Thursday, 27 June 2013

Talacre to Gronant - Wales Coast Path Circular Walk

If you are looking for an easy walk on a summer's evening and an inexpensive meal then this is the walk for you. This is a two mile walk, which is easily extended along the coast to Prestatyn.
Talacre Lighthouse, which is known as the Point of Ayr lighthouse, was built in 1776, though incredibly it has been inactive since 1883. The lighthouse once displayed two lights. The main beam, at 63 feet, shone seaward towards Llandudno. A secondary beam shone up the River Dee, towards the hamlet of Dawpool, in Cheshire, on the English side of the estuary. Whilst in service, the lighthouse was painted with red and white stripes, and had a red lantern housing. It was replaced in 1844 with a metal pile lighthouse, bearing a white light, put up by order of the Corporation of Trinity House. This new structure was itself replaced in 1883 with a lightship which remains.

View Talacre to Gronant in a larger map

This is a walk which is dead flat, and can be shortened from the 3 miles shown by taking a short cut across the dunes.
At low tide the beach is huge. This is the extreme end of the Dee Estuary - as can be seen from the place name Talacre - End (tal) of the acres (extensive pasture land of the Point of Ayr).

The sand dunes are impressive and are host to a huge variety of wildlife and different grasses.

The return leg of the walk is along this high quality cycle track.

The Smuggler's Inn is adjacent to the car park at Talacre and serves inexpensive food.

The Coast Path runs past Talacre and heads off on a flood bank towards the east.

There is parking on the beach if you feel lucky!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

If you go down in the woods today...

For some years now, Plas Glyn y Weddw has been known as an art gallery with some exceptional statues in the garden. It is now on the Wales Coast Path and a great place to enjoy a meal or a snack at its very fine cafe. Just opened are two new attractions - an open air theatre and some beautiful woodlands walks, the Winllan walks, which can, if you wish, lead on to the celebrated Iron Man and the Mynydd Tir y cwmwd headland.
Surely the most beautiful statue ever?

The Plas, with the cafe in the conservatory.

A great place to record the names of loved ones. The open air theatre was substantially financed by donations.

The open air theatre, quite an optimistic development in view of Wales' climate!

All the walks are well signposted

Lots of options for every ability level

Some of the steps are pretty steep, but children will love these walks, and there are no perilous drops.

The undergrowth has recently been cleared, and next season the wild flowers will be plentiful.

"I would have spared you this, Prytherch."

It's always good to see a busy port, and none are busier than Mostyn these days. This used to be a general cargo port, and I used to use it in my days as a timber merchant in Nottingham. Nowadays it seems completely taken over by the assembly and shipping of off-shore wind turbines. I called to see them yesterday and was struck by their sheer size and the technical challenge that they present to those building them, taking them out to sea, and those who sink the cables that connect them. 
This is not the place to debate their pros and cons as a source of energy, but I have to say that they are an engineering triumph, and almost a thing of beauty. They are certainly a source of work, though I can't help but recall that poem by RS Thomas - "Too Late" which ends with that call:

"Can't you see
Behind the smile on the times' face
The cold brain of the machine
That will destroy you and your race?"

Mostyn port from the east, showing the assembly of the masts for the huge off-shore wind turbines.

The turbine hubs, showing the points where the blades attach.

These are just the blades. Note the workman at the far end for scale.

The finished product out at sea - where the wind is. These were viewed from the Talacre Lighthouse, and are known as the Rhyl flats.

New Standard for Walk Guides set in Llandudno

It wasn't very long ago, when even the best walk guides were only a page in a book with a small sketch map and brief descriptions, in terrible prose, on how you progressed around the route. Over the years detailed digital maps, now interactive have been developed alongside copious photographs and all available on the web. A new standard has now been set by the Royal Geographical Society, as we foretold in our blog of the 1st of March. The first walk in North Wales is based in Llandudno and explains the historical and social background to the formation of the town. It has a detailed map and can be downloaded as a GPS trail, or with an audio guide, or a printed guide. The historical research is exhaustive and you can see through maps, photographs and old documents the background to what can be seen on the ground today. It makes a very good read, and is accompanied by a guide to family activities in the same area, though I'm not sure that my grandchildren would be up to it yet!

Llandudno as a small village at the foot of the Great Orme in 1841.
Things I learned about Llandudno were -
  • The old town outline can still be seen at the base of the Great Orme. The roads are not part of the grid pattern and they have Welsh names rather than English.
  • The grid system of roads has a curve to it which mirrors the bay and the way the roads leading to the sea widen towards the beach enables special vistas to be viewed.
  • The decorative ironwork is amongst the best of Victorian ironwork in the country.
  • Llandudno was known as a rival to continental resorts like Nice. It was known as the Naples of the north.
  • The Imperial Hotel was the headquarters of the Inland Revenue during the 2nd World War.

Historic Town Trail for Holywell

Holywell is a town steeped in history and it is soon to have an historic town trail with added art work, interpretation panels and environmental improvements. Peter was in the town yesterday researching walks related to the Wales Coast Path and walked the route which will be as follows. Peter enjoyed a fascinating afternoon looking at these interesting sights, which demonstrate the continuity of the Christian Tradition and religious worship, and just how they can be used as a tourist attraction.

St Winifred's Chapel. This is situated above the well.
St Winifred's Well is located behind the stone arches. Legend has it that it was to here that her decapitated head came to rest after it was cut off by the sword of Caradoc at the site which is currently St Beuno's Well, some 180m south west.

St Winifred's Well, or rather the swimming pool extension.

St James' parish church, which is alongside St Winifred's chapel.

Tea room and arts and crafts centre in front of the castle mound

Panton Place and memorial gardens.

Plas Glenfrewi, with its interesting roof. 

The hospice, which also does B&B.

Statue of Christ in the grounds of Plas Gwenfrewi

St Winifred's Guest House and hospice.

St Beuno's Well?
No, Peter got a bit confused by the lack of signage. St Beuno's Well is actually in the woods behind and at the moment is an overgrown pond, see The real well site can be accessed by some steep steps opposite St Winifred's Well.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Tick Season

Ticks are nasty little parasites that can feed on both animal and human blood. It's always best to take precautions if you are out walking, especially if you go through thick vegetation, as the ticks tend to migrate to the tips of stems to have a better chance of latching on to a passer by. Wear gaiters, or tuck your trousers into your socks to prevent them crawling up and biting your legs undetected.

In addition to being perfectly revolting, ticks can also carry some quite severe diseases, so if you are bitten, it's important to know how to safely remove them. If you break the tick's mouth parts off in your skin, then that can lead to an infection, and in severe cases; septicaemia. Additionally, ticks can carry a debilitating chronic infection called Lyme Disease. The organisms reside in the tick's gut, and if the tick is squeezed or handled roughly it can vomit its stomach contents, including the parasites into your blood stream. This can also happen if you try to burn the tick, suffocate it with petroleum jelly, or poison it with alcohol. The best thing to do is buy a tick removing tool, such as this one (there are several others on the market). This twists off the tick quickly and easily, and is less likely to cause the tick to vomit.

For more information, see

Friday, 21 June 2013

Mountain Safe

In an effort to try and ensure that as many as possible of those venturing up the mountains are doing so safely, the Mountain Safe initiative has been launched. This is a partnership between the Snowdonia National Park Authority, North Wales Police, Mountain Rescue Teams and the British Mountaineering Council. It's goal is to make sure that proper mountain safety information is available to walkers before they even set foot in Snowdonia. Then, once they are here, the information is consistent and easy to follow:

PLAN your route carefully before setting off, and remember to choose a route that suits the fitness level and ability of everybody in your group.

CHECK the local mountain weather forecast before you set out, and turn back if the weather worsens.

WEAR strong walking boots and warm clothing. You will need a waterproof and windproof coat and overtrousers.

CARRY a rucksack with plenty of food and drink, and an extra layer of clothing. On sunny days take extra water and use plenty of sunscreen.

TAKE a map and compass with you and know how to use them. Carry a torch, whistle, first aid kit and fully charged mobile phone.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Midsummer Sunrise on Garn Fadryn

If you're able to face getting out of bed before 4am, how about greeting the midsummer sun on Garn Fadryn with Felin Uchaf?

The following day they are planning a storytelling evening on one of the Iron Age roundhouses, with a performance of "The Odyssey".

Fire in Llyn

Penyberth (pictured in the engraving above) was a farmhouse at Penrhos which had been the home to generations of patrons of poets, but it was destroyed in 1936 in order to build a training camp and aerodrome for the RAF. Known to opponents as the “ bombing school” (in Welsh, yr ysgol fomio), this was opposed by many in Wales but the Government ignored all representations. In protest at this a workmen's shed at the site was the target on 8 September 1936 of an arson attack by three of the leaders of Plaid Cymru, Saunders Lewis, Lewis Valentine, and D. J. Williams. The jury at their first trial held at Caernarfon failed to agree on a verdict, so the case was transferred to another court and a second trial was held on 9 January 1937 at the Old Bailey, London, at which they were found guilty and jailed in Wormwood Scrubs prison. When they were released on 27 August 1937 (a year before the Munich settlement) a crowd of over 15,000 gathered in Caernarfon to welcome them back to Wales. Saunders Lewis is regarded as a central literary figure in 20th century Wales and was a founder member of Plaid Cymru which took a pacifist stance in World War 2.

Though this was a sideshow in pre war rearmament, this incident is known in the Welsh language as Llosgi'r ysgol fomio ("the burning of the bombing school") or Tân yn Llŷn ("Fire in Llŷn"), and has attained iconic status in Welsh nationalist circles. It resurfaced recently when sections of Plaid Cymru, now a partner in government in Wales, refused to welcome the new tri-service Defence Training campus at St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan which is scheduled to create 10,500 jobs. RAF Penrhos survives as a single strip civilian airfield and is today the site of the annual Wakestock contemporary music festival and home to the Penrhos home for Polish refugees, one of the last remaining WW2 displaced persons camps. 

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

"May week was in June!" - Summer Wildflowers

After our cold wet spring, the hedgerow plants are making up for lost time. The Blue-bells of spring are giving way to the showy wild flowers of summer. 

The wild, flag-irises often brighten up damp areas.

Common Foxglove, a particular favourite of bumble bees.

Purple haze. Flowering grasses give a lovely purple tint to this meadow on the Llyn Peninsula, with buttercups and flowering  dock or sorrel in the foreground.

The Sun has got his hat on! Hip, hip, hip hooray!

Finally some decent weather! The sun is out, and its shirt sleeves and shorts time in Aberdaron. Talking to some local hoteliers this morning, Peter found out that despite the good weather the season is still very quiet, so there's never been a better time to book a short break.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Llanbedrog to the Warren - Wales Coast Path Circular Walk

This is a 4 mile circular walk with a leg to the beach at Abersoch. It passes through woodland, open limestone moor, a sandy beach and some quiet lanes. It takes in a church, an art gallery and some fine statues. Start by parking your car at the National Trust car park in Llanbedrog, visit the nearby St Peter’s church and then enter the grounds of Plas Glyn y Weddw which has a grade 1 art gallery, a good bookshop and a wonderful cafe. Walk past the new outdoor theatre and follow the Quarryman’s Trail sign which will lead you through the Winllan Woods and on to the Iron Man Statue.

View Llanbedrog to the Warren in a larger map

St Peter's was badly knocked about by Cromwell's forces, but is now beautifully cared for.
Plas Glyn y Weddw, with tearoom in conservatory. Entry is free.

The path climbs up from the Plas into the woodland behind.

There are fine views over the beach.

Superb views over the bay towards Pwllheli in the east.

The Iron Man Statue.
Dense vegetation has been removed in recent work.
Fine views towards the Cilan Headland and Abersoch.

The path takes you over the mynydd and then inland a little, before dropping down to the sea .

The route to the sea is clearly marked as this is the Wales Coast Path.
This is the sea lane with very little traffic.
The lane takes you to the sandy beach of Ti'r Mynydd, often known as the Warren beach.

This quiet lane goes all the way back to Llanbedrog.

This is where you re-enter the village. If in need of refreshment Glyn y Weddw Inn is on the hill to the left.