Walked 15th October 2012
Approximate distance 19 miles, It should have been 18 but I went the wrong way at one point.
A long walk often on minor roads or beside busier ones. Many of the fields were very muddy and wet.
OS Map Explorer 177 Carmarthen and Kidwelly.
This section of the path is within Carmarthenshire. Their Countryside Recreation and Access Manager is Eirian James. His email is EWJames@carmarthenshire.gov.uk
I think I should say at the outset that I did not enjoy this day very much. Basically it rained most of the day and it had clearly been raining heavily for some time beforehand. Which meant that the mainly low – lying ground was saturated and very squelchy. Now I don’t mind a bit of a squelch – my boots are waterproof but even waterproof over-trousers and gaiters will not keep you dry if you are going in foot deep. I suppose I should be grateful that most of the really soft stuff was mud from where cattle had churned the paths up. This doesn’t flow as quickly as water so my feet only got slightly damp. But my leg attire got very dirty. So you might like to try this one during a dry spell (haha).
I parked the car in Pensarn road which is very close to the station but has unrestricted parking. I was lucky to find a space as it is clearly used by commuters who, like me, wished to avoid exorbitant parking charges. It stayed dry just long enough for me to get my walking stuff on. By the time I got to the station it was raining.
I wasn’t sure if this was the result of a bad road accident, or a warning for careless drivers…
At first the path is on a decent surface and follows the River Towy. A couple of schoolboys gave me a cheery “lovely day”. Great sense of humour. Shortly after passing their school the path joins the B4312 (Llanstephan Road) for a fairly uninspiring mile or so. Carmarthenshire council have created various short sections where you leave the road to walk on a narrow fenced off path by fields. It’s clearly attempting to make the walker safer but the grass was long and wet and hard work and I was as happy on the hard surface of the road.
Perhaps I was distracted by the rain but I mistakenly headed off through a small wood to the village of Llangain whereas I should have stayed on the road a bit longer and gone across the fields to skirt south of the village.
My gain was walking past the congregational chapel and cemetery (ok , it’s not that pretty) and getting informed about the local posh houses on an information board for the village.
Its claim to fame is also that it was the Best Kept Village in 1988. There must be a point when the community councillors look at each other across the village hall and conclude that perhaps such ancient claims are reflecting rather badly on their current performance and perhaps they should be removed.
Now back on the official route, the minor road from Llangain rejoins the B4312 and drops down to the ever widening Towy River estuary.
You are then supposed to head off for the hills again to avoid another trek by the road but I didn’t fancy the fields so I kept to the road which was pretty quiet. I did head off down a little footpath to the River at Ferry Point where there was a good view across to Ferryside (see my last post for Kidwelly to Carmarthen)
It brightened up a bit, and I passed the Towy Boat Club.
I had not had lunch so as I entered Llansteffan the sign announcing that the village stores and cafe was open all year was enough to convince me that I was ready for a pot of tea. The shop immediately struck me as a friendly place with several women sitting around and chatting as friends might do at home. Cake wasn’t available but I was offered tea and toast which I was more than happy with.
Several pieces of really good thick buttered toast arrived and a bowl of excellent jam – and a piece of thickly iced birthday cake. Her daughter, Bethan, had just had her birthday. I was a bit unsure about stealing cake out of the mouth of her child but not enough to stop me eating it. When I took the tray inside the beautiful Bethan (who was in her 20’s and had her own daughter with her) was ever so slightly miffed that I had been given a piece with the “B” of her name. I put 50p in the tips jar.
It was half past three when I left Llansteffan (I did not start the day til after 12) and I could see that I had a fair way further to go to get to my Travelodge at St Clears. So Llansteffan castle got no more than a glance.
I did note that there are toilets at the castles car park. For the most part hedges obscured the view of the wide sands that marks the confluence of the Rivers Towy and Taf. There were occasional views but it was raining again and I was reluctant to get the camera out. But just for you, here a pic with authentic rain drops.
Just past the farm that is recorded as Lords Park on the map I was grateful to be on a road surface again for a while but somehow I missed the signs which were directing me to leave it and walked an unnecessary half a mile down a track towards the Taf before realising my mistake. There was no option to retrace my steps and curse myself for my lack of attention. The signing was clear enough.
Heading north now, a very boggy three-quarters of a mile at the foot of the hills where it was difficult to follow the path brought me to a minor road that followed the edge of the marshy land. I left it to follow the official path but I wished I hadn’t as I was rewarded with dreadfully soft muddy fields that sapped my energy. The sight of a flock of geese from a farm was scant compensation. So just after Pont –ddu I rejected the official route returning me to what I knew to be horribly boggy terrain and kept to the road as it rose towards Penrheol.
It was moving towards dusk now but I had no option but to now cross open countryside to get to St Clears. Staying on the road would have added three miles at least to the trek. I found it difficult to keep to a path but at Pant- dwfn farm the sign was clear that I should somehow go through it. As I neared the buildings two farm dogs raced down the drive towards me. I was in no mood for this and cursing, I turned to face the dogs and raised my boot in a manner which I hoped would match their hostility. They turned and fled but I wasn’t going to press my luck.
I could see very little now and certainly no route through farm. A ring-nosed bull courting with his cows dissuaded me from entering his field so I was left climbing over several barbed wire fences and heading in what I thought to be the right direction in near darkness. Luckily my sense of direction was intact and I re-found the path on the far side of the farm and was able to follow the drive to the outskirts of St Clears.
I still had over half a mile of walking by road to get to the hotel and managed to get that wrong, too, so at the end I was walking beside the A 40 with cars roaring past rather scarily close to me. But the Travelodge was found and I was grateful that next to it was a Happy Eater. I don’t think I have ever been glad to see a Happy Eater before.
I must have looked quite a sight as I went into reception to claim my room as the girl exclaimed “oh dear”. I told her that it wasn’t as bad as it looked but I had walked 19 miles and I did feel pretty exhausted. What good fortune, then, to have been given a room with a bath. By the time I had finished my perfectly acceptable burger and chips and couple of bottles of Peroni I was quite mellow. Back at my room a packet of Malteasers and a mini bottle of Happy Eater wine left me feeling that it really hadn’t been such a bad day. But it really had. Apart from my visit to the Llansteffan village stores.
PS For those of you following this blog regularly will no doubt want updating about my waterproofs. Today I was experimenting with using my old Deuter “Air Comfort” rucksack which has a mesh and frame that keeps your back away from the jacket. I was wearing my Montane Minimus jacket that I had been unhappy with when walking in the rain. In my view the jacket was still not wholly effective but there was less damp through condensation. Montane have made me an offer to buy at a good discount a heavier duty jacket with a different waterproofing system but I have not been able to find one to try on in a shop yet. My Outdoor Research over-trousers did a great job, though.