What a difference the sunshine makes. Last time I was in Tywyn (October last year) the weather was dull and I couldn’t find anything complimentary to say about the place. Today in bright sunlight the resort looks far more appealing.
But you can’t escape the fact that Tywyn has no fine buildings, and is surrounded by a collection of green metal boxes that serve as holiday homes. So, as I walk briskly along the esplanade, I keep my eyes fixed on the sea.
Once I’ve left the town behind, I can transfer my gaze to the wonderful scenery inland.
In my hurry to leave Tywyn, I miss the place where the coast path turns away from the sea. Soon I come to the end of the esplanade and find myself stumbling across a wasteland next to the railway track.
I realise I must turn back and find a crossing over the train tracks, and I’m forced to retrace my steps.
Once over the railway line, I follow a minor road as it runs parallel to the coast.
It’s a pleasant walk. The traffic is light and the views across the river valley are breathtaking. In the distance is Snowdonia, with snow-capped mountain peaks.
Ahead is a lumpy hill, scarred by quarry workings. The Wales Coast Path, according to my map runs up to join the high ground just to the left of the quarry. I’ve already decided to stick to the coast road instead, because it runs closer to the sea.
First I must cross the mouth of a river, the Afon Dysynn.
There has always been a railway bridge across the river – an ugly and functional construction, now somewhat rusty – but no footpath for walkers.
My current OS map suggests I must walk up the river to cross at the nearest bridge in the village of Bryncrug, a 4 mile detour. But yesterday I checked the latest maps on the Wales Coast Path website to see if there were any footpath diversions due to flooding, and was surprised to discover they’d built a new bridge.
Running close to the rusty old rail bridge, the new footbridge is gleaming and elegant. Beautiful.
I stroll over the bridge, and follow a track which eventually joins the road. To my surprise, the Wales Coast Path signs point straight ahead along the road, instead of towards the quarry as I anticipated. There are no pavements, but no traffic either. In fact, I don’t meet a single car.
Soon I come across the Tonfanau railway station. I was half hoping to buy something for lunch here, but I’ve arrived much too early – thanks to the bridge – and in any case there is nothing around. It’s a strange, isolated spot to find a station.
I sit on the bench on the platform and eat a few snacks. Then continue up the road. Ahead is a hill – Foel Llanfendigaid.
To my left is the broad expanse of Cardigan Bay, with the hills of the Lleyn or Llŷn Peninsula in the distance. One day, in a few months maybe, I’ll be walking along that distant shore.
Meanwhile, my little road continues, sweeping round to the landward side of the Foel Llanfendigaid hill, and passing through the tiny hamlet of Llanfendigaid.
So far my walk has been along hard surfaces, and I’m pleased when the Wales Coast Path leaves the road and heads off across a field. I’m not so pleased to discover the ground is extremely muddy.
Maybe the next field will be better? It’s not. The sheep aren’t very happy about the mud either. But the views are wonderful and the sun is still shining.
The field diversion doesn’t last long. I join a track and walk down the hill, past a rather scruffy scrap yard.
At the bottom of the valley I meet the A493. My quickest route (and the one that’s closest to the sea) is to follow the road. But the road is buzzing with traffic and I decide it’s unsafe.
I stick to the official Wales Coast Path, cross over the A493, and head along a farm track up the next hill. The track is rough and narrow, and I’m surprised to meet a PO van. Those little red vans get everywhere! It’s moving too quickly for a photo.
There is a network of narrow tracks threading through the farmland over this hillside, and I worry about losing my way, but the Wales Coast Path is well signed. My track dwindles to a path, and soon becomes very muddy underfoot.
After a while, I join another minor road…
…which dwindles into another track and then into a path. I’ve been steadily climbing and now the ground is rocky and firm. I pass fields of sheep, farmers on quad bikes, and some picturesque ruined buildings.
Finally I reach the summit of the hill, and the view ahead is glorious. That’s Barmouth Bay, with Snowdonia in the distance. Is that Snowdon? I’m not sure.
I find some convenient large stones, and stop for a picnic lunch. Apart from the farmers, I’ve met nobody else on this wonderful path and have the view to myself. I take a self-portrait, with the Lleyn peninsula as a backdrop.
The path threads downwards, running along old drove roads and bridleways.
I meet some sheep, heavily pregnant and hungry…
.. and walk across green swards, surrounded by golden bracken.
I come across a couple of sheep skeletons. I’m not sure if they’re victims of dog attacks, or victims of the weather. It’s been a mild winter, but wet and stormy across north Wales.
And a few fields later I come across the first lambs I’ve seen this year. They bounce along as if their legs were springs. They aren’t newborn, maybe a few weeks old.
The clouds have built during the afternoon, and are casting large, slow-moving shadows across the landscape. After crossing more fields and following farm tracks, I come to a minor road. This takes me down towards my destination – the village of Llwyngwril.
I finish my walk early, thanks to the new bridge cutting out 4-5 miles of my expected route, and so I go down to the beach at Llwyngwril and spend an hour stumbling over the pebbles and admiring the views.
Tomorrow I’ll be walking over the top of that ridge of hills. I can’t wait.
Later my landlady told me the new Tonfanau bridge was pre-assembled and lifted into place by cranes, in 2013. You can watch a time-lapse YouTube video of the new bridge being lifted into place.
Miles walked today = 11 miles
Wales coast path = 633 miles
Total distance = 2,240 miles