Wales Coast Path: Maentwrog to Porthmadog

June 15, 2014 · 34 comments

Date walked: 6th April 2014

Distance walked: about 9 miles

Cumulative total of miles walked along The Wales Coast Path: 556

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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According to the Cicerone Guide – “The Ceredigion and Snowdonia Coast Paths”, the village of Maentwog stands on the line of the Roman road of Sarn Helen, Twrog was a British saint of the 5th century and the village developed to its present size on the back of the nearby slate quarries.

I had stayed last night at Bryn Maen Bed and Breakfast in the village an excellent place and I had had a good breakfast. My friend Paul was joining me for the day’s walk and he had very kindly offered to drive me back to my car afterwards, which I had left at Aberdovey 5 days ago. So I felt rather bad that since he had come all the way from near Swansea I couldn’t lay on better weather. It was raining. We kitted up and set off  at our usual brisk pace.

We stopped at the end of the village where the listed The Old Rectory boasted a new looking pair of gates that are a near copy of those designed by Clough Williams-Ellis at nearby Plas Brondanw. (Sadly this very special garden has had the magic of the place diminished  in my opinion by it’s recent “restoration” and by commercialisation but it is still worth visiting).

Gates of Clough Williams Ellis' design at The Old Rectory, Maentwrog, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

This requires some further investigation

I had seen these yesterday and the rather brusque owner could not enlighten me as to their origin or if  Williams-Ellis had any connection to this building. The wikipedia  entry listing all known Clough Williams-Ellis’s work does not mention this house.  The Trust looking after the affairs at Plas Bondanw are aware of the gates but were none the wiser.

We followed the A487 over the river Dwyryd and round the corner where a sign directed us (we thought) into the Tan-y-Bwlch estate.  Whether it was the fault of the signing or our inattention but we arrived at the house and could not see how we were intended to proceed. As you will have guessed, I was reluctant to go back down the long drive so despite a sign saying that the woodland walk was closed we decided to try it anyway.  We found ourselves walking in the wrong direction but we pressed on, coming after a while to the Plas Halt station, belonging to the narrow gauge Ffestiniog Railway.

We still were not confident of our route and I suggested that we might walk along the railway track. Paul gently pointed out that we would probably meet a train coming the other way, so we took a path instead that went in the right direction but climbed above the line.  A little while later Paul was proved right as we heard the sound of the steam locomotive and glimpsed it through the trees.

Train on the Ffestiniog railway near Plas Tan-y-Bwlch, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

I should have given you a little video clip

We emerged from the wood at a wide track where we were reassured to see the Wales Coast Path way-mark badge attached to a post, showing us how we should have approached this point. (which would have involved passing Llyn Mair – an artificial lake created in 1886 as a birthday present for the daughter of the owner of Plas Tan- y – Bwlch).

Woodland about Plas Tan--y-Bwlch, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Paul understands that if we went wrong its his fault for talking so much

Undeterred by our lost view of the lake, we managed we get ourselves off the official path again very quickly finding a little reservoir in compensation.

Reservoir near Plas Tan y Bwlch photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Hardly as impressive as Llyn Mair, for which Paul apologizes

 We continued our uncertain way along a reassuringly well walked path that was going in the right general direction……

Walking the wales Coast Path near the Ffestiniog railway, photographed by Charles Hawes

It is a jolly nice path even if (thanks to Paul) it’s not the WCP

……until we saw the embankment of the railway line high above us.

Ffestinion railway embankment near Penlan, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Credit where it is due:it was Paul that realised that we must be looking at the railway embankment

We left the woods a little further on, re-encountering a WCP way-mark and passing through a farm where we had our first sheep encounter of the day.

Sheep in field near Penlan, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

John now understands the significance of liking sheep

We stopped  for a hot drink –  prematurely it seemed as we missed the opportunity a little further on of taking advantage of a bench with a fine view, albeit under very threatening skies.

View from near Penlan, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

We wouldn’t have wanted to sit there long in the rain

The path meets the A4085 and then drops down through Penlan, (where Paul had had a nice holiday but which I thought pretty drab, but then it was still raining). As we came into Penrhyndeudraeth we passed a chapel, the railings painted in Plas Brondanw’s turquoise…..

Chapel in Penrhyndeudraeth photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

I searched around but couldn’t work out what the name of this one was; interesting about more use of the CWE turquoise, though

………… before reaching the cross roads with the A487 .

The Griffin at Penrhyndeudraeth photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

So that’s the road closure that led to the detour around Maentwrog

This village doesn’t appear to have a lot going for it on the best of days; on a wet one it was a bit depressing to trudge through it beside the busy A487 in the rain.  (The Cicerone Guide – “The Ceredigion and Snowdonia Coast Paths” offers an alternative route to avoid this road walking section which sounds preferable to me, so I am not sure why Natural Resources Wales did not adopt it for the “official” route – inquiries will be made). We did pause to admire the splendid gravestones in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, many of them decorated with a stylized tree which we failed to identify from our combined bible knowledge.

Headstone in churchyard in Penrhyndeudraeth, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Lovely slate headstone sad about little Henry

At a chemists a bunch of  wilted flowers on the doorstep made us think it rather bad luck that the deceased didn’t make it inside, where they might have been treated or resuscitated or given a seat or something. Perhaps it was closed.

Chemist in Penrhyndeudraeth, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Someone needs to remove these flowers when they get to the depressing stage (not very long)

 A little further on we passed this adventurous front garden.

Front garden in Penrhyndeudraeth, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Proving beyond doubt that Monty Don is right about us being a nation of garden lovers

After a mile on the road we were directed off the road into the entrance of the Portmeirion estate. The path takes you round the back of the village, giving us a few glimpses through the chain link fence of the place (Paul was all for climbing over for a coffee but I restrained him) before passing a rather ramshackle farm.

Farm near Porthmadog, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Actually this is pretty tidy by most farm standards

We’d gained a little height so although it was pretty misty we had a good view out to Porthmadog.

View to Porthmadog and The Cob from The Wales Coast Path, photographed by Charles Hawes

Yep, I think its still raining

The best view of the day, though, was just a little further on as we dropped down the hill to see the swirling pattern of the salt marshes below.

Marshland by The Cob, Porthmadog, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Nature at its best making wonderful patterns

We arrived at the A487, again, which now shares a a crossing across the edge of the estuary with the Ffestiniog Railway line, just as a train was pulling out from Boston Lodge Halt.

The Ffestioniog railway, leaving Boston Halt station, photographed by Paul Steer

Paul’s pic here is better than mine.

Another mile beside the road/railway on a raised embankment called The Cob brought us the the rather wet but bustling town of Porthmadog. The very helpful lady in the Tourist information office printed off a bus time table for us to get back to Maentwrog. We had a hour to kill and browsed the high street for a cafe, Paul chiding me for being very particular about choosing the right place (I’m with his wife on this one). We chose “Big Rock” .

Big Rock Cafe, Porthamadog, photographed by Charles Hawes

I took this on my return visit

The wonderful range of breads in the window was enough to persuade us in. It was difficult to choose between all the scrummy looking things on the counter and on the surrounding shelves and I must apologize for not remembering what we had for our main bit but afterwards I had the most delicious Churros and chocolate sauce.

Big Rock cafe, Pothmadog, photographed by Charles Hawes

Paul’s not especially good pic of the cafe, but he didn’t want to get up from his chair

It was great to be sitting there in the warm and dry, and good to get out of my walking gear and even better to think that in a months time I was going to be back to walk another stretch of the path and that I would start here at this most excellent of places.

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Dru June 15, 2014 at 8:22 am

is the tree on the tombstone a weeping willow, do you suppose?

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Charles June 15, 2014 at 2:54 pm

I think you are right. I don’t know why Paul didn’t think of it.

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Iain Robinson June 15, 2014 at 10:20 am

Hi Charles – it’s lovely to read about somewhere that I know intimately and have someone else’s impressions of it…very entertaining. P and I spent a couple of months searching the Cae Fali woods for a mine a couple of years ago and encountered folk building a path…I was amazed when they told me it was the Wales Coastal Path, it seemed a beautiful journey if a little perverse and roundabout in it’s route. Never mind, it looks as if you found many of the good bits! I’m sorry if it was difficult to navigate, but take comfort in that you are not the only one who finds it confusing. There is some tasty local opinion about those gates at the Old Rectory..while I don’t think anyone should have exclusive right to colour and design, I do think they are mighty pretentious.

There is an embarrassment of choice for coffee shops in Port these days, although judging by how busy the place has been the last few weeks, there is plenty of custom for them…your choice was a wise one! Looking forward to the next instalment!
Iain

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Charles June 15, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Hi Ian. I always feel particularly pleased when someone who knows a place from another time in their lives drops by and comments. Yes the Wales Coast path is a peculiar conceit and its route at times even more so. Mostly its the MOD and private landowners who send us off inland. I keep writing to Gwynedd about sections but they seem to have stopped replying to me. I’ve found some very good bits that are not on the official route at all. I’d love to know more about the local opinion about the gates at the Old Rectory. Are they the talk of The Grapes? Did you think Clough Williams -Ellis pretentious? Stick with me for a few more posts and I’ll offer you a little mine but I bet you will know it.

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Iain Robinson June 15, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Hi Charles,
My partner asked me the same thing about Clough Williams-Ellis 🙂 He did some amazing things at Portmeirion, but he was an inspired architect and took his influences from all over Europe, then used them knowingly…you might even say ironically. I think the rectory gates are just a copycat stunt with little originality to commend them. Well, they look nice for the tourists, so perhaps that’s no bad thing. I wouldn’t dare repeat some of the local opinion about the gates, although they have their admirers, too.

I always enjoy your blog, but will be paying very keen attention now for the mine!
cheers,
Iain

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Paul Steer June 15, 2014 at 11:06 am

Well now boyo! We like sheep have gone astray – but reassuring we are not the only ones. I seem to remember we were both culpable! I like your photos – but I quite like my rough capture of the busy cafe with its colourful lights.

I think Welsh towns if a little grim sometimes – also have a kind of honesty about them.

As always I enjoyed our walk and talk. 0:)

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Charles June 15, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Ha Ha. Baa to you. Honesty covers many a sin, don’t you think? We must meet up soon; I am back on the Lleyn next week.

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John June 15, 2014 at 2:07 pm

That gravestone is interesting. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is apparently responsible for three graves there. I wonder if this is one of them, even though Mr Williams is buried elsewhere. The symbolism of a weeping willow as Dru suggests seems fitting.

Ta for the mention. Including sheep is appropriate given your path-following skills. You regularly get lost without Paul so it’s unfair to blame him. After all, he probably saved your life by refusing to take your suggested rail route.

Your pics of the sheep and the bench convey wordlessly yet atmospherically the weather of the day but I must admit to particularly liking Paul’s two pics, though I had a sudden sense of deja vu with the last one until I remembered that he mentioned the place in his blog back in April (he’s more prompt it seems). The place was much smaller then – it must expand in response to the summer season 🙂

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Charles June 15, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Hi John. That’s an interesting snippet about the War Graves Commission. I’m sure that you are right about the weeping willow.My Mum ought to chip in here as she spends a lot of time recording stones. I only get lost because the spirit of Paul goes with me. My sense of direction is impeccable. Sheep captions can never be the same now that you cracked it. Life moves on.

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Neil June 15, 2014 at 7:28 pm

Looks a fun, if wet, walk…. ( Although if you keep wandering off like this, you might need to re-title your blog to ‘Charles Hawes doesn’t walk the Wales Coast Path’ ).

I might need to only join you when Paul does, otherwise I can see the blame landing on me instead…. I’m with him about climbing into Portmeirion. No.6 would have appreciated the irony.

Xx

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Charles June 16, 2014 at 11:16 am

Yes, its always fun walking with Paul – you never know where you might end up. You’ll find in a few weeks time that I spend most of a walk Not On The Wales Coast Path.

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rob grover June 15, 2014 at 7:52 pm

Hi Charles. I love the stillness of your picture of the bench. Were the clouds really that dark or did you indulge in a little enhancement? Also glad that no ‘wart’ intruded.
I did think that liking sheep was all about comma placement.
Still chugging along in you wake
Rob

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Charles June 16, 2014 at 11:18 am

Thanks Rob! There may have been a bit of jiggery pokery on the sky (otherwise known as a graduated filter). Yes it was all in the comma; and all over now. Glad I am still trail blazing for you.

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John June 16, 2014 at 1:03 pm

We might have got the joke earlier but we who had ceased to be proof-readers, having given up hope, assumed that the commas were typos; like low-bred apostrophes.

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Charles June 17, 2014 at 10:54 am

I thought that you had been quiet on the proof reading front. Did I not pay you enough?

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Marice June 15, 2014 at 10:10 pm

I would love an artificial lake for my birthday, a hint if Neil is reading. Wales does seem to have a curious sense of style captured by your photos and dry wit. Looking forward to the next instalment.

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Charles June 16, 2014 at 11:20 am

An artificial Lake! Your kitchen is bigger than your garden – where would you put it darling? The next post involves driving lessons on a beach.

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Anne Wareham June 15, 2014 at 10:41 pm

Great post and great memories of our trip by car later. You are unfair to Plas Brondanw – it is a great, must visit garden and there are not many of those. So yes, it has lost its honesty box charm, but I understand most people will happily swop that for a cup of tea…

Good pictures, Paul! Even some by Charles…but that train pic is great! Xx

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Charles June 16, 2014 at 11:29 am

Thanks love. I had intended to moderate my comments about Plas after our recent visit. As for the train pic, You know what they say about monkeys and Shakespeare.

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Anne Wareham June 15, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Apologies for all those ‘greats’ – it’s a bit late at night and my eloquence has gone. Besides – I’m a professional photographer now, not a writer, you know…..

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Charles June 16, 2014 at 11:30 am

As we all know, your talents are limitless.

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rob grover June 16, 2014 at 7:09 am

I forgot to say what a fine material for carving/sculpting slate appears to be, with so little erosion to the headstone in a hundred years. Perhaps it is seen as too funereal for other work.
Like Anne, I was struck by the train pic, with great skill in framing the driver’s head in steam, but I didn’t think that you would want too much praise for a friend’s picture.

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Charles June 16, 2014 at 11:33 am

Yes, I must have a go at stone carving sometime. You are right about my feelings about all this praise being heaped on Paul’s shoulders. I’m just glad he deleted most of his pics or I would have used more and I would have been even more shown up.

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David Marsden June 18, 2014 at 5:40 am

A fine day, Charles with all the necessaries: a startling gate, steam locomotive, going astray, sheep and a bun shop – the latter especially. Not enough walking days end in a bun shop, I think. Is the adventurous front garden in the Yellow Book? Let me know opening times would you? Thanks Dave

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Charles June 18, 2014 at 6:39 pm

Hi Dave, I so agree about ending the day in a bun shop, although an ice- cream parlour might suffice. It think its the NGS County Organisers home.

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Jessica A. Hawes June 18, 2014 at 6:26 pm

We (Montgomeryshire Genealogical Society) found many slate headstones with the tree carving when we were transcribing in the county. They seem to be confined to North Wales. No one in our group could give an explanation. I found a website – “Rootchart” where someone found one of these carvings on a headstone in Anglesey. Replies to her query featured a reference to Psalm 137 “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea we wept, we hung our harps upon the willows…..” where the tree was presumed to be a Weeping Willow -like the one in Sam and Andree’s garden that hung over the brook at Hazelmere Road. The Menai History Group reckoned that it was a palm tree and was a carver’s “Maker’s mark” but I don’t think that’s possible as the carving is always at the top of the headstone in a prominent position. Someone on the website agrees with me and we favour the Psalm 137 version. Have you read your CPRW magazine this month where your road diversion is featured? Ma

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Charles June 18, 2014 at 6:37 pm

Thanks Mum. That’s very interesting that you have been finding them, too in North Wales. I’d back Psalm 137 , I think. Yes, I did read that the local CPRW branch were unhappy about the state of the bridge. Good to know that they are keeping an eye on the situation. I see Montgomeryshire is not keeping its end up!

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Michelle August 29, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Hi Charles
I’m glad I’ve come across your blog. We have completed the Wales Coast Path from Chester to Porth Madog going in the opposite direction! This section will be our next walk. Your blog will be useful to us as we plan our future walks. Thank you

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Charles August 30, 2014 at 9:55 am

Hi Michelle! Well I hope you find the rest of the blog useful and entertaining. Have you done a blog of your walk? If so do post a link. Keep in touch. Charles

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Michelle August 30, 2014 at 1:32 pm

No sorry, I haven’t done a blog but I have posted ‘My Tracks’ & photos on my facebook page that I’m happy to share. Michelle

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Ian Hampson September 12, 2014 at 10:15 am

Hi guys
I live in Llandecwyn. The flowers outside the chemist were there because a fire in the flat above the back of the shop had claimed the life of an old lady unable to escape in time.
Ian

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Charles September 12, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Well,that clears up that mystery, thank you!

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Tegwen Haf February 7, 2017 at 10:46 pm

As a person from Penrhyndeudraeth, I don’t really care much for your criticism of my lovely village. The majority of us are so proud to come from Penrhyn. The flowers outside the chemists were for the lady who lived in the flat above, which went on fire a good friend of mine , and I actually live in Penlan which is a wonderful place, and wouldn’t dream of moving – the chapel’s name is Tabernacl or Capel Wesla as its known locally for the Wesleyans

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Charles February 7, 2017 at 10:54 pm

Well, I am sorry to upset. But I speak as I find, and “lovely” the village is not. Where does “pride” come from. Not in the fabric of your community, it seems. I am not proud to live where I do. Fortunate, lucky even, but not proud. I am sorry about your friend and grateful for your information. And thanks, too about the chapel name.

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