Friday, 27 April 2012

Where and what is this? Surely the pirates these days are in Somalia?

Peter Walks the Town Walls of Conwy

First of all a Health and Safety Warning. This is a walk on stones put into position in the 13th century - all uneven and slippery in wet weather. Also the medieval soldier was probably a bit shorter than most of us so look out for low doorways. And there are some pretty steep drops so don't take young children or anybody with vertigo.
As everybody knows, Conwy has a huge castle built in the late 13th century following Edward the First's conquest of the Llewelyns, the Princes of Gwynedd. It was part of the Iron Ring, castles built within a day's march of each other that could also be resupplied by sea. It controlled the strategic Conwy Valley. It was also a walled town, a place where English merchants could settle and trade and yet still be protected by stout walls. These walls still exist and can be walked on three sides of the square layout of the town. The seaward-side wall still exists but there is no walkway with railings.
At each of these towers there was a removable section built of wood which could be collapsed if the invaders penetrated the walls.

You get a bird's eye view of Conwy town from here and admission is free. When you have walked the walls then I recommend you call at the Tourist Information Centre opposite the castle and meet up with Claire who can tell you all about the town, what to do and where to go.

Failing that you can always talk to a dragon!

Bodlondeb Woods

Where's a good place to walk on a day when Welsh drizzle covers the hills? I can recommend Bodlondeb Woods. Park just outside the town walls of Conwy at the council offices at Bodlondeb.
This is free parking on weekdays, but pay and display at weekends.
You enter the trail near to the butterfly park.

 Great views of Deganwy Marina across the Conwy estuary. The Princes of Gwynedd used to have a castle atop the hill which King Edward the First demolished and built into the foundations of his new castle - his way of saying Game Over!

There are many paths through the woods which can be muddy in wet weather. There are many interesting species of trees and ferns.
There are some clearings with seating areas and when I visited some beautiful bluebells 

There are tantalising glimpses of Conwy Castle as you walk through the woods towards the top of the hill.

Peter in front of the council offices on the walk down to the town.

A Failed Attempt to tackle the Great Orme

Refreshed at the Craigside Inn I headed back west along the seafront of Llandudno and up the lane that I thought led to the Great Orme. I took the long lane out of Llandudno and ended up in Happy Valley which was an area of parkland dedicated by Lord Mostyn (the founder of Llandudno) to Queen Victoria on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
Queen Victoria looking out on gardens given in her honour and now on offshore wind turbines. Would she be amused?
There is an interesting rock garden, a ski slope and what looks like a really good toboggan run.

I should have known I was on the wrong path!
I think I'll leave this for the grandchildren!

I then made the short walk up to Pen Dinas which was once an Iron Age Hill Fort with three or four defensive ramparts with around 60 huts. The information board said that these can still be seen, but not by me as it was pretty much overgrown with turf. Highly visible though were the beautifully kept goats.

Then remained the path to the Great Orme summit itself which can clearly be seen in the photograph below, but I have to confess that I flunked it as the rain was coming down in some quantity,

The Little Orme

After the meeting (and the lunch) at Venue Cymru yesterday. I thought I would explore the coast path from Llandudno to Rhos on Sea. This involved climbing the Little Orme, not the Great Orme which is to the North West of Llandudno, but the smaller hill to the east.
The path as it leaves the road to Rhos on Sea from Llandudno.
Great view of Rhos to the east.

What remains of the Limestone Quarry.

Cracking View of the Great Orme.

Well, there was a view of Snowdonia yesterday.

You can reach it from the B5115 and the path is pretty clear and well signed as it is part of the North Wales path and the Wales Coast Path. It is home to a variety of birds and unusual plants and its summit offers panoramic views of Llandudno and Rhos on Sea.

Yesterday the views of Snowdonia were clouded in mist. In 1580 one of its caves housed the first printing press in Wales, secretly used to produce catholic tracts. There is a huge limestone quarry on the eastern side which closed in 1931 which became a wartime artillery practice camp.

I can recommend the pub, the Craigside Inn. Even though it's run by a chain, the staff are great and the car park is useful if you are not doing the full route.
North Wales Nature

Came across this pretty wild-flower while walking in Bodlondeb Woods yesterday.

Apparently it's called Greater Stitchwort and it's Latin name is Stellaria Holostea. It's common name is derived because it was believed to cure "stitches" in the side caused by running, although there's no evidence that's true. There's even less evidence for the other superstitions surrounding the plant - which include that it was one of the Devil's favorite plants and home to malevolent pixies. Picking it was said to bring bad luck, including attracting adders and even lightning strikes! Thank goodness I didn't pick any!

Calling all Volunteers!

I've been walking the Coast Path from Abergele to Rhyl which is a very flat and open section of the path. Relief from caravans and housing (and windmills!) can be found in the bird life, but I must confess that I've never seen a ringed Plover on this stretch of the beach. But they are there I am assured by Anne Butler who is the biodiversity officer at Conwy.

Ringed plovers are small, dumpy short-legged wading birds, with a body which is brownish grey on top and white underneath. They have a noticeable ‘eye-mask’ and a black ring around their neck and chest, hence the name ‘ringed plover’. They choose coastal locations for breeding and nest directly on the shingle or sand.

A pair of ringed plovers have attempted to nest at Pensarn Beach Site of Special Scientific Interest in recent years. They are extremely difficult to spot and on this busy beach are quite vulnerable to disturbance from people and dogs, mostly because people are not aware they are nesting there. This year, Conwy’s Countryside Service is letting people know about the birds and trying to decrease disturbance and increase the chances of the pair raising chicks successfully.

So if you think you would like to help us monitor the birds this breeding season, please get in touch with Anne using her contact details below. She can give you further information about where they are and how to monitor their behaviour without disturbing them. Even if you only manage to monitor them once and can send her information, that would be really helpful.

If you are interested, please phone Anne Butler, Biodiversity Officer, on 01492 575123 or e-mail


Thursday, 26 April 2012

Cycling around the tip of the Lleyn.

We were lucky enough to play host to a group of journalists from Holland, who were writing articles in Dutch on behalf of Visit Wales. Peter was able to lend them some bikes and guide them around the end of the peninsula.
 This adventurous soul decided to get up onto Mynydd Mawr on the headland. Below you can see a photo of the famous Whistling Sands Beach near Aberdaron.
Right at the end of the headland Peter took them to St Mary's Well the rock pool that remains filled with fresh water even when covered by the sea. It's notoriously difficult to find, but well worth the visit.

I was walking the new Wales Coast Path yesterday after I went to a meeting in Llandudno Junction. I intended to walk from Conwy Town across the bridge and then turn left, north towards the Great Orme as the path hugged the coast. Visibility was poor and I had failed to bring my full waterproofs. So, instead, I turned right after the bridge and headed south to one of the hundreds of hidden gems along this coast - the RSPB Conwy Nature reserve.

There are others in North Wales at South Stack near Holyhead, the wetlands around Valley on the west coast of Anglesey and the Point of Ayr on Deeside. This one has amazing views of Snowdonia and Conwy Castle - even from the coffee shop. 

It has a wetland habitat and is a great way to get closer to nature-a bit of an oasis really as the A55 thunders by only a few hundred yards away. Actually, it’s a great place to stop off if you are ever looking for a break as you travel along this road. It has a great cafe. There is a blue tit trail 1/3 mile along boardwalks, a red shank trail which is a little longer at about a mile and come back through the wildlife garden, and a grey heron trail which runs to 2 miles and takes you all around the perimeter.

There was lots of activity and several people were quite excited about seeing great crested grebes I saw an oystercatcher, or at least I think that’s what it was! I was dressed for a business meeting with a portfolio and calculator. I wish I had bought my binoculars and bird handbook instead!


Wednesday, 25 April 2012

North Wales Nature,
Peter and I have decided to start an occasional series on the flora and fauna you can find in our part of the world. Anyone walking through the coastal parts of North Wales at this time of year can't fail to notice the bright yellow flowers of Gorse. It's coconut scented flowers liven up the hedgerows on the Lleyn Peninsula at this time of year, although you can generally find a few flowers on them at any time of year. Often cursed by ramblers for their extremely prickly thorns, the flowers are actually edible and can be added to salads and, rather more interestingly, fermented to make wine!
Wales' Abandoned Churches,

Peter was killing time recently, and paid a visit to the old abandoned church near Traeth Penllech on the north coast of the Lleyn Peninsula. In these more secular times, there are many churches and chapels which have fallen into disuse. Some of these, such as St Mary's church as at Penllech are still open to the public, and are worth a visit for their peaceful (or spooky depending on your point of view) atmosphere.
The church was founded in the medieval period and part of the structure remaining today dates from the 15th century. The stone structure is that of a traditional Llyn church single nave with solitary bell, but inside there is a whitewashed Georgian interior with box pews, a pulpit with a sounding board, and two biers upon which the dead would be carried into Church and which served as reminder of the inevitability of death.

If you want to pay a visit, the church is about a mile inland from Traeth Penllech (Penllech Beach), just off a narrow lane that passes through a farmyard. The grid reference is SH 219 343.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Good bye from Bethan!

Well, I have been blogging for Walking North Wales for three months now and it is now time to say good bye. Peter and Simon at Walking North Wales will be taking over from me and I'm confident that they will do a much better job!
I've really enjoyed my time with the company and getting to explore all of the beautiful places I didn't even know North Wales had to offer.
I want to say a big thank you to Peter for letting me try out such amazing activities, I'm not sure how I managed to secure such a good job! And  finally a buf thank you for following the blog, keep reading because I'm sure that there are many more interesting places and stories to come.................

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Plas Glyn y Weddw....a gem along the coastal path

As the date of the launch of the All Wales Coastal path is nearing I felt almost obliged to spend an afternoon walking along our incredible coast…..I was drawn to the Llyn Peninsula once again and decided to tell you about the small village of Llanbedrog which I came across along my way.

If you consider walking the Llyn Coastal Path I must urge you to visit this pretty spot, not only has it a beautiful almost cove like beach but the amazing gallery of Plas Glyn y Weddw is a reason to visit in itself….I felt that I had to take a look and enjoy a cream tea in the garden!

Me outside the gallery
Oriel Plas Glyn y Weddw, built in 1857 is Wales’ oldest Art gallery and I must say it is indeed one of the most beautiful settings too. The building in itself is appeal enough to visit and the six airy exhibiting rooms streaming with natural light house an amazing collection of art from Wales and beyond.  As you enter the building you become overwhelmed by the staggering entrance hall and gothic architecture which draws you in. I was so glad that I detoured from my walk to take a look around- all in the name of research you’ll understand!

Walking through the woodland
Outside there seems to be a hive of activity taking place in the form of a building site which I was told will soon be a new amphitheatre which will hold performances and workshops. The Winllan woodland surrounding the gallery was bought back in 2008 and has several paths and trails running through the trees. One of these paths is part of the coastal path which tied in nicely to my walk. I followed the path from the woodland to a large statue of an iron man at the top of the cliff. 

The view from the top of the cliff in stunning and on a clear day you can see for miles. There is alternative walks up the side of the cliff (up a lot of steps) to this amazing spot directly from the beach and although the climb is a little struggle it is definitely worth it. I decided to walk down that way, a far more sensible idea.

The Llyn is really one of the most fantastic places to walk, and when you come across little gems like Oriel Plas Glyn y Weddw along the way it easy t see why…

Friday, 6 April 2012

Back to the farm....lambing time!

So I've returned to the farm to learn about the exciting time of lambing. My partner has labelled my version of lambing as 'glaming' as all I do is sit alongside him in the jeep and look at the cute little lambs- to be honest I don't even like getting out to open the gate! In all seriousness, this is a very important time for the farm which is why it is vital that things go well.

The farmers here on this mountain farm tend to go out and check on the situation 3-4 times a day, starting with an early round at 5.30-6am- I decided to sleep that one out! The lambs are spread across a few fields and are divided into either the ages of the Mothers or whether or not they are expecting twins (this is determined by a scan I mention in my 'day on the farm' blog entry).  The round involves the farmers driving around in their vehicle looking at the sheep to see if any of the ewes or lambs are having difficulty.

On the farm they are currently getting around 30 lambs a day. Unfortunately 1-2 of these are lost due to difficulties during birth, being born dead or predators such as foxes and crows unfortunately attack. The Mothers can also be lost, and my partner explained how the 'yearling' ewes require much attention as they have never given birth to a lamb before. These 'yearlings' are actually almost two, but as this is their first pregnancy it can be a tricky birth. Often, if a farmer spots a ewe struggling he will 'pull' the lamb which often saves the lamb and the mother.

The yearlings giving birth to twins may have trouble producing enough milk and and when a lamb is not given enough milk by its mother then often the farmer takes the lamb and mother (if she is still alive) into a large shed and bottle feeds the lamb- it's very cute I must say. Large feeding blocks are also placed around the field for the ewes to lick, these blocks help increase levels of colostrum in the Mother's milk which is crucial for the strength of a newborn. I have found lambing to be quite sad at times, I only expected happy little lambs to be prancing across a field....there are some lovely times however, and when a farmer manages to adopt a lamb to another mother who has lost its ewe saving the animal then he knows that he's done a good job!

Lambing will take place for around 6 weeks, the farm expect to gain around 1100-1200 lambs in this looks like I have a lot more of this to come!