South to Fishguard: guarding fish?

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South of Llangrannog lie several settlements. First is the small village of Tresaith. Just a few houses huddle around a steep descent to the beach. One tea room serves the few families who are exploring the sands. The ubiquitous mobile homes gaze down from the surrounding cliffs.

Next, just before the estuary town of Cardigan (Aberteifi), comes Aberforth.

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After the glorious view of the two beaches from the cliffs on the approach to the town, my lasting impression of Aberporth is the smell of old oil that oozes into the atmosphere from the chippy and rests in nostrils, hair and clothes. Shame really as the beach is great.

Gwbert lies on the headland overlooking Poppit Sands on the estuary of the River Teifi. Yep, a good location for a holiday home park.

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Newport (Pems) is a lovely small village with tea rooms, quaint nik-nakky shops and a classy oasis for visitors and locals alike. Down through its heart one comes out over Parrog and its beach and harbour. From its flat, muddy banks can be seen the silt of Newport Beach in one direction and the casual meanders to the Irish Sea in the other.

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Finally Fishguard plonks itself on the coast.

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The small old harbour is lovely, lined by brightly coloured homes and a wonderful Victorian factory of some kind. It is overlooked by the fort with its cannon peeking over the battlements, keeping an eye on the far quays & sea defences where the huge Stena Line ferry waits for its cargo of cars and lorries to cross to Ireland. The road climbs up and over the headland and there is the town , the working, seaside port spread below, helping to provide income and jobs to the area.

I’ll let you know when I go back to complete more of the coastal settlements of the UK.

 

 

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Two up from Llangrannog and out comes the sun

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New Quay is the next village up the coast. Signs advertise boat trips for dolphin watching. At this time of year car parks are half empty and a handful of holiday makers shuffle about eating the compulsory fish & chips out of plastic trays and drinking steaming cups of weak tea. Oh the joys of holidaying in the UK. The carpet of holiday homes on the headland to the side gives an indication of what high season might bring to the village.

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The next place up the coast is Aberaeron – a delight. The town car park is filled with resting yachts propped up, up on blocks with their empty rigging playing concertos in the breeze.20170102133840_img_3839

A walk up the estuary of, presumably the river Aeron, beside the empty harbour to the bridge takes the visitor over to the slight bustle of a sizable village/town. Touristy eateries share streets with ordinary shops so tourists and locals are both catered for.

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Steppe ing out into the Gobi

Now the real stuff starts. There is a bit of a health warning here. Many of the images are taken from the inside of one of the vehicles. I have included them to try and give you a flavour of the landscape and people rather than for their photographic qualities.

Having picked up provisions, the four 4×4 set off out of town on the last proper road that we’ll see for seven days. A picnic lunch of mutton dumplings (like a donna kabab in a pasty shell) and we hit the dirt track. At this point the steppes are green and luscious. Gers dot the landscape and herds of cattle, sheep and horses wander and graze contentedly. All is at peace with the world.

Gradually, almost imperceptibly, the grassland becomes tired, gers become fewer and it is a motorbike rather than a truck parked outside and the herds are less frequent, goats and camels take the place of the others. The rimming mountains push out and away until they are only a faint outline on the far horizons. A hard, flat surface hammers out as far as one can see in every direction, punctuated only by tufty grass and small, scrawny, low bushes called saxaul trees.

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The dirt track has simply vanished. In its place is a fan of light parallel ruts that head of in front of the vehicles and occasionally come together and cross before heading out on their own again. The drivers hammer along these ruts at anything up to 80 kph making strategic decisions at every junction about which route to take out. I think we are heading south into the desert. The heat is intense. Only one vehicle has working air con, the rest of us sit in the hair drier breeze from open windows. The only indication that you have any human company at all are the little squirts of dust far ahead or far behind from the other vehicles. Oh, just in case you wanted to know where you were, we pass two sign posts in the course of the day! Do you like this one?

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I must tell you a bit about the conveniences issue. There are no trees on the steppes, no bushes, no huts, no fences or walls. Together all four vehicles stop for such relief. The men go off to one side and face the scenery. The ladies go the other side and do the same. There is no choice but to get used to it. Initially people walk a ‘good distance’ but you soon realise that you are always in the sight of everyone however far you go, so a few steps soon suffices.

At some points the four vehicles are racing side by side on this 44 lane Santa Pod, rough track, off-road highway. Gentle rises and dips spread ahead through the hard landscape, the only difference being that over the hours the vegetation dies out even more and the rocks and stones and dust take over permanently.

The only other living things out in this wilderness are the odd group of very scruffy camels, who look up with a snotty look on their snooty faces, wondering what  on earth us humans are doing disturbing their peace.

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Late that day, having covered 400 kilometres over this harsh, hard, unrelenting surface, hammering along at speed over the rough side of a cheese grater for 12 hours, we arrive at a small town. We officially name it ‘In the Middle of Nowhere’ or Nowhere for short.

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Travel west, young man

Well, I am back in the saddle. I journey to some amazing places around the world and I realised some while back that there are some equally amazing places around the UK that I have never visited. It was then that I started a long term project to visit every settlement on the coast of England, Wales and, maybe, because it’s just so long & wiggly, Scotland. I am going to start to share these adventures with you so you can appreciate, with me, some of the wonderful places that lie on our doorstep.

I bought the new year in by kick starting my travels, after a 4 month lay off, with a visit to west Wales. I left a damp, grey misty, nay foggy Oxfordshire and drove west through the gloom, avoiding traffic and more traffic. The further west I travelled saw fewer and fewer vehicles on increasingly windy and smaller and smaller roads, more and more hills and rivers and valleys and trees and fields, and less and less cloud and gloom, replaced by clear blue sky.

I was heading to Llangrannog, a small village on the coast, north of Cardigan. A final narrow lane, ground down by centurIes of wheels from carts and tractors and wagons and lorries add trucks and cars threads its way towards the promise of ocean and sea ahead. Stone-lined banks, disguised as tall grass walls , and hedges tower above the metal track. Like a horse wearing blinkers there is only one way to go. Glimpses of the natural wonders ahead are caught through the bare trees and the occasional farm gates to the side.

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Then the panorama is spread before me like a patchwork feast of farmland with sharp line at the furthest edges where a Stanley knife has precisely cut through the block of countryside butter to create the razor – sharp boundary between land and sea. Is the Iron Man with the glowing red eyes going to appear above the line of running fields. To the side, through a gate, lies one of those moments. The coastline meanders away like a huge mouse has gouged its way into a slab of Cheddar. Small, intricate lines of trees and hedgerows, with their fine detail of spreading branches, are silhouetted on the skyline. Behind, the sky with its setting sun merges its lines of blues and clarets and oranges with the purples and browns and greys of the land until the hues on the artist’s palette simply take one’s breathe away. I have arrived.

Llangrannog is a small village of a hundred or so houses. In the past ships, yes ships not just boats, were built here. Now it has a few houses for locals, a lot of quaint rental properties, a coffee shop, two pubs serving food and a small store. The beach is backed by high cliffs with a huge slab of slate dividing it in two at low tide.

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