Rhoscolyn

A circular walk of 6 miles including 750 feet of elevation overall. Start Point: St Gwenfaen Church, Holy Island, Rhoscolyn, Anglesey.  Map References: SH 277765  or Lat:  53.257636 Lon: -4.584517 

adult-blur-boots-1452784This is an easy circuit taking in a section of the Anglesey Coastal Path along the headland from Rhoscolyn to Silver Bay. Enjoy far-reaching views of Snowdonia and the Llyn Peninsula as well as rugged cliffside scenery reminiscent of Cornwall. There are numerous inlets and coves, and many small offshore islands, including the Ynysoedd Gwylanod or ‘seagull’s islands’ upon which stands the Rhoscolyn Beacon – a tall navigational marker erected to warn ships of the treacherous rocks. The Rhoscolyn coast is well known for its natural arches that the sea has carved out of the cliffs. They are called ‘Bwa Du’ the black arch, and ‘Bwa Gwyn’ the white arch. There are many interesting folds in the rocks of the sea stack, and strands of hematite pink in the cliff walls. The walls of the cliffs here are an extension of the geological fault that can also be seen on the coastline at South Stack, the faults being formed by the opening-up of the Atlantic Ocean and the separation of Europe from North America around 140 million years ago.

A little to the west of the village is a mediaeval well dedicated to St Gwenfaen beside which are the remains of a drystone well house. The local church in the village itself is dedicated to the same, female saint and was first built in the 6th century. Gwenfaen is also associated with the well on Rhoscolyn Headland. This medieval well contains two chambers with seats below ground level fed by an underground spring. It is said that Gwenfaen had powers to cure diseases of the mind.

The route

  1. Park by the church and turn right along the single-track road which continues as a track past a property called Lodge Bach. On reaching the ‘private’ sign, take the stile to the right and pass through the fields aided by kissing-gates. At the final gate, either turn left or continue forwards over a ladder stile and then turn left. Both routes head through the gorse towards the coast. Look for a large white property standing prominent on the skyline.
  2. Once through the gorse, bear left to a kissing-gate on the coastal path and follow the headland on a well-defined grass track. Anglesey Coastal Path signs denote the way and it’s difficult to stray off the route here. Continue for around a mile towards the NCI Beacon. There are good views towards Snowdonia and the Llyn Peninsula. Take up the route again as it heads downhill towards the bay.
  3. Pass through a kissing-gate which leads away from the headland, and continue to follow the coastal path markers between stone walls to arrive at several dwellings overlooking the bay. Turn left at the distinctive Boatman’s Cottage by the finger-post, and walk across the beach. At high tide, look for steps to the left, allowing access to the car park. Exit the beach by the small car park and turn right at the finger-post. The route passes through gorse bushes and wild roses, keeping the bay to your right.
  4. Ignore the arrow at the end of the path and instead, go straight on and pass through the gate to arrive at a driveway. Turn left, then right at the end of this driveway as denoted by the finger-post. Go through the kissing-gate at the next finger-post, onto the open heath. Follow the coastal path signs along the headland as it winds towards Silver Bay.
  5. At Silver Bay walk across the beach keeping the forest to your left. At the end of the fir trees, take the steps into the forest and continue along a sand trail. Bear left then along a wooden walkway over boggy ground to a kissing-gate. Walk up through the grazing land towards a cluster of low cottages, and take the kissing-gate at the top.
  6. Pass into grazing land and follow the well-defined farm track which meets a single-track road. Walk for one mile along the road: turn right at the first junction. At the next junction, turn left and walk past the campsite on the left, and at the final junction bear right and the church is clearly visible ahead.

The described route is a guide only, it’s always advisable to use a map or a GPS device.

 

With or Without You…

W.I.T.H – Welsh Institute for Therapeutic Horsemanship

IMG_2747It’s a well-known fact that getting back to nature can offer a healing balm to those minds and bodies disadvantaged by modern life. Jackie Williams has taken this concept a step further by introducing horses to help heal broken people. But what of the broken horses? Her therapy centre on Anglesey (a satellite centre to the main base in Portmadog) is home to a wide variety of equines: abused, neglected, misunderstood. It may sound ambitious and unlikely, but Williams is adept at bringing the right combination of horse and human together, to create new bonds of trust, hope, and mutual respect.

How do animal therapies work? Don’t go looking for scientific evidence or hard facts as to why animal therapies work, they just do. Maybe it’s a sixth sense and only tenable if one is open to the idea. After all, communication is key to all forms of life. We do know that horses are a flight animal, reactionary to body language and more than capable of understanding what’s going on inside someone’s head and heart. Friend, or foe? Their survival instinct depends on being able to monitor situations and either look for a means of escape, or seek those beings who offer that safe harbour, a trusted leader. Trust. Once we have trust, we have the foundation to build good relationships, both human and equine. And rehabilitation can be all the richer for being a two-way journey.

IMG_3943Sapphire’s story. I recently enjoyed a visit to Jackie’s centre, based on Anglesey. The chestnut pony with blue eyes – Sapphire – had been ostracised by the main herds for a long time and wasn’t doing too well. It’s something of a mystery why this mare was shunned, but we think her poor eyesight may have much to do with the herds’ strict list of criteria for survival. After a few months of basic nurturing, ‘Saffy’ has been physically transformed, although she remains shy. Williams is keen to keep her ‘wildness’ and avoid over-familiarity, in order to add genuine authenticity to those therapy sessions.

IMG_2750And finally, so heartening that four more Carneddau colts have been rescued from the yearly Gathering; one of whom was badly beaten-up by the resident stallion and may well have come to a sad demise. These boys will be gelded and rehabilitated before beginning new careers as therapy ponies.

About the charity

WITH is a pioneering charity based in Portmadog, which aims to help disadvantaged individuals from North Wales and the wider community to improve their health and well-being through equine-assisted, educational and recreational activities. We work with individuals of all ages, many of whom face multiple disadvantages and might never have the opportunity to spend time around horses. Our unique method pairs clients with rescued horses for mutual gaining of trust and respect, and hope for a better future.

More information; book a course of sessions, sponsor a pony or become a volunteer: WWW.with.wales

Some programmes funded by Comic Relief and Children in Need.

Words and photography by Jan Ruth

St Dwynwen’s Island

Nothing wins hearts like cheerfulness – St. Dwynwen

ImageGenThe celebration of Dwynwen – the Welsh patron saint of lovers – takes place on January 25th. Not only does she command a unique day on the calendar, but Dwynwen surely lives on in cheerful spirit. Llanddwyn Island, the slim peninsular of land dedicated to her is so evocative, surely there has to be more than lava rock, saltmarsh and historic ruins here…

One of the 24 daughters of a Welsh prince, Dwynwen lived in the fifth century AD. She fell in love with a young man called Maelon but rejected his advances. This, depending on which story you read, was either because she wished to remain chaste and become a nun or because her father wished her to marry another. She prayed to be released from this unhappy situation and dreamed that she was given a potion to do this. However, the potion turned Maelon to ice. She then prayed that she be granted three wishes: 1) that Maelon be revived, 2) that all true lovers find happiness, and 3) that she should never again wish to be married. She then retreated to the solitude of Llanddwyn Island to follow the life of a hermit. Not so bad, then.

Dwynwen became known as the patron saint of lovers, and pilgrimages were made to her holy well on the island. It was said that the faithfulness of a lover could be divined through the movements of the eels that lived in the well. This was done by the woman first scattering breadcrumbs, then laying her handkerchief on the surface. If the eels disturbed it then her lover would be faithful. Visitors would leave offerings at this shrine, and so popular was this place of pilgrimage that it became the richest in the area during Tudor times. This funded a substantial chapel that was built in the 16th century. In 1879, a plain cross was erected in Dwynwen’s memory, followed by the Celtic cross in 1903. The medieval love poet Dafydd ap Gwilym first popularised her story in the 13th century, writing: ‘Dwynwen your beauty is like a silver tear. Your church is ablaze with candlelight.’ To see that church ablaze with candlelight against such a backdrop must have been beyond magical. But there is still magic to be found here.

 

The history behind these scattered ruins across a relatively small area of land, seems all the more poignant for their close proximity … a concentration of beauty and legend, history and romance. There’s a sense of shivery danger too when you learn that at certain high tides, the island is completely cut off from the mainland. And yet there’s a quaint coziness in the row of empty cottages – given over to a small maritime museum – the lighthouse and the boats. I was walking into a children’s adventure one moment, a grisly crime scene or a romantic mystery, the next. (Only in my imagination). And I was on a natural history tour too, scanning the coves for seals, cormorants, sandpipers and turnstones. The rock formations are pillow lava, formed by undersea volcanic eruptions; as the hot molten rock met the cold seawater a balloon-like skin was formed, which then filled with more lava, forming the characteristic pillow shape. These extend down much of the length of Llanddwyn Island, giving it its interesting rolling topography along the beach. These secret coves of washed sand, one after the other nestled into the cliffs were virtually undisturbed, even on a busy day. Combined with the two crosses set against the sky, the solitude lends the place a special peace, a mesmerising natural sanctuary.

No surprise then that the island has been used for various film sets. The lighthouse was built in 1845 in a style similar to Anglesey’s windmills. In 2004, it became a location for filming romantic thriller Half Light. From here there are fabulous views stretching to the misty hills and mountains of the Llyn Peninsula and Snowdonia.

According to Dwynwen nothing won the heart like cheerfulness.  Where else can a writer, photographer, artist, nature lover, bird-watcher, walker or historian find such concentrated richness? I was left contemplating that historical novel, no, wait, I need to write a time-slip historical fantasy. Or the next Enid Blyton? Whatever the outcome, Llanddwyn certainly won my heart.

Words and photography by Jan Ruth.

Watch & Walk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s27z_gBHqek

Aberffraw and St Cwyfan’s Church

A circular walk of 8 miles including 830 feet of elevation overall. Start Point: Cable Bay car park, Porth Trecastell, Anglesey. LL63 5TE. Map References: SH 3307065 or Lat: 53.207852  Lon: -4.496570

adult-blur-boots-1452784An undemanding, low-level walk along a section of the Anglesey coastal path. Much of the coastline here is reminiscent of Cornwall with rugged clifftops and hidden coves. A variety of sea birds provide a constant, chattering presence and grey seals have been known to put in an appearance close to shore. Because of the effects of erosion, some parts of the coastal path have been lost to the pounding waves of the Irish Sea; therefore it’s not advisable to begin walking this route during or around an expected high tide.

St Cwyfan’s church – the church in the sea – sits on a island called Cribinau – accessible during low tide via a causeway of rough stone and founded in the seventh century by an Irish saint, although the current building is dated closer to the 12th century. Old maps show the church was actually built inland, but gradual sea erosion has now made it a central feature of Porth Cwyfan. At high tide the church is completely surrounded by the sea. Services are still held on the first Sunday in June and August

 

The route

  1. Facing Cable Bay, take the footpath to the far left of the car park and follow the blue coastal path markers across the headland for .8 of a mile. Bear left up a slight incline towards another coastal marker. Go through the gate into pasture land.
  2. Keep to the lefthand fence-line. Panoramic views of Snowdonia in the distance and all the way down to the Llyn Peninsular. At the end of this field, with the farm buildings well ahead, turn right to locate a gate by a footpath sign. Pass through this gate onto the road, crossing after a few yards to take a gravelled path on the left.
  3. Follow the path as it meanders round the perimeter of Anglesey Race Track, farmland to the left. At the end of this track you’ll arrive at St Cwyfan’s church.
  4. The coastal path continues around the perimeter of the bay but due to erosion it’s far easier to walk across the beach. Worth exploring church island before picking up the route at the far end of the beach and passing through a wooden gate back onto the grassy headland.
  5. Continue to follow the blue coastal path markers as the track winds along the edge of the coast. The path has broken down in some parts, making it necessary to walk across the beach or skirt around the rocks. An easy enough proposition when the tide is low.
  6. Eventually the route heads along the estuary towards the village of Aberffraw. Ignore the route up through the houses and if the tide allows, continue along the beach – eventually passing several cottages on the left – to reach an old stone bridge. At the bridge, turn left and head up into the village.
  7. Turn left at the T junction, with Aberffraw church on your left, and keep left to exit the village, continuing along the single-track road. Where the road bears left, locate a wooden kissing-gate on the right and enter the pasture land. The land here is flat and although this section of the route – the Heritage Way – may seem indistinct due to changing crops or grazing animals, it’s easy enough to spot the next gate or stile.
  8. Follow the right-hand fence-line initially, then cross diagonally to the left to locate the next gate set into the boundary which crosses a small stream via a wooden bridge. Cross the next field, bearing left again towards a wooden stile. This brings you onto a farm track. Go straight ahead here and follow the fence-line through farmland. Views to the left of St Cwyfan’s church can look spectacular here due to the elevation. Continue through the gate then bear right to take a diagonal track towards the next stile – farm buildings ahead.
  9. Continue over the next stile then head towards the houses – rooftops just visible. Cross this final field to locate a kissing-gate to the left of a farm gate, which returns you to the same gravelled path at point 3 of this route – alongside a large property called Llangwyfan-isaf. Retrace your steps to the car park.

The described route is a guide only, it’s always advisable to use a map or a GPS device.

 

Cemaes Bay

A circular walk of 10 miles including 1,500 feet of elevation overall. Start Point: The wildlife reserve car park at Trwyn yr Wylfa, Cemaes Bay, Anglesey. LL67 ODH. Map References: SH: 35619-93789 or Lat: 53.415189  Lon: -4.474820 

adult-blur-boots-1452784A circular route utilising much of the Anglesey coastal path. Spectacular scenery – on a sunny day the area takes on a Mediterranean feel with bright turquoise seascapes, coloured rocks, soaring white gulls, and if you’re lucky – seals and porpoises. Worth noting that it’s possible to shorten this route by making the start point at Cemaes Bay village at point 3 and reducing the overall mileage by approx 4 miles, without missing the most scenic parts of the walk.  

There’s plenty of historical points of interest in this area too, and the best place to see the Gwna Melange – an unusual combination of ancient rocks created by an underwater landslip. In fact, the whole of the island is a designated European Geopark so a veritable playground for those interested in geology, including White Lady’s Rock; a triangular-shaped slab of rock which once formed part of an arch but was quarried extensively in Victorian times for its quartz. Only ruins remain of Porth Llanlleiana, used for the production of china clay, and further on, evidence of the area’s industrial heritage in the form of winding gear which was used to lower quartzite, used in the production of bricks, down to the works at Porth Wen. Production ceased at the start of WW1 but the site is still an evocative piece of history in a breathtaking setting.

The route

  1. Take the footpath by two brick pillars and pass through a metal kissing-gate, walking up through a small copse onto the headland. The way may seem indistinct here as planning for a second phase of the power station has altered the landscape. Walk towards the sea and head to the right, passing through several wooden gates whilst following the blue coastal path markers – towards a small cove and the outskirts of Cemaes village.
  2. The route continues close to several coastal properties. Still following the blue coastal markers, take a gravelled path to the right, turning right again at the finger-post sign. Walk between the stone walls then turn left down a slope to the shore. The blue markers are set into the pavement here and lead up through the village.
  3.  In the centre of Cemaes village, turn left at Bridge Street, opposite Ye Olde Vigour pub. Bear left at the next finger-post towards the harbour, and a short promenade. Turn left at the National Trust finger-post signed for Llanbadrig and Penrhyn Mawr, and follow the steep track up between blackberry bushes, passing through a wooden gate onto the headland.
  4. Go through the next wooden gate to the right, which leads down a dip and back up the other side, passing an old kiln set into the hillside. Continue to follow the track until you reach White Lady’s Rock. Turn right here towards a wooden gate, arriving on a single-track road.
  5. Turn left on the road and walk a short distance to reach Llanbadrig Church: the oldest Christian site in Wales. Locate a stone stile consisting of steps set into the boundary wall of the church and climb over this – turning right – to pick up the coastal path again along the headland.
  6. From here, it’s a straightforward walk along the cliffs, the route eventually dropping down towards Porth Llanileiana via steep steps. Climb the zigzag path back up the other side to reach the top of Dinas Cynfor and the ruins of a hill fort, and a watchtower. Distant views reveal the Skerries, Middle Mouse, Point Lynas, East Mouse, and on a clear day, the Isle of Man.
  7. From the watchtower, follow the headland again, the route dropping down towards Hell’s Mouth – a deep inlet – and back up the other side. Cross a wooden stile and climb a steep winding track to the top of the hill. From here, follow a wide, grassy track as it heads towards Porth Wen bay.
  8. The brickworks come into view on the left – if you don’t mind exploring uneven ground it’s worth scrambling down to take a look – otherwise, continue along the grassy track, passing through a gate and following the route as it bears right and then left, eventually ending at a single-track road. Turn right. Walk for almost a mile, then on a right-hand bend look for a footpath on the left.
  9. Go over the stile into fields, passing over a stream via a wooden bridge. The footpath is clearly marked and continues through a section of private garden then once through the next gate, keep right along the lower footpath. Continue until this path ends at a single-track road. Turn right then at the T junction, turn left and after approx a mile, you’ll be back at the harbour in Cemaes. Retrace your steps back to the car park.

The described route is a guide only, it’s always advisable to use a map or a GPS device.

In The Chair 17: Gillian Hamer

Welcome, Gillian Hamer.

How would you describe your writing style in only three words?

Gillian: Thrilling, gripping, tight.

SONY DSC

If you could have a relationship with one of your fictional characters who would it be and why?

Gillian:  Probably Dara Brennan – my DS in The Gold Detectives series. He’s a good man at heart, with many layers and lots of baggage, but there’s a vulnerability in his strength which really touches me. I think he’d be a good boyfriend and a soul mate – if he could only meet the right woman!

If you had to exist for a week in one of your books … which one would it be? Would you be a central character or simply watch the story unfold from the sidelines?

Gillian: I’d like to get right involved in the action in the historical thread in my novel, Complicit. To go back to the past and be a part of the Roman invasion of the island of Anglesey would be amazing. I’m fascinated by the Roman Empire and I’d jump at the chance to be part of it for a short time.

Dead or alive literary dinner party: who would you invite, and what would you serve?

Gillian: Agatha Christie, Terry Pratchett, JK Rowling and Stephen Fry. Traditional English food – let’s go for a posh Carvery!

 If you had to write in a different genre which would it be and why? 

Gillian: I’d really like to try Historical Fiction one day. I love reading period novels – be that WWII and Sarah Waters or Tudor period and Hilary Mantel. I also love research so it’s definitely something on my to-do list.

What do you dislike the most about being an author?

11102784_844407928976852_7866671121152746412_n

Gillian: Marketing in a word. I resent the amount of time marketing and social media eat away at my writing time. But there are so many other things I love about being an author that balance out the negatives, I’m happy to put up with it!

Favourite word?

Gillian: Would it sound very wrong as a writer not to have a real favourite word? I probably have words that I over use a lot but not that they’re necessarily a favourite. Does ‘wine’ or ‘chocolate’ count??

Gillian Hamer was in the chair: Author of Crimson Shore, The Charter, Complicit, Closure.

Web: www.gillianhamer.com

41Kl3vJ9zZL._AA160_4154giPbYLL._AA160_41ylwTDVy0L._AA160_41o14W69PCL._AA160_