Tag Archives: Wales

Llandudno – a brief visit

On our way back from Wales we visited Llandudno. Since then, things have been a bit hectic and I forgot all about it.

Was it really only five weeks ago? I seem to have packed quite a lot into the time, though at the same time I also seem to have achieved nothing. The image of a hamster running in its wheel comes to mind, working hard to get nowhere. Even without the metaphor I often think of hamsters in wheels – they are just so funny.

We parked by the Mad Hatter statue, as you can see. The Liddell family had a holiday home in Llandudno, though there is still argument about whether Lewis Carroll ever visited. There are other statues scattered round town, though we didn’t have time to view the others properly. By the time we’d tracked down toilets (this was pre-operation so I  wasn’t as self-sufficient in that department as I am now), chased gulls off the car and toured the pier (which included eating doughnuts) there wasn’t much time left, as we still had to get home.

Llandudno is a lovely place if you ever get a chance to visit. The resort was planned in the 1850s and developed by Lord Mostyn, which is why it was developed in such a controlled manner.

We’ve never really seen much of the town, and reading up on it, I’m amazed how much more there is to do. Looks like we’ll have to go back again one day.

 

Now, where was I?

Wales, I think.

We’d seen the kites, and we’d ended up eating at Burger King.

Next day we went across Anglesey to South Stack, where I reported unfavourably on the toilets.

The stiff note of reprimand I’d planned for Travelodge has still not been written because, like so many I have planned, I never quite get round to it. My indignation doesn’t last long, which is probably a good thing.

However, I do stand by my original view that a Little Chef (closes 8pm), a Burger King and a petrol station shop do not equate with the words “Guests can enjoy a variety of food and drink choices within easy walking distance from this hotel.”

The choice between Little Chef and Burger King in culinary terms (when you are looking for something nice because you are on holiday) is a bit like the choice between a cystoscopy and a colonoscopy. Obviously my recent hospital experiences have extended my range of comparisons, even if they haven’t done much for my temper.

The trip across was painless, though we did miss using the Menai Bridge. Once at South Stack a cheery volunteer explained what was available, and where to find the Choughs. We soon spotted one flying in and out of one of the sea caves where they were nesting, but it was a long way away and could easily have been a Jackdaw. They were a lot easier to see last time we were there, but that was later in the year.

Two Jackdaws hung about as we walked the cliff top, giving us plenty of false alarms, but we did manage to see plenty of Choughs too. They obligingly called as they flew over, a softer call than the crisper call of the Jackdaws, and more chuff than jack.

We got some good views of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits and a Whinchat. Best views of the day were a selection of Stonechats that we saw in the field with the Iron Age hut circles. I wonder how it happened that 3,000 years ago someone thought “Let’s build houses on the most exposed and inhospitable corner of the wettest part of the UK.”

The bird photos were all poor but several flowers,lichen, a lizard and several buildings did stand still long enough for me to get some decent shots, despite the hazy light. It was just warm enough to wake the lizard but cool enough to keep it slow.

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Footprints of a dog

At some point a dog had stood in some wet cement by the roadside. Roadside grit has blown into the prints to give them some form. I was annoyed by missing all the bird photos so I took a photograph.

On the way back we used the Menai Bridge, which was more interesting than the other one.

A Few More Kites

Just a few more photographs of the Kites – I finally found the energy to crop a few into respectability.

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Red Kites at Gigrin Farm

We may call them Red, and from a distance they may look brown like a Buzzard, but in fact they are a stunning combination of grey, black and red-brown, with some looking quite different to others when you see them side by side.

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Red Kite with wing tags

It looks like this one has a wing tag on, which will be colour-coded and numbered. The “proper” photographer in the hide managed to read the number off the tag, but he had much more impressive equipment than I do. I can barely see the tag.

Light blue on the right wing indicates a bird from the Irish Republic.

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Red Kite in Wales

Sorry they aren’t better shots,. I’ve taken steps to rectify the problems with my photographic situation, but I’ve been disappointed by the Lottery before so I’m not going to hold my breath.

The Kites

As you know, we went to Gigrin Farm last week to watch the Kite feeding. It was quite an experience. It seems to be quite a popular thing to do, as there are two other sites who feed kites – one at Llanddeusant and another at Bwlch Nant yr Arian. They may not all offer the number of kites seen at Gigrin, but even 50 kites are a majestic sight.

The growth from a couple of pairs in the 1950s is an epic story. In the rest of the UK they have done it by importing stock from Spain, Sweden and Germany, but in Wales they have done it all by improving the environment. The fact that Buzzards (another big, lazy predator) has recently done well suggests that things are working with the birds (lack of gamekeepers and plenty of rabbits being big factors).

Their predilection for dead prey does help – you can’t imagine Goshawks and Peregrines coming down for a scoop of ground beef.

Things are going so well we are actually using our own Kites to repopulate the UK and have actually sent some back to Europe.

The only place they aren’t doing well is the north of Scotland, a heavily keepered area. You may draw your own conclusions. You  might also want to look here for reports of crimes against Kites and other raptors.

But on a more positive note, have a look at the photos and imagine the loud claps as they strike wings with their neighbours. If you are lucky you can even see the two birds falling from the sky after colliding. Unfortunately I couldn’t catch it on film.

There are other birds on the farm too. What you don’t see is that it then doubled back to have another go at the reflection. I’m not sure it’s good for the mental health of the peacock but it seemed reasonably happy.

Later I will do a post with some photos.

Learning Welsh

I’ve recently been toying with a vague idea of learning Welsh. To put this into perspective, it’s one of a long line of vague ideas to do things which I have had over the years. Do not be surprised to learn, in ten years time, that I still have the same vague idea.

Actually, after reading my list of medical adventures, you may be surprised to see that I am thinking that far into the future. I don’t blame you for that, as I did nearly write “five” and “next year” before deciding to use the power of positive thinking.

After reading a couple of translations of the Hedd Wynn poem I became interested in knowing which translation was more true to the original. There are two here and another one here. At that point I used Google, which produced a version that fitted in with the translations. As time has gone by I’ve started thinking I really out to do better than Google. There are internet language courses, so my only excuse is indolence.

I’ve made a start with some road signs.

 

I’m clearly going to have to expand my vocabulary if I’m going to make any inroads into translating poetry.

Apart from sloth my only other problem is that Welsh is the most foreign language I’ve ever seen written in the Roman alphabet. It’s even more foreign than languages written in the Greek or Cyrillic alphabets.

In fact, the more I read about Welsh, its dialects and its counting system, the more I feel that it may be beyond me.

The Welsh Toilet Championships

It’s not an exhaustive list of toilets, and we didn’t have clipboards with us but it gives you some idea of the challenges the traveller faces.

Those of you under 40 will probably wonder why this sort of thing is important. I won’t explain it now, just give it a few years and all will become clear.

We used the facilities in two McDonald’s, at Llandudno and Mold. They were both bright and clean, though we did feel we had to buy drinks to justify using them, which was sort of counter-productive.

In Rhayader we used toilets in a car park by the town centre. They were very welcome after a long drive, though architecturally there was more than a suggestion of military bunker about them. However, they were clean and tidy, and that’s more important than being aesthetically pleasing.

The toilets at Gigrin Farm, were predictably excellent, as was the whole farm and Red Kite feeding experience.

In Trawsfynydd, just off the road as we travelled to Bangor in the evening, we were glad to find toilets as things were getting a bit urgent (see my comments on Dolgellau). As with Rhayader, the building is stark, but clean and tidy. There was a touch of serendipity about the visit, but that’s a story for a later post.

I think I may have mentioned the lack of decent food outlets at the Bangor Services. We had breakfast at Little Chef and, as you may have predicted, visited the facilities afterwards. I seem to be turning into a Victorian there, as “used the toilets” seemed suddenly unacceptable. They are nicely tiled, but badly maintained and not very clean. Judging by the dirt and graffiti the cleaner only inspects the cubicles with the doors open. That’s basic cleaning, close the door, turn round and look at things from the customer’s’ point of view. Literally. Then wipe the part of the wall that is covered by the open door and wash the graffiti off the back of the door.

RSPB South Stack, was excellent in many ways, which will be detailed in a later post. However, the gloomy, cramped and smelly toilets (sorry about that, but there was no nice way to put it) were a low point in the visit.

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Tourist sign in Llandudno

So that’s it. Clearly South Stack and Bangor Services aren’t in the running.

McDonald’s and Gigrin are all commercial operations, so you expect a higher standard . This standard was met, as they were all excellent, but it seems unfair to compare them with council toilets.

That leaves Rhayader and Trawsfynydd. If I was standing on stage opening an envelope the award would go to Rhayader, as I don’t have a clue how to pronounce Trawsfynydd. To be fair I don’t have a clue how to spell it either, I’m relying on cut-and-paste.

Whilst I think of the final result I’ll mention the toilets at Dolgellau.

I can’t tell you how good they were because at just after six in the evening they were locked. And barred. Maybe they have gold fittings. Or maybe they just don’t like visitors. It’s not unusual to find toilets locked in the evening, but it is frustrating.

There’s a website listing the public toilets of Gwynedd, and if you follow a link on that site the are details of community toilets made available for public use by the owners.  If you are travelling in the area it might be useful.

And the winner is…

… Rhayader.

It’s just a little brighter than Trawsfynydd, which will be getting a mention in a later post.

So, give them a try and see the kites – it’s a good day out.

They promised me Ravens

We went to Wales today. Derby first, then Burton, Lichfield, Cannock, Telford, Shrewsbury…

Didn’t actually see any of them as the roads now just take you past instead of through them. If they didn’t, we’d still be travelling. The road follows a lot of the Watling Street route. This was originally a grass trackway used by the Britons. The Romans paved it and subsequent generations of academics have argued over its route.

It may have gone to Preston, it may have gone to Holyhead. Who cares? They are both nice places and have roads that go to them. For now, let’s say that if you are on the A2 in Kent or the A5 in the Midlands, you are part of a travel tradition going back thousands of years.

In AD 60 or 61 Queen Boudicca, or Boadicea, if you prefer the old-fashioned way, faced the Romans somewhere along the road. Nobody is quite sure where (there are several possibilities) but after burning London, St Albans and Colchester, and killing an estimated 70 – 80,000 Romans, she was finally defeated.

We then struck out into Wales, where we visited Rhayader before travelling up through Snowdonia to Bangor. We’re currently sitting in the Bangor Travel Lodge drinking Aspall’s Suffolk Cider from plastic glasses after a meal from Burger King. Tomorrow I am intending to send a stinging rebuke to the Travel Lodge head office.

The details clearly state: “Guests can enjoy a variety of food and drink choices within easy walking distance from this hotel. ”

Translation: “There is a Little Chef (which closes at 8pm), Burger King and shop at the filling station.”

It’s not quite what I was expecting.

Anyway, the bird watchers among you will have stopped at Rhayader. It’s the home of Gigrin Farm, where they feed 300 to 600 Red Kites every day.

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I’ll post a few photos to give you a flavour of the day, but most need some cropping as I has to hold back on the zoom to give myself room to keep the birds in the frame. If you crop it too tight the bird flies out of shot. I have photos of grass, photos of sky and photos of tail feathers.

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I’ll tell you what I don’t have – photos of Ravens.

They promised me Ravens and I had to make do with 300 Red Kites.

Sometimes you have days like that.

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