Friday, March 15, 2013

Taking the bucket to the extremes

Today, March 13th, was a day to go to the extremities of Wales – almost.

At the extreme north-west end of Wales is a large (20 x 20 miles) island called Ynys Mon, which to the non-Welsh speakers is known as the Isle of Anglesey. It was to that part of the country that I went on today’s leg of this bucket-list trip. Anglesey is separated from the mainland by the Menai Straights and may be crossed by on of two bridges.

We entered Anglesey from the Britannia Bridge which dumped us immediately into the one place that most people have heard of, but few can pronounce. To save many key-strokes, I’ll let you see for yourselves: 

The locals call it LlanfairPG. That is the railway station sign that I cleverly (after 5 failed attempts) managed to ‘capture in my rear-view mirror’ so to speak.

The main feature of today’s trip was subject me to a 3-mile round-trip trek through woods, across dunes, sandy and rocky beaches and cliffs to the extremity of a bipolar piece of land known as Ynys Llanddwyn. It is peninsular at low tide and an island at high tide. There was a $4 (but in GB money) fee to pass through the barrier to the promontory. Today, we were allowed free passage because the facility’s car park is undergoing upgrade and expansion; also, the ‘usual’ access to the beach is blocked off during construction of new boardwalks – a la South Carolina style. So, we had to walk several hundred yards though the pine forest that sits atop grassy sand dunes before emerging on to the beach.

After tumbling down the face of the 15-feet high dunes and on to the beach, to the left is a view of Snowdon – a slight dusting of snow at its upper reaches. Straight ahead, is the Lleyn Peninsula – that long ‘arm’ of land that on a map of Wales looks like . . .  well, an arm, pointing accusingly at Ireland – for having beaten us in the opening match of this years 6-nations Rugby Tournament.  

To the right, several hundred yards head of us was a shrieking sound, coming from flock of brightly colored critters clambering on to a large outcrop of ancient volcanic pillow lava. As we drew nearer, I could see that these were no ordinary animals – no, they were schoolchildren on a geology field trip – a veritable ‘Flock on a rock’, if you will.

Although having followed my host’s suggestion (which he withdrew too late, though I was going to do so without his suggestion) I snapped a photo of what I thought was a cute picture. Lo and behold, my action unfurled the National Paranoia that produces shaking heads and palm-forward hands. It seems that a camera pointed in the direction of a child, much less a whole twittering flock-on-a-rock of them, causes people in the UK to wince as they envisage a pedophile behind every lens. Soon, the photos being taken by chaperones will likely appear in the local newspaper anyway, undoing the protection they so valued. Go figure! 

I had hoped one the chaperoning teachers had announced to the kids, ‘These rocks are 600 million years old’ (which they are), so that I could have burst into song with ‘Happy Birthday . . . ‘

Onwards past that outcrop, there were many more outcrops of those pillow lavas and soon I was standing at the part of Ynys Llanddwyn which alternates every 12 hours and 25 minutes between dry land and a shallow watery rockery. Fortunately, the tide was receding so we were able to move on toward the extremity of the promontory. There, near the lighthouse that featured in the Demi Moore–produced film, ‘Half Light’, are the remnants of an Abbey.  The lighthouse seen here however is a newer one – go watch the movie to see the old one!

It had been an invigorating walk to the headland - one that had numerous trails to follow through the grass and shrub coated rocks. There were a dozen or so other people walking along the paths - several taking advantage of the opportunity to thumb their noses at the nation’s lease-laws as they allowed their mutts to run loose. Since beginning this trip to the UK, I think I have seen 10 unrestrained dogs for every one that is leashed.

As the dreariness and clouds began to lift, snow-capped Snowdon (Wales’ highest peak, at 3,600 feet or so) became more visible in the distance.

A nice view was had of the various small inlets and coves on the promontory, but now it was time to trudge back to the car. We were careful to avoid the crocodile that lay basking in the afternoon sun at the edge of the sand dunes. I wondered, hopeful, if it had eaten any of those dogs! 

We then returned to the mainland; this time across the other bridge to Ynys Mon, the Isle Anglesey - world’s first (Thank you Mr. Telford) suspension bridge, the Menai Bridge

To be continued . . .  

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