A chorus of swallows commented on my tent drying procedure this morning, after last night’s very heavy dew. About twelve of them twittered and circled round the old farmhouse buildings of this beautiful campsite, offering themselves up to their nesting sites to imprint them in their tiny brains, ready to leave for the autumn and prepare for the return next year. Perhaps they knew that a change of weather was on the way…
One last quick look at the beach this morning and I set off on the path which for the first 20m goes through cow pasture and then into a long narrow stretch along the cliff edge lined with gorse bushes. Cows and calves were grazing both in the field and in the gorse on the hill behind it, as there was no fence
At the corner where the field narrowed to the coastal path a calf was grazing amongst the gorse, and as I watched the herd from the other end of the field, it absent-mindedly drifted away down the coastal footpath. Meanwhile the herd matriarch, a watchful black cow, caught sight of me and set up a warning lowing, alerting the calf’s mother to look around for her calf. She must have smelled it, as she trotted smartly down the coastal path after it.
This was an absolute dilemma. I know this path well, and it is only just wide enough for one person to walk. There was no way I could overtake an anxious mother and her meandering calf, and I was not sure she could even turn round. I called my cattle expert. He agreed with my assessment that I’d need to detour, so I found a footpath which wound inland through the gorse up the hill behind the field taking me north and roughly parallel to the coastal path, but sans boxed-in bovine impediments.
It wasn’t so bad, just a rather puffy way to start the day. Instead of the peaceful kissing gates vvb punctuating the coastal path, I was presented with a series of step ladder stiles to negotiate with the pack on.
There were f our of them one after another in quick succession, each at the corner of a small field at different angles to each other. I felt like a slow motion showjumper.
At this point I needed to consult the tide tables.
Behind the shingle ridge that curves round Cemlyn Bay a few kilometres round the coast there is a brackish lagoon. When the tide is high you can’t cross the stepping stones over the little tidal river onto the shingle arc, and as it happened the tide would be at its very highest just when I was due to arrive. Cue detour number 2: crossing the river by a metalled causeway and tracking round behind the lagoon. In one sense this is a shame since the Cemlyn ridge is one of my favourite places in the world and I’ve been mentally anticipating the walk along it, but I could only make the crossing if I cut out a large section of the headland and I felt it would defeat the purpose of the ‘coastal path’ idea. So I closed Detour 1 by rejoining the coastal path along the spur which I would in fact have taken anyway if I were travelling this route in four days’ time, because between 15 Sept and 1 Feb a very short section of the main path around the headland is closed and an official detour put in place. It’s a very long one! Luckily not needed today.
I don’t know why this few hundred metres of path gets closed… it might be because it’s a stormy time of year, and this tiny section of the path is certainly precipitous,
or it might be because it’s shooting season – the little plantation and fields surrounding little Llyn y Fydlyn is full of pheasants and they didn’t seem as reluctant to take wing as the Herefordshire ones. It was rather like recreating the last fabulous scene of Dahl’s Danny the Champion of the World when the drugged pheasants all wake up in the baby’s pram and take off at once.
In any case, I rejoined the coastal path at a spectacular double cove bisected by a lumpy rock island, Ynys y Fydlyn, that the sea has bored through in two places, creating sea arches.
I took off my pack here and adjusted one boot: it’s remarkable what a difference that can make. Perhaps I was just looking for an excuse to put off scaling the scary-looking path clinging to the edge of the hillside. In any case whatever I was thinking of, it wasn’t unpausing my Relive recording, and it wasn’t until I was nearly at Cemlyn that I realised it wasn’t tracking my route. So, sadly, no video for this day’s route!
I girded my mental loins and climbed up and around the narrow path which plunged steeply down to my left. I was very careful Not. To. Look Down as it was absolutely terrifying. I was very conscious of the weight of my pack and kept it and me as balanced as possible.
Hugely relieved to get to the top I appreciated views of headlands I could walk over rather than around
And enjoyed scaring up the pheasants from the heather.
Having climbed round the edge the difficult bits weren’t over though, as the path involved some actual hands and feet climbing,
before it finally all flattened out into green motorway, rich grazing for beef cattle sectioned off with ropes and electric fences, and a balancing beam to add to my showjumping efforts from before, and some interesting archaeology too.
These two gigantic tapering wedge pillars are the Mynachdy navigation markers which need to be lined up from sea with a little beacon on a skerry, and that lonely chimney is a kiln surviving from an old copper mine. Tomorrow’s walk takes me firmly into mining territory at the immensely interesting historical port of Amlwch.
This part of the coast is like a mini (very mini!) version of the south west coast path with its dramatic plunging zawns. Here there are small dips with helpful bridges
and tiny coves with seals
The curve of Cemlyn was coming into view now, with the dramatic blocks of the old Wylfa nuclear power station rising behind it.
It’s such a large scale though that it’s always further away than I think, and before I got there, there were more cow fields and streams to negotiate.
All in all it was a pretty quiet walk this far. Rain has been forecast for the afternoon and drizzle for now, but so far there was no sign of it. Walking behind the lagoon turned out to be a slight disappointment in the sense that I couldn’t actually see the islands where the Sandwich Terns nest. They’re they only colony in Wales, and I have loved in the past coming to watch the adult birds catch sand eels to bring to their chicks on the island. Not to mention they’re the symbol of this coastal walk. However, there were more blackberries and was still plenty to look at – the water was flat and grey and so different to the sea and estuary bodies of water I’ve walked past,
and I liked the striated bands of reeds of differing colours on the water’s edge too.
Finally I rejoined Cemlyn Bay from the far side of the graceful sweep of the shingle ridge
with its amazing edible flora, somehow rooted and surviving in the shingle without soil – goosefoot
and sea beet
and sea kale, the wild ancestor of all our cultivated cabbages.
Today rather than falling asleep on the warm stones, watching terns, skimming stones or competing to knock over a tower of pebbles from a distance, I confined myself to taking photos of the glorious variety of stones and pebbles and cobbles that make up the shingle – a rainbow of rock of all kinds, reflective of Anglesey’s remarkable geology.
I was sad to see a dead gannet on the stones – perhaps a victim of the ghastly avian flu that is devastating whole colonies of seabirds.
It’s blue striped feet were so beautiful… gannets use these webbed feet instead of their warm breasts to incubate their eggs.
The grace of these birds in the air matches the grace of the perfect curve of the shingle ridge below. Their feeding method – the plummeting into the water that I observed on Penrhosfeilw Common – necessitates certain adaptations to their body: they have air sacs behind the skin of their face and breast which cushions the force of the 60mph impact with the water, and their nostrils are inside their mouth instead of at the top of their beaks. It was so sad to see this one in death.
Leaving the gannet behind me I turned north east again, onto the connecting bit of headland between Cemlyn and Wylfa. It has quite a distinctive low-lying weathered aspect to it, with excellent tidal pools and a sandy sea floor which gives beautiful patches of turquoise water in sunny weather.
Getting closer now all the time was the hulking bulk of the power station.
I love the way they bothered to design it with different coloured blocks. We went on a tour of the facility once – a brilliant day out. I was just thinking how sad it was that it was closed when I met two locals out walking their golden retrievers who said that if the new power station project gets approved it will be sited on the bay next to the existing plan (“too expensive”). The local community will be severely impacted: the woman with the honey farm will lose her house, and the historic mill will go too.
We’d often admired this mill and wished it could be restored and lived in. I now found out some more about it: The original house is gone now, and only its mill is left. “There’s a secret garden, you know, behind it. It was designed by one of Queen Victoria’s daughters”. After that, I couldn’t not try and get in. Especially if it was going to be demolished to make way for the new power station. I could see a section of drystone wall that would be possible to climb over and as I drew up to it, I saw that some other people had had the same idea to visit the secret garden. Kelly from the US and her family have been holidaying in Cemaes for years. Of three brothers born locally in the 19th, one emigrated to the States and became her great great grandfather. Her branch of the family have lived ever since. For this trip she had brought her brother Jay and his girlfriend Jen to visit. She lifted my pack and helped me over the wall into the garden
The garden was a bittersweet and unexpected little marvel. Someone is defiantly tending it, even though it is scheduled for destruction at some point.
Clambering back over the wall into the bay I was glad I had had the chance to photograph these often-trod and favourite sections of the coastal path. I might have no access to them in the years to come – in fact they will cease to exist.
The coastal path used to wander through woodland planted to screen the power station (and enhance its green credentials, and replace some of the habitat that was lost when it was created), but now the plant has been decommissioned, it offhandedly just goes round the back.
A new temporary permissive path goes straight up a steep slope through conifers and then up yet more steps (I was puffing a bit again now)
only for me to realise that the steps lead to a viewing platform dead end, and nothing else. The path was elsewhere. Another detour, unintended, which did enable me to see a bit more of the extent of the power station.
And it was just starting, at last, to rain. I put on the waterproofs under cover of the last of the Wylfa wood and climbed up to the final headland of the day which was the short walk into Cemaes.
The outskirts of the town provided the last of the day’s many detours… a tantalising ‘geology walk’. I was really too tired (walking in waterproofs and a pack is ridiculously energy-sapping) but I did do the walk, not reading but just randomly photographing a few of the boards to look at later because they finally identified many of the rocks I had been looking at. Not that I could ever identify them in the field, but it’s nice to know they are there!
May I recommend Dolydd campsite? It’s really quite remarkable. Gareth who runs it is the kindest, nicest man. He gave me chocolate. He moved his car so I could camp next to the loos. He offered me a lift into town and back to get some food. He is deeply committed to running an eco-compatible site. Cuttings growing everywhere, and a woodpile that has to be seen to be believed. He has upcycled timber and carpet to make the most extraordinarily wonderful campsite toilet and shower block. Think of what you expect from a campsite loo. Think of ghastly pretentious Pencraig from two nights ago. Then feast your eyes on this…
It won’t surprise you to hear that he won the 2020 Camping and Caravanning Club award for the best facilities in Britain. After pitching my tent (in the rain! Another Camping Person skill badge achieved) and showering and eating (Indian takeaway from Amlwch – massive disappointment, but hey ho, it’s energy and I’ll eat the rest for breakfast) I hung out in the quasi-Swedish shower block for three and a half hours, sitting in the captain’s chair listening to classic FM (there’s an old radio casette player up on the wall in there permanently tuned to quality music), charging my phone, chatting to bemused users of the block and writing the blog. And drinking the tea that Gareth brought me.
I wonder what happened to the cow and calf from this morning and any walkers that didn’t know they were they when they set off on the path? How would the cow have turned round? Maybe she’s still there!