I enjoyed the beach so much during our short stay in Tywyn, that I took a serious number of photographs. Here are another bunch, slightly different from the previous one.
On a recent flying visit to Tywyn, walking along the beach towards the Dysynni, it was terrific to see the autumn light on the hills and water over the Dysynni valley, like Tal y Garreg, Llechlwyd and Craig yr Aderyn (Bird Rock). During the Iron Age some of these hills housed fortifications, implying that the landscape below was farmed at this time, just as it was further to the north. A beautiful place to live on a day like this, safe in the knowledge that the central heating waits back at the ranch, but it must have been a hard life during the Iron Age with the winter closing in.
My father and I decided to take a three-night break in the Aberdovey area. After leaving my home in Aberdovey and moving to the Chester area in February, I decided to take a break for a few months before going back for a flying visit. I wanted to find somewhere self-catering, and near the sea, and the place that ticked all the boxes was in Tywyn. I have taken 100s of photographs of the beach at Aberdovey, walking a long way towards Tywyn, but only rarely took photographs on the beach at Tywyn itself. The beach at Tywyn is so different from that at Aberdovey!
The most obvious difference is the presence of breakwaters, long wooden structures that run from the promenade down into the sea in order to lessen the erosive and carrying impact of waves and cross-currents on a sloping beach, effectively dividing the beach into multiple small sections. When the tide is very high it is impossible to walk along the beach without climbing over the breakwaters, but a promenade along the top of the beach means that the sea can still be enjoyed by dog-walkers, joggers and visitors.
Within these divisions, the differences continue to impress.
There are lovely rock pools with superbly coloured seaweeds floating in them, the rocks sometimes housing colonies of tiny white barnacles. Beyond the rock pools are highly textured sand structures that look a little like coral but are honeycombe reefs, made by the Honeycomb worm (Sabellaria alveolata), which form colonies. The colonies form on hard substrates and they need sand and shell fragments for tube-building activities. They manufacture the tubes from mucus to glue the tiny pieces together. When the tide is out the worms retreat deep into the tunnels, but when the tide covers their reefs their heads protrude and they feed on micro-organisms in the water, including plankton.
There are lots of pebbles, rounded by being rolled in the sea and over sand and other pebbles, a variety of shapes, sizes, colours and textures. There are almost no shells, but there are occasionally limpets, which are only rarely found at Aberdovey, probably due to the lack of rocks for them to cling to. Perhaps because of the breakwaters there is nothing in the way of a strandline capturing oddities from the sea, but this is good news for sun-bathers. The Tywyn beach very definitely has its own personality.
Staying so close to the beach meant that we could walk along it both first thing and last thing, which was a treat. We were so lucky with the weather, and the autumn sun, quite low in the sky, danced wonderfully on the waves. It was cold at each end of the day, but by staying on the move, hypothermia was avoided.
Here are a few of my late afternoon snapshots. There will be more to follow on future posts. The light was simply extraordinary. We’ll be back 🙂
Before I left the house I checked my tide clock to confirm what the view from my window had already told me – the tide was all the way in. It was still a surprise when I got down there at how high the tide actually was. I have never seen waves lapping at the foot of the pillbox, for example, and there was just a thin band of sand, a couple of feet wide, because the sea had reached the pebbles and the dunes. Checking the tide tables on my return, it was indeed a pretty high tide at 4.83m.
There was nothing much to see on the strandline, which was mainly bladder wrack, leaves and old wood, but the sea itself was absolutely spectacular, and the sky, veering from bright blue to blue-black and back again, provided a wonderful backdrop for both the frothing white waves, the yellowish sand dunes and the bright green golf course. There were good signs of life on the dunes, with brave early plants producing bright new leaves. Not just a feast for the eyes, however, but the ears too. What had originally drawn me to the beach was the thundering roar that announced itself when I opened the front door this morning and on the beach itself it was explosive.
Apart from two men wielding metal detectors, there was absolutely no-one around, so no need to worry about social distancing, which was lucky as short of scaling the sand dunes, or going for an unseasonal paddle, there were places where it would otherwise have been difficult to avoid someone coming in the opposite direction. On my return leg via the golf course there were a lot more people around, mainly walking dogs but a small group was considerately collecting litter.
It seems quite remarkable as I look out of the window this morning, that Sunday was all blue skies and sunshine, simply lovely. Today I can barely see beyond the end of garden. The rain is relentless and the sky such a pale shade of grey that it is almost white. The gloom is unbelievable. So it is really quite a relief to look back to Sunday when I went for a stroll on the beach at low tide, much the best option for a safe way to take exercise during lockdown, as there are no gates to open or stiles to cross.
If you find a dryish day in amongst the November downpours, or just want to keep a few walks in mind for summer, this is a good one. Plus, you get two who Iron Age hillforts for the price of one, which can’t be bad 🙂 I haven’t done this for years, and cannot find the photos, but if this is a terrific walk, not at all strenuous, in spite of the stunning views that you are rewarded with over Cader Idris, the Mawddach valley and estuary, and the surrounding hills. Incorporated into the walk is also a lovely lake, actually a reservoir for supplying water to Dolgellau, at the foot of the hill on the carpark side. Updated info is below the leaftlet, plus a little bit about the hillforts. You can also download the PDF here.
The walk is on private land, so access is at the courtesy of the Nannau Estate, which allows public access via the marked footpaths. It is a very easy route to follow with easy gradients, mostly level once you get to the main walk, and the route around the hill is a circular one, as the name implies. It is quite narrow and not recommended for anyone with vertigo. The return leg takes walkers along the reservoir, Llyn Cynwch. It takes about an hour an a bit, on average.
The Foel Faner hillfort on the Precipice Walk requires a small diversion from the main route, also accessible via a footpath, and well marked (marked as “camp” on the above leaflet). This also provides some more great views. The hillfort is an irregular oval and has a single line of defenses, quite substantially built and easy to identify (unlike some hillforts in Gwynedd). The entrance is at the northeast, about 12ft wide, and has an additional bank to protect it. It has very few natural defense, and the main advantage of the hillfort’s position is the visibility over a very wide area.
The second hillfort is on the hill opposite the precipice walk, so you can use the same car park and head over the road and follow a gentle footpath that runs along the base of the hill, Foel Offrwm. When you reach a wall, turn right and follow it for about half a mile, which takes you to the entrance of the hillfort, but between where the wall ends and the hillfort begins is a steep stretch of open hillside, a much more ambitious walk than the Precipice Walk. Unlike Foel Faner, the location is strategically good, and the views are probably even better. There is a single line of drystone defence that is reinforced with an additional line of defence to the southeast. There is a single in-turned entrance to the east. Well worth a visit.
I found another batch of leaflets today during a sort-out, and will post some of them in the coming weeks in case they are of interest. I’ve never seen the submerged forest at Borth, which needs a very low tide to see it properly, but it’s now firmly on my radar. As well as previewing the leaflet in the images below, you can download it as a PDF by clicking here: Submerged forest leaflet
A nice walk over the hill and down the other side on the 25th September, through the Gywddgwion farm on the footpath, dropping down into a (mostly) dry stream bed that doubles up as a footpath in the summer, to collect some blackberries, emerging at Dyffryn Glyn Cul farm. We strolled down the single track lane to the coast road, crossed over and headed towards the dunes, and from there down on to the beach. This is my favourite bunch of beach photos to date. There were a couple of nice days after this, but it was the last of my walking for the time being, as I had to get down to some work. Adding the photos to this post rather belatedly on October 4th, the difference between those divine last days of September and the onset of October wind and rain is truly amazing.
I hadn’t seen my friend Caroline for ages, so it was great to do one of our social distancing walks, and one that was new to me, taking in a tiny prehistoric stone circle. The track is marked on the OS map as a “byway open to all traffic” and follows the line of the Nany Braich-y-rhiw stream, at a higher level. The views were as spectacular as they always are when you get on to the higher ground in these parts, into the Dyfi valley at the start of the walk, into Happy Valley, and eventually, ahead into the Dysynni valley. The track is very deep and carved out of the bedrock in places, just like the Aberdovey estuary’s “Roman Road,” which is actually thought to date to the 1820s. We drove to the point of departure in separate cars, parking on verges, as it is a long hike to reach the start from Aberdovey, and then a long hike in its own right. On this occasion it was a there-and-back walk rather than a circular one, but just as good because the views are different in each direction. It was 19th September and the weather was in our favour.
On the map below I’ve marked the starting point in red, and have put blue dot where another path descends into the valley, more or less opposite the Bearded Lake. Although we carried on along the main track, you can make a lengthy circular walk if you take the path into Happy Valley, and it would probably be easiest to park in the official Happy Valley car park if you are going to do that (which also serves as the car park for those wanting to walk up to the Bearded Lake).
It’s an easy walk if you have good footwear, with a good track and no very steep gradients. It should also be avoided in wet weather, or at least go in heavy duty footwear. It had been very dry for the previous week, but we still ended up having to walk off the path in certain places as it was swamped with mud, and was often marshy either side of the path. There were several points at which we had to ford fairly wide streams, two of which are marked on the map as fords. It was very windy even on a sunny day, so head gear would be a sensible precaution. The only cloud on the horizon was that at weekends it is used by trial bikers, travelling at speed, with precious little care for any walkers who might be round the next corner. Thanks to the noisy engines, you can hear them coming and get out of the way, but I recommend that you avoid walking there at weekends.
The stone circle is a little way along the path, up to the right, just a few seconds to reach it from the footpath.
The walk offers beautiful views over Happy Valley and the hills beyond.
Watch out for the Bearded Lake on the other side of the valley to the left, on this occasion glistening in the sun like a silver mirror. I’ve written about the legends associated with the lake on an earlier post.
We walked past the footpath down into Happy Valley, which would have formed a circular walk, and headed instead for the views ahead, which offer an unexpected sight of the Dysynni valley.
As it descends towards the Dysynni, the track meets the stream, Nant Braich-y-rhiw.
At this point, descending towards the Dysynni valley, we turned back towards the cars, but if you carry on you reach a single-track B-road that crosses the Talyllyn railway at Rhyd-yr-onen and finishes in Bryncrug. It was an equally beautiful walk on the return leg. I suppose it was about an hour and half in each direction, pausing to enjoy the views with a picnic.
It was supposed to be a hillfort visit, but I was fed up of driving to where I wanted to walk, so two weeks ago I did a route that I could do by leaving the house on foot, taking the Panorama walk to the lake and back again, which takes a route across the ridge. I had planned to take the longer route via Happy Valley, but was tired after an iffy night, so took the shorter route, which also allowed me to get a look at the rear end of Foel Caethle, a hillfort the lies between Tywyn and Aberdovey, from a slightly higher viewpoint than the peak of Caethle itself.
If you haven’t done it before, it’s super-easy to follow the Panorama on the Ordnance Survey map. You pass through a number of gates (five in total, I think, but more if you choose not to balance your way across cattle grids) so you will need to take hand gel and/or gloves. Just walk up Copper Hill Street from Chapel Square, and after about five minutes take the right turn into Mynydd Isaf, which is a development of 1960s bungalows. Follow this all the way to the top and at the crossroads go left. Keep an eye out in the verges too, for wild flowers and small butterflies. The harebells are particularly worth seeing – more prolific in August but with many still left in September. The tormentil is prolific at this time of year, and the last of the little cornflower-blue Sheep’s-bit are still around. There were lots of red admiral butterflies around, although none of them were obliging enough to settle to have their portraits taken.
This takes you uphill, and you are instantly in the countryside, passing a farm on your right, with views over Aberdovey to your left. Just keep walking, not forgetting to turn round and see the gorgeous views over the estuary as you go higher, until you reach a right turn, with the chalet park ahead of you. It’s about an hour and 15 minutes from here to the fork for Llyn Barfog (and the same on the return leg), with gorgeous views over Happy Valley and the hills to the left, and some views over the glistening estuary to the right, which looks completely different depending on whether the tide is in or out.
The tarmac eventually runs out at the farm, at which point you pass through two gates and onto a deeply incised farm track with a drystone wall on your right and views now mainly over the estuary, with a slope of gorse and heather rising to your left.
You may want to pause and puzzle over Arthur’s Stone, marked with a dignified slate rectangle, a bit like a headstone, inscribed with the words Carn March Arthur (the stone of Arthur’s horse, which in some legends is called Llamrai). It has a role in the slaying of the story of the monster, called the afanc, that lived in the lake, which I’ve summarized below, and what you’re looking for is the hoof imprint of the horse of King Arthur. Good luck with that.
Carrying on a short way downhill, with views over the hills ahead, an array of colours as they fade into the distance, you go through an open gate (shown right) and the footpath for Llyn Barfog is just on the left. It is easily missed – there is a wooden stake marking it (shown immediately below), but no signpost. It is, however, quite well worn so if you keep an eye open you should be okay. This takes you round the foot of a small hill rise and leads you directly to the lake, about a 10 minute walk. I sometimes follow the sheep tracks to the top of the rise instead and then make my own way down, because the view down onto the lake is great, but the going isn’t easy – the sheep tracks are very narrow and the surface all around consists of big, dense clumps of heather that are not easy to walk between.
However you arrive at it, the lake always manages to be a bit of a surprise, so high up and so intensely blue. Each time I visit, I half expect it to have vanished. I’ve sadly never managed to catch it when the water lilies and other water flowers are in bloom, but today the lily pads were deeply green against the blue water and gave it a rather exotic feel, and the water glowed and sparkled in the sunlight. I sat on a handy outcrop of quartzite for a while to enjoy the views and the silence.
The name “bearded” is thought to relate to the vegetation around its edges. Unlike Arthur’s horse’s stone, one really could imagine this being a source of myth and legend, and indeed, there are at least two. One concerns the water monster known as the afanc, which is associated with other lakes too, a legend that eventually had an Arthurian spin on it. Here’s the main thrust of it. The afanc was the cause of flooding and other damage to good land. In some versions he lives in a cave and slays three princes a day who come to kill him, but they are resurrected, and the cycle repeats. In the case of Llyn Barfog, the afanc must be lured from the water by a heroic figure who will finish him off, and this hero eventually becomes Arthur. Arthur and his horse pull the monster from the lake, finishing it off, and one of the horse’s hooves leaves its imprint in the Carn March Arthur. See more on the Coflein website, where you can read a Llyn Barfog legend of green-clad fairies, two cows in love and a greedy farmer.
The return trip is just as good. The wind had got up a bit, so it was nowhere near as hot. On the entire walk I saw only six people, three separate couples. That surprised me,because at this time of year it is usually quite popular with walkers.