Thursday, 30 May 2013

Caroline Quentin in Snowdonia

Caroline Quentin's ITV series on Britain's National Parks paid a visit to Snowdonia last week. If you missed it you can still catch it on the ITV player website.

The first part of the show paid a visit to rescue workers, who were training a dog to assist with locating lost or injured walkers. The key, apparently is to make it a game for the dog, and reward it with a toy to play with when it successfully guides the rescuers to the casualty.

Next stop was the annual "Race the Train" event wherein runners try to beat the Talyllyn Steam Train on its journey back to Towyn. The race has been an event for 30 years, and now attracts 2000 participants each year.

The third part of the show featured bee keepers in the Conwy valley, taking one of their hives to join the bee-breeding program at Ty Hyll, or the Ugly House, before Caroline visited the Llechwedd Slate mines, and heard of the dark working conditions that miners as young as 8 years old had to endure.

The next section looked at the Dolphins to be found swimming in Cardigan Bay, and then a Choir in Dolgellau.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

North Wales, shakes, rattles and rolls.

Many people in North Wales last night, had their sleep disturbed by the small matter of an earthquake. At around 4:20am Many people reported being woken by a loud bang, followed by a low rumbling, and loose doors rattling with the vibration. The quake was small, at only 3.8 magnitude, but still quite a rare occurrence for the UK, and was felt as far away as South East Ireland.

Porth Colmon, taken by Stephen Elwyn Roddick.

The quake's epicentre was believed to be in the Irish Sea, some way off Porth Colmon on the Llyn Peninsula. The director of the Irish National Seismic Network,Tom Blake said that the quake originated from a point 5 miles deep, and was followed by a few smaller aftershocks, but further significant tremors were unlikely.

The tremor was certainly very noticeable at my own house near Aberdaron. This was the first time I had ever experienced an earthquake, and I must say that being woken up by bangs, rumbles and rattling was a rather unsettling experience.

What was your experience of the quake? Let us know in the comments below.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Memories of Midsummer Madness

Foreword: A potted history of the very first walk as remembered by Ed Dalton.

I am a founder member of the Cefni Walking Club on Anglesey (1989). The above walk was brought to my attention by Peter Hewlett of Aberdaron in 2005. Peter was trying to establish a long distance walking route along the Lleyn Peninsula Coastline.

His idea bore fruit one early morning on Saturday the 25th of June, when around a dozen walkers assembled at the Beuno Hotel in Clynnog Fawr to try to walk 40 miles to Aberdaron.
A beautiful sunrise over the Snowdonia peaks augured well for the day. A long lane climb led to the public footpath over the moorland plateau which lies between the peaks of Bwlch Mawr, Gyrn Ddu and Gyrn Coch. Quite a remote area! It was still morning by the time we arrived at Llanaelhaearn village although a slight misty drizzle had started. Our spirits were raised by refreshments from the “back up” vehicle. Great!

The next section took us around the base of Tre’r Ceiri Iron Age Hut Encampment, and also by-passed Yr Eifl’s peaks to eventually reach the national learning centre of Nant Gwrtheyrn on Porth y Nant Bay (situated in a lovely spot overlooking the beach).

Onward again, after a short rest period, now heading along the pebbly shoreline. A disused quarry climb out led to the headland and across several fields to arrive at the large village called Nefyn. The group needed a hot meal which Peter had arranged in the local cafe.

Peter’s route now went via the headland paths from Morfa Nefyn and the beautiful Porth Dinllaen Bay to cross the local golf course (there is a public right of way!) The way was now like a “roller-coaster” ride... down into a cove then a scramble up to the headland, again and again. Scenery was exceptional and the occasional seal seen. Weather still damp but bearable.

A short diversion was taken, where the cliff path had land-slipped, then on again.

The villages of Tudweiliog and Llangwnnadl were inland from the coast by-passed by the path. However, as time was moving on, after crossing Porth Towyn and Penllech beaches it was obvious that the full planned route was not possible. All the walkers including myself were tired and one person was limping.

An “executive decision” was made to road walk the remaining distance to Aberdaron!
Once past Porth Colmon, the route leaves the coast to go inland for a lane walk before dropping down onto Porth Oer beach (also known as Whistling Sands). The last stretch would have taken in a few more headlands and a couple of coves to finally climb Anelog hill and then drop down into Aberdaron. Therefore, once the lane section was reached, we all relaxed and now with the sun shining, strolled the last few miles to Peter’s home in the evening light. A long day in the outdoors.

A good rest with excellent refreshments was a fitting end to a very memorable inaugural walk. The back-up vehicles took us safely back to the start.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Barn Raising the Old Fashioned Way

The Felin Uchaf Centre on the Llyn Peninsula is we ll worth a visit, as it's only a short inland diversion from the Wales Coast Path as it skirts the north and south sides of the peninsula. Felin Uchaf was set up to preserve traditional building methods, amongst other benefits for the local community, and to that end it has been constructing its visitor centre as a traditional oak framed barn. Seeing the massive green oak frames being hoisted upright in the traditional way is a spectacular sight.

Monday, 13 May 2013

RS Thomas Memorial Walk

On Sunday May the 12th, St Hywyn’s church and their doughty walk leader Susan Fogarty planned a small pilgrimage to celebrate the 100 years since the birth of R.S. Thomas in Holyhead in 1913. R.S. was a distinguished poet and vicar of Aberdaron before his retirement to live in a cottage in Rhiw near Aberdaron. Unfortunately we chose the worst Sunday of the year, and the rain was constant. This limited the numbers and made walking very difficult. Fortunately, Edge of Wales Walk with their minibus were on hand to assist and we were able to take people to places when walking was impossible.

We started in St Hywyn’s Church where we were greeted by the vicar of Aberdaron the Reverend Susan Blagden, now the vicar of the greater parish of Bro Enlli.

After a bus ride to Sarn Plas, R.S.’s retirement home, poems were read in the pouring rain.

This is the extension to the cottage that R.S. built, and where he wrote many of his poems.

This is an upstairs window of the cottage and a model of the hand of Elsie, who was the wife to R.S. Thomas and a serious artist in her own right.

The party then moved on to Llanfaelrhys, which was a church served by R.S. where Elsie was buried.

The gravestone shows that Elsie was buried here, but R.S. is only there in spirit. He was actually buried in Porthmadog on the instructions of his second wife. The party laid some blossom on the grave which we had just taken from Sarn Plas.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

The "Unconventionally Handsome" House

For some reason lost to history, this charming building near Betws y Coed has acquired the entirely unfair nickname of Tŷ Hyll, or "The Ugly House".

Some say that the house had an ominous reputation as a hideout for highwaymen who preyed on unwary travellers. Others say that the house got its name from the rough boulders that comprise its walls and chimney, as the Welsh word hyll can mean crude as well as ugly.

Still others say that the house was never considered ugly, and the name is a corrupted, back-translation of the name of the nearby river, the Llugwy, which sounds like the word ugly to an English ear.

These days, the house is in the care of the Snowdonia Society. They have a lovely tearoom, and sell the honey from several beehives in the gardens.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Not the End of the World just yet.

If you had been anywhere near the coast of North Wales yesterday, you might have wondered what on earth those loud bangs and tremor were yesterday afternoon. According to the Daily Post, the Royal Navy were on exercise in the Cardigan Bay area. HMS Montrose was undergoing weapons testing, including an 800 mph Harpoon missile.

People across North Wales apparently heard the noise, or even felt them as tremors. I know they certainly rattled my doors and windows in Aberdaron.

Did you hear anything unusual? What are your opinions on this sort of exercise taking place so close to an areal like North Wales?

Home of a Hero

Peter was busy guiding an American Journalist called Randy Johnson last week, and he took to opportunity to show him one of our cultural landmarks. Yr Ysgwrn, near Trawsfynydd, was the home of Ellis Humphrey Evans, better known by his bardic name Hedd Wyn, one of Wales' most celebrated poets of the 20th Century.

Evans was born on the 13th January 1887, and became the eldest of eleven children. Later that spring, the family moved to an isolated hill farm called Yr Ysgwrn near Trawsfynydd.

After leaving school at 14, Evans became a shepherd on his father's farm, but he always showed a natural gift for poetry, taking part in eisteddfodau.

The outbreak of the first world war had a profound effect on Ellis. His experiences fighting in the trenches inspired some of his most famous poems:

His poem, Rhyfel ("War"), remains one of his most frequently quoted works.
Gwae fi fy myw mewn oes mor ddreng,
A Duw ar drai ar orwel pell;
O'i ol mae dyn, yn deyrn a gwreng,
Yn codi ei awdurdod hell.
Pan deimlodd fyned ymaith Dduw
Cyfododd gledd i ladd ei frawd;
Mae swn yr ymladd ar ein clyw,
A'i gysgod ar fythynnod tlawd.
Mae'r hen delynau genid gynt,
Ynghrog ar gangau'r helyg draw,
A gwaedd y bechgyn lond y gwynt,
A'u gwaed yn gymysg efo'r glaw
Why must I live in this grim age,
When, to a far horizon, God
Has ebbed away, and man, with rage,
Now wields the sceptre and the rod?
Man raised his sword, once God had gone,
To slay his brother, and the roar
Of battlefields now casts upon
Our homes the shadow of the war.
The harps to which we sang are hung,
On willow boughs, and their refrain
Drowned by the anguish of the young
Whose blood is mingled with the rain.

During March 1917, Hedd Wynn was granted leave to work on the family farm. During his spare time he worked on what came to be regarded as his masterpiece; Yr Arwr, or The Hero. Because the harvest was delayed, he stayed longer than was permitted. He had just finished his Yr Arwr when the military police came to fetch him, so his greatest work was left on the kitchen table. He wrote out another copy from memory on the train back to the front.

Sadly Hedd Wyn was killed shortly afterwards at the the battle of Passchendaele on the 31st of July 1917. However he posthumously won the prestigious Chair of the Bard at the National Eisteddfod during the following September. The chair was draped with a black cloth as a mark of respect, and became known as the Black Chair.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Darth Vader Is Supporting Prostate Cancer Research

Dave Prowse M.B.E. will be speaking and entertaining at the Snowdon 500 Celebration Evening & Buffet to be held at the Royal Victoria Hotel in Llanberis on Saturday 18th May from 8pm. Dave played the part of the “Green Cross Code man” back in the 1970’s and 1980’s with the campaign reducing the number of road accidents in the UK by 50% and saving many lives. Perhaps more famously Dave played the part of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy and has appeared in many other films and TV programmes. Dave will be providing an entertaining insight into his role as Darth Vader that most infamous Star Wars villain. It's sure to be a fantastic evening so if you are taking part in the Snowdon 500 or Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge you can reserve an Evening Celebration / buffet ticket (just £10) by email to or text to 07446 534436.