Days Sixty and Sixty-One
Teva were true to their word, and clearly keen to prove themselves the saviours of my expedition. I was still eating breakfast (which I remembered to call a ‘Full Welsh’ this time) when a motorbike pulled up in front of the hotel, and a courier handed me a fresh box of syringes wrapped in ice packs. I took close-up pictures of the box and tweeted them with gushing thanks to the people who had made it happen.
— Edward Peppitt (@thebeaconbike) July 2, 2015
I still felt drained from everything that had happened yesterday, and decided early on to spend a second night in Barmouth. Still needing to do something about my mental health, I found the time to sob down the telephone line for fifteen minutes to my GP, who promptly faxed a prescription for a course of anti-depressants to a pharmacist in the town. My front pannier was now acting as a serviceable chemist’s, with enough medication for all my various complaints to see me through to the end of the journey.
By setting off early on Friday morning, there was a chance to catch up on the day I had missed if I could reach Aberdaron, a small fishing village on the south west tip of the Llyn Peninsular, by nightfall.
I passed a sign to Portmeirion, and regretted that my revised schedule meant I couldn’t justify the detour. It’s somewhere I have always wanted to visit, having first come across it when it served as the location of ‘The Village’ in the 1960s television show The Prisoner. It’s an extraordinary place, designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975 in the style of an Italian village. The architecture is positively Mediterranean, and it has more than a passing resemblance to the village of Portofino, on the Italian Riviera.
Outside Porthmadog, roadworks had reduced the main road to a single carriageway for almost two miles. To make certain that no car was able to share the lane with another coming in the opposite direction, a bright yellow truck followed behind the final car for each phase of the traffic lights. The lights only changed once the truck has passed the waiting queue.
This may have been an ideal system for managing the cars, but it was bloody awful for a sluggish cyclist like me. At best, two flat miles had been taking me a little under ten minutes. This stretch, slightly uphill, was going to take more like fifteen. The driver of the yellow truck decided to try to force my pace by remaining within ten feet of my rear wheel the whole way. Whenever I slowed a little to take breath, closer still. When I finally reached the traffic lights at the other end, I was met by a line of irritated drivers, and overtaken by a yellow truck driver who looked hugely amused. It was clearly his favourite part of the job.
In Abersoch, I seemed to get completely lost in a one-way system, looking for a sign to a village with an unpronounceable name, close to where I could get a great view of the lighthouse at St Tudwal’s. Abersoch is tiny, yet each time I tried to get out of the village I passed the same pub, with the same people sitting outside it. The fourth time, it became embarrassing.
For very practical reasons, I couldn’t stop and ask for directions. After all, where would you start with a placename like ‘Bwlchtocyn’? Particularly without spitting on the person you ask. Eventually, I followed a sign to a golf course, and a gravel track that went straight through the middle of it. Camouflaging my bike under piles of green bracken alongside a caravan park, I followed a stone wall heading straight for the cliff edge, where I hoped I might meet up with the Wales Coast Path. The plan worked, although I reached the path quite a bit further north than I’d planned to, so I had quite a trek before I stood opposite the island and lighthouse at St Tudwal’s.
St Tudwal’s is one of a pair of islands off the south-east coast of the Llyn Peninsula, reputedly named after the saint who lived on the island in the sixth century. There are the remains of an eleventh-century priory on the island, as well as a holiday home owned by the adventurer, Bear Grylls.
This was a popular route for shipping cargo and slate from the local quarries, and the lighthouse was needed because the one nearby at Bardsey was obscured to ships from certain directions.
The lighthouse was designed by engineer James Douglass and built by Trinity House in 1877. It comprises a squat, cylindrical stone tower, thirty-six feet tall, with lantern and gallery, as well as single-story keepers’ accommodation behind. Today, it shows a white flashing light every fifteen seconds, visible for fourteen miles. It also shows a red flashing light, also every fifteen seconds, visible for ten miles.
In 1922 the light was converted to acetylene operation and was operated by means of a sun valve, a mechanism invented by Swedish lighthouse engineer Gustaf Dalén. It allowed the lighthouse to be automated, and the keepers’ dwellings to be sold in 1935.
The lighthouse was modernised and converted to solar power in 1995.
— Edward Peppitt (@thebeaconbike) July 3, 2015
I had done such a good job of disguising my bike that it took a while to relocate it. Still, I was grateful that despite sixty days of chaining it up against railings, doorways and in hotel corridors, as well as hiding it in bushes and under bracken, so far I had managed not to lose it completely.
Returning to Abersoch, I took the only road out of the village that I hadn’t already tried. Aberdaron was a final twelve-mile slog south, largely uphill. When I finally descended down to the harbour front, I asked for directions to the B&B I had booked.
‘About a mile back up the hill,’ came the unwelcome reply.