Episode 103 – The one with Andy Sargent – 3,607 miles and 292 days spent walking the Coast Paths around England and Wales – This trip 31 miles from Broughton Bay on The Gower to Burry Port in Carmarthenshire. Andy’s contribution – 9 miles from LOUGHOR to LLANELLI

 

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Famous Author Andy Sargent and Bobl obscuring a perfectly good view of Llanelli Mudflats

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The Scarlet Worms have never been more appropriate reaching Llanelli…….              … MAP BY KIND PERMISSION OF ORDNANCE SURVEY

 

Dear Rosie, Lauren, Stan, Jake, Rowan and Maisie,

Background. Uncle Sarge/Andy is not really your Uncle, in the same way as Auntie Jean was not really my, or John, Susan and Janet’s Aunt.

Auntie Jean, Andy’s Mum, was a school best friend of  Nanny Tab. Their children became friends and  knew respective parents as Uncles and Aunts. Sarge/Andy attended the very same Southend  High School as John and The Writer and even the same House – Athens. It was not possible to attend that school and not be unaffected by the raucous presence of Sarge even though he was several years ahead of me  and a couple ahead of John.   His fingerprints were on everything and footprints all over the playing fields. Hockey was his particular game and I do recall, when one particular House Match result was not to his liking, his stick flew from one end of the pitch to the other.

I was impressed.

Don’t try this at home…..

So: Imagine my delight when after months of trying I signed Uncle Sarge/Andy up to join in The Walk when it passed near his home in South Wales.

I was honoured.

After hours of bartering and bantering we hammered out a suitable level stretch of the Wales Coast Path extending from the off ramps of The Gower Peninsular  over the Loughor Bridge via The Sewage Works, through the National Wetlands Centre and Millennium Coast Park, past The Golf and Country Club along the Llanelli Promenade to join Nanny Marilyn at The Visitor Centre Café at North Dock for refuelling. In all nine miles the high level of humour and jocularity didn’t falter; many common names would have been recalled if only we could have remembered them; but  the spectacular recollection remains  the Sargent/McIntyre fifty partnership At The Southend Waterworks Cricket Ground – the highlight of our respective sporting careers. A one off. As is Sarge.

He gallantly accepted the challenge of contributing to THE BLOG and without further ado The Famous Author produced the following…..

A Scarlet Letter Day

I once heard Phil Bennett (Llanelli RFC, Wales, Barbarians and British Lions, in that order, he would probably say), speaking at a dinner. He said when he was younger he’d been taught to hate two things:: “Baghdad and Swansea…only not in that order” .

I suppose Llanelli, which he has in his veins, is an acquired taste, if you weren’t born just up the road, like he was. I have to say that at first sight,  ” Romantic Weekends at Llanelli and Burry Port” might win a competition for the world’s best short book titles. The access road to what passes for the beach is a No Man’s Land on which the pre stressed concrete team is fighting out a goalless draw with the one representing plastic and glass. Never in your life have you seen so many ASDAs,and the like, crammed into a couple of square miles. It’s hard to tell who’s winning this but my money would not be on the Town Planners, for the architectural award.

But I wasn’t going for a romantic weekend. Instead, I was spending a Sunday or most of it, with Bob McIntyre, whom I have known since he was born. I can see him now, but will leave it at that this being a family blog……….

But now he is older, leavened with age, slightly grizzled with the sands of time, but still with that very soft voice which reminds me so much of his mother. She was a person of grace and kindness but also of authority, a big character, who would fight for what was right and never give up. I played a lot of hockey, and she would have graced any team I represented and then some.

Which is where Bob gets it from.

Words are the only thing available to describe this fellow: utterly determined, stubborn, resolute, stoical, funny, honest, human. Thank heavens Marilyn has to live with all this. Give me a few character defects any day. I know where I am with these. Mainly my own, although I hotly deny the hockey stick story. (The American golfer, and club thrower, Tommy Armour, used to deny such allegations vehemently. This was explained by the late Sam Snead who said Tommy threw clubs so often, they became a blur in his memory. Maybe that was my own problem?)

Anyway, Marilyn met me in this car park, next to a mainly empty building, unsurprisingly called ‘Visitor Centre’, and together we drove in the venerable RAV, (not quite as venerable as me) to find the doughty hiker, who greeted me with the assurance that he had already got lost twice that morning, and he hoped I had strong feet and boots to match.

His brand however, is worse than his bite. He had been described to me as- well, merciless, not to put too fine a point on it. Tales of Malcolm McLeod having to be revived by Diana (murmurs of ‘why bother?’- from graduates in Cynicism from SHS). Other kind wishes offered me from Henry Staunton and Elizabeth Watkins (Abbot) along the lines of: ‘you’ll be OK Andy. Don’t let his enthusiasm run away with you though.’

As it happened, I had nothing to worry about at all. The walk itself, was mainly very easy, flat, lined with blackthorn trees, nature reserves, and, in fairness to Llanelli, some simply stunning scenery, and wonderful estuary views. Not a great deal of wildlife though. Probably they knew we were coming.

 I actually live in South Wales, although the magnetic pull of Llanelli and Burry Port had yet to work its magic spell upon me. But my mate up the road is a Llanelli man, born and bred at Gowerton Bridge where he became a fearsome off spinner later recruited by Glamorgan. When I told him where I’d been he went all dewy eyed (he only has one) and said that if he’d only known, he would have come as well. Which, dear reader, is the thought with which I will leave you: Go! JFDI (Nike customers will translate), and enjoy the buzz. He is truly great company, and I shall definitely go again, hopefully before the so called last hoorah at Aberystwyth. I only wish my legs had lasted longer but truth to tell, nine miles was OK, and more than I had thought. He was very kind to me and Marilyn too.

Many thanks to them both for a great day. Well, half day anyway. He did another nine miles after I had staggered away. His name should be ‘Felix’. his Mum would be very proud.

Perhaps she is?

Andy Sargent

 

It was quite sad and subdued to complete the rest of my visit alone when Andy decided to retire from The Walk  while he was winning at The Cafe.  He promised to return when he had recovered – at least 6 months  – probably for the finish party at Aberystwyth?

Together we didn’t get lost on The Coast Path, despite immersion in conversation; the same couldn’t be said of my lone trekking. Prior to meeting up I had already taken two serious off piste misdirections, firstly at Whiteford Sands National Nature Reserve where i got comprehensively lost in the dunes; and secondly I was well on my way to Three Crosses from Bryn y Mor. Both I put down to poor signage and diversions. Couldn’t possibly be my map reading.

Nothing so adventurous on the last lone stage of the trip as i followed the well appointed extra wide footpath and cycleway into RNLI Station at Burry Port. Another sad occasion  – this is to be the last time Vera meets up with me.  Scrappage beckons. The new incumbent is called ZUD!

Overtaking a herd on our way to Broughton Farm Caravan Site, start point of this walk – and within minutes I’m on the beach, no sign of the Wales Coast Path Signs and soon to be hopelessly lost in the sand dunes. I will have to return with local knowledge to check which parts of Whiteford National Nature Reserve I missed! Norm!

Help!

I shouldn’t be allowed out in your patch unsupervised.

 

Being lost in the dunes  – little consolation when I found out too late there was a diversion ! If you can name any of the above pictures please advise…. although below is self explanatory, but I wish to be informed as I enter such interesting features – not as I leave.

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The Coast Path to Llanrhidian followed an old railway track, the area was formerly mines docks and industrial activity but little evidence remains, nature has a way of covering our false tracks.

 

Llanrhidian Marsh – National Trust – free car parking – we’re members! That would be mainland Llanelli in the   background on the far side of the River LOUGHOR

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That threatening cloud came from nowhere to finish off a previously sunny walk; so a phone call ahead for rescue as no shelter available. 

Evidence of the old railway line now the Wales Coast Path next stop Gowerton , then heading for Loughor Bridge and  Llanelli. I shunted into sidings at Crofty at the end of the first day , as the rain increased, awaiting collection by back-up crew Vera and Marilyn

 

Day two  began with a beautiful sunrise and I resumed my tracks at Crofty

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anticipating rendezvous with Andy/Sarge. He’ll never recognise me….a bit podgy? And odd boots? Shades?? Beany hat???

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He’s arrived – on the LOUGHOR Bridge heading for Llanelli and lunch.

 

 

Apart from skirting the sewage works by way of soft marshes the trail to lunch was for the most part paved, level and well signed; only interrupting conversation to check our course was correct.

 

DSC_2958After nine miles walking and lunch, Andy said his farewells and we parted company promising to do it all again. Check your recovery period first Andy! 

 

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The Walk post Andy was quite subdued until I came across this monument to The Welsh Legend Phil Bennett sidestepping an All Black.  My Kiwi readers might say….Well that never happened….. The posts are from Stradey Park Llanelli Scarlets former ground.

 

From the tribute to Phil Bennett the Walk became quite sterile, one can only imagine the industrial mayhem and heavy industry  of previous years that has been tidied up and landscaped.

This is where my energy levels, after 31 miles in two days are now so low I can only just summon my back up team, who arrive and whisk me off to hotel sanctuary. Thank you team. Thank you Andy.

 

 

 

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