Porthdinllaen Walk, Morfa Nefyn, North Wales

Shortly after we arrived in Wales, Jude and I drove over to the Lleyn peninsular (that’s the bit of the mainland which sticks out into the Irish Sea at the top of Wales – not to be confused with the island of Anglesey of course). We went for a walk around the Porthdinthlaen peninsular, near Morfa Nefyn.

Apart from having a very beautiful coastline, it’s where you will find the renowned Morfa Nefyn golf course (which I have not played yet, but hope to soon) and what is reputed to be one of the top 10 best beach bars in the world – the Tŷ Coch Inn. It’s certainly in a wonderful spot, with views across the sea to a range of mountains called Yr Eifl (more generally referred to as The Rivals in English). I would happily have stopped for a pint or three but, since it was a beautiful day and half term school holidays, the beach was extremely busy and there was a queue several yards long. 😌 Nevertheless, it was a wonderful walk.

Note: All of these photos were taken on 25th October 2021.

Wales Coast Path Walk, Ynys to Dyffryn Ardudwy

While you ponder on my Christmas quiz, let me take you for a little walk along the Wales Coast Path… Although it doesn’t actually go by our house, it comes pretty close, like within 300 yards/metres, so it seemed an obvious choice for me to do – or at least a short section of it. The full route is 870 miles (1,400 km) long but, heading south from where we live, this section is ‘only’ about 13 miles (21 km).

These pictures were taken in early November and, as you will see, the weather was fine and it takes in some fabulous scenery, not to mention ‘my’ golf course, which has been taking up some of my time and keeping me away from my walking and blogging duties. (Sorry about that folks!)

I didn’t meet many people on the route, but I did stop to help a man fit a new letter box. My task was to hold the box in place while he fitted and tightened the nuts and bolts. A fine job he/we did I think you will agree. (See pic 13). 😊

Benar Beach, Gwynedd, North Wales

If there is one thing that blogging helps to do in this strange world we currently live in, it’s to take people away from whatever situation or location they are in at the moment and transport them to another part of the world. So let me take you far away…

When the rain and gloomy, grey skies go away, Jude and I are in the habit of going for a walk along one of our local beaches. We’ve been to our favourite, Benar beach, twice recently; once on the 5th December, when it was a little cloudy and very windy and again yesterday, when it was almost perfectly still and the skies were completely blue.

Below are two separate galleries, showing some of my best images from those two walks. (Yes, I’m like a London bus, you don’t see a post for ages and then 2 come along at once!)

In the first gallery, you may note that I turned one of my pictures of “the hand” upside down and (at least to my eyes) one hand (pic 9) looked concave, into the sand, (as it really was), effectively holding the stone, while the other picture (no. 10) looked convex, seemingly coming out of the sand. I know this is a trick of the eyes (and I just looked at them again and it was the other way around!) See what you think.

Maybe it’s just me but I’m always spotting shapes in either the sand or the seaweed and picture 4 in the second gallery shouts ‘fish’ to me (even to having an eye in the right place). I’d be interested to know if you also see it and/or do the same. I have in mind to do a Christmas (picture) Quiz called “Name that creature”!

5th December:

December 18th:

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? 🤔) 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.

Rhinog Fach, Y Llethr and Moelfre Walk, Gwynedd, N. Wales

Well, you are in for a treat… I’ve just discovered that I didn’t post these images when Jude and I visited North Wales in September last year. I’m not sure what happened, nor why I forgot to post them, as they were all shrunk and watermarked ready… As you will see, they do sometimes have blue sky days in Wales! Enjoy!

Sierre-Zinal Race and Swiss Ironman 2021

I mentioned back in May that I’d entered the Sierre-Zinal race. Just in case it was impossible to stage the event on the appointed day, due to Covid, (which of course it was), the organisers had a rather neat Plan B. This required competitors to choose and register for a date between the 4th August (when the élite race still took place) and the 12th September. Up to 400 competitors were allowed each day and they could choose to start at any time between 6am and 8am. This naturally spread out the field, even before the start. Feed stations were still available at 4 or 5 locations, so there was no need to carry anything unless you wanted to. I chose to do the event on 25th August and since it promised to be a warm, sunny day, I carried a small water bottle along with some gels (but no camera unfortunately).

During my ‘reccy’ back in May, it had taken me 1h 45 minutes to get to Plonchette. This represented about one third of the time to complete the 31km/19 mile and 2,200m/7,200ft of ascent course. My goal therefore for my ‘race day’, apart from simply finishing, was to reach Plonchette inside 2 hours and complete the course in under 6 hours. 🤞🤞

In the event I arrived at Plonchette in 1h 40 minutes, so I was a little worried that I would fade (badly) in the closing stages. I therefore decided to take it very steadily from thereon in and just hope that I got to the finish in a decent time. However, I needn’t have worried, with the ‘aid’ or company of 2 fellow runners, who were either 10 to 30 seconds behind or in front for much of the course, I finished in 5h 14 minutes 28 seconds. Result!! (See happy finisher in pic 2 below).

It’s a fabulous event and if you’d like to ‘see’ the course, please check out this video link or the official Sierre-Zinal website.

But if you think I’m crazy, read on below…

Swiss Ironman – 5th September 2021

Just before we left Switzerland, my younger brother, Steve, came over to do the Swiss Ironman, which took place in Thun on 5th September. For those of you who are not familiar with the distances involved, this requires competitors to swim 3.9k or 2.4 miles, then bike 180.2k or 112 miles and then run the marathon distance of 42.2k or 26.1 miles. (And you thought I was mad!)

Jude and I had planned to go over to stay in Thun both before and after the race to support Steve, but packing (and very welcome visitors in the shape of the Pounders) meant that I went alone and via public transport on the day. However, this did mean that I’d miss Steve getting out of the water (not that I would have recognised him in his wet suit) and would only see the bike and run sections.

The bike course was around two loops (of quite a hilly course) and although I got into position for his first lap return, I didn’t get a good photo of him. Thankfully, I caught him on the second lap and the 3 lap run course meant that I had plenty of opportunity to see him in action!

Well done Steve – YOU ARE AN IRONMAN! (This phrase was my overriding memory of the announcer as each competitor finished!)

Pic d’Artsinol Walk with the Pounders, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

Shortly after we had put the chalet up for sale, Jude sent out a facebook message to tell our friends that we were moving back to the UK. Almost immediately, ‘young’ Malcolm Pounder replied to say that he would hire a van and drive over to help us take all of our stuff back. We were taken aback by his generosity, but we knew he simply loved driving and accepted his offer with open arms. We cannot thank him enough for everything he did in transferring both us and our belongings across to North Wales.

Anyway, his parents, Malcolm (senior) and Helen, decided to keep him company on the way over and have a short break in the Alps before flying back. So it came to pass that the 4 of us went for a walk up to the top of the Pic d’Artsinol (@2,998m or 9,836ft), taking advantage of the rickety old chair lift. (Thankfully they plan to replace it with a gondola lift soon).

All of the photos below were taken on 2nd September 2021 (and, again, my apologies for the delay in posting them. Only one more Swiss post to go before you see Wales… 😊)

Verbania (Pallanza) and Lake Maggiore, Italy

As soon as we got back from our trip to the UK, we put our chalet on the market and Jude started packing. We initially bought 20 largish boxes from the local DIY store, but they were soon filled. Little did we know at the time that another 40 would be needed “We don’t have much stuff”, we said. After 4 or 5 weeks of intense packing (n.b. by Jude – I think I managed one, almost) we decided it was time for a break and we went off for a few days by Lake Maggiore.

By then it was mid-August and, thankfully, the thunder storms, which can often ruin your summer evenings, never materialised. We went swimming in the lake and, of course, for a boat ride around the upper part of the lake, visiting some of the lakeside villages and the Villa Taranto Botanical Gardens. I’ve posted about this fabulous location before but, hey, you can never have too much of a good thing! 😊 Though. even I was surprised to find the little creature in photo 24 hopping amongst the leaves by the side of one the ponds.

Becs de Bosson Cabane from Evolène, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland (Part 1 of 2)

I thought I only had a couple of posts to catch up on, but a quick flick through my old photos, yields at least four more (not counting this one and part 2). Still to come we have a short trip to Lake Maggiore, a few butterflies, a walk up the Pic d’Artsinol with the Pounders and the Swiss Ironman… (This was not completed by me you understand, though I may yet tell you about the outcome of the Sierre Zinal ‘race’, which I mentioned waaaay back in May…)

It was with this event in mind that, as part of my training, I decided to do one of the more challenging walks on my list – to the Becs de Bosson Cabane. As you will see from the Route map and profile at the end of the gallery, it’s around 20.5km or 13 miles long and has an overall ascent of over 1,700m or 5,600ft.

The route itself is straightforward… After reaching Volovron, along the track leading out of Evolène, the path climbs through the woods. Emerging slightly to the right reveals a view of the small hamlet of L’A Vieille and a wide panorama down towards the Rhone valley. (See pics 16 & 17). From there, the going gets steeper and steeper, until you reach the Pas de Lona, where we will leave this walk until tomorrow… (I’m such a tease! 😊)

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.