Nice weather for geese

Wales Coast Path: Carmarthen to St Clears

October 29, 2012 · 16 comments

 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. 

River at Carmarthen taken from The Wales Coast Path between Carmarthen and St Clears and photographed by Charles Hawes. Walking in Wales.

I wasn’t sure if this was the result of a bad road accident, or a warning for careless drivers…

Art installation by the road in Carmarthen on The wales Coast path and photographed by Charles Hawes. Walking in Wales.

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.

Chapel at Llangain photographed by Charles Hawes. Walking in Wales.

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.

View over Towy river estuary taken from The Wales Coast Path between Carmarthen and St Clears and photographed by Charles Hawes. Walking in Wales.

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) 

View across the Towy river to Ferryside taken from The Wales Coast Path between Carmarthen and St Clears and photographed by Charles Hawes. Walking in Wales.

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.

Tea at the Village Stores in Llansteffan on The Wales Coast Path photographed by Charles Hawes. Walking in Wales.

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.

View of Llansteffan Castle taken from The Wales Coast Path between Carmarthen and St Clears and photographed by Charles Hawes. Walking in Wales.

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. 

View to sandy beach taken from The Wales Coast Path between Carmarthen and St Clears and photographed by Charles Hawes. Walking in Wales.

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.

View towards St Clears taken from The Wales Coast Path between Carmarthen and St Clears and photographed by Charles Hawes. Walking in Wales.

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.  

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne Wareham October 29, 2012 at 9:59 am

O, loved this one – best photo captions yet!

Almost makes me wish for you to have lots of wet and miserable boring long walks as it brings out the best in the prose. (and I get to stay at home and read about it all cosy and warm.) (why do people go off walking? Mystery…) (to escape wives?!!)

Bet this is the best walking blog out there! (with cake, cows and geeses)

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Charles October 29, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Thanks love. Glad you enjoyed it. Not sure about wishing more wet walks on me. I’ll try harder to be funny in the dry.

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Paul Steer October 29, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Fancy eating Bethan’s cake how could you ? Welsh mams always look after the men, you must have been looking a bit bedraggled. I must admit that I would not want to walk this section after reading this, but perhaps in the sun it would be a different matter.

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Charles October 29, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Hiya. I reckon Bethan was in on the decision. TBH that icing was just too sweet but I was very touched by the responsiveness. No, I think I was looking rugged and attractive.

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Anne Wareham October 29, 2012 at 5:44 pm

This is from a (rugged and attractive) man who eats MuckFlurries ….

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Martin October 29, 2012 at 5:06 pm

It’s funny how places like Happy Eater become islands of wonder after a long wet walk, your last paragraph had me laughing : )

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Charles October 29, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Any port in a storm. Mc Donald’s even!

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Lynds October 30, 2012 at 1:32 pm

No skipping weeks for me . Enjoyed this more than you did I reckon- its miserable in that weather, at least it made the Happy Eater welcoming ( do they serve Port now ? #upmarket )! Have walked the easy bits -ie on the beach/estuary and up round the castle on sunny days and its very pleasant then.Tea rooms are very good 🙂
Reason I know these areas-I have family near Carmarthen (also in Cardiff) so we get there fairly often, visited lots from north all down west/south coast to carmarthenshire over the years – am biased but love it 🙂

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Charles Hawes October 30, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Hi Lynds. Port, Happy Eater. Nice pick up from previous comment. They did claim to offer a decent beer but it was off. Fab walk next week to Amroth. After that it depends on the weather. There may be a suspension of normal service

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Lynds October 30, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Thanks 😉 Not sure “decent beer’ would be same as our definition anyway ! Look forward to next weeks the. Thinks…..what am I going to read over winter suspension………..

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julia November 1, 2012 at 9:04 am

Very mellow. Looks quite pilgrim like too – time for thoughtful discussion with oneself? I might have missed it on previous posts but could we have some info on the photgraphic equipment too, as well as, the situation with clothing. I imagine you don’t point and click . . . .

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Charles November 1, 2012 at 9:27 am

Haha! I didn’t feel very mellow towards the end. I’ll do some posts on clothing and gear soon as the weather is conspiring to keep me off the path. Carrying my DSLR gear was out of the question, so I bought a Canon G12. It’s a point and shoot, which is all I have time for when walking but it captures in Raw as well as jpegs. So most of the pics I put up were from Raw files which I have processed in Photoshop. The results are always more pleasing than the in-camera jpegs.

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julia November 4, 2012 at 11:19 am

very generous, thanks – need a new camera.

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rob grover October 2, 2013 at 6:22 pm

Hello again
David and I have now completed this section in two chunks
First from Llansteffan back to Carmarthen and today from St Clears back to Llansteffan
We were a bit cheesed off with the variable signage, but this is now mixed with some sympathy for Carmarthenshire in having to put together a route round not one but two river estuaries, the Taf and the Towey, with no established river walks, meanders, tidal marshes, mudflats (H&Safety). The path has rather a hapzard feel, zigzagging, quite hilly and with not as many views of the rivers as you would like.
At one point we asked a local woman, pushing a barrowload of veg, if we were on the right track and she informed us that the route had had to be moved because a corpse had been found, with the suggestion that the poor soul had wandered off piste.
Today we ended up in a great post office/corner shop/ cafe in Llansteffan, where the menu invited ‘ if you don’t see what you’d like please ask’ !
Looking forward to fine sand and clear blue sea
Rob

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Charles October 2, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Hi! Welcome back. Yes I do think the county has had a hard job to do. And I know that they are still planning improvements. Haha love the corpse aside (no disrespect intended). Where will you go next? I’m off to Cardigan next week. If it’s fine might do the whole Ceredigion section.

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rob grover October 3, 2013 at 7:09 am

Improvements to signage will be very welcome, but will Authorities alter/improve routes now that the Path is on the latest editions of the ordinance survey map?
We had to take a shortcut, missing out the castle headland, in order to catch our bus out of Llansteffan, so we’ll do a ‘short one’ in a couple of weeks with plenty of cafe time
Good luck with the weather

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Copyright Charles Hawes (2012)