For the peaceful appreciation of nature.
Despite driving, walking, and riding past this place for many, many years I’ve only recently visited Pensychnant House and I’m ashamed to confess that the lure of home-baked cakes was one of the primary drivers.
This isn’t a National Trust or Cadw property attracting an entrance fee (although contributions are always encouraged), nor does it house a lot of cordoned-off untouchable valuables. What it does offer is a real, modern experience of a Victorian house. This is partly down to the fact that the house is still very much lived in. The log fires are burned for a great many reasons. Today, Pensychnant works primarily as a conservation centre; holding exhibitions by local wildlife artists, organising guided walks, and of course, the annual Christmas fair when the Welsh dresser is laden with vast quantities of home-baked cakes. The Billiards Room is also available to hire for meetings. Although traces still remain, the original spectator area has since been removed. The idea of ladies watching the men play billiards was pretty much unheard of in those times, proving that the original resident, Stott, was pretty forward thinking!
The Turbulent History of Pensychnant. Today’s resident warden, Julian Thompson, has much to share about the history of the estate. The original house is a simple farmhouse dating from about 1690. Because of the existence of a second storey – probably originally accessed by an exterior stone staircase – it suggests that this would have been the property of a family of some means. Interesting that the draught generated between the front and back doors was utilised to winnow corn, and later, Stott affectionately christened the boot room in this part of the house as the Wellington Room. But it’s the Victorian extension built in the Arts and Crafts style (started in 1877 by Stott) which makes Pensychnant so unique.
Stott & Sons built about a fifth of the cotton mills around Lancashire. Surprisingly, the house had a central heating system from new, and in 1923 it received an electricity supply. Built initially as a holiday home for the Stott family, Abraham’s wife was less impressed with the house, particularly its rural location. Fearing he’d never encourage his family to move there, Stott fell into something of a depression about his investment. He reputedly left candles alight in vats of paraffin in the farmhouse, and took his absence. His desperate plan failed, since residents of nearby Crows Nest Hall spotted lights in the windows and went to investigate. Amazingly, Stott managed to escape being charged with arson despite harbouring not one, but three insurance policies about his person! In 1882 the wealth and standing of this hugely influential family clearly held the greater power.
When the mill industry collapsed, Pensychnant was sold to the Collins family before it passed to Doctor Tattersall of Conwy. Then, like the stuff of fiction, something wonderful happened when the great grandson of Stott bought back the entire family estate in 1967. Although the estate continued to function as a working farm, Brian Henthorn Stott regarded it as a nature reserve too and as well as planting hundreds of trees; primarily Welsh oak, birch, rowan and holly. He installed a great many nesting boxes and the variety of birds remains prolific, especially the cuckoo. In Victorian times there was a brisk tourist trade in nearby Penmaenmawr based on collectors travelling from all over Britain to see the Pensychnant moths. There are still two species in residence today, so rare they occur nowhere else in the world…
Pensychnant Today. Sitting in 148 acres of conservation land, Pensychnant house is heavily concealed from the access lane on Sychnant Pass (the mountain road which runs from Conwy across to Penmaenmawr, where it eventually joins the A55 expressway) but if you’re interested in local countryside conservation or historical properties, or if you’re simply looking to escape the modern world for a couple of hours, Pensychnant is well worth a visit. For me, the elegant shabbiness of the house adds a richness not quite quantifiable in words. I guess it has atmosphere. And yes, of course there’s a ghost… the maid, who was murdered by the gardener in the chauffeur’s room.
Brian Stott established the Pensychnant Foundation before he died in 1997.
The Pensychnant Foundation
The Pensychnant Foundation (a registered charity) was established in 1989 by Brian Henthorn Stott to: manage the Pensychnant House and Estate as a conservation centre and nature reserve; for the benefit of its wildlife; and to foster the public’s appreciation and understanding of nature and nature conservation. The house hosts an on-going exhibition of wildlife art by some of Britain’s most talented artists. Proceeds from the sale of drawings or paintings support the charity’s conservation work.
More information about Pensychnant and its programme of events can be found here: http://pensychnant.co.uk/home.html
Words and photography by Jan Ruth
Erotica: (from the Greek ἔρως, eros “desire”) is any artistic work that deals substantively with erotically stimulating subject matter. All forms of art may depict erotic content, including painting, sculpture, photography, drama, film, music or literature. Erotica has high-art aspirations, differentiating it from commercial pornography.
How dark can you take it?
High art. Does this apply to chocolate? In my opinion, it applies more to chocolate than a lot of literature. And if chocolate was graded according to fiction then surely it would have to be erotica? Award Winning Cathryn Cariad Chocolates are most certainly the high-art end of chocolate creation, removing themselves from the crude porn of supermarket chocolate bars and divulging our senses of the most sophisticated chocolate experience.
Cathryn Cariad chocolates are not bound by the conventional selection box either. Be prepared to delve into several sub-genres and rest assured that chocolate dragons will be someone’s erotic fantasy, but as you may expect, romance takes the biggest bite. And not just the chick-lit love of chocolate shoes and Champagne bottles – but a diverse and satisfying array of fillings expertly coupled with either white, milk or dark. Where to begin? Clearly, all of this needed researching thoroughly!
Chocolate has enjoyed longstanding stories of magical and mythical properties, so it’s only fitting that the name of the tree it comes from, Theobroma Cacao, means “food of the gods”. Ancient Mesoamerican art, depicting cacao gods and goddesses, rituals, and cacao in sacred caves and mountains, indicates the cacao tree may have been seen as connecting the gods and humans, heaven and earth. It seems perfectly fitting then that chocolate trees flourish only in the hot, steamy tropics; more specifically in a swathe roughly 20 degrees north and south of the Equator.
Of course, before the raw product arrives in Snowdonia the beans are harvested, fermented, roasted and graded according to quality. The process continues when the ‘nib’ is extracted and ground. This is called conching and produces cocoa and sugar particles smaller than the tongue can detect. The length of the conching process determines the smooth, sensuous quality of the finished product. After this, the chocolate can be liquefied, ready for blending and moulding, and the final seduction can begin.
Recently, I had the very great pleasure of meeting Master Chocolatier Cathryn O’ Connell, the founder of the award winning cottage industry in the heart of Snowdonia: Cathryn Cariad Chocolates. The products are handmade in a rather beautiful setting overlooking the Moelwyn mountain range and within earshot of several vocal hens, and more than one cockerel (all of whom, for ease of identification are named Brian). The local steam train tooted and chugged across the mountain in much the same way it had done for over a hundred years, as we talked about Snowdonia, the history of Cathy’s amazing property, books and … chocolate.
Ah, the chocolate room of pleasure! The full chocolate experience should start with light kissing: creamy white chocolates filled with lemon and Welsh lavender from Rhayader. Or maybe you’d rather explore the delicate laciness of wild elderflower. Too sweet? Progressing onto milk chocolate is a comfort zone enjoyed by many and the fillings are not quite so innocent and teasing. Homemade butter caramel and Welsh vanilla sea-salt. Purple Moose Ale, Brecon gin… Sooner or later, we arrive at the penultimate. The Dark. Warning: this strength of chocolate erotica is highly addictive. Rich, controlling, surprisingly diverse and not so sweet.
Dinner party mystery game. Want to play? First, employ a silk blindfold to concentrate the taste buds and raise the selected truffle to nose, and then palate. Now, can you identify the exact combination? Is it sloe gin with a secret layer of raspberry jelly, or maybe the dragon-roasted coffee? You surely wouldn’t mistake Welsh Dragon chilies with cinnamon and nutmeg – rich, aromatic spices with a kick of heat from the chilies – just the way the Aztecs liked it, apparently. And for the more experienced or to confuse the senses of a seasoned taster, try innocent virginal white chocolate and Welsh honey from Arthog, ruthlessly coated in devilishly dark chocolate. The masked one! Without a doubt, Cathryn Cariad Chocolates are an imaginative selection box of mystery and fantasy. It can most certainly be romantic and erotic. It has historical roots and global appeal, but will only perform at its best when we understand the science fiction of it all.
Try a dark, dark salted caramel and wait for the full sensory experience, or a creamy milk truffle filled with blackberry brandy… go on. It would be criminal not to.
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
A 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.