I set off from the church in Llangain, and walk along narrow country lanes, where nature is busily reclaiming the central section of tarmac. The verges are lined by spring flowers and I’m surrounded by the heavy scent of cow parsley.
Part of me resents the road-walking, but another part loves the easy tread of tarmac underfoot. I’m also mildly aggrieved to be walking so far away from the water. The River Towy is a mile or so to my left, hidden somewhere beyond the hedges and fields.
I come to a fork in the road. Which way should I go? I check my map. The Wales Coast Path takes the right fork, but I’m tempted to veer to the left.
My map shows the left fork ends at a place (possibly a farm) called Hendy. From there a series of tracks lead to Pilroath (another farm?) and after that it should be possible to rejoin the official path. This route would be slightly longer, but would cut out some road walking – including a section along the busy B4312 – and would take me closer to the river. But, there is no public right-of-way along those tracks.
What if I came across locked gates? Or an angry Welsh farmer? Or a pack of vicious dogs? Or a field of killer cows?
After a few minutes of dithering, I take the right-hand fork, and follow the safer option – the official route of the coast path – instead.
It’s lovely walking. And very peaceful. I only meet one single vehicle, an open-top buggy that leaves behind a whiff of diesel mixed with manure.
Through gaps in the hedge I have a rural view to my right.
And to my left, an occasional glimpse down to the estuary.
Ahead the road dips and begins a steep descent. I meet a couple of struggling cyclists coming up towards me.
At the bottom of the hill, my quiet lane decants onto the B4312. Luckily it’s not too busy.
And a footpath sign takes me off the road for a short distance. The authorities who manage the Wales Coast Path are really doing their best to create a safe and traffic-free route, but the path is uneven and runs along a narrow strip of land, hemmed in between the high roadside hedge and a barrier of barbed wire, as if the farmer was reluctant to concede the route to walkers.
I’m soon back on the B4312.
In a field across the road I see some cattle, but I notice how young the animals are. Little calves. I cross over to take photographs. The calves stand uncertain on stick-like legs, watching me nervously.
There is no sign of any adults. Where are all the mother cows? The calves seem much too young to be weaned.
Later I wonder if they are the unwanted male calves from a dairy herd, and if they are destined to become veal. At times like this I am tempted to turn into a vegetarian.
A Wales Coast Path sign points up a lane to the right, taking me away from the B4312. I hesitate again. Sticking to the road would keep me closer to the water. But there is no pavement to walk along. Also, I know my husband is walking to meet me from Llansteffan and he will be following the route of the Wales Coast Path. If I stick to the road, it is highly likely we will miss each other.
So I follow the lane.
The path soon branches off from the lane. I walk up a hill and through a lovely section of woodland, with bluebells on either side. A raised walkway is provided in places, to protect the walker from mud, I assume.
Coming out of woodland, the path grows indistinct as it crosses a flower-filled meadow, still heading uphill. Below me, to the left, I can see the gleam of the River Towy.
And then I climb over a stile and find myself in a field of cows with very young calves, which can make the mothers very defensive and fierce. Oh dear. Luckily, they are all huddled at the far end of the field around a stall of hay.
I’m not sure where my path runs, but I can’t find a way out of the field. I walk around all 3 of the cow-free sides. Then I realise the cows and their babies are guarding both the path and the exit stile.
What should I do? Nervously I walk towards the group, hoping they will move away when they see me coming. They stare at me and don’t budge. I retreat, find a stick, and walk towards them again with my arms outstretched, trying to look very large. They keep staring, and then one of the cows lowers its head and begins to stride down the slope towards me.
I quickly turn back and climb over a locked gate into an adjacent field. At the top of the new field, I find myself beside the stile I was heading for – and, from the safety of the other side of the fence, can get a closer look at the cows and their pretty calves.
At this point my husband appears. Too late! I tell him if he had turned up a few minutes sooner he could have scared the cows away from the stile and made my life easier. He doesn’t know what I’m worrying about. My hubby has no fear of cows.
We walk together towards Llansteffan. The path follows tracks through woods and fields, heading uphill. We stop by a tree where he tells me he heard a woodpecker earlier, but there is no sound of it now.
Reaching the brow of the hill, I stop again to take photograph. Wow, what a view!
I can see Ferryside below and, over the mouth of the estuary, the flat land of Pembrey Forest with the stump that represents the army’s checkpoint at the beginning of the firing range. Beyond is the sea, and the pale-blue line of humps on the horizon is Rhossili Down and Worms Head.
What a long way I’ve come! It’s wonderful to see all those familiar landmarks and I love looking back at the way I’ve travelled. It’s one of the joys of walking.
My husband is impatient to continue. Onwards. We walk along an uncomfortable gravel surface, which seems freshly laid, and then down a sunken path where gravel gives way to mud, the surrounding banks too deep for drying rays of sunlight to penetrate.
The sunken path is atmospheric, but I grow frustrated by its lack of views and, when I see a gap in the surrounding hedges, climb up onto the bank for a quick look ahead. We’re nearly there. Just below us is the village of Llansteffan. Across the valley are the grey stone walls of Llansteffan castle.
Our path joins a roadway, and we walk through Llansteffan towards the beach. It’s a popular area with a car park and people out walking.
Close to the river is a group of fishermen and, just over the water, is the familiar village of Ferryside. I can even see the railway bridge where I crossed the tracks on my previous walk.
If the Ferryside ferry was still running I could have avoided this 2 day detour up to Carmarthen and back. But I’m here in Llansteffan at last. And nearly back on the coast.
Miles walked today = 6 miles
Along Wales Coast Path = 266 miles
Total distance around coast = 1,873