I wait for the bus and the driver doesn’t seem to understand what I mean by ‘Four Mile Bridge’. Instead, he suggests a name that has Pont in it, or maybe a Bont. Anyway, it turns out to be the right place.
I cross the bridge onto Holy Island and turn immediately left, following the coast path signs. The tide is high and there is barely a path to walk along.
I splosh through marsh and slide through mud – and am relieved when I reach a section of raised boardwalk. I wonder if the Silver Slashers were responsible for this improvement?
The weather started dull, but now the sun breaks through in intermittent bursts. I enjoy this part of the walk, alongside the waterlogged estuary and marshland.
But all too soon the path turns away from the coast (sigh) and heads up towards an untidy jumble of farm buildings.
I walk down the side of a barn, around the back of terrace of holiday cottages, and along a track. At one point I try to follow a footpath that – although not the official coastal route – would take me nearer to the shore. But it is too boggy and I turn back.
At the end of the track I reach a minor road.
Two miles of road walking lie ahead of me. It’s pleasant enough, with farmland and woodland on either side, and little traffic, but not exactly a coastal walk.
After about a mile I spot a signpost with, rather confusingly, three pointing fingers all indicating the coast path. I realise there is an alternative route (a permissive footpath) that joins the road at this point.
The sign on the gate says the path is closed over the winter months (October through to January) and I assume it is the end of the footpath I tried to follow a short while back – the one that turned out to be too boggy.
So I stick to the road and plod on, relieved when I see a sign to ‘Silver Bay’. Hooray! I’m heading towards the coast again.
A short time later I come across the coastal path sign, pointing off to the left. It’s another permissive route and, like the first, is closed during the winter months.
Grateful to leave the tarmac behind, I head through the gate. This is harder than it sounds, because the gateposts have sunk into the ground and the underside of the gate is wedged into the earth. It requires a lot of effort to hoist the gate up and heave it open.
But the effort is worth it. This is a delightful path. It passes through glades of trees..
… over a little stream with a rickety plank bridge…
… and along a raised boardwalk surrounded by tall grasses and budding bushes.
Above me the sky is noisy with jets from the nearby Valley Airfield. Reminds me of Lincolnshire, where we have plenty of RAF bases of our own.
I know I must be very close to the coast now. The air seems clearer and fresher, the light brighter. I climb over a rickety stile, covered in moss. Nearly there.
Suddenly, to my surprise, the path ends abruptly at a wooden gate in a rusty fence. Through the gate there’s no sign of the coast. Just another road.
I look at my map. This can’t be right!
And then I realise there is something very familiar about both the rusty fence and the three-fingered sign post.
It’s the same road I’ve just walked along. No! I can’t believe it.
But the truth is confirmed when I go through the gate and see the sign on the other side.
So this wasn’t the ‘end’ of a previous alternative route, it was the beginning of a new one. And I thought I had a good sense of direction – hah!
Turning back, I retrace my steps: over the mossy stile, along the raised boardwalk, over the rickety plank bridge, through the glades of trees. And end up back where I started – on the lane leading to Silver Bay.
The lane comes to an abrupt end at a collection of houses, but the footpath continues onwards, heading down towards the coast. Definitely on the right route now. I can see the straits ahead.
The final stretch of the path runs through a wonderful wood of tall pines, along a sandy track. The only spoiling feature is the rather ineffectual fences that the landowner has erected on either side in order to keep walkers confined to the path.
At the end of the woods there is a sudden and dramatic transition, as I leave the peaceful shade of the pines and find myself standing on a bank of high dunes, buffeted by the wind and drenched in sunlight.
I’m facing into the east – across Cymyran Bay – and the morning light is bright in my eyes. On the beach below me, the fierce wind whips up the waves, which crash against the sand and foam around the rocks. Everything shimmers with a silvery brilliance.
Yes, Silver Bay at last, and it really does live up to its name. A beautiful place.
[to be continued…]