Yes it’s raining as we step out of the bus from Bangor on to the bleak high street of Y Felinheli, a small town halfway between Caernarfon and Bangor. Turning right at the post office we head down to the Marina and get our first view of the Menai Straits.
This is the second time in two days that we have walked past massive wooden locks like these. The first was in Manchester, where we waved goodbye to my daughter and family who had come from Denmark for my niece’s wedding. That time we stopped to watch from a canal bridge as two beautifully decorated long boats slowly made their way through the gates, with the help of a couple of people on the wharf using ropes and pulleys.
From the Marina we follow the Welsh Coast Path signs through a long stretch of woodland and through gaps in the foliage I get glimpses of the Straits to our left.
At one such viewpoint an unusual bench has been placed – built to allow for a clear view over the wall in front. It reminds me of a few of the most recent benches in Copenhagen which have impossibly high seats in an attempt to highlight rising sea levels due to climate change.
A while later we walk under the bulky undercarriage of the Britannia Bridge. Built in 1850, some 20 years after the Menai Straits Bridge, this bridge was specifically for rail rather than road traffic over the Straits. Originally designed and built by the noted railway engineer Robert Stephenson, its importance was to enable trains to directly travel between London and the port of Holyhead, thus facilitating a sea link to Dublin. In the early 70s it was destroyed by fire and almost completely rebuilt as both a rail and road bridge.
The path now leads us down into Treborth Botanical Gardens where we are met by this amenable chap holding a “Torch of Peace”. This is one of two identical bronze statues, the other is 10 miles away in Llanberis, both of which were inaugurated in 2019 to celebrate an ongoing commitment to world peace.
On the edge of the gardens stands two or three of these majestic oak trees which according to the information board are Lucombe Oaks. Apparently the first Lucombe oak was planted in Exeter around 1763 by a nurseryman called William Lucombe. All true Lucombe oaks today are clones of that original tree, grown in some way from grafts or cuttings. Lucombe himself cut down the original tree but kept the planks under his bed, to make his own coffin. But according to Wikipedia he lived to be 102 and by then the wood had rotted, so timber from one of his younger Lucombe oak clones was used.
Pretty soon the Menai Straits Suspension Bridge emerges from the trees and bushes – far prettier than the Pont Britannia. Built in 1826 by Thomas Telford this was the first iron suspension bridge in the world and proved to be a valuable alternative to ferries that were forced to navigate four different tides in both directions. We stand and marvel for a couple of minutes.
From the bridge we follow the signs down through Nantporth Nature Reserve and down to an area of parkland which, along with some university buildings and houses of affluence, makes up Upper Bangor.
Soon the cast iron columns of Garth Pier come into view through the grey mist of early evening. Threatened with demolition in 1971 Bangor Council managed to secure a Grade II listing for the pier which is free to access although there is an honesty box at the entrance. The second photo is from Google and shows the pier in more detail. The small kiosks have been occupied by a cafe, artists studios and a fishing tackle shop none of which are open when we visit.
This has been an interesting walk but I can also feel that I haven’t walked for a few months and discovered that my dear old boots have sprung a leak!
Distance: 9 miles