I try to look cheerful when my husband drops me off on the road through Goldcliff. It rained all night and it’s still raining this morning. I don’t normally walk in bad weather, but the BBC weather forecast promises it will stop later.
The Wales Coast Path is clearly signed – and leaves the road to detour around a piece of land. This might be a field, or a marsh, or a series of ponds, or a lake. Anyway, it’s full of water.
The main problem with this semi-circular detour is that there is no view of the estuary. The high bank on my left is the river wall, but it’s fenced off and signs say No Entry. We mustn’t scare the birds.
The only bird-related reward is the sight of a flock of geese passing overhead.
At one point the fencing disappears and I climb up onto the wall and take a murky photograph of the Severn Estuary. The view inland is more interesting. Industrial buildings squat in front of a range of hills.
My path circles back and rejoins the road, before heading off again to take a parallel course through fields. But I soon realise I should have stuck to the road. The mud here is quite extraordinarily deep.
I’m not going to dwell on the next few miles, except to say I wade through splattering mud and showers of rain, past Level Court Farm, Elmtree Farm, Saltmarsh farm until my path joins a track and the going gets easier.
Finally the sun comes out, just as I reach the shore again. From here the path (which is also a cycle track) follows the shoreline through an area known as Newport Wetlands National Nature Reserve.
I meet bird watchers and ask a gentleman if he’s seen anything interesting, He mentions spotting a red wing. I have no idea what that is, but I nod as if I’m very impressed. Later I wonder if red wings are common and I might have overdone my show of enthusiasm. I really must learn more about birds…
Off to my right are a series of lakes with walkways giving access to bird hides. Normally I would stop and have a look, but I want to make the most of the sunshine and I keep walking.
Now, I don’t want to give you an impression that this nature reserve is wonderfully scenic. The path along the shore has attractive views over the water, but the whole area is dominated by industrial buildings and the Uskmouth power station. The low-slanting light and changing cloudscape create some dramatic photographs.
[Later I learn that Uskmouth power station, photo above, closed a few months ago. It was used during the filming of several episodes of Doctor Who – including a starring role as a Cyberman factory.]
My path loops through the reserve, taking me back almost to my entry point. I walk through the Nature Reserve car park and after this my footpath sets off inland again towards the small village of Nash, where I plan to meet my husband for lunch.
On the way I have to stop and wait for a herd of cows to meander along my path. No wonder it’s so muddy. The farmer-lady gives my walking boots a pitying look and tells me I should have worn Wellies.
“It’s winter now, you know.”
She shakes her head at my English foolishness.
The Wales Coast Path has certainly made an effort to keep me dry. Raised platforms carry me over the worst of the bog. But there are plenty of squelchy areas in-between.
I meet more cows. Bullocks I think. They keep their distance.
And I reach the village of Nash. The Waterloo Inn is right on the path and is a welcome sight.
But it’s closed. What? I checked their website before I set off and it clearly stated they serve food 12:00 to 2:30, Tuesday to Saturday. It’s Tuesday today and it’s 12:30.
Maybe I’m early? But the place is dark and there’s no sign of activity inside. I can’t believe it.
My husband arrives on his bike. We shake our heads and pull out our maps. For once I haven’t brought any snacks with me. I need something to eat and my husband, who has been cycling hard, is running low on sugar too.
A couple of guys have been lurking in a sinister manner in a nearby shelter in a park. Now they come across to join us and I realise they are elderly gentlemen. They ask if we’re lost and explain they’re from the local ramblers club and are about to undertake a footpath clearance.
We ask about pubs and they are surprised to hear the Waterloo Inn is closed, but confirm the nearest alternative is back in Goldcliff.
I’ve walked 6 miles since I left Goldcliff, but the walk back by road will be shorter. Only 2 miles. But that is a 4 mile detour just for lunch. I consider carrying on towards Newport. But I’m too hungry.
So I walk the 2 miles along the road to Goldcliff. There is no footpath for most of the way, but the traffic is light. My husband cycles alongside in his hi-vis jacket, very slowly.
The Farmers Arms is open. We are the only people eating lunch. But it was worth the detour. I feel much better afterwards.
I walk back to Nash through Goldcliff, and take a photo of this wooden sculpture in someone’s garden. I noticed it the first time through, but then it was raining heavily and I couldn’t pull my camera out.
The walk from Nash to Newport takes me across fields. Someone has walked here recently and I wonder if it was my rambling gentlemen. I must say the Wales Coast Path is well maintained and well signed. The mud is only to be expected after days of heavy rain. And it is November, after all.
The ground is saturated. Water has collected in puddles and there is nowhere for it to drain. If I don’t keep moving I begin to sink.
It is nearly 4 o’clock and the light is beginning to fade. I make the most of the last rays of sun as they come sneaking across the fields. And I find the last half hour of today’s walk surprisingly pleasant.
Because of the detour back to Goldcliff, I knew I couldn’t reach Newport before sunset. So I’ve arranged to meet my husband where the path crosses over the edge of an industrial estate. This last section is down a straight and boring cycle path. On my left is a screen of high bushes, on my right are the fences of various industrial units.
I meet a couple of dog walkers. They’re the only people I’ve seen on the path since the birdwatchers this morning.
My husband is waiting for me when I reach the road. Strangely enough, my boots aren’t too muddy – the waterlogged fields seem to have rinsed away most of the muck. But I have mud splattered up to my knees.
Despite all the difficulties, I enjoyed the walk today. The most frustrating part was finding the pub shut and having to double back. That will teach me not to carry my snack box!
Miles walked today: 11.5
Total distance: 1638.5