The Dee Way, Part 1, Day 5 (of 5), Llangollen, N.Β Wales to Chirk, England

Overnight the temperature rose by around 10 degrees and my last day promised to be warm and dry. πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ˜Š Though this did mean, of course, that the snow would be melting fast and some sections could be wet and boggy or slippery. However, for 4 days I’d been walking in my waterproof jacket and trousers (see first pic of day 1), so it was a relief and almost liberating, to be able to wear just my normal walking trousers, a tee shirt and a jumper.

I had planned 2 routes for this day, each with its own merits; one was flat, along the canal, while the other went up and down Dinas Bran (where there’s the ruins of a medieval castle) and then along a section of Offa’s Dyke path, called the Panorama walk (which I’d done some years previously with my old mate, Tim). Since it was going to be fine, I chose the latter and extended it a little by doing the second half of the other route.

It was quite slippery on the ascent of Dinas Bran and, as any regular walker will testify, descents can often be more difficult. And so it proved, as I reached the last section… Two young ladies were picking their way, very carefully, up what was probably the normal path, but I decided to avoid them and go off to the right where there seemed to be less, smooth wet grass and more snow. I expected to get a better grip, but very soon I realised that I had very little traction at all. In an instant, I started taking very quick, little steps, which turned into a mini shuffle and then run down the hill. While trying to stop, I slid on two feet for a short distance and feared I was going to topple head first down the hill. So the only solution was to fall backwards to come to a more controlled stop!

As you’ll see in pic 7, I slid quite a way, but the worst part was that I was absolutely soaked through to the skin. My jumper and trousers and almost everything underneath were drenched. Apart from the presence of the 2 ladies, (who obviously had a good laugh at my expense), all my dry gear was packed away, deep in my rucksack and there was no way that I could get it all out and get changed with all the snow and slush about. So, a little further on, I found a dry(ish) patch and quickly replaced my wet gear with my waterproof jacket and trousers! All was not lost though as, about a mile further on, when the coast was clear along the dry road, I dug out another pair of trousers and jumper etc. and finished the walk in a dry set of normal clothes.

Let’s hope Part 2, later this year, from Chirk to Hoylake, will have better weather! 🀞🀞

The Dee Way, Part 1, Day 4 (of 5), Corwen to Llangollen, N. Wales

Day 4 started brightly enough, but with snow or sleet forecast for later and almost 15.5 miles to cover, I cheated a little and took the easier road option for the first section. I soon arrived in Carrog where the information board told me that Paul McCartney’s brother, Mike, was married in the local church in 1968. Presumably Sir Paul was there, but it didn’t say. (See pics 10 – 12).

After that it was up into the hills and the deep snow, which was well over a foot deep in places. (See pics 17 and 20). Back down on the road I came upon a signpost indicating it was only half a mile to the Sun Inn. The pub wasn’t marked on the map and, as it was (last) Saturday, I hoped it would be open. Sure enough it was and I enjoyed a spot of lunch before setting off in the sleet…

The last section followed the canal towpath from the Horseshoe Falls (much prettier in sunshine) all the way into Llangollen.

The Dee Way, Part 1, Day 1 (of 5), Source to Llanuwchllyn, N. Wales

First, a little background… Some months ago now, Jude and I were browsing the second hand books in the local, Harlech gallery and I came across a Kittiwake publication called The Dee Way. It describes a walk from either Prestatyn or Hoylake, which straddle the Dee estuary, to the source of the river Dee, or Afon Dyfrdwy, to give it its proper Welsh name. The route can be split into ten ‘doable’ sections, averaging around 12 to 14 miles per day (depending upon which start point you choose).

I like to do things differently, so I decided to do the walk from the source to Hoylake, which any golfers out there will know, is the home of the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, where The Open will be held this year. I think of it as my little pilgrimage. 😊 However, ten days in a row is a bit too much for me to tackle at once, so I’ve divided it into two, with the first ‘half’ going from the source to Chirk and I’ll do the second part later in the year.

I booked the accommodation about 3 or 4 weeks ago, so when the forecast was for snow and sleet, I did think twice, but decided to go ahead anyway. As you will see in the coming days, there were challenges… Not least of these was on Day 1 where, almost as soon as Jude had dropped me off, I came across some very slippery looking stepping stones (see pic 2). Not wishing to start my journey with wet feet (or worse), I took a short detour over a bridge. From there I followed a good forest track and I looked and looked for the turn off to the source, but no path was to be seen. (See pics 7 and 8). The book warns that the trek to the source shouldn’t be tackled in bad visibility, so I turned around (at the blue arrow on the detailed map in pic 36) and so began my journey east. Along the way, with no signs and again no obvious path, I had to rely upon my mobile OS map GPS to get across the lumpy, tussocky field in pic 15.

The snow soon dissipated though as I approached Llanuwchllyn (meaning the church above the lake), which is indeed where you will find St Deiniol’s church (see pics 26 to 28) and is the terminus of the Bala Lake (narrow gauge) Railway. (See pics 32 and 33).

Sneak preview of Day 2: The weather gets worse…!!

Portmeirion, Gwynedd, North Wales

I’ve mentioned a few times that our house looks over an estuary towards the tourist village of Portmeirion. (See banner picture at the top of the website – which now includes a winter view taken this morning). I went there many years ago, but have not been since arriving back in the UK. That is until last weekend, when they were hosting a Food and Craft Fair. Entry to the village was a tad cheaper than normal, so I thought I’d take advantage and have a look around (not to mention taking a few photos to post of course! 😊).

Portmeirion was the brainchild of Sir Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis. He was an architect and he essentially designed the whole village, often using bits and pieces from other dilapidated or demolished buildings. The land was acquired in 1925 and the village was pegged out and the most distinctive buildings erected between then and 1939. Between 1954 and 1976 he filled in the details.

Though, I have to say that it’s not all about the buildings, as the grounds, “The Gwyllt”, are also a delight, with woodland trails set out for visitors, both young and old, to enjoy. Many of the trees and shrubs originate from all around the world. (See pics 23-27).

The village is recognised worldwide as the setting for the cult 70’s TV series The Prisoner. The Round House, where No. 6 lived, is now a shop selling memorabilia.

As you will see, it wasn’t the brightest of days for photography but, given the huge number of visitors that day, I’m amazed that the images are almost people free.

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.

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!!

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).