Monday, 20 June 2011
Welsh Boundary Walk - aftermath
Thursday/Friday 16/17th June
Thursday night at The Cartref Hotel was enjoyable. The proprietress, Kristiina is a Finnish lady and an interesting conversationalist. There was a good connection because I visited Finnish friends in Finland with my family back in the Eighties. I had noticed that Kristiina had framed illustrations from Kalevala, and some other interesting paintings which we talked about; she also had a good knowledge of the history of the French Invasion of Fishguard in 1797.
I needed a taxi to get to the station the next day for 1:30pm, the alternative being more than half an hour’s walk. Kristiina could not find a taxi for me and eventually offered to drive me herself. In the morning I left my rucksack at the hotel and looked round the town including a visit to the town hall where is displayed a magnificent tapestry celebrating the two hundredth anniversary of The Invasion. This splendid item was made over a period of four years involving seventy seven local people and depicts the history of the event in fascinating detail. It is 30.4 metres long by 53 cm deep, and is intentionally based on the Bayeux Tapestry. I try to avoid coercing other people into seeing, or reading things that might not be of interest to them, but I would strongly recommend anybody to go and have a look at the Fishguard tapestry.
A few reflections on the walk.
The walk gave me a great feeling of satisfaction in its achievement proving to be a readily identifiable and appealing project.
The most enduring impression was the generosity and willingness to be helpful, very often at inconvenience to themselves, of the Welsh people. That may sound trite which impels me to re-emphasise the point.
The second impression was the sheer lengths of continuous beauty of the Welsh coastline. I had an ongoing personal debate comparing The Gower and Pembrokeshire coasts, and whilst they each have their individual merits, the fact that the Pembrokeshire coastline is National Park, where unsightly development has been restricted, is something to be truly thankful for. The estuary area of The River Towy including Ferryside and Laugharne was another part that particularly impressed me on two glorious days of sharp clarity and rich colour, and having the added ambience of its association with Dylan Thomas.
A surprise for me was the coastline between Chepstow and Cardiff which I had imagined would be partly industrial and dreary, but turned out to be peaceful, pretty and dotted with unspoiled villages mostly occupied by local people and not turned into townees’ weekend retreats.
On the downside the state of public footpaths was often tiresome, particulalry down the eastern border. Most of these are marked by signposts where they leave the road, but after that tend to be badly overgrown, indiscernible on the ground, and at worst blocked off with barbed wire and locked gates. In the end, if I could see a road alternative that kept me within the guideline that I had set myself, of staying two kilometres either side of the border, I would take the road. Campsites were limited in many places leading to a test of one’s resourcefulness to find a place to stay.
I only remember one disagreeable person, and I hope he was not Welsh - he was the manager of The Acorn Campsite at Llantwit Major who would not let me stay on his site because he said it was full when it was obvious he could easily have accommodated a tiny backpacking tent on various bits of grass that were evident even as I spoke to him. It was about five in the afternoon, and his refusal put me to a lot of trouble, but it was his downright negative attitude that rankled with me, being in such marked contrast to the many people who had been so helpful.