Monthly Archives

August 2016


Conway Castle

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Conway Castle

As I have mentioned in many of my blog posts, I love castles and I have joined CADW so my first free castle was Conway and it needs to be written about it on its own because, to me, it’s the most splendid castle in Wales.  I visited it many years ago with my daughter while staying in North Wales for the Eisteddfod and we had a lovely day.  At the time, I drove from Bangor but this time I approached from the A55 which is the opposite direction and coming from this direction enhances your first sight of the castle, because it completely dominates the entrance to the whole of Conway town and it just looks so majestic against the seaside and rocky mountain backdrop.


Part of the beauty of Conway is due to the amount of structure which is remaining, most of the castle and most of the town walls are still intact with magnificent towers to climb and many rooms and tunnels to explore.  It is set up on a hill overlooking the town and also close to the sea, the walls around the original town are still intact and you can take a wander around the town along the top of the wall with special points of interest en route.



There are fantastic views from the castle and from the walls.  Conway is a beautiful seaside village with lots of boats on the harbour which adds to the quaintness of the town and many of the buildings have been built with the same stone used to build the castle which is the same stone that the whole town is built on.


Conway Castle is part of the Ring of Steel castles erected by Edward 1st in his bid to conquer Wales; it was built between 1283 and 1289.  Over the centuries it has played a part in many wars and it was completely ruined in 1665 when it’s remaining iron and lead were stripped and sold off.  During the 18th and 19th century many painters visited with the aim of capturing the splendour of the castle and the surrounding area.  By the 21st century CADW had taken over and now manage it as one of the most visited tourist attractions in North Wales which has also been classed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.  Just for comparing purposes Macchu Picchu the ancient Inca village in Peru is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


I have visited a lot of castles since I have been staying in North Wales but there were a lot more visitors at this one, luckily it is so big there was room for us all.  There are eight towers with the four at the centre being the highest and you can climb most of them, with fantastic views from the top across the river to Llandudno and the Great Orme.  Two bridges were built across the river linking Conway to Llandudno and still remain but only to walk across.  A road bridge was built in 1826 which was a suspension bridge built in the style of Menai suspension bridge by Thomas Telford and a tubular design rail bridge was built in 1845 at the same time as the Brittania bridge over the Menai straits by Robert Stephenson.


On the day I visited the weather was not at its best but the views were still glorious, however, by late afternoon the sun was starting to appear which always makes things look a lot better, by this time I was on the walk around the town walls, which is great for getting fantastic views of the castle, it is very steep in parts and can be a bit of a climb, it starts from the castle then picks up behind the railway station all the way around to the riverside and harbour with all the boats.

A lot more houses have been built since the castle was built and many more houses surround the town walls nestling into the mountainside, which makes it very picturesque.


In the town there are other attractions such as the manor house which is a Victorian house open to the public, sadly I never made it inside because I spent too much time in the castle and it was closed by the time I finished the town wall walk.  There is also a tiny house known as the smallest house in Wales where you can go inside to take a look at just how tiny it is.

IMG_3261If I had more time in North Wales I would have spent it in Conway, a beautiful town with lots of lovely places to eat and drink, plenty of lovely views and lovely scenic walks.



Rhuddlan Castle, St Asaph Cathedral and St Margarets Church= Culture Day

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After work the sun was shining so I thought it’s time to visit another castle, there are so many splendid castles in this area and if you love them like I do you just have to go, I admit they are all very similar but still have their own individuality.  Rhuddlan is another impressive structure built on a hill on the outskirts of the town near the river which I must mention was re–directed in 1277 in order to build the castle and have the river running right past forming one of the defences and also to allow ships to come up the river for entry to the castle.



Edward 1st again had the castle built following the First Welsh War.  Rhuddlan was not completed until 1282 and was built concurrently with Flint Castle during King Edward’s conquest of Wales.  It was a temporary residence of the kings and it is said that his daughter Elizabeth was born there.



Many battles over the years have ensued at Rhuddlan and the history of all the Welsh and English battles I have been reading about have prompted an interest in Welsh history for me that I never had before, or could it be that now I am old, I am becoming more interested in old things LOL! Anyway further reading is definitely needed.




While visiting, I spoke to the custodian about a sea of metal flowers which have been planted on the hill surrounding the castle whereupon she told me they were for a local hospital to raise funds for a particular department, locals could buy a flower and plant it in the castle grounds at their allocated spot.  I must say they looked very effective in the sunshine against the dramatic castle backdrop.  She also talked me into becoming a CADW annual member, with a special discount of £10 off at the moment and I would get a refund for my visit that day,  so seeing as I intend visiting all the castles in the area, even though I have seen some before, I thought it would be good money management.  I paid £26.50 for annual membership, which I will get back by the time I have finished my visit to North Wales.



On the way to Rhuddlan I went to St Asaph to do the town walk, it is a small town with a fantastic cathedral which I really wanted to visit.  One thing the People of North Wales are really good at doing is advertising their assets, there are hundreds of leaflets available on where to go and what to see in North Wales and many of the smaller towns have short walks of interest which take you around the town pointing out particular places of interest.  It doesn’t take long to do these walks depending on how interesting you find specific places; the main point of interest for me in St Asaph was the Cathedral and the Obelisk.



I parked in a small carpark at the bottom of the hill and made my way toward the Cathedral following the route map which was pretty easy to follow.  The outside of the Cathedral although an impressive and ornate structure was shrouded in scaffolding and sheeting on one side as it was undergoing repair which marred it’s appearance somewhat, but this work has to be done, however it didn’t detract from the magnificence when you enter the Cathedral through the main doors.  The sight that immediately hits you is the Stained glass windows.  I love art and I love art of most kinds but stained glass is probably one of my favourite forms, it’s something to do with the way the light enhances all the colours.  When you look at a stained glass window from the outside, it is still impressive but not so wonderful as when you see the light shining through all the different colours.  The main window above the altar in this Cathedral is one of the most spectacular I have seen, the intricacy of the design was mesmerising and you can only guess at the length of time it took to make just one of these panes and by how many people? Fascinating, but it wasn’t the only stained glass window in the cathedral there were many in the side walls and another masterpiece above the entrance door.  It’s worth the visit just to see the windows alone.


There were information sheets at the entrance for anyone to read about certain features within the cathedral, it seems to be one of the smallest cathedrals built and only had cathedral status due to one of the hand carved chairs within the church which belonged to someone special in history but I forget who it is.  There was a fantastic sculpture of Jesus on the cross pinned to the wall made of driftwood, it was very detailed and had a haunting look about it.


While being an Anglican church it is the episcopal seat of the Bishop of St Asaph, it dates back 1400 years. It is claimed to be the smallest Anglican cathedral in Great Britain.  William Morgan, Bishop of St Asaph and Llandaff between 1545 – 1604 was the first to translate the whole bible from Greek and Hebrew into Welsh and that bible is on display in St Asaph.


The next place I visited that day was the Marble church otherwise known as St Margaret’s Church in Bodelwyddan.  I’m not particularly interested in churches but there is something about this one which is so striking and the positioning is so easy to visit.  It is on a quiet road just off the A55 and can be seen for miles every time you drive along the A55 so I just had to visit on my way to Bodelwyddan Castle.


Unfortunately I was a bit late for Bodelwyddan but for some reason I’m not really interested in going back to that one because it has been resurrected in the design of its original building, and looks inside like it would have when it was originally built.  I prefer ruins, not sure why but it doesn’t really appeal to me in the same way.  There are other places I would rather visit, and it’s not included in CADW membership.


It was a very peaceful church, open to the public with wonderful stained glass windows again and ornately carved woodwork.  The church contains pillars made of Belgian red marble and the nave entrance is made from Anglesey marble.   It was erected by Lady Willloughby de Broke in memory of her husband Henry Peyto –Verney  the 16th Baron Willoughby de Broke.  The church was designed by John Gibson and consecrated by the Bishop of St Asaph on August 23rd 1860.


There is small section of the graveyard used to honour the graves of ex-servicemen in the first and second world wars.  The surrounding grounds are full of ancient trees and the adjoining road is very quiet since the A55 passes parallel to it.


It was a lovely peaceful cultured day out which is highly recommended if you ever stay in this area, if only for the stained glass windows.



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Sometimes unexpected things happen which can be quite magical, the very fact that I am not at all governed by time means that I can just do what I want whenever I want.  I was working in the area of Llyn Brenig on a Cycle race for Welsh Cycling, so I had already decided that I would explore the little town of Corwen with a history linked to Owain Glyndwr and visit Valle Crucis Abbey after my work was finished for the day.


Luckily I started at 9am and was finished by 1.30pm so knowing that Corwen was close by and also close to Llangollen I started to make my way there, but I needed to find a supermarket for some lunch before getting to Corwen, the plan was to walk to the summit of Coed Pen y Pigyn in Corwen and eat my picnic but sadly I couldn’t find a shop, the time was creeping toward 4pm when the supermarkets would be shut, it was Sunday after all.  After driving around the area I just couldn’t find anywhere so I decided to eat out.

Since being away I have made my own food back at my place and being on a budget I just didn’t want to waste it on eating out but on this occasion I thought I would treat myself, as well as the fact that there was a long traffic queue into Llangollen where I knew there would be a shop but wasn’t sure if I would make the cut off so I turned around and went to the nearest pub, sadly it was closed but I spoke to the person in the therapy centre next door and they told me about the Chainbridge Hotel up the road which sounded really interesting.


He was right, it was fantastic, unfortunately I still didn’t get my meal, I arrived after 3pm which was the cut-off time for meal orders.  It was so lovely there I decided to stay and have a small glass of wine and a packet of crisps (better than nothing).  The beauty of this place is not obvious as you approach the carpark because you can’t see the actual hotel until after you have parked and started going down the steel stairway toward the river Dee running below.  As you arrive you enter the hotel veranda from the side which still doesn’t reveal its beauty until you walk down the veranda decked with plenty of tables and chairs for you to sit outside and admire the view of the wonderful hanging baskets and pots with beautiful annual flowers, the fantastic river gushing past, the Chainbridge, the railway station opposite, and the beautiful old tunnel bridge.


The Chainbridge hotel is an historic hotel dating from 1828 in a fantastic position on the edge of the fast flowing river Dee, luckily while I was there, the water level was pretty low, it can be quite high after bad weather.   It overlooks the magnificent chainbridge, it is believed the bridge was built somewhere between 1814 and 1817 by a local entrepreneur dealing in coal to avoid paying tolls across the river Dee at Llangollen.  It was washed away by the river in 1928 and rebuilt in the style of Menai suspension bridge in 1929.


The sun was shining down onto the veranda and it was just so picturesque, it all seemed unreal, there were children playing in the shallow river below, the Thomas the Tank steam train passed on the station above, near the main road and then a group of white water rafters passed on their way to Llangollen from the Horseshoe Falls.  It was one of those moments you want to capture and press pause to make it last forever.

IMG_3449While I was sitting there admiring the surroundings a group of people came and joined me at my table and we got talking, they were lovely people, a young girl in her early twenties with her mother and step dad, Rae, Jenny and Terry from North Yorkshire, they were fascinated by my story and invited me to go and stay with them at their home whenever I wanted and they would show me the beauty of Yorkshire, so I definitely have to put that on my list of places to visit at some point.


When I asked them why they were there, Rae the young girl told me she was a big fan of Geocaching and she was there at a Geocache convention in Llangollen, she explained that Geocaching is looking for secret treasure left by other fans of Geocaching by following clues and coordinates.  The intention is to find the exact spot, sign and date the log book and either swap treasure or re-hide the geocache exactly as you found it for the next person to find.  This happens all over the world and has been for years.  That’s all you need to join in the fun is an app on your smartphone which is easy and free to download and join.  I am going to give it a go, as it sounded really interesting.


We all also got talking to a guy and his wife from Liverpool who were visiting Wales, I wish I had got their names.  I have made a pact with myself since to ask everyone their names when I meet them, have a photo taken with them and also on the suggestion of another new friend I have met I’m going to get business cards with my blog name on and give them out to all I meet in the hope of building my blog audience.



It was a lovely memorable afternoon, again made special by the people I met.  I love meeting all these different people who are all interesting and there are always connections, it turned out that when Rae added me on Facebook we had a friend in common, who lives near Rae and went to college with me when I was training in Naturopathy and Acupuncture.  It’s a small world made special by the people in it.





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While working on Anglesey a couple of weeks ago I decided to go to Beaumaris, a lovely little seaside town on the South West coast of Anglesey, the views look back over the Menai  Straits towards Conway on the left and the Snowdonia range to the right.  Beaumaris is also known for its castle which I have visited on one prior occasion but it was closed because we arrived too late in the afternoon, sad to say the same happened on this occasion, I didn’t realise the time, parked my car, took a walk through the town and as I approached the castle I could see the lady at the till just inside the foyer counting the takings for the day and sure enough, I was too late again so I had to make do with taking some pictures from outside the gate.  I will just have to go back again soon because it looks like a fantastic castle to visit so maybe next time I will be third time lucky.

I know I have mentioned castles before in my blog but I really do love them and the history attached to their walls.

Beaumaris doesn’t disappoint when it comes to history, it is the final castle in Edward 1sts “Ring of Castles” built in North Wales. Edward the 1st started building the castle in 1295 and work continued until around 1330.  However the castle was never completed before it was taken by Welsh forces in the Owain Glyndwr rebellion in 1403.  It was recaptured in 1405 and became involved in other battles but fell into ruin in about 1660.  In the 19th century it formed part of a stately home and park and was taken over in the 21st century by CADW who now manage it.


Even though it is partially ruined, a lot of the original walls remain and you can take a walk around the outer and inner walls and towers and admire the views across to Snowdonia from its ramparts.  The moat allowed access from the sea at high tide to the main entrance of the castle.  Climbing up the stairwells of the many towers you can see the murder holes designed to drop heavy objects on the enemy from above.



Even though the castle dominates the town, there is plenty to do otherwise, you can take a boat out to Puffin Island off the jetty, take a walk along the seafront admiring the old hotels, or take a walk in the quaint little town with artisan shops selling all sorts of local made crafts.  You might come across what is believed to be the oldest house in Wales nestled between some of the more modern buildings of Beaumaris, it is believed to have been built around 1400 when more and more townships were springing up in Wales in place of the more rural single dwellings of Medieval Wales.

IMG_3030 - Copy


There are so many more castles I want to visit while I am staying in North Wales so I now own a CADW membership card which gives free entry to all castles, I will definitely be coming back when I am on Anglesey again. Hopefully I might take a boat out to Puffin Island too.


diet healthcare concept. Brown raw flax seeds linseed as natural background and red heart symbol. Healthy food for preventing heart diseases. Flaxseeds are full of omega-3 fatty acids.

What I have learned so far

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What I have learned from my experience so far

I have only been away from home for a few weeks and already I have learned a lot about the local area and actually learned stuff about myself.  There is a lot to do in North Wales, all pretty interesting stuff, but I believe there is a lot to do everywhere, we just don’t see it while we go about our daily lives, because we are too caught up in working lots of hours to pay bills for the house we need to live in, in order to work lots of hours.  When did life become such a treadmill?  I really don’t believe the creator (whoever that may be) meant for us to take the work, work, work till you die path.

Beautiful abstract love tree with hearts. Heart tree greeting card illustration. Valentine tree love leaf from hearts.

I have had a lot of luck and some bad luck in my life but the way you learn from the bad stuff is what makes your life better, if you dwell on all the bad stuff then it will continue to dominate your life but if you put it behind you and move on into a different way of being then life can be so enriching.

I have learned that I actually love writing and recently I got a message from someone who read my blog and said “I’m loving your blogs!  You write really well!  It’s as if I’m there with you!!!!  You’re so inspiring xxx” I was so chuffed to get this message, now don’t get me wrong I realise this is just one person, but it doesn’t matter one is better than none!  If my English teacher from Grammar school heard this about me she would laugh her socks off and so would I have many years ago, I thought I hated English but it turns out I love it after all.

Yin Yang Star man some elements provided by NASA

I am going to read more and try and do course on writing to try and keep improving my style of writing and my technique, I’m hoping to write a book soon but there are so many ideas I have that I’m not sure which to choose first.

I also learned that there are many things in life that are just a trade-off, I am staying in an area where Wi-Fi is pretty non-existent and just when you think you have found some Wi-Fi in McDonalds, it is so slow that it takes over half an hour just to upload one picture, this can be very frustrating when I am trying to make a living out of my writing.  I have a long, long way to go yet before that becomes a possible reality.  There is so much work to do on my blog alone and as there is no Wi-Fi in the place I am staying, I am restricted as to how much time I can actually spend online.


When I do go to McDonalds there are parking restrictions, the longest I have found is in Mold, which is 2 hours, so I set my alarm on my phone to go off just before the two hours is up otherwise I get so carried away working on the blog or researching online that I might forget and then I will end up with a big fine.  The problems don’t end there, once you have found a McDonalds you have to find the one plug point inside so you can work without your battery going flat, it is the school holidays now so that plug point is hogged by gangs of kids charging their phones.  All in all I have realised that having good Wi-Fi in my old home was a bloody luxury and I just wish I could have brought it with me.

Anyway the trade-off is the water power is shit hot, power shower every day, no trickling up here in North Wales but great strong water power, whoop whoop!!


Another major thing I have learned which I probably already knew is that I miss my kids and grand-kids a lot, much more than I realised I would, but my intention is to make something of my writing so that once I am making a decent living from it I can go home and stay for longer periods contributing more to their lives, at the moment because I have nothing to give, I feel I can’t contribute, even though they want nothing from me financially, I feel like I want to give but can’t.  I do feel like that is the only sacrifice I have made but I think it will be worth it in the end and if it is not then I will have to go back and find a job anywhere and rent a room off someone, it won’t be the end of the world.

I have learned that I still have too much stuff, I brought way too many clothes with me, they can be washed and worn again obviously but I think I have brought enough for a new outfit every day for a month (maybe not that much but not far off).  I need to get more minimal especially when I go to Thailand; I am hoping to have my big pack on my back and small pack on my front whereas for this trip I have brought a car full of stuff.  I did need more stuff here as I am preparing my own food and doing a kind of detox so I’m using my nutri bullet, rice steamer, juicer etc., and I had a cupboard full of food left from my move which has come in really handy, I made bean curry a couple of days ago which lasted me for two evening meals.  I am only buying fresh fruit, veg and salad stuff.


I really need to make sure that the next place I go has Wi-Fi as it will be an integral part of my life now that I am building my blog, it is essential and from now on I will only pick places that can guarantee this.  I can live without hot running water and power showers but I can’t live without Wi-Fi and apart from anything else it keeps me in touch with family and friends, I had to go the bus stop up the road today to Facetime my daughter on her birthday.

I don’t mind my own company but would prefer to be with other people sometimes.  I think a good balance is what is needed, I definitely need time to myself to do all my writing but I need to be with people too and there are so many lovely people that I have met so far and I have only been here a few weeks.

Beach travel - woman walking on sand beach leaving footprints in the sand. Closeup detail of female feet and golden sand on Kaanapali beach, Maui, Hawaii, USA.


I do not like the fact that I can’t give much, I am a generous person but at the moment I have nothing to give.  Yesterday I visited a fellow CSAS marshal and his wife and they made me a wonderful 2 course lunch and Alison the lady of the house gave me fresh Welsh cakes to bring back with me and I felt like I should have contributed more but couldn’t financially and I can’t return the favour because circumstances won’t allow, I did buy flowers for Alison and gave them to her when I arrived but I probably should have bought wine also, although I wasn’t sure they would want wine at lunch in the middle of the week even though I would, it turned out they did, it was such a lovely lunch, all home cooked.


I can always give my time and my abilities and since starting working for my hosts, I feel like I am contributing even though it’s only in a small way it is a contribution nonetheless.  The work I do is easy but helps them to run their business, they are both very busy people who work non-stop every day of the week because they run the business between the two of them and there is such a lot of work involved when you are self-employed, I know this from my own experience.



I have learned how wonderful people are and how special each and every individual is, I have met friends who have taken me out with them to fab places, people who have done special things with their lives and with all these people I have coincidental connections.  The whole trip has made me think a lot about connection and the fact we are all connected has never seemed truer.  I am trying to make sure I take photos of everyone I speak at length with and at least take their names so I can include them in my blog if they are willing.  Life just gets more and more fascinating.


I am a big believer in the good that is in us all and this trip has proved to me already how much good there is out there, from breaking down and hitching a ride twice which I have told the whole story of in a separate blog post, to the man who towed me all the way back to the place I am staying even though it was late and it was just over the mileage I was allowed.  It makes me feel warm inside to see the loveliness of people.

Another main lesson I have learned is it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of time to get my blog to the position I want it to be and I mean a lot of work, I have just been watching the video course I have on how to build an audience and it is extensive!! OMG!! I have such a long way to go, but as Lao Tzu said in the Dao De Jing “A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step”.  Onwards and upwards.


This trip so far has tested me mentally, physically and emotionally and I have cried many times but equally I have smiled many times, the situations, the environment and my own recovery programme has sometimes pushed me to the edge but when you are on your own you just have to think logically about how you can resolve any situation you find yourself in.  Life is good and I need to sometimes remind myself how lucky I am and how lucky and wonderful my life has already been.  I have already had a perfect life raising my wonderful children; anything from now on is a huge bonus.








Rhaedr Falls at Abergwyngregyn

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When I visited my colleague Peter at his small holding he told me about the waterfalls at Abergwyngregyn so I just had to visit.  It was late afternoon when I was on the way back from Anglesey and I remembered what he said as I was passing the junction on the A55 so I went to investigate, as I approached the carpark the man was emptying the cash from the pay and display meter so he said I could park for free and told me which way to go on the walk to the falls, he told me it would only take me about half an hour so I went for it, it was more like an hour but still well worth it.



The approach to the falls runs along the river through what I likened to an enchanted forest, it was obvious from the shape and size of the trees that they were very old.  For anyone who knows me they know I love trees, they fascinate me, I always wonder at the life they have seen, if they could tell stories, there would be some amazing tales. Anyway there were lots of different trees of different ages and many different shapes, many were covered in Lichen which apparently can help to determine the age of the tree.  I particularly love bendy or curly trees; I mean where the branches don’t grow straight but grow haphazardly with wavy, curly branches and twigs, they always look so beautiful.  I also love the trees that so obviously have been growing in the wind, you can see from the way they have grown, which way the wind has been blowing because they grow in the same direction.







There are different ways to get to the falls and just like most falls I have seen there are a lot of rocks in the water at the bottom and carrying on down the river creating little falls in very many areas.  There was also a lovely little wooden bridge linking a couple of the paths to the falls. You can hear the rush of water before you arrive at the falls and when you get there they are quite splendid to watch, not the best and biggest waterfalls I have seen but splendid nonetheless.  There is something so tranquil about sitting, watching and listening to the water fall and rush off down the river.  I sat for a while and enjoyed the atmosphere.

IMG_3098The waterfall is formed as the Afon Goch (Red river) plunges 120 feet over a sill of rocks in the foothills of the Cameddau range and the path forms part of the North Wales path, a coastal path which runs from Prestatyn to Bangor.


IMG_3108It was a lovely walk, not too far off the road yet you couldn’t hear the noise of the traffic you could only hear the rush of water and the birds and other wild life.  It’s a wonderful place to have a picnic and spend some time with the family, especially the walk through the enchanted forest.



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No visit to Anglesey is complete without visiting its most famous village of Llanfairpwll as it is sometimes known or Llanfair PG.  It’s situated on the Menai Strait near the Brittania Bridge opposite the town of Bangor which is on the mainland.  It is thought that a settlement has existed here from as early as between 4000 and 2000 BC.  It is the longest place name in the UK and the second longest in the world, translated it means “The church of Mary in the hollow of the white hazel near the fierce whirlpool and the church of Tysilio by the red cave”.  The first ever meeting of the Women’s Institute (which began in Canada) was held in Lllanfairpwll in 1915 and quickly spread throughout the rest of the British Isles.



You can take your pick on how to reach Anglesey from the mainland, there is Brittania Bridge which was built in 1850 or Menai Bridge, the largest suspension bridge in the world at the time, built by Thomas Telford and completed in January 1826.  Ireland joined the UK in 1800 and it became necessary for better links between Ireland and London for the members of parliament to travel at regular intervals.  Previously, crossing the Menai strait had been by ferry but this could often be treacherous due to the tidal swell and strong currents between the island and the mainland so in 1819 the suspension bridge was designed and was a triumph of civil engineering.  Sixteen huge chains held up 579 feet of deck allowing 100 feet of space underneath to allow tall ships to pass.



Thomas Telford was born in Ireland and became a stonemason after doing an apprenticeship at the age of 14 then moving to London to be promoted to first class mason under Sir William Chambers.  He developed his design and project management skills while working in Portsmouth dock as a supervisor and went on to build more than 40 bridges and 3 churches in Shropshire before being appointed to the Ellesmere canal company.  He was responsible for the building of Llangollen canal and Chirk and Poncysyllte aqueducts.



Before being appointed to the Menai bridge project Telford was responsible for 1000s of miles of road, 1000s of bridges, scores of churches, harbours and manses as well as the Caledonian Canal.  He also did design work in Sweden.  In 1811 he was appointed to survey the route from Holyhead to London and was later commissioned in 1815 to improve the whole route which included Waterloo bridge at Betws y Coed, Nant Ffrancon Pass in Snowdonia, Stanley Embankment at Holyhead and of course Menai Bridge.



In 1820 Thomas Telford was invited to become the first president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, the oldest professional learned society and qualifying body for the engineering profession in the world.

The other option nearer to Llanfairpwll to get from the mainland to Anglesey is by Brittania Bridge.  In the mid-19th century rail travel was becoming increasingly popular and a rail link was needed from Holyhead to the mainland, it was considered to add a rail line across the Menai suspension bridge but was decided to be inappropriate, so a second bridge across the Menai Strait was commissioned.  This time the great Robert Stephenson was commissioned to build the bridge and in 1846 construction began using a special tubular design.

IMG_3060At the same time Stephenson’s other tubular bridge was being built at Conway and by March1850 both had been completed and the new Chester to Holyhead railway was opened.  The structure of the bridge changed in the seventies when a fire caused some damage, repairs took four years to complete.  In 1980 a road deck opened above the railway and carries the A55 into Anglesey.

Stephenson and Fairbairn’s tubular design went on to influence many engineers including Brunel and its principles are still used today, the Conway Bridge still has its tubular structure intact after 150 years use.



Robert Stephenson son of George Stephenson was born in Newcastle upon Tyne and was privately schooled and studied engineering at the University of Edinburgh.  He spent three years as a mining engineer in Columbia and then returned to work with his father.  The father son partnership was very instrumental in the early days of the railway and apart from pioneering the Rocket they also built numerous other trains for the new railway network.  Robert Stephenson was chief engineer on the new Birmingham to London railway link, the first city to city train link.

One of his friends was Isambard Kingdom Brunel and they often helped each other on projects.  As Stephenson’s career progressed he became more involved with bridges and built many notable bridges around the world the most notable being Brittania Bridge and he also constructed the High Level Bridge at Newcastle upon Tyne and the Royal Border Bridge near Berwick upon Tweed.


Robert Stephenson like Thomas Telford also became president of the Institution of Civil engineers in 1855.  He was also president of the newly formed Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

I haven’t always been very interested in how things are built or how they came about but on this trip I am discovering a new interest in these things, maybe because I am writing about them and need to know a bit more information about them before I write my own blog.  Most of the information about the bridges was taken from the Menai Bridge and Brittania Bridge website.

A lot of people visit Llanfairpwll every year but there is not a whole lot of things to do there, the train station has a sign where everyone goes to have their picture taken and there is craft centre within the vicinity of the train station for you to purchase souvenirs of your trip, some of the products hand crafted locally.


Dame Sarah (1)

Anglesey working

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Sitting here watching the Olympics at Rio de Janeiro and listening to Chris Boardman commentating on the Road Race, I thought today would be an appropriate time to write the blog about my job on Anglesey where I met Chris Boardman, who was watching his son George race on the Anglesey Road Race, not quite the same magnificent back drop as Rio but beautiful nonetheless.


Mens podium with Chris Boardman & Dewi (1)

I have been a CSAS marshal for about 3 years which means that you have the powers of the police to stop the traffic on a cycle road race run by Welsh cycling.  South Wales Police and Welsh Cycling run a course to train people to do these marshalling jobs to free the police to do more important jobs, we have to be re trained every 2 years in the traffic laws etc.  I normally work on cycle races in South Wales but as I am staying in North Wales for a few weeks I agreed to do a couple of jobs up here and one of them was  a new cycle race on Anglesey which is an island in North Wales.  I have been to Anglesey before with the children when taking part in Eisteddfods over the years and we always loved it there.



The cycle race I worked on included a category 2, 3 and 4 men’s race and later in the afternoon, an all category women’s race.  Unknown to me when I signed up for it, Dame Sarah Storey had registered to take part as part of her preparation for Rio Paralympics and George Boardman was riding in the men’s race who is Chris Boardman’s son.



For those people who don’t know, Dame Sarah Storey is one of the most successful Paralympians of the modern era and has won 22 medals including 11 golds.  She started competing as a swimmer in the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 where she picked up two golds three silvers and a bronze, she carried on swimming in the next three Olympic games, in Atlanta in 1996 she won 3 golds, 1 silver and 1 bronze, Sidney 2000; 2 silver, Athens 2004; 2 silver, 1 bronze.  Her switch to cycling in 2008 at Beijing brought 2 golds and London 2012 a huge 4 golds.  She has been awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) and a DBE (Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire) which is quite an achievement.  It was an honour to watch her win the race and meet her after the event.

me and the dame

Chris Boardman who now designs bikes which are sold in Halfords, (I have a Chris Boardman bike and it’s taken me to Paris a few times and all over Wales) was also a Olympian and a British former racing cyclist who won an individual pursuit gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics, broke the world hour record three times, and won three stages and wore the yellow jersey on three separate occasions at the Tour de France. In 1992, he was awarded an MBE for services to cycling.  He had come to watch his son cycling which he very often does at many road races around Wales and he also agreed to present the medals  to the first three placed at the end of the race.


I love working on these races, but the big names added a bit more this time.  I did what I usually do and stood at various points on Anglesey stopping traffic for a few minutes each time the race passed my junction and then headed back to HQ which was in Llangefni after the finish to congratulate the winners.  Whenever I work on these races it is usually in a scenic area of Wales but on this occasion we had the backdrop on the beautiful Snowdonia range of mountains which showed itself only a couple of times throughout a wet and dreary day when the clouds moved for a few seconds to reveal the splendour.

angleseyThere is nothing like the sound of the peloton approaching to get your adrenaline going, it is just fantastic to watch a cycle road race.  Some of the cars I have had to stop to let the race pass will park the car and get out to watch the race go by.  A lot of effort and a lot of competing at road races go into joining the team to cycle for your country.  There is a point system in place which awards cyclists accordingly depending on the category they ride in and the amount of races they take part in and this determines their rise through the ranks to becoming an elite rider. As with all sports it is a continual race to improve your strength, performance and mental ability.  It takes over your life.  It’s great for me to play a part in the building of possible Olympic cyclists albeit a very small part, I love it!!


I pinched the above picture from, because it’s lush!!

While working on the road race I was working with a colleague who is from Anglesey and he was telling me that Anglesey is a member of the International Island games which is a biennial event held on a different island every time.  It is for islands with a population of 100,000 or less.  The games involve 14 different sports ranging from athletics and football to archery and swimming.  Anglesey will be hosting the games in 2025.  Next year they are in an Island off Sweden.  It might be worth coming back in 2025 to watch the games.

After doing my job I did a small tour of some of the beautiful places in the South of Anglesey which are all worthy of another blog post.



Taking the Coastal Scenic roads to Prestatyn, Rhyl and Colwyn Bay

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Taking the coastal scenic roads to Prestatyn, Rhyl and Colwyn Bay.

It was a beautiful summer day when I decided to go and visit Prestatyn, I had heard that the beaches in North Wales, particularly on this stretch were very much like the resorts in England such as Blackpool and Skegness with “kiss me quick” hats and arcades and candy floss.  And I have to say they were right, it was very much like that but I think each holiday destination has its own individuality and these three towns were like that.  Prestatyn was the first I came to, heading over from Afonwen where I am staying.  As you approach the town, you can see the sea so I headed for the seafront road, it is easy to park with many parking spaces all along the front, a lovely flat sand beach and looking out to sea it hits you, the wind turbines, which I think look magnificent but I know a lot of people would probably complain about.

The North Hoyle Offshore windfarm was opened in 2003, situated in Liverpool bay, 5 miles off the coast of Prestatyn.  It was the UKs first major windfarm with 30 turbines producing up to 60 megawatts of power, enough to power 40,000 homes.   They look quite majestic all in rows out in the middle of the sea as far as the eye can see.



Prestatyn is believed to date back to prehistoric times from the artefacts found in caves in the area.  The name derives from the old English preosta (priest) and tun (farm) and was recorded in the Domesday Book as Prestetone which eventually the Welsh changed to Prestatyn.

I took a short walk along the beach but it was so hot on the day I came (without beach wear and swimwear) so I went back to the car and drove on the coast road to the next town of Rhyl which was pretty similar, you could still see the wind turbines out to sea and the beach was very much the same, with good parking but with more amusements along the seafront in certain parts.  The seaside town trade has deteriorated over the years with more and more people going abroad for guaranteed sunshine but there was still quite a few people on the beaches but they weren’t overcrowded which was lovely.



Rhyl was once an elegant Victorian holiday resort where people came from all over Britain to spend their holidays, but now due to the declining holiday industry the area had previously fallen into disrepair but thanks to the help of European funding a regeneration scheme is firmly in place with new promenades and retail areas with a Seaquarium on the seafront.  The regeneration is so far looking good and it is great to be able to drive along the seafront for miles between the resorts.


After Rhyl it was onto Colwyn Bay, my favourite of the three, I suppose it seemed like it had more character, because it was a bay there was more to look out at instead of just sea, the curve of the bay was very scenic and reminded me of my recent visit to Sardinia, the colours of the houses on the coastline and the greenery along with the blue sea and skies just made it look very Mediterranean.



I also loved the old pier which I imagined had once stood with pride in the middle of another long stretch of beach, but now it was fenced off and pronounced dangerous to the public.  It was named Victoria pier and is a grade 2 listed pier.  The official opening was June 1st 1900, over the years it has been owned by numerous people including community groups, private companies, local council who have all tried to change the original structure and provide various entertainment venues on and around it, but it has had a lot of bad luck, no less than four fires damaging much of the structure over the years has meant it is now considered dangerous.  It was given the go ahead for demolition and removal this year but no work has started as yet, there is also a dispute between the council and its previous owners about rates unpaid.   It seems doomed to end up a pile of rubble in some landfill site which would be a terrible shame, as it still retains much of its original features including the wrought iron fence surrounding the decks  which now sadly looks rusted and forlorn, there is grass and other plants growing out of the roof of one of the buildings on the deck with pigeons living in the rafters, it’s such a sad sight, I wish I had the money, I would spend it on bringing the pier back to its former glory but it would take a lottery win to invigorate this wonderful structure.  The battle for ownership and demolishing continues between the Conwy council and the previous owners with no end in sight, it will cost between 1.5 to 2 million to demolish. As the battle continues it falls further into disrepair.





Colwyn Bay has also been granted European funding for regeneration and a lot has been done to improve the seafront area with more work due to start next week.  As part of the regeneration Conwy council commissioned an art project entitled “on the beach” which is a programme of new art works from Freshwest as part of the promenade enhancements.  Over 1000 photographs were taken and artists picked 130, carefully drew around their outline to produce the silhouettes which have been attached to the seafront wall while some have been made into free standing  sculptures on the seafront and they look very effective.  Apparently the act of drawing someone’s silhouette was performed on the pier years ago and people commissioned the artist to draw them and their families while on their holidays.  I suppose it’s similar to the caricatures that are sometimes drawn by the street artists in various holiday destinations today.



Adventure up Snowdon

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Since I became very ill last year with various problems I have not cycled, ran or walked/hiked since the end of 2014.  Snowdon was always one of my favourite walks/climbs so now that I am a lot better I really wanted to test myself and climb Snowdon again while I am in North Wales.

IMG_2897The day was wonderful, the weather was ideal, the sun was shining so I decided today was the day, but I didn’t want to go too early as the carpark at Pen y Pas fills up very quickly with all the keen and eager early climbers, I know you can do the park and ride from Llanberis but then you are restricted time wise with buses etc. so I decided to take a drive over after lunch and try to park in Pen Y Pas so I could do the Miners path.


I haven’t done the Miner’s path since I took my boys up many years ago, the times I have done it since we went on the Pyg track and it was in the worst conditions on one occasion; I was working with a company called ExpeditionWise and we were taking a group of people on the National Three Peaks challenge in June, the weather was so bad, we got drenched many times in between the strong winds drying us on Ben Nevis, stopped from climbing Scaffell Pike because it was completely flooded with the Fire brigade stopping people going up, so we ended up staying in the mini buses in a carpark in Carlisle while we waited for the weather to improve before we could move on down to Snowdon.  But when we arrived at Snowdon the weather was even worse with driving rain and 50mph winds, but the group had paid to be guided on the challenge and after doing a risk assessment it was decided that it was a possibility so we went ahead and made the climb and in record time, I think everyone just wanted to get it over with.

IMG_2865Another time I went on the Pyg track it was with two lovely friends from Cycle club and we had a lovely day, we took our time and enjoyed the views, the weather wasn’t too bad but it was a bit cloudy and cold at the top but we celebrated our climb with a Welsh beer bought from the café at the top.


Anyway I got to the carpark at Pen Y Pas at about 1.30ish after lunch, the drive over was tremendous, having come from a different direction to the way I have come before, the views of Snowdon were amazing during most of the drive and I was really looking forward to the climb on such a lovely day, there was a little cloud covering the peak of Snowdon but mostly it was a good day.  I got to the carpark and it was full, so I was really gutted and sitting there wondering what to do when a car came out of the carpark which meant I had a space, great, I quickly parked the car went to the loo and started my journey, there is still some pain in my knees and legs in general but I felt compelled to do it as a kind of benchmark by which to measure my recovery.


I suppose mid-afternoon is not the best time to go up for most but the path was pretty clear, just a few people ahead of me and a few behind, I met very many coming down so I think I chose the right time, the climb was harder than I remembered, I had taken banana sandwiches to eat when I got to the high lake which was the start of the real climb, before that on the Miner’s path it is pretty flat for a long while and the path meanders around a few lakes but there is a higher lake which you have a gradual climb to then the fun starts, anyway I got to the high lake within an hour and a half, ate my sandwiches and carried on up the hardest part, it took me roughly 3 hours in all, but the best thing about it was, from quite low down I could see the peak, the clouds had cleared and it was a completely clear sky which only egged me on more, it was tough, my knees were in pain but it was not insurmountable, I was very careful not to fall or trip over the rocks.  I reached the stone post which is the point where you can see the views over the other side of the mountain and it was jaw dropping, you could see the whole of Anglesey, the Isle of Mann, the Wicklow mountains in Ireland and even parts of the Pembrokeshire coast.  I just stood for a while and marvelled at the view along with a few others.  By now the sky had no clouds to be seen just pure blue sky; I carried on up the path to the summit as the train passed me taking more people down the mountain to LLanberis.


I reached the summit and just couldn’t keep the smile off my face, when I was ill last year I never thought I would be able to do this again, due to the damage done to my knees and feet and ankles because of the RA, but I did it!!!!!  I quickly started to dread the descent which is much harder on your knees.  I opened my pink Champagne which had been given to me as a gift before I left and celebrated my achievement.  I sat on the summit for a while just looking out at the wonderful views and just enjoying everyone else’s success, there was a young dad with his son, a teacher with a group of school kids, a group of American girls, two guys with their bikes (MAD) as well as some others milling about so I became chief photographer taking pics of them all on the summit.


I went in the café and sat for a while looking out again at the views and watching the train coming and going with more passengers, I did contemplate going down by train but apart from the fact that it would have cost £22 it went down into Llanberis and I was parked in Pen y Pas so I would have had to get the bus to get my car, I quickly dismissed this idea and prepared myself for the descent.


I took my time coming down because, as I thought, it was much harder on my knees but as there weren’t too many people about it was ok to be slow, I got back to my car about 9.30pm and I have to say I was really worn out and aching, I suppose the thing you forget when climbing a mountain is when you reach the peak you are only half way through your walk, but anyway I was so glad I did It and have smiled to myself ever since.

IMG_2905Snowdonia is a beautiful area and one day I want to come back and climb some of the other peaks, the good thing about that is  I live in Wales and will always be coming back, even in between all my travel trips and after I have finished my travelling I will still come back to Wales.