Thursday, 20 August 2015

A Tale of Two Gardens

I took the opportunity at the weekend to visit two gardens just north of Aberdaron. They were both excellent examples of different types of garden. The first was at Felin Uchaf, an organic garden with a heavy concentration of vegetables, but also some interesting garden designs and decorative structures.

Helen in the vegetable garden.

An insect hotel. This helps to encourage beneficial insects such as bumblebees in this organic garden.

Summer-house, Gazeebo or Folly? You decide.

A classic example of a cleft oak gate which they manufacture here.
The second garden was at Bodrydd right next door. This features a magnificent new-built farmhouse set in a garden given over largely to lakes, lawn and heather. It has a modern feel to it, partly due to the two dominating wind turbines which are part of this farm / caravan / fishing lake complex.

Some people object to these turbines, but in this setting they look quite sculptural.

A first class heather garden that looks particularly good in late summer.

The trout lake. Bring your fishing rod.

Escape from Hell's Mouth!

Porth Neigwl, or Hell's Mouth is a highlight of the Llyn Coast Path, and indeed the entire Wales Coast Path. A sandy beach stretching for almost 4 miles from Mynydd Rhiw to the Cilan Headland, it can be stunningly beautiful walk on a good day with a low tide. Unfortunately Mother Nature doesn't always make things easy, and access down to beach can be difficult from its western end. The cliffs at the northern side of the beach are made from glacial clay and are constantly eroded by the strong tides and waves that make the beach so attractive to surfers. The path that lead down from the western car park has now suffered severe slippage and getting up and down it can be a muddy scramble, as the campers we met the other day discovered.

These campers were trying to get back up to the site above. I would imagine that it would be even more unpleasant going downhill in wet weather.
Although there is an inland route for the Coast Path that can be used at high tide, its a shame not to include this magnificent beach in a walk around the coast if conditions allow. As it is such a highlight for our walkers, Peter and I set out to find a more permanent route down to its western extremity.

After parking at the new car park below Plas yn Rhiw we headed up towards the entrance. Opposite the entrance to the manor house there is a bridleway from the main road that runs past the stone out-buildings in the centre of the picture below, and then snakes its way down the hillside to a boat launching area at the western end of the beach.
The bridleway in front of the stone building with the black doors is not signposted but is still marked as a right of way on OS maps.
The path is steep but has a good surface.

After a hairpin bend, the path heads north to the beach.

The boathouse at the bottom of the track. Gorgeous location.

This is the slipway down to the beach.

As we continued east it became apparent why few walkers choose this route. The beach is covered with large, loose boulders here which makes picking your way through quite difficult. It's very easy to turn your ankle as the stones shift under your weight.

Watch your step!

As you continue east some sandy stretches appear. It was nice to finally be able to look up from our feet to enjoy the view!

Finally we were on firm sand. Because the tide covers most of the beach the sand stays wet and firm, making it easier to walk on than the very dry, soft sand found on some beaches.
Neither of us fancied scrambling up the muddy cliffs, so we went back the way we had come. Despite the danger and difficulty of walking over the large boulders at the western end, we think this could potentially make a good access route to the beach. Perhaps Gwynedd Council could send a bulldozer to clear a path through if they feel there is enough demand for it? We certainly hope so, as Porth Neigwl really is one of the most magnificent beaches you could ever hope to see, and it would be great if more people could enjoy it.

Upgrades to the Wales Coast Path

Gwynedd Council has recently improved the section of the path that runs through Rhiw at the western end of Hell's Mouth. The path now takes a more direct route from the Penarfynydd Headland to Plas yn Rhiw and cuts out some steep sections that were particularly tiring.

The new route is highlighted in red above, and the old route in green. Going from south west to north east, the steep climb from Pen yr ogof to the main road in the centre of Rhiw has been replaced with a downhill section that then flattens out into a walk through a very pleasant wooded area. It then crosses the main road at a much lower elevation at the entrance to Plas yn Rhiw, enabling walkers to visit the house, gardens and tea room before moving on to Hell's Mouth. Peter and I walked this route the other day in the opposite direction from the new car park below Plas yn Rhiw.

New path furniture has been installed along with plenty of signage. This is the kissing gate opposite the entrance to Plas yn Rhiw.

The path then heads downhill across an open field to the corner of the woods beyond.

Views of Hell's Mouth and the Cilan headland are everywhere along this path.

A new and well-built wooden bridge crosses the gully at the edge of the wood.

This is a very pleasant deciduous woodland that provides some welcome shade on a hot day. This is a bluebell wood so it should be magnificent in the springtime.

Another new gate leading out of the woods. Gwynedd Council have clearly invested a lot of time and effort into improving the path here.

The path then climbs quite steeply up through the bracken to the Penarfynydd Headland.

This is looking back the way we came from the point at which the new path rejoins the old one. 
All in all, we were both very impressed with the changes made, as it made the walk from west to east much less strenuous, and provided a nice change of scenery with the woodland. It's well worth taking a stroll here if you are in the area.

Congregational Singing in the New Church

I have been coming to Aberdaron on holiday for 40 years, have owned Dolfor for 30 years and have lived and worked here full time for 13 years and yet I had never seen the inside of the "New Church". It is "New" because it was built in 1841 to replace the ancient church of St Hywyn's, Aberdaron which, it was believed, was going to fall into the sea. However, an effective sea wall was built and St Hywyn's was saved. The New Church was itself abandoned in 1906 when St Hywyn's was comprehensively restored. The graveyard has been well used for burials and the nearby rectory continued to be occupied until R.S. Thomas retired in the 1970s. This new church is now in need of repair and this will be an important subject of discussion this autumn with the community meeting called for September the 23rd. As a start to this process there was a celebratory congregational singing event last week and the photographs below tell their own story of community togetherness, pride in talent, joy in music and in the Welsh language.

Sometimes described as having little architectural merit, the New Church has distinctive towers and has survived the harsh weather since 1841.