Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Dragon's Back 2017

It was a misty start to the day, cool conditions for day two of the Dragon's Back Race. The first runners passed through just before 10am.

The tracking service is fantastic. http://event.opentracking.co.uk/dragonsb17/ I could plot their progress as they rapidly approached over Cnicht, Moelwyn Mawr, then Bach and down to Tanygrisiau hydro station.

Not everyone was so rapid. I found two disoriented runners from China up at Campbell's Platform at about 3:30pm - there was no way they'd make it across the Rhinogs to tonight's campsite at Dolgellau. They would have been catching a lift.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Cool Runnings - water and trains

No Snowdonia garden would be complete without water features. No need for pond liners, just a never ending supply of water running off the mountain.

In this garden a stream enters at the top and splits into several branches. One feeds a series of five cascading ponds. Another feeds the big pond we dug for when we kept ducks.

Water enters and leaves some of the ponds by mini-waterfall.

All the streams converge into one, just before the old barn, where the water used to drive a wheel for turning a churn to make butter.

This place has one other very special water feature - steam, which sends the trains to and fro across the top of the garden.

Find your happy at Rightmove!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

For Christmas

Our first Christmas morning we were covered in a blanket of beautiful snow. It doesn't come as often as we'd like, but when it does, we make the most of it. This could be yours for Christmas if you call in at Rightmove. There are only 218 shopping days until Xmas!

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Dragon's Back is Back

The 2017 Dragon's Back Race will start on Monday 22nd May and competitors will be running through Campbell's Kingdom on Tuesday, the second of five consecutive days.

They start off at Conwy Castle and end up in South Wales - 315km (about 196 miles for the metrically challenged) away with 15,500m of height gain across wild, trackless, remote and mountainous terrain.

The event organisers expect the fastest competitors to be running for approximately 8-9 hours each day and the slowest competitors (who complete the full course) to be running and walking for approximately 13-15 hours each day. Competitors pay several hundred pounds for the privilege of taking part.

It was first run in 1992 and it took 20 years until they recovered to do it again in 2012. It was also run two years ago making 2017 the 4th occasion.

Catching their breath at Campbell's Kingdom 2015

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Wild Car

What a way to commute home after a day's hard graft working the slate in the mountains!

An Everyday Walk

The joys of an early morning walk to the railway loop which has excellent acoustics for the resident cuckoo!

Who Needs a Train Set

The joys of playing on your own platform. This could be yours! Just ask Rightmove for the details.

Campbell's Kingdom's Gardens

Chelsea Flower Show is just around the corner and so is the North Wales Garden Festival. Our own garden is looking pretty splendid too along with some stunning steam trains running along the top. Different glimpses through the trees.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Llŷn Peninsula – at the end of the world

For a special occasion we headed off for a couple of days to the Llŷn Peninsula. Our first stop was at Porth Oer which is also called Whistling Sands. I knew that the sand was supposed to make a funny noise, but had never experienced it before. We must have arrived at just the right time, the sand suitably firm and moist, and as we walked across it, if we scuffed our feet a bit, it made this strange noise - not a whistle, but a squeak. Most odd. The noise is said to be due to the shape of the sand granules.

As for the swim, it was far too cold for me to even contemplate, but Sue was committed and in she went until, two minutes later, she could take no more. Very brave. Very foolish maybe. She thawed out over coffee at the café where the staff kindly volunteered the option of hot milk to aid the recovery. Porth Oer? A literal translation according to my dictionary would be ‘cold, sad or frigid’ port.

Lackey moth caterpillars
From the National Trust car park in Aberdaron we strode out over the beach and up the steps to the clifftop which was covered in all sorts of flowers, lots of bluebells and blooming orchids. Equally beautiful were the stripey caterpillars on their silk tents, caterpillars of the Lackey moth which will metamorphose to start flying in June or July.

The coconut-smelling gorse so yellow, the sky and the sea so blue, choughs pronounced chuffs but making sounds like ‘chow’, feet beginning to feel heavy and body a bit hungry – it’s a rich cocktail of the senses. Our guide book said the walk would take 2 to 3 hours but we obviously enjoyed it too much and lingered for 5.

Back at Gwesty Tŷ Newydd we checked in to our room with a 1st floor balconette overlooking the beach, then down to the verandah for a beer followed by crab supper. The sounds of the sea through the night were relaxing but might have been too novel for a good night’s sleep.

The following morning we went to Becws Islyn, unmistakeable with its newly thatched roof, and famous for its excellent sausage rolls and Eccles cakes. Armed with rolls and cakes we walked to Porth Meudwy in more glorious sunshine to meet Colin and the Bardsey Boat. Being hopelessly early there was time for one of us pilgrims to build a tower of stones which was still standing at the end of the day.

Colin duly arrived and a dozen of us climbed on board Benlli III which was pushed into the sea by tractor and, once afloat, was launched off its trailer with powerful twin engines. Strange rock formations at the end of Pen y Cil then across Bardsey Sound for an impromptu bit of seabird watching. Puffins, Razorbills, Guillemots and a pair of Ravens harassing a Peregrine while Choughs flapped around in synchronised pairs.

After disembarking Colin shared his knowledge and thoughts about Bardsey. Nature is doing really well – nesting shearwaters have risen from twelve to twenty thousand (pairs?) in recent years - but we should remember that humans are a species as well and that some economic growth would be appreciated. Bardsey used to be the metropolis, the HQ of the Peninsula, from Rhoshirwaun and Rhiw to the tip – but now it seems cast adrift to an uncertain but nature-rich future. 

We walked behind the farm and up the ridge for fantastic views across to the mainland and eye-level sightings of chough. Around us were the holes of the shearwaters, in which a solitary egg would be laid and a plump chick would eventually emerge for a long and lonely flight to the seas off Argentina. Following the ridge down the other side we continued our circumnavigation of the island with air that felt so pure. The closely grazed grass was full of squill.

We ended up hopelessly early at the harbour for a late lunch with the grey seals. They had been so noisy when we arrived but now seemed quite settled. Lots of them basking in the sunshine on rocks but one of the youngsters practising getting in and out of the water, with humorous effect, sliding back into the sea off slippery seaweed. 

Another pleasant evening at Gwesty Tŷ Newydd with Prosecco and crab supper followed by a seaside sleep before breakfast, checkout and another visit to Becws Islyn to buy picnic provisions of cheese and onion slices and flapjacks.

Billy on SPAR
Going past the Spar was a large heron called Billy on top of the roof right above the doorway. When the manager came out of the store room door and whistled, Billy raced across the roof and hopped down to the wall where the manager of the Spar fed scraps of pork and beef. ‘He eats any meat but not sausages – doesn’t like processed food.’ Apparently this ritual has been going on for 13 years and Billy gets quite stroppy when the manager takes a day off. 

Our first stop of the day was at Porth Colmon where Sion the fisherman had just launched his boat. A beautiful spot with a holiday cottage on the sea – you could cast out your fishing line from the bedroom window.

Further along the coast we walked through fields to the beach about a mile to the east of Porth Colmon. A beautiful Shelduck was paddling in the shallows. 

We continued to Morfa Nefyn for a walk along the beach to Porth Dinllaen with masses of Sand martin nests in the tops of the cliffs looking like woodworm. Refreshed with ginger beer from Tŷ Coch we ate our provisions in a sheltered cove then up past the very smart lifeboat in a big new building. After paying our donations, as insurance against the need for future services, we walked across the golf course and back to the car. 

On our way home we called in at Ffridd Wen the locally famous wholesaler of ‘SelectiveSeafoods’. As we arrived Sion the fisherman departed leaving two big baskets of live crabs that had just been landed at Porth Colmon. None were cooked so we took some advice and did the necessary when we got home.

We’d only been away two nights but it really seemed we had been to the end of the world and back.