Day 203 Beautiful Llandudno and a Broken Rucksack

Sunday 25 October 2015 (first day of GMT)

Llandudno to Llanfairfechan

12 miles

Y Gelli Guest House

I was dropped off in Llandudno yesterday and what a lovely seaside town it is. All the grand seafront buildings were nicely painted and looked well-kept; I could not find a single shabby frontage.  

Looking across the pier to Llandudno sea front
 The promenade is the widest I’ve seen and there is lots to do, including skiing?! (There is a cable car that heads up to the ski slope!)  

The widest promenade in Britain? (Great Orme in the background)
 With 2 small children in tow I walked along the pier in the rain (avoiding the amusement arcade) and then, when the sun came out, we took the tram to the top of the hill on Great Orme. The views were fantastic: back to the town, Conwy Bay and across to Anglesey.  

The Great Orme tram

The view down on Llandudno from the tram
 I stayed in a B&B a couple of streets back from the front and this morning walked back along it to Great Orme’s Head. A sunny Sunday morning and there were lots of people out strolling along the promenade. Small dinghies were being prepared on the water’s edge and the pier was alive.  

Looking back along the sea front to Little Orme
Llandudno pier
 I walked around Great Orme via Marine Drive, which is a toll road. I was passed by several cyclists and also a road train that was full. I passed them all again at the Rest and Be Thankful cafe halfway around the head.  

Walking along Marine Drive around Great Orme’s Head
Heading towards Llandudno Junction on the River Conwy
 Climbing is a popular activity on these cliffs and they have a large, rounded look about them.  

Big caverns on Great Orme
 The view was lovely, the sea green and the sun shining…time for something to go wrong. My rucksack broke. It could have done this a week ago when I would have had a week, and help, to sort it out. But no, it waited until today. I had noticed a problem with one of the fixings a while ago and had tried to ameliorate the issue. It had worked until now but this break meant a fixing rod became detached.  

There were goats on the cliff!
 I spent a while trying to fashion a temporary fix so that at least I could continue to carry the rucksack properly on my back and then spent ages pondering my next move as I walked. 

I continued walking to Llandudno Junction and across the Bridge over the Conwy estuary into Conwy town. The town is on the banks of the estuary and a line of hills lies behind it. Conwy Castle is rather splendid and guards the mouth of the river.  

Conwy Castle guarding the mouth of the river
About to cross the bridge to Conwy
  Today there was a food festival going on and the town was packed with people. I had a quick wander through it and then went in a empty tea room for some dinner and a re-think.  

Conwy food festival
 Firstly, I had wasted too much time to walk all the way to Llanfairfechan before dark, which would be just after 5 pm. I decided to catch the train – it ran next to the coast path anyway. Secondly, after a few phone calls my plan was to get my old rucksack sent to my Aunt’s house near Chester (after recent experiences getting it sent to a Post Office is out of the question) and I would divert back there to collect it so at least I could carry on. What a faff.  

Not sure if this is true but there was a queue to pay 50p to visit
 I wandered along the bank of the Conwy estuary watching the waders enjoy the pickings at low tide and then back through Conwy town to catch the train 2 stops to Llanfairfechan.  

Conwy harbour
 Thanks to the owners of the guest house for providing me with tape and tie wraps to temporarily fix my rucksack.  


WEEK 28 – Warton, Lancashire to Colwyn Bay, Conwy


73 miles walked

(total 1,536 miles walked)

A week that not only involved walking but also catching up with old friends and family. 

I have been very lucky to have been hosted by several, old and new, friends as I have made my way down the NW coast (including the IOM). Staying with friends makes a huge difference to my trip, both in terms of admin (e.g. getting washing done) and, more importantly, my emotional well-being. It can get lonely on my own and seeing friends is a huge fillip. 

The Wales Coastal Path seems to be well signposted so far. It is 870 miles long so it’s unlikely I’ll get to the end before Christmas.  

fishes in Southport…
…fishes alongside the Dee in N Wales

Day 194 The Conwy Coast

Friday 16 October 2015

Rhyl to Colwyn Bay

12 miles

Ellingham House B&B

I woke to another grey day; the theme of N Wales so far. It was only a short hop to Colwyn Bay, where I had arranged to be picked up tomorrow for a family gathering in N Wales. I strolled through Rhyl and across a relatively new pedestrian bridge over the mouth of the River Clwyd. A lot of effort was being made to smarten up the sea front and make it more attractive to tourists.  

The bridge over the Clwyd at Rhyl
Looking back at Rhyl
 At Pen-Sarn, just across the Clwyd and sea-side of Abergele, I came across my first static caravan park for a while. There seemed to be hundreds, or even thousands, of caravans all squashed in. The railway line ran through the site and the hills were the backdrop. There was no beach to speak of, just a concrete promenade, some shingle and brown sea.  

A huge caravan park at Pen-Sarn; the hills in the background
 The coast path was now running directly alongside the A55 and the railway line so the walk was no longer so peaceful. It was also a cycle path and I was passed by lots of cyclists. 

The hill to my left was scarred by mining; half cut away and a huge conveyor belt that crossed the road and rail line to end at a pier.  

Mining the hill next to the A55…
…and transporting the products by sea
 Just on the outskirts of Colwyn Bay I stopped for a coffee at a smart-looking new venue that was both a restaurant and a cafe, and had a grass roof that one could walk over. It was owned by a Welsh celebrity chef: Bryn Williams. I wasn’t very impressed by the service. However, this is Porth Eirias, a new development at the heart of Colwyn Bay’s promenade improvements and efforts to create a sandy beach.  

The beach at Colwyn Bay
 I walked through Colwyn Bay town centre to my B&B and had a leisurely evening. I ate at The Station, a nice little restaurant in the centre of town with several local ales.  

Cormorants sat on each post drying themselves

Day 193 Croeso Y CYMRU

Thursday 15 October 2015

Flint to Rhyl

19 miles

The Pier Hotel

  I was late getting up after a very late night spent catching up with my family news. It was lovely to see my Aunt and Uncle, and they looked after me very well. They even drove me across the border into Wales so I could start my walk from Flint, thus missing out walking past all the industry and power stations around the River Dee.   

The Dee’s power stations and industry
 The drive along the A55 to get to Flint was lovely; the Autumn colours of the trees was wonderful. We passed Broughton, where the A380 wings are made and then shipped along the Dee by barge to Mostyn before being loaded onto a ship and taken to the South of France. 

Looking across the Dee (at low tide) to The Wirral
 Flint has a castle that was built by King Edward I after he began his invasion of Wales in 1277. 

Flint Castle
 My walk took me mostly along the banks of the estuary as far as Mostyn and then I headed across the main A55 and walked through a couple of the small towns. The small, terraced housing and cramped villages surrounded by beautiful hills was a marked contrast to England.  
A tiny port at Bagillt with small fishing boats
A ship left to rot
Talacre looks like a holiday village with a power station attached and is right on the corner at the mouth of the Dee estuary, opposite Hoylake in Wirral. There are big sand dunes that protect the beach facing the Irish Sea and an old lighthouse that looks abandoned on the beach.  

The lighthouse on the beach at Talacre
 The sky had gone very dark as I walked through the dunes to Prestatyn. Fortunately the cloud passed over me before it rained. Prestatyn was pretty deserted and looked rather soulless and sad.  

Walking through the dunes
 I carried on past on the promenade and headed for Rhyl, which also looked closed for the winter. The fairground and promenade attractions were all boarded up or fenced off.  

Welsh hills just inland
  It had been a long day and I arrived at my hotel in Rhyl just as the daylight was fading.
Approaching Rhyl; sunset over Great Orme

Day 192 The Wirral Way

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Wallasey to Neston, The Wirral

14 miles

Esta and Alan’s house, nr Chester

I left Ivor’s house and caught the train back to Moreton on The Wirral.  

The Leasowe Lighthouse (1763)
 It was a fine and calm day so the sea was like glass as I walked along the front at Hoylake. 

An easy path to Hoylake next to a still sea
 I could see Wales pretty clearly and in between were 3 small islands at the mouth of The Dee. I was surprised to see houses on the largest island, Hilbre, which was cut off from Wirral by the high tide.   

Hilbre island and North Wales in the background
  This is a great place to come and see migrating birds in the Autumn and there were several hundred Oystercatchers on the shore.  

So many Oystercatchers on the sea shore
 The sun came out and I had a lovely walk along the edge of the marshland bordering The Dee as far as West Kirby. Here I was due to collect some more maps so I headed into the picturesque little town and missed walking around Marine Lake: a man-made salt water lake with quite a small border that separates it from the Dee estuary.  

West Kirby’s Marine Lake, Hilbre in the background
 West Kirby was quaint, busy and friendly. The lady in the Post Office was very friendly but, yet again, my maps had been sent away. I have lost all confidence in the Post Office as none of the staff I meet know the service they are supposed to provide and they agree things on the telephone that they later deny. Very frustrating.  

Looking across the Dee estuary to Wales
 From West Kirby I picked up after Wirral Way, a path following an old railway line located in Britain’s first Country Park (designated in 1968). Much of this path is in the trees and the coastline is not visible, but it was a nice walk. I did try walking a section along the shore but it was quite difficult walking on the edge of marsh through huge reeds so I abandoned that idea.  

Marshland on the banks of the Dee
 Neston is the last town on the Wirral coastline and here I met up with my Aunt and Uncle. I had decided to finish my Wirral walk here and to avoid the road walk across the border into Wales. Luckily for me Esta and Alan offered to drive me into Wales tomorrow.  

 On the way back to their house they kindly diverted into Chester city centre so I could buy some more maps. This is getting rather expensive for the Post Office to keep refunding me for lost maps! 


Day 191 Ferry Across the Mersey

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Hightown to Wallasey, The Wirral

12 miles

Ivor’s house, Runcorn

Kathrine’s house looks across the dunes at the Irish Sea and the busy shipping lane heading into Liverpool docks. The geese were on the move in the morning and I headed past the sailing club and onto the beach. I had been advised only to walk as far as the docks and then to get the train from Waterloo into Liverpool.   

The sailing club beach at Hightown
 It was a lovely walk along the beach and the promenade, past Crosby. The Burbo wind farm was in the distance and huge ships kept passing. 

Another big ship leaving Liverpool Docks and passing the Burbo Offshore Wind Farm
  As I approached the docks it looked like there were people going for a swim in the sea. In fact they looked like they were heading determinedly into the water as if they were going to swim to Wales (or else to drown themselves).  

“Don’t do it! It’s too far to swim to Wales!”
 These are The Iron Men: Anthony Gormley’s sculpture, Another Place. There are 100 iron figures on the beach and they are quite an attraction; lots of people were out looking at them.   

One of the 100 Iron Men
Looking along Crosby’s beach to Liverpool Dock
 I left the beach, walked to Waterloo train station and caught the train through Bootle to the centre of Liverpool. I could have stayed on the train and gone to Wallasey, but why would I do that when I could get the famous ferry across The Mersey? Walking down to the ferry port I saw the beautiful part of the city with its talk, elegant buildings like the Cunard Building and the Liver Building.  
The iconic Liver Building
Liverpool’s impressive water front
 I was just in time to catch the Dazzle Ferry. The regular Mersey ferry had been painted in dazzling colours and patterns in honour of the WW2 dazzle patterns.  

Boarding the ferry across the Mersey
Can you spot the ‘dazzle’ ferry?
  The ferry was packed with tourists and it gives a guided tour of Liverpool and Wallasey landmarks (after playing the first few bars of its own song).  

The Dockers’ Clock and Stanley Dock Tobacco Warehouse: the largest brick building in the World
The iconic Queensway Tunnel (under the Mersey) air vents
 We docked at Seacombe and I stopped for a coffee before walking alongside the river to New Brighton, the right hand tip of the Wirral. The walk was signposted with bits of art and things to look at.  

The Black Pearl pirate ship on the Wallasey shore (built by Pirates at Art)
 New Brighton was once a bustling holiday resort but I didn’t stop for candy floss or a tour of Fort Perch Rock, the small fort built to help repeal a possible Napoleonic invasion.  

Fort Perch Rock
 I rounded the corner of the River Mersey and headed halfway along the Wirral coastline as far as Leasowe train station. The coastline was rather barren on a grey afternoon, looking at grey water and with grey buildings behind the grey concrete path around the edge.   

Looking back along the Wirral sea front to the mouth of The Mersey and Liverpool
  At least Wirral has a designated Wirral Circular Trail that is a 37 mile long circumferential path taking inthe 3 sides of the peninsula and heading across-country to join them up.  

The sun setting over Hoylake and North Wales
 My walk through Leasowe showed me one of the less affluent parts of the Wirral; no hint of seaside living here.  
Leasowe’s tea factory
 I caught the train back under The Mersey to Liverpool and then on to Runcorn to meet up with Ivor. I’d promised to visit Ivor on my way and he very kindly offered to put me up for the night, even though he’s just turned 90. We went out for a lovely dinner with his son and grandson and their wives.  


Day 190 Southport and Formby

Monday 12 October 2015

Warton, Lancashire to Hightown, Sefton

16 miles

Kathrine’s house

It was very cold last night and I didn’t manage much sleep. My sleeping bag was damp and the tent was soaked. I was keen to get out of the horrible campsite so I was away as quickly as possible and caught a bus into Preston to avoid walking the main road. I didn’t see much of Preston but I did make my way out of the bus station and into a shopping precinct to get a coffee in between buses.  

Looking back across The Ribble towards Warton at low tide
 I had decided I would not bother walking the mixture of roads and paths along the River Ribble as it didn’t look that exciting and I wanted to reach Hightown. So I caught a bus to Crossens, the first town in the borough of Sefton. I had reached Merseyside.  

Blackpool across The Ribble
 I walked around the corner of the River Ribble, so I could look back across at Blackpool, and then I was on Marine Drive, the coast road to Southport. The road must be built on sand because it’s quite bumpy. The sky was getting very dark and it looked rain but fortunately I escaped and the wind blew the cloud inland before it dumped its contents on someone else.   

Southport over the marsh
  The Marshside RSPB Nature Reserve is situated on the corner between the Ribble and the Irish Sea, and there were several birders out today.
Southport’s grand-looking buildings
 Southport is set back from the sea and its buildings look quite grand from a distance; a contrast to the funfairs and garishness of the sea front.  

Funfair and a large promenade on the sea front
 I walked past Southport on the promenade and then diverted onto a footpath through the dunes. The sun came out and I had a lovely, peaceful walk hidden from everything except the sound of the sea.  

Lost in the dunes
 After about an hour I popped out onto the beach and walked the rest of the way to Formby along the beach. The sand is beautifully fine (which makes it hard to walk) and the dunes are big; it reminded me of Aberdeen’s beach.  

A long sandy beach
 I reached Formby and diverted off the beach here in the hope of seeing a red squirrel in the reserve. It wasn’t my lucky day but the Asparagus Walk through the Jubilee Wood pine trees was lovely nonetheless. This part of Formby used to have big asparagus farms.  

Jimmy Lowe – 1930s asparagus farmer
 I used to play hockey here in Formby and I had forgotten just what a lovely town it is. It really is a gem on this coastline.  

Jubilee Woods, Formby
 The coast path diverted inland alongside the railway line in order to skirt around the Altcar Army Range. I arrived at Hightown and Kathrine met me. Tina Cullen came round for tea and I had a great evening catching up with old friends, 17 years after I left the hockey club here.  


WEEK 27 – Heysham to Warton (via the Isle of Man)


41 miles walked

(total 1,463 miles walked)

A fantastic week in the Isle of Man, followed by a walk through the boroughs of Wyre and Fylde, and of course there was Blackpool. 

I think I might have done my last camping next of the year as Sunday night was very cold and the morning dampness of everything is turning into sopping-wetness. I’ve really enjoyed the ease of camping in my lightweight tent and finding B&Bs/hostels for every night has the potential to become time consuming as well as expensive. 

I have to mention the geese. There are thousands of them on this NW coast and they are fabulous. In the morning and the evening there are huge gathering flocks, all flying in formation and making lots of noise as they go. A very impressive sight.  

Geese by the River Wyre
Geese the week before near Newbiggin

Day 189 Blackpool – The King of Seaside Resorts

Sunday 11 October 2015

Knott End-on-sea, Wyre to Warton, Fylde

16 miles

Great Birchwood Country Park

It had been a mild night and the morning got off to a good start when Jimmy and Lesley invited me into their caravan for tea and a croissant before I set off. I spent 40 minutes chatting to them before heading off to get the Wyre Rose Ferry.  

The Wyre Rose approaching Knott End
 Although divided by the River Wyre, there appears to be a strong connection between Knott End and Fleetwood, probably linked by their fishing history. 

L S Lowry’s Matchstick Man and his Dog – Lowry used to stand here and sketch the ferry
 The Victorian town of Fleetwood was finance by Sir Peter Hesketh in 1835 and the layout was well-designed for a seaside resort. Some of the buildings designed by the noted Victorian architect, Decimus Burton, still remain, as do the parks.  

The North Euston Hotel, Fleetwood

Marine Gardens by The Esplanade
 Reassuringly British resort names such as The Esplanade and Marine Gardens abound. The town has the air of a once-renowned resort.  

The Mount Pavilion
 Upon leaving Fleetwood the scenery changed. From here onwards I felt like I was walking my way through the British class system. Apart from Rossall School, which has rather a grand old building in the middle of a large estate, Rossall itself was very rundown. It reminded me of Jaywick, the Essex ‘benefits’ town. Cleveleys was not that much better; although the facade and design of the apartment blocks was steadily improving.  

Sea front housing, Cleverleys
 In contrast to the down-at-heel look of the accommodation, money had been spent on the Cleveleys sea front. The Tarmac was new, there were sculptures and weird-looking lampposts. It was a complete contrast to most of the houses and flats just across the street.  

The revamped promenade, Cleverleys
A shell sculpture in the sea
  A notice told me that £1.5M was being spent enhancing the sea front. This is in conjunction with £85M being spent on improving the sea defences at Rossall and Anchorsholme.  

Looking along the shingle beach to Blackpool Tower
 I had been following the promenade most of the way but was forced to leave the sea front just after passing the rather splendid coastguard lookout tower. There were local volunteers there watching birds and collecting litter, and the tower was open to the public. I didn’t bother going in because it was a dull day so not much was visible.  

The Coastguard lookout at Rossall Point
 The sea front was closed due to the work to improve the defences and I was forced onto the main road at Anchorsholme. I jumped on a tram to take me along the front to Blackpool Tower. The trams are very convenient and cover 11 miles of the coastline, from Fleetwood to the Southern tip of Blackpool.  

Random, colourful stuff along Blackpool front
 Blackpool; an assault on my senses even from the tram. It was teaming with people. To begin with every house on the front was either a guest house or a hotel. Then came the attractions – there was stuff to look at everywhere. I don’t even know what most of it was but it was all big and colourful and the people were loud.  

Slightly tacky?
 I alighted the tram at The Tower and made my way back a street to the shops (I needed to buy another map). There were street entertainers and sellers everywhere. I thought placing the 99p shop directly opposite the Pound shop was genius – I know which one my mother would shop at! This place is not short on things to see and do!  

Blackpool Tower
 I thought I might go up the Blackpool Tower, but at £35 for the privilege I decided not to. Instead I got back on the tram and headed to the terminus at Starr Gate.  

Central Pier (and the tram)
 Blackpool had made me smile. It is definitely the King of the seaside resorts.  

The Big One
 The tide was going out and from Blackpool to St Annes is a big sandy beach protected from the road behind by large dunes.  

Looking back at the famous landmarks
 It was nice to give my feet a rest from the concrete. Yet more people! This time they all had husky-type dogs with leads tied around their waists. There were also families out on the beach and I saw kids taking donkey rides.  

donkey rides on the beach
 St Annes looked more upmarket, although it does have a rather dilapidated-looking pier. The houses and flats were getting bigger and better-looking. The beach ended as I rounded the corner into the Ribble estuary and I walked along the road admiring the buildings. I walked past another large, rather posh-looking school and then came to Fairhaven Lake. Here there was a Spitfire MkVb mounted on a pole. It was a replica of Lytham St Anne’s Spitfire, bought by the town’s community when they raised £6,500 in 1940 to help the war effort.  

The replica Lytham St Anne’s Spitfire
 Lytham was the final, and looked to be the richest, town of the day.  

Bigger houses!
 The large, detached houses overlooked lovely grassy areas in front of the sea defences. It even had a beautiful windmill.   

Lytham has a green…
…and a windmill
 I walked along the edge of the River Ribble marshland to get to my campsite, just on the outskirts of Warton.  

Looking across the Ribble marshland to BAE Systems Warton
 This was possibly the worst campsite I’ve stayed at yet and, weirdly, really quite busy. I booked in at the saloon bar, which was a homage to all things Wild West (there was also a shop that sells Stetsons amongst other things but that was shut). Unfortunately it was populated by Neanderthals (I thought they were extinct but it seems they live on in this place). The presence of an outsider was clearly the cue for lewd comments. I pitched my tent behind some trees where it couldn’t be seen and hunkered down for the night. The shower block was filthy and the price I paid was a rip-off. I shan’t hurry back that’s for sure.  

Looking across the River Ribble to Merseyside (cows grazing on the marsh)