The next morning the ground is crisp with frost. I could follow the main A493 towards Fairbourne as it hugs the coast. But the traffic is heavy and I decide it’s too dangerous.
The official Wales Coast Path climbs the hill above Llwyngwril, first following a small lane and later farm tracks. In the fields I see farmers on quad bikes. This one is scattering feed while his sheep follow behind.
The Wales Coast Path leads up and up and up. My calves begin to ache, while Llwyngwril dwindles below me.
According to my landlady, the giant Gwril lived on the coast at Llwyngwril. His cousin, Idris, lived on the mountain of Cader Idris. The two giants quarrelled and threw stones at each other. You can still see these stones where they fell short and landed on the hill tops between Llwyngwril and Cader Idris.
To access the first set of stones, I have to leave the Wales Coast Path and follow another footpath as it climbs higher up the hill.
Other people might consider these to be ancient standing stones, placed by humans in the pre-history era. But I like the giant story better.
Back on the Wales Coast Path, I continue along the high ground, with wonderful views over Barmouth Bay ahead. In the clear air, both Fairbourne and Barmouth look very close.
I’m walking in a north-easterly direction along the slope of the hill, following farm tracks. The long shadows keep the ground frozen. There is ice instead of mud, a welcome change.
Down below I see a post office van bringing the mail to a small farm cottage. I wonder if it was the same one I saw yesterday. Those little red vans really do get everywhere.
There are some pools high on the hill – blue water reflecting the light from the clear sky.
My path continues as a tarmac track alongside a dry-stone wall, with its shadowed verges still covered in frost.
On the bare slope higher up I find some more standing stones. One has fallen and lies with strange markings scarring its surface. I can’t resist using one of the stones to take a self-portrait.
Onwards, and I am above Fairbourne (hidden under the roll of the slope in the photo below) and Barmouth is close, just across the mouth of the river, with more mountains in the distance. Wonderful view.
To my surprise the path veers inland and turns into a minor road. I meet my first traffic of the day, a 4×4 vehicle. Looks like a farmer behind the wheel.
Then the road begins a slow descent and I come across my third set of standing stones. Only a couple remain upright. Those giants could certainly hurl their rocks some distance!
And now I enter a forestry area. Several large machines are parked in the rutted mud, while broken trunks lie strewn around in all directions. I always hate to see felled trees and the scars of logging. It seems such a desecration of the landscape.
There is nobody about. Perhaps it’s too cold to work? The ground is still frozen, despite the sun, and I slip several times where vehicles have created icy slicks on the road.
I’m glad to find Wales Coast Path signs pointing off the road and along a grassy track. Running between dry stone walls, it leads me down past the Cyfannedd-fawr farmhouse.
At first I think the place is another abandoned ruin, but as I get nearer I realise its someone’s home, although I see nobody about.
Around the side of the house, overlooking Barmouth Bay, they’ve created a stone seat and a marker plaque pointing out features in the landscape. It may be faded and smudged, and definitely very homemade, but it’s a nice touch.
I take the opportunity to grab a brief rest.
The I follow the path, jumping over a stream, and continue winding down the hill across frosty fields and through tangled woods.
The trees make a change from the bare hillside, but I’m glad of the occasional footpath marker post. It would be easy to get lost.
Occasionally I get glimpses down to Fairbourne, which sprawls across a flat piece of land in front of Barmouth Bay.
The path leads down to a quarry track and, at the bottom of the valley, joins a quiet road. There are parked cars here, and I meet a few dog walkers, the first people apart from farmers I’ve seen all day.
The quiet road leads onto the A493. I was expecting to turn off to the right along another footpath, but the route of the Wales Coast Path must have been changed since my OS map was printed. The sun is behind the steep hills to my left and the road is in darkness. I feel sorry for the people who live in the houses down here. It seems very gloomy.
I follow the A493 south-westwards for a short distance, before the coast-path signs point me down a minor road, under the railway line, and to the shore. Here there is an esplanade and a series of concrete sea defences above a beach of large pebbles.
I follow the walkway along the shore past Fairbourne. I was hoping to find a pub or cafe for lunch, but can’t see anywhere open. After a mile or so, I leave the houses behind. Now I’m walking along a dead-end piece of land, a strip of vegetated dunes that runs between the shore and the marshes.
A toy train trundles past on a miniature track. It’s a surreal sight because, although you can’t tell from the photograph, the engine is running backwards. Further along I discover they’re making repairs to the track, ready for the summer tourist season.
As I get nearer to the end of the bar of land, I walk along the top of the dunes, and then along the edge close to the shore. Across the water is Barmouth. So near! In the summer there is a ferry operating but, like the miniature railway, it’s closed over the winter.
At the end of the spit I see there’s a café at the tiny rail terminal. My heart lifts. But the café is closed too. I begin to follow the track back to Fairbourne, this time walking next to the river and its marshes.
Finding some flat rocks, I stop for a picnic of snack bars and nuts. Although the clouds are beginning to pile up over the mountains, it remains sunny and my lunchtime view is wonderful! Running across the river is the long line of Barmouth Bridge. That’s where I’m heading next.
I continue back along the spit. Rain clouds are gathering over Snowdonia, and their dark masses against the sunlit sand and marshes create dramatic landscapes.
Now I’m back on the official coast path again, which curves around the edge of the marshes, running on a raised causeway. It’s a cycle way, a walking route, and a bridleway.
Past the station of Moira Mawddach – a station in the middle of nowhere that must serve only tourists – and onto Barmouth Bridge. It’s a toll bridge, although no vehicles are allowed – only cyclists and walkers. And trains.
The first section is a long viaduct, before I reach the more conventional metal section of bridge that passes over the river. Along the way I meet other walkers and plenty of cyclists.
At the far end is a toll booth. I sign tells me it should cost 30p…
… but the booth is closed. What a shame. I’d be happy to pay. I look for an honesty box, but there isn’t one.
This wonderful footpath across the bridge faces possible closure as a cost-cutting measure. Apparently the local council pays Network Rail £30,000 a year for the privilege of the footpath. Why? Network Rail is effectively a nationalised company and I don’t understand why it should charge anything for this amenity.
A few months ago I signed a petition to keep the footpath open. I’m not sure what difference a petition makes, but there are nearly 50,000 signatures collected so far.
I stop for tea and cake in Barmouth. Then continue along the esplanade.
I’m catching the train back to Llwyngwril, but the service only runs every 2 hours and I have an hour to wait. So I decide to walk on to the next station, a couple of miles up the coast. I must get a move on.
At a quick-march pace, I leave Barmouth behind.
The esplanade comes to an end and the official coast path veers inland. I look ahead along the beach. The tide is out and the sand looks inviting. Could I make it to the next station along the shore?
I spend a moment or two dithering. But, with only 1/2 hour left to go, I don’t want to run the risk of missing the next train. I head inland, over the railway line, up the low cliff, and join the road. At least it has a pavement.
There’s a pretty church and graveyard at Llanaber. Great views. I snatch a quick photo before hurrying onwards.
Just beyond the church is a sign post pointing to the ‘Gorsaf’. Even without the English translation underneath, this is one Welsh word I actually know. Station.
And there it is, down a narrow path. A tiny station – like most of them are – and a request stop.
The evening sun is low, bright light slanting across the bright sea. But overhead the clouds are dark and hail begins to fall. I pull up my hood, but don’t dare duck into the train shelter. The train won’t stop unless I signal the driver.
Here it comes. Slowly. There are multiple level crossings and tiny stations along this line. The train never picks up much speed.
I wave. The train stops. I climb on board, grateful to escape the hail.
It’s been another glorious day of walking, with a bit of everything thrown in: hills and mountains, dunes and marshes, through frost, sunshine and hail.
Miles walked today = 14 miles
Wales Coast Path = 647
Total distance = 2,254