Posts Tagged ‘Wales’

The Snowdon Railway

June 8, 2016

Back in 1973 we took a brief holiday in North Wales. A treat on this holiday was to ride to the top of Mount Snowdon on the train. It starts at LLanberis just 60 metres above sea level. It takes you virtually to the summit of Wales’ tallest mountain at 1084 metres. That’s a mighty rise for a railway and it looks steep as soon as the train leaves Llanberis



The weather was iffy. Note the people on the left wearing raincoats and sheltering under brollies.

The steam engine pushes the coach up the mountain but metal wheels on smooth metal rails would never suffice. This line has a third rail between the other two and this is toothed.  You can see the toothed rail down by Llanberis Station.


In terms of view it was adead loss going to the summit of Snowdon. From the actual summit you couldn’t see the station just a few metres away. Fortunately, it had an electricity generator running and you could safely navigate by the noise that made.


That’s me at the top of Snowdon having travelled up by train. A wonderful journey but lacking the honour of walking it!

Hoyles Cave

May 29, 2016

Back in the early 1980s we took a holiday in Pembrokeshire. We took our nephew with us. Amongst our adventures, we found a cave called Hoyle’s Cave. And there are nephew and son in the cave.


We also visited Tenby which has an island accessible at low tide. We got across to this and found it was labelled as ‘The Castle of the Count of Monte Cristo’. We explored this island and got back before the tide covered the beach.

image004This was in my era of writing computer programs and back at home I set about writing a text adventure which had Hoyles Cave emerging into the Castle of the Count of Monte Cristo.

Text adventures are things of the past. They had no graphics and used words to create an atmosphere about surroundings. They were a kind of puzzle trail where you had to find things that enabled you to move on. The basic frame work was a grid of locations from each of which, with luck you might be able to move to a neighbouring one. Sadly, I remember almost nothing of the aim of this puzzle program or how many locations there were, or what problems had to be solved. It needed a huge amount of testing after it was written. I thank many family members and friends for that. I thought it had been published as a listing in a computer magazine but I can’t locate it. And that, sadly, means it is lost and gone for ever.

But the real locations and my imagination still remain.

On Fegla Fawr

May 8, 2016

This is a little hill just about on the west coast of Wales and just south of the Barmouth Estuary. For those who want to know a single F in Welsh is pronounced as a V so Fegla Fawr ends up pronounced more like Vegler Vower.

One year in the mid 80s we drove to the campsite we had been to before and it had shut. Somehow it was suggested we could find a pitch on nearby Fegla Fawr. Yes, there would be disadvantages for there was no toilet and no water. But these little inconveniences could be overcome. We had a fantastic camp and here’s our set up from a bit higher up the hill.


The tent was the one my sister and brother in law had bought second hand in 1965 so it was getting on a bit by then. And you can see that green structure which was a toilet tent. We had taken our chemical loo so the absence of a toilet was no problem. Sharp eyed viewers will spot the Cambrian Coast railway line curving round on the right and in the midground there is a station.

image003This station was called Morfa Mawddach  and it had a loo and water. We could easily carry what we needed from there. By the way, this single platform request stop had once been called Barmouth Junction and the line to Dolgellau had headed off to the left.

So, with problems solved we could enjoy a camp and trips out in the car.

image004The car at that time was an Austin Princess. I had had to replace my much loved Maxi and that was what we got. It wasn’t a ‘me’ car at all. How we crammed tents, toilets, tables, chairs, bedding, cooking facilities etc plus four people in the car I really don’t know. But I do recall that I found hollow spaces between two skins of metal and I put tinned food over the wheel arches. Some of it I was never able to find again! I reckon some tins of peas went to the scrap yard in that car!

Symonds Yat

March 6, 2016

Like my father before me, I have a habit of missing the big honeypot tourist places but sometimes opportunities arise and you get to them. We were at Symonds Yat in 2002 because our daughter was taking the opportunity to visit the Hay on Wye festival. She was (and still is when time permits) very much into books and at that time, just post degree, she felt a need to soak up the atmosphere. Others in the family thought a day in that area wouldn’t go amiss.

Anyway, we stopped at Symonds Yat.


It’s a fine viewpoint, high above the River Wye. The river takes such a convoluted course through the hills here that I find it impossible to work out (now) just where I was when I took the photo although clearly there is flatter land in the distance.

Close to, the river is closely confined.


This is one of several 180o turns (or more) that the river does in this area. The river water travels about 11 kilometres in one stretch and ends up little more than a kilometre from that starting point.

However, here we have Symonds Yat Rock


You can’t see them, but there are peregrine falcons nesting in that shot. The RSPB very kindly set up telescopes to let people see them and they are magnificent. That’s both the falcons and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Not to mention that area. A grand place and it wasn’t busy.

Hay on Wye, on the other hand, was utterly awash with bookish people.


October 21, 2015

Furnace is a village quite near Machynlleth in Wales. It is centred around an 18th century blast furnace for smelting iron ore into iron.

We have been there twice, in 2007 and again in 2015.

This was 2007.



I might have hoped to have seen the place in good weather in 2015, but it was not to be. It threw it down with torrents of rain.



But even in lousy weather it is a well restored relic of a past age.

Barmouth Bridge – then and now

September 24, 2015

Back in the 1980s – a generation ago – we took our family camping on the south side of the Mawddach estuary for three years running. It was a quiet and undisturbed area with bustling Barmouth less than a mile away across the footbridge next to the railway line.


I think we must have been up near Llynau Cregennen, above Arthog when this photo was taken.

That’s my daughter on the left looking about the age her son does now. I have to say she is also looking cold. A wooded hump rises up from by the water. That is Fegla Fawr – a hill we camped on.

To the right of that a black line goes across the water and that is Barmouth Bridge. This spans the estuary. We can also see, just alongside my daughter’s head and going into the centre of the photo the Fairbourne spit which goes nearly all the way to Barmouth.

I’ve called this a ‘then and now’ but I don’t have a now view. Instead I have the opposite view from Barmouth, across the bridge, over Fegla Fawr and up into the mountains.


The bridge passes in front of Fegla Fawr. Llynau Cregennen is high up in the mountains beyond.

It is a beautiful part of the world and people speak the Welsh language there. I may not understand what they say but by golly it sounds so beautiful and most folks can speak English and they do to we English folk.

Pronunciation is different in Wales too. We learned some things quite quickly back in the 1980s. The nearest railway station to where we camped was and still is Morfa Mawddach. It’s a request stop. If you want to get off the train there you have to tell the guard in advance so he (it was still all men back then) can ensure the train stops. We recall the first time and we told the guard we wished to get off at More fir more datch. Eventually he understood and said, ‘Ah! You mean more var mouthe ack’. We don’t pretend to be any good at Welsh but because road signs are bilingual we have learned many words and mostly we think we pronounce them tolerably well.


The Fairbourne Railway

September 11, 2015

Mid to North Wales is almost crowded out with steam railways of the narrow gauge variety. One that might be easy to miss is the miniature line at Fairbourne.

Fairbourne has a mainline station on the Cambrian Coast Line. In a bid to develop tourism the potential resort of Fairbourne was built, reaching away from the main railway and down to the sea front. A tramway was built to help build the village and that became the Fairbourne Railway. Originally it was built to a two foot gauge but has been progressively narrowed and now the two rails are just 12½ inches apart.

It makes a pretty sight as the little train trundles between Fairbourne and a point on the Mawddach estuary a couple or so kilometres away. Small ferries can link with the train to take passengers across the estuary to Barmouth.

We chanced upon a train when we visited in August 2015.


There’s the train, with Barmouth in the background, as she makes her way from the ferry station towards Fairbourne.

The little loco, Sherpa, hauls its load past us.


She leads her train onwards,  towards Fairbourne.


Meanwhile, back at Fairbourne, the loco Yeo was being readied for the next journey.


The submerged forest

September 9, 2015

My wife spent three childhood holidays at Borth on the Cardigan Bay coast to the north of Aberystwyth. She has regaled me with tales of the sunken forest, sometimes visible at low tide. I was very keen to see this phenomenon and when we holidayed near Machynlleth we consulted tide tables and picked a day with a goodly tidal range and went to see what we could see.

We learned at nearby Ynyslas that there was never any guarantee. It all depended how the most recent tide had left the sand.

But we were in luck. In fact what we saw was much better than anything my wife remembered from nigh on 60 years ago.

Of course, we didn’t expect whole trees to be visible but rather stumps, left behind after rising sea levels killed off the trees and they tumbled into the briny.

Anyway, let’s see what we could see.

image002There we see trees, with root systems, covered in green slime seaweed. You can take your pick for when the trees died. Figures vary between 3500 years ago to 6000 years ago.

Personally, I was almost overwhelmed by what I saw. Yet I was also surprised as was another chap I met. The term ‘petrified’ forest has been used for these trees, yet clearly they were not petrified – literally turned into stone. They are preserved by the conditions but are very much still bits of wood.


These ancient remains are on the sand, just below the Borth sea front.


The stumps are scattered over quite a wide area.


What I hadn’t expected were peat beds.


The black area, slightly raised above the sand is peat and studies of the peat have revealed much about the past, including some evidence of human habitation.


The rising tide started to hide the forest again, but just seeing it was a real high spot for me.

Peter Sam

September 8, 2015

Peter Sam is a semi-fictitious engine in the railway books by the Reverend Awdry. He first appeared in print back in 1955 in the book Four Little Engines. I had this book as a Christmas present back in 1955.

And there he is, from that 1955 Christmas present.

image002Now I said semi-fictional because he is based on a real engine and some of the story line in Four Little Engines is fairly factual.

The engine was built to work on a slate quarry line in mid Wales that linked the Corris area with Machynlleth. The engine, with no name but just the number 4 was built in 1921.

A section of the Corris Railway has been re-started – a 21st century re-opening. It runs from Corris to Maespoeth.


It’s a lovely little line at the moment and the visit includes a museum at Corris and a guided tour of sheds and works at Maespoeth.

But of course, the line had no locos and has had to build replacements from scratch. The one in service is a replica of the original number 4.


After the Corris line closed, in 1948, Two Corris engines were purchased by the Talyllyn railway. Number 4 was one of them and it was given the name Edward Thomas who was a former manager of this railway. By the way, the Talyllyn was the first preservation line in the UK and it still runs and still uses Edward Thomas. And here is that 1921 engine at Tywyn departing with a train for Nant Gwernol.


This is another delightful journey, of course.

The Reverend Awdry invented a line like the Talyllyn for his fictitious island of Sodor and changed the engine names just a bit so Edward Thomas became Peter Sam.

So we have a wonderful mix of reality and fiction.

By the way, the photos were all taken on a horribly wet August 23rd 2015.


June 29, 2015

No, not the one on the North Cornwall coast. This is the Welsh one on Cardigan Bay.


It’s just an ordinary enough seaside town but it has one thing which makes it extraordinary. It is said that the basic idea for Dylan Thomas’s radio play, Under Milk Wood, came to him whilst staying in this little seaside town.

What that Welsh bard actually thought of the place I don’t know, but maybe there’s a clue in the name he chose for the ‘fictional’ location of Milk Wood. He called his location Llareggub which has a Welsh ring to it (almost). But saying it backwards may give an idea.

Newquay certainly has the cottages tumbling down the hillside.


It is so possible to imagine Dylan’s characters, Organ Morgan, Captain Cat, Dai Breads, Polly Garter and all the others in Newquay.

I think Under Milk Wood is a wonderful work. Its beauty rubs off on Newquay – and the townsfolk have taken their chance and make much of it.