British Summer Time: the Final Days Revisited

Blogging challenges, Wales

This post from August 2016 reflects the melancholy I always feel at this time of year: that summer is departing, and with it the long days and short nights whose absence so depresses me each winter. So I’m choosing it for this week’s Fandango’s Flashback Friday, particularly because it brings with it memories too, of the beauty of Anglesey in Wales.

BRITISH SUMMER TIME: THE FINAL DAYS

August 2016

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.

Let’s Get Wild on Parys Mountain

Blogging challenges, Wales

The Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week invites us to consider wild landscapes, untouched and unspoilt by the hand of man. I’m going to break the rules (no change there then). I thought a lot about what to showcase, but suddenly had a Eureka moment, and remembered a holiday in Anglesey, off the coast of Wales, some years ago. Anglesey is bucolic, pretty, with mighty seascapes as well. But in the far north of the island is something else, Parys Mountain.

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, elemental, and we fell under its atmospheric spell.

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.

Anglesey&ShropshireAugust2016 141

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….