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. 🤔 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…
I don’t have tick lists as such, but one of my goals is to walk up to the top of all of the mountains that we can see from our house. Moel Hebog is the one which is more or less in the centre of the banner picture at the top of my site and is 782m or 2,566ft high. I’m surprised it’s taken my this long to do it, but on Sunday, with the heatwave still going strong, I set off from the car park between Nantmor and the Aberglaslyn bridge. After 2 minutes, I realised that I was heading in the wrong direction, but I was glad in a way as otherwise I wouldn’t have captured the two butterflies in pics 1 and 2 below. 😀
The route follows the east side of the river (or afon) Glaslyn to the quaint little village of Beddgelert (which was packed with tourists) before heading almost directly up to the summit. From the top, with my binoculars, I could just about make out our house through the heat haze, but the views in all directions were fantastic. Not only that but, while I sat and ate my lunch, I was treated to a fly past by a red kite and several Wall Browns living up to their names on the dry stone wall leading up to the summit cairn.
On my return, I’d hoped to see one of the Welsh Highland Railway steam trains passing by, but I had to be content with a shot of one in the Beddgelert station. (See pic 31).
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.
On the 19th December last year (which seems quite a long time ago now) the weather forecast was set to be blue skies all around – and you can’t say that too often in North Wales! I therefore decided to do a walk from our new home to one of the smaller summits nearby. Moel Ysgyfarnogod* is only 623 metres (2,044 ft) high, but it provides fabulous views all around and especially across the Glaslyn-Dwyryd* estuary.
Despite the glorious weather, I hardly saw a soul all day, but I was a little taken aback to be stood face-to-face with the animals in pic no. 24.
The first few photos below were taken about an hour before I set off, but I thought I’d include them as they sort of set the scene for what’s to come… (and there’s more tomorrow. 😊)
* I plan to do a post on the Welsh alphabet some time (soon, I promise) to help you to at least try to read and pronounce these words correctly. Many of you may be surprised to learn that there are 29 letters in the Welsh alphabet (despite there being no k, q, v, x or z). Certainly I was!
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.
In an attempt to get away from snow-covered paths (if not sub-zero temperatures), yesterday Jude dropped me off down in Sion to do another pair of the very many bisse* walks which snake around the sides of the Rhone valley. This walk is route 212 on the Swissmobile app, though I did it in reverse, starting at the Pont de la Morge and heading up towards the village of Drône. Since I planned to catch the bus back home, I extended the walk to descend into Sion, which also took me along a very short section of the (previously posted) Bisse de Clavau.
As you will see from the gallery below, the route gives excellent views both up and down the Rhone valley as it meanders through the vineyards. I was pleasantly surprised how many birds there were flitting around. Although they are not great photos, (my camera doesn’t do zoom very well), I did manage to capture a couple of Rock Buntings and a pair of European Nuthatches (though I’ve only included a picture of one of them). Both pictures, 14 and 16, are heavily cropped, so a little blurred.
In addition, you know when you get that feeling that you are being watched? Well, I just happened to turn my head to the side during my descent from Drône and there in the field was a Roe deer. I edged forward to get a clearer view and clicked the camera straight away and I was glad I did, as it turned and ran off almost immediately. (The picture, 28, below is also cropped, otherwise you might not have seen it!)
Last but not least, I should highlight the rather rickety looking monorail, in pics 32 and 33. These are used to collect the grapes in the autumn. As you will see, some of the terracing is very steep and this saves them lugging huge quantities of grapes back to the lanes which run through the vineyards. It looks quite a precarious piece of kit and I’m not sure I’d want to be perched on that seat as it goes up and down!
*Regular readers will of course remember that ‘bisses’ are irrigation channels, built to bring water to the fields – in this case the many vineyards which blanket the south facing slopes.
The weather wasn’t particularly kind while we were staying in the Peak District, but I did manage to get out for another, longish walk, starting in Ashbourne and finishing at our cottage in Alstonefield. Although “The Dales” is generally taken to mean the Yorkshire Dales, there are far more Dales in the Peak District. This walk alone took in Lin Dale, Dove Dale and Hall Dale.
As I approached Mapleton (pronounced as in M’apple’ton btw), I met up with 2 gentleman and a dog, who were also walking to Ilam. I forget their names now (and my apologies to them if they are now reading this), but we had a very nice chat as we strolled along.
After bidding them farewell, (as they went for a cuppa in the café at Ilam Hall), I turned east to take in a small hill, called Thorpe Cloud (@287m or 942ft). On a fine day, I’m sure the views are wonderful. From there, I descended into Lin Dale before heading north along Dove Dale and up Hall Dale to the Watts-Russell Arms (for a more interesting refreshment. 😊)
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.
The full Inn Way is normally completed in 6 stages, but my friends and I prefer to stick to a 3 or 4 day schedule. So this necessitated a ‘short cut’ somewhere along the route. This would be Day 2, where we would make our own way from Seahouses to Wooler – perhaps a distance of around 15 to 16 miles. There were 2 or 3 options and we chose to take the most southerly route marked on the map (pic 19), which involved a short section of road before crossing the main east coast railway line.
Pete was looking forward to repeating his telephone chat with the Control office, as he had when we did the Northumberland Coast path a few years ago. Then, he had said it would take us “just a jiffy” to cross the busy line. However, despite the Ordnance Survey map showing a public right of way, the crossing was no longer there. We could clearly see where it had been, by the posts which had held the phones and the severed wires, but our way was well and truly blocked.
We returned to the road and after another mile or so, we set off along a path to Warenford. It was so overgrown with weeds, nettles and long grass that we were soon wet through from foot to thigh after all the rain the previous day. So it was with great relief we emerged in Warenford and stopped for a refreshing cuppa at the White Swan Inn. (None of us were in any mood for beer at that point). A rethink was also required and from there we pretty much avoided any paths which might be ‘wet’ (i.e. the one over Chatton Moor) and a lot of road was used to get to Wooler.
The boys speculated that it would be difficult to produce a blog from the meagre, grey views on offer, but I’ve now discovered that one of the key skills of a photographer is in actually finding things to photograph… I hope I’ve done this leg justice, with a little help from my mate, Pete (pic 15).
Footnote: If you ever find yourself in or near Seahouses, you MUST go in the Olde Ship, which is just above the harbour, it’s a real gem. Apart from some excellent beer, the bar is full (and I mean full) of seafaring artifacts and memorabilia.