254 Prestatyn to Greenfield

I set off from Prestatyn in high spirits. My leg seems  completely healed and the promenade, like the day, stretches ahead. Wide and empty. Full of promise.

01 Prestatyn, Ruth's coastal walk, North Wales

As soon as I can, I  jump down onto the sands. I leave Prestatyn behind. Barkby Beach says my map, followed by Gronant Dunes Nature Reserve.

02 walking towards Point of Ayr, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path

I sneak up on a egret. Once they were a rare winter visitor and now they’re almost commonplace. It’s hard to believe they’ve only been breeding in this country for 20 years. Such a beautiful white bird.

03 an egret, Ruth's coastal walk, North Wales Coast

The beach becomes threaded with waterways, and I take to the dunes.

04 Gronant Dunes nature reserve, Ruth hiking the Wales Coast Path, north wales

I meet a handful of dog walkers, but fewer people as I get further away from Prestatyn. There is a wonderful isolated feel to this section of the coastline. I stop to take a photo of the sea holly growing along the path.

05 sea holly, Gronant Dunes, Ruth Livingstone hiking in Wales

And I look back across Colwyn Bay. Despite the overcast sky, the visibility is surprisingly good today. I can see all the way across the Little Orme… no, to the Great Orme. How wonderful to see it again.

06 Colwyn Bay, Ruth's coastal walk, from Barkby Beach

I’m about to reach the Point of Ayr – the northeast corner of Wales. Once round the bend, all these familiar landmarks will disappear. I’ve spoken about this before, this strange mourning sensation I feel when I round a headland and leave a set of familiar features behind. But that’s the nature of the type of walking trek I’ve chosen to undertake – always moving on and never going back.

Back on the sands, and striding out a long way from the land, I’m alone… apart from a distant figure. It turns out, as I get nearer, to be a serious bird watcher with an impressive camera kit.

07 bird spotter, Point of Ayr, Ruth hiking North Wales

He ignores me and so I don’t stop to talk to him. Perhaps he’s tracking something very rare…

birdI’m still pretty ignorant about birds.

What, for example, is this seabird? Is it a sanderling? I meet several of them, running in small groups and moving too quickly to take a decent photograph.

And I frighten flocks of little gulls that rise and flee in front of me, with a great deal of flapping and squawking.

I can, however, recognise herring gulls, and cormorants. I see plenty of these sitting on a sand bank.

08 cormorants and seagulls, Ruth Livingstone hiking the beach

Looking inland, I use full zoom to take a photograph of the top of the beach, which is almost a mile away. Dark clouds are gathering over the dunes. I watch a father and his son begin walking towards the sea, but they turn back long before they reach the waves.

09 sand dunes and rainclouds, Ruth's coastal walk

The tide is almost fully out and there is an awful lot of sand out here.

Now the beach is interrupted by an increasing number of wide streams. Not fresh water, but drainage from the pools between the sand banks. And, rather alarmingly, the sand becomes brown, and feels soft and sucky beneath my boots. Quicksand?

10 sinking sand, Point of Ayr, Ruth's coastal walk, North Wales

I can’t make further progress due to a fast moving stream of water. It’s less than a foot deep, but the sand has turned very soft – almost mud – and I am too timid to attempt a wade. It would be embarrassing to get stuck in the mud and have to be rescued. Not that there is anybody around to notice me sinking or to rescue me!

Anyway, I walk back along the side of the stream, before I eventually find a place where the sand is firm enough to bear my weight and I can splash across. Feeling unnerved, I decide this is the nearest I can get to the far tip of the sands, and I turn inland, heading towards a lighthouse at the top of the beach.

11 lighthouse, Point of Ayr, Ruth hiking the North Wales Coast

As I get nearer the dunes, I realise there is a school trip going on. Young teenagers are walking around and bending down to examine pools of water. A biology expedition?

12 school geology trip, Point of Ayr, Ruth Livingstone

The lighthouse is wonderful, weather beaten and leaning slightly. It looks vaguely familiar. I look at my OS map. Yes, the same lighthouse is on the cover.

13 lighthouse, Point of Ayr, Ruth's coastal walk

[Later I learn the lighthouse is almost 250 years old, and has been inactive since 1844, when it was replaced by a metal pile lighthouse and, later, by a lightship.]

The Wales Coast Path turns inland at this point. I see the familiar logo, rather nicely carved into a wooden post. It looks as if I could carry on along the sands…

14 Point of Ayr coastal path, Ruth walking in Wales

… but I check my map and realise I would soon come to a dead end. So I turn off the beach.

This is Talacre. I believe there is a huge holiday park nearby, but I don’t pass through it. I do, however, stop at the beach café at the end of the road. I was expecting grease and fast food. But the café is very nice. Freshly decorated and with good, fresh, baguettes, and a good selection of teas.

15 cafe at Talacre, Ruth's coastal walk

After lunch, I set off along the path, now a cycle way too. Marshes to my left. Industry – a gas terminal – to my right.

16 Ruth hiking past gas terminal, Talacre

Despite the dark clouds in the distance, my path remains in sunshine for most of the time.

17 orchid, Ruth Livingstone

I meet absolutely nobody for the next 3 miles.

This is another nature reserve, called, rather unimaginatively, the Point of Ayr Nature Reserve.

As well as the usual June flowers, a sign tells me I might see a pyramidal orchid. I think I spot one, and spend some time taking photographs.

Later, I look up the flower on the Internet and discover it’s almost certainly NOT a pyramidal orchid, but it might be a southern marsh orchid. Or again, it might not!

I realise I’m walking down an estuary again. The water ahead is no longer sea, it’s the River Dee estuary. And over there is… England! The Wirral, to be exact.

18 Dee estuary, Ruth's coastal walk

Onwards. My path bends around the gas terminal, doubles back on itself, passes a sewage plant (no smells today) and then ducks under a railway bridge. A gravel track eventually takes me to the A548. Theoretically, I should follow this road as it runs closest to the shore, but there is no footpath and I decide it’s too dangerous.

I cross over the road to pick up the official Wales Coast footpath…

19 to Ffynnongroyw, Ruth's coastal walk, North Wales

… that leads through fields and into a village called Ffynnongroyw. I have no idea how you pronounce that name!

Today is an important day because Wales are playing England in the first stage of European Cup football tournament. I’m hoping to get back to my hotel to watch the match. In the village, I see a group of men outside a pub. I would like to ask them when the match starts, but I hear them taunting another man. He stomps away, red-faced with rage. ‘Sore loser,’ they call out after him, speaking in English. I hurry on by.

20 Ffynnongroyw, Ruths coastal walk, Wales

[Later I learn the match is already played and finished, and Wales lost.]

I rejoin the A548, this time with a footpath. To my left is the railway line, and beyond that is the River Dee. Ahead is industry. And dark clouds.

21 to Mostyn, Ruth's coastal walk, North Wales

I get some relief from the road when the footpath veers off to run through an area of trees and shrubs.

22 Mostyn Park, Ruth's coastal walk

Here I meet a man with a very young, and very excitable, white terrier. I bend down to pat the dog, which turns out to be a mistake because it flings itself into my arms and covers my skin from fingers to elbows in slobbery saliva. Yuck.

The park soon comes to an end, and I’m walking along the road again. It’s not very pleasant and seems to go on for ever, although in reality its only a mile or so.

23 Mostyn Dock, Ruth's coastal walk, Wales

Finally I can leave the road, crossing over a railway bridge, and through a delightful area of parkland, to begin following a  track along the edge of the water. Is this estuary, or is it the river Dee now? It’s still very tidal and with plenty of sand to be seen.

24 River Dee, Ruth's coastal walk, North Wales

A three fingered signpost suggests 3 routes for the Wales Coast Path to take: ahead, back, or cutting across fields to the right. Rather confusing. Is there a tide problem? I elect to carry straight on.

Ahead is a strange sight. A ship – quite a large one – moored at the end of my track.

25 ship ahead, River Dee, Mostyn, Ruth Livingstone

To my left the clouds are black, while the sun still shines – although intermittently – on my path.

26 rainclouds over River Dee, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path

I’ve been very lucky over the past few days. I’ve seen plenty of rain falling either ahead of me, or behind me, or – sometimes – both ahead and behind. But I’ve always stayed completely dry. Thank you, weather gods.

The ship is closer now. It’s a wreck. Rusting and abandoned. But still surprisingly intact, including the lifeboats, and covered in wonderful graffiti. The name on the side of the hull says its the Duke of Lancaster, only the letters have been painted over in white paint and another sign proclaims it is the Fun Ship.

27 Duke of Lancaster, Llannerch-y-mor, Ruth Livingstone

This place has no name on my map. I follow the path, as it makes a right-angled turn, past the ship, and runs inland along the side of a small stream. It’s heading under the railway line (again), where I can cross over the stream via a bridge and walk back along the other bank.

28 bridge at Llannerch-y-Mor, RUth walking the Wales Coast Path, River Dee

From this side, I can see the ship clearly. It’s sitting well out of the water, not moored to a dock as I first suspected. What a strange place to strand a ship. Why is it here? Is it really used as a ‘Fun Ship’? It would be a wonderful place for parties.

29 past the Duke of Lancaster, Ruth Livingstone

Back on the shore again, I leave the weird ship behind and continue walking eastwards. This area is called ‘The Marsh’ on my map, although it’s not boggy. Rather annoying, I can’t walk close to the shore, whose bank is piled high with rocks anyway. Instead the path runs along a raised dyke about 100 yards inland, and parallel to the water.

The landscape is bright with afternoon sunlight, streaming across the fields from behind my back. While in front the sky grows darker and darker. It makes a dramatic landscape.

30 walking to Greenfield Dock, Ruth hiking the Wales Coast Path

I meet a few dog walkers and know I must be approaching a car park. This is Greenfield Dock, once an active harbour which played a significant role importing copper and cotton to be processed in local factories. Hard to believe now. There’s only a handful of rowing boats lying on the mud.

30 Greenfield Dock, Holywell, Ruth walking the North Wales Coast

I was planning on walking onwards to Bagillt, three miles further along the shore. But the sky is black with rain, and the buses are complicated,  so I decide to call it a day. I head inland, walking past a rather smelly sewage plant, back to the A548 and a bus stop.

You can learn more about Greenfield Dock. And find out more about the history of the Duke of Lancaster, and the amazing things inside the ship, in this article on Wales Online.

I’ve posted a selection of photos of the ship on my Ruthless Ramblings blog, because I didn’t have room to include them all here.

Miles walked today = 14 miles
Wales Coast Path so far = 1055miles
Total distance around the coast: 2,562 miles


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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27 Responses to 254 Prestatyn to Greenfield

  1. Ben Staveley says:

    Ruth, I am one of three sexagenarians (Gary Hodgson, John Harkness and me) who are slowly circumnavigating England, two days a summer month, and are chums of Alan Jones who was in touch with you when you passed Amlwch.

    We did Offa’s Dyke and then branched off along the Dee to Chester, but you are shortly to rejoin our trail (indeed, may already have done so). From Chester, we rejoined the coast by Ness Gardens and enjoyed the wander up to Thurstaston, staying the night at Heswall if I remember. Lots of beach action but a rewarding stretch. We ate lunch that day at Parkgate which is where I used to stay with the Old Magdalene (Cambridge) football tem twenty years and more ago each Easter when campaigning to win the trophy at the Liverpool Ramblers’ football festival, which still apparently happens (though mercifully without us) at Crosby, which is the first time you get to see sand again after the urban stretch down through Wallasey (tarted up and quite attractive) and Liverpool.
    I wonder what you will make of Liverpool. Quite interesting!

    We are currently at Kielder. Our strategy is to limit ourselves to England (and we started at Poole) so are heading for Berwick. If you take Scotland on (are you sure? a very long way, and lots of it ‘unpathed’ I would guess), you may never quite catch us before we have got past King’s Lynn.

    Nonetheless, regards – and respect!

    If you contact Gary, he might be able to get you access to his laconic blog if that would be of any interest..



    • Hi Ben, and how nice to hear from you and thank you for outlining your route around the Wirral. John Harkness has just been in touch to offer me some GPS files, which is great. I envy the 3 of you doing Offa’s Dyke, although the coast of Wales has been utterly magnificent. Yes, I am planning to do Scotland, although I may be taking the easier road routes in the wilder areas – I’m a timid walker and don’t do camping! Unlikely to catch you up… but you never know. I’ve just contacted Gary about the blog. (I assume it’s a private one?)
      Best wishes, Ruth

  2. Another great post with some interesting photos 🙂

    I went to Talacre three years ago, following a sign for ‘beach’ on the main A548 while on one of my ‘let’s see where this lane goes to’ expeditions, and I thought it was a peculiar little place. I went in the same cafe as you, they were advertising fish chips and mushy peas but when my meal came it was without the peas as they didn’t have any! And I didn’t even find the beach, all I saw was salt marsh 😦 Have a look at this post for my experience of the place – http://tigermousetales.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/monday-april-1st-2013-change-in-weather.html

    I could see the top of the ship as I drove along the main road but couldn’t see a way of getting to it from there so I missed out on that one. From your photos it looks like it’ll be there for a long while yet so I may have a go at finding it another time.

    • The café was taken over a few months ago by a new owner, a nice lady, who wants it to be a bit more upmarket than the usual seaside café. At the moment they don’t do hot food. Just drinks and snacks. I hope she makes a success of it.
      The easiest way to get to see the ship would be to park at Llannerch-y-Mor and walk up the path by the little stream. Worth having a look at. Now I’m off to have a look at your blog… 😀

  3. Anabel Marsh says:

    Fascinating – I read the article about the ship. It’s weird that someone can just dump a ship and run! I suppose it would be too expensive for the council to dismantle, but someday it’s going to be dangerous (if it isn’t already).

  4. Di iles says:

    Duke of Lancaster has an interesting history Ruth, was featured on tv’s Coast once too. Think you can utube the episode. It’s directly across the water from where I live at Thurstaston, quite visible when the light is good. I find it quite eerie!!! 😱
    Thanks for wonderful account and pics, lovely reminders of doing these sections myself.

  5. Di iles says:

    Thanks for the link re the history will check that out.

  6. The lighthouse had a much better paint job when I passed by on a cloudless-blue-sky day; it was so proud and bright.
    Oh! I’ve been waiting for you to meet The Duke. I was gobsmacked when I first saw it blocking my path. I though I was in some kind of dream. The story is like a Hollywood film script.
    You seem to be slightly upping your daily mileage

  7. jcombe says:

    “always moving on and never going back”. I wouldn’t think of it that way. When you finish this walk you will no every part of the UK coast. So you will know the good bits that are worth going back to and those that aren’t. So I am sure you will see the Great Orme again one day. I think someone must be painting that lighthouse still (albeit, not very often) as it does still look to be maintained considering how long it has been out of use.

    The Duke of Lancaster ship has a very interesting history. It features on an episode of Coast where Nick Crane went inside it and had a look around – it is actually in excellent condition inside despite the rusty outside. There seems to be a lot of conflicting stories about that ship, so I don’t know if it’s true but I heard that it was a nightclub/entertainment venue licensed by the Council (so it did have permission). But they reliased a fire engine could not get under the railway bridge on the only “road” that leads to it. The rail authorities did not want to make the road any deeper or raise the railway line. So the Council withdraw permission because it was not safe if a fire engine could not get there. Hence long running legal battles. As I said I don’t know if it’s true – because there seem to be so many different stories. But it’s certainly a faimiliar sight. When I walked this part of the coast I used the train to get there, so it became a familiar sight on my train journeys.

    • A group of locals seems to have made an attempt to save the ship – apparently the only passenger steam ship left intact. Having done a bit more digging into the story, it does sound amazing and very sad to see the ship left to rot. Would make a great full-length documentary. Or even a feature film.

  8. babsandnancy says:

    I’ve just binged on the last few months of your walk, having lost track as you really are putting a lot of miles under your belt since I came across your blog a couple of years back. All very entertaining, informative and punctuated by your wonderful pics which always seem to come out great even in less than perfect light. Well done for nearly finishing Wales and having completed well over 2000 miles. We may hit 450 miles by the end of the year and head down into Cornwall so at the rate we’re able to go, it’ll be a few years before we reach Wales and the north. So for the time being we’ll enjoy the south and live vicariously through your words and pictures to give us a taster of what is to come. Thank you

    • Hi Babs/Nancy (I never know which one you are!) and thank you for your kind words. Yes, I spent a solid 10 days in Wales in June. Would have achieved more if my leg hadn’t let me down. Always enjoy your posts too. No need to rush your coastal walking adventure. Take your time over Cornwall, it’s so lovely.

  9. Di iles says:

    It’s wonderful to to see all the comments of like minded people like myself who have long distance walking in their soul. I’m always amazed how non walkers have no concept of the time, effort and distance these walks take. Its incredible what Ruth myself ( I’m only 400 miles into it ) and others continue to achieve. I recently was telling a lady I was walking the entire Welsh coastal path. “0h that’s nice she said, have you done it before?” Does anybody else get such comments? I get them all the time 😁👣

    • I know what you mean, Di. Especially on the South West Coast Path it seemed everybody I met claimed to be walking the path too. But then they would describe some short 3 mile walk they’d done 5 years ago, and I realise we meant completely different things! (By the way, I’m going to cross the Hawarden Bridge and start up the Wirral on Tuesday. Looking forward to it.)

      • Di iles says:

        Everybody’s idea of a long walk is very different isn’t it Ruth. I honestly think people don’t believe me when I say How long I’m out walking.Hope you’ve had a nice walk today Ruth. Please ask me if you need any tips on where coast rather than the Wirral way is possible. If you find yourself by sheldrakes restaurant in lower Heswall ( Banks road) it is possible to walk beyond here to Thurstaston on the shore it’s a bit boggy and muddy for a shortish stretch but possible and your soon on the sand where you can continue to the far end of Thurstaston beach by the Dee sailing club. At low tide you can continue along the shore to West kirby sailing club and marine lake. At high tide take the slip way from Thurstaston beach by the boat shed and Dee sailing club and head through the nature reserve via wooden steps to rejoin the Wirral way to Cubbins Green to rejoin the coast and into west kirby. High tide can also walk along top of rock armour from Thurstaston to Caldy but it’s risky and although I’ve done it a few times, told myself I was stupid. Happy walking Ruth.

  10. Marie Keates says:

    You really did have the weather gods on your side. My walks are usually the other way round, a big black, wet cloud overhead and sunshine everywhere I’m not! I love the lighthouse with its gloriously delapidated paint and the fun ship. The was a rusting old ship on the coast near Arrecife when we were there and I went for a walk to take photos. Sadly it didn’t have wi der full graffiti like this o e though.

  11. John Greensmith says:

    I did this walk over the weekend last; the ship’s hull has now been given a lick of black paint so all the graffiti has gone.

  12. Karen White says:

    This walk had so much to enjoy, beautiful beaches, that wonderful old lighthouse and of course the tale of the ship, which is fascinating, I can just imagine the excitement of finding all those arcade machines. I liked the photograph (in the article) which showed the old framed prints. I think it would make a good short film / documentary.

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