Sunday, 13 October 2019

The Cowshed, Day 7 and home.

Saturday was our final day and, after a quick breakfast, everyone busied about packing.  Eventually were were ready to leave, the only remaining, but hugely important task being the ritual team photograph.  The last time we took this two years ago there were 21 of us, but today just we six wrinklies: the NOGS, BOGS and GOGS (Newport Old Gits, Blackpool.....).  Sadly it was time for us all to go our separate ways until we meet up next.  As usual, though, we GOGS found it impossible to drag ourselves away and headed back to Barmouth and The Panorama Walk.  The weather was encouragingly bright and we hoped, successfully, for better conditions for drawing and photography.  Following this it was time for tea and stickies for lunch so we stopped off in Dolgellau before beginning the journey proper.  This went well and we arrived home in time for a curry, pint and 'Strictly'.  
Yet again an excellent holiday with wonderful friends.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

The Cowshed, Day 6

Sadly another wet day today.  Being aware of this prospect a few days ago we had booked lunch for 2.30 at the George III at Penmaenpool and so were happy to settle to a lazy morning in.  Time sped by and the weather brightened so it didn't seem long before it was time to leave for the pub.  When we arrived the estuary was full and flowing rapidly out to sea, even carrying branches and whole tree trunks with it.  I mistakenly suggested that the ebb tide was flowing quickly, but it was actually on the flood, with high tide not being until 8.00 pm.  Flood waters from the hills were obviously holding back the tide.  
Lunch was excellent and we headed 'home' for some postprandial exercise.  Helen and John opted to cycle to Tywyn, while the rest of us went for a walk along the beach from the mouth of the Dysynni estuary.  Again the river was flowing quickly out to sea and holding the rapidly flooding tide back; Broadwater the lagoon on the salt marsh inland of the railway bridge was flooded. The geography of the beach here has altered over the previous two years with more sand and fewer boulders.  The boulder clay cliffs backing the beach are eroding quickly and further along, the cliff-top path has gone completely, leaving the railway line seemingly dangerously exposed.  I wonder how long the rail company are going to maintain it and save it from the sea; there are other potential weak spots along the route especially nearer to Fairbourne.  Founded as a seaside resort by Arthur McDougall (of flour making fame), Fairbourne is an area listed by Gwynedd council for managed retreat due to rising sea levels.  
I was pleased to spot three red breasted mergansers, perhaps the same three that were on the river by the railway bridge earlier in the week, along with oystercatchers, ringed plovers, curlew, cormorants and a mixed gathering of gulls.

Friday, 11 October 2019

The Cowshed Day 5

We awoke to a wet morning and a poor weather forecast.  As the prospect was more optimistic later in the day we had a relaxed morning together before setting out for our various destinations. Heather and I had two objectives: photography and drawing at the Cregennen Lakes below Cadair Idris and then going on to explore the Panorama Walk high above Barmouth,  again for drawing and photography.  Making the sharp turn that doubles back on itself from the main road at Arthog I had forgotten how steep this road was.  It wound steeply up through beautiful woods and waterfalls with more than one vertiginous hairpin bend.  Silently praying that we wouldn't meet anyone coming the other way we eventually crested the final rise to the lakes to find Helen and John already in the car park; they too had found the ascent hair raising.  The lakes are set in spectacular mountain scenery with expansive views down to the Mawddach Estuary on one side and up to the precipitous slopes of Cadair on the other.  That is, of course,   in good weather.  Today the cloud was down and sheets of rain drifted across the valley.  Helen and John opted to walk around the Lakes  but we only stopped long enough for a quick sketch and a few photos.   This was the second time I had driven up here for photography and it remains a work in progress. 
Continuing, we followed the mountain road to Dolgellau and the main road round the estuary to Barmouth where it took a couple of attempts to find the road up to the Panorama Walk, yet another steep ascent.  Once at the car park we found a fleet of outdoor activity minibuses, their occupants, fortunately,  heading further up the hill for climbing or abseiling.  Our path took us in the opposite direction through oak and birch woodland up to the viewing point with fine views up the estuary towards Dolgellau and down to Fairbourne and the railway viaduct.  Unfortunately the weather was no better and now with 50mph winds making it difficult to stand.  Another work in progress,  but we may return on Saturday if the weather behaves.  
The journey home gave the opportunity to drive across the delightful wooden toll bridge at Penmaenpool; a wet but enjoyable day and a delicious dinner with good friends in prospect.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

The Cowshed Day 4

Although catching a train today, the 11.15 still allowed for a relaxed start.  Well in time, we waited on the platform on a brisk, bright and breezy morning for the north bound train to Criccieth.  All of the route was familiar but you always get a different perspective from the train.  We have all been enjoying these train journeys this week, not only for the views but also for the very friendly and helpful guards; very much a case of letting the train take the strain.  Our route initially hugged the cliff top and as the sea had eroded the cliff top path here, thwarting our walk the day before, it made me wonder for how much longer the railway is safe.  We soon arrived at Fairbourne and the spectacular crossing of the Mawddach estuary to Barmouth.  Harlech with its imposing castle perched high above came next and then Porthmaddog with connections to the Blaenneau Ffestiniog railway and the Welsh Highland Railway north to Caernarfon.  Before long we were alighting in Criccieth with another castle built on a promontory high above the sea.  The castles reawakened memories of Beth's birthday castle treats when we spent our summers at Tuddweiliog. Having arrived, we were all ready for lunch and quickly found an excellent cafe on the main street; the bacon and lentil soup and custard tart were to die for.  After lunch we wandered round to have a look at the castle and then down to the small west beach and enjoyed a spot of beachcombing in the warm sun.  We had hoped to be able to walk around the headland to the east beach but the tide wouldn't allow it.  Instead an icecream called, after which Linda and Heather decided to hit Criccieth's fleshpots while Steve and I went for a walk along the east beach.  On both I enjoyed some close-up detail photography of groynes, rocks and seaweed and there was some pleasing contra-jour lighting for photographing the castle.  Once we had met up again there was nice time for a cup of tea before catching the train home.  The setting sun rewarded us with some dramatic views and we arrived home nicely in time for an evening meal courtesy of Helen.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

The Cowshed Day 3

Our day started early today with a swim before breakfast.  Fancying a walk, after breakfast, we set off across the fields intending to walk along the beach to the estuary.  Annoyingly the cliff path has been eroded by the sea so much that the path has been closed.  It makes one wonder how long the railway is going to last.  A second local walk also thwarted we launched off in the car with Helen and John to look for a cafe for lunch in Fairbourne. Again thwarted, we continued to the George III pub at Penmaenpool where we were successful on the lunch front.  The views of the estuary and old wooden toll bridge from here are excellent.  Returning to Fairbourne we enjoyed an excellent walk along the sea wall and the inland bank currently protecting the village from flooding to the station at Morfa Mawddach.  Fairbourne is very vulnerable to tidal inundation and a decision has been made to eventually abandon it to the sea as sea levels rise, a warning to all low lying coastal areas.  Our now continued over the spectacular railway viaduct over the Mawddach Estuary to Barmouth.  The views to Cadair Idris were wonderful.  We arrived at Barmouth station just in time to catch the train back to Fairbourne.  An excellent day after an unpromising start.