This is the walk from Snowdon to Wigan, Chapter 9 of my Land’s End to John O’Groats adventure takes me from the north coast of Wales to the outskirts of Wigan. Lots of canal walking in this stage.
Day 30: Monday 18th March 2019
I was up and away early and enjoyed walking by the sea again. It seems a long time since I was on the Devon coast path.
It was an interesting walk through Conwy and it was nice to stop for and sit on a bench in the town, eating fish and chips.
The coast path goes inland in places but I made my own way on paths and roads closer to the sea.
The route crossed the main coast road a number of times but there was always bridges and safe crossing points.
The walk was varied and interesting enough, on good paths. It’s very built up along this part of the coast and there were quite a few people about. This was a bit of a surprise considering the cold and overcast weather.
I struggled to find somewhere to wild camp and had to put the tent up after dark. There had been a lot of dog walkers past and other people milling around suspiciously.
Day 31: Tuesday 19th March 2019
I didn’t sleep well and was up and away as it got light in the morning. The walk to Rhyl was nice enough, on good paths near the sea. This is a nice way to cover mileage fast but I’m now ready for a change. It’s a bit boring when I’m not having to worry about navigation, just keep the sea on the left.
Rhyl was pretty quiet, I’d arrived early and was please to find the Cookhouse Pub open for breakfasts. There was no way I was going to pass this by, I really needed a good meal. When I went in, the manager Alex asked where I would like to sit. I said “somewhere away from everyone else because I need a shower” I sat down and ordered breakfast.
While I was sat at the table writing my diary, Alex arrived and asked if I would like to use the staff showers. I was very happy to take here up on the offer and was shocked to have the softest towels I’d ever seen supplied as well. When I went to thank the manager and pay for the breakfast, I was handed a large lunch box to take. How nice was that… THANKYOU Alex and Cookhouse Pub. It’s things like this during my walk that made my trip and changed my view of people. When I returned from the walk I was often asked what I enjoyed best about it and the answer is always “the people I met”.
The best thing doing a long distance walk is, it takes you to new places and you never know what you’re going to find around the corner.
This was a surprise walk along a remote beach after a dull walk along roads and dog walking paths.
I had to step over a dilapidated fence and hide my tent behind some bushes to get this view. There was a factory nearby that was noisy all night but at least I’d been able to wild camp.
Day 32: Wednesday 20th March 2019
In the morning I laid in my sleeping bag with the door open and had breakfast and a coffee before getting up. The weather looking better as I got going and it wasn’t long before the sun was occasionally breaking through the cloud. Nice.
It’s 1.30pm and I am sat in the sun on a bench by the river, drying everything: tent, sleeping bag, socks, shoes and feet. This is the first time since Devon that it’s been dry enough to do this. I’ve also got the solar panel out to charge equipment, and my T-shirt off, which is surreal as 3 days ago I was wearing two pairs of gloves on the summit of Snowdon!
I was going to take the inland cycle route into Chester, but the river walk looked nicer. Another reason to be open-minded and flexible on a walk like this! It was lovely to be able to choose a route that best suited the warm and sunny weather.
The route was a bit of a long slog, but it was worth it as Chester has what looks like an interesting canal network. I followed this a short way through the city, then found a shop to re-stock my food supplies.
I should have looked at the map before I went shopping, though, as I didn’t buy enough. There’s no way I had walked far enough today to warrant a pub meal.
I followed the no. 5 cycle path out of Chester and yet again it paid off having an open plan as the cycle path now stays on the old railway line, rather than the road as my maps show. This was a lot nicer and has given me somewhere out of the way to camp, once the people disappear and it’s got dark. Dinner consisted of a pear, a half-priced Pot Noodle, a Twirl bar and some fruit and nut mix. Plus my obligatory coffee, of course!
Day 33: Thursday 21st March 2019
My camping spot was OK last night and I slept pretty well, but I had condensation in the tent as normal. It was a damp morning but dry with no breeze. I’d run out of water the day before, so no coffee before I set off this morning.
I continued along the cycle route and disused railway line for a while, then 8 miles or so on roads. These either had a footpath or were very quiet, so it wasn’t a problem. I picked up the cycle route no. 5 again for a while, then followed a nice walk through the Delmere Forest Park where I found a stream – finally I could make my coffee!
Another 5 miles on the roads led me to join the Trent and Mersey Canal Tow Path. I walked down the hill to a nice-looking canal bridge, heading to the pub on my map – only to find it completely boarded up. This pub was my only hope of food until later tonight, and I have another 5 miles to walk. A chocolate brioche and chewy bars are not a substantial breakfast! I had been on the move since 6am and was starting to get a head ache and shaky (it was 11.30am). I rounded the corner, feeling despondent, and tucked away was a lovely pub.
As I wandered in, the man at the bar asked if I needed to use the toilets. When I replied I was looking for a meal and a pint, he told me the pub was shut until 12 noon. I must have looked like I might stand there in shock until 12, because he then told me I could wait with a coffee! The Leigh Arms in Northwich – very highly recommended.
I ordered vegetable soup, and fish for my main course as I’ve become aware that my body needs something healthy. It is not doing so well on chocolate, chewy bars and brioche things.
I had time to reflect on my gear while I was eating. I’ve had a bad zip day today; the zip on my old Montane Terra trousers left pocket has failed. The zip on the same side on my ULA Catalyst rucksack hip belt pocket has broken too. These are more of a nuisance than serious, but little things become a real pain on a trip like this.
A moment of trail magic today – sort of – as I found a sandwich in my softshell pocket, still in cling film from my Rhyl lunch box. It’s a shame I didn’t find it this morning when I needed breakfast! Well, I suppose it will be OK for tea or breakfast tomorrow. The moral is if you’re out of food, check your pockets!
My meal at the Leigh Arms was probably the best food I’ve had on the trip so far, and when I mentioned that I was walking LEJOG he even took some money off my bill! Once I left here, I walked another few miles along the canal to find the shop. I carried on for another mile or so after this, but my ankle was hurting so I had to stop.
After making some coffee, I did some sewing to try to fix my two broken zips enough to still be sort of usable. I tried to carry on again after this stop, but didn’t get far because there was a bit of flat ground by the canal in the trees. I waited for half an hour or so then put the tent up as it got dark.
Day 34: Friday 22nd March 2019
For once I woke up to a dry tent! I had left the doors open all night due to the breeze and dry ground, and I was well away from the towpath. It turned out to be a great camping spot, and I slept really well.
The last of my water was used for coffee, and I headed off at about 6.30am. The days are getting noticeably longer and the extra daylight is very welcome. It means two hours less stuck in the tent or walking with my head torch on, and it’s also much easier sorting things out in the daylight. There is also a full moon at the moment, so it’s not getting fully dark.
For breakfast this morning, I had a choice of a bread roll or a chocolate muffin, as that’s all I had. I ate both.
My route zig-zagged around a little this morning, following roads, canal paths, footpaths and cycle ways to Newton le Willows. I was stopped here by two well-dressed men, who were a little over-friendly and asking about my walk. As I left they asked, ‘can we leave you with this to read on your travels?’ This is the second time it has happened to me on this walk, so I was ready with my reply of sorry, but I don’t want to add to my load.
My route avoided the centre of town so I wasn’t expecting to pass a cafe, so when I walked right past an open community centre cafe I couldn’t refuse. I stopped for a cup of tea and a much-needed sit down; my ankle was still very painful. My treats here were a couple of crumpets (the baked variety, Emma hopes…) and an interesting conversation with the person who ran the cafe. She had an amazing ability to answer a completely different question than the one I’d asked, and wanted to know which part of Australia I was from. Looking like a hobo isn’t dong me any harm, though, as the friendly lady brought my cup of tea over and gave me my money back. Aren’t people lovely?
After devouring my crumpets, I followed roads and paths to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, knowing that it was about 5 miles from here to a possible pub. However, from here it turned into a day like my double zip failure day. In Ashton-in-Makerfield, I was cutting across fields to join the A573 when I reached the main railway line with no way across it. My map definitely showed the path crossing the line, but I couldn’t see it on the ground. The track was four sets of rails wide and there were workers on it nearby, so I had no choice but to retrace my path and walk around. This added about a mile.
On reaching the A573 and the start of my one and a half mile walk to the canal (and pub), a chap stepped on to his bike and started chatting to me, following me all the way to the canal. His name was Paddy and he told me all about his ride around the country on a bamboo bike, and how he now lives in a van. He said he used to be rich but gave it all up to live a minimalist, low-impact life. He was really interesting and seemed genuine, but I was glad to end the talk so I could stop and look at my map.
The pub at the canal was permanently shut, so I headed on without food into Abram. I found a shop here with nothing worth buying, but it turned out to have a surprise take away at the back. I bought an egg roll to eat while I continued walking, and as I was finishing it I walked past a pub. This turned out to be a nice place when I got in – apart from the wake taking place, that is.
My route from here to Wigan followed a dull, unused canal. Getting through Wigan was a pain, as there was no canal path so I had to go through the centre. This was really busy and there were too many people for me. Once back on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal it got quiet again quite quickly, with nice canal boats. I had a chat with two men in one boat about how cheap it is to live on one. They were a right laugh and just off to the pub, but they did offer to give me a lift tomorrow as they were going my way. I was tempted, but declined!
I camped a little further on, just a mile or so past the motorway flyover. My chosen spot was right next to the canal path as it had started to rain and get dark, and I just couldn’t walk another step. My feet were really hurting with blisters on the ends of my toes and my sore ankle. It felt great to be in my dry tent with the rain coming down, and I made myself a 50p Pot Noodle, some bread and two chocolate muffins for tea. I am noticing that they never discount the nicer-flavoured Pot Noodles, though – this one is broccoli, of all things.
My next target is Preston. I wonder what other treats this leg of my adventure has in store? You can read the next chapter here.
Cicerone End to End Trail book.
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