last year in his guise of “Hammer of the Scots” when I was walking towards Carlisle beside the Solway Firth, (Walk 6 of this blog).
Soaking wet, I waited for the train at Harlech station. It was a wonderful journey back: long shafts of misty sunlight began to penetrate the fog which rose slowly up the flanks of the surrounding wooded hills; in many places the train ran parallel to the coast, sometimes just a few feet above the waves. Many of the stations were request stops in tiny villages, a single platform surrounded by woods. At Aberdyfi we headed inland and arrived back at Machynlleth. The train then continued across Central Wales passing Newtown and Welshpool which I recognised from previous walks along the towpaths of the Llangollen and Montgomery canals, as recorded in my second post on this blog.
© Nick Creagh-Osborne and manwalkstheworld.com 2016.