|Come on Carmarthenshire, what about some boardwalks?|
|This isn't what it said on the packet!|
Four long hours later, we sat down for elevensies at . For almost four hours, we’d ploughed through some of the muddiest fields I’ve ever experienced, watched by hundreds of mildy interested cows as we daintily side-stepped thousands of soft, fresh cow pats (maybe a tiny exaggeration but you get my drift). Some fields were virtually impassable but pass through them we did – Harri has to stick to the official route for his book though he is allowed to recommend ‘alternative’ routes on occasion. On the evidence of the first two days’ walking, my recommendation would be to bypass Carmarthenshire’s ‘coast’ and head from Pembrokeshire straight to the spectacular Gower.
|Walking the Wales Mud Bath|
The highlight of the morning was the ruined St Michael’s Church, tucked away in an eery, wooded glade (the reasoning behind the long detour inland perhaps?). The sight of medieval pilgrim graves with their stone vaults curving around long buried bodies was strangely unsettling.
Finally, after a miserable
morning’s walking during which we fantasized considerably about future commissions
in hot, dry climates, where coastal paths meandered along stunning coastlines
rather than between cow pats, we were rewarded with a glimpse of Laugharne
across the estuary.
|Medieval graves at St Michael's Church|
All those hours spent traipsing through fields and we were pretty much back where we started, albeit with a narrow stretch of water between us and the picturesque Laugharne. Years ago, the two communities were linked by a regular ferry but nowadays, unless you fancy taking your chances and swimming across, there’s no alternative but to walk up the estuary and back down the other side.
|There must be a strategy behind this intriguingly |
placed section of board walk
Llansteffan is a pretty little village, with a wide, sandy beach but nothing much other than a busy tearoom to recommend it. The sun had come out, however, so, in contrast to the morning’s solitude, we were suddenly surrounded by lots of people strolling around.
We didn’t linger – we had
18 miles to cover and progress through the fields had been
slow – and were soon climbing up a steep sunken lane out of the village.
We didn’t linger – we had
I’d persuaded Harri that the only way I’d ever learn to map-read was if he occasionally relinquished his hold on his OS map and let me take charge of directing us. He (sort of) agreed, which was how I found myself gazing up at electricity pylons (in OS language ‘electricity transmission lines’), counting field boundaries and getting unusually excited about a ford.
The afternoon’s walk was a marked improvement on the morning section – clearly defined paths, lots of lane walking – however, for a much-publicised national coast path it would have been nice if we'd been able to enjoy some coastal views.
The final haul into
Carmarthen was endless, taking us through steep, narrow
lanes, a very saturated woodland, along a busy main road and finally, through
school playing fields and a tarmac path into town centre.
This kind of hiking isn’t the stuff that memories are made of – if I wanted to wade through mud and cow pats, along slippery woodland paths and tarmac cycle paths, I could do it much closer to home.
It’s true the weather has been abominable this summer, turning normally passable paths into mudbaths, but I have other issues with the chosen route.
At the outset, I’d expected clearly defined, walkable paths, amazing coastal views, yomps across beaches and cliff-tops, sunsets on a distant horizon, picturesque seaside villages and colourful fishing boats bobbing in a harbour.
As I took off my boots at
the end of Day 2, my abiding memories will be of cows, cows and more cows. Oh,
and did I mention cow pats? And slugs?
|Harri walking the Wales Cowstal Path|