It’s our last day, and a chance to fill a missing link, between Newborough and Brynsiencyn, the furthest point west we managed last year. We leave the car in the Llyn Rhos Ddu car park south of Newborough. In its centre is a metal sculpture by Ann Catrin Evans of several ‘gafrod’ or bunches of marram grass. The grass was planted from the sixteenth century in an attempt to stabilise the dunes and halt the spread of the sand. Local women harvested it, dried it in the sun, and wove it into ropes, mats and baskets. We walk along the main road for a short way, waving cheerfully at a huge and healthy sow across the wall, before turning down a long lane towards Afon Braint.
Just before the river there’s an unexpected notice, warning that some of the stepping stones across the river have slipped, and that we may prefer an alternative route – back along the lane we’ve just walked. We get half way across the river, but H finds difficulty with two of the slipped stones. After several attempts she has to admit defeat, and retreats with C to the main road for a long detour along the main road via the village of Dwyran. We agree to meet there. I cross the stones and walk up the grassy path along the bank, blossoming hawthorn on one side, a stone wall shielding the river on the other. There’s plenty of time to stand still and watch. I wait, and soon all the local birds seem to come together in this tranquil place. A family of mallards swims upstream, one duckling trailing behind the rest, apparently forgotten. Two geese fly above, horns blaring like self-important SUV drivers. Swallows brush the air with their long tails. I’ve come too near to the nest of a couple of redshanks. They warn me off angrily, sitting on top of adjacent posts across the river on their long red legs and giving me the evil eye. As soon as I’ve gone they stop their yelling and resume their business. There’s a kink in the river ahead and the path goes off through a meadow with sitting cows. Beyond it, another, more neglected path snakes through undergrowth to the main road, where I wait for C and H to arrive.
Eventually they appear, and we retrace my steps back to the coast path, and carry on. We cross fields, pass close to houses and reach a long lane carrying a surprising amount of traffic. Many of the fields are large, and left as flowering meadows, a rarity these days. Then a track takes us across the bottom of the estate of a mansion, Tal Gwynedd, before we turn downhill at last through fields to the shore of the Menai Strait. Immediately opposite are the eastern outskirts of Caernarfon, the castle grey and commanding to our right, and the mountains indistinct behind. The water’s quiet, and sandbanks are exposed in the low tide.
We take a break on a large stone on the shore. This spot is where the Tal y Foel ferry once took passengers to the other bank, before, and long after, Telford built the Menai Bridge. We set off again, crunching our way over the stones and crushed shells towards a lane that leads past a sea zoo. Next door is the headquarters of Halen Môn, and we call in briefly. We’re not in time for a tour of the plant, but buy some special (and expensive) salt in their shop. (Salt is a simple and cheap substance, and Halen Môn is a rare example of a Welsh company that relies for its success almost entirely on branding and marketing.) A ruined and abandoned boat lies in a field on the landward side of the road, wittily labelled (or relabelled) ‘Uphill Struggle, Caernarfon’. Then come more large fields. One passes in front of another mansion, white with a brilliant red front door. We swish through a tall grass crop, in the wrong direction until we spot a green metal kissing gate. Finally we come to a lane leading inland that looks familiar: this is the spot we reached a year ago. It takes us up to our second car, parked in Brynsiencyn. The village looks as closed as it seemed last year. The toilets, the pub, the shop – all are shut. Only Horeb, the huge Presbyterian chapel that was the base for the notorious preacher and army recruiter John Williams, remains open.
And that’s the end of Anglesey for now. We’ve left a final three days to be walked on another occasion, from Valley to Amroth. Most of the afternoon is free, so we turn ourselves into tourists and visit two sites. First, Llangadwaladr Church, with its fifteenth century stained glass, seventeenth century chapel and, best of all, its stone inscription commemorating Cadfan, ruler at Aberffraw in the seventh century (in Latin, ‘Catamanus [Cadfan], the wisest and most famous of all kings’). And second, Oriel Môn in Llangefni, one of the finest art galleries and small museums in Wales.