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Friday, 31 May 2019

A walk on the wild side

Wales: I had promised myself a day exploring the opposite side of the estuary from our holiday flat. It's somewhat wilder and less developed, although there's a small village, Gwbert, with a hotel that sits atop the cliffs, offering fine views (and a decent cup of coffee!) The Wales Coast Path continues along here, though a farm park visitor attraction means the most interesting bit, overlooking Cardigan Island, is not accessible to walkers. The coastline is craggy, with numerous little beaches and caves. There were lots of wildflowers everywhere we went. The field walls are often covered in earth and flowers, like walls in Ireland. On this stretch, it was the sea pinks that caught my attention.

From the highest point, there are fine views back up the Teifi estuary to St Dogmael's and Cardigan. 

(Tomorrow my blog returns to Saltaire for a few days, to celebrate the recent Saltaire Arts Trail. I'll carry on with my holiday journal again after that.)

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Down on the beach

Wales:  I normally live so far from the coast that it is a real treat to be down by the sea, breathing the fresh, salty air and feeling the sand beneath my feet. Poppit Sands is a lovely mix of dunes, rocks, rock pools, clean sand and a gently shelving shoreline. Something for everyone.

The birds are dunlin.

I cannot claim ownership of the sandcastle but it was impressive, like the real castles for which Wales is justly famous. I particularly liked the crenellations along the walls.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Beach bums

Wales: Although it was a bit chilly down at Poppit Sands, there were lots of people - adults and children - taking a lesson in surfing. Their boards made a colourful sight. I guess it's the equivalent of kids' football training on Sundays mornings back home. Here, the mums and dads have to freeze on the beach rather than on the touchline!

Sunday is apparently the day for the volunteer RNLI lifeboat crew to practise too. There are two craft kept in Poppit Sands lifeboat station, inflatables capable of manoeuvering in shallow water and close to shore. The D-class boat in my photo was apparently called out the day after we left Wales, to a fishing boat that lost its steering capacity perilously close to the rocks off Cardigan Island. Two fishermen were rescued. (See HERE)

The crew gave me a cheery smile as they sped back to base after their practice, though I couldn't run backwards fast enough to get the whole boat and Landrover in shot!

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

To the beach

Wales: Blue sky and sunshine... must be time for a walk to the beach.  We followed the Wales Coast Path along the side of the Teifi estuary. It's a very pleasant walk with lovely views down over the water. Where the river meets the sea there is a small headland and a bit of a harbour area, with lots of boats. Of course, it looks very different depending on whether the tide is in or out. At low tide, there are numerous small channels and sandbanks. The estuary is now very shallow so boats need to take a lot of care navigating upstream, even when the tide is high.

There's plenty of wildlife to see on the way. These were shelduck, dabbling around in the mud.

Eventually you clear the river mouth and arrive at the beach, Poppit Sands. It's a lovely long crescent of sand, backed by dunes, with a few rocks at one end that provide plenty of interest for rock-pool foraging. It's truly lovely. 

Monday, 27 May 2019

St Dogmael's (Llanduddoch)

Wales:  Our holiday flat was at the northern end of the sizeable and sprawling village of St Dogmael's (Llanduddoch in Welsh). The village is a mixed development, with old cottages, Victorian terraces (built when the area was a thriving shipbuilding centre) and some newer houses spreading up the hillside. Many of the older houses are brightly painted, and some are built in a local style, where slate bands run through the stonework, as in the house on the right edge, above.  

The oldest part of the village is centred on the ruined abbey, built in 1115 for an abbott and twelve monks of the Order of Tiron, which began in France. St Dogmael, after whom the village is named, was a 6th century Welsh saint; his statue stands near the abbey.  

You don't need me to tell you that, like all our abbeys, it was dissolved in 1536 on the orders of Henry VIII. The land and buildings were leased to a John Bradshaw, who plundered much of the stone to build a mansion. The ruins that remain have a certain charm and provide a tranquil little oasis in the centre of the village.

Further out to the north is another interesting building, now in private ownership. It's called Albro Castle and was, from 1840 to 1935, the workhouse for the area, taking in the destitute. You can see the different wings and yards, where men and women, children and the infirm were separated. (See HERE) In 1944 it was, briefly, a billet for American soldiers prior to the Normandy invasion, also an old people's home and is now being converted by its owners into holiday accommodation. (See HERE)

Sunday, 26 May 2019

The Teifi estuary

 Wales: Our holiday flat was situated in the village of St. Dogmael's, just outside Cardigan on the west Wales coast. It overlooks the Teifi estuary (pronounced something like Taffy or Tavi). I've been there before, a couple of times, and it never ceases to delight. (My long time readers will no doubt remember my other visits.)                                                                                       
The flat has a small sunroom at the front overlooking the river. We often sat just watching the tides, the birds, the boats, the people and cars passing on the road to the beach. It's an ever-changing scene and always very beautiful.                         

Just across the road is the marker stone for the start (or end) of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, a long-distance trail and part of the Wales Coast Path. We saw several people taking photos as they began or ended the walk, notably a group of young women with huge backpacks, just setting off in high spirits.                                                           
There's also a wooden statue of a mermaid, commemorating a local legend about a fishermen who captured a mermaid. Read about that HERE.

It's all so peaceful now but, in the 18th and 19th centuries, nearby Cardigan was the largest port in South Wales and St Dogmael's was an important shipbuilding centre. The tidal estuary would have been deeper and much busier and noisier than it is now.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

The joy of holidays

I've recently returned from a holiday in Wales with a couple of good friends. We had - amazingly - much better weather than it had been at home, with only one day of heavy rain plus another sharp shower when we happened, fortuitously, to be in a café. Mind you, we spent a fair bit of time in cafés, coffee and cake being, in our view, a major component of a good holiday!

The photo above is from one of the stops we made on our outward journey. It's a lovely area near Aberystwyth, known as Bwlch Nant yr Arian, where there are walks and mountain biking trails. The brilliant sunshine made the lake and mountain scenery look spectacular, though it was actually extremely cold. We stretched our legs with a walk around the lake, enjoying the signs of spring in the young bilberries and bright foliage.    

Friday, 24 May 2019

Wonderful wisteria

I spotted this gorgeous wisteria in bloom, tumbling over a wall in Saltaire. It's a pity the blooms only last for such a short time, as they are rather wonderful.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Filming 'The English Game'

Filming of 'The English Game' was taking place in the open air in the centre of Saltaire on Monday. The cafés and shops at the intersection of Victoria Road and Caroline Street have been pushed back into the 1800s, the tarmac covered with gravel and scores of film makers and actors drafted in. The transformation is really quite impressive.

I've seen a lengthy cast list (here) but to be honest I wouldn't recognise most of those listed. I think the majority of the people in my photos are extras. This lady below appeared to be one of the more significant players but I can't place her.

There is an awful lot of hanging around...

and finishing touches to the costumes and props

but when they shout 'Action!' it's really quite exciting.  I have managed to identify one of the directors, Tim Fywell, seen below in the jeans, navy hoodie and headphones as they were filming a take.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

The English Game

With being on holiday, I was a bit slow to realise that they are filming in Saltaire again. I must have missed some of the action - although I've found they tend to keep bystanders well out of the way, so it is often difficult to see anything much anyway. There are various props scattered around (with lots of security guards), and some of the shops on Victoria Road are having new frontages added to cover up the more contemporary signs and artefacts. They clearly have not yet finished, as they were actively filming upstairs in a house on Albert Terrace; the huge reflective screen was directing more light into the windows. A week or two ago, they had closed Titus Street and were filming in a house there. It always amazes me, though, the lengths they go to to create these sets, often just for a few minutes exposure in the film. 

I gather it is a new drama for Netflix, called 'The English Game', written by Julian Fellowes (who wrote much of the Downton Abbey series). It tells the story of the creation of the English football league in the late 1800s, examining how the game crossed the divisions of class and fired people's imaginations. (Sounds a bit boring to me!!) 

It makes me glad that I don't live in the centre of the village; it must get a tad annoying when you can't park your car and can't access your house very easily. It happens really quite frequently these days. I'm sure the film companies pay handsomely to use the village as a set and backdrop, but I don't know who gets the money! I'm pretty sure Saltaire doesn't ever see much of it - the Council must pocket some of it but they don't seem to plough it back to the village, they've just closed the public toilets and information centre instead.