Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Llandanwg Beach- A Taste of the Coastal Path

Llandanwg Beach
The weather has been incredible recently and I’m sure that you are all enjoying it….how long it will last I’m not so sure. I wanted to make the most of the sunshine and combine it with some work….I needed somewhere beautiful and interesting to tell you about…..Llandanwg it was.

Llandanwg beach is a small beach in Ardudwy and is often overlooked by the incredible neighbouring beach of Harlech or Barmouth up the road. Due the opening of the Wales Costal Path in May I felt it to be the perfect place to visit. It’s a fairly small stretch of land but fantastic for a walk with the dog, rock pooling or just relaxing in this amazing weather. It’s a beach I go to often, and somewhere I’m proud to show off to visitors. Not only does the small village of Llandanwg coincide with the coastal path, but is along the ‘Ardudwy way’ a three sectioned walk that takes in all of the stunning parts of Ardudwy.

Walking along the Maes
Llandanwg has much more than just a beach….St Tanwg’s Church, founded in the fifth century lies among the sand dunes at Llandanwg which is unlike any other church I’ve seen before. These sand dunes are part of ‘The Maes’ where rare wildlife and plants can be found. The building is small, quaint and beautiful and has a modest charm. The church we see today dates back to the early Medieval period, however after being abandoned in 1845 it was sympathetically restored back in 1987.

St.Tanwg's Church
The Church almost seems like a buried treasure and is fantastic way to combine a day on the beach with a little history.  This summer I’m attending a wedding there and I can’t wait! Another friend of mine got married there last year and the setting really is striking.

I decided to make the most of my time outside and carried onto the village of Llanbedr continuing up to Gwynfryn. I walked up to Plas Gwynfryn, a stunning property built at the beginning of the 20th century which hosts weddings and events. I know the proprietor Caroline, I was being a little nosey and she showed me how the house has now been set up for large self catering groups for…..a pretty incredible place to stay as it is sandwiched inbetween both the coastal path and the ‘Ardudwy way’ (take a look at

Caroline told me about ‘Wildlife Wales’, an interesting company who offer wildlife activities such as Rock-Pooling, Fly-Fishing and 4x4 'Safari’ trips around the area especially Llandanwg! There is even more to this beach than I thought. Wildlife Wales can even take kids off parent’s hands for a couple of hours and involve them in some wildlife fun ( I would love to take part on one of these days in the future; I have an interesting in learning more about the wildlife of North Wales but wouldn’t have a clue where to start, so this sounds perfect …. A possible blog entry soon, watch this space!

Well, it seems that Llandanwg is the place to be….hopefully not too many people will read it or we won’t find a place on the beach to lay down our towel!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Felin Uchaf- now here is something new!

I had never heard of Felin Uchaf before I started working for Walking North Wales. Discovering new places and activities has been one of my favourite parts of this job, apart from university and travelling I have never left North Wales and it’s almost embarrassing but quite exciting when I hear of something new like this.

Now where do I start? According to their website Felin Uchaf is ‘An Educational Centre for exploring ways of living and working in Creative Partnership, with each other and our Environment,’ now that sounds very impressive, don’t get me wrong but if I’m being completely honest I didn’t really quite grasp what that meant. I saw a blog opportunity, a chance to visit Felin Uchaf for myself and actually see what it is really about.

Hard at work!

The more I read the website, the more I understood. Felin Uchaf is a project that by the looks of it has a strong community drive. The aim of the project is to restore and transform an old redundant Welsh farmhouse and its surrounding area using natural resources and lots of keen volunteers! The project does not sound pretentious or intimidating and has a strong ‘get your hands in there’ community ethos. I couldn’t wait to go along and find out more.

Some students hard at work
I found Felin Uchaf quite difficult to find but I spotted a thatched roof in the distance so headed toward it….luckily I was right- there aren’t many thatched roofs spotted around the Llyn!  I had stumbled across some people having lunch, a home cooked vegetable curry by the looks of it…I was disappointed I had already eaten, however I welcomed a hot cup of tea. I sat with a group of friendly volunteers whilst they finished their food.  The group was a mixture of individuals, those like the who had been volunteering for years, others who had been visiting Felin Uchaf only a few weeks and there were a few who were on a week long course….not a bad place to get some work experience I must say!

I was then introduced to Dafydd- the brains behind the whole project, how his mind came up with this scheme I’m not quite sure. He explained all of the wonderful project going on at Felin Uchaf- thatched round house being built, the development of the herb and vegetable gardens, the building of a workshop in which wooden boats will be made, the development of a new visitor centre, school trip visits, story telling and performances…..believe me the list goes on. I couldn’t believe that there was so happening somewhere that I had never heard of before.
The thatch roof workshop/barn

Dafydd was eager to take me for a look around and it  definitely was the best way of really explaining to me what Felin Uchaf is all about….although having said that, despite seeing it for myself I still can’t quite believe the amazing work that has been and is currently done. The strong community feeling is clear at Felin Ucaf and the green, self sustaining, hand on passion that Dafydd and his volunteers have is infectious.  

The Round House where Performances take place
Walking around and exploring this piece of land is incredible, thatched round houses, open fire areas, beautiful  working gardens and trails are hidden everywhere and I felt as though I had been transported back into the Celtic age….quite amazing. Dafydd has exciting plans, and in the future you or I will be lucky enough to stay in one of the round houses and sit on the balcony of a summers evening and enjoy the view. The public can already join craft courses at Felin Uchaf or enjoy one of the many performances held in, what I can only describe as ‘hobbit’ style house, each month. Please take the time to learn about this fantastic project, this blog will never do it justice….you will just have to go and help out yourselves!

To find out more or if you wish to donate toward this fantastic charity please visit

I'll stay for a week!

A small section of the gardens

Friday, 16 March 2012

Steepest Road in the UK?

I have always told people that ‘Llech’ or ‘Penllech’ in Harlech is the steepest road in the UK. I feel that this might even be a stronger claim to fame than the castle itself. I had heard about this ranking from friends and family but had never actually had the confidence to check this fact- as a lover of Harlech I was slightly worried it might not be true.

It was time to resort to what I like to call ‘the Mother of all sources’.....Google. Having Googled ‘Steepest Road in UK’ I was worried when ‘Hard Knott Pass in Eskdale Cumbria’ kept reappearing in the search, however Harlech was showing up too....Thank God! Hard Knott Pass signs a gradient of 30% so I decided to check out Harlech’s road and see if it was steeper.  
The bottom of Llech undearneath Harlech Castle

I have walked up Llech (that is what the locals call it) hundreds of times before. Harlech is split into two levels, locals have labelled them ‘uptown ‘ and ‘downtown’ and there are three roads connecting them. St David’s Hill is the steadiest but Twtil and Llech are both extremely steep. You can only drive down Llech and it known as the steepest hill in the town but I was now on a mission to make sure that it beat Hard Knott Pass...sorry but its local pride!

My mother is a keen walker so I bought her with me along with my Yorkshire Terrier ‘Sunny’ to enjoy the experience. The name Harlech is actually comprised of two words- ‘hardd’ and ‘llech’ meaning beautiful rock, so this road really is an integral part of the town’s essence.  The walk up Llech is never particularly easy, from the bottom the sharpest hairpin turn is first to ‘greet’ you; however after this the walk does get slightly easier.
Me and Sunny at the bottom of the hill

Stopping for a rest!
I did notice my little dog’s legs slow down and around half way up I needed a little rest, I also found that walking up backwards can help….although remember, this can lead to accidents.  Now, this road isn’t the type to be fearured in a fancy car ad, it is fairly short and I view it more of a hill than a road. The walk only takes around ten minutes, the drive down might possibly take longer....I think it would take me around an hour I was being so careful!
Lovely view in the background!

Llech has always been just a slightly difficult but quick way to get ‘uptown’ but for the purpose of this blog I took time to appreciate’s actually a very pretty road and a lovely way to walk in the centre of Harlech. An added bonus is you reach the top you appear just across the road from the ‘Lion Hotel Pub’ which is very convenient when you are gasping for a drink.

As I reached the top of the road I saw the sign...40%!!! Yes it’s (kind of) official.....Llech is (possibly) the steepest road in the UK.....for the purposes of any legal trouble I might get into I can’t actually confirm that we have the steepest road in the UK, but let me reassure you it’s not flat!!!
The 'proof'!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

My Day on the Farm!

My heart sunk as my alarm screamed at there really any need to start farming so early?! Yes that’s right, I had signed up to do a ‘day on the farm’. I used to work in a Tourist Information centre and found that people had a genuine curiosity as to ‘life on the land’ and I felt I should give them a taster, I didn’t realise it would require such an early start though.

Believe it or not I actually live on a farm, my partner is one of many generations of farmers, apart from wearing my designer willies, I am not the most keen when it comes to agriculture. It’s not that I don’t find the farm beautiful; it just doesn’t ‘float my boat’ - after all there are no shops on the farm. But here it was, not just an opportunity to please my boyfriend, but to  give the lovely readers of this blog a chance to see what a real Welsh farming experience is.

The Tractor and 'Bale Shredding' Machine
Despite the alarm I didn’t quite manage to get up on time, I told him I would meet him in the shed a little later. In the shed he was feeding the cattle with a very fancy machine which, led by a tractor, breaks up a bale of hay and ‘spits’ it out of a side funnel into the cattle shed. The cows seemed to love it and literally buried their heads in the hay as soon as it came spraying down- it was quite amusing.
The Cows Enjoying their Breakfast!

My partner’s farm has around 200 cows and over 2000 sheep- I’m told that this is quite a few. He also farms on different terrains which he assured me would provide very interesting blog material. He farms sheep on a mountain and down a valley, and he also farms his cattle in a shed or by the sand dunes down at Dyffryn Ardudwy beach.

The cows following the trailer
So, after feeding the first lot of cattle, (those I think I have quite a cushy life) we travelled by tractor (a very bumpy experience but all in all quite fun) to the sand dunes to feed the next lot. These are hardier cows as they live outside and among them were some very cute calves. We went through the same process and the bale was ‘spat’ out of the noisy machine. As these cows are free in a field they ‘ran along’ after us following the trail of hay. I stood outside to take some pictures, they edged toward me, cows are actually quite intimidating and I shouted for the tractor to stop so that I could jump back in. The farmer kindly left me in the tractor alone to take pictures for me!

The Lambs at the Market
I had chosen a good day to farm as it was market day in Bala. It is a sheep market so I got a chance to mingle with the sheep too! We went up to another shed to fetch the selected lambs which had previously been gathered from the mountain. We loaded them up a short ramp into a trailer with the help of a sheep dog and loud noises! They did so without much fuss and we were off on our way to Bala (with 100 lambs). When we got there we went for  some fish and chips (one of the highlights of being a farmer means that they need their fuel!) and then  we offloaded the lambs into pens according to their weight and waited for the auction to begin. Now these lambs are not the type that you see prancing across a field, they are actually quite big and look more like fully grown sheep to me, but I was reassured that lambs are actually quite large before they are sold.
Me with our Sheep!

Me Walking around the Market.

When the auction did start I really had no idea what was going on! The auctioneer spoke so quickly I couldn’t tell if he was speaking English or Welsh (as it turns out it was English). We watched and waited for him to get to our lambs which were divided into four different pens.  I spotted three main buyers eyeing up our stock.  The auctioneer reached us and the bidding kicked off. I must admit it was all quite exciting and I enjoyed watching people fight for something that we had bought to them. Apparently we got good prices- £41 each for the smallest lambs, weighing around 23kg each and the largest, weighing 29kg were sold for £58 each, not too bad for a days work!

The Auction Taking Place

The 'Scanner'
So, that was my day on the farm, quite a success if I do say so myself. I actually enjoyed it so much that I went back yesterday to take some snaps of the ‘scanner’. The scanner is man who comes along with an ultrasound machine and scans each ewe in order to tell if she is expecting a lamb, if so how many or if she is baron.  Each ewe is sprayed according to her pregnancy conditions, red for two lambs and green for those that were not pregnant. My partner told me that this is the first year that they have scanned and they have decided to do it order to get the best idea of numbers. I watched for a while, and even helped spray the ewes, but looking over at the 2000 sheep waiting in line; I decided that my work back in the warm house beckoned and that I must leave it to the professionals!

Monday, 5 March 2012

My Tree Top 'Adventure'

So the blog has been quite calm lately, no activities have been too strenuous – just how I like it. However this weekend an opportunity to enjoy a ‘Tree Top adventure’ came along and put a spanner in the works.

The ’Tree Top adventure centre’ is located near Betws y Coed and I have passed it many times. From the side of the road you can catch a glimpse of the rope course, and I have always been happy to stay on that side of the road.

Tree Top adventure Snowdonia offer a wide range of thrilling activities, from kayaking to gorge walking this really is a one stop shop for adventurers of all abilities and ages, possibly even me! I was booked to try out a rope course- that didn’t sound too it turns out I severely underestimated the challenge ahead.

I’ll be honest, I have a slight problem with heights, however I usually manage quite well as I never involve myself in any activities which challenge this fear. I had bought along a partner in order to photograph my experience, it turns out that I took more pictures of him as he didn’t chicken out like I did.....

We walked to the introductory course with our instructor Tim, a really friendly young man who managed to tolerate me as I was whining.  This introductory course is made to test people’s confidence and abilities and see if they are well enough to participate on the ‘real rope course’.  As I approached it I did not feel scared at all, in fact the apprehension that I had felt that morning had begun to ease. Unfortunately, I had led myself into a false sense of security and when I walked up the stairs to the platform from where the course began my nerves, no in fact, the dread kicked in.

Please do not be put off by my account; the introductory course is NOT very high. We were given a safety talk and shown how during the whole course we would be attached to a safety rope. My rational mind knew I would be safe but I just couldn’t get over my fears. I was lucky that there were only two of us taking part (usually one instructor can take a group of up to 25) as I would have died of embarrassment if a seven year old had whizzed around the course ahead of me. I was told that plenty of children have completed the course with out making as much fuss as me.

I was just awful, I have never been such a wimp before. I ‘froze’ at least 3 times during this shorter course, I honestly didn’t think that I could go ahead. The course is divided into short sections each of which are divided by a small platform. Each section is different and involves balancing beams, ‘tight rope scenarios’, bridges and boulders, and each provide their own mental or physical challenge. Tim even had to hold my hand during some parts because I was convinced that I couldn’t do it on my own.

Me attempting the course
My ‘challenge partner’ sped ahead and completed the ‘real’ course. He really enjoyed it and you could tell what an adrenaline rush it was. I just watched from the safety of the solid ground below- I was much happier there. I looked at the course that I had just completed, it looked like nothing in comparison and I was slightly sorry that I had not had the ‘guts’ to complete the next one, I knew however that this would have taken around seven hours, time we just didn’t have.
A slightly force smile!

 I was also offered the chance to enjoy the ‘powerfan plummet’ which is the worlds’ highest powerfan parachute simulator. The tower top platform where you jump from is over 100ft high which is around 99ft higher than I am willing to jump from, so unfortunately I had to sit that one out too. Groups of keen adventurous types however were happy to let me watch and I was slightly jealous when they were telling me just how amazing it was.

Tree top adventures is a fantastic place to visit if you are the sort to love an adrenaline rush, they offer so many activities that I have only given you a taster today. I want to go back and try something different. They are even introducing a 5 person g force swing soon which sounds intriguing. I promise that I did enjoy the rope course, and I feel a little regret at my wimpy behavior now…..actually, I might even go back (tail between my trembling legs).

For more information please take a look at