The town of Carmarthen lies on the west bank of the river Towy. I walk past the station (on the east bank) and over a new-looking pedestrian bridge that arches delicately over the river. From the span of the bridge, I have a good view of the road bridge, further upstream.
There are objects hanging on the railings of this footbridge. Football shirts and blue ribbons.
And propped up against the rail is a small boat. A coracle, I think, with candles at its base and ribbons and messages tied to its wooden struts. This is a memorial to the 11-year-old boy, Cameron Comey, who was swept away by the river in February. So sad.
At the end of the bridge a roundabout is guarded by a rather fine Welsh dragon, made of red, metal mesh.
I walk past the bus station and up the hill into the main street, where I meet my husband at The Boar’s Head. He asks me how my walk went this morning and I tell him about my fall.
‘Nothing injured but your pride,’ he says, until I show him a surprisingly impressive bruise on my elbow.
It’s nearly 3pm, but the Boar’s Head Hotel serves food all day. We eat in the empty bar, surrounded by wood panelling. Our late lunch takes a long time to arrive, but is reasonably priced, freshly made and tastes delicious. [A few weeks later, I will return to this same hotel and stay here on my own, using the nearby bus station for transport to and from the next series of walks.]
After this leisurely lunch, and a pint of cider, I feel refreshed and all the problems of this morning’s walk are forgotten. I decide to make the most of the sunny afternoon and continue on a little further.
Leaving Carmarthen along the Wales Coast Path, I take a photograph back up the river, showing the two bridges – the single-span of the pedestrian/cycle bridge in front, with the three arches of the A484 road bridge behind.
And the path leads under another road bridge (the busy A40) and towards yet another bridge, the rail bridge, visible just around the bend of the river ahead.
I do love bridges. They help me cross rivers, of course, but there must be more to it than that. I remember falling deeply in love with both the Severn Bridge and the Clifton Suspension Bridge. When I figure it out, I might write a blog post about it!
The Wales Coast Path follows the west bank of the river for a while. I pass under the railway bridge, and turn back to catch a photograph of a train crossing over.
This train will have come up the estuary, passing through Ferryside, after curving around the coastline between Gowerton, Llanelli and Pembrey. It would have travelled closer to the water than I’ve been able to. The views would be amazing. I am definitely going to ride it one day.
I walk through parkland along a newish looking path, following the curve of the river.
Then the path leaves the low-lying land and rises to run alongside a playing field, before turning towards the road. I’m relieved to see I won’t have to walk along the road itself. A narrow, fenced-off, section of path runs on the other side of the hedge.
But this path doesn’t get me very far, after a few hundred yards it turfs me out onto the roadside.
There is no footpath, and the grass verge is very rough, so most of the time I have to walk in the road itself. It’s a B road, but surprisingly busy, with fast traffic flowing in both directions. And yet it’s both a cycle route and part of the official Wales Coast Path. Anyway, this section of the walk is not pleasant.
In a quiet moment between cars, I snatch a photograph of a young family wobbling by on bicycles. It’s not ideal. Dangerous, actually.
After a mile of road-walking, the path dives off to the right. It’s a relief to be off the road, even if the path seems to be on the wrong side of it, further away from the river. And this deviation isn’t marked on my map.
The ground is muddy underfoot in places. A simple sign warns that wellies are needed.
I climb up a steep hill, with good views of Carmarthen from the top. And then I’m walking in more woodland, surrounded by bluebells.
My heart sinks when I realise the path is leading me back to the road. But it’s only to cross straight over.
On the other side are more woods. This is the most enjoyable part of the afternoon, as I walk through green light and leave the noise of the traffic behind. I meet nobody. The path is well-defined but slightly unkempt, and takes a roller-coaster route through the trees.
Later, when I look at the map, I realise the strip of woodland is quite narrow, but when I was within the trees it felt as if I was walking through a vast forest.
I emerge into an open field. Below me is the river, with farms dotting the slopes on the other side. This morning I was walking over there, on one of the narrow roads that link those farms to the A484.
Across the open field, I find the track that leads up towards Llangain Church. It rises steadily for a mile or so, tree-lined and peaceful.
And when I arrive at the church, I find my hubby dozing on a bench in the sun.
It seems a shame to wake him up.
He takes a photograph of me, sitting on the same bench with the church behind.
Today has been interesting. This morning I started off on a beach, walked through farmlands, was attacked by dogs, chased by cattle, fell into a ravine, and met a ghostlike horse. (OK, I may be exaggerating here, but it was a weird morning!)
This afternoon has been much more peaceful. A small section of road-walking, it’s true, but the rest has been wonderful: rivers, bridges and woodland, ending up at this tranquil little church.
Miles walked today: 14 miles
Along Wales Coast Path: 260 miles
Total distance around coast: 1,867 miles