Jervaulx Abbey and Kilgram Bridge from Middleham, North Yorkshire

Jude and I have just been on a week long break in a town called Middleham in North Yorkshire, which is mostly known for training race horses. Although we did wander up the road in the morning mist to watch a few thoroughbreds heading off towards the gallops, that wasn’t the main reason for our stay. It was simply to get away and have a change of scenery.

The weather wasn’t kind but on the one day that we were due to have our online Welsh lesson, the forecast was good! So off I wandered along a 10.5 mile route to Kilgram Bridge which, after 450 years, is reputed to be Yorkshire’s oldest road bridge (see pic 18) as well as the Cistercian Abbey at Jervaulx, which was established in 1156. Not only that, but it took in Wensleydale’s oldest church, St Oswald’s at Thornton Steward (see pics 22-25) and Danby Hall, an Elizabethan manor house (pic 27). Also, by rather strange coincidence, it went by St Simon’s and St Jude‘s church at Ulshaw (pics 28 & 29).

But even more interesting to me was the door handle of the pub at Cover Bridge. See pic 32. The handle itself was fixed solidly to the door and there were no knobs to turn or ‘snecks’ (as we call them in Yorkshire, i.e. catches) to lift up. So how does one enter the establishment? Suggestions in the Comments please… I’ll reveal how it’s done in due course… (I love a good puzzle!)

Gwydyr Forest Walk from Betws-y-Coed, Conwy, N. Wales

My good friend, Liam, decided to take a short break in the Snowdonia National Park and, last week, we met up to do a short walk (of approx. 4 miles) around the Gwydyr Forest, starting from Betws-y-Coed. As you will see from the route map and photo gallery, it was a circular walk, taking in the very tip of Llyn (lake) y Parc, lots of forest paths and several waterfalls.

I hope you enjoy your virtual visit to this small, but very beautiful, part of North Wales.

Technical note: I’d noticed that my photos were appearing quite small on the screen. I think this is because I was shrinking them to around 350kb, to save space and allow them to be loaded quickly. So this time, I’ve shrunk them to around 1Mb in the hope that the gallery ‘experience’ is much better. Please let me know if you have difficulty loading or seeing them and I’ll revert to the smaller format.

Rainbow(s), Dwyryd Estuary, N. Wales

I’ve dubbed it the rainbow season as, at this time last year, we saw more rainbows than I think I’ve ever seen in my life (and that’s a long time!) After the gale force winds and torrential downpours of yesterday, we awoke to relative calm. The clouds, albeit grey, were high and Hebog, Snowdon, Cnicht and the Moelwyns were all clearly visible. And then, of course, it rained…

In the pics you can just about make out a second rainbow on the outside of the main one.

Walk from Ynys to Llanbedr, Gwynedd, N. Wales

Yesterday my wife, Jude, had a crochet lesson from 1:30 to 4pm at the Village Hall in Llanbedr. So I worked out a route which would take me there, via a ‘scenic route’, from our home in Ynys. As you will see from the pics below, the day started brightly but the clouds eventually won over.

Once inland, I had a few options for getting to my destination and I thought I was doing the right thing by taking the ‘direct’ route via Ffridd Farm, along part of the Ardudwy Way… Wrong!! The map had the path heading directly south through 2 of the farm buildings… (see pic 22). All went well there and I found a gate on the other side but then I was stopped in my tracks as I peered over a sheer drop of about 30 feet! (See pic 23). I looked to the right then left and there was no obvious path, so I took the lesser of the two ‘drops’ on the right hand side.

After climbing and then scrambling down, I was faced with a maze of waist high bracken with only the odd signpost to guide me through the damp and squishy valley floor. My GPS and OS map had me several yards off the official route, but eventually I found a stile to take me onto a more obvious path.

I do wonder sometimes who makes up these official paths or “Ways” and it made me realise why I’m not so keen to go out walking in North Wales. Oh, what I’d give to be back on those delightful paths of Switzerland!!

Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) Walk, N.Wales

For the past few days we’ve had our good friend Arthur staying. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before but, he’s an artist and a very good one at that. He’s a Member of the Society of Architectural Illustrators, so it came as no surprise when he walked across our estuary to paint a picture of Portmeirion, which is now posted on his website, here.

Anyway, he had never been to the top of Snowdon (Wales’ highest mountain at 1,085m or 3,560ft) so, on a reasonably clear day, with intermittent showers possible, we set off. We took the PYG Track from Pen-y-Pass to the summit, before descending to Llanberis along the path which runs, for the most part, close to the railway line. For some reason this is called the Llanberis path. πŸ€” The top section of the track was closed for engineering works, so the summit was not as busy as usual. (See previous post pic here).

As you will see, we did get caught in a shower, but Arthur came prepared…

Walk from Barmouth to Llanbedr along part of the Cambrian Way, N. Wales

While most people in the UK were watching the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, I decided to go out for a walk. It’s not that I wasn’t interested or sad at her passing (she was a wonderful woman), it’s just that I felt I had better things to do than sit in front of a TV screen for 6 or more hours. And as it turned out, I saw the final procession up the Long Walk (perhaps the most poignant bit) in the pub at Llanbedr.

As you will see the weather wasn’t great for photography, but it was what it was…

I should add that I paused at 11am at Bwlch y Rhiwgyr, (see pic 14), to show my respect, with a 2 minute silence. And it was a very peaceful moment, apart from the hum of a light aircraft overhead.

A Tale of the ‘Scarce’ Orange Butterfly…

On Friday, my sister-in-law, Charlotte, came over to stay. So yesterday, together with my wife, Jude, we all went out for a short walk along the Wales Coast Path. After about 30 minutes of walking, I’d got slightly ahead and was called back, as both said they had seen a “very small, bright orange butterfly, with black edges”. It flew off before I could get even a sight of it and, more crucially, before anyone could get a picture. Upon returning to the house, I got out my book and both said it looked just like the Scarce Copper. This is interesting as they are not known to frequent these shores, preferring mainland Europe.

To ‘set the scene’ further, this is what a Scarce Copper looks like and you would think it would be unmistakeable, other than for a Large Copper, which looks very similar, but is slightly larger and is also not usually found in Britain.

Given the prospect of maybe ‘discovering’ one of the first Scarce Coppers ever seen in the UK (perhaps in recent times), I set out today to visit the same location in the hope of getting a picture… The weather was breezy and many clouds were about, so I wasn’t hopeful.

But no, I did spot something flutter up. It was small, a little too brown (from my point of view) to be a Scarce Copper, but there was a flash of colour… Even though I thought I saw exactly where it landed, it had disappeared completely. After another 30 minutes or so of waiting and searching, I gave up. 😌

However, on the way to the location, I had paused to take some very poor photos of a Speckled Wood and a dragonfly. So on my return I was looking out for them to get some better pictures – which I did. And, as well as a rather strange looking spider (any suggestions anyone?) and a still loaded blackberry bush, I got some decent images… (But read on…)

Once I got home I was sorting out the pictures and, you should be aware that, I’m in the habit of taking a photo from far away before getting as close as possible to the subject. I took this picture:

Now I thought this must be a precursor to the dragonfly above, but no, and don’t ask me where this came from but, upon zooming in, look what I found:

It’s hard to tell, but I think this is a Small Copper. Now, of course, this may not be what my wife and Charlotte saw yesterday. So the jury is still out. Perhaps another visit is required tomorrow…? πŸ€”

One year on already…

It’s now just over a year since Jude and I moved back to the UK and we’re no nearer finding a house of our own. But then when you rent a remote cottage overlooking the Glaslyn Dwyryd estuary (see pic 8) you will perhaps understand why… (The bar has been set extremely high).

Anyway, I’ve mentioned (I think) in a previous post how many buddleia bushes there are dotted around the area and I was bemoaning the fact that the butterflies always seemed to fly by and dismiss those in our garden as ‘same old, same old’. However, I didn’t know that they flowered again in the autumn and for the past few days our biggest bush has been awash with Red Admirals (vanessa atalanta) – sometimes 7 or 8 at a time. I’ve seen other butterflies too, but only managed to capture a Painted Lady (vanessa cardui).

Craig y Garn Walk, Gwynedd, N. Wales

From our house you can see a number of mountains and, almost inevitably, it has become a bit of a goal of ours to ‘top’ each one of them. One of the smallest is Craig y Garn (at 363 metres/1,191 feet) which, on a clear day of course, we can see above Porthmadog as we look across the estuary. We found a route to the top in a small book called “Walks Around Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog”, published by Kittiwake, which itself has 20 different walks and may also become a bit of a ‘challenge’.

So it was that on 21st November 2021, Jude and I walked to the top from the village of Garndolbenmaen. As you will see, you don’t have to climb too high in Wales to get magnificent panoramic, 360 degree views. Plus, of course, if we can see the top from home, you should be able to see our house from the top. And if you zoom in on photo no. 9, you may be able to make out a white house on the far side of the estuary – above the lowest point of the ‘V’ between the two hills (slightly left of centre).

Coedydd Maentwrog National Nature Reserve and Ffestiniog Mountain Railway Walk, Gwynedd, North Wales

If you like nature and/or steam railways, this is a post for you. 😊 Please read on…

Many people, in the UK at least, will be aware of the narrow gauge railways which were once used to ferry slate from the mines and quarries in North Wales to Porthmadog for onward shipment around the world. Some of those historic steam trains are now being used by the Ffestiniog and Welsh Mountain Railways to take holidaymakers from Porthmadog to either Caernarfon or the old mines themselves at Blaenau Ffestiniog. However, not many, including me before I went on this walk, will know that the area is also noted for some of the last Atlantic oak woods in Europe.

The Coedydd Maentwrog Nature Reserve is described as one of Wales’s “rainforests” and, like all rainforests, is considered of global importance. Conditions here are perfect for the growth of 200 (yes, that’s two hundred) species of mosses and liverworts and 120 sorts of lichen. (Who knew that there were that many on the planet, let alone in one small wood in the corner of North Wales and how do the experts distinguish the difference? πŸ€”) In addition the woods are home to over 286 different kinds of small moth and the area is the UK stronghold of the rare Lesser Horseshoe bat.
(The numbers are truly amazing, don’t you think?!)

In the gallery below, I’ve captured a few images of some moss and lichen as well as some flowers but I’ll leave you to work out what sort they might be. πŸ€”

As for the route, Judith and I set off from the car park next to Llyn (lake) Mair and walked up a path which runs, for the most part, alongside the railway track, until we reached Dduallt station, where the track does a complete 360 degree loop. We waited there until the next train arrived and we watched the happy, waving passengers go by! (We were just like The Railway Children!! 😊)

We walked back the same way and, on the way, as a special treat for you steam train enthusiasts, I took a video of one of the trains passing by. πŸš‚ Note that the first two carriages are two of the first ever (and possibly last remaining) fixed wheel carriages built in the UK. At the time, the engineers were worried about the carriages toppling over on the narrow gauge. So, firstly, the carriages are very short (so that they could go around the bends – it was only later that bogies were added at either end to allow the carriages to be longer and the wheels to ‘turn’ independently) and secondly, the passengers sit with their backs in the centre facing directly outwards, (to keep the centre of gravity over the centre of the tracks). You live and learn. I hope you enjoy!

Footnote: All of these images were captured on 11th October 2021.