Sunday, February 3, 2013

Starter for ten

The snow-covered cliff tops above Marros Sands
There’s nothing quite as exciting as starting a new project, be it a script, a diet or a walking book.

Last week, against a bleak and snowy backdrop, we started our on-the-ground research for Harri’s latest commission: a top 10 walks guidebook to complement his official Wales Coast Path book (Amroth to Swansea Marina)

The top 10 format has already proved a great success for its publisher, Northern Eye Books.

These beautifully designed little books cost just £4.99 and provide clear directions, Ordnance Survey maps, eye-grabbing panoramic photographs and interpretation of points of interest along the way.

Until recently only walks in the Lake District, Peak District and the Yorkshire Dales
were covered, however the good news is that publishers Carl Rogers and Tony Bowerman have decided to roll out the format to include circular walks along the Wales Coast Path. It’s a great idea and will hopefully encourage many more people to explore Wales’ beautiful coastline and nearby countryside.

Still on solid ground - the steps above Pendine 
First to be published in the Wales series was fellow Outdoor Writers Guild member Sioned Bannister’s offering on Cardigan Bay North (available direct from Northern Eye).  

Sioned is the OWG social media expert and she has written a great little book, which I know Harri and I are going to find extremely useful on future holidays. (And in the mean time, we can just enjoy looking at those gorgeous panoramic photographs.)

The snow had all but disappeared when we left Newport but, as we travelled along the M4 corridor, we could see it was a different picture further inland. We later learned that snow had caused widespread disruption in Carmarthenshire the previous day.

‘Do you think snow settles on sand?’ I pondered and, for once, my personal sage could not provide the answer.

There's nothing to beat sun, sea... and snow
There was an empty car park at Pendine and almost nobody about, but we duly paid our £3 parking charge and pulled on extra layers.

My heart sank when Harri headed past the seafront café and towards the steps leading to the cliff top. Now perhaps it would be wise to check in advance what’s expected of me on any given walk, but strangely I always forget to ask pertinent questions like ‘where are we going?’ and Harri sensibly omits to mention words like ‘steep’ ‘mud-bath’ or ‘arduous’ in his pre-walk briefings.

The uphill section was actually fine. There was no ice underfoot and the view across the snow-covered Pendine Sands was spectacular. We trudged across the cliff top in crisp, clean snow, relishing the crunching underfoot and the snow-laden gorse bushes.

It was only when we began to descend to Morfa Bychan beach that things started to become a bit hairy. Mud, it would seem, doesn’t always dry out underneath snow but, when the temperature isn't low enough, lies there oozing and squelchy, ready to send the unsuspecting hiker sliding down the mountainside on their backside. I tiptoed along, envisioning my fate, concerned about doing more damage to an already dodgy right foot, begging Harri to turn back.

Of course, we didn’t because Harri has a book to write and we must walk every inch of every walk – even those which are ultimately rejected. Instead, we headed straight up the opposite cliff, towards Marros Sands

One of Carmarthenshire's churned up fields,
 temporarily covered by snow
I’ve written about this section of the Wales Coast Path several times already so I’m not going to repeat myself. Suffice to say, it’s not pleasant when conditions are wet… and, once again, they were.

A short distance inland and the walking conditions immediately improved, lifting my spirits.

The village of Marros boasts a camping site, a church and an unusual war memorial, modelled on nearby Neolithic tombs. We lunched briefly on the stone benches in the church porch, but it was too cold to linger and we were soon on our way again.

The final stretch of the walk was stunning scenery-wise, however I struggled to get warm again. As we descended into a wooden valley, we came across a stunning log cabin, presumably a holiday let in the warmer months.

The Marros war memorial and church
At low tide, it’s possible to walk from Marros Sands to Pendine along the beach but the timing wasn’t right for us so we walked up an old cobbled path and emerged at the top of Pendine.

The day was closing in, but it seemed too early to head to our functional Travelodge room, so we decided to warm ourselves in Spring Well public house. For anyone who doesn’t know it, the Spring Well is the sort of pub every village/small town should have –  friendly if slightly eccentric locals willing to entertain passing strangers, a heavenly log-burning fire, ginger wine, but best of all, its very own kitler.

This walk may or may not make the final ten but seeing Stella the cat twitching her little grey moustache made the day's cold and muddy conditions worthwhile.

Stella has no idea why she attracts so much attention

No comments:

Post a Comment

Enter your comment . . .