It was a funny old week. My travels around the Llyn Peninsula began near Black Rock sands and the most extortionately priced campsite I’ve yet encountered. Twenty-five pounds per night is the charge for the dubious pleasure of being able to park your outfit on a potholed field backing onto the dunes. For your money you get a pitch with electric and use of the toilet and shower block which are converted porta-cabins.
Black Rock sands is a vast stretch of flat, sandy beach which also serves as a car-park for anyone wanting to spend the day there. From your car you can watch and listen to the senses-assaulting scream of the water-scooters (what are they called?) motoring up and down the bay the whole day long. We head inland for a walk along the pretty country lanes, instead.
On Saturday night, whichever council employee is responsible for locking the barriers at 8pm forgets to do so. The result is a bunch of lads arrive in their cars for high-speed races up and down the beach (which has a 10mph limit), keeping everyone awake. Those not racing their cars light bonfires dangerously close to the dunes, ignoring the risk of setting the bone-dry marran grass alight.
On Sunday morning, I decide one night on this site is too much, in every sense, and take a walk through the dunes down to the beach before we leave. Those who kept us awake half the night have left the smouldering remains of bonfires, barbecues, and strewn litter in their wake; carrier bags, food wrappers, beer cans, etc. are blowing about the sands. This beach is very popular and I can’t think why, for the life of me.
I make an early start and head for the ‘chin’ of the Llyn Peninsula, beyond the trendy town of Abersoch, and soon we are pootling along country lanes which branch off in all directions, hemmed with wild-flower strewn stone walls.
I come across a sign for a campsite that is two empty fields mown to putting green standard.
“You’ve arrived at the right time,” the owner says, “we were chock-a-block at the weekend.”
Sadly, there is only one electric hook-up, which is attached to the owner’s house. I dither about whether to park here, where there would be no views or privacy at all, or to forego the electric. I dither because, as yet, I haven’t been able to get the fridge to work off the gas, despite repeated attempts according to the instructions of the chap that sold the camper to me.
“I’ll take a look at the fridge, if you want,” says the owner, “see if we can get it working.”
I’m thinking I’ve landed on my feet and park the van at the far side of the field where I can see the views. Then me and the dogs go for a walk along the lanes.
Back at the campsite, the owner comes over, saying he will take a look at my fridge – later. He talks and talks about everything and nothing before finally returning to his house.
I go to the toilet and shower block. Here, I discover, too late, there is no loo roll in the toilet cubicle. On exiting, I see a notice on the wall; loo rolls 80 pence each, available from the house. Now, wouldn’t it have been nice to know I needed to bring my own loo roll or purchase one from the house, before I’d used the loo?
Some other notices catch my eye, one of which says that campers will get no refund if they are asked to leave, or if they choose to leave earlier than the amount of days they are booked in for. Later, I go to use the shower and find it is a coin-operated shower which will only devour a minimum of 5 x 10 pence pieces at a time. I get dressed again, go over to the van in the vain hope I may have some in my purse. I have only four, so trudge over to the house but there is nobody about so I don’t get my shower until the owner comes back.
Over the next few hours, I lose count of the number of times the owner strolls over, hands jammed into his pockets and shoulders hunched up to just below his ears, until it gets to the point where my heart sinks at the sight of him.
“Alright? Not bothering you, am I?” he asks before continuing his chatter, this time to tell me how all the people around here are nutters. He tells me how he came from up Lancashire way to buy this place and the trouble he had from the council when he wanted to put a campsite here. He tells me he is a qualified such-and-such and all his customers are millionaires because everyone around here is a millionaire; it’s the millionaire belt of Wales. Again, he leaves, promising again to take a look at my fridge – later. It’s probably just a bit of dust on the pilot-light, he says, or the pipe may be blocked; easily fixed. Meanwhile, my icebox is melting.
Half an hour later, back he comes for another chat which again begins with the same question. “Not bothering you, am I?”
By now, he is really beginning to bother me but I am far too polite to say so and I’m hoping that, on this occasion, he has come to do what he’s been promising to do since I got here, i.e. fix the darned fridge.
He asks me what I’m doing. I tell him I was writing. He peers around me, where I am standing inside my doorway, and he sees my laptop. He wants to know how I’m charging it. I tell him I use the invertor, or whatever it’s called.
“You can’t do that! You’ll drain your engine battery if you do that!”
I tell him it isn’t running off the engine battery; it runs off the leisure batteries which are charged by the solar panels on the roof. He exhales a breath.
“Well, I’m telling you now, you’ll knacker those batteries if you go doing that. Have you any idea how much it costs to replace them?”
I’m not one for being rude to people, so I don’t tell him it isn’t actually any of his business. Instead, I politely tell him I need to crack on with what I was doing.
“I was going to have a look at that fridge for you, wasn’t I?” he says.
I answer in the affirmative.
“I’ll just take that grill off the vent and have a look inside.”
At last! I am so longing to get that fridge to work! He takes off the grill and says he will need a screw driver.
“Don’t suppose you’d have thought to pack something like that, would you, eh?”
“Well, actually…” I say, and nip inside and come back with my multi-headed ratchet screwdriver (no less) and present it to him with a smile.
He gives it a scathing glance and asks haven’t I got something a bit smaller than that. I point out the multitude of screw-heads he has to choose from, one for every size of screw.
He heaves a sigh and unscrews a metal plate.
“Look at this! This is wired all wrong, this is. No wonder it isn’t working. These wires shouldn’t be where they are,” he says, wiggling the wires about. I reckon someone has been tampering with this. No wonder it isn’t working.”
There is an intermittent fault with my bullshit detector but when it is working I tend to trust what it tells me and right now it was detecting a very suspicious smell. I nip inside to get the manual in which I recall seeing diagrams of the wirings. As I come back down the van steps, he has his hands jammed back into his jeans pockets.
“Can’t help you, I’m afraid,” he says, with a jerk of his head in the direction of the vent grill. “Those wires have been tampered with. Didn’t you check if the fridge was working before you bought it? You women! You haven’t got a clue, have you?”
More of a clue than you could ever imagine, matey.
I’m no longer surprised that I am the only one here. I don’t respond to his comment but show him the diagram in the manual which proves that the fridge is, in fact, wired up as it should be. (Incidentally, since my accident, I’ve had an engineer to come out and look at the fridge. The problem was the gas valve which had ceased up – apparently can happen if not used for a length of time.)
He shrugs and fixes me with a cold stare. “It’s not working though, is it? All your stuffs going to go off! It’s only a few extra quid a night if you want to plug into the hook-up at the end of my house.
I say thanks but no thanks, I’ve got a cool box; I’ve put what I can in there for now. I’m thinking; across this field has become a lot too close to this nutter and I’m going to get out of here as soon as possible.
“I’m off into town, now, to get a few things,” I call out as he saunters away.
I drive away and don’t look back. I recall the notice in the toilet block about not getting a refund if you decide to leave early. How many people before me have stopped here and soon wanted to leave? I can only guess. I’m beginning to fear I have become a magnet for interfering gits and/or lunatics. ( This fear becomes a reality on the journey home following my accident!)
I find another site a mile or so away and love, love, love this part of the beautiful Llyn. The dogs and me take off down the flower- bejewelled lanes and go along a footpath which takes us down to Porth Ceiriad.
I am so pleased I chose to come to this part of the Llyn for it exceeds all my expectations. What a landscape of contrasts this is; cosy, sleepy, little lanes lead to open headland where the trees grow sideways; away from the blast of the prevailing winter winds.
We walk from one end of the beach of Porth Neigwl to the other, marvelling at the myriad of colourful pebbles along the beach. I find a small shard of blue and white china amongst the pebbles; another treasure to add to the trove.
Porth Neigwl’s other name is Hell’s Mouth, and if you look at its position on the map, you can see that Hell’s Mouth is between the ‘chin’ of the Llyn (where I’m camped) and the ‘nose’ at Mynydd Mawr. Hell’s Mouth is a massive open jaw between the two.
On my last day in this region of the Llyn, I meet a couple along the lane who have lost their way along the Llyn coastal path. I point them in the direction where they will pick up the coastal path again. That evening, I pop into Abersoch to get something to eat. I’m in the local shop and who should I see at the counter but the couple I saw on the lane. They are asking the girl behind the counter how best to get to back to Hell’s Mouth. I tell them I’m going in that direction and can give them a lift if they’d like.
I am then apologising for the mess; I’d have had a bit of a tidy if I’d known I was having guests! On the way, they tell me they are camped on a site at Mynydd Mawr (the tip of the ‘nose’ of the Llyn), and describe how beautiful it is there. I’d been planning to go in that direction next and think perhaps I will go there.
After dropping them off, I discover the lady has left her walking stick in my camper. There is no ‘perhaps’ about going to Mynydd Mawr, now; and so it was that this chance encounter led me on the next leg of my journey. The next morning, I headed for the area that is known as the ‘Land’s End’ of North Wales; to reunite a lovely lady with her walking stick and discover the most awesome part of the Welsh coastline I have yet encountered……
Jenny Lloyd is the Welsh author of The Megan Jones trilogy, historical suspense novels set in early, 19th century, rural Wales.
You can read about the books and purchase them by clicking on the links below.
Leap the Wild Water: http://ow.ly/jEoi302jXkd
The Calling of the Raven: http://ow.ly/4uRO302jXmd
Anywhere the Wind Blows: http://ow.ly/i1sy302jXXK