This morning I face a dilemma.
I should, according to my rules, start today’s walk where I left off yesterday: in the village of Tre’r-ddol. But that means a bus ride and I really, really want to take the train instead. Why? Because the railway line runs where there is neither road nor footpath, right along the edge of the estuary of the Afon Dyfi.
And so I drive into Machynlleth, park my car, and catch the little train to Borth. I’m glad I did. The journey is beautiful and Borth station is lovely, with bright flowers and a platform that overlooks open fields.
I stop and take a photograph along Borth beach. It looks so different from yesterday. The tide is in and the sands are covered.
The Wales Coast Path heads inland from Borth, first following a lane that crosses the railway line, and then taking a convoluted course around the edge of fields. I’ve been walking for an hour when I snap the photograph below, where Borth station is clearly visible. You can see I haven’t got very far!
One reason the walk is taking me so long is because I keep stopping to check my maps. This particular section of footpath meanders around the edge of two consecutive Ordnance Survey Maps. And the Wales Coast Path isn’t the only footpath leaving Borth at this point. The Ceredigion Coast Path does too, along with another long distance trail to Devil’s Bridge. And a number of other local footpaths. It’s all very confusing.
I’ve followed the Ceredigion Coast Path since Cardigan and loved every minute of it. Yesterday, I reached the point where the path ends, at the edge of the estuary. But I didn’t actually follow the official course of the path from Borth to the estuary, because I chose to walk along the beach instead.
Now I come to the point where the Ceredigion Path branches off on its inland route, running parallel to the beach and along the side of a drainage ditch. I think I was right to have avoided this section. It reminds me of similar walks through the Cambridgeshire Fens. Dead flat, dead straight and dead boring.
The Wales Coast Path, on the other hand, takes a more interesting route, running around the edge of a vast expanse of marshland.
According to a notice board, there was once an ancient forest here, but as the land grew wetter the trees died and a layer of peat (7 metres thick) gradually formed. Medieval people built wooden walkways to help them cross the boggy land.
This is called Cors Fochno or Y Gaws For (The Great Bog) and is one of the largest peat bogs in the UK and part of the huge Dyfi National Nature Reserve. It’s a lonely and spooky place.
I was expecting to make rapid progress across this flat landscape. But the path becomes difficult. Somebody has been dredging one of the drainage ditches on the edge of the bog, and the path is strewn with foul-smelling sediment and slippery reeds.
Stumbling along, I eventually come across the machine responsible for the chaos on the path. The operator stops to let me walk past safely, and gives me a cheerful wave. It’s hard to feel cross with him.
Beyond the digger, the path widens out and I meet a nature reserve Landrover, bumping down the grassy track. I wonder what will happen when it meets the digger?
A sign warns me I can only visit the bog with prior permission – although I’m not sure how that can be enforced where there is a public right of way (and national trail) running through the bog. And, in any case, it’s too late now! I’ve reached the end of the marsh.
The next field is full of cows. My gate is, of course, on the other side of these beasts. They are black and white which could mean they are an aggressive breed, but luckily they remain seated, while giving me evil stares, as I pick my way between them.
I follow a lovely grassy lane, lined with trees and bushes. Ahead I can see buildings. I’m getting close to the village of Tre Taliesin, where I will join the A487 for a short distance.
After a brief stop on a bench in Tre Taliesin, for a drink and a snack, I head down the main road – which luckily has a pavement – until I reach the next village, Tre’r-ddol.
I walk past the pub, the place where I caught the bus yesterday, and feel a sense of achievement. Yes, I may only be back to where I finished my walk yesterday, but I’ve had a great experience – a wonderful train journey and a fascinating walk along the edge of the Great Bog.
Now, onwards… I was planning to have lunch in the pub, but I don’t have time to stop. It’s 10 miles to Machynlleth and I have 5 hours of daylight left.
[To be continued…]
Route this morning: