Postcode West Day 11

Postcode West
By Colin Walford
Day Eleven

Route: Spittal to Penycwm
Date: Thursday May 22nd 2014
Distance: 13.2m (21.2km)
Elevation: 59ft (18m) to 526ft (160m)
Climbing (ascent and descent): 915ft (279m) and 918ft (280m)

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Reluctantly into the rain….

I woke at eight-thirty to discover that the rain had not ‘gone by the morning’ but was, in fact, pissing down enthusiastically. Given my current well-appointed surroundings, I took advantage of hot water and a sink to have a proper shave and then tidied my rucksack away. Whilst doing this, I discovered that my waterproof trousers had developed a bad case of dandruff. Some kind of interior lining had begun to disintegrate and I had left a Hansel and Gretel trail of white, flaky bits wherever I had carried these trousers in the cottage. This turned out to be more or less everywhere. I did myself a leisurely breakfast whilst watching an ‘Unusual Animals’ wildlife-type programme on TV, narrated by some nominally famous comedian or other. I then washed up and got the hoover out, grumbling as I cleared up the mess made by my trousers. I saw the pair of shorts and towel given to me the night before. It was tempting but I really needed to get walking, so I reluctantly abandoned the idea of a morning swim. It was now ten-thirty and still raining, so I put my waterproofs on and took a last, fond look around at Beech Cottage. What a find John had been.
I walked back out of the estate and stopped in the driveway of Scolton Home Farm for a few minutes, finger-tracing across my map as I worked out where last night’s car journey had taken me, relative to my route. So it was that I stepped out onto the main road and headed north and then north-west in a curve as I made my way back to the village of Spittal, which lay about a mile ahead. Once there, I could have gone back on myself a little and re-joined my route at Golden Hill but I decided to press ahead, out through the back of Spittal and on towards Treffgarne Bridge. I stepped into somebody’s drive for a few moments to send off some catch-up tweets. It had, briefly, stopped raining but began again as I set out. From then on, the rain continued all day and the wind strengthened as the hours went by and I plodded along. For now, I had a clear view of the way ahead and it was a unique one as far as this walk was concerned, because the landscape was relatively flat. Not that I expected that to last.

Making mountains out of molehills….

It was a straight forward troop to Treffgarne Bridge, descending along the lane after Spittal Cross Farm and having a good look at the distant, ancient magma plugs at Treffgarne Gorge below a sky of dirty, scudding clouds. They are fairly famous among geologists and are known as the Treffgarne Rocks; ancient rhyolitic, volcanic plugs that have been weathered into their amazing shapes over millions of years. My original route would have taken me much closer to them. As it was, I took a couple of photos and had to use zoom to get any real impression of these irregular, knobbly protrusions. They disappeared from view as I continued to sink down towards a railway tunnel, first crossing the river of the Cleddau Wen (Western Cleddau) via a bridge. Inside, the old brick tunnel was lit along one side at regular intervals and they illuminated a small sign on the curved wall that told me I was within the structure of tunnel ‘Salem 274m 61c CRL’, which I’m sure means something to somebody, somewhere. After leaving the railway tunnel I became reacquainted with an old adversary, the A40, which I had to walk along once more. Luckily, this was a brief tussle and I soon turned left at Treffgarne Bridge and on to the village itself. This was a tiring, steeply uphill traipse on a twisty road and Treffgarne had nothing to hold me there. The land had opened up around me just before I reached Treffgarne, enabling the rain to pelt me with renewed vigour whilst a dark fringe of pine forest stood back and watched from the far end of a field.
I hurried through and turned left onto a long lane that was set to take me past the flanks of Great Treffgarne Mountain, followed by Leweston Mountain. I am of the opinion that cartographers around these parts are a bit loose with the term ‘mountain’. Great Treffgarne had a modest peak at 541 feet (165 metres) and Leweston topped out at an even more wimpish 427 feet (130 metres).
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The Treffgarne rocks

During this walk alone, I had tackled mountains five times the height of the latter. My current route took me alongside these ‘mountains’ with ne’er a twitch up their sides although, again, my original route would have had me climbing the first of these, not that this concerned me particularly. Still on the long lane, I did converge with my proper route before the second mountain at a place called Victoria Park. Tramping on, I reached a crossroads named Lady’s Cross and went forwards with the knowledge that I’d soon be journeying alongside a third mountain called Plumstone. This wasn’t significant in itself, as Plumstone was another pipsqueak and I wouldn’t be going up it anyway. No, what was noteworthy about this mountain was the fact that the terrain would change to moorland and probably be a lot wilder and wetter than the security of the lane I was currently on. I reached this moor at about twelve-thirty, although it is fair to say that what I was initially passing through was more like scrubby heathland, than mucky wet stuff. The real mucky wet stuff was coming from the sky, as the rain timed my arrival at Plumstone with a more intensive downpour and the wind picked up and became strong and blustery. I could see a faraway lump across the heath which my map told me was Plumstone Rock. This tor of grit-like stone is apparently a climber’s heaven and forms the mountains principle point of interest. It is a relatively square cut mass of rock and produces ‘a mixture of roof problems, arĂȘtes, gritstone laybacks and steep faces’.
I don’t know – I’m just using the climber’s jargon.

Who lives in a place like this…?

So I left the lane and took off across open moorland just as my waterproofs (which, to be fair, had been taking a constant shellacking) gave up and started to let the rain in. Any lingering thoughts of remaining relatively warm and dry gave up with them. I squelched along a grass and mud path, becoming aware of the two-tone call of a Cuckoo carrying across the moor as it proclaimed ownership of the porridgy gloop I was walking across. I seriously doubted that any rival male Cuckoo would be challenging it for this particular gig, but it was diligent if nothing else.
I suddenly entered a belt of woodland just south of Dudwell Mountain and this was where my problems began. The bold path dwindled into several faint tracks in no time at all and in trying to choose what looked like the most dominant of these, I began to wander in a south-westerly direction. The sudden air of uncertainty was amplified by the obstacles that began to hinder my progress. I was reintroduced to several fallen trees, all of which had to be boxed around or, in my more foolhardy moments, climbed over with much rasping of branches and swearing of words. Long, wet grass began to drag at my shins and hid uneven, pock-marked ground. The way onward had turned into a stumbling, twisting affair and it wasn’t long before I knew I was off-route and for now at least, lost. I was wet on the outside (although this was permeating inwards with a steadfast certainty) and hot and bothered beneath my clothing when I
Postcode West Day11 Pic 2

Onto the moorland

found myself suddenly plodding amongst a settlement of dilapidated caravans. Human habitation was the last thing I’d expected in a wood on a moor and I immediately slowed my pace to one of cautious trepidation. Somehow, the secretive nature of this little community gave me cause for unease. To my mind, it looked like a gypsy settlement of some sort and rightly or wrongly, I’d been cagey around such folk since having my lights punched out by a member of a gypsy family when I was sixteen. I watched the blank windows of several residences. The silence was accentuated by the patter and drumming of rain onto leaves and the roofs of the caravans. Curiously the wet, grim scene was enlivened by the presence of Peacocks which were strutting around, unconcerned about the downpour that was dousing their bright, showy livery.
I was eager to get out of this place before I drew attention and so quickly struck off to the north-west, not caring about a path and in fact making my own through the dripping vegetation. However, my efforts were soon thwarted and I got a further surprise by the sudden and unexpected appearance of a cliff wall in front of me. Too high to contemplate scaling, it ran from right to left and a quick recce told me that there was no way past this natural barrier. I had no choice but to turn south again and go back to the eerily still settlement. This did, however, have one thing in its favour and that was a gravelled path that I could identify on my map and which led from the collection of caravans and headed south straight onto a lane. I took this and was soon free of the woods and any worries about trespassing and fanciful thoughts of retribution. With a light heart borne of relief, I walked onwards. The lane took me past a few residences and I took a right at a T-junction a little beyond Rock Farm. This new direction north meant that I was going to have to climb the nominal peak (459 feet - 140 metres) of the Cuffern Mountains. Had I remained on-route, I would have eased across the north flank of Cuffern, but I considered the added trawl a small price to pay for escaping being chained, naked and beaten, to a tree back at the settlement. Besides, I was meant to have gone over the peak of Dudwell Mountain until I’d wandered off course, so it all came out in the wash (of rain).

Lanes in the rain is a pain….

It was a pity, though, that the road up through the hills (at this point, I refused to call them mountains) was a steep and tiring one, although I did intercept my official route again, turning left onto another track at a place called Outer Slade. This was the briefest of reunions as, for some inexplicable and moronic reason, I took the wrong fork off to the right and without realising it, had blundered off-route gain. Maybe tiredness and the incessant rain had numbed my senses but it only sank in that I’d gone wrong once more when my path broadened and merged onto a wide, concrete plateau dotted with conical ant-hills of what looked like heaps of shale or gravel. There were large, cube-shaped sacks of what might have been stones placed together on one side and a backdrop of hacked-into cliff faces and hillocks of earth and stone, topped with
Postcode West Day11 Pic 3

A scatter of buildings at Newgale

precariously clinging shrubbery. I had digressed absently amongst a working quarry. I decided to try and press on through the quarry, as using its tracks would cut off a big corner of a loop I had to walk on the main lanes, to get back on the official route. Of course, this was nonsense and I was spotted by a worker in a yellow hard hat and overalls more or less straight away. He wasted no time in ushering me back from whence I’d come. There had been no way I’d really be allowed to walk through an active quarry site.
So I returned to the lane, which at this point seemed determined to gain as much altitude as it could and I found myself walking uphill again. My back was starting to ache and my feet were hurting, plus I was by now very wet. It wasn’t a highlight of the trip, especially with the knowledge that I now had an extra mile to walk to get to a speck of nothing called Gignog, which I duly did. The land was quite hilly again and it was a rather sharp descent to Gignog, which I walked through at about two o’clock. I stayed on the lanes, crossing over a spring, through some light woodland and stomping by a couple more quarries, which had fallen into abandonment. The route made a slow curve to the right and I went straight ahead at a four-way crossroads and by a residence named Silver Hill. I reached Rhydygele at another crossroads, again moved straight on and soon found that I was walking parallel to a disused airfield and military base. It was now that I began to hear a series of strange ‘whomping’ sounds, which sounded either like very distant gunfire or thunder. I decided that it was the latter and looked up briefly at the low roof of clouds. I was exposed on this road and the wind whipped at me, making me chilly through my saturated clothing. There were puddles everywhere and the occasional car sent mini-geysers my way as they sped past, tyres hissing in the wet conditions. So it was that I arrived at Penycwm. It is a place I know fairly well, as I had spent a few days camping with friends near here several months before and we had used Penycwm to shop and have a meal in a local pub further along at Newgale, called the Duke of Edinburgh. I had, in fact, intended to walk on into Newgale, as I knew that there was a campsite there, but first I came across a bed and breakfast place at Penycwm called Bryn Awel.

Sanctuary in Penycwm….

I stopped. I was wet and cold and the thought of pitching a tent in blustery winds and rain squalls made something curl up and sob inside of me. Bugger it, I’d try my luck. I rang the bell and stood there, dripping forlornly, as a man opened the door. John (for that was his name) later told me that they were supposed to be closed for the day, as they were expecting friends to visit, but the rather pathetic sight I presented had, he said, made it impossible for him to turn me away. With puppyish joy, I found that I was being invited in and although I found it rather embarrassing to be shedding water all over their pristine carpet, I was immediately given a room and a mug of steaming coffee. The heating was put on and my bundle of saturated and shapeless clothes were taken away to be dried. Heaven was, indeed, a place on Earth and it was called Bryn Awel. My hosts were John and Gwyneth who, they told me, had only just started up their B&B enterprise. I spent a while chatting to John about this and that; my journey, their decision to open up Bryn Awel, the awful bloody weather and then I relaxed on the bed in my room. I was dry and became warm again, sensations that had been absent from my life for several hours. I realised that it was about four o’clock and I suddenly had a bit of time on my hands, so I made some phone calls. First, I phoned my son (Matthew) as he was in the middle of his final exams at school and I wanted to know how he felt about how it was going. As laconic as ever, he replied that he thought it was going okay and didn’t really expand on that. I phoned Mom and Dad, principally to let them know that I was still alive and it was from them that I discovered that we had a new member of the family, as baby Elouise (Ellie) had been born that morning. I then phoned my brother Mark to congratulate him on becoming a Grandad again and get a few more details about Ellie and how Mom was doing. It was good news on which to end a day’s walking and I happily lounged around for a while afterwards, until my stomach began to growl discontentedly at me.
At six thirty, I took a twenty-odd minute walk down to Newgale. The rain had stopped, presumably because it no longer had me to pummel. There were patches of blue sky appearing and it was turning into a pleasant evening. I mused, as I moseyed along, that I only had about twelve miles to walk the next day to St, Justinian’s, and my last day of the trip. I went into the Duke of Edinburgh and had a pint of real ale as I decided what to eat. I then had another as I was eating and another in appreciation of a good meal. Custom was light and I was tired, so I didn’t linger after finishing my last drink. I went back outside and saw that evening was drawing in. The sun was a muted orb gazing through a blanket of cloud, as it sank towards cliffs made black by approaching twilight. The beach was empty and lazy ripples rolled in from the sea. I walked slowly, back uphill towards a waiting bed and brief thoughts of the last day of my walk before I drifted off into sleep.

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