One of my ambitions for this year is to walk more of the North Wales section of the Wales Coast Path, which begins, or ends depending on which way you’re walking at Chester and continues around to Caernarfon. Some of the walks I do fairly regularly are part of the Coast Path, and there are other bits within reasonable striking distance that I could do fairly easily and I am keen to see more of the wildlife found along this amazing and varied coastline. On a sunny day back in the middle of March I set off in the opposite direction to that of my usual routes planning to walk the section from Colwyn Bay to Pensarn, the seaside part of Abergele. I cheated a bit as I have done the Colwyn Bay part so many times before, and drove to the pier to take some updated photos of the route along the promenade.
Colwyn Bay’s Victoria Pier, in a sad and dilapidated state
As a result of a long drawn-out dispute over its ownership, the pier is in a sad state of disrepair and dilapidation but there is much ongoing effort locally to save and restore it. It must be a bit of an embarrassment to the local council, particularly as a lot of money has been invested in providing a new sandy beach and in the building of the new water sports centre, known as Porth Eirias, just a stone’s throw away.
The water sports centre at Porth Eirias is finished but not yet occupied..it’s meant to look like a ship
From Porth Eirias the path continues as a promenade and cycle path and is my favourite stretch, particularly in the winter when stormy seas send waves crashing into and over the sea wall and flood the road, which may be closed off on exceptionally wild days. On the opposite side of the road the railway track runs parallel atop a high embankment, which provides habitat for an interesting array of wildflowers. There are great views from the trains too.
The view from Porth Eirias that shows the route of the Coast Path towards Llanddulas
At the end of the promenade is a small parking area from where the path and cycle track continue towards Llanddulas. I had intended to park here and walk, but it was full of works vehicles as yet more work was being carried out on reinforcing the sea defences. Instead I crossed over the road and turned in towards Old Colwyn and stopped by the river at Min-y-Don.
Celandines smothered the grassy bank on the sunny side of the road and King Cups lit up the shadier side of the path along the river.
The river was running fast and at a fairly decent level, although nowhere near full.
Golden yellow King Cups
This is a favourite spot for Grey Wagtails and I had timed my visit perfectly as a pair of them flew down from upstream to land almost right in front of me. I watched them for a good while, darting after flies from stones in the water and running along the stone wall.
Grey Wagtail on the river Colwyn- the female of a pair
I drove on to Llanddulas Point and parked facing out across the flat rocky shore to the sea. The views from here are expansive to say the least, and if you were walking the Coast Path seriously I can imagine it may be rather daunting to be able to see where you are heading and will arrive at in a few hours time.On a sunny and warmish day like today it is pleasant enough and as the land is almost pancake flat, easy walking. I’m not sure if I’d fancy it on a wet day when the wind was blasting you in the face.
Leaving the car park and crossing a small bridge, the path follows the lower stretch of the River Dulas for a short distance until it reaches its end and flows towards the sea.
Path alongside the River Dulas
The coast here may appear to stark and empty, but it provides important habitat for a good range of marine plants and the eastern end of Llanddulas beach is designated as a SSI as locally rare plants such as sea kale and yellow horned poppy grow there. It was too early in the season for plants to be flowering, but there are new leaves pushing up through the shale.
New leaves of Sea Holly
New leaves of Yellow Horned Poppy
New leaves of Sea Mayweed
As I neared the last stretch of the river I heard, then spotted more Grey Wagtails, another pair I’m sure, that were hunting flies from stones near the banks, flitting low across the water from one side to the other. As you round the bend in the path where the river ends the narrow ribbon of trees that follow the line of the cliff reaches the path edge. As I got close to this point a wren flew from the tree cover across to a rock and belted out his song.
I attempted to get a bit closer to him and he moved off, but I was soon distracted by a rock face smothered in a red-brown coloured lichen, I have no idea what it is, and another rock with some sort of quartz trapped in it.
Quartz in limestone
Sheltered on this side of the rocks there was a clump of sea mayweed that appeared to have been blooming for some time as many of the flowers were already beginning to go to seed.
Clump of flowering Sea Mayweed
A green-bottle fly on Sea Mayweed flower
Highlighted by the sun there was a pretty little clump of moss or with seed-heads on a nearby rock too.
Moss with seedheads
Moving back to the path I spotted two tiny birds flitting about amongst the twiggy tree branches. I thought at first they were wrens, but then excitedly realised they were too small and were actually goldcrests, a definite pair. I watched them for a good while as they continued to forage amongst the lichen-covered twigs, but didn’t have much luck getting a clear enough view for long enough to get a good photograph. The one below is the best I could do but it does confirm the sighting!
A rear view of one of a pair of goldcrest
I would never have imagined seeing these delightful little birds here within a metre or two of a busy walkway, but there they were and no-one else seemed to notice them at all. These trees are mostly ash that have been regularly pollarded to prevent them growing high enough to block the view from the wooden chalets that line the clifftop above them and appear to be a popular spot with a variety of other species of birds too. In the short while I was there I saw blackbirds, dunnocks, robin, the wren I already mentioned and blue tits and great tits.
A view of the shore in the direction of Abergele then on to Prestatyn and Rhyl
A few metres away the shoreline was lined with huge numbers of herring gulls. During the winter months, there are oystercatcher, curlew, redshank and turnstone feeding here and some years there are snow buntings.
The shoreline stretches on to Pensarn then on to Prestatyn and Rhyl
I was surprised to find some little yellow coltsfoot flowers pushing up through the stony ground next to the path here.
Wooden chalets line the path for a good distance along this section of the path and there were a growing number of people out walking dogs, so I turned round and walked back the way I had come.
Mist obscured much of the distant views today, but it was still possible to make out the outline of the old limestone quarry which rises up behind the shore, separated from it by the A55 Expressway. For 300 years quarrying was a major occupation in this area, second only to farming and lime kilns dominated the skyline from 1890 to 1940. There is a working quarry operational today and between Llanddulas and Colwyn Bay the path passes a jetty that serves it. There used to be another jetty, closer to Llanddulas where during stormy weather in April 2012 a cargo ship that was loading there was forced on to the rocks and had to be dismantled.This event made the national news and I recall it causing chaos on the A55 as people stopped their cars and got out to have a look or to take photographs.
Linnets on the raised stony sea bank
Final treats were the sight of a small flock of linnets that flew on to the raised stony sea bank to feed on seeds and a lovely pair of mallard by the footbridge.