An Ynys Mon Shootaboot

Plas Cadnant and a nature reserve in Holyhead, both on the Isle of Anglesey in Wales, UK, were the locations for Shootaboot 2 2015. The weather was cloudy with sunny spells with a few short, light showers, but none of the cloudbursts of the previous days.

Vee could not wait to get into the Welsh countryside but she took a wrong turn along the way as she drove to Llanfair! so couldn’t take time out for photos. She said that the hour long detour was not without a considerable amount of pleasure as she drove through so many wonderful little villages.

After giving Vee a refreshing drink and a bite to eat I drove us to Holyhead after taking her to book into the nearest Premier Inn in Menai Parc. Anglesey, which is also known by its Welsh name Ynys Môn, is an island off the north-west coast of Wales. It stretches across an area of 714 square km and is the largest island of Wales and the fifth-largest island surrounding Great Britain. (Facts from Wikipedia).

We parked at the coastal nature reserve called the Holyhead Breakwater Country Park and walked out over the grassy stretches overlooking the Irish Sea. The fields were covered in primroses, bluebells and other flora, and were bordered by bright yellow gorse bushes which seemed to grow in the most hospitable of places on the surrounding chalk cliffs. Vee took loads of flower pics before we walked up to a viewpoint overlooking the sea and coastline.

320 Coastline at Holyhead Breakwater Country Park
Coastline at Holyhead Breakwater Country Park

318 The Holyhead Breakwater
The Breakwater seen from the view point.

At a mile long, it is possibly the longest breakwater in Europe. I assume that the zig-zag shape is to better withstand the winter storms. The breakwater was built from stone quarried here. After it was finished in 1875, the quarry was turned into a brickworks.

321 Brickworks chimney stack
The brickworks chimneystack and ruins.

Later, back at the car park some locals came to feed the birds on the duck pond and loads of gulls appeared from nowhere. Thinking that this was going to be a good photo opportunity, we sat and tried to capture some of the action.

332 A loaf for the ducks and gulls
The ladies with the bread.

365 Herring Gull - Larus argentatus
My only successful shot

Thursday 1pm

We met up again at our place, and after a cuppa set off on plan A, which was to visit Penmon Point with it’s geology, historic buildings, birds, and the chance of seeing porpoises or dolphins. Two miles down the road, as we were exiting Menai Bridge, I did a sharp left turn in to a narrow road, exclaiming, “The gardens are open, and I’ve never seen them yet. Lets take a look”, and what a good look it was.

Plas Cadnant Hidden Gardens – Gerddi Cudd Plas Cadnant in Welsh – and their site and story is Here.
Briefly the 200 acre estate was bought in 1996, and the new owners started to restore it to it’s former glory in 1997.

381 Walled garden entrance
The entrance to the walled garden

391 The Double Herbaceous Border
The Double Herbaceous Border

409 Flowers around the Ornamental Pond
Flowers around the Ornamental Pond

Later on in the Valley Garden.

435 Bluebells beside path to upper valley
Bluebells beside path to upper valley

459 Path to the Afon Cadnant
Path to the Afon Cadnant

We walked through the valley garden to one of the waterfall view points. While we were there we spotted two adult Grey Wagtails feeding two chicks. The two chicks were separated by several yards of river, but the were fairly static, so we think this was their first day out of the nest. Because the chicks stayed in put, and waited for the parents to feed them, we took advantage and moved to a spot quite close and spent 45 minutes photographing them. A magical situation which was quite enthralling.

Waterfall on the Afon Cadnant539
One of the waterfalls.

531 Grey Wagtail feeding fledgling
Grey Wagtail feeding fledgling

1004 Yours Truly at the Tunnel
Me at the ‘tunnel’.

1008 Walled Garden Pyramid Topiary
Walled Garden Pyramid Topiary

Finally, a coffee break at the T-Bar. As I said, this was my first visit, but I can see me coming here again, especially as they do a season ticket. A season ticket and a T-bar – that has got to be a bargain. My son saw my photos, of which this few is a taster. If you click on any of the photos you will go to the original in Flickr, and then you can browse the rest of the pics, should you wish.

380 Tea Room (T-Bar)
Tea Room (T-Bar)

After a very nice coffee break we headed back to Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, with one more quick stop to view the two bridges on the Menai Straight.

1022 Menai Bridge over the Menai Straits
Menai Bridge


Cat Sat

Chatty Bit: We have been on a birding and family visitation to the Southeast of England, namely Kent. This has been followed by a week in our daughter and partner’s house, cat sitting etc, while they enjoy the sights abroad. By this weekend we were well frazzled, and went into permanent chill-out mode, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I thought I’d take a series of photos of the garden here, which I could use for a Facebook post to show them how nice their garden is keeping, and a post here to show everyone I’m still awake, and thinking of you all.

Piccy Bit:

690 Chaenomeles japonica
We know this as Japonica, which is only half of it’s name. I discovered today that it is Chaenomeles japonica, an ornamental quince.

691 Chaenomeles japonica
A macro which has highlighted some dust particles, but they are between the glass works of the camera !!

697 Rhus
This is the flower (?) and new leaves on a Rhus. They have gorgeous autumn colours and need to be well pruned to keep them to a manageable size.

699 Bluebell

700 Bluebell
Bluebells of course, but these are the typical ‘garden’ ones, being Spanish or a Spanish/English hybrid.

728 Bee feeding on a Pulmonaria - Lungwort
A bee (?) feeding on a Pulmonaria (Lungwort) flower. It’s got a massive feeding tube, which is why I question it’s insectorial nomenclature. I had loads of fun trying to photograph all manner of bees and insects, with a success ration of 2%, LoL.

752 Pulmonaria - Lungwort
Pulmonaria in close-up.

748 Blue Tit at the bathing pool of the water feature.
A Blue Tit not bathing!! but some have been, plus Great Tits, Robins, Dunnocks and a Goldcrest, and on a daily basis too.

781 Pond and water slide
The pond and water feature with a Fan Palm of some sort against the fence.

756 Mahonia
One species of Mahonia.

766 Mahonia
A shrubby version of Mahonia.

767 Mahonia
Fruits on the Mahonia.

790 Daffodils
The Daffodils are at the end of their season, but a few still look very pretty.

794 Daffodils
A welcoming sight at the front yard / garden entrance.

Sunset? What Sunset

I was visiting Ynys y Fydlyn for a geocache earlier in the week, when I met a couple of photographers. One was a professional, and the other his amateur friend. Ben said his professional friend was checking out the island for a ‘hoped for’ sunset later in the evening. They were here to see if an arch through the island would be suitable for the sunset photos. He showed me a gadget – a piece of white plastic with a compass in the centre, and lines labelled Jan to Dec. By aligning the compass mark with magnetic North, the lines showed him where the sun sets at various times of the year. How cool I thought, to visit a place, and know if it’s layout means it’s worth coming back later for some photos. It was a good sunset that evening too.

I thought it would be nice to do some sunset photos for the lone shootaboot. All week we had been getting stunning sunsets, and so I was expecting nothing less for the weekend. Don’t you just adore an optimist? Saturday night came and the sunset was one of those salmon ones, running along the horizon, but a cloudless sky meant no fancy bits.

Sun Compass App
The App on the phone

On Sunday I did an App search, and found one that did what was required. I was now hoping for a nice sunset, and I could do a quick check on the App to see if it actually did point in the correct direction – I’ve got a lot of my dad in me, LoL. It was near enough by the way.

41 Baby Begonia blooms
At least we had some colour here.

As sunset hour approached, and of course, with the App we new exactly when it was, there were still no colours in the sky. While we waited a bit longer, I topped up the bird feeders and watered the flowers in the planters. I took some pics of the flowers too, so I would at least have something to post!

We set off for our proposed venue, and it’s now only 40 minutes from sunset time, and still no colour anywhere. We changed our plans en-route, and nipped into a local birding spot on the Menai Straits valled Traeth Lafan, (Lafan Beach), rather than continue further along the coast. No point in going too far if nothing was going to happen.

48 Sunset thro' grass
Our sunset on arrival at Traeth Lafan

We got to the car park, and we did now have some colour in the sky, but we didn’t have any suitable buildings here for the silhouette. There’s a bank on the seaward side of the car park, and it was well grassed, so I took a few shots through the vegetation. I was quite pleased as they actually looked pretty, although not the stunners we often get.

49 sunset reflection
Reflective colours – just

Back in the car for a chat with Jules and a biscuit (cookie), when I remembered the groynes around the corner of the beach. On the way to them the reflections in the water looked interesting, so I took a shot, but it isn’t very note worthy.

50 Sunset and skeleton groynes
Sunset thro’ the groynes, no exposure tweek

I took half a dozen photos through the uprights that once supported the groynes. The first three pics were a bit short on colour, so I underexposed the next three to grab some extra colour.

56 Skeleton groynes
Wooden uprights

Before heading back to Jules, and another chat and a biscuit I took a few shots of the groynes themselves, but the pics were a bit washed out, so I upped the contrast to give them some zap.

60 Sunset and car roof
That roof

Before I got to the biscuit stage, I took a few photos with the roof of the car in them, to see if it would act as the silhouette interest.

64 Sunset and cloud
Swirly cloud

We didn’t like the roof shots very much, if at all, so out of the car again, (there’s a lot of exercise in this photography lark you know) for a few more pics, using a swirly cloud as the point of interest.

The colours and patterns weren’t fantastic tonight, but they were still pretty and enjoyable. We were well chuffed because it hadn’t turned out to be a complete turkey, and we’d had nearly an hour of fresh air and nature; now that can’t be bad.

Father’s Day Treat – but not on Father’s Day

All these special days are on Sundays, which might be fine for most people, but our Sundays are quite full already. Regular readers will remember that I adore Sundays, because it’s my day in the kitchen, and I do the English cooked breakfast, dinner and tea, and get to pamper Julie all day. We normally have breakfast in the hobby room, and Julie spends the morning working on her cards. I pop in and out with breakfast and coffees. After breakfast I logged on to Facebook, and discovered it was Father’s Day. When I mentioned it to Julie she said that she had meant to ask me if I wanted pampering today – well, too late now, and besides, not taking over the kitchen is not a bonus. The GUKs – Grown Up Kids – all rang during the day, which was brill, and we had nice chats, which are always a treat.

At the end of the day, Julie asked if I would fancy going on the steam train to Porthmadog. There was a train leaving Caernarfon at 1115, it gets to Porthmadog at 1345, and after a 25 minute break, it heads back to Caernarfon, arriving there at 1640. The steam trains are on the narrow gauge tracks run by the Welsh Highland Railway. It sounded like a nice idea – and I must admit that Julie does do pretty well in the ‘nice idea department’. The weather guesstimate for the Monday was pretty good too.

The Welsh Highland Railway poster

We awoke Monday to find the sun shining and birds singing, all presaging a wonderful day ahead. We got to the station at Caernarfon thirty minutes ahead of the departure time, so we were ready to start taking photos as soon as the train arrived from the garage(?) at Dinas. The train duly arrived, and the first job was to unhitch it from the front of the line of carriages, and go back to the other end. The back was about to become the new front. The driver was so nice, because after disconnecting, he stopped the train to let people photograph it, before steaming off to swap ends.

Train and carriages arrive
The Train pulls in from Dinas

We found a carriage near the back (the new back, for the outward run to Pothmadog) and it was less than a quarter full, so we had plenty of space and we used adjacent seats on both sides of the carriage, so we could photograph the scenery on either side of the train. The scenery on the way to the first stop at Dinas, is rural farming land and woods, with views across to the Irish Sea. From Dinas to Waunfawr the scenery gradually becomes hilly, and from Waunfawr we run through a valley at the bottom of Yr Wyddfa (Mount Snowdon) through forests and moorland and lakes through Rhyd Ddu to Beddgelert. At Rhyd Ddu the up trains and down trains rendezvous before continuing on their way. This meeting of trains allows people from both ends of the line to do short distance return trips with no waiting. At Beddgelert, we turn right into the Afon Glaslyn gorge, or more properly the Pass of Aberglaslyn, through wooded hillsides, tunnels, and out onto the floodplain to Porthmadog. Even the flat bits are pretty.

Our 3rd Class carriage
Our 3rd Class Carriage, ample space and comfy

So how did our day go? Julie had packed up a backpack with some biscuits, and snacks and two sealed mugs with coffees in them. We didn’t touch these at first, but got coffees and fruit cake, and would you believe it? no barra brith on a Welsh train, hence the next best thing, the fruit cake. The rivers were very full today. We drank our coffee and ate the cake as the train went through the woods bordering the river from Llyn Cwellyn. Julie spent some time trying to get a photo of the train across a corner of the track, but trees and things would get in the way, or the track would veer the other way and take the train out of sight. I thought we could apply the classic pincer movement, and attack the job from both sides, and that didn’t work either. We solved the problem by waiting until we were riding high along the valley side, away from trees and forests, and besides which, I new that near Rhyd Ddu there were a couple of ‘Ess’ bends, because we had watched the trains trundle along them from our car on the road. Nothing like local knowledge is there.

Craig y Bera
Craig Y Bera

Nice photos got at last, we trundled into Rhyd Ddu, and I was hoping to catch the inward train as it came into the station, but it got there at the same time, so no luck there. There was always another chance on our return journey. As we left Rhy Ddu we ordered some bacon baps, and we started on the coffees in our steel thermos mugs, which were still nice and hot even after waiting for us a couple of hours. We entered the forest of Beddgelert, which has been a favourite spot of ours for years. Ironically, as the forest has recovered from it’s last harvest, a dozen years ago or more, the trees have grown and obliterated the beautiful panoramas. Today, on the train with trees just feet away, the forest beauty appeared in it’s own, inimitable way. Every so often the mountains and valleys fleetingly appeared, almost defying Julie’s attempt at scenic photo.

Train in Beddgelert Forest
Dropping down through Beddgelert Forest

Our bacon baps arrived just after leaving Beddgelert, where we left the forest and headed into the gorge, looking down on the pretty Afon Glaslyn. The track runs along the route of the old path, which hikers once used to traverse the Pass of Aberglaslyn, which, before that, was the route of the old slate train tracks to Porthmadog. We had walked these paths too, in the past, and through the tunnels, with Julie’s dad and sister, to meet Mick at a car park just past the end of the gorge. Amazing to think we did it without a torch! Back to the present; so out of the tunnel and through woods onto the flat hinterland, and on to the next halt at Pont Croesor, where the RSPB Glaslyn Osprey project is run from.

Rapids in the Pass of Aberglaslyn
The rapids in the Pass of Aberglaslyn

We go to Pont Croesor a couple of times a year, to see the osprey on their nest. Even with telescopes they are small blobs, so we had a nice surprise when we saw the nest from the train. We could see the female osprey on the nest, just, but with our binoculars we had a nice view of her, which was better than we get with scopes at Pont Croesor, which is mile from the nest. The hills and mountains around the flat lands going into Porthmadog, kept us occupied for the last part of the this trip. When we got to Porthmadog, it was a bit of a surprise to find us travelling over a main road to get to the terminus. The train has to go along the cob, to give it room to reverse into the terminus. A shunter did some of the work to enable our loco to unhitch and position itself ready to take the front spot again on the return journey.

We had twentyfive minutes at the terminus, so I pottered along the train to look at the Observation Car. It certainly has lots of space, and if you got one of the best seats, it would be well worth the £8 for a seat here. While it was in the station, the windows were cleaned ready for the next clients, which I thought was a nice touch. While at the terminus, I nipped into the café, and got a couple of hot cheese and onion pies, and a portion of chips, which I took back to our car to eat. The pies were big and tasty, as were the chips, and the other choices at the café all look appetizing. The pies and chips came to £5.60, $8.72, €6.95, which I thought was excellent value for money – I like a T-bar with user friendly prices, LoL.

Porthmadog harbour and marina
Porthmadog harbour and marina, viewed from the station

Just after 2 o’clock we were pulled back onto the cob, and our loco got hitched up, and off we set, along the road, and back out onto the hinterland. The return trip was just as delightful as the outward one, and this time I spent more time looking than taking photos, just concentrating on a few areas where I felt I could get some better pics. The male (guess) osprey was on the edge of the nest as we went past, so perhaps he’d brought fish for the female and chicks. My hopes for getting a photo of the opposite train coming into the station at Rhyd Ddu were thwarted again, as we made synchronous arrivals. Never mind, we go past Rhyd Dhu quite often, so I’ll just have to time a visit appropriately, and get that pic.

Train heading north out of Rhyd Ddu
Heading North out of Rhyd Ddu, along the lower slopes of Snowdon

The ride back to Caernarfon was as delightful as the rest of the journey; the sun had moved round, and the scenery took on new shapes and hues; the stewards were very polite and friendly, and they plied us with delicious coffee; the train driver had to swap ends again, to take the carriages back to Dinas, and once again, he paused during the manoeuvrings to allow us to take more pictures of his beautiful loco; it all typified a delightful day out, what more could we want?

The Stats. £60 on tickets and £20 on coffees and food, so £80, $125, €100.
Clicking on any picture, apart from the poster, will take you to the Flickr pic, and you can view the other thirty+ pics there, or use the link in the side panel.

Shootaboot or Meeting friends found on Flickr – Day 1

Saturday 2nd July

Vee, David, his wife Sandra and myself planned to start the Shootaboot by meeting up at Bodnant Garden. David and Sandra drove there directly, and I met Vee at the Carreg Mon Hotel on the outskirts of Llanfairpwllgwyngyll and took her in my car. We were quite fortunate, as Vee and I got to Bodnant barely five minutes after David and Sandra. After our introductions, we decided to hit the gardens immediately.

Bodnant gardens lies just south of Conwy, on the Trans-Wales A470, which is a beautiful route, all the way to Cardiff. The garden was laid out in 1874 by Henry Pochin, an industrial Chemist. The garden was handed over to the NT in 1949 with an endowment, but the house and estate remained in the ownership of Lord Aberconway’s family, who take an active part in the running of the garden and Tea Pavilion. A new, young head gardener came on the scene a few years ago, and is trying to rejuvenate it, and we saw a lot of his work today; shrubberies that had been allowed to grow too tall, and were cutting of the lovely vistas that Bodnant is famous for, have been cut back down.

Bodnant Garden Terrace

The garden covers 80 acres, and we walked along the high path, then down into the valley called the ‘Dell’, (after missing a path and walking into a dead end – some guide we had!!); along the Valley, and back up to the Pin Mill and the terraces. The paths and valley and falls and river are in, under and through a wealth of huge trees, with beautiful lawns and ribbons of flower beds.

The lower terrace has a long narrow rectangular pond with lilies at either end, all very pretty, and mating damselflies to test our patience.

The middle terrace has an ornamental pond, and huge trees draping elegantly over either end.

Vee at the Lily Pond

The upper terrace has rose beds, and looks out across the Conwy valley to the far hills, which are framed by various trees.

It was probably approaching two o’clock when we got back to the tea pavilion for lunch. It had been a super leisurely amble, with lots of stops and chats, and photos taken of myriad different things. We had snacky type meals in the outdoor covered area because Julie was cooking us a cottage pie for dinner, with a mixed fruit crumble for afters, so we left plenty of space for that.

Llanrwst Bridge

David asked me what was next, and so I suggested going to Swallow Falls, because it is a great photographic venue, and it allowed me to take them through some pretty scenery on the way to Llanfairpwllgwyngyll. We took the A470 to Betws-y-Coed, but en-route at Llanrwst we dived into a lay-by to shoot the stone bridge, which is quite famous for it’s beauty and age, being built in the 1636.

We left the A470 at Betws-y-Coed, which means beautiful wood, and the whole village is pretty, and worthy of it’s own shootaboot. We headed North West on the A5 for a few miles to Swallow Falls – Rhaeadr Ewynnol in Welsh – which is on the Afon Llugwy, that flows South East to join the Afon Conwy at Betws-y-Coed. The falls are a pay-to-view site, but as it has nice steps and paths, and safety rails, so one can’t grumble too much, especially as it’s only £1.50 each, and David paid, so we got a treat then.

The top of Swallow falls

The falls were were quite pretty today, because there was enough water flowing to make it interesting, with lots of channels and fall-lets; when the flow rate is lower, it can look quite ordinary, and when it’s higher, some of the interesting fall-lets and river-lets disappear, and it’s all rushing past in a huge lump, and the spray soaks your camera and you. Ideally, go several times and catch it in all it’s moods. An elderly man and his wife started up a conversation with us; it seems they had spotted us at Bodnant, and we got talking cameras, lenses and tripods, plus Vee took the opportunity to PR our Shootaboot Group. These were retirees, with high-tec cameras and (we surmise), computers, so there may be converts here.

We left the falls and continued NW on the A5 through Snowdonia, skirting Bangor, and got to the hotel in time for everyone to book in and spruce up, ready for a half-six meet at our house. Julie was putting the finishing touches to her cooking, when everyone arrived, and after the meal we sat and chatted on the balcony, everyone retiring about nine-thirty. A nice end to a nice day.