Day 102: Harlech to Afonwen Farm
Distance: 21.03 miles
Ascent: 1904 feet
Weather: Grey, Misty, Drizzly
Accommodation: Afonwen Farm Cottage (Kindly Complimentary)
When I opened the tent flap this morning I was greeted by a lovely view of the wood, and slightly strangely considering I was a couple of kilometres from any town a blonde Labrador who sleeked off as soon as he saw me. It appeared dry though looked fairly bleak, so I packed up quickly and was off. I checked my emails and was instantly cheered up by a kind offer from Afonwen Farm for accommodation tonight, which after 3 nights in the tent and damp would be very welcome.
I soon left the wood and even though it didn’t appear to be raining the air was incredibly damp and everything soon became a little damp with water dripping of my hair. The path headed down passed a couple of expansive farms and to the edge of the muddy/marshy estuary. With the mist and inherent dampness, amongst the stunning undulating remote terrain this stretch was actually really dramatic. The path passed a lovely little church on the outskirts of Ynys which I popped into before crossing over a little tidal road.
From here the path headed out onto the marsh and after crossing a little bridge the path climbed up onto the flood embankment. I had decided to keep my camera out today, but as I went to take the 3rd of 4th picture of the day I noticed that the lens had misted up, so quickly dried it and decided not to use it until damp/misty conditions had disappeared.
The flood embankment took me all the way to the railway line which I crossed before shortly joining the pavement alongside a busy road which took me across the bridge over the Afon Dwyryd. There was a sign saying bridge would be closed at some point I think the date was for tomorrow, which would have been a nightmare because it would have meant at least a 10 mile diversion. But safely across I soon reached Penrhyndeudraeth, where I had proposed a quick break and a tea though nowhere appeared open but there was a little shop which had a coffee machine so grabbed a hot drink and then sat in the church porch to escape the damp conditions for a little while.
On leaving the town I caught sight of the Ffestiniog Railway line a lovely little steam railway, before the path does it’s bizarre route trying to skirt around Portmeirion where the path can’t go through because you have to pay to enter it. The path rejoins the railway and road and crosses over the impressive embankment/bridge over the wide estuary into Porthmadog. Porthmadog was a nice little village where I actually saw one of the small steam engines, before the path heads through the industrial boat maintenance area and over the crest into the lovely little bay of Borth-y-Gest.
Unbelievably the damp conditions still persisted, and from Borth-y-Gest the path became more remote/rural again, passing a lovely little bay/estuary before skirting the golf course onto what in these slighty misty/damp conditions felt like the biggest expanse of sand I had ever been on. There appeared to be no one around but there were a few they were just hidden in the mist. In fact the first thing I came to on the beach was a speed limit sign (10mph) which seemed strange, but it turned out later on when I saw a couple of cars parked that you can drive on this beach. At the end of this beach the path heads inland and around a incline to get to the next bay. But as it was low tide I thought I could just walk around, the tide was in fact not an issue but there was a small river coming right out of the headland that was about knee deep, so for the first time I got my boots and socks of and waded across. It felt surprisingly satisfying wading across.
Once around the headland slightly to my surprise (not shown as sandy beach on OS map) there was another quite long partially sandy beach which made for easy walking all the way to Criccieth. I had some lunch and used what a local said was the best shop, and all I could get was some frozen jacket potatoes and some beans to cook tonight. The little shops in these towns (Premier, Londis and to an extent Spar) are absolutely terrible and quite a rip-off, but I have little other choice.
On leaving Criccieth, I turned round to see the spectacular castle sat atop the hill in the centre of the town and it made for a spectacular sight rising above the not always so spectacular houses.
From Criccieth the path follows the edge of the fields next to the pebble beach, until it comes to a River Dwyfor. I had known the path takes an annoying route from here and had been planning to maybe wade the river at low tide, but the accommodation offer is actually on the coast path, so followed the path inland. I met two brothers on this stretch who are slowly walking the Wales Coast Path in sections and they walked with me all the way up to the main road.
It is at this point that the route is stupid as it now follows a main road for several miles, even if there is a pavement. For this reason, several walkers have come up with other options, including crossing the railway bridge which is much nearer the coast as it is only 30 yards and the trains are only every 2 hours. This is not something I would do but can understand why someone may.
After 2 miles I arrived at Afonwen Farm where I was led to the room (in fact more of a cottage) that I had been kindly allowed to use complimentary for the night. After 3 nights in the tent and quite a lot of dampness, it was great to be indoors, and get everything dry and charge stuff up. When I had emailed the farm I had thought it was a caravan park, but it turns out it has cottages, swimming pool, jacuzzi and lots of stuff for kids and I am very thankful for their kind offer.
So all in all a damp but good day.