Of Princes and Fairies.

An early start to Friday beckoned as David and I headed out on a North Wales adventure.

Our destination for the day was Beddgelert Forest. According to 18th Century lore, Gelert was a dog of Prince Llywelyn the Great. One day, on returning from a hunt Llywelyn found his son’s crib overturned. His boy gone! Gelert was discovered with blood around his mouth. Llywelyn in a fit of temper, quickly slayed the dog to later find that Gelert had saved his son from the jaws of a wolf. Gelert is said to be buried on the bank of the river Glaslyn. 

Beddgelert Forest, with panoramic views of Snowdon, a walk and cycling trails, and even a secluded lake, sounded too good to be true! I thought with it being the school summer holidays that the area would be teaming with day trippers, how wrong I was. On arrival at the free car park, we discovered we were the only visitors there, (it gets busier during the afternoon.)

The walk is a circular route through the forest and around Llyn Llywelyn. The walk is just under three miles long, on easy navigable pathways and took David and I two hours to complete, (with a pit stop for refueling). 🙂 I was excited to visit the secluded llyn as I was intending to do my first Welsh wild swim there! However on arrival the beautiful scenery was being destroyed by deforestation and the lake was coffee coloured. The smell of decomposing matter only added to my consternation. The question was whether to swim or not to swim! I decided not to swim and felt cleaner for it!

Along our walk we did see lots of wildlife. There was an abundance of butterflies; commas, red admirals, peacocks and ringlets were among the ones I spotted. There was heather, field scabious and self-heal growing along the paths with dragonflies darting about like mini helicopters! I’d never seen so many! The star sighting of the day was a goldcrest flitting about the conifers.

At noon we decided to head back along the A4085 for an impromptu visit to Llyn Cwellyn – the fairies lake! We’d visited Llyn Cwellyn the previous year. You can read about that adventure here. There are many lakes in Snowdonia that are associated with tales of menfolk and fairies. Llyn Cwellyn is just one of them. A man happened upon a group of fairies dancing at the shores of Cwellyn. Entranced, the man joined in with their dance. After a while he grew bored and decided to go home. On his return to his village he discovered that his parents had died, his sweetheart had married another and he had been gone for seven years! At this revelation the man died not long after, lonely and of a broken heart. It seems time for fairies is much slower than our own!

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Llyn Cwellyn

However being lost in time was the least of my worries. It was midday, and I feared the Snowdon Ranger car park would be full. We had also seen that there was only one shingle beach from which to access the llyn. I imagined the lakeside path to be full with families enjoying the scenery. How wrong could I be? Luckily we found parking and paid the £2.50 for four hours, though we wouldn’t be there that long (unless we discovered some fairies!)! Many walkers headed towards Snowdon, so on arrival at the shore, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was deserted! It was just David and I and the lake!

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Swimming in Llyn Cwellyn

I was determined to kick start my Welsh wild swims, so from the shingle beach I waded out into cool, clear waters. The entrance into the lake was one of the best I’ve experienced. The llyn’s bed was soft shingle and I walked out until I was neck deep in water. Terence said the temperature was 17° but it felt colder due to a mean wind that whipped across the surface. I swam watching butterflies flitter across the water and floated on my back while RAF planes flew high above. It was a most enjoyable swim, one of the best this year and no I didn’t spy any fairies!

As I shivered back on shore the only disappointment was that Wilson (camera) hadn’t recorded my swim. We estimated that I was in the water for 15 minutes.

So our adventure turned out to be a day of ups and downs. Ultimately it was a perfect day for my first Welsh wild swim. There are around 200 llyns in Snowdonia alone. I won’t get to swim all of them, but at least I have made my first attempt.

Where do you think I should swim next? Have you tried wild swimming? What were your experiences?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Wild Swim Bucket List for 2017!

I’m not one for making resolutions or planning challenges at the beginning of the year. I don’t like the idea of setting myself up for disappointment if I don’t achieve the goals. So I am keeping this list simple. Many of the wild swims featured are swims I have wanted to do in 2016 but had not had the chance. So 2017 will see more of the same!

Snowdonia National Park, Wales:

1 . Llyn Cau, Cadair Idris

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Llyn Cau, Pinterest

I simply adore the name of the mountain that Llyn Cau sits half way up, Cadair Idris, it rolls off the tongue lyrically. I was looking at maps for llyns to walk to when I saw this south of Snowdonia. It was going to be the walk David and I took at the end of 2016 but we ended up walking towards Snowdon instead. I have fallen in love with the dramatic scenery of Llyn Cau. It is definitely one for 2017!

2 . Llyn Glaslyn, Llyn Llydaw, Llyn Teyrn

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Llyn Llydaw

After reading Kate Rew’s reference book and researching wild swimming, these three llyns have been on my list ever since. All three are located below Snowdon on the Miner’s Track. I think after the walks David and I have managed in 2016, that these three llyns are very much achievable in the future!

3 . Llyn Gwynant, Llyn Dinas, Llyn Cwellyn

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Llyn Gwynant

After having visited Llyn Gwynant and Llyn Cwellyn late in 2016, I have planned a return visit some time in the new year. All three are close to each other and David and I could spend a whole day in the area, walking and swimming these very fine llyns.

4 . Llyn Padarn

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Llyn Padarn

As one of the longest llyn’s in Wales, I thought I would include Llyn Padarn. I had intended on visiting the llyn in November after viewing the poppies at Caernarfon Castle but plans changed and Llyn Padarn was added to the ‘to do’ list.

5 . Llyn Idwal

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Llyn Idwal

Llyn Idwal is the place where the wild swimming seed was planted. David and I visited on an icy February day, the rest they say is history. I would like to revisit Llyn Idwal and actually swim where my wild swimming journey began.

The Lake District National Park, England:

6 . Grisedale Tarn

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Grisedale Tarn, fellsphoto.co.uk

It seems that all the swims on my bucket list are in Wales. However there are still many in the Lake District I would like to visit and revisit, one is Grisedale Tarn. Grisedale was one of the first tarns I wanted to swim, after watching YouTube videos by Trek and Run Online. With a two hour walk to the tarn, Grisedale became overshadowed with easier swims in dramatic scenery such as Wast Water. Nonetheless, Grisedale Tarn firmly remains on my bucket list.

7 . Blea Tarn

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Blea Tarn, National Trust

Yet another tarn that is still on my list is Blea Tarn nestled in the Langdale Valley. There have been many opportunities for myself to swim here but somehow none have materialised. With only a short walk from the car park to the tarn there is really no excuse to not swim here in 2017!

So, there you have it, a small selection of some of the wild swims I would like to accomplish in 2017. There are many, many more, not to mention a few of the lochs in Scotland, (if I ever get up there that is,) but I thought I would keep the list simple and achievable.

As yet, we have no plans for 2017, no holidays or weekends away booked. That’s not to say I don’t have any ideas though.

If you know of any wild swims that I have left off my list or think I should try, then let me know in the comments below.

I wish you all much peace and happiness in 2017! 

All the best,

Christine x

Goodbye 2016…and Hello 2017!

Happy New Year from David, Artie and myself. I hope your 2017 is filled with love, laughter and contentment.

Below find a short video celebrating our 2016. Thanks for sharing in our adventures!

Christine x

Just a Little Stroll Then..?

With Christmas done and dusted for another year and both having the week off work, David and I decided to travel to North Wales for a day trip.

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Llyn Gwynant at sunset

We returned to Llyn Gwynant and the surrounding area. I found a moderate walk on the National Trust website that overlooked Llyn Dinas.

20161228_111053-2It was a beautiful winters day. The rugged Snowdonian landscape looked like Martian terrain in the golden light.

It was pretty evident that many people had also decided on visiting Snowdonia National Park, rows upon rows of parked cars lined the verges. Luckily we managed to find parking ourselves (outside Caffi Gwynant Café) before we embarked on our walk.

The first part of the walk began on the Watkin Path, deemed by some to be the hardest path towards Snowdon, due to loss of defined path and loose scree near the top.

The walk meanders through ancient oak woodland, before approaching Cwm Llan, with well defined paths that follow the fast flowing Afon Cwm Llan waterfalls.

Somehow we missed a turning, (there weren’t many way-markers,) so we continued along the path in front of us which wound through the valley. We past a commemoration plaque stating the opening of the route in 1892 by the then Prime Minister, William Gladstone, then on towards the old ruins of a slate quarry before the path drew steadily upwards.

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Ruined quarry buildings

By this time we knew we had taken the wrong path, and had walked further than we ought, but as the path was not too steep we decided to keep going.

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David on the path to Snowdon

On our walk we saw many other people traipsing the same path towards Snowdon, and drawing higher, we heard the whooo of a train from the Snowdon Mountain Railway (even though they say on their website that they are closed!) Perhaps it was a phantom train? As the summit of Snowdon came into view, I could see the train station and visitor centre. It was quite exciting being on a walk we had not planned.

At some 800m above sea level, David and I sat down to have lunch. We pondered on how much further it was to the top and would we get there before sunset. We also had to consider our ability. I am not the best walker/climber. So we decided not to aim for the summit but to go to the ridge and see what was on the other side.

We found Llyn Llydaw on the other side, stretching out far below us. I was ecstatic. Llydaw is one of the llyn’s I want to swim in 2017!

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Llyn Llydaw

From the ridge we turned back and started our descent. It took us another good two hours to walk back to the car park. We were both buoyed by the walk, amazed that we had managed to get 3/4 of the way up the tallest mountain in England and Wales. Today however, we are stiff and sore.

Accidentally taking the path towards Snowdon has made me realise that maybe some tarns in the Lake District are not so unachievable as I believed. Roll on spring/summer 2017!

Have you managed to climb Snowdon? If so what path did you chose, apparently there at six paths?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

#PoppiesTour – Caernarfon Castle.

If you have seen my previous posts about the poppies at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Liverpool, you will know that I am trying to see them as they visit various places around the UK!

Sadly we never made the journey to see The Wave at Lincoln Castle, but I made sure we booked free tickets to see the Weeping Window at Caernarfon Castle! The event was hotly anticipated and we managed to get a time slot on the penultimate day the poppies were being displayed. All other Saturday’s had been booked up! So on the 19th November, David and I headed for the A55 and Caernarfon.

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Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle has always been on my list of places to visit. Seeing the poppies and the castle together was a perfect combination. Then add the free entrance to the castle whilst the poppies were at Caernarfon and it made for a fantastic day!

The castle was already bustling with people when we arrived at 11am. (Having parked the car for £4 at the harbour carpark). I have a feeling the castle has never been so popular as it has been since the poppies arrived! I now understand why you had to book a time slot to visit. The narrow staircases going up and down the towers were treacherous. It was bad enough climbing single file but when faced with people wanting to go past you on a narrow stone staircase, things grew a little scary! Thankfully we were only stuck on a tower’s staircase once, and I came away with a slightly grazed hand!

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Stairway

The poppies were as I remembered them. Their emblematic hue made people pause, silently in awe. We took hundreds of pictures of the poppies and below are a selection of the best!

Once we had seen the poppies, we made the most of the free entry and explored the castle. We walked along curtain walls, took in the views from the towers and even managed to dress up at the Welch Fusiliers Museum.

We spent a good two – three hours at the castle and I would recommend a visit if in the area.


From Caernarfon we headed home via two llyns (lakes). I was on the lookout for prospective swims for next year and two I had in mind, fitted the bill!

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Llyn Cwellyn

The first was Llyn Cwellyn, actually a reservoir. Sadly there wasn’t much of a walk along the lakeside and we were only at the lake for about an hour. (Having paid £2.50 parking fee for four hours!) To make the llyn wheelchair accessable there is a wooden walkway but sadly, there was only one actual ‘beach’ in which to enter the water.

However the water was crystal clear and the shingle floor looked an easy entrance into the llyn that seemed to deepen quickly. David and I were the only people at the llyn, (while others headed for highs such as Snowdon). The area was so peaceful, the sun sitting low on the horizon, gave me a sudden wave of nostalgia. Wast Water came to mind. I wish I had brought my swimming costume with me and braved the cold!!

Afterwards, we headed towards Llyn Gwynant. Looking for parking places we passed Llyn Dinas which also looks a lovely place to swim!

We parked alongside Llyn Gwynant and headed for the shore. I got Terence (turtle thermometer) out and measured a very chilly 7°c!

 

Both llyns have got me super excited for next year. Spring/Summer 2017 can’t come quick enough!

Have you visited North Wales/Snowdonia? What are your favourite llyns?

Christine x

‘The Road Goes Ever On and On.’

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Friday the 12th February was International Darwin Day. Coincidentally David had taken a day off work, so we both headed off on our second adventure to Wales. Again we drove towards Snowdonia National Park, this time to Llyn Idwal.

The valley or cwn around Llyn Idwal is recognised as Wales’s first National Nature Reserve and a site of special scientific Interest. The area is famous for its rock formations (moraines) and rare plants. Notables, the likes of Sir Edmund Hillary, visited Llyn Idwal to prepare for his ascent of Everest. Happily, I also read that Charles Darwin also visited the area before embarking on his voyage on the Beagle.

So on the day, David and I walked in the footsteps of some of the world’s greatest men.

However the weather didn’t measure up to the forecast and when we arrived at the National Trust car park (off the A5,) there was a thick blanket of white cloud all around. We paid £5 for the day as we didn’t know how long it would take to walk around the lake. There is a charge of £2.50 for four hours for people who are more experienced and more equipped! As you can see I still sported my Parker!

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Photo by David Evans

The first thing you notice is the snow capped mountains, (Glyderau or Glyders.) It was nice to finally see some snow! The designated path takes you over a stream with a pretty waterfall.

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Then the path meanders around most of the glacial, fresh water lake. We took the path anti-clock wise.

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Most of the path is navigable except for the Idwal Slabs and boulder field which is beneath the towering heights of the Devil’s Kitchen. I am no climber (some would say not much of a walker, either,) so David left me to explore.

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While David was scurrying over the rocks like Gollum, I turned and appreciated the view of the lake below me. The name Idwal comes from the myth of the Gwynedd princes. Idwal’s father, Prince Owain one day entrusted the care of his son to Nefydd Hardd (a bondsman.) However under his care Idwal drowned in the lake. Some tales tell of Nefydd’s son, Dunawd, having pushed poor Idwal into the lake due to his jealousy! As punishment, Nefydd was forced to give up his lands and was banished from the kingdom of Gwynedd. Owain, in his sorrow named the lake after his son. The tale recalls that no bird will fly over the lake because of this tragedy!

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Llyn Idwal

We found the area very popular with tourists and walkers alike, and as we took our leave of Llyn Idwal, there were coaches full of students arriving, all hoping to do what David and I had done. Walk in the footsteps of Charles Darwin.

Do you like to go walking? Where are your favourite walks in the UK?

Christine x

Rhosydd Slate Quarry at Cwmorthin

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Christine at Cwimorthin Quarry, photo by David Evans

Friday, David had planned a day off work. We had intended on visiting the Lake District but the Metoffice‘s weather prediction was as usual, rain…

So after hours of trawling the internet, David discovered an old, abandoned slate mine in North Wales. With the weather forecast looking grim we decided it would add to the desolate atmosphere of the quarry and it’s buildings.

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Rhosydd barracks

So as Friday dawned we prepared for our journey. It took just over two hours to travel from Liverpool, through the Wirral towards Queensferry and onto the A55 towards Conwy. From there we took the winding A470 south towards Betws-y-Coed and then towards Blaenau Ffestiniog and the village of Tanygrisiau, (please don’t ask me to pronounce them!)

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Visiting Tanygrisiau, whose Welsh name means ‘below the steps,’ you can’t help but notice it’s past industry in slate mining. There are many towering ‘mountains’ made of slate in the area. The village, before the industry ended had three major quarries which traded black slate across the world. The village has an exhibition mine, Llechwedd Slate Caverns which hold underground tours.

With all the unseasonal rain we are having here in the UK, Tanygrisiau to me looked like a land of waterfalls. Everywhere you looked there was a raging waterfall booming!

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Cwmorthin Waterfall

We parked the car just before the Cwmorthin Waterfall and it’s viewing platform. There is a gate saying no unauthorised vehicles and to keep to the footpath. A kindly shepherd later on informed David that if we visited again to park our car at the cafe for safety. We photographed the Waterfall first which was through a gate to the left of the main footpath.

Then we followed the waterlogged path along Llyn Cwmorthin towards the ruin of Rhosydd’s Methodist chapel.

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From there we followed the steady incline towards more ruins and past another waterfall.

20160122_133255The mist closed in around us and doggedly we continued to tread on broken rocks and slate towards the top. Luckily for us the rain held off and the only bugbear was the squalling wind. The path seemed to go on and on, but as we took the drop down, the vista opened out and there standing before us, enshrouded in cloud were the skeletal remains of the houses of industry of Rhosydd Quarry.

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The low cloud drifted in on the wind which made visibility poor, though it did indeed add to the desolate mood of the area. The ground was soft underfoot but on a dry summers day I am sure there would be more exploring to do.

Our little walk took us around two hours! I think I held David up somewhat with my lack of walking clothes. However, I persevered and my feet didn’t get too wet. We both look forward to visiting the area again in the future and maybe spend more time searching the ruins.

Have you been on any unusual walks?

Christine x

© 2016. All photographs by Christine Lucas except where mentioned.

Flowers and Butterflies.

The past weekend proved to be busy, more so than previous weekends.

On Saturday we drove to North Wales to escape the rain. We (David, his cousin Keith and myself) did not have any ideas on a destination. We just thought we would drive for a bit, find the rain was all over the North West and come back home again. How wrong we were!

We drove on towards Anglesey and the clouds lifted and blazing sunshine and blue vistas surrounded the island! We stopped off at Holyhead and watched as the Irish ferries came into port. There was a brown tourist road sign saying ‘RSPB South Stack.‘ I checked Google and the website said it was one of the best places for wildlife!! So we decided on going there.

We spent the next three hours walking the coastal pathway, wandering down uneven steps (me, in a a dress and heels!) towards South Stack Lighthouse and spotting some butterflies flitting about the wild flowers.

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Amongst the days highlights included: A Puffin, an Osprey, Stonechats, Silver Studded Blue and a Meadow Brown Butterfly.

The Sunday was my nephew Nathan’s 5th birthday party! 5 years have gone by so quickly! David, Mum and I went to his garden party. The children all had a visit from Olaf, the snowman from the film Frozen!

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Olaf

As you all know I have been gripped with anticipation on the budding of my Passion Flower. Today, Wednesday, coming home from work. I looked out of the kitchen window and there blooming before my astonished eyes was a flower! Two flowers in fact! I can’t wait for more to flower, the plant is covered in buds! 😀

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Too Much of a Good Thing…

…you can never get enough!

Here’s video and more pictures of the International Red Panda Day at Welsh Mountain Zoo… Enjoy!

International Red Panda Day 2013!

21st September 2013 was The Red Panda Network’s: International Red Panda Day.

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I knew The Welsh Mountain Zoo was celebrating the event so I managed to get David to agree and on Saturday, early morning we headed for north Wales and the A55. The one and a half hours travel from Liverpool passed by quickly as a warm Autumnal sun shone down upon us and the green of the Welsh hills seemed all the more greener!

We arrived at the zoo at 10am and subsequently made our way to the Red Panda enclosure, their enclosure at present is only temporary as a new one is being built for them. I was glad to hear this as the cage was small and the fence was difficult for my camera to focus through. However, Ming Ming as usual was running around the enclosure, open mouth panting. His female companion was asleep in a nest box at the top of the cage.

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In celebration of International Red Panda day, David donned on a panda onesie and posed in front of the Red’s enclosure! He did get a few strange looks from the other zoo guests!

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Back to the Red Pandas and after taking an abundant video and camera footage of them, David exclaimed, ‘there’s three of them! There’s a baby!’ Needless to say I was all excited! The three month cub kept poking it’s head out of the nest and looking at the world outside. It won’t be long before he/she will be brave enough to venture out itself.

On our second visit to the Red Panda enclosure after taking in the Penguin Parade, David remarked that there was not just one baby but two! Two cubs for Ming Ming! I was overjoyed! We stayed for the 2pm panda talk and even had a nice chat to their keeper.

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The 2013 International Red Panda day turned out to be very enjoyable. Wales was bathed in a glorious late rush from Summer, the Red Pandas were energetic (unlike most Red’s just asleep in a tree all day), and then there was the addition of the two cubs! I came away from the zoo still in love with Red Pandas as I ever was. They are definitely a species worth fighting for!