Snapshot Sunday: Relaxing on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path

Wales, Walking, WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge
A moment of relaxation on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path.

A moment of relaxation on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path.

It’s said that if you walk every inch of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, all 186 miles of it, you’ll have climbed the equivalent of Mount Everest.  I can believe it.  No sooner have you climbed one limestone cliff than you’re plunging down towards a bay; up again to a volcanic headland; down again to an estuary, or to a beach frequented only by seals and seabirds.

We didn’t do all 186 miles when we were there two summers ago.  But we did enough to know that after a hard climb in bright sunshine with the wind behind us, we’d truly relax when we threw ourselves onto the springy turf to catch our breath and enjoy the seascape spread before us.

This week’s challenge is to respond to the word ‘relax’.  Look here to see more posts.

British summer time: the final days

Wales

Anglesey&ShropshireAugust2016 046

We’re more than half way through August.  It ought to be high summer, but autumn’s on its way.  As we walked down the road yesterday, a few crisp brown leaves blew across our path.  Mornings start later, night comes sooner.  The combine harvesters trundling round the fields seem almost to have completed their work.  The shops are full of neat school uniforms and bright pencil cases ready for the new academic year.

Before it’s too late, here are some summer time views, from Moelfre in Anglesey.  And because it’s British Summer time, the sea isn’t always blue and nor is the sky. But that’s fine: we expect that here in the UK.

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Welsh as she is spoke

Wales

Wales is only along just to the left of England.  We don’t need a passport to get here.  And I’ve visited quite often.  But until this time, never been so aware of the Welsh language.  It’s not just that all signage comes first in Welsh, then English.  But people – ordinary, everyday sort of people speak it – all the time.  I hadn’t really realised that this is a living language, a day-to-day reality for many many people, and not one simply preserved by well-meaning traditionalists and academics, in the way that Occitan seems to be encouraged in parts of France and elsewhere. I wish I could understand more than ‘dim parcio’ (‘no parking’).

Hir fyw y gwahaniaeth. (‘Vive la difference!’ to you.  And you can’t say that in English, either)

 

Even Waitrose supermarket says it in Welsh before English.

Even Waitrose supermarket says it in Welsh before English.

 

Of course this isn’t written on my smartphone.  I tried.  I’m allowed to comment on other WP bloggers’ posts by being logged into my account, but if I try to post myself, it continues to say I can’t be verified.  Oh grrr.

Parys Mountain

Wales

Once, a century ago, Parys Mountain was alive with people: men, women and children hacking deep clefts and canyons into the earth, in search of copper-bearing rock.  Now the area is bleak, desolate, abandoned.  The poisoned sulphurous soil supports little but odd clumps of hardy heather.  Yet this large site, with just a single set of abandoned winding gear, a single ruined mill is strangely beautiful, and we fell under its atmospheric spell.

ParysMountain

Alex inspects a man-made crater at Parys Mountain

 

PS.  This post was written on a borrowed laptop.  As far as my phone goes, I can access my WordPress site, write and illustrate a post, then it tells me I can’t publish, as  I don’t exist.

PPS.  To add insult to injury, the borrowed laptop automatically spellchecked ‘Parys’ to ‘Paris’.  Grrr

Wales and its Amazing Technicolour Housing

Wales

I’m used to brick houses.  And stone houses.  And even houses whose facades have been rendered and painted, as our home in Laroque was.  But house paints generally come in a very limited palette.  White, of course, and a range of neutral or earthy tones such as ochre.  That’s what I thought until I went to Wales, anyway.  Now I know differently.  Come on a very quick tour with me to see what colour you could paint your home. Click on an image to see it full size: I’m only sorry not to have included an example of my own particular favourite: crushed raspberry.

House with matching car.  Note also the purple house next door..

House with matching car. Note also the purple house next door..

Wildlife watching in Wales

Wales, Wildlife

We had such a good time wildlife watching in Wales.  At first it was all simple wonder and enjoyment : ‘Look – there’s a…….’.  But soon it all got quite competitive.  Sarah bought an ‘I-Spy’ book  – remember those? It was birds she decided to hunt for, and we all got involved in deciding whether it was guillemots, Manx shearwaters, or simple herring gulls that we’d just seen.  And look!  There’s a cormorant on that rock over there!  And three choughs sitting on a wall!  And over in those bushes – surely that’s a willow warbler?

The day that we were in no doubt at all about the quantity of our wildlife sightings was the Sunday when we took a boat trip round Ramsay Island.  There were indeed birds (but no puffins: it’s off-season for them): but what we relished seeing in huge numbers were seals, swimming in the coves, basking on the shore, or in the case of the white new-born pups, beached high up on some sheltered spot away from in-coming tides.

Grey seal on a beach at Ramsay Island

Grey seal on a beach at Ramsay Island

Ramsay Island’s a splendid place.  These days it’s an RSPB bird reserve, and there were seabirds of course: not so many at the moment as the breeding season is over.  Easy to see though where they nested – very precariously – on the rock faces which are heavily stained with guano.  Sucked along by powerful tides, we plunged into sea caves, rode close to the shore squeezed between deep rock gorges as the cliffs soared high above us.  We’re fairly sure we saw porpoises clipping along at speed just as we were turning for the mainland once more.

 

Every time we went walking we came to expect to engage in bird and seal spotting.  But on Saturday, as we strode the cliffs of the coastal path, we came across this vole, and his (her?) two companions.  The image you can see on your screen is almost certainly larger than the real thing.  We were so lucky to have seen such a tiny creature, and so clearly.

One of the voles we spotted on our walk.

One of the voles we spotted on our walk.

A few minutes later, I was the only one to spot a lizard: my first sighting since leaving France.

And then there was the evening when we went for a walk, and found ourselves accompanied by a whole troupe of friendly steers, who wanted nothing more than to follow us home, and to help us along with our map-reading….

 

Walking along the edge of Wales

Pyrénées, Wales, Walking
A walk along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

A walk along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

We’ve just come back from a glorious long weekend in Pembrokeshire in South Wales, with son, daughter-in-law and her parents.  We were near St. David’s, Britain’s smallest city.  Its population is the same as that of Laroque d’Olmes, and in other ways too the area seems to qualify as Ariège-on-Sea.  Craggy mountains; fields of sheep and cattle; tiny one-track roads where the only likely traffic is a tractor, or even more likely, a herd of cattle coming home for milking; and long vistas, from the hill tops, of apparently endless countryside.  And of course, the sea.

Our objective was to cover a goodish distance along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.  It’s some 299 km long: we managed about 40 km. so we have some distance to go.  But what a journey.  This scenery must be among the most stunning in the UK.  Steep limestone cliffs and bays, volcanic headlands, beaches, inlets and flooded glacial valleys are the home to innumerable seabirds, and at this time of year, seals seeking sheltered nurseries to give birth to and rear their pups.

 

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For me, this was the toughest walking since we’d left the Pyrenees.  You know where you are there.  On the whole, you’re walking up a mountain.  Then you come down.  Whereas along the coastal path, you’ll be scrambling upwards to reach the top of a high cliff, before descending again, perhaps almost to beach level.  Then up again. After that you might swoop down to a cove before marching upwards to the next headland… and so on.  Bright sunshine, warm breezes, and bracing sea air cheered us along and kept our energy levels high…. until the evening, when we found ourselves drooping and heading for bed as early as 10 o’clock.

 

Sunset seen from our cottage near St. David's

Sunset seen from our cottage near St. David’s