Date walked: 9th October 2013
Distance walked: about 14 miles
Cumulative total of miles walked along The Wales Coast Path:431 (almost exactly half way!)
OS map required: Explorer 198: Cardigan and New Quay
This is part of The Wales Coast Path but is also designated as the Ceredigion Coast Path and comes within the Ceredigion Council’s area. Their Coastal Access Officer can be emailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I had with me a copy of Liz Allan’s little booklet on the Ceredigion Coast Path (published 2009). This has some interesting background but no specific information about facilities. Also Mike Salter kindly sent me his booklet “The Ceredigion Coast Path” last updated in 2012 and obtainable directly from him at email@example.com . illustrated with black and white photos, this publication is also brief and lacks information about facilities but has more background and historical information than Liz Allan’s booklet even though it is not as well presented.
There is also an official website for the Ceredigion Coast Path. It does have maps of the route and is useful for public transport links but only links to the Visit Wales website for accommodation and has no information about eating and drinking places or toilets. It also has a link to an offcial guide book for the path.
For those regular readers I must offer an explanation as to why you might think that I am going in the wrong direction.
Anne and I had hired a little cottage for a few days just up the beach from Penbryn through Under The Thatch.
My plan was to use this as my base to continue my journey on the Wales Coast Path. And today my intention was to walk to Tresaith (about a mile) and to catch a bus from there to Cardigan and walk back, thus keeping to my south-to-north direction. But by the time I had got to Tresaith, some 20 minutes before the bus was due, I felt that I had got into my stride, so just carried on. Sorry.
Penbryn is a smashing beach with a wonderful cave at the far end but the Wales Coast Path doesn’t take you to it. So to disorient you even further, here’s a couple of pics that I took the day that we arrived.
The path does pass the little cottage in the middle of the car park that houses a café (which I can recommend also there are toilets) and then crosses the steep little wooded valley and approaches the coast.
A steady climb reveals the first static caravan site of the day, just before Tresaith. In fact the powers that be have sandwiched the little village with a caravan site on either side of its sandy beach, taking these unattractive boxes to the edge of the cliffs.
There are toilets and a little café by the beach but it was too early to stop and so I carried on along the fairly level path to Aberporth. Its outskirts are blessed with several isolated homes made by adapting railway carriages.
Quite how someone managed to persuade the council that strewing railway carriages around in the open countryside and then tarting them up was a way to enhance the countryside (where there is a presumption against building isolated houses) is beyond me.
I was reminded of the time of my active membership of The Campaign for The Protection of Rural Wales (CPRW) when Ceredigion was notorious for its perverse and insensitive planning decisions and here I could see why it earned this reputation. And of course, once you allow one tarted up railway carriage to become a house you might as well allow another ugly bungalow to be to be built next to it.
The quality of the architecture of the bungalows in the village was so poor that a sensitive soul might feel despair but then from what I saw, this characterless 20th and early 21st century housing is so prevalent in the area that a sensitive soul might want to pack up and go home.
Aberporth’s double beach crossed, a steep climb up the hill away from the coast brings you to the entrance of the government out-sourced agency called Qinetiq who with “expertise, passion and commitment” are developing unmanned aerial combat capabilities on our behalf and occupy 550 acres including a large chunk of the coast here. Weapon testing has been taking place here since the 1940s.
The mile and a half detour was fairly dreary, after which it was nice to see the bracken covered cliffs again.
The geology around here was quite remarkable, the predominate rock under the surface appearing to mostly comprise thin shattered layers of slatey shale.
It was reflected by sharply incised little valleys eked out by small streams which are crossed by footbridges.
When the cliffs are seen over the next couple of miles it is obvious that this highly jointed rock has been subject to all sorts of disturbances.
Mostly though, the lie of the land means that the coastline is hidden from view with occasional glimpses until the hill of Foel y Mwnt with the pretty 14th Century Church of The Holy Cross sitting at its base.
Depending on your point of view (literally), the charm of this very special place is ruined by the presence of a monstrously insensitively sited caravan park and another very ugly house.
A car park serves the visitors to the chapel and the pretty little sandy beach and by it a kiosk (and toilets) offers refreshment and relief and a range of postcards of idealised photographs of the chapel which omit its nasty backdrop. The kiosk person kindly interrupted her phone call (the subject of which was obviously about the possibility of someone known to them being a child abuser) to provide me with a Welsh cake and a coffee.
Officially (and according to my map) the coast path would then carry on towards Cardigan Island but 16 months after its official opening Ceredigion have still to establish access along the coast for the next couple of miles so a further inland trek was required on farm tracks and minor roads through pretty dreary countryside via the hamlet of Ferwig.
Writing in 2009 Liz Allan comments that the route here was “still under dispute” so it would appear that the issues are intractable. Mike Salter explains that although the council have exercised some compulsory purchase orders for land to accommodate the path the problem here appears to be that the tourist attraction who own it are resisiting.
At Ferwig (no shop or toilets) I was joined by a Jack Russell (the sweetest natured breed unless you are a pheasant or rabbit) who continued to trot along by me for the next mile.
As cars approached he would get closer to me and then forge ahead when the road was clear.
As we approached the coast again I began to fear that he would end up coming with me to Cardigan but then a large (but equally quiet) dog appeared on the bank of a garden and the sight of him was enough to have my new friend belting back up the road.
In keeping with the vernacular architecture, The Cliff Hotel at Gwbert has to be the ugliest such establishment that I had seen on the path to date, so I was happy to turn my back on it and follow the road south towards Cardigan.
Gwbert (which has no shop or toilets) was obviously a place of keen and creative gardeners.
As the coast path nears habitations so it becomes used by dog walkers. In this part of the world although they appear to have “got” that having their dogs shit on the path is not acceptable, some seem to think that it is OK to subsequently leave the bagged up poo for someone else to collect.
There was a brief re-emergence of railway carriage conversions …..
…..and waterside Caravan Parks……
and then just after a boatyard the path turns inland again for a more direct route though cultivated fields to Cardigan.
It began to rain quite heavily so I whisked on my waterproofs. Putting over trousers on is usually a pain if you have nowhere to sit but my Outdoor Research ones have zips going right up to the hips. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Overhead, several flocks of geese passed by and I managed to get a snap of one of them.
The path passes a sewage works where a dog walker/conceptual artist had thoughtfully suspended a bag of poo.
The path passes through a playground by the banks of the Teifi and a restaurant made from a playfully converted boat.
Cardigan’s main street doesn’t exactly overwhelm with interesting shops or compelling café’s so I headed straight for the square where most buses congregate. I was nearly an hour early for the one I had planned to get back to Tresaith but found an alternative one that was leaving straight away that would deposit me no further from home at Sarnau. I had an easy stroll down to the cottage and made us a nice cup of tea and had a Welsh Cake (too sweet).
Here’s a nice photo of Anne on the beach at Penbryn to put you(me) back into a good mood.