Tudweiliog to Aberdaron

 

Our final day of walking and yet another gloriously sunny day.   18 of us set off the, greatest number of this year’s pilgrimage.   As we reach the coast we can look back to the Rivals that we crossed two days ago, and below us the sea glistens.

The prayers for today included

you are the calm of the sea………In that Peace I rest

You are the waves on the shore….Their sound is my hymn

You are the sea breaking on the rock…I praise you with the swell

You are the ocean that laps my being….In you I dwell

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And the sound of the sea has a timeless quality.   I am also reminded of the words of a song by Nina and Frederik in the 60s

Listen to the ocean, echoes of a million seashells for ever it’s in motion moving to a rhythmic and unwritten music that’s played eternally

There are so many of us today and the path climbs and descends the cliffs with great regularity.    We become very strung out as each walks and climbs at their own pace in the warmth of the day.   We all gather for coffee enjoying the views from a grassy clifftop20180517_122033

The flowers today are so beautiful.  Pale pink Sea thrift, yellow primroses, purple orchids, blue spring squill, nature was never so splendid.   And alongside this tapestry of colour, sheep graze on the cliff edge reminding me of a scene from Far from the Madding Crowd.

On we go, a long trail of pilgrims straddling the paths that will eventually bring us to Aberdaron which was the last rest stop for pilgrims heading to Bardsey (Ynys Enlli)   the island of 20,000 saints.   Four of the hardier walkers in the group split off to walk round the headland which has some rather precarious places to pass, the rest of us continue on a less arduous route to our next rest stop at Porthor, (Whistling Sands).   We walk along the wide beach.   There are footprints in the sand, some of boots, some barefoot, some very large and some tiny ones.   They will only last for as long is the tide is out and will then be washed away.   Leaving no footprints, a very evocative thought as we fight the battle of polluting our environment.   And so to the café at the far end of the beach to relax in the sun and enjoy ice creams, scones, tea and so on.   20180517_160854

We can see the hardy four approaching us so we decide to play a trick on them and shut the café doors (with the permission of the owner) and put the “CLOSED” sign up, and for a moment we had them!!

The final stretch always takes longer than we imagine.   We climb up from the beach and cross field after field until at last we are on the homeward stretch along the muddy banks of the river and into Aberdaron.   It is 6.45pm by the time we have all arrived all very hot and weary but so happy to have made it!   We gather for our prayers of arrival at St Hywyns that dates from the 12th century.

Drawn as we may be by Enlli, and Lindisfarne, by Iona and Durham, by Cnaterbury and Jerusalem, by Santiago and Rome, let us take courage from our ancestors of faith, but let us now seek to make holy the places where we live, and to be made holy ourselves, by the God who goes before us.

We are modern day pilgrims who have been drawn for many different reasons to make our pilgrimage, but I hope that each one of us has been refreshed and renewed

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Penultimate day. Nefyn to Tudweiliog

Today we catch to local bus from Tudweiliog to Nefyn the start of todays walk. The bus fills up quickly with a combination of walkers and locals. All the locals seem to know each other and there is much conversation in Welsh. There is a lovely friendly atmosphere and a buzz about the bus! I’m sure Alan Bennett could have written a wonderful “Talking Head”!

There are 15 of us and we start the day with prayers in the church. Richard welcomes us and remembers as he does each year that Mike likes Hobnobs and Chocolate Digestives so presents him with a packet of each for us to share during the day. Richards blessing to us is lovely…May your feet be blessed to carry you, your hands to help each other, your eyes to see God’s wonderful creation, and your lips to speak kindly”

And so we set off once more. Today is significantly cooler than of late with a sharp wind that is stirring up the sea. As we look back towards the Rivals we can see the achievement of yesterday!

The cliff top walk is lovely, if blowy and once again we are treated to an azure blue sky, but this is short lived today. Unfortunately the tide is in so we are unable to walk along the beach so have to climb up onto the cliffs again and take the “high road” in order to reach our mid morning break at Ty Coch the delightful pub on the beach.

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Onwards over the cliffs again and Morfa Nefyn golf course. Not many golfers out today in the wind. As we climb down once more the cliff sides are adorned with sea thrift on the windward side flourishing in the sea spray, and primroses on the lea side flourishing in the more sheltered environment.

By mid afternoon on the homeward stretch, we encounter a sheep and her rather large lamb stuck in a gulley between hedges. The sheep is clearly exhausted and has given up trying to dislodge herself but rescue is at hand! Amongst our group are experienced farmers and shepherds! So lamb is lifted out relatively easily, but then has to be kept restrained as it clearly wants to get back to its mother! She is eventually hauled out with great effort, the two are reunited and head off to join the rest of the flock.

The final stretch passes without incident. One more day of walking to look forward to!20180516_140958.jpg

Trefor to Nefyn

Today we are joined by my dear friends Billy and John.   Billy and I were student nurses together way back when!   They have driven all the way from Devon to join us for the last three days of this years pilgrimage.   The weather is yet again kind as we climb up over the cliffs from Trefor.   Welsh Blacks graze precariously on the slopes and sea thrift adorns the cliffs.   Clouds hang low in the stillness making the views atmospheric and mysterious.20180515_094002-11860493394.jpg20180515_1100531377767627.jpg

The climb to the bwlch never gets any easier for me!   The group becomes more spread out each going at their own pace and by the time John and I reach the top the rest of the group are well into their coffee break!   The coffee revives and we are then on the downhill stretch able to enjoy the views without puffing and panting!   Again the silence is extraordinary, broken only by our chatter and the occasional high flying jet.

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We walk on steadily through pastures where frisky and inquisitive young bullocks come to see us.   I don’t know what it is about the grass in this field, but each year in the same field the bullocks are extremely frisky!! 20180515_130923

We arrive at the ancient church of St Bueno at Pystyllch.   This is the “space” that Bueno retreated to away from the business of the very busy monastic church at Clynog Fawr.   And it is still wonderfully tranquil tucked between the hills.   We enjoy our lunch sitting on the warm stone slabs in blissful spring sunshine.   Rupert Davies of Maigret fame is buried here which seems slightly incongruous! After lunch we gather in the church for our daily prayers.   The floor is strewn with grasses as it has been for hundreds of years and the only light is partial through the small windows or by candles.  Monthly services are still held here and I promise myself I will return to attend one of these services this year.

The walk down into Nefyn is pleasantly gentle.   The flowers, the birdsong and the views make for a perfect afternoon’s walk.   We arrive at a favourite stopping place where a picnic table is set amidst enormous gunnera around a large pond.   As we sit enjoying the moment someone spots a very long grass snake swimming along the edges of the pond.   It is fascinating to watch it glide swiftly through the water and reeds.

In the evening 14 of us eat together at the Lion in Tudweiliog.   A perfect end to a perfect day

Trefor to Nefyn

Today we are joined by my dear friends Billy and John. Billy and I were student nurses together way back when!! They have driven all the way from Devon to join us for the last three days of this year’s pilgrimage.

Once again the weather is kind even though overcast as we climb over the cliffs above Trefor

It is so still the sea is like a mill pond. Welsh black cattle graze precariously on the slopes and sea thrift adorns the cliffs. It is difficult to see where the sea ends and the sky begins.

We then start the climb to the bwlch. It’s a hard slog for me but I know that stunning views await. And because the clouds remain low in the still air it is very atmospheric

A coffee revives and

Penygroes to Trefor

11 of us again today, but not the same 11.   As ever there is the ebb and flow of people joining for days here and there.   And as we walk there is the ebb and flow of conversations as we walk alongside each other, sometimes walking at a brisk pace and sometimes taking it more slowly, but always having regard for each others abilities and needs.   We have had the Rivals in sight for a few days now, but today as we walk towards them we know that the climb faces us tomorrow!

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We are again blessed with wonderful weather and the fields are lush and green against a vibrantly blue sky interspersed with cotton wool clouds.   Today we are again walking beside flower laden hedgerows where there is always time to stop and enjoy their natural beauty

 

Our lunch stop is the ancient church of St Bueno at Clynog Fawr.   St Bueno founded a “Clas” (a cross between a college and monastery, and a peculiarly celtic institution), and this became a very important ecclesiastical centre.   The church was significantly enlarged in the 15th and 16th Centuries and now seems incongruous in the small village.

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We hold our short prayer service today in the chancel.   The fact that prayers have been said in this place for centuries is palpable.  We leave, passing the 10th century sundial,  stopping by St Bueno’s well where in medieval times children who suffered the “dropping disease” (probably epilepsy) were immersed in the icy water as a cure.

By mid afternoon we reach the coast and the tide is out so we are able to walk along the beach.   It is empty and beautiful.   I have always loved walking on beaches and remember as a small child being in my own world on beach walks.   There is something about the meeting of sky and sea, the vast expanse of open air that is not tangible.   And underfoot the crunch of small pebbles under heavy walking boots.   The wet sand sparkles in the late afternoon sun and the pebbles are almost jewel like.   And ahead the Rivals call us

Llanberis to Penygroes

After two days of shaking off an acute attack of vertigo I’m back on track!   I was so sorry to miss the last two days but thankful to be able to walk today.   As we drive to Llanberis we listen to the Sunday service on Radio 4. It is from the garrison church in Windsor and the sermon is on marriage, appropriately just a week before the Royal wedding.   The preacher talks about marriage and I reflect on the fact that we have been married for just over 50 years.   Quite an achievement!!

11 of us set off from Llanberis in the most wonderful sunshine.   For the first time in the seven years we have been doing this pilgrimage we leave Llanberis in sunshine rather than rain!   And this continues all day giving us wonderful views that on previous years have been hidden by the mists and rain.

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As we climb we notice a man practising shooting targets.   However he seems to be in a rather odd situation close to various footpaths and his rifle is not the usual type of gun to be seen in the countryside.   So Catherine decides he should be reported.   She takes photographs of his van as well as of him and his gun.   The police take it all very seriously and come out and check his gun license and that he has had permission from the farmer to practice there.   The police do advise him however that it is not the ideal place for target practice!! It had never occurred to me to challenge what he was doing, but I live in a backwater and the awful reality of what is happening in many areas of our country and the wider world never really impinges.   Catherine was of course right to challenge and that gave me pause for thought.

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Our prayers today included “I reach for the unknown mountain, to the summit where God speaks, and on the boundary of earth and heaven, the frontier of time and eternity, the place of a special revealing, marked by the stones of a cairn.   As I ponder the codes of my dreaming, I am surprised by the mystery of God”   And in this incredible place that is liminal and timeless the mystery of God is awesome.

There is a steep climb involving some difficult stiles (for us oldies) but it is worth it for our lunch stop.   Derfyl says it’s rather a long way from Llanbesris for a picnic!   20180513_132604

The afternoon is a more gentle walk on to Penygroes across moorland where a cuckoo call constantly from afar keeping well out of sight.   Slate has been quarried here in the Dyffryn Nantlle area for centuries and we walk through slate spoils passing by the flooded Dorothea Quarry20180513_145733

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We finally hit the last stretch along the canalised riverside stretch to Penygroes a glorious end to a day full of sunshine

DAY 6 Ascension Day

20180510_160653Well what better place to celebrate Ascension Day than high on the hillside.   12 of us leave Rowen to climb up to the ancient church of St Celynnin beneath the crags of Cerrig-y-ddinas.   It is a gloriously sunny day as we climb up through the woods and the old coffin path to the church.

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Stuart (reluctantordinand) has joined us today and so has “st Katy”.   As we climb up to the church the bell is ringing to welcome us.   A crystal clear sound ringing in a crystal clear day.   We are also welcomed by parishioners who arrive with biscuits and flasks of tea and coffee.   Quite amazing!   And even more amazing for a party of 4 walkers who just happen to arrive at the same time! 20180510_111346

Stuart leads a short service for Ascension Day.   What sticks in my mind is the closing prayer ” As our eyes are drawn upwards for ascension, watching the drift of far off clouds disperse rising to heights we cannot attain with expectant dreams of far off lands.   How far will our next step take us as the earth rises up to meet our foot fall we are once again connected.   And of coming back down? Look not the skies but all around.” 

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Look not the skies but all around……….we do not need to look to the skies for heaven but to work towards heaven on earth

As we walk on towards our lunch stop we cross a bridge over a stream and a few of us stop and consider crossing places.  What are the crossing places in our lives?  There are the obvious ones like childhood to adolescence to adulthood.   But there are many many more.   And the crossings may not always be separated

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The tracks we follow are predominantly ancient and there is something very humbling in knowing that people have walked these ways for centuries.   Many of the tacks across the fields are sheep tracks and the Welsh word Cynefyn means habitat, or sense of place.   The sheep have an inbred sense of habitat and place and we are trespassing over a territory that has been inhabited by sheep and shepherds for centuries.

As we walk past a stone circle we are reminded that prayer and worship have always been a part of being  human 20180510_141236.jpg

We delight in the sight of the Carneddau ponies and their foals.   These ponies are unique to Snowdonia and essential to the grazing on the mountains.

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And finally after 14 miles in glorious sunshine we arrive at Abergwyngregin ready to start all over again tomorrow!

day 5 2018

the reading for today is from Isiaiah “For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; and the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees shall clap their hands…….”   And it is joyous to be walking in this glorious countryside, where spring is bursting forth and the flowers and trees are fresh and vibrant in their colours.

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10 0f us set out joyously from the ancient church of St Digains Llangernwy where the oldest yew tree in Wales stands proudly “clapping it’s hands”!   50% of the group today is Welsh speaking so there is a great “babble” of chatter along the way.   The gorse is a vibrant yellow and to be seen everywhere today, and the smell reminds me of coconut.

This year the walk for me is especially poignant.   Walking is one of the few things that John and I can now enjoy together that gives us both enjoyment and respite.   For John who has dementia, that means he is just happy to walk alongside friends with no pressure.   For me it is time and space for reflection

“for harmony restored through your Spirit moving upon the turbulent water of our lives–We give you thanks O God”

The wind gathers as we go higher but at least it blows the rain clouds away and we have another dry, if chilly, day.   We descend down to Eglwysbach and the church of St Martin’s where as ever we receive the most wonderful hospitality and Bakewell tart that cannot be bettered in Bakewell itself!

As we cross the fields towards Rowen we are joined by a lamb!20180509_154323 (1).jpg

And so on to Rowen.   We have had another great day of friendship, laughter and spectacular scenery

Day 4 Llansannan to Llangernwy

Well the heat wave seems to be over and we are back to normal May temperatures.  As we arrive at the church of St Sannan we are welcomed by the bell being tolled by our wonderful friend, and church warden “saint” Katy.   We are joined today by Mike from East London.   He has heard about the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way through Sally Welsh the author of Pilgrim’s Journeys, and Mike attended a  a talk she gave at St Paul’s cathedral on the topic.   So nine of us set off on probably the hardest day of the pilgrimage.   It states in the guide it is 14 miles but my fitbit thought it more like 16.8 and it felt like that too!!   Lots of ups and downs too.   The walk through the woods is delightful with bluebells in abundance and the sound of the river below.   Our coffee break is at “st” Katy’s who then joins us for the rest of the day walking as ever in her wellies!   Katy has Pilgrim pods on her land and Christine had stayed there on the second night.

 

It is a very long day and by the time we stop for our lunch in Gwytherin I am concerned that John is very tired.   Pat and Nick who are not able to walk with us this year have however turned up at Gwytherin to greet us.   Mike decides he will take up their offer to drive him back to his car and I wonder whether I should ask them to take John back home too.    However it is amazing what a picnic and rest can do and so John gets a second wind and manages to the end.   I never cease to be amazed by his stoic acceptance of his dementia and his physical strength to carry on.   We are so fortunate to be able to walk with such good friends who understand and are true companions on the way.   Storm clouds gather as we enjoy our picnic in the bus shelter and there is a heavy shower.    But by the time we are ready to set off again the rain has stopped, the wind ceases and the sun tries to shine through.   The pull out of Gwytherin is arduous and I know there is yet another pull to come out of Pandy Tudor, but it is achieved!!   I remember being on a walking holiday in Tenerife many years ago walking on Mt Teide and there was  a husband and wife in their 70s and I so admired them and thought ” gosh I hope I can do that at their age”   And so here we are still managing it!! We are indeed blessed.   By the time we come down through the woods to Llangernwy it is a glorious evening, the sunlight dappling our way.