I park beside the derelict pier in Colwyn Bay and set off along the shore, walking eastwards, into the morning sunlight.
It’s 10 o’clock on at Wednesday morning and there is nobody much around. A couple of girls walk past, dressed in jogging gear. But they’re not running, just walking. And talking. Incessantly talking.
I pass a group of two-dimensional metal figures. Very effective. The best feature of Colwyn Bay so far!
[Later, I search on the Internet but can’t find information about this piece of artwork. Shame.]
Further along the beach I spot a group of people in high-vis jackets doing something on the beach. Council workers clearing litter, maybe? But they look unusually small. When I get closer I realise it’s a nursery school outing.
It takes me almost 1/2 an hour to reach the end of the promenade, where the path carries on beside the shore – a dual walking and cycle route. (It’s the same old cycle route number 5 that I’ve been following, off and on, ever since Bangor.)
A short time later I turn around to take a photo looking back along Colwyn Bay. Maybe I’ve been too rude about the place. Looks quite nice in the sunshine. And there’s the Little Orme in the distance.
You can’t escape the fact that a cycle route makes a pretty boring walking route. I do get to meet a few cyclists. But no walkers.
I pass a section of riprap rocks, augmented by some precast concrete shapes. Each piece of concrete is carefully numbered, which seems a bit weird. Why? And here’s another derelict pier…
… except it turns out to be a working jetty, with a long system of conveyor belts carrying rocks (or gravel?) from an active quarry on the other side of my path.
I have seen so many abandoned quarries and derelict jetties in Wales over the past few months, it’s quite a surprise – and a pleasant one – to see some working industry.
My path goes on, rounding gentle curves in the coastline. Colwyn Bay is well behind me now and I’ve lost sight of the Little Orme.
I come to a small car park. This is Llanddulas, according to my map. There are no benches, but I sit on a rock for a rest and a snack. Then onwards… through a caravan park. At least this one is pleasantly landscaped and with sea views.
I leave the path and walk along the beach. It’s shingle, and hard work, but makes a change from plodding along the tarmac.
After a couple of miles I reach Abergele and find a café on the sea front. It’s just 12:30 and I’m not very hungry yet, but decide it’s time for a quick lunch. I only order soup, but it takes ages to arrive. What should have been a 1/2 hour break, turns into a full hour.
When I leave, I realise the little Abergele station is nearby. And the platform looks crowded. How unusual. I overhear people talking. They’re waiting for a train to arrive, but it’s going to be another 40 minutes.
I notice the cameras. And a man sets up stepladder to get a good view for his photograph. The penny drops. They’re waiting for the Flying Scotsman. How exciting!
From here the path runs, long and straight, beside the railway line, for as far as the eye can see. With 40 minutes to go, I decide I won’t sit about waiting, I’ll keep walking.
Is it my imagination, or is there a strange smell coming from somewhere? Like manure, except it can’t be. The area is covered in holiday parks, not farmer’s fields.
Onwards. Every available footbridge has collected groups of eager train spotters.
Eventually, at a place called Towyn, I stop and join a group of people on a bridge. We wait. And wait.
The woman next to me has a short-haired dog on a lead, who seems very friendly. I bend down to pet the animal and ask what breed it is. The woman looks as if she’s about to burst into tears. ‘It’s a springer spaniel,’ she tells me. ‘I took it to a grooming parlour today, and look what they’ve done to it.’ I have to agree the dog looks ridiculous and I wouldn’t have recognised it as a springer. The animal rolls over and begs me to tickle its tummy, not seeming to mind its recent close shave.
We wait. And wait. I check Twitter and chart the progress of the train. People around me think I have access to a secret timetable and keep asking, ‘How much longer now?’ I realise I’ve become the unofficial – and totally unreliable – timekeeper of the event.
‘Can you smell something funny?’ a woman asks her husband. He can’t. But I can. There’s a definite pong in the air.
We wait. I try to remember how to work the video function on my camera. We wait some more.
Finally, someone spots a puff of steam in the distance. It’s coming! I swing my camera up and, by a miracle, manage to video the train passing beneath us.
It’s over in a flash. ‘Is that it?’ asks the woman with the dog. I’m not sure what she was expecting.
I walk onwards. The beach below the path is long and empty, but there are few access routes down to it.
The whiffy smell persists. A pong. Like a sewage works. I can’t see any water treatment plants, only holiday parks.
The static caravans seem to go for ever. Without any scenic landscaping, and with no view of the sea, it’s hard to understand why anyone would want to come and stay in one of these tin boxes. I hope they’re cheap.
I find a slipway down to the beach. It’s good to get away from the tarmac but down on the sands the sewage smell becomes stronger.
I reach the mouth of a river at a place called Kimmel Bay. The sand dunes make a nice change from shingle and riprap rocks. And there, over on the other side of the river, is Rhyl.
I cross via a footbridge and meet some more metal people. It’s easy to guess what two of them represent: a footballer and a guitarist. But the third… a preacher? Or a fisherman saying ‘it was this big’?
[Later I discover this sculpture was designed to honour three local heroes, according to News North Wales. A footballer, a musician, and a climate scientist. I’d never have guessed the last one.]
Onwards. I march through Rhyl, passing amusement arcades and ice cream parlours. Groynes stretch across the beach. There are very few people about.
I see a sign that explains the unpleasant smell. Well, doesn’t explain it exactly, but at least I know the pong is not all in my imagination.
‘Swimming not advised today.’
Followed by a pictogram of a person swimming in… in urine? Something yellow.
‘Lower water quality is predicted.’
Lower than what? And why?
Later I learn that, despite the fact I remained dry on my walk around the Ormes yesterday, it bucketed down with rain all day here. I can remember the dark cloud that seemed anchored over Prestatyn. Apparently the drains weren’t able to cope with the deluge.
At the far end of Rhyl I stop for an ice cream. Many years ago, in the days when my husband and I had to take separate holidays because we couldn’t find a locum GP to cover our practice, my hubby came here with our three daughters. Their impression of Rhyl was not good. ‘Why?’ they asked. ‘Why Rhyl?’
I must say I agree with them. Why come here? Well, on a nice day, the beach is pretty impressive.
I leave the pavement and walk down along the steps of the sea wall. Nobody about today. Only an abandoned toy scooter hints that families might come here and enjoy these sands.
A stroll down to the edge of the water, and see a young family – virtually the only other people apart from myself along this two-mile length of beach.
Further along and the sand gets softer and softer. It’s whiffy down here too. I decide I better head towards firmer land again.
A couple of bright diggers are resting at the top of the beach. They’ve been digging a drain. I walk over a couple of large pipes. Are they improving the sewage flow? Do I want to know?
I join the esplanade, which becomes positively crowded as I get closer to Prestatyn. The sky has clouded over, and I speed up, not wanting to get caught in the rain.
I’ve been walking through flat countryside, but now, to my right, I notice a definite hump in the land. (The significance of this ridge becomes obvious later.)
A young man is weaving his way along the path. He shouts out randomly and I, along with all the other walkers, do our best to ignore him. Either he’s high on drugs or very drunk. We give him a wide berth.
I reach Prestatyn. The esplanade is wide and well-kept, but empty of people. There is another metal sculpture, this one is made of gleaming steel and is an abstract design. They seem to like metal artwork in this part of North Wales.
At this point I turn inland to find the railway station. But am surprised to come across a National Trail signpost. Chepstow 182 miles.
182 miles! It’s actually over 800 miles along the Wales Coast Path. And, in my case, over 1,000 miles, taking into account all the diversions and circular detours I’ve made along the way. What a ridiculous sign. 182 miles indeed!
Then I take a closer look at the signpost. Offa’s Dyke Path is etched on the upright post. Ah! Not the Wales Coast Path, after all.
Then I see a pile of rocks nearby and another sign.Yes, this is the end of the Offa’s Dyke Path. Or the beginning, depending which way you go.
Funny to think it nearly 20 months since I stood at the other end of Offa’s Dyke, in Chepstow, at the start of my Wales Coast Path walk. Here’s a photo of it – on the right.
And neither marker looks particularly impressive.
I realise something else. The North Wales Path ends here too. Or begins. So this really is a meeting of ways.
One day I will do the Offa’s Dyke Way. Then I can claim to have done a full circuit of Wales. But today I have a train to catch, and I start walking along the road, aware now that the ridge of land ahead is more than just a roll in the landscape. It’s Offa’s Dyke.
Later, I learn four interesting facts about the beautiful metal sculpture on the sea front at Prestatyn.
- It was commissioned to mark the end of the Offa’s Dyke Path, although, sadly, nobody will know this without a sign explaining its pupose.
- It’s official title is DECHRAU A DEWEDD or Beginning and End.
- The circle at the top is supposed to represent the sun, but local people have given it an obvious nickname: the Polo Mint.
- And, apparently the structure has fallen foul of the ‘elf and safety’ brigade: according to the BBC news.]
Miles walked today = 15 miles
Wales Coast Path so far = 1041 miles
Total distance around the coast: 2,548 miles