Our long awaited attempt at the Pilgrim’s Way from Beal to Holy Island began with Clive, Geoffrey, Robin and myself making the journey north on a sunny morning, eager, but not a little anxious about the walk over the sands.
We arrived at the car park around 11.30 a.m. and tarried awhile to eat our sandwiches and to let the hordes of cars cross the causeway, the safe crossing time having begun at 11.45 a.m. We then donned our walking attire of choice and set off.
The first part of the route was by the side of the road, but we soon arrived at the spot where the line of poles pointed the way across the sand. The lay-by near the refuge tower, just beyond the bridge over South Low, marked the spot on the map, and so we set off.
Open toed sandals, Wellington boots and flip flops were the first adopted pick of footwear, but the latter were rapidly discarded when a hungry patch of mud claimed them. As we walked, conditions underfoot became firmer as mud gave way to sand, so going barefoot became possible and preferable. Our first port of call was a rickety looking refuge – it looked just like a 1 tonne potato box on legs, with a makeshift ladder. It would prove a life saver I suppose, if the tide was coming in though !
We continued to follow the poles across the sands, marvelling at the innumerable lugworm casts, with their attendant saucer-shaped depressions. Also evident were patches of what I’ve discovered to be “glasswort” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salicornia_europaea, a pretty little plant that is apparently edible, a relative of samphire of Welsh fame.
The line of poles kept us true to the path as we approached yet another refuge. This looked more substantial, courtesy of some struts on either side, and we were fortunate that a fellow walker was kind enough to take our photo from this spot. The barnacles around the base of each pole was a stark reminder of how high the water reaches, but thankfully the tide was still receding as we continued our walk along the poles, though we had to divert slightly away from the direct route because there was an area of the route which was still quite deep with water.
We were serenaded (if that’s the correct term) on this latter stage of the walk across the sands by hundreds of seals away out in the bay, where, having hauled themselves out onto the sandbanks, they were calling to one another – a really strange, haunting, wailing sound; the mermaid’s siren call perhaps ?
We turned to skirt the rocky edge of the bay and then abseiled up to a footpath which led into the village, where we met up with the girls for celebratory coffee and cake. A super finish to what had been a really splendid walk, full of variety and with not a small sense of history.