Day 4 Llansannan to Llangernyw 13.5 miles

A day of wonderful hospitality, wild winds, occassional downpours, and lots of laughter!

We enjouyed wonderful hospitality at the church in Llansannan before we set off.  5 of the congregation joined us for our short service and then provided us with refreshments to set us on our way. St Katy is one of the churwardens and she was there and so invited us to have our next coffee break at her farm which is on the route. 8 of us today. The weather looks uncertain but we set off with no rain. The walk along the river is so pretty and the river is in full spate after the recent downpours.  At the mill the river rushes throuh and the sound is tremendous. We all stop to take photos etc and then Rosemary who had Made us cofee at the church appears. She and Richard the church warden live in the house beyond the mill in the most idyllic setting. They are so kind and invite us to use their facilities beofre we set off again. Last year we named the year of the bluebell, this year i think it mumust surely be the year of the primrose. These pale delicate looking  flowers abound everywhere.  But they must be hardy as they appear in every nook and cranny along the way.  We are steadily climbing up through the woods and fields now and the wind is getting up. It seems a long slog! But we are rewarded at the top as StKaty is ready for us with tea and biscuits in her wonderfully warm kitchen. She invites Ann to stay tonight, which we urge her to accept for although Ann says she feels she is cheating if she doesn’t camp, we argue that hospitality is at the heart of true pilgrimage!   She doesn’t need much convincing!   Nick will bring her back tonight.  Suitably refreshed we set off over the moors, passing the carved Pilgrim sitting on a bench, and surely Roger must have been the model for this!   By the time we are on the open moorland the wind has picked up to a force 7 or 8 and it’s  a struggle to stay upright, let alone walk on! But as yet no rain!  Ian and I se a large animal run at great speed through the grass but cannot identify it. Is it a large feral cat….or maybe a wild cat?

We find a sheltered spot by the river for our lunch. Swirling eddies of brackish water create cascades over rocks, and primroses cling to the riverbank.  No restuarant ever had a finer view!

We now enjoy a downhill walk into the village of Gwytherin. But then it’s another up hill slog through delightful woodland till we hit the open fields once more, and the wind!    There are lambs everywhere who run to their mothers as soon as we appear!

Everyone is in good form and the banter and laughter is great. We have a brief rest in Pandy Tudor and Roger goes into the telephone box to use his mobile phone!  There is method in his madness as there is clearly no wind inside the red box! Mike tells him that he doesn’t get the BT rate!

And so on the homeward stretch. More uphill so it’s into 4th gear…..head down and go for it!  By this time the rain comes down and I’m very wet….should have listened to Ian and put on my waterproof trousers! The downhill stretch through the woods at Hafodonis is delightful with the river rushing below us in foaming swirls. At the end of the trach there is another carved pilgrim, and this time we think Nick must have been the model!

And so we arrive at the end of this day. I am physically tired, but mentally very refreshed

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Day 3 St Asaph to Llansannan 10.5 miles

It’s a glorious sunny start to the day. The campervan is still with us! And so Chris and I take our repsective vehicles to the end of todays walk and then as ever get ferried back to the start by the ever faithful Bob. We meet up with the rest of the group,, in the cathedral. Ian and Helen are also there but can’t  join us as they need to be back home by 5pm and we can’t gaurantee that, so they set off on their own walk after our short service. Duncan and Janet also n us for the service butwon’t be walking with us until Friday. So 11 of us set off, including Steve who has walked with us a couple of years ago. Todays walk involves a lot of road walking as we cannot have access to the Cefn Estate.i don’t  like road walking so set off at a good pace to get it over and done with! And the others follow suit!

We reach the little church at Cefn and have our coffee break, enjoying the peace and wonderful views. Suddenly a lady appears walking towards us and it’s  Barb, Mike’s wife who has brought a couple of friends from New Zealand to see these crazy walkers….Barb doesn’t walk! But she also brings us choccies which keep us going through the day!

Thankfully we ar now soon off the road, but not without it’s difficulties. There are many fallen trees as we climb up through the woods of the part of the Cefn Estate we are able to access. It’s muddy too.   We wish we had Duncan with us who normally carries a small saw, so we try to pull and push the branches out of our path. I manage to slide unceremoniously off a branch that i am trying to negotiate and fall flat in the mud…not a pretty sight! But no harm done except to my pride!

Nick is still checking the route directions and today they are not good. He is doing this without a map to really test it out and fevisions to the website will have to be made. We meet a couple who are also doing a stretch of the pilgrimage so it’s good to find that the path is becoming an established route.

Our lunch break is by the roadside but with great views. We are warned by a lady that cows are about to be brouht through but we are going in the other dirso not a problem. She is however amased that we are walking so far, and eve  more amased to learn that Ann has already walked from Abergavenny.  She is clearly a farmer’s wife and a country lover, but walking isn’t a feature of her life. No time I am sure. And I think how lucky I am to have both the time and the health to do this walk

The rest of our day is over undulating land with the mountains ahead of us and the Clwydian hills behind us. The smell of wild garlic wafts up as we walk through the woods and the birdsong is constant and joyful.  Normally on this part of the walk Sally the vicar of Llansannan walks out to meet us with her dog, but she is currently in Cornwall. We stop for a break by the river and Roger says how much he enjoys seeing the peaty colour of the water compared to the rivers that are milky coloured following snow melt.  The final stretch of today is along broad tree lined tracks. Last year the bluebells were well advanced and glorious, they are later this year so not as spectacular.

We reach Llansannan and go into the church to get our passports stamped and are surprised to see a strange looking person sitting in the pews….it’s  a model of a pilgrim! They are taking the theme of pilgrimage very seriously here!

And so another day of lovely walking in good company and wonderful surroundings. Sadly Chris has hurt his ankle today so he and Jenny will be taking a couple of days out. Think we might be quite a small group tomorrow…a hard day with a bad weather forecast.

Day 2 Trelawnyd to St Asaph

Looks like it’s going to be another wet day when we get up at 7am. So on go the wet weather clothes once more! We meet at the church in Trelawnyd where Sheila greets us and opens up for us to get our passports stamped and where Chris leads us in prayer before we set off. John is with me today and Carol who has walked with us before joins us, as do Helen and Ian and Sheila as well as Ann who joined us yesterday. Ann who is camping found that her chosen campsite was full last night but was made welcome by a family from the village who were also putting on a concert in the village hall. Apparently she had a whale of a time! Hospitality has always been at the heart of pilgrimage and so it continues in different ways today.  So11 oF us set off. It is no longer raining we are delighted to note.   Our intrepid leader Mike is not with us today so Nick takes over the helm and leads us on. The weather improves step by muddy step, and indeed we do pass through some mud following the downpours of yesterday!

As we cross the A55 we see the fields full of daffodils which look wonderful and are now a familiar sight. They are apparently grown for medicinal or research  purposes. The fields where we have our coffee and lunch breaks are bordered by vibrantly yellow gorse which is stunning against the now bright blue sky. It really doesn’t get much better than this!

We are aiming to be at the cathderal in St Asaph for evening prayer, so reluctantly don’t stop at the Salisbury Arms in Tremeirchion butcontinue on, having first stamped our passports once more. We arrive at the cathedral to be welcomed by Nigel the Dean with freshly brewed coffee and tea and cake. So again this wonderful hospitality that we experience along the Way. Ann has not been able to find a campsite nearby so Barbara offers her a room. And Chris brings his campervan to our home. Jenny is joining him tonight and bringing spag bol so we shall have a fine evening too. I’ve warned our neighbours that we don’t have gypsies camping, just pilgrims!

What will tomorrow hold?

Day 1 2015 North Wales Pilgrimage

Well the weather is not kind to us as we set off on this year’s pilgrimage. We are a small group this year. Chris and Jenny, Nick and Pat and Barbara, Mary, Roger, and our intrepid leader Mike. So different from the huge crowd we had for our first pilgrimage 4 years ago. But it is good to be with these friends who have all contributed so much to making all of this happen. Nick is in charge of checking the directions we have posted on the website, and of course he finds they are not totally accurate and will need updating. No better man for the job than Nick with his keen attention to detail. Nick is also know affectionately as Nickopedia as he seems to know a lot about so many different things!  This is the perfect time of year for seeing the hedgerows at their best, and the rain seems to make the colours of the flowers even more vibrant. Wood anemones, primroses,  cowslips, violets, bluebells adorn the way for us. We start off at liesurely pace, stopping briefly at St Winifreds Well where Frank is waiting to join us, but here Pat leaves us.   This is the way of our pilgrimage, people step in and out and we accommodate each other.   We stop at Pantasaph for coffee bemoaning the fact that the cafe is not open as it is being refurbished, and we settle on wet benches in the rain. But then Brother Martin appears and invites us inside to a warm but as yet unfinished cafe. He proudly shows us all his plans and the murals he has painted that will make this newly refurbished cafe really lovely. It is due to be finished in about 6 weeks and we promise to return to savour the home made goodies that are promised.  Jenny leaves us here and we carry on in the rain deciding not to climb up to the top of Gop Hill where there is no shelter, and because of the rain no view either….and we have all been there many times before! So we find shelter in the trees below and have our lunch. Frank leaves us at this point, and so we are just 7 now. Mike picks up a text from his wife to let us know that Prince William has a new baby daughter! The book is open as to her name! By the time we reach Llanassa we are running quite late and Helen and Ian have been waiting for us warm and cosy in the pub! They have met another pilgrim, Ann who has walked from Abergavenny and is also heading for Bardsey. She is totally self sufficient carrying her tent and all she needs with her. So I recall the reading we had this morning from Matthew 5 ……..take no bag for your journey…..!!! So we have 3 more with us on the final leg of today’s journey into Trelawnyd. We are wet and tired but on our way! Chris will be in his campervan tonight, and Ann in her tent, but I shall be in my own warm bed!  And tomorrow we start all over again

North Wales Pilgrimage Day 1 Holywell to Trelawnyd

Just 9 of us set off this year from Basingwerk Abbey. Mike our intrepid leader is with us, and Chris and Jenny who were the inspiration for the route to Bardsey in the footseps of the medieval pilgrims.   Roger is also with us, and Mary, Barbara, Pat and Nick.  The stamp for the Pilgrim’s  passport is held in the shop that is not yet open, but  staff appear and kindly open up for us so we all get pur passports stamped.  Next stop St Winifreds Well. No visitors there at all, but again we are able to get our passports stamped.   Frank is waiting here to join us on todays leg of the journey.  So now we are 10, only Pat leaves us to do her own circular walk and so we are once again 9! Weather forecast not good but not yet raining. Our start has been liesurely but now we head off in earnest.   The rain starts, but is jot torrential and it has the effect of making the hedgerows alive with the fresh colours of spring. Wood anemones, bluebells, primroses abound. Nick is checking the written directions that have been posted on the website and of course they are not as accurate as they might be! The attention to detail is important if this route is to be accessible and successful and Nick is just the man for the job!   By the time we reach Pantasaph it’s raining heavily as we settle on wet benches for a coffee break. And suddenly we are beckoned into the cafe that is being refurbished so that we can be warm and dry, such is the hospitality that we find on our pilgrimage each year. Brother Martin is in charge of the refurbishment and proudly shows us his plans. It really is going to be very good ad we promise we will return when it opens in about 6 weeks. Jenny leaves us at this stage and so we are 8! The rain now continues for the rest of the day. At Llanassa Ian and Helen are waiting for us….we are way overdue! But they have met Ann in the church who has walked from Abergavenny and is heading for Bardsey. She is carrying her tent etc and is quite self sufficient! So the reading we had at the start of the day just isn’t correct when it says …..take no bag for your journey (Matthew 5) The end of our first day is nearing and we soon at Trelawnyd. Ann will be in her tent tonight, and Chris in his camper van, but I will be home for a hot shower, a good meal and a comfy bed ready for it to start all over again tomorrow!

Bardsey / Ynys Enlli ” the island of tides”

The final day of this year’s pilgrimage.  11 of us meet in the church at Aberdaron for a short period of prayer and silence. We then head off up onto the clifftop path that will take us to the pick up point for the boat that will take us accross the Sound to the island. It is a mere 2km away but it can be a treacherous span of sea and islanders can be cut off for weeks at a time. Today however the sea is like a mill pond and Colin the boatsman soon has us safely accross. There is a mist and low cloud over the island, but as we begin our walk accross the sun begins to shine through. We stop for coffee at the farmm and two domestic goats join us!

We continue on to the chapel, which is non-denominational, and here we celebrate with communion, using a thermos flask cup as a chalice! It is a joyous celebration and we take time to think prayerfully about the past days of our pilgrimage. We wander through the graveyard where there is the cross bearing the carved  memorial to the 20,000 saints buried here. In medieval times 3 trips to Bardsey was considered the equivalent to 1 visit to Rome.  We then track up to the highest point Mynydd Mawr just 167m above sea level. The views from the summit are astounding.  There is a low cloud base through which the peaks of Snowdonia emerge to the east, and the mountains of Wicklow to the west. We can also see Holyhead mountain on Anglesey ahead of us.Below coming accross the Sound is the boat bringing new sheep to the island! We enjoy our picnic high above the sea and then it is time for us to meet the boat again. Seals are basking off the shore.

Colin delights us by slowing down the engines as we pass the cliffs so that we have wonderful   sight of the razorbills, guillemots,  and puffins that nest here.Puffins swim around like bathtime toys, and razorbills dart by flapping their wings 9 times per second. So we arrive once more on the mainland. The island was idyllic today, but it is remote and must be a hard place to endure in stormy weather.

Our journey has ended. The affinity with nature for almost 2 weeks has been wonderful. The felllwship of fellow pilgrims and other friends has been tremendous. 

I haven’t worn a watch for almost 2 weeks, and I feel very privileged to have been able to undertame this journey.i have also been able to raise about £1000 for St Kentigern’s Hospice.  All in all a fabulous 13 days.

 

 

 

 

Final day of walking. Tudweiliog to Aberdarron 12 miles

It doesn’t seem possible that we are on the final day of walking. 4 of us have walked the entire route, but we have had many come and join us for days here and there. Today 10 of us set off on the final leg fromTudweiliog to Aberdarron. It is a fine day as we head out to the headland and the coastal path. It is still wIth little breeze, and the sea below is like a mill pond.Jenny has rejoined us and Chris will meet us at Whistling Sands. They have been the leading lights of the instigation of this pilgrimage,  and we have missed them on this year’s journey. We stop on the headland where there is the ruin of an old house and here we have our service. Karen and I have now got into a rhythm of reading, prayer and silence. A reading from St Augustine seems appropriate as Karen and I have sung our way for the last 7 days. “So, brethren, let us sing alleluia now, not in the enjoyment of heavenly rest but to sweeten our toil. Sing as travellers sing along the road, but keep on walking. Sing, but keep on walking…….” And so we continue to sing as we walk along the wonderful clifftops, looking out upon a glassy sea with  only the sound of oyster catchers punctuating the silence.Flowers still carpet our way and we are delighted with the abundance of purple orchids. The route is undulating,  dipping down over  small creeks and clambering up the opposite banks. At times we get onto the beach and wander awhile before clambering up onto the clifftops once more. We picnic high above the shore enjoying the seascape before us.

We are due to meet Chris and Pat and Catrin at Whistling Sands but our timing is skewed and we eventually arrive after 4pm. The sands live up to their reputation and whistle as we walk over them towards the cafe where we are rewarded with tea and ice creams. We sit awhile enjoying the respite before we head uphill to regain the route to Aberdarron. We are tired now and the road seems never ending. But soon we see the sea ahead and Aberdarron is within our grasp.It is a perfect evening as we approach and Val and Derfel meet us as we approach.

Alun, our host at the Ship, where we are staying tonight greets us as old friends.  We head for the church and are welcomed with tea and cakes, this is a true homecoming.  We share in a short service, and then meet again for dinner at the Ship. 13 of us in all. And so to bed after a long and happy day. Tomorrow we will hopefully be on Bardsey the destination of our pilgrimage. 

 

Nefyn to Tudweiliog

The Rev Richard Woods is at  St David’s church in Nefyn to set the 8 of us off on our day with prayers. He had been with us yesterday at Pistyll.  He is setting out for Scotland today on holiday so we are very grateful to him. But this is not the only gift he brings us, he brings us a gift of chocolate digestives as he heard Mike moan about our plain digestives yesterday!

We head on to the coastal path which we will follow now pretty much all the way to Aberdarron.  It is a perfect day. The sky is blue and there is only the occassion slight breeze.  We look back to the Rivals that we crossed yesterday, and ahead we soon see the idyllic setting of Porthdinllaen, where will stop for coffee. The flowers along the way are wonderful, and I promise myself I will look them all up when I get home. I do remember the names of some of them from the days when I was a little girl and my grandfather took me walking, but there are glaring gaps in my knowledge. There are pillows of pink sea thrift and carpets of blue vernal squills. Bluebells still abound in places, and primroses  cling to the sides of the cliffs. Below there are cormorants and seagulls, and oyster catchers flying and calling out in their distinctive cry. We arrive at Porthdinllaen and enjoy our coffee.  The Ty Coch pub on the beach is said to be one of the world’s finest beachbars. We carry on to the new lifeboat station which is a splendid new building with a new boat ready, for any emergency.  I think about how times have changed since Grace Darling famously rescued the sailors. How many courageous men, and women, braved the elements to go to the aid of those in danger at sea.

We walk over the golf course at Morfa Nefyn.  Golf being a good walk spoiled according to Gladstone! I think of my lovely neighbour Sheila who enjoys playing golf so much, but at the moment is not able to as she is caring for her sick husband. I know Sheila has played this course and would dearly love to be playing on it on such a glorious day.

Over the headland and we descend to a delighful cove. Two Shell Ducks are spotted as we approach. We settle down for our picnic and then Karen and I conduct our little service that has become the pattern of these past days. A heavenly spot, a thin place, where between the prayers and readings we can reflect in silence. Our reflection today is on the people who have accompanied us at different times of our life journeys. The silence here is broken only by the rippling litle river heading to the sea, and the song of the birds.

Suitably refreshed we head back up to the clifftop and knowing that we have only a few easy miles to cover, we wander along enjoying every aspect of this scenic route. There are seals on the rocks below, some adults but many pups. We hear them calling against the sound of the sea and the gulls. We watch them for a while before finally walking on to Tudweiliog,  our destination for today.

We have time for a leisurely bath and rest before meeting everyone for dinner tonight. Chris and Jenny have arrived, so they join us and it is great to see them again. It’s been strange not having them with us all the way this year, especially as they have been the driving force behind this venture, and Chris our spiritual leader. But I think we have been able to maintain the integrity of the pilgrimage and I feel confident that it will flourish and grow.

Tomorrow we arrive in Aberdarron.  There will be mixed feelings about journey’s end, but also anticipation of the crossing to Bardsey.

Trefor to Nefyn and the Rivals

We set off from Trefor along the coastal path round the headland. There are dark clouds looming over the Rivals. As we reach a high point on the headland we find a sheltered spot for our service. We start with a reading that includes “Help us to hear the cry of the earth, the water and the air. Help us to notice small things, as part of your bigger picture.  Help us to heal not harm, to give not take, to act, not acquiesce  that gifts may be given, received and valued, that your Spirit  may inspire and sustain our flourishing” and Karen leads the prayers and encourages us to reflect on the gifts of this pilgrimage. The sound of the sea fills the silence.

So we continue along the coast enjoying the seascape and the gentle walking. Choughs and oyster catchers fly overhead and cormorants duck and dive. There are carpets of the tiniest flowers underfoot, pinks and yellows and blues. It is a joy to be walking on relatively dry ground! Soon we are starting our ascent of the Rivals. My enduring memory of this uphill stretch 4years ago on the first pilgrimage is having walked 14 miles already and then making the ascent. I have climbed it twice since but the memory lingers! I am assured that we have had steeper climbs over the past few days, but that doesn’t make it feel any  less daunting! But we stop for coffee before the final pull and enjoy the rest and the views. The clouds are still hanging over the tops and we fear the views from the top will be obliterated,  or worse still it might rain! But we reach the top with no rain and the views are still worth the climb.

We are now on the downhill stretch overlooking Nant Gwytherin,  which was once the home to the slateworkers, and now wonderfully restored, and home to the Welsh language centre. On previous occasions we have descended to the centre and climbed out the other side, but that really is a step too far for us today. The clouds begin to break and we have no rain. We push on along the clifftop fields to the ancient church of St Bueno at  Pistyll. This old church nestles in a little hollow overlooking the sea beyond. The vicar, Richard Woods is waiting to greet us. By now the sun is high and warm and we enjoy our picnic sitting outside the church.One of the largest tombstones in the graveyard is that of Rupert Davies of Maigret fame. Richard then invites us into the church for a short service. The stone floor is strewn with rushes, and sunlight pours through the windows. Prayers, readings and silence follow. Outside a chaffinch sings throughout, the only sound to punctuate the silence.

Time to leave and continue our journey. It is a glorious afternoon and we are able to take our time. We come upon a delightful spot where yellow marsh irises bloom, and gunnera grows almost incongruously on this bracken covered hillside. A picnic table and benches allow us to sit awhile.

And so we arrive at Nefyn and ice creams are the order of the day. We are back at the Lion in good time, and John arrives in time to be with us for dinner.

 

 

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Penygroes to Trefor

Today I leave home in rain yet again and wonder whether I can cope with yet another walk on the wild and wet side! John is not able to be with me for the next 2 days so drops me off at Mike’s and we head off in the rain to join the rest of the group at Penygroes.  Waterproofs come out and 11 of us set out through the unremarkable Penygroes.  it is a grey characterless town that seems to be in a 50s time warp. We decide not to hold our little service here in the car park, but to wait until we get to the pilgrim church of St Bueno af Clynog Fawr.

Soon we are in open countryside though and the clouds break and the sun begins to shine. This is going to be a good day

3 ramblers have joined us today and as is their wont they stride ahead. The topography has changed and we are walking through rich meadowland which is easy on the feet and the eyes! Our first break of the day is for coffee, and it’s extraordinary how the now familiar places welcome us. By now the sun is warm and the sky blue with cotton wool  clouds gently passing overhead. The waterproofs come off and we are able to walk at last without the constraints of too many layers.

The  views are more gentle than those of recent days with the sea now our constant companion below us. Ahead the Rivals dominate the horizon.  The differing shades of the gorse, bracken and slate bneath the blue sky make a wonderful tapestry of colour. We pass through fields of sheep and cattle, and at times the young bullocks are frisky, coming as close as they dare before turning tail and running off. The sheep on these fields high above the sea seem so much whiter and woolier than those anywhere else!

Our lunch stop is well chosen by Ron, and we enjoy the views as we eat. It seems appriate to have a reading before we leave, and we all stand in a circle to listen to one of the readings that Sally had provided for us when we were at Llangernwy.  A quote from it reads”And the love and power of God is speaking to us through all of creation….the grass, the animals, the rocks, the trees, the rivers and streams, the sun, the moon, stars oceans…..we see and yet we do not see…..” How very true. How often do we allow ourselves the time to stop and wonder at God’s wonderful creation?

We are soon heading in to Clynog Fawr and Nick receives a phone call saying we were expected at 12pm! We had not realised this and are embarrassed as it is now 1.30pm. As we approach the bells peal out to welcome us and we are greeted warmly and offered refreshment. St Buenos is the oldest Tudor church in Wales. It is a huge church in such a tiny village. There are two schools of thought about this. One is that it was  built for pilgrims,  as Clynog Fawr is the gathering place of all the routes to Bardsey. The other is that at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries the monks had the foresight to sell all thier extensive lands and invest the money into the building of the church, thus ensjring that the king would not be able to get his hands on it.I am inclined to go with the business minded monks! The Rev Jones shows us round the church and then takes us on to the holy well of St Bueno where he conducts a beautiful short service and also blesses a newly commissioned pot that will hold holy water at the entrance of the church. He takes photographs of us as he says we are authentic pilgrims!

Our journey continues at first along the road  but soon we head down to the coast and with the Rivals still beckoning we walk the length of the beach to Trefor.  I am suddenly aware that Katherine appears to have fallen in the mud. She hasn’t,  but she has sunk up to her knees in it. She’s unable to extract herself but Nick is on hand to help her. It was a scarry experience for her.Katherine has joined us from Chester and had brought her tent with her, but earlier in the day Judith had offered her hospitality in her home which Katherine had accepted. Just as well in the circumstances! And this act of generous hospitality is a characteristic of the fellowship of the pilgrimage.

We arrive at the Lion at Tudweiliog which will be our home for the next 3 nights. Mike, Karen and I enjoy a meal together. We bid our goodnights early. As I reflect on the past 10 days I think of the extraordinary range of scenery, weather and people we have encountered on the journey so far.IMG_2091