Just a few miles up the road from our house is a Nature Reserve with a very interesting history. Gwaith Powdwr translates, literally, as Powder Works as, in 1865 the site first opened as an explosives factory – primarily to serve the local mining industry.
However, in 1995 the factory was closed and, after decommissioning the plant, in 1998 the land was donated to the North Wales Wildlife Trust and turned into a Nature Reserve. Wandering around the area today, there is only a little evidence of its past and it has become a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as well as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
Within the 24 hectares (or one tenth of a square mile or a quarter of a square kilometre), there’s a (very) small reservoir and I’d heard that there were dragonflies to be found, so off I went… Sadly the dragonflies flew around and around defending their territories and simply refused to land, but I did capture one damselfly (not sure if it’s a Common or Azure Bluet or, indeed, something else) and a Common Spreadwing (which is a first for me and this site! 😊)
No doubt I will return later in the summer to try my luck again.
One thing you notice when you come to Wales is that all the road and most shop signs are written in both Welsh and English. So it only seems right that I should do my best to follow suit here. (Though why I didn’t write many of my other post titles in French or German or Italian I’m not sure… Perhaps I did sometimes. 🤔)
Anyhow, it was only last week that I realised I’d not posted these pictures of our trip to the aforementioned Ynys Llanddwyn (island), which lies off the southern edge of Anglesey. It’s not really an island so much as an isthmus which is cut off at high tide.
So the following gallery harks back to 23rd March 2022, when Jude and I went for a drive around to one of our favourite places. And, my apologies for yet more beaches, but I shall be returning to the mountains very soon I’m sure…
Some (approximate) pronunciation notes:
The letter ‘w’ in Welsh is frequently pronounced ‘oo’ as in ‘look’ (more or less like a double u sound), but at other times like a ‘w’ as in water.
A double d, ‘dd’, is pronounced ‘th’ as in ‘the’.
A ‘u’ is pronounced like an ‘i’, sometimes short, like ‘tin’ and sometimes long, as in ‘been’.
The ‘y’ is perhaps the most confusing, (to non-Welsh speakers that is), as it is sometimes pronounced like ‘uh’ as in ‘cut’, but at other times like an ‘i’ as in ‘bin’ and others like ‘ee’ as in ‘been’.
There is no English equivalent to the double L. ‘Ll’, is best described by putting your tongue to the top of your mouth and blowing out!
Hence Cymru = Cumree, Ynys = Unis, Llanddwyn = Llan-th-oo-in. (Hope this helps!)
Every since I walked south along the Wales Coast Path from our house, I’ve been itching to do the same, heading north. So, on Thursday, despite strong overnight winds, which promised to continue all morning and grey skies, I set off. As you will see from the gallery, the weather was changeable to say the least. I had everything from bright sunshine to hailstones, with typical April showers in between, but it was very enjoyable nonetheless.
I wasn’t expecting to take so many photos, given the overcast skies, but I think you’ll agree there was plenty of variety along the walk. For example, I was just bemoaning to myself, how dull the middle ‘road’ section was, through the villages of Penrhyndeudraeth and Minffordd when, firstly, a Ffestiniog Railway steam train came along and stopped in Minfordd station and then I was treated to an impromptu “One Man and His Dog” performance as a farmer sent his dog off to round up some stray lambs and sheep.
The sun has continued to shine here in North Wales and, indeed, across the rest of the UK I believe. So yesterday it was the perfect day to take on Wales’ highest peak at 1,085m or 3,560ft. I decided to do it via the Watkin Path, so called because it was created by Sir Edward Watkin and was Britain’s first designated footpath. It was opened by the then Prime Minister, William Gladstone, in 1892 and there is a plaque on a large rock to commemorate the occasion. (See pic 8).
Snowdon (or Yr Wyddfa in Welsh) is reputed to be Britain’s most walked mountain and you can see why when, on a fine day like yesterday, the hoards ascend (some via the train to the top) and queue very politely to capture that all important summit photo. I’ve been to the very top before, on a much quieter day thankfully, so I was content to take pictures from just below the summit cairn.
To make the walk into a loop, I descended via the South Ridge or Bwlch Main, which I thought would be quite precipitous, but in the event was just a bit rocky underfoot. The path eventually turned to the left to meet up again with the Watkin Path, just below Gladstone’s rock and just above the Waterfalls, where many people were having picnics or taking advantage of the “fairy pools” below.
Although we’ve experienced some gale force winds this weekend, the skies have been perfectly blue. So my new golfing buddy, Ian, and I decided to do a walk rather than attempt to whack an all too small round object into an only slightly larger hole. 🏌️♂️
The choice of walk was quite easy, for me anyway, as I stare at these “Moelwyns” every day – when it’s not raining of course. (You can see them to the far right of my banner picture). And what a treat we had…
Setting off from the small village of Croesor, the track gradually ascends to some disused slate quarry buildings and then turns sharply upwards to the back of Moelwyn Mawr (mawr meaning big) at 770m or 2,526ft. The 360 degree views were so impressive that I decided to take a video, which I’ve added after the usual photo gallery below, (though I’ve muted the sound as the noise of the wind was almost deafening!)
From there we dropped down and across Craigysgafn to the path, visible in pic 18, to the left, and then up to the top, of Moelwyn Bach (bach meaning small) at 710m or 2,329ft. It was then a case of retracing our steps to Bwlch Stwlan (bwlch meaning col or pass) and descending back to Croesor along Pant Mawr (meaning Big Hollow).
While we were staying in Alnwick, Jude went off for the day to see her best friend Kate in Edinburgh. I therefore took the opportunity to do a long(ish) walk (of about 14 miles or 22.5 km) from Boulmer. OK, I admit it, my main motivation was to stop for a beer at the Ship Inn in Low Newton-by-the-Sea. 😋
As you will see from the gallery below, the weather was breezy, but quite kind until I set off for the return journey, when the winds dropped and the rain took over. I got so wet, my mobile phone screen decided to pack up and, despite my best efforts to revive it (by leaving it in a bag of dried rice for a week), it still doesn’t work.
Over the past few weeks, Jude and I have been in the habit of collecting bits of sea glass and washed up pottery from all the various beaches that we have visited. I therefore couldn’t stop myself picking up the handful in picture 2, which were all found in the small area seen just below my hand. Another load was safely put to one side until I returned, when I managed to completely fill my sandwich bag.
The route also took in Dunstanburgh Castle and Embleton beach which I’ve previously posted here. My apologies for the duplication, but I don’t think you can ever have too much of a good thing!
Jude and I have just returned from a week in Northumberland, staying in the wonderful town of Alnwick. As you may have gathered by now, we’re drawn, almost magnetically, towards the sea and the beaches along this stretch of coastline are fabulous.
So it was that we went for a walk to Dunstanburgh Castle along Embleton beach. For added interest, to me anyway, there’s an 18 hole links style golf course which runs alongside. I was fortunate to spot 2 golfers on the horizon while I had my camera set to black and white and I thought it made for an excellent photo. (See pic 7). Little did I know at the time, until I turned the corner and spoke to them, that the lady hitting the shot to the par 3 “signature hole” 13th had put it to just 2 feet away from the pin! (See pic 8). Great shot Marcia!! (In case you’re wondering, yes, she did sink the putt for a birdie!)
As you may already know, Northumberland has more castles than any other county in England – over 70 in fact. Dunstanburgh Castle was built by Earl Thomas of Lancaster between 1313 and 1322, taking advantage of the site’s natural defences and the existing earthworks of an Iron Age fort. As you will see below it’s now a shadow of its former glory. For more information, please click here.
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? 🤔) 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. 🤔
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. 🚂 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.
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.