If a Public Right of Way combines fantastic coastal and mountain views, takes in farm land, wooded valleys and tumbling streams, provides an off-road route between a coastal village and an inland hamlet and, on top of all this, has historical links to a literary legend, then it deserves to be looked after. The footpath in question runs from Llanon towards Pennant.

Taking on the challenge of improving its infrastructure were some of the current Countryside Management and Conservation Foundation degree students from Aberystwyth University. Under the supervision of tutors Geoff Oldrid and Ben Harper and with guidance from the Rights of Way Ranger for the area, Gareth Owen, 10 second year students took on the project to replace two stiles with gates and to install an 8m timber bridge over a substantial stream. It turns out that every single pair of those hands were needed to get the job done, with an excellent opportunity for a new generation to learn countryside skills.

Starting with site visits to plan the project, the students then moved into the workshop to construct the bespoke kissing gates. The replacing of stiles with gates means that access will be easier for those who are unable to climb high steps such as those used at a traditional stile. This simple solution immediately opens up more countryside access to those with differing levels of mobility.

As well as the gates, students constructed the bridge to replace the long-lost stepping stones mentioned in the definitive statement, and which poet Dylan Thomas is said to have crossed on his way to one of his regular watering holes - the Central Hotel in Llanon. This crossing point happens to be on the farm of Wernllaeth or ‘Milk Alder grove’, which might be said to translate more readily to Milk Wood.

Building a bridge of this size in such a remote location is no easy feat, and scaffolding was needed on site to allow the construction of new abutments. None of this would have been possible without the helpful local landowners allowing access across fields and storage of materials in nearby yards.

Speaking about the project, Ranger Gareth Owen explained, “This work was part of a package of improvements to paths in the area, some of which will have links to the Ceredigion Coast Path. Other tasks planned for the future include some drainage and surface work on stretches where the paths are regularly waterlogged”.

This particular project has been possible due to Rights of Way Improvement Plan grant funding from Welsh Government to purchase the materials, and of course the time, skill and enthusiasm of a group of Aberystwyth University students.

Image: (Left to right) Aberystwyth University Students Harry Samways, Ellen Smith, Emily Figgins, Libby Cox, Megan Gallant, Wenonah Waite, Paddy Bolster, Tom Corrigan, Dan Hersee and Ruairidh MacKay.