We are in our tiny, third class compartment, which is sandwiched between one accommodating an over-excited and very loud group of students and another with an elderly couple and a dog. It is raining, as it has been for more than 24 hours; in a relentless, driving deluge that kept us confined to the campervan the entire day previously. But having purchased the tickets for this little train journey up into the mountains we are obliged to go.
Most of the miniature compartments, the ones with plush, upholstered seats, are occupied by a coach party from Bognor. Ours is spartan- shiny, brown, plank benches- and very cold on the backside. I rummage in the rucksack and find my waterproof trousers, which are an inadequate but makeshift seat pad. We wait until a cheerful young woman in a railway uniform locks us in, then we’re off, rumbling and rocking, smoke billowing past and steamy windows through which we can just make out the flat marshes of the estuary at Porthmadog, our start station.
We rattle on through stations, begin to climb and then we’re on a steep gradient with a [wet] rocky face on one side and a drop on the other. I imagine the view, since it is obliterated by rain. The students screech relentlessly at each others’ remarks as we go, whilst also demanding to know if the field is ‘real’ or cooing at the hundreds of lambs we pass. There is sudden excitement when next door’s one-eared dog apears in our compartment, filling it with furry greeting, having ducked under their seat. Once it has been welcomed and made a fuss of it is hauled back by its owners.
After an hour or so we come to a halt, the end of the line for today, before being shunted back down to the last station we passed, where a cafe awaits us, the captive passengers. There being just this one cafe, we queue up for whatever is on offer, hopefully hot, as it continues to rain and the compartment has not been a cosy experience. Seating is under cover but outside- no chances being taken! We wander around the station while the tiny engine is moved from one end to the other and see that an ancient diesel engine has been co-opted for the haul uphill.
Downhill takes less time, of course, and once we’ve returned to Porthmadog the rain has, at least slowed to a drizzle.
Next day is predictably sunny as we prepare to travel onwards, shopping en route. It is a picturesque journey with a detour in Pwhelli to get LPG but the garage is closed on this Saturday afternoon. Pressing on over the hills and along the lanes we come to our next site, at Aberdaron, a tiny beach village with two pubs, two shops, a bakery and three cafes! Aberdaron is used to tourists. The sun is still out when we wander down the steep hill from our site to get a beer, and there are throngs of Saturday pub goers everywhere- an uplifting sight.
Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook