Day 91 – filming at Three Cliffs

slumming it executive-style and an interview in the sun, pilgrimage and walking music

17th July 2013

Despite, or I guess because of, my worries about getting sufficient mileage in the earlier stages of the walk, I am now massively ahead of myself, with barely seventy miles to go and still over a week and half. This was probably also aided by trying to ‘get to’ Tenby in time to meet Fiona there. It would have been possible to stay with her for a few days in Tenby, even if I was a few days short, but it seemed nicer to be there so that she could really join me in the walk proper.

So, for nearly the first time in the walk, I can take proper rest days; before this I had managed only two full rest days at Caernarfon and Aberaeron, and two part days at Llanfairfechan before driving to the MorphPOD in Knighton, and at Aberaeron before visiting Lampeter.

This was particularly fortunate as on Monday, when I was in the camp shop paying for my stay, Mark overhead me talking about the walk. Mark runs Scamperholidays, a campervan and shepherd’s hut hire service that operates from Three Cliffs. He said that VisitWales filming unit were coming on Wednesday and thought it would be great if I met them. Earlier in the trip I would have struggled much more to fit this in, but with my newfound time freedom, I was able to clear the day.

I wasn’t due to meet them until after twelve, so didn’t set any alarm and shut every blind, so that I didn’t wake until after eight in the morning – unheard of. I instantly started writing and the next thing I knew it was eleven o’clock and I had neither washed nor eaten, nor even drunk more than one cup of tea. As I stepped out of the shower, there was a knock on the campervan door from Mark who wanted a quick word to tell me about some of the questions VisitWales had sent him to prepare for the interview and filming.

So there was a very quick dressing and I found I even had just time to make a bacon butty before first Andrew Morgan arrived, whom I was going to walk with again once the filming was finished, and then the VisitWales filming team. They first filmed the hire vans and a shepherd’s hut.

Mark had told me a bit about his vision for these. They were camping, in the sense that you still needed to fill your own water, and use some communal facilities, but they were deliberately targeted (and priced!) upmarket. Visitors had included directors of large multinationals, who not only got to experience a more basic sort of lifestyle than they were used to, but also spent time closer to their families than they would in a typical luxury holiday hotel.

From a health and getting people walking perspective, I have been worrying about the cost of walking, and how it could be made cheaper and more accessible. Andrew Morgan echoed this concern. He had put leaflets in a local doctor’s surgery about Ramblers and walking. The take up was very low. When he asked the doctor about it, he said that the cost of boots, clothing, and even bus fares put people off.

The latter resonated with me as, when I was in school and walked more, I could never afford buses and so had to walk through the city streets, often for many miles, before getting into the countryside.

However, from a tourist income point of view, it is the small number of high earners who are likely to spend money in the local shops and restaurants, especially, as with the shepherd huts, when they come for relatively short breaks and there is a constant churn of new visitors, and hence new spenders.

While waiting for the film crew, Andrew and I talk with David North, who is camping and in the process of cycling round Wales looking to produce guides to pilgrimage routes and visiting Cistercian abbeys. I tell him about St Gwenfaen’s Well on Anglesey and the oval enclosure around St Peter ad Vincula near Machynlleth. He tells us a story about visiting an old Cistercian abbey, which is now occupied by an order of nuns. The mother superior told him that she welcomed the decay of organised religion, looking forward to the day when there would be a single simpler faith. This was not a new message, but not one he expected from a sixty-year-old nun.

When it came to my turn to be filmed, I stood with the backdrop of Three Cliffs Bay and was asked a few questions about favourite places, high spots, and hidden gems on the Wales Coast Path. For favourite spots, I think I would have a different list every time I was asked, but standing in front of Three Cliffs I could hardly think of a better view in all of Wales. I also mentioned the ease of walking in Ceredigion and the long beaches of North West Wales. As a high spot I said crossing the Severn Bridge, even if strictly not on the coast, and for the hidden gem, St Trillo’s in Rhos-on-Sea. For the last I half wanted to say Fairyland, but thought it would take too long to explain. The man who was interviewing had said to be concise but passionate – concise, me!

So, somewhat belatedly, Zetta joined us and then Andrew, Zetta and I set off for a very short walk, driving up to the top of the ridge that forms the spine of Gower, looking at Arthur’s Stone, a Neolithic burial chamber, and the magnificent views all over Gower and indeed up the Carmarthenshire coast. On a clearer day we would have been able to see as far as Tenby and up into the Beacons.

At the end of the day, whilst writing and watching the sunset I peek at a Welsh dictionary to find the translation of ‘Maen Ceti‘, the Welsh name of ‘Arthur’s Stone‘. ‘Maen’ means rock, or stone, and so I look up ‘Ceti’, but cannot find anything. Maybe I need a larger dictionary, or maybe it is a proper name: ‘Ceti’s Stone’.

Although I cannot find ‘Ceti’, I look at other words on the page: ‘cenedlaetholwr, a nationalist; ‘cerdded’, which I know well, ‘to walk’; and then a short word that I did not know at all, ‘cerdd’ which means ‘music, song, poem’. Is the linguistic connection purely an accident, or does it reflect that link, which I have written about for many years, between the natural swing of the leg and our ability to keep rhythm?

Conductors say that forty beats a minute, a little slower than once a second, is the slowest they can keep time without ‘counting’ between beats. I believe this is because it is walking that gave us the need and hence means to keep regular rhythms and so the lower limit of walking pace, about one step a second, is also the lower limit of our ability to keep rhythm. We don’t dance to music, we music to dance.

I think too of marching songs and of Wordsworth beating out iambic pentameter in his twelve-pace-wide room: five left-right steps, one for each two-beat iamb, and then a final step and turn during line-end pause. If Wordsworth‘s study had been smaller, would he have written haikus or merely taken shorter steps?

So, I am a ‘cerddwr’, a walker, but also maybe a ‘cerddor’, a musician, drumming out the song of my journey with my footfalls.

After note …

Here is the short promotional film about the Wales Coast Path