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Day 3 and still glorious sunshine.   John and I have rested well after our mud bath yesterday!  And the opening prayer for today starts “I will arise and step into the morning of today_____”   Very appropriate for John and me after the eventful end of yesterday!!   And the morning of today sees 8 of us set off from the ancient cathedral of St Asaph and within minutes we are at the parish church of St Kentigern   So Pilgrim stamps entered into our Pilgrim Passports we take the long road up to Cefn.   7 years ago this seemed an interminable slog but it seems to have got shorter!!   Maybe today that was due to the conversation along the way.   As ever we stop for our coffee break at the church of St Mary Cefn.   It’s cool inside this high Victorian church which is welcome as the temperature is rising steadily.   The flowers  along the way today are stunning.   Carpets of white garlic emitting a familiar pungent smell; purple orchids;  banks of violets and primroses and bluebells in abundance.   Nature was never so beautiful.   And the quiet only broken by the chatter of friends walking together, and birdsong.   It is hard to believe it is the Spring Bank Holiday Monday as we hardly see any other people.   Those that we do meet are residents of far flung cottages and farms who are happy to pass the time of day with us and even refill our water bottles……pilgrim hospitality we have come to expect and appreciate

There are now words to describe the beauty of the flowers today.   Simple old fashioned flowers of the countryside.   No wonder Jesus said we could not be compared to the lilies of the field!

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When we arrived at St Sannan a the end of today Robert and Jan who had walked the first two days with us were at the church with a welcome cup of tea!   Totally unexpected but most welcome!

North Wales Pilgrim’s Way 2018

Saturday 5th May and the start of our annual pilgrimage from Basingwerk Abbey to Bardsey Island.   A glorious day so welcome after a very long winter!   12 of us set off each one of us having walked all or part of this way over the past 8 years.   Our reading today was taken from Matthew 10 where Jesus tells his disciples to take nothing with them on their journeys.   Well we are only carrying day packs but we are certainly not without bags for our journey!!   As we walk there is much chatter as we catch up with each others stories.   And like all good friendships we pick up where we left off even though in some cases we may not have met each other since the first of these pilgrimages 8 years ago!

Some have experienced illnesses in that time, some bereavements, but all of us seem to be in very good spirits.

We took our time today enjoying stops for coffee and lunch and late afternoon at St Winifred’s in Llanassa.   As ever hospitality along the way, which for us is a feature of our pilgrimage.

The flowers along the way are just beautiful.   Primroses, bluebells, violets, forget me nots, kingcups and dandelions which look stunning in the bright sunshine!   And then there are the small purple orchids in abundance on the slopes of the Gop.

It was a long first day but so enjoyable. Continue reading North Wales Pilgrim’s Way 2018

Day 14 Bardsey

We wake up to glorious sunshine, but still a chill wind. The sea looks calm to our inexperienced eyes. The locals are not at all certain that we will get accross to Bardse today. But w set off accross the cliff top in hopeful mood. There are just 9 of us now. Fond farewells were said to Mike (and Barb) last nightand to Janet and Duncan this morning. The walk over the clifftops is delightful. Bluebells carpet the way, with the vividly purple orchids also in full display. As we round the headland to Porth Meudwy, we are delighted to see Colin the boatman taking on provisions for the island, making the boat ready. We are in luck!

But for the first time in 5 years we are required to wear life jackets, and Colin tells us he will take it easy, but we may be in for a rough ride. And so we are! The boat is tossed around but we feel perfectly safe in Colin’s care. He cuts the engine as we head into strong waves, and then he gently opens up again, and we are soon in the shelter of the slippway. He wants us back to the boat by 1.30pm as he says the weather is changing again.
We decide to hold our short service of arrival in the open facing the sea. We spend some time in silence listening to the sounds of the wind and the sea,the birds and the seals, as well as to the noise of the boat being emptied and reloaded…..all part of the island’s life.
We go then to explore, each of us in our own way. I decide not to climb to the summit of Mynydd Enlli this time, but to wander along some of the coves. But only after a coffee at the farm! Jo Porter who lives here with her husband Ben and their 2 children is off the island this week at a weavers course in Chichester. But there are plenty of her handmade baskets, felts and other thingd available in the little shop. I am taken with a boater she has made and buy it….hopefully to be worn in the garden at home on hot summer days! We also pick up the prayer basket she has been commissioned to make for St Buenos church at Clynnog Fawr, and we will drop that off on iur way home tomorrow.
As we enjoy our coffee we are kept entertained by Jo’s 2 dogs who play tug the ball with each other. They play until the small terrier is exhausted and refuses to play anymore!
John and I then wander down to the shore and along to the lighthouse to the furthest southernmost point. There are a couple of Shelducks preening themselves and I wonder if the ae the same pair that seem to have followed us up the coast from Morfa Nefyn. The sound of Oystercatchers rings in our ears, and there is the haunting sound of seals too.
All too soon it is time to return to the boat. We have to clamber over rocks that are covered with seaweed and therefore rather slippery, but we all manage very well. The sea is calm now and Colin is able to take us safely close to the shore so that we can see all the amazing birdlife. Razorbills and guillemots, fulmars and black backed gulls, shags and even a pair of choughs, and finally the puffins appear like flying clowns ready to amuse us.
Soon we are back at Porth Meudwy and the very end of our pilgrimage. We say farewell to Roger who has his campervan at the top of the hill. We savour the last moments walking accross the clifftop then down onto the beach and along to Aberdaron. We stop for tea and cake at the cafe…a buiding dating from 1300 that provide a kitchen for pilgrims en route to Bardsey all those years ago. More fond farewells as Peter and Chris depart with Karen and Ann goes off to her tent. Chris and Jenny and John and I have another night as we will be attending the Bardsey island trust AGM tomorrow, so we agree to meet for dinner later.
It’s been a great 2 weeks walking in every kind of weather. We have enjoyed the company and fellowship of all. I feel so privileged to be able to have this special time, and to have the good health that allows me to undertake this journey. The opportunity to experince, in this way, the wonderful landscape that is God’s creation is beyond belief.

Day 13 Tudweiliog to Aberdaron 13 miles

Our last breakfast at Gwenda’s great B & B. We have been well looked after for 3 nights. But now we are on our final day of walking . The weather doesn’t look too good,  so it’s waterproofs as we st off on the final 13 miles to Aberdaron. But before we set off Peter presides at an informal eucharist in celebration of Ascension Day in the church ay Tudweiliog.  It is a joyous and special time. Foil becomes the the patten and a thermos flask top the chalice!

And then 12 of us set off in light rain accross the fields to the coastal path. The views are wonderful in spite of the clouds and rain, and the flowers along the way are just beautiful.  We see vivid purple orchids rising through pale yellow primroses, and sea thrift and spring squill carpetting the clifftops.

The narrow cliff top path is muddy and slippery so we walk with great care. We descend into a sheltered cove and decide to have a coffee break. The pebbles in the cove are wonderfully coloured, pinks and purples and greys glistening from the rain, and wet from the sea. The smell of the see is all pervasive.

As we continue along the clifftops twe are aware of the persistent sound of oyster catchers. We look for seals to no avail, but 2 shelducks are spotted before they fly off.

The rain abates and we all dry off in the persistent breeze.Karen finds a sheltered spot for lunch and we relax and enjoy the seascape. We realise that we are not going to be at Whistling sands in time to meet Richard the vicar of Nefyn, or Aberdaron by 5pm.

The weather improves and there is no more rain as we continue over the headland. It’s a hard slog as the ground is soft and the grass long. Mike and Chris have a difference of opinion overvthe route, and so we continue over the headland. We eventually come to Whistling Sands, which is deserted save for a flock of dunlings at the water’s edge. A great disappointment to all as the cafe is not open so no cakes or ice cream or tea! We climb the slope to the car park and toilets which thankfully are open! And then Richard,  a parishioner from Denbigh appears! John and Chris take up his offer of a lift into Aberdaron.  The rest of us continue.  By now I am weary but determined! And finally after a few more muddy fields wecare on the descent into Aberdaron,  getting our first glimpse of Ynys Ennli. By the tme we reach the church wecere very tired. Susan Fogarty is thrre to greet us with tea and cake, which is ver welome, but we all need to get to our accommodation too, so we decide not to hold our short service of arrival, but to leave that till we get to Bardsey  (hopefully )tomorrow.

We meet up again at 7.30 in the Ship for dinner. Barb has come to join Mike and other friends join us too so we are 15. Alun our host is accommodating so we enjoy a very convivial evening.

Day 12 Nefyn to Tudweiliog

This is the first day I don’t pack the waterptoofs! The weather is looking good as 18 of us gather in Nefyn for the start of today’s walk. Richard Wood the vicar turns out to greet us but isn’t able to join us. 18 is a large number to gather together and Mike says it feels a bit like herding cats! But as we get into our stride along the coastal path all is well and we meander along taking in the wonderful seascape. The sky is blue and the breeze gently caresses as we walk in single file along the cliff tops. This is as perfect as it gets for me. The air s clear, the views stuñing and the fellowship of so many friends very, very special. We stop frequently just to savour and enjoy the views.

We stop in the cove before reaching the renowned Ty Coch beach pub, and deide it is the perfect place for our short service. We form a circle and take a moment to reflect on where we have come from and where we are heading. the sound of birds overhead, and the sound of the waves lapping the shore help us to focus on God’s amazing creation. Sand martins circle over the cliffs. And after our prayers Roger asks us to join hands and say the grace….a very special moment indeed.

We walk on to the renowned Ty Coch pub on the beach and enjoy coffee. Then Chris realises he has lost his wallett. He phones the shop in Nefyn where he thought he had last used it but it hasn’t been found, and so he cancels all his credit cards. Later he realised he had left it in the campervan!

The walk continues along the coastal path through Morfa Nefyn golf course, and there are many golfers out today who are very tolerant of us. we descend from the cliff top to the delightful litlle estuary where we spot a pair of shell ducks. This is our lunch spot and we spend a while here enjoyingthe peace and tranquility.

As ever on this years pilgrimage we are aware of te low flying jets that are a reminder that there are awful things happening in the world. I am always very aware of the privilege I have of living in a society where I am able to make choices, and can take time out to walk and wonder at aĺl that surrounds me. The world I live in is cocooned from so much.

We continue over the headlands, terns dive into the sea and the sound of oyster catchers rings in our ears. Seals are now spotted basking in the sea below, so we stop a while.

The flowers have been magnificent today, bluebells,  primroses,  spring squills and sea thrift..blues and yellows and pinks. And as ever the vibrant yellow of the gorse. The terrain is soft and springy underfoot.

Gwynedd council has undertaken a lot of work in improving the gates and steps along the way in the last 12 months, which we appreciate greatly. And soon we are nearing the end of today’s walk and to our joy the ice cream shop is open at the camp site at Towyn. We sit and enjoy!

Tonight there were 16 of us for dinner at the Lion. Great food, great company!

 

Day 11 Trefor to Nefyn

Lovely to wake up on the Lleyn and to enjoy a wonderful liesurely breakfast before setting off for today’s walk. It’s bright an sunny but with a fresh wind. We are 16 today. Anne has rejoined us with her husband Martibuffeted alongfriend Jane, Carol has also rejoined us as has Nick, and Roger has now come down in Molly his trusted campervan! So we have 3 campervans wending their way too!

The walk up and around the headland is delightful. Cormorants are nest building on the cliffs, and the sea is sparkling in the bright sunshine, and tossing white horses in the wind. It is indeed a great day to be alive to all of this.  We start the steeper ascent to cross the Rivals. Ìt doesn’t seem such a long pull up this year, but it is over 1000ft in one go. The climb up Snowdon a couple of weeks ago must have toughened me up! We enjoy our coffee with a wonderful seascape stretched out before us, and the mountains of Snowdonia in the distance.

5 of the group decide to take a longer route down to Nant Gwytheyrn but I decide my knees and hips would not appreciate the steep descent! So the rset of us take the more gentle route. The wind has changed and we are buffeted along. And then it eases again as we approach the wonderful old church at Pystyllch. Picnic time now while we wait for the other group to catch us up. Some of us settle on the wall by the small reservoir, listening to the running of the water. Some of the others preferred the more sheltered area of the graveyard. This is where Rupert Davies of Maigret fame is buried.  The church is as wwonderful as ever with the rushes on the floor, lit only by natural light through the small windows, and with the smell of lavender pervading the air from the bunches that have been tied to the small wooden pews.

Eventually we see the other group coming towards us and Karen and I set off the singing of the hymn “He who would valient be….” to welcome them!  Once everyone is settled we have our short service inside the church. The juxtaposition of silence and the words of the prayers seeming particularly in tune with our journey accross this beautiful landscape, where so many pilgrims have been before us.

And then it’s a gentle meander through fields and wooded lanes where the wild flowers are in abundance.  Blues and pinks and yellows and whites. We sit a while at a small nature reserve with a large pond that is teeming with water snails and various other small creatures, and surrounded by large gunnera.  I t is a delightful spot but also seems somewhat incongruous.

It’s now only a short walk ino Nefy, and the usual discussion about transport arrangements for tomorrow!

Mike and John and karen and I return to our b&b to enjoy a cup of tea in the garden, savuring the view in the late afternoon sunshine.

Day 10 Penygroes to Trefor

An early start from home. John and Karen and I set off to pick up Mike from Abergele. We are now staying away for the duration. This is the stage of the pilgrimage where I really do feel that I am in that special place that is between heaven and earth. The landscape is different, with the sea never far away. There are 11of us today, including Lloyd the vicar of Clynog Fawr. It is Lloyd who directs us to the picture framers to get our passport stamps….apparently we are the first group to get the stamp!

The walk over the fields is delightful. Wild flowers abound and although there is a strong wind we have no rain.  Our first stop is over the little metal bridge beside the fast flowing river. Apparently this is on of Roger’s favorite spots, and he savours the moment,  and then rings Meg and describes it to her..so she too is with us in spirit.

We arrive at the huge and ancient church of St Bueno at Clynog Fawr where we enjoy our lunch out of the wind. This ancient church is almost austere, but there is an incredibly strong  feeling of “presence”. Prayers have been said here for hundreds of years, and that prayerful presence is almost palpable. We hold our short service here before moving on.

There is a discussion as to whether we should attempt to take the beach route to Trefor as high tide is due at 3pm. On balance we decide it will be OK. So after a brief climb through the woods we take the lane down to the beach. It is looking wonderful with high waves lashing the shore, and it seems as though the tide has turned. We walk a good way along the beach until we can go no further.  We decide to sit a while and wait for the sea to recede so that we can continue.  But then we realise that the tide is in fact still coming in, so we walk back to find a footpth back up to the road. This turns out to be more difficult than expected and Duncan’s secateurs are required to cut a way through the brambles! And inquisitive and frisky horses also make for a hurried manoeuvre over a very rickety stile!

But we have had a great time of cameraderie and fun, if a little exhausting!

Tonight 10 of us are staying locally and so we enjoy good food and drink and company ready to set off again tomorrow

Day 9 Llanberis to Penygroes 13 miles in wild wild winds!

And then the wind abates as we head down a new route

8 of us set off from Llanberis in typical Llanberis weather! Wind and rain. The route has been changed and is more pleasant despite the mud underfoot. We reach the  top of the first hill relatively easily, but then the wind sets in and it seems to be a battle against it for the rest of the day. We manage to find a sheltered spot for a coffee break that stands us in good stead for the next stage. And then we head out into the wind. We make it in good time to the little staion of  Waenfawr where Chris is there to meet us in his campervan. We all settle into the shelter of the staion for our lunch, and Roger nods off nicely for forty winks! Anne has decided that she will leave us at this stage to find a campsite for the night and the possibility of a slightly less uphill route. Before we set off once more Anne leads us in our short service.

The wind is now really wild as we head up the hill. Mike and I recall the time last year in this place where we lost John!  And Roger and I reflect on the encounters of pilgrimage. Encounters with people, like Anne, who fall in with us and become part of our family. People who we may continue to be part of our lives, or who are just transient in our lives.

As we cross the moorland we battle against the rain and wind. It really is hard work and I am tired, and not sure I can stay upright!  I reflect that this walk is like a metaphor for life.We have a goal, but we have to keep our heads down to focus. And if we lose our concentration we are likely to loose our footing and fall. Such is life   As I tread carefully over the boulders on the wet boggy path, I reflect that we encounter obstacles in our way through life, but if we are careful we can negotiate them and come through.

We catch a glimpse of the Rivals shrouded beneath the clouds. We will be crossing them in a couple of days!  Gthe landscape is scarred from quarrying and is dramatic in the gathering clouds. And the wind continues. A force 8 Ian reckons. We pause at “the rock” for some respite, and Jenny produces the most delicious crunchy choccy biscuits and we are revived!

I think about Anne pitching a  tent somewhere in this wind…a true pilgrim!

And then the wind abates as we descend slowly to Pennygroes. This a differnt and more pleasant routethan previos years. We encounter a couple of young boys out rabbitting with a ferret a Jack Russell and lurcher. They have bagged 3 rabbits.

We finally reach the car park and the end of another, if tiring, great day of walking. By the time I reach home Karen has arrived and she will join us once more for the final days of this journey. It is good to catch up with all her news since last year, and there is a lot to tell!