Last weekend, we went to Wales.
This is no small feat. Although Britain is not really that large and claims to have a modern road system, we have tended to ignore suggestions that people might want to go to the further-flung corners of our green isle. There is no motorway across the border into Scotland, for example. The English M6 stops just short of Carlisle, and the Scottish M74 starts once you are across the border. It’s a little like East and West Germany having different gauge rails during the Cold War, except that (nominally at least) we’re all on the same side.
Wales was subdued / press-ganged a couple of centuries earlier than Scotland, however, and has been rewarded with two amazing bridges and a motorway along the industrial south coast. This is every bit as thrilling as it sounds. Luckily, it gets better.
It eventually took us in the region of 5 hours to travel the 250 miles from sw London to Trewyddel on the far western coast. Trewyddel – or Moylgrove, to give it its English name – is only accessible by winding country lanes and down inclines that make your brakes steam, and is too small to have either a shop or a pub. Our hosts, however, proved to have a charming cottage with a beautiful garden – and they greeted us with mugs of tea and homemade cake.
I volunteered to be the designated driver that night, and we spent an enjoyable evening in the pub in nearby Newport. Driving home proved to be an eerie experience, as wisps of white fog swirled across the road. This part of Wales is rife with tales of the Tylweth Teg – to the extent that there is one story that mentions Moylgrove! I related it with gusto to my passengers as the mists thickened around us, and we peered out of the windows for faerie lights that could lead us astray.
We got “home” without mishap, however, and Saturday dawned bright and sunny. We set off late morning, heading down the track by the chapel to the beach at nearby Ceibwr Bay.
This part of the coast is a national park, renowned for amazing rock features and good for spotting birds and grey seals. We saw some of both, although we somehow missed the most famous rock feature (the Witches Cauldron). Oops?
Personally, I blame the mist. It was on us in minutes, and it stole the world.
The sea disappeared, and the cliffs ended in a thick white mass of cloud. Suddenly, the wealth of legends about faerie mysts all made sense. To our right, cows grazed in sunny fields. To our left, the world stopped. Even the sound of the sea was hushed. We tramped on, scrambling up steep inclines and sliding down slate scree slopes, navigating inlets and climbing stiles. In spite of the mist, the sun was hot and I was glad we’d packed the extra water bottle.
We repeatedly failed to match the landscape to our rough map, and it wasn’t until we saw the folded rocks of Pen-y-Afr that we realised how much further we had to go. Luckily, there were chocolate biscuits in the backpack and the promise of shelter in the shape of the old Coastguard hut around the bay.
The hut turned out to be fenced off, so we picnicked on the grassy cliff-top and watched the mists finally dissipate. We promptly saw a grey seal playing at the cliff foot, and followed it around the headland to a sheltered bay where several more basked in the sun. Unfortunately, my camera zoom isn’t good enough for that sort of distance, so you’ll just have to take my word for it: they were very fat, and very content.
We stumbled into Poppit Sands well over an hour later, sorely in need of cups of tea to revive us. Restored with mint icecream and ginger beer, we decided to have a picnic dinner, and purchased salad, pie, houmous, strawberries and beer in nearby Cardigan.
This picnic was eaten some hours later on the shores of Newport Estuary, perched on the ramp of a boat house as the tide came in. This was a mistake: had we been clever, we would have carried on to Newport Sands. We did this afterwards, and spent several chilled out hours paddling, playing badminton, and watching the sunset.
Thank god for digital cameras – nobody should pay to develop 100+ photographs of the inch by inch daily decline of the sun. It’s just not clever, is it?
However, it is very pretty.
Full photo gallery available here.