Arrived in North Wales…

My sincerest apologies for being off the radar for the past month or so, moving house is bad enough, but moving countries has its challenges. There’s been more admin signing out of Switzerland (e.g. changing addresses and cancelling health, accident, house and car insurance) than signing in to Wales (though getting car insurance has also been a bit difficult, due to our Swiss driving licences). And crossing the border, especially out of France, with a van load of our belongings, turned into a bit of a nightmare. (We had to empty almost all the van, which took a day to load, to prove that we had no migrant stowaways). But we’re here now and all is well…

As you will see from the above header photo, we have a lovely view and plenty of wildlife has been to welcome us to our new home. There are 3 buddleia bushes in the garden, so several butterflies have visited over the past 3 weeks, as has at least one dragonfly and a very friendly pheasant. The previous occupant had obviously fed him as he comes running when you open the kitchen window. We’ve called him Phil. (He looks a bit bedraggled below as it was pouring with rain the other morning).

I still have at least 2 Swiss walks to post sometime, but I thought you might like to know that Jude and I are still alive and well… 😊

Flowers, Grasshoppers and Butterflies…

Jude and I are now back home in Switzerland. We were only away for a month, but to look at the garden you would think it was for 3 months! Had it not been for the local farmer cutting a swathe down our drive and through our field, (pic A1), I’m sure we would have had difficulty finding the chalet! Various things had popped up in the lawn around the chalet. Well, I say lawn, but it’s just a mixture of grass and weeds really. And it was doing its best to encroach onto our pebbled ‘beaches’.

This of course meant that the local wildlife were in abundance. Not for nothing is our chalet called Les Criquets, though the crickets are way outnumbered by the grasshoppers!

And, where there are flowers, there are inevitably butterflies… 😊

Cnicht Walk, Snowdonia National Park, North Wales

As mentioned in one of my previous posts, our cottage looked across to the hills and mountains of Snowdonia. One of them, called Cnicht, is known as the Matterhorn of Wales, due to it’s shape when viewed from a certain position. Well, it just had to be done.

My route would start in the small village of Croesor and head up the south-west flank. I was a little worried about finding my way as the map never had a path marked. But as you will see from the pictures below, the route was well signposted, even from the car park, and the summit was always clear and visible straight ahead.

From there I descended to 2 or 3 of the many small lakes, or Llyns, which pepper the landscape, before returning via a disused slate quarry down the Cwm Croesor valley.

Lleyn Peninsular, North Wales

For a day out, Jude and I took a drive around the Lleyn Peninsular. Jude had read about a place called Caeau Tan y Bwlch, where there were some of the last traditional fields left on the peninsular. We hoped, even expected, to see lots of wild flowers and butterflies. In the event, there were no butterflies at all (well, it was a windy day), but there were tens of Chimney Sweeper moths flitting between the orchids.

From there we went to Porth Iago and had a walk along the coastal path, (where I did at least capture my first Painted Lady of the year) before stopping at Llanbedrog beach on our way back to Ynys, near Harlech.

Ynys, North Wales, Part 2

Once out of quarantine, Jude and I were free to wander and below are some pictures of the local places we explored.

Not more than a kilometre away from where we were staying was Llanfihangel-y-traethau church. It’s quite famous for a number of reasons, not least of which is that there is a unique memorial stone in the churchyard with an inscription (in latin) which indicates that it was built in the reign of King Owen Gwynedd, who reigned from 1137 to 1170. Another reason is that the writer Richard AW Hughes is buried there. (See pic 7).

But perhaps most interestingly, especially to American readers, is that David Ormsby-Gore is also buried there. Who’s he?, you may well ask, but he was the 5th Baron Harlech or more generally known simply as Lord Harlech. He was the British Ambassador to the United States from 1961 to 1965 (and, to add a bit of UK interest, MP for Oswestry from 1950 to 1961). He became good friends with President John F. Kennedy and (Wiki tells me that) “after his assassination there were rumours of a romance between Ormsby-Gore and Jacqueline Kennedy. In 1968 he proposed marriage to her, but, she did not accept. Ormsby-Gore was one of the pallbearers at Robert F. Kennedy’s funeral.”

He subsequently married American socialite Pamela Colin in 1969 but, sadly, Lord Harlech was seriously injured in a car crash on 25 January 1985 and died at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital the following morning, aged 66. Senator Edward Kennedy, Jacqueline (by then) Onassis and other Kennedy family members attended his funeral in the Llanfihagel-y-traethau church. He was buried there as the church is situated on one of the two Lord Harlech estates.

The reason we were keen to we visit the church (and we were lucky enough to get the keys to be able to go inside), was that Jude grew up in the old school, in Pant Glas, which had provided education for the children of the workers on Lord Harlech’s other estate, Brogyntyn, near Oswestry.

As you will also see below, at low tide it is possible to walk across the Glaslyn/Dwyryd estuary and Jude and I took the opportunity to go swimming in one of the pools left behind by the side of Ynys Gifftan island, which sits in the middle of the estuary.

Ynys, North Wales

My apologies for neglecting my blogging duties for the past week or so but, as mentioned in my previous post, Jude and I have been in quarantine in the UK. This severely hampers one’s ability to take and post interesting photographs.

However, I did take the opportunity to go the ‘scenic route’ to post our COVID tests in the nearby village and I did manage to get a few evening sunset pictures only a few yards up the road from where we were staying.

Our cottage (see pic 1) was in the small village of Ynys and looked out over the Glaslyn/Dwyryd estuary to the hills and mountains of Snowdonia. On the far side of the estuary, was the small village of Portmeirion, (pic 3), which is built in an Italianate style (more info and pics here) and famous for being the setting for the 1960’s cult TV series, The Prisoner, (more info here). This seemed quite appropriate given our situation. I fully envisaged a great white balloon coming to capture us if we strayed from our cottage! As it was, Jude had 6 phone calls in the 10 days and I had none!

In case you are wondering, all of our tests (i.e. the one before we left Switzerland and those on Day 2 and Day 8 of our isolation) came back negative. 👍👍😊 So we were then free to explore… See next post(s).

Lac Léman and Château de Chillon, Vaud, Switzerland

On Tuesday, Jude and I took a trip down to Switzerland’s largest lake, Lac Léman or Lake Geneva. We parked up in Villeneuve, which lies at the eastern end and walked along the lakeside towards Montreux. Along the way is one of Switzerland’s “Top 10” tourist sites, the Château de Chillon.

The site began as a Roman outpost, to guard the route through the alpine passes, but construction started in the 10th century. As you can imagine it has an interesting history and you can read all about it here.

Equally interesting are the legends which surround the small island seen in picture 4. Surprisingly (to me anyway) it’s the only natural island in the lake, Technically it’s called the Île de Peilz but, being British, I like the story about it being given as a gift to Queen Victoria when she visited the region. A tree was planted on the island and it’s known as Queen Victoria’s tree. For more legends and even a video of the tree please click here.

Note that the first two images below were taken near Ollon, on our way to the lake.

Llŷn Peninsula, North Wales

For our last ‘day out’ in North Wales, Jude and I took a drive around to the Llŷn Peninsula. After parking up further down the coast, we walked around the coastal path to Porthor, or Whistling Sands as it’s often known. From there we called in at tiny Porth Colmon which, as you will see from my series of photos, is still used as place for launching or, as in this case, landing fishing boats. And then finally we drove to the small coastal resort of Aberdaron, where I somehow managed to get a shot of an apparently deserted beach, despite there being quite a few people around.

Mawddach Estuary, Barmouth, North Wales

It was not for nothing that (now Sir) Tom Jones sang about the Green, Green Grass of Home. Wales can be a very wet place (as you may have gathered from all the moss and lush looking fields in my previous post). So, as if to prove I’m not just a fair weather walker, here are few pictures, mainly of the Mawddach Trail (a former railway line) from Penmaenpool to Barmouth.

Benar, Llandanwg and Harlech beaches, North Wales

Who doesn’t like going to the beach? Well, here I bring you photos of not just one, but three beaches in North Wales. All of them, quite coincidentally, are only a few miles from where Jude and I have been staying for this past 2 weeks.

Firstly, Benar beach, which is very, very long and very wide when the tide is out…

Secondly, we have Llandanwg beach, which is quite small and pebbly in places. But there is a very nice café adjacent to the car park, which serves delicious scones!

Last, but not least, is Harlech beach, which is huge, (by UK standards anyway), even when the tide is in!