May 2014.

I've bought a campervan as a 60th birthday present to myself, made some curtains and a patchwork quilt, waved goodbye to my family, and set off. My aim is to explore the coastline of Britain, anti clockwise, starting in Kent. I have no idea what will happen.

Friday, 12 September 2014

The west Wales coast

Lots of houses in Wales are painted pretty colours, perhaps to counteract grey rainy skies (though I have sunshine in Wales for all but two days) and ward off depression, or maybe just because it looks nice. From buzzing Llandudno on the north coast with its pretty seafront, hotels and boarding houses to Anglesey (I didn't notice so many pretty coloured houses in Rhyl) and all the way down the coast, there are pastel-pretty houses, in pinks, blues, and pistachio – and occasionally a stand-out deep purple or burgundy one, or red hot terracotta. It usually looks great – though I don't think eau de nil works well against a Welsh sky.
The view from Harlech Castle
Harlech wasn't so noticeable for its painted walls, but for its Castle, built by Edward I in 13thC, which sits on a low hill looking down on some very ordinary houses around its feet. It looks the other way to Snowdonia and across the sea over an incredible sandy beach – a beach which continues pretty much all the way down to Barmouth 10 miles away.
On the way flat, reclaimed farmland stretches from the road to grassy sanddunes and the sea, and in places the stubble fields appear to drop straight into the sea. Silver-grey dry stone walls enclose small paddocks for sheep and cattle, and on the land side, high, granitey hills slope sharply down to the road.
This stretch of coast felt totally foreign to me. I am not quite sure why (Portmeirion and Aberystwyth are only 60 miles apart) perhaps because it's on the far side of those stunning mountains. It isn't bleak, it just feels a long way from anywhere!
... it also looks out this way!
Barmouth looks a tiny place on my map, but it isn't. It's a town of some stature, with tall Victorian guesthouses edging the road, with steep steps up to the doors. There's a bridge on my map which crosses the mouth of the river and I suspected it was a no-car bridge. I was right. I had to drive up the north side of the Mawddach estuary to Dolgellau and then, as it was getting late, I chose the A487 down to Machynlieth. This covers the southernmost part of the Snowdonia National Park and cuts through narrow passes that felt like Scotland with sheep grazing on grassy slopes under purple/blue smokey mountains above.
I stayed a night by the sea wall at Borth, looking along its long seafront lined with houses painted in more punchy colours. The sky was heavy and grey when I woke and walked down the beach towards the town centre. Men were working on new coastal defences... colossal chunks of rock (5+ tons a piece, they were marked) were being bedded into the beach. The work they did here last year protected the south end of Borth's seafront last winter, so they're continuing up the beach.
Rain imminent at Borth
The rain was bucketing down in Aberystwyth. I drove to the waterfront to see the old university building (sand/brown, no pastels here) and the curve of houses round the bay in washed out pale watercolours. I had been told that Constitution Hill had the best views, but it was just too wet, so I drove up Bridge Street, wipers on fast. I stopped by a shop window full of wonderful cheeses, and bought a bit of Welsh cheese, though most were Spanish with excellent hams, etc.
Aberaeron, further south, wins the prize for the prettiest coloured houses! They were on a hill overlooking the bay on the way south which Baa struggled to climb, so I couldn't stop. Now I am told there is a square there supposedly designed by John Nash – he did a lot of work round here. I should have stopped!

No comments: