On Sunday, I was driving from Mynydd Mawr to camp further up the North coast of the Llyn. Having got somewhat lost along the myriad of little lanes, I ended up somewhere I hadn’t intended to be at all. When I saw a parking and picnic area, I decided to pull in and consult my maps in the hope of discovering my location. A notice board at the picnic site told me this was the carpark for Penllech Beach. From here, there was a footpath leading across some fields, past waterfalls and down to the beach. It was early in the day and I was in no hurry, so we headed off to the beach. I had no idea that I would not be returning to that car park in the manner in which I left it.
Some rough steps led down to the beach and this walkway ended in smooth rocks on which I almost slipped. There wasn’t another soul on the beach at that time of the morning. As I walked along the shoreline, I experienced a fleeting moment of apprehension, and the thought occurred to me that perhaps it wasn’t a good idea to be here alone. I should have heeded my instincts and those of my dogs. I sat on a rock to watch the waves breaking on the sand. Jessie dog came to sit beside me and huddled in to my side, making me wonder if she wasn’t feeling well as she would usually be avidly sniffing along the beach.
I got up and began walking back to the other end of the beach, and passed the steps we had come down. As we passed the steps, Morgan dog ran up them and sat waiting at the top. I tell him we are not going back up yet, we haven’t been here long. I continue along and look back to see Morgan is still sat at the top of the steps, as if he wants to go. I wonder if he, too, isn’t feeling well as he doesn’t seem to be as keen as usual, either. I call to him several times and finally he is persuaded to come down and follow.
Jessie dog then begins to play fight with him, trying to get him to play chase. He takes off, with her in hot pursuit. I’m looking up at the gorge where the waterfalls down to the beach are just out of sight, wondering how I can get across the stream to take a photograph. Too late, I turn to see Morgan hurtling towards me, not looking at where he is going but looking over his shoulder at Jessie chasing him. I don’t have time to get out of the way. Twenty-eight kilos of dog slam in to the side of my knee. I scream and hit the sand like a sack of spuds. The pain in my leg is excruciating, radiating from my kneecap down to my foot. I lie there in shock and pain, with the two dogs sat beside me. I fear my leg may be broken. I am on the edge of the water, with the waves of the sea seeping into my clothing and soaking my shoes. I tell myself I must get up, I must get out of the water. I try to turn over to get to my knees but I can’t move the injured leg. I pull myself into a sitting position in the water, wondering what on earth I’m going to do. I manage to pull my rucksack off my back to get to my mobile phone which is inside. No signal.
I look around me and see a couple walking along the coastal path. They come down the steps toward me and ask if I am alright; they had heard my scream and seen the whole thing. They lift me to my feet and I try to walk but each time I try to put weight on my left leg it gives way beneath me. It feels like my knee is folding inwards and I’m beginning to feel really scared.
The realisation that I may be seriously injured throws me into a panic. Maybe it was shock, I don’t know, but all I can think is that if I can just get back to my camper and lie down, I will be alright. Another lady comes along at that moment and asks if she can help. Her name is Liz, she’s from New Zealand, and she’s staying at a place on top of the cliffs. Between them they managed to help me to the bottom of the steps.
I have a brainwave born of fear and desperation. If I could just brace my knee, and with the aid of my walking stick (which is in the van), I am certain I can walk back to the van. Liz goes off to see if she can find something to bandage my knee. Jacqui, the lady who found me, takes my keys to go and get my stick. Twenty minutes or so later, my knee is bandaged up, I have my stick and a lady on each side of me. I take one step and my knee gives way again with an excruciating bolt of pain.
Another lady, Jo, arrives and says she is going to call for air ambulance, at which point I dig my stubborn heels further into the sand. No, no, no, that is not going to happen, I tell her. I just need to get my dogs and myself back to the van and rest up and then I will be fine. She says, okay, she is just going to go and ask a local farmer if he can get his quad-bike down here to get me back to the van.
When she comes back it is to tell me she has called for an ambulance. I tell her I am not going in any ambulance, I will not leave my dogs. My dogs have been huddled up to me all the time I’ve been sat on the steps. Honey, she says, you are not going to get off this beach without a stretcher, you can’t walk. You need to get that leg seen to. Listen, she adds, they’ll probably just stretcher you back to your van, check you over and say everything’s fine, so don’t worry, okay?
This reassures me. I now think this is what will happen. As we sit and wait and the kind ladies are chatting, I am formulating a plan. When me and the dogs are back in the camper, I will stay parked up in there in the camper until my knee is feeling better. I tell myself it will be better by tomorrow. I know now that due to shock, or panic, I wasn’t thinking straight at all, but at the time it all seemed perfectly plausible to me.
Then half a dozen people turn up in red overalls; they are a marine rescue team who had been on a training exercise up on the headland somewhere and had picked up the emergency call. They say the ambulance is on its way but has been held up by a trailer of silage along the lane. A short while later, half a dozen ambulance crew arrive. They ask me lots of questions like ‘can I feel my toes’, etc. I apologise profusely for the trouble I’ve put them to but say I’ll be okay if they can just get me back to my camper so I can lie down, I’ll be right as rain in no time. I am not leaving my dogs, I tell them.
The kind ladies say I must not worry about the dogs, they will look after the dogs for me until I get back. Jo owns a camp site over the hill. She’s going to drive my van back to her site for me and look after my dogs until I return. There won’t be any need to look after my dogs, I’m thinking, because I’m only going as far as my van.
An ambulance man explains how they’re going to carry me out on a stretcher back to the car park. They put my leg in a brace. They have to carry me across fields and across a stream, poor things. Back at the car park, they have me inside that ambulance before I have time to blink, and we’re on our way to the nearest hospital with x-rays facilities. The ride seems to go on for ever; as well it might because they’re taking me to Bangor. Then begins an interminable wait as I sit in a wheel chair, in my still damp clothing and shoes, staring at the walls, waiting to be seen. It is five hours later when I am finally discharged with a pair of crutches and my leg in splints (with no idea that I would be in those splints for months).
I ask the nurse for the number of a taxi cab to take me back down the coast. She tells me I don’t want to do that, it will cost me an arm and a leg if I hire one from Bangor and that I would be better off getting one to come up from Porth Colmon. I am at my wits end, now. I tell her that would mean waiting an extra hour and a half before they got here. I tell her I’m exhausted, I haven’t eaten for over eight hours, and I don’t care how much it costs, I want to leave now. If able, I would have stamped my foot, I’m sure. I can become as cantankerous and grumpy as the next person, when sorely pressed.
You have had a day of it, haven’t you, the nurse says, and comes back with a sandwich, a cup of tea, and the number of the cab. Seventy pounds it will cost to get me back to my camper and it is worth every penny. One and a half hours later, I am reunited with my dogs, and Liz and her friend, Lynn, make me a cup of tea. I sit on the step of my camper to drink it because I don’t feel strong enough yet to hoist myself up the steps, bum first.
As I’m sat there and Liz is making up a bed for me in the camper, I begin to feel very ill indeed. Lights are flashing in front of my eyes. I am sweating profusely and begin to feel sick. I tell Liz I’m not feeling well. She gets a cloth and drapes it over the back of my neck and tells me to breathe. I start throwing up. I can’t sit up any longer, I have to lie down or I’m going to collapse. The sky is full of flashing lights and I hear Liz say ‘we need to get her in the recovery position’. Then my hearing goes and all I can hear is the pounding of waves inside my ears. Next thing I know, I’m on the ground with a pillow under my head.
Next day, I am laid up in the camper. Jo, the campsite owner, tells me I am welcome to stay as long as I like and they will help me as long as needed. I decide it is time to get back to family, and so my daughter tries to arrange some way of getting me and my camper back to her place in Shropshire. Meanwhile, Liz and Jo have walked the dogs for me, fetched water for me, and gone out to buy some provisions for me.
It was an unlucky accident, but I consider myself incredibly fortunate because I can’t help but think of the ‘what if’s’. What if the tide had been coming in and not out? What if no one had come by? What if my injuries had been life-threatening?
I shall never forget how I was blessed by the kindness and help of strangers; and the efficiency of the marine rescue and ambulance teams was second to none.
Jacqui from the Yorkshire Dales, Liz and Lynn from New Zealand, and Jo from the Moel-y-berth campsite at Porth Colmon; I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I shall never forget your help and kindness.
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 or 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
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