The Dingle/Nant Y Pandy, Llangefni

I’m posting this one tonight before it (hopefully) cools down. Last Thursday we visited the Dingle (properly Nant Y Pandy in Welsh) which is a nature reserve close to Llangefni on Anglesey.

Although near the coast – we didn’t reach the temperatures experienced in the midlands and south east – it was very hot and reached 27 degrees.

The Dingle is a favourite spot of presenter and wildlife expert Iolo Williams. I’m delighted to say we saw two red squirrels here in the first 10 minutes. There are hundreds of reds on Anglesey and they’ve spread to the mainland (I imagine them sneaking into coaches and campervans to cross the Menai Straits). I’d love to see them again in Staffordshire soon. As the Dingle reserve features the river Cefni and pools and an old mill race, as well as disused rail line, it’s brimming with wildlife.

We’d spent lots of time on the beach, but with so much tree cover and the Cefni running by it was blissful in the Dingle. It may seem obvious but we simply must plant more trees and on a huge scale. Anyway these are the pics. Sadly the squirrels wouldn’t pose.

St Cyngar’s Church
Boardwalks
Cool by the Cefni
Disused rail
Bridge
Rail over river
Yes we made a wish
Cool water
End of the line

The Dingle is popular with locals but definitely worth a visit for those holidaying here. What a beautiful place.

Four Mile Bridge (Pontrhydybont)

We’ve just returned from a week’s break on Anglesey, or to be specific Holy Island, which is the smaller island off Anglesey from where ferries depart for Dublin. We spent time at Four Mile Bridge, which really goes by the name of Pontrhydybont. This translates slightly confusingly as bridge-ford-bridge. It’s just off the A5, the road built by the Romans which runs from London all the way to Holyhead. Even in the age of motorways it’s still an important and busy route. It begins in Marble Arch which is why at the quayside in Holyhead there is a smaller version of the arch to signify the end.

Looking south-east from the bridge towards Snowdonia

It’s called Four Mile Bridge as it’s approximately four miles from Holyhead on the old stagecoach route. Before the Stanley Embankment was built by Thomas Telford and opened in 1823 this is the route travellers to Ireland would’ve taken. For centuries this short crossing was the route between the islands. Jonathan Swift – author of Gulliver’s Travels – would’ve travelled this way, but delays to sailings meant he wasn’t always happy. Read more here.

Tide waters gush through the bridge

There is a small gap in the bridge, otherwise the structure is solid, so it causes tide water to rush through. Perhaps this is why this area of inland sea is favoured by kayakers and paddleboarders. There is saltmarsh and low-lying gravelly land, fringed with tussocks of grass and gorse. It’s popular with ornithologists. Holyhead Mountain can be seen in the distance to the left and the chimney of the former Anglesey Aluminium site. This piece captures a short walk around this bit of coast.

Joe searching the saltmarshes

Beneath, as we crossed the duckboards we saw someone had marked out a path along the shore in pebbles. It’s a strange hinterland where the mud is thick and oozes but the sea so shallow it is almost a blanket.

Who marked this path?

The hot weather caused the mud to crack like scales.

Saltmarsh

Below is a view of the liminal land looking towards the A5 embankment. It’s hard to see where land and shore and sea begin. The house on the left is in a beautiful spot albeit just yards from the busy A5/A55 and Euston-Holyhead railway line.

Saltmarsh looking towards the A5

I’m glad to say there was not much litter, but craft had been abandoned to the sucking mud and rusting anchors.

Abandoned boats

This is the view towards Trearddur Bay, where Holy Island is thinnest. Indeed, in high tides the island can be cut in half here when the waters of the inland sea rise to meet the Irish Sea.

Marshland

We made our way through a small wood and along the path. In the distance a lone swimmer, picked out against the shimmering waters, did backstroke. We followed a service road by the A55 and passed some magnificent properties. It was a genuine and pleasant surprise to emerge through a gate to be beside Fron Haul, Welsh for Slope or Breast (of a hill) in the Sun. In the 1970s, before I was born my great grandmother lived here. My great grandfather, a railwayman called William Hillier, worked on the London North Western (LNWR) Railway and is buried nearby at Llanfair-yn-Neubwll.

Fron Haul

It’s a short walk along the Valley (Y Fali) Road back to Four Mile Bridge.

Holy Island shore at Four Mile Bridge
Sunset over Holyhead Mountain
Moon over the water
The village
Tide water at sunset

Below is the bungalow where we stayed. Almost everything – beach, cafes, pubs, chippy, hotel and walks – were walkable. A lot of people visit Anglesey for the beaches but a walk in the interior of the island, or even the quieter inland sea is a wonderful experience. We saw swifts, egrets, heron, mullet, dogfish and quite a few Hawk jets from RAF Valley. I’ll write further on other parts of the island including Amlwch, Llangefni and Beaumaris soon.

The garden

Brum is Buzzing – (at the boxing)

I’m a big boxing fan (wasn’t much use as a fighter myself but it sure makes you appreciate others’ talent and courage) so when the Commonwealth Games tickets opened for sale over a year ago I applied. The standard of boxing at the Commonwealth Games is excellent and as they were coming to Birmingham I had to be there.

I went on Thursday with my two boys and had a fantastic time. We paid around £55 for two adults and a child and saw four hours of competitive action. Our train tickets in the West Midlands area were also included. The quality of the bouts was excellent with all keenly contested. World lightweight champ Josh Taylor (from Edinburgh) came along to show his support. There were some impressive performances from England heavy Lewis Williams and Welsh welter Ioan Croft among others. The atmosphere was terrific and there has been a real buzz in Brum. For readers outside of the UK Birmingham is the UK’s second city with a population of just over a million and it’s often called Brum.

Bully

Birmingham is often talked down and many who criticise haven’t even visited or certainly not bothered to explore. Brummies are often friendly and down to earth and perhaps it’s that relaxed attitude that means they can miss out when it comes to profile and attention. Birmingham is often the bridesmaid. But this time it’s landed the Games and surprised people. It’s a fascinating multicultural city and I’m delighted to see it enjoying a rare moment in the limelight.

Should I stay or…..

You may have seen the opening ceremony and the amazing symbolic bull. Incredibly there were no plans for the bull after the Games but campaigns are underway to seize on the momentum and secure the bull’s future. Birmingham has been so busy and it was a pleasure to attend these Games. The volunteers worked so hard as ambassadors for the city. So a big thank you to everyone involved and I hope, as a Midlander, Brum builds on this…..

Lewis Williams in action
Entering the house of pain
More action
Josh Taylor at ringside

Ancient timbers – exploring Shrewsbury

We begin our wander around Shrewsbury at Abbey Foregate. It’s easy to park and access from the ring road and a great walk across English Bridge over the River Severn. Shrewsbury is the county town of Shropshire and it’s had quite a few battles and skirmishes being the border county and so close to Wales. The town has a population of around 70,000, so it’s not large and has retained many of its historic buildings and charm. In fact, it has an incredible 660 listed buildings. Shrewsbury has an English and Welsh bridge over the Severn, as the town is built in a loop of the river which rises in the Welsh mountains.

Beginning by Abbey Foregate
English Bridge

This plaque sits on the English Bridge. Following a dry spell the Severn is fairly low but the photo below shows how fast the waters can rise.

Measuring the flood waters

Just across the Severn we begin to climb Wyle Cop towards the town centre. Shrewsbury retains wonderful medieval place names – Dog Pole, Fish Street and Mardol among others. The image below is taken at Tanners wine merchants. This is a locked room. You need a key to reach £600 bottles of red.

Tanners wine merchants
Henry Tudor

A little way up Wyle Cop is this house where the plaque informs us Henry Tudor – soon to be Henry VII – slept on his way to fight Richard III at Bosworth Field. We also visited Shrewsbury Museum which is excellent and well worth a look. A post elsewhere on this blog details the recent Ladybird exhibition. There is currently a display of art by Damien Hirst, Banksy, Tracy Emin and others. The museum has a section on local history which detailed why the town has retained so many of its buildings. Shrewsbury boomed with flax mills and of course agriculture, but was late to the railway boom and its industrial bubble burst quickly. So, many of the wonderful Tudor buildings were not lost by redevelopment as in other English towns.

Fish Street

This is the view along Fish Street towards St Julian’s. The house on the right of the pic is available for rental/stays and was preached in by the founder of Methodism, John Wesley in 1761.

B&B with a bit of Methodism

Fish St is a peaceful cut-through with two churches – St Julian’s and St Alkmund’s – and plenty of pubs, including the Three Fishes nearby.

Three Fishes
Fish Street door

That’s a proper door, for a fist in chainmail to rap on a winter’s night. Below, the Old Market Hall is a wonderful structure in The Square. There is a statue of Clive of India and the museum close by. We stopped at The Loft in Market Street for coffee and fantastic flapjack and chocolate sponge.

Old Market Hall
Clive
Redcoat ragdolls

We liked these recoat ragdolls in the museum. Shropshire is rightly proud of General Rowland Hill who served with distinction in the Peninsular War and under Wellington’s command at Waterloo.

Wimpy

Just off Mardol, near the town centre, Shrewsbury boasts another piece of serious heritage – a Wimpy. Yes, later on, we stopped for great cheeseburgers.

Beasts

This carved beast was found on a shopfront in Mardol (leading down to Welsh bridge). A little further on is the King’s Head. It’s an incredible thought to sup beer in a pub built in 1404 and wonder at how many problems have been shared and moans voiced about Shrewsbury Town results or supplies of arrows or fish.

King’s Head
Looking from the footbridge

There are great river views from the English and Welsh bridges and also the footbridge built in the late 1970s which crosses the river from the town to the Severn Theatre.

Welsh Bridge from the pedestrian footbridge
High Street

Shrewsbury is well worth staying for a few days and exploring, as is the rest of Shropshire, particularly Hawkstone Park and also the hills in the south of the county. But, even a few hours – we managed five – are rewarding.

Bracken in Brocton

We walked up the disused railway line to Brocton. It’s a steep cutting (pic below) and it was wonderful to shelter beneath a towering canopy of oak and silver birch.

We sheltered from rain – a delight after the recent heatwave – and enjoyed the odd drip that picked its way between the leaves to find neck or cheek.

Cutting

The photo flattens it out. It’s really much steeper. The Chase was lush and green, the bracken like emerald with a glassy raindrop on each leaf or frond.

Path to Brocton

In three miles we only met two walkers and a labrador and two horse riders.