Post image for Wales Coast Path: Harlech to Maentwrog

Wales Coast Path: Harlech to Maentwrog

June 1, 2014 · 8 comments

Date walked: 5th April 2014

Distance walked: around 12 miles

Cumulative total of miles walked along The Wales Coast Path: 547

The official website of the Wales Coast path is http://www.walescoastpath.gov.uk/default.aspx

OS map required:  OL 18 – Harlech, Porthmadog & Bala

I get all my maps from Dash4it. They are well discounted, and delivery is free and fast.

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I had stayed last night at Byrdir House bed and breakfast (£55 a room). I had a nice large room at the front with an en suite (shower). The only problem was that the toilet was not fixed to the floor properly, which was slightly unsettling. And in order to get a wi-fi connection I had to sit on the stairs outside my room.  Oh, and for the life of me I could not work out how to make the TV talk to the satellite receiver (some instructions would help).

Breakfast was a fine affair, prepared by my host in his chefs whites. The fresh croissant and rolls were a great start and the excellent cooked breakfast was presented as a work of art, some toast on the plate being cut into a series of circles and stacked like a sand castle.

Another dull day greeted me as I made my way back up the main street and down the steep hill past Harlech castle.

Harlech Castle, photographed by Charles Hawes

The new visitor centre and cranes are just over to the right.

It wasn’t the most inspiring of starts to the day’s walk; a half a mile by the A496 was followed by a squelch across some fields.

Field on the Wales Coast path near Harlech, photographed by Charles Hawes

Yuk!

 They led to a concrete road running along the edge of a woodland.

Access road near Morfa Harlech, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Well at least this road does not have any traffic

At the end of this road was a waste disposal site.  On the map, right by the site it says “Morfa Harlech”  (a national Nature Reserve) . Which seems quite funny now.

waste disposal site near Morfa harlech, Gwynedd, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

It wasn’t smelly

Things improved as I approached the farm called Glan-y-Mor where there were new-born lambs…

Newly born lamb at Glan y Mor farm, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

We, like lambs, (as well as sheep)

….a small flock of noisy geese….

Geese at Glan y Mor farm, photographed from the Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

I think geese have an attitude problem

…and some fine cattle.

Cattle at Glan y Mor farm,Gwynedd, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Lovely colour, what breed are they?

E I E I O (sung).

The path rounds the base of a low hill and then rises slightly as it makes for the estuary of the River Dwyryd. On the opposite side of this wide river mouth is PortmeirionClough Williams Ellis’s Italianate conceit which we were kind enough to include in Discovering Welsh Gardens (it’s not often I have had an opportunity to plug this wonderful book, so stop complaining).

View of Portmeirion across the River Dwyryd estuary, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

I definitely should have taken a better version of this for Discovering Welsh Gardens

The marshes force the path to head inland past the church of St Michael on the beaches at Ynys. My Cicerone Guide says that in the Middle Ages, the site was an island only accessible by boat or at low tide.

The church of St Michael at Ynys, Gwynedd, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

It Only dates from 1871;very simple but nicely proportioned

I was in good time so went into the churchyard for a nosey around. Sadly the church was shut. I was a little surprised to find a “very old” Chinese proverb (as opposed to any Old Testament one) pinned up on the notice board.

Notice board of the churdch of St Michael, Ynys, photographed by Charles Hawes'

Ah there’s the problem- world peace seems an unlikely prospect, sorry.

Churchyards are  places full of  the most poignant and desperately sad family histories. This place seemed to have at least its fair share.

Gravestone at St Michael's church, Ynys, photographed by Charles Hawes

Next to this epitaph was one to a mother who died aged 37, a cellophane wrapped Mothers Day card leaning against the stone.

Just passed Ynys the path passes a mill house  that looked as if it may have drawn its  power from the tidal movements of the  estuary.

View across Glastraeth saltmarsh, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

No wonderful views to Snowdonia today

Keeping to a levee and passing a reed-edged pond…..

Reed-edged pond near Ynys, photographed from The Wales Coast path by Charles Hawes

Love the reeds here

….. the path then follows the edge of the Glastraeth salt marsh for about a mile and a half.

View over Glastraeth salt marsh photographed from The wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

The “official” route would have been an awkward mile and a half

The official path keeps a course to the right of a stock fence but I could see that the ground was uneven and tussocky whereas on the estuary side there was a wider flatter track of stone. So I clambered over a gate and took the better route. The flood defences were faced with cut slate and round boulders – thousands of tons of  this sometimes colourful rock in all shapes and sizes.

Flood defences at the edge of Glastraeth, photphed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Slate- in all shapes and sizes.

Eventually the “official” path crosses the railway line near Bryn Glas, the fence that I need to climb back over to reach it was topped with barbed wire. I  could make no sense as to why access to the route that I had walked was being so aggressively defended.

Wales Coast path  near Bryn Glas, photographed by Charles Hawes

Which path would you rather walk on?

I understand that the intention is that the Wales Coast Path will eventually take a route by the minor road that runs by Llandecwyn Station to Penrhyndeudraeth – about a mile.

But ahead of me I could see that the toll bridge (Pont Briwet) which crosses the River Dwyryd and which takes both road and rail was undergoing major repairs.

View to Pont Briwet from the wales Coast Path near Bryn Glas, photographed by Charles Hawes

Still lots to do before this will re-open

And if there was any doubt about this route not being available, road signs confirmed that a detour was required.

Harlech to Maentwrog-26

The detour is about 8 miles, the next crossing of the Dwyryd being at Maentwrog.

The route shares a valley with a string of Pylons that heads for, and in fact crosses the Tecwyn Uchaf reservoir.

 

Pylons near Trem-y-Garth, Gwynedd, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

The base of one provided a nice seat where I stopped for a special brew (one sachet of hot chocolate plus two of coffee)

The stubbornly grey skies provided no sparkling light or pretty reflections in the lakes surface.

Llyn Tecwyn reservoir,Gwynedd,  photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

The pylons do somewhat detract from the tranquillity of the place.

But it was a pleasant enough walk by the reservoirs’ edge and an enjoyable contrast to be then plunged into the forest of Coed Felinrhyd. This mostly coniferous wood had been badly damaged by storms; I had not seen such carnage since the 1987 apocalypse. Many trees had simply been uprooted whilst others had been snapped off near their base.

Storm damage in Coed Felinrhyd, Gwynedd, photographed from the Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Two dimensions don’t do this scene of devastation justice

This must have been relatively recent damage as a couple of trees still lay across the path.

Wales Coast Path blocked by trees in Storm damage in Coed Felinrhyd, Gwynedd, photographed  by Charles Hawes

Still nothing that a nimble creature like me can’t get over

 The path now drops down to the A496 at the Maentwrog power station.

Entrance to the Maentwrog hydro power station, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Very nice colour scheme, don’t you think?

The fact that the sign indicates that this comes under Magnox made me think that this place must be associated with the nearby decommissioned nuclear power station at Trawsfynydd. In fact this hydroelectric plant was commissioned in 1928, its source of water drawn from the reservoir that had been created a couple of miles away for this purpose and is called Llyn Trawsfynydd. The nuclear power station started producing power in 1965 and was situated  on the banks of this lake to use the waters for cooling. It  was shut down in 1991.

The A496 offers no safe route for walkers to Maentwrog, a mile away, so on the other side of the power station it takes a lane up a hill passed the massive pipes feeding the Magnox site.

Water pipes feeding the Maentwrog hydro power station, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

All power generating schemes have landscape impact; these pipes run for about two miles.

An old footpath passes under these monstrous tubes but no access was available to it. It was very tempting to get over the fence and climb the stairway between the pipes just for the hell of it but caution prevailed and I stuck to the road, passing a mini caravan site at Felinrhyd Fach.

Caravan site at Felinrhyd Fach, Gwynedd, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Hey, they are tucked away and not very intrusive. Get over it.

The lane crosses the pipes again at Tyn – y -coed, the property clearly standing empty.

Water pipe feeding the Maentwrog power station, Gwynedd, photographed from the Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Clearly empty because I walked up to it and there was hoards of old post in the porch

Just passed here my map suggested a shortcut  up a track behind the house which gave me an even better view of the water pipes heading off towards the lake.

Water pipes near Llyn Trawsfynydd, photographed from The Wales Coast path by Charles Hawes

Someone has decided that maybe this could do with screening somewhat

At the top of the hill the land becomes open pasture with fine views to the cloud-shrouded Moelwyn Mawr (I think!).

View to Moelwyn Mawr, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

There’s some good walking to be had up there!

And of course there were some sheep to baa to on the way..

Sheep with lambs near Maentwrog, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

We, like sheep. I thought you could do with another dose.

The path then joins a lane that descends steeply to Maentwrog taking me passed the rather splendid Lych gate at St Twrog’s church (not open).

St Twrog's chuch, Maentwrog, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

The clock needs to be wound up or repaired

I had fancied staying at The Grapes Hotel as I had been there before to eat when Bob and I had had a great weekend exploring Festiniog slate mines, but they were full. Luckily Bryn Maen Bed and breakfast had a room and they are right next door to The Grapes, so no matter how much I would have to drink that night, I was confident that I would be able to stagger home.

I liked the feel of Bryn Maen. It is a large family home with a friendly owner and a relaxed atmosphere. I liked my double room, too, located at the back of the house so away from the busy road. It had a comfy chair by the window and an en suite with a big bath which I took immediate advantage of.  I even had time and energy before dinner to start a book on my newly purchased Kindle. (“All the Hopeful lovers” by William Nicholson. Highly recommended. We met him when Anne did a gig at Dartington for The Bad Tempered Gardener)

Dinner at The Grapes was an excellent and very generous home produced burger. They had a party of a dozen or so girls in for a birthday or stag night. so I was well entertained by them tottering to and fro tothe loo and bar in their sharp heels and short dresses. It beats football. And I only had two pints, which I think indicates admirable restraint, don’t you think?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne Wareham June 1, 2014 at 11:20 am

Excellent post, if also what appears to have been a rather grim walk. If people take these walks one at a time as opposed to covering the whole route at once, they might avoid this one for the time being?

And appreciate that you are more honest than the book you reviewed last week and let them know just what to expect? (http://charleshawes.veddw.com/reviews/review-of-the-welsh-coast-a-book-of-photography-by-peter-watson/)

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Charles June 1, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Thanks love. If it had been a nicer day it would have felt like a better walk but I do like scenes of destruction and that pipeline is not to be missed.

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Paul Steer June 1, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Yes I agree, this is a real portrayal of the path. The difference between Charles and me is I seem to have a rose tinted filter in the lens of my memory! And unlike Charles I always try to photograph or sketch that which I interpret as beautiful. But I love the look of that pipeline and realise that strong images always draw me in.

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Charles June 1, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Ah yes, Rose tinted memory is another matter entirely, but one that I don’t think we can be held to be morally accountable for. I think the pipeline shot will be one for the book.

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Jan Johnsen June 1, 2014 at 2:27 pm

what a wonderful post! Thank You!

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Charles June 1, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Thank you. Wordprees wasn’t sure if you are spam but I’ll take the praise.

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Tony Bowerman June 2, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Charles, I enjoy your blog because it’s: 1) Punchy, controversial, irreverent, no-holds-barred; 2) Has some superbly composed, arty photos of the weird and the mundane, and 3) Is well written, discursive and chatty.

In fact, it’s ‘Wales warts and all’ (and sometimes very warty indeed as if you seek out the odd and naughty warty worst of Wales.)

But it’s a blog not a book. Blogs aren’t/can’t be sold (except in a secondary way through advertising) but books have to be. It’s a very different model. Unless we consider the success of books like ‘Crap Towns’ et al (See: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Crap-Towns-Worst-Places-Live/dp/0752215825).

A sort of perverse appeal? Discuss.

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Charles June 2, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Hi Tony
Thank you for all those comments on the blog and I hope you continue to follow it. I am not seeking to show The Wales Coast Path in a bad light. Of course blogs are a completely different platform to books. As you say, I am not trying to sell anything and I am not sponsored or using advertising so far. Yes publishers have to sell books but when it comes to guide books for instance, they also have a responsibility to those that buy the book that what they are providing is giving the reader a reasonable sense of what they might expect. In my view, as well as providing as much practical information as possible, this comes down to some evaluative but fair comment and making use of photographs that could be taken from vantage points that the reader might themselves experience. I am disappointed that your “Official” guide to the Llyn peninsula section of The Wales Coast Path has relatively little practical content, uses mostly images not taken from the path and makes no evaluative comment. I understand that the guide was commissioned by NRW. I am sure that they do not share my preoccupations about what their guides should be like. But as an independent publisher I would have hoped for a more objective book.

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Copyright Charles Hawes (2012)