After a steep climb up from Blaenau Ffestiniog, our route would take us across moorland, past several small lakes and yet another disused quarry. It had the rather delightful name of Cwt-y-bugail (pronounced Coot-uh-beegisle, if I’m not mistaken), which Google translates as The Shepherd’s Hut.
We then dropped down into and along the Penmachno valley, before turning north through the Fairy Glen to Betws-y-coed. It was rather appropriate then that Liam would spot a ‘face’ in the wall, which he immediately announced was a Wall Goblin, keeping a watchful eye on us! (See pic 18).
I was also very pleased to discover another member of the dead-nettle family, called Yellow Archangel (Lamium galeobdolon), which I don’t recall ever seeing, or at least noticing, before. It has the most wonderful, orchid like, ‘hooded’ and hairy flowers with variegated leaves. (See pic 23). 👍😊
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).
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!)
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).
Just before Christmas, Judith and I were slightly alarmed to hear a whirring noise outside the house. We looked out of the kitchen window and saw not one, but two, powered paragliders (or paramotorists) flying up and down and then across the estuary. This was a first in nearly 4 months of living here.
It turned out to be a nice day, so we did our usual thing and went for a walk along Benar beach (which is about 9.5 miles or 15km further down the coast). And, hey presto, another came whizzing along! At least this time I had my camera ready. 😊
As we walked along, Judith spotted some small lumps or bubbles emerging from the sand. Neither of us had ever seen anything like it before and I’d be interested to know if anyone else has….(?) They were filled with air because, as soon as you touched the top of them, they deflated. But how on earth they were formed, given that we’re talking, albeit wet, sand here, I don’t think I’ll ever know.
They only appeared, near to the sea, over a stretch of no more than 30 yards (of a very long beach) and, as you can see from the pics below, there were quite a few of them. Their size varied from maybe an inch or 2cm across, up to 8 inches or 20 cm. Very strange (and we’ve not seen any since)!
We left our walk yesterday overlooking Llyn Eiddew Mawr. Just a few steps further on, to the left, is it’s smaller sibling Llyn Eiddew Bach, which had THE most perfect reflection. (Llyn means Lake, Mawr means Big or Large and Bach means Small btw). From this you can guess that the landscape is littered (or maybe that should be flooded) with lakes or ponds of various sizes and from there I ascended slightly off the route to have a look at Llyn Dywarchen, (pic 31), simply because it looked a nice shape. As it turned out, I could also see it from the secondary hump next to the Ysgyfarnogod summit, (pics 40 & 41) but it was worth the short detour.
I thought I’d have the summit to myself (after only seeing the one cyclist in yesterday’s post), but I was surprised to see a couple leant against the trig point. They were having their lunch after walking up from their home in LLandecwyn. (It was a regular walk of theirs apparently).
I had hoped or thought about walking back down via Cwm Bychan, but the route back home from there was along a long narrow road and, in the event, the path on the ground to Cwm Bychan wasn’t very clear. So, to save retracing my steps completely, I took the direct route down via the very Tolkien sounding village of Eisingrug. (I didn’t know it existed either until I walked through it – and there were no Hobbits to be found! 🤔)
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!
Firstly a very happy and hopefully very healthy new year to all my followers and a special thanks to all of you who have commented over the past 12 months, it is very much appreciated as I’m sure you all know.
So to the, well my, answers to all those images (repeated below in case you missed my original post), with a little explanation in case you don’t ‘see’ it:
Is obviously a fish – and many commented that it was an Angel fish, which is even more precise. I was pleased that the, albeit quite large, stone was in the right place, making it look a bit like one of those from the deep. The gaping mouth added to the drama!
A tricky one this, which some may have thought was a squirrel and I’d go with that, but I initially though it looked like a deer running away to the left, with its butt in the air. There are two small antlers too, to the top left, so that was my answer.
As soon as I saw this in the sand and maybe it was because we’re now living in Wales and I was hoping to find one, that I thought it was a dragon, breathing fire out of its mouth to the top right and a claw off to the left. But I can also see a lady’s dress.
Again, this ‘spoke’ to me immediately as a roadrunner. My thoughts went back to my youth and all of those wonderful Looney Tunes, with Bugs Bunny (my favourite) and the hapless, but very inventive, Wile E Coyote always failing to catch the Roadrunner. Beep, beep!
Another fairly obvious one which many people got – definitely a scorpion.
Less obvious was what I thought looked like a horse (one of two in this list). It reminded me of one of those sit-on horses on a merry-go-round at the fair, with it’s head in the air and feet never quite touching the ground.
Perhaps the easiest of them all, with it being a rather chic (perhaps Christian Dior?) dress. Maybe the beach is where they got some of their inspiration!
Not so clear is the jellyfish. Perhaps a little bit manufactured to get into this quiz, but at least one person spotted it. Well done Brian!
In the same vane, this horse was not so obvious – particularly with it’s tiny head. but it reminded me of one on those ancient cave paintings, where the perspective is not quite right.
A little clearer was the goose or duck or swan. Again the white ‘eye’ was already there…
…as it was in this image, which looks like a shark to me, but could be many sorts of fish I suppose.
Last but not least was what I thought was a squirrel, with its little legs running off to the right and bushy tail dragging behind.
I hope you enjoyed this little quiz. I think it’s amazing what nature conjures up!
Further to my post on Christmas Eve, my thanks to those who have already commented but, in case you are still trying to work them out, below are some possible answers to match up with the images. I’ve posted them all again below, so that you will have everything in one place. And, since I’ve just realised that I missed a couple pictures, there are now two more for you to puzzle over!!
However, be warned, I’ve only given you 11 possible answers to the 12 pictures – so one of the answers appears twice, but I’m not going to tell you which one. (I’m such a tease!)
Anyway, here are my ‘answers’ and I’ll publish which I think belongs to each image later in the week.
So, just let me know what you think images 1, 2, 3 etc, are… E.g. 1 Squirrel, 2 Scorpion, etc. etc.
Lastly, remember, there are no ‘right’ answers (and please do let me know if you are convinced one of them is something not in the above list) plus, of course, it’s only a bit of fun!
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.