Wonderful Wales – Part 2

19 Mar

Ceredigon, Gwynedd, Anglesey, Conwy, Denbighshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire

It is very strange to drive around the countryside and not see any cows!  You can tell which farms have either dairy cows or beef cattle because they are the ones that have these huge sheds.  (An average Welsh dairy farm has 115 cows) All cattle beasts have been kept inside!   I can see why, as when you drive past a paddock with horses the field is in a terrible state, churned up by their weight.  But it’s sad to see rows of cattle trapped indoors, their heads poked through the metal bars, noses down into the feeding troughs.  I have wondered if the some farmers have mown the pasture , and fed that to them as well as the dry feed, because all the paddocks have short grass or otherwise winter feed crops.  You see these piles of used, dirty straw laid out in the paddocks, obviously the remains of the floor coverings inside the sheds, waiting to be either burnt or plowed in come springtime.    And each farm has a substantial stack of hay!

Farms with cows have big sheds

This straw is very clean, most of the used straw is filthy! Would make excellent compost though.

Here in Wales the population of sheep is certainly greater than in England.  The majority of sheep are the long-tailed variety, with longer, shaggy wool as well.  There are fat-tailed sheep and rat tailed sheep!  When the wind picks up its amusing to see the fat tailed sheep tuck her tail right under her udder to keep her warm!  Sheep that have had their tails docked, still look different from those at home, as the tail is usually twice as long as what we are used to seeing.  The farmers  spray painted numbers on the ewe’s backs with the corresponding number on the lambs’ backs in vivid colours – it looked comical.

Rat-tailed sheep

Driving around, we often comment  on how many motorhome and caravans you see parked next to houses, waiting for the holiday season to begin!   We had assumed that people would drive these over to the Continent but now we’ve been touring around Wales we have seen so many camp sites!  The sites we go to are mostly exclusively for the Caravan Club members, but there are many, many other sites available.  And most of them have rows and rows of “permanent” holiday homes as well.  These are large caravans, the size of a small house, set up with decks and patios, all crammed together to get the maximum number into the Holiday Camp Site.  I think of Hi-De-Hi Campers when I see them!  The campsites are either beside a beach or next to a river, and in summer I’m sure they all would be full to the brim of English holiday makers.  It’s interesting to note that their beaches can either be shingle or sand beaches, sort of alternating up the same coast.

A "permanent" camp site. Along one short stretch of coast you may find three separate sites!

People had recommended to us that we must go through Snowdonia National Park, and we were thankful that we did. It is beautiful!   This is really quite a huge area in Welsh terms, covering over 2000sq km.  Mt Snowdon reaches up to 1085m and was covered in fresh snow while we were there.  In fact, we had all seasons in the one day, from hail and sleet, to freezing wind to beautiful sunshine!  Although a National Park, it has plenty of private farms included as well as natural deciduous forests, which I am reliably informed were Welsh Oak and Birch trees, and planted pine forests.  It must look

The National Flowers are everywhere as well

spectacular in Autumn.  The rivers were sparkling clean – the first we’ve seen since in the UK.  (Rivers usually are brown and dirty, even if it hasn’t been raining.)  Apparently, Snowdonia has the most rainfall in the UK, 176 inches per year.  The mountains provided beautiful scenery and near the top of the ranges we past many Slate Caverns.  Wales is famous for its slate, with every house and building having black or blue slate on the roof, but apparently it also comes in lots of other colours.  We drove past mountains of slate, the entire hillside looked like someone had poured big slabs of slate, tumbling down.  It was incredible to think that it was stable enough to have the road running right underneath or beside it.  Really fascinating!

Mountain made of solid rock!

A neat bronze Dragon with the Harlech Castle in the background

Everything is made from stone, houses and fences

The Welsh flag is flying everywhere

Not too steep for us though!

The ruins of 13th century Harlech Castle was fascinating

We

stopped for the night at a campsite in the  beautiful small town of Betws-Y-Coed.  It was an upmarket version of Ohakune, with ski shops, many pubs and eating outfits, and lots of B&B accommodation.  As an aside – they don’t have motels in the UK!  Anyway, while at the campsite, doing the dishes in the shared

This is a small slate hill.

facility, we got talking to lovely, old English chap about weather, life in general, NZ, etc, etc.  Next morning, he knocked on our door and invited us over

to his caravan for

Snowdonia National Park

a coffee.  This was the first time we have actually had that, so we were thrilled.  Roger and Rita were very interested in us and happy to answer all our questions about

Zipping past slate mountains means it's difficult to photograph them!

England and Wales.  They were delighted to hear of our adventures in the UK and like so many others we’ve spoken to, think we are so brave and wise to come while we are fit and healthy.  And I always tell them that it is thanks to Dennis’ forethought and patience with me that we are here at all!   They personally have three caravans, there are just the two of them, but they choose the most suitable one for each trip!  Since his marriage to Rita 10 years ago he doesn’t go fishing anymore.  She is not a vegetarian but doesn’t like to think that Roger might kill a fish!  Anyway, he used come to Betws-Y-Coed for the trout and salmon fishing in the beautiful clean river, running right next door to the camp, it’s famous for it apparently.  Before casting your line though, you first need to obtain a daily, weekly or seasonal license from the Hotel, not the government, the Hotel.  The daily charge for such a permit  costs anglers 70 pounds – that’s $NZ140!

Beautiful clear stream beside Betws-Y-Coed

Dry slate fences, this one has mortar between the vertical slabs, but many don't

Can't you imagine a glacier craving out this valley?

We carried on with our journey up to the Isle of Anglesey.  This area was noticeable for the general feeling of being economically depressed.  It was mostly farmland, with small sad-looking villages here and there.  There is one motorway quality road that leads directly to the Ferry Terminal in Holyhead, other than that all the other roads are just narrow country lanes.  Holyhead is on another island, called Holy Island and it is from here that the fast and slow ferries travel to and from Ireland, with 2 million passengers each year.     We walked along the 4 km breakwater, built in the 1800’s, out to the lighthouse.  I hadn’t realised quite how far it was and it was well and truly dark once we got out there.  There were fisherman here and there all the way out.  Rio Tinto Group’s Anglesey Aluminium has a huge factory here as well.  In the harbour there is another  large jetty that receives ships from Jamaica and Australia, and their cargoes of bauxite and aluminium ores are transported on a conveyor belt that runs underneath the town to the plant.  It’s much the same as in Bluff where Rio Tinto gets a great subsidy on the electricity they use.  Here that power is generated at the Wylma Nuclear Power Station on the northern side of the Anglesey Island.  When we drove past that, there was a sign inviting us to their Visitor Centre.  This was one of Dennis’  Must Do Things  so we took the opportunity to do just that!  Before 9/11 they allowed sight-seeing tours right inside the power station but now we were confined to the Visitor Centre.  We met a very enthusiastic English lady who was our personal guide through the multi media centre, explaining the process, history and future of the site.  This is their final year of power production as the Magnox system they use is due to be decommissioned.  There are nine other nuclear power sites owned by this company in the British Isles.  It will take 10 years to decommission the plant and then the site will be left for 100 years before finally being completely dismantled.  The adjoining land has been sold to another company for the construction of a new Nuclear Power Station.  It was very interesting and well worth the stop.  

From Bangor Pier looking towards the Isle of Anglesey

Is this for real?


Wylma Nuclear Power Station

Holyhead Mountain Hut Group - dry stone foundations of 50 buildings, believed to be an iron age farming community from 500BC

On the way to the site there are quite a collection of large wind turbines.  To date, although we have seen wind turbines farms in the sea around England, we have only noticed the larger turbines, either singly or in groups of no more than five, on English soil.  We asked our guide at the Power Plant about this and she told us her story.  She and her husband had savings held in a Building Society but with the economic downturn and the worry over the stability of Building Societies in general, they withdrew their 23,000 pounds and bought a 9m tall wind turbine that generates 6kw.  They live in a rural setting so had no trouble with their neighbours’ over consents and things.  The arrangement with the Government is that they sell all the power produced to the National Grid.  After deducting their own costs of electricity (from the National Grid) they have made a profit in the last quarter of 1000pounds!  The previous national  Government had introduced a scheme to encourage everyone to install solar panels on their houses and farm buildings, etc and once again sell the power to the National Grid!  You see panels all over the place, I’ve even seen large Council buildings with the northern, oops sorry the southern face completely covered in solar panels.  It makes you wonder why NZ doesn’t  offer a similar scheme?  It just makes sense!  Anyway, the scheme has been so successful  and the returns to the consumer are so good that this Tory Government is now trying to peg back the profits made by the owners but it is causing no end of trouble, with hearings in the High Court ruling in favour of the people rather than the Government in recent days!

The government pays the owner 24p per kilowatt for the next 25 years!

There is a huge presence of RAF on Holy Island, it coincides with the fact of a Nuclear Power Station sited nearby, we were told.  We watched jets flying very low over the countryside and rescue helicopters practising sea drills in the harbour.  Wills and Kate live here as Prince William is a member of the Search and Research Squad, being a helicopter pilot.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see them as Wills was on duty in the Falkland Islands quite near Argentina!

RAF Rescue Helicopter

The breakwater on the left (we walked this) and the conveyor belt jetty on the right in Holyhead

We found an old copper mine up Mynydds Parys Mountain.  In 1768 they discovered copper ore just beneath the surface and a huge open-pit operation began.  Much later they realised they found remnants of previous mining from the Bronze Age, 4000 years earlier!  Although there is low quality ore left at the site, they have left things as they are in the meantime, waiting for the day when prices dictate it would be economic to begin mining again.  The colours in the rocks were beautiful even on a dull day. 

Open pit copper mine

The old wharf which used to be so busy when the copper was mined. Obviously low tide!

We crossed over to the Welsh mainland again and carried on up the coast to the seaside resort of Llandudno.  The foreshore was wall to wall hotels but behind that street and the shopping centre the rest of this place was pretty depressed!  I can imagine that it would be alive with tourists during the summer months.

So how do you pronounce this?

I can't get over the tidal range around here!

The pier at Llandudno, wind farm out in the Irish Sea. Just out of shot was an oil rig as well

Every one was a hotel, went on for miles

The following day we were due at our next house sit in Lichfield, so drove back into England and decided to stay the night by the side of the road in Shrewsbury.  Coming up to a random intersection we were stopped by the police and turned back.  There were four cops at that intersection, turning all away.  When Dennis asked one what the problem was it turned out the traffic lights were out and so they closed down the intersection completely!  Streams of traffic from the four roads were driving around in seemingly circles trying to find another way of getting to their destination!  It was extraordinary, why didn’t one just do points duty?

We were thrilled with our tour of Wales, thoroughly enjoyed the scenery and quite surprised at how different it was from where we have been in England.

This English house was entirely covered in a creeper, only one chimney was free of it. It will be amazing in summer!

Shrewsbury - we're back to the old red brick houses in England

2 Responses to “Wonderful Wales – Part 2”

  1. Chris and Richard March 20, 2012 at 11:56 pm #

    Hi guys, feel like we have been on your tour of Wales, interesting reading. Just a little thing Janette, I think the solar panels would be on the Southern side of the houses not the Northern as you mentioned. That is what comes from living with Rc all these years of where is the sun. !!!
    Lots of love
    Chris and Richard

    • dennisandjanettegowalkabout March 21, 2012 at 10:50 am #

      You are so right, Chris! I shall change it to the southern side of the roof – what a nitwit, forgetting I’m in the Northern Hemisphere!

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