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Thursday, 2 July 2015

Tales from the Trek #2

I joined Bob today on his 22nd day walking on the Trident Trek around the Welsh Coast.  The train dropped me off at Barmouth where today's leg started.  I soon met Bob and we got started on the first section - a pilgrimage to the National Trust's first property, Dinas Oleu.
Ready to trek.  Me and Bob ready to start.  NT support vehicle to take Bob's tent to tonight'scampsite.
We soon got to Dinas Oleu, and met Vicky and Simon, a young couple who were on the last day of their holiday.  The were very interested in the Trek and took a photo of us at the NT commemorative plaque.
The plaque recording the founding of the NT at its first property, Dinas Oleu, the Fortress of Light
Simon and Vicky - Supporting the Trident Trek

The path then took us over the Mawddach on the famous railway bridge.  We then passed Fairbourne and started the stiff climb up to the Blue Lake quarry.  On the way we met a group of volunteer walk leaders from South Staffordshire Walking for Health.  They'd come on the train for the day to check  out the route of a walk their were planning.
South Staffs Bilbrook Walking for Health volunteers
The Trident makes a great toasting fork..
Lunch
The path took us to the ancient road that leads from Llynnau Cregennan (NT), passing a number of Bronze Age standing stones on it's lonely course over the mountain.  It was a strange feeling to think that people have been walking along this trackway for at least 3 or 4 thousand years.
One of the standing stones along the lonely route over the mountain. (John Pritchard)
On our way down to Llwyngwril, we met locals Carol and Josie, out for an afternoon stroll.  They looked a bit surprised when they saw us, then admitted that one had just said to the other "you'd be lucky if you see two people walking this way in a day".  They obviously didn't expect to meet a pair of mad men wielding a trident.
Carol and Josie
We eventually reached Llwyngwril and found a little shop which served us coffee and Welsh cakes.  We shook hands and I dashed to catch the train back, leaving Bob to continue with the remaining 520 miles.  Of course, we couldn't leave Llwyngwril, before saying hello to Gwril the giant, who made a pretty good impersonation of Neptune.
Gwril the Giant


Friday, 26 June 2015

The Welsh coast needs your help

Bob, our Trident Trek hero asks for your help....
We asked Bob, our Trident minder to explain why we need your help:

"For over 50 years, people from all over Wales and beyond have been helping us to save and look after special places on Wales’ beautiful coast.

"Did you know that as well as saving special coastal places through ownership, our Coastline Campaign also helps us look after the coast, doing important work such as…
  • protecting places of priceless historic or archaeological interest
  • restoring valuable wildlife habitats
  • mending eroded paths
 …all so that you and your family can get more from your visit to the coast.

"Did you know that it takes an average of £3,000 a year to look after one mile of the Welsh coast?
 

"That’s what it takes for our rangers to look after footpaths, wildlife habitats, heritage features and
provide a great welcome.
 

"You can help our coastal conservation work by making a donation now.  Please visit our JustGiving site and give what you can.

"This is what we are fundraising for through the Trident Trek:

£100 to restore five metres of traditional Pembrokeshire flower-rich bank, or produce 100 education packs for local school children.

£25 to enable us to create a metre of  wildlife trail around the flower-rich dunes and meadows at Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire.

£50 to cover the cost of establishing an apple tree in the community heritage garden at the traditional crog loft cottage at Fron Deg, Llyn  

£2,000 to pay for a bird hide at Cwm Ivy, Gower and £100 to pay for a wildlife-spotting  sheet for visitors to use to identify what they see from the hide.

"I asked three of our Rangers to share examples of improvements being made THIS year, thanks to donations into our Coastline Campaign."
 


Monday, 22 June 2015

Tales from the Trek: Confessions of a Trident Minder



Coastal supremo and Trident Minder, Bob Smith, heading for Caernarfon this morning
I caught up with coastal supremo Bob this morning.  He'd just crossed the Menai Bridge, and was heading for the Community Day at Glan Faenol before heading for Caernarfon.

As we strolled along I picked up a few stories about his first 200 miles, which I'd like to share.

What's the experience that sticks in the mind most over the last couple of weeks?Bob: Losing the Trident...We stopped at the Spar shop in Conwy to buy lunch.  Half an hour later when we stopped for our picnic we realised it was missing and had to run back.  We were mightily relieved to find that it was where we left it, leaning against the wall.

What's the most bizarre moment?

Bob: without doubt, it's where my fellow volunteer George suddenly grabbed the trident and headed out to sea at Trearddur Bay on Anglesey to do a passable impression of Neptune.
Neptune rising from the waves. Brrr!

What was the most shocking incident?

Bob: I was walking along a street in Prestatyn when a woman drinking cider took one look at my trident and shouted "Fork Off!", or at least that what I think she said.




Friday, 19 June 2015

Day 13: The Last Mile. Penarth Marina to the Senedd.

This is the final blog post of a 13 day voyage on-board the yacht Capercaillie, made to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Neptune Coastline Campaign in Wales.  

To follow our adventures as we visited the Trust's Neptune coast in Wales, go to our first blog post and follow the links through the days.
Capercaillie is dwarfed amongst the playthings of the conspicuously wealthy, at Penarth Marina
Last night’s late arrival caused us to put off the final step of our round-Wales coastal marathon, the short trip across the Cardiff Bay lagoon to the pontoons in front of our government building, the Senedd.  

We set off through the Penarth Marina lock and soon the familiar landmarks of Cardiff’s political and cosmopolitan tourist centre moved into view: the copper carapace of the Millennium Centre, the red brick Pierhead Building, the white painted Norwegian Church and, of course, the Senedd.  

“I think we may have a problem.” John was scanning the quays with his binoculars on our approach.

It turned out that the visitors’ pontoons had been taken over by performance racing catamarans and official race vessels.  We found a space and cheekily squeezed in amongst a few hundred thousand pounds worth of carbon fibre super-yacht.  Predictably, we were immediately approached by a man in a dayglow jacket and walkie-talkie who pointed to an official-looking notice and stated that the whole area was cordoned off for the duration of the racing event. 

But we had an event to complete too, I argued, and a brief stand-off ensued.  This was a public pier and we’d also been planning our event for over six months, I argued.  Nevertheless, a contest between two slightly disheveled tee-shirted blokes with a 30 year old yacht and a uniform-clad security officer backed by a multimillion-pound sponsored yachting event, there could only be one winner.
We moored cheekily amongst the super yachts before being moved on by security

With our inscrutable adversary watching impatiently over us, John and I cut one of the Sails Around Wales banners off, threw my bags onto the quay and gave each other a manly farewell hug.  I thrust the rolled-up banner under my arm, turned to the officer, who seemed to be at the point of calling for reinforcements, and I asked him to evict me from the pontoons.

On the Senedd steps, Tom, a friendly young man who explained that he’d just completed a survival training course and was heading for a big breakfast, agreed to photograph me holding the banner. Feeling slightly disappointed that John was not able to join me for this last step of our journey around Wales, I smiled for the camera as, over Tom’s shoulder, I spotted Capercaille and its skipper, heading off to prepare for their return journey.  

I thanked Tom, picked up my bags and headed off to find a taxi back to life on terra-firma.

Journey's end.  Sails Around Wales reaches the Senedd
Go to Day 1 to follow the whole voyage

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Day 12: A 'rather boisterous' journey: Swansea to Cardiff


Swansea marina - arrow marks Capercaille
For today's last leg of our epic tour of the Welsh coast, there was just John and I on-board Capercaillie.  Like the only other section when we didn't have any colleagues on-board, south Meirionnydd, this section of coast is unjustly devoid of National Trust properties.

Before sailing, we met yesterday's passenger, Kathryn with the long-awaited stop solenoid outside the National Waterfront Museum.  She handed over a bag with four bottles of Gower Gold beer and said, "because you didn't get to see Gower yesterday, I thought you should taste it instead"

Nevertheless, after about an hour into the sail we got great views of the south Gower coast, including Pwlldu Head and Three Cliffs Bay.  We sailed out far into the Bristol Channel to miss the Scarweather and Nash sand banks, which stood out as an menacing line of angry boiling surf to our north-east.
With the wind increasing to Force 6, we clicked in our harnesses as the boat yawed and rode the waves at a cracking pace.  At one point, as the wind was whistling in the rigging, John decided that we'd be safer with the genoa sail out and the mainsail taken down and sent me to walk along the pitching deck to furl the sail.  A couple of times when a big swell caught us, I had to hug the mast at to stop being thrown off.

The exhilarating sail continued in a similar fashion for another 7 hours, past Porthcawl, Nash Point, Barry Island, Penarth and eventually the barrage lock gates at Cardiff.

And so it was that 12 days and 402 miles since leaving Bangor, and having enjoyed the company of 10 adventurous colleagues and having sailed past all 133 National Trust properties in Wales, that John and I celebrated the completion of our circumnavigation with a satisfying "taste of Gower".

Entering the lock gates into the Cardiff Bay lagoon
One valedictory gesture remains, that is to sail across Cardiff bay to the Senedd.  But that will have to wait until tomorrow morning.

Go to Day 13


Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Day 11: Gower's hidden coast. Tenby to Swansea


Kathryn and John, before our departure from Tenby
Another day, another hard-working NT coastal colleague wishing to join Sails Around Wales and view the coast they care for.  Unfortunately, Katherine, our Gower Ranger, was not in luck.  She joined us for breakfast after a very early start then we headed off into a thick mist.  Soon a fresh wind was made use of by hoisting the sails.  The next few hours sailing called for John's navigation skills as we were sailing blind, with no visual confirmation of his calculations.

As we sailed about 2 miles off Worm's Head, we were joined by a pod of about seven or eight dolphins, which broached, bow-rode and crossed under the boat at speed. These were quite different to the bottlenose dolphins we'd seen earlier in the trip.  They were much smaller, more dainty in appearance and were white underneath.  We initially thought that they were the rare striped dolphin, but later thought that they may have been common dolphins with juveniles.
As we pitched and rode the waves, I was sent below to stow anything loose.
A brief sighting of Port Eynon head confirmed our location and we headed for Mumbles.  The sea became increasingly choppy and Capercaillie was thrown about a bit, but we eventually picked up a mooring in the more sheltered waters of Mumbles.  We deposited Kathryn safely ashore, who was still cheerful despite a less than comfortable trip and not having seen any of the 26 miles of spectacular coastline that she helps look after on Gower.
Adieu, Katherine.  Being rowed ashore in Mumbles

Not wishing to spend the night on a rollercoaster mooring, we headed across the bay to Swansea marina, where the delights of warm showers and washing machines made up for a rather demanding day.

Go to Day 12

Day 10: Puffin & preditor: Solva to Tenby

A rose between two thorns? Today's crew, Amanda
Amanda, our Fundraising Consultant and latest crew member, arrived bright and early at 7am, and we headed out of Solva harbour over St Bride's Bay.  The Solfa coast, Southwood estate and Sheepfields, Littlehaven, three of our properties that flank the bay, faded into the distance as we approached the fearsome Jack Sound.  The presence of increasing numbers of seabirds, busily crisscrossing our route, heralded the proximity of Skomer.  We spotted our first puffin, bobbing on the sea with it's beakfull of sandeels, and soon there were squadrons of them hurtling past, their frantic flight reminding us of over-wound clockwork toys.
Jack Sound, with the Deer Park and Midland Isle
Despite it's reputation, the Sound was smooth, with just the occasional upwellings and swirling eddies tugging at the rudder, hinting at the power of the tide race which would soon be upon us if we didn't keep moving.  We passed Midland Isle, the Trust's only sizable non-tidal island in Wales and rounded the Deer Park into the bay off Marloes Beach with its tidal Gateholm.  Soon St Anne's Head hove into view and I spotted Kete, where a wartime radar station for the tracking of low-flying aircraft was once located.  Crossing Milford Haven's busy shipping lanes we aimed for Freshwater West where we intended heading out to sea to avoid the Castlemartin firing range exclusion zone.
Range safety vessel, Predator comes alongside
But before we could do this, from apparently nowhere appeared the threateningly named Predator, a range safety vessel which requested that we headed three miles offshore due to live firing on the range. As we approached the Stackpole estate, another safety vessel accosted us to make sure we kept our distance.  Eventually we anchored off Stackpole Quay, dropped off Amanda and joined our colleagues, who by happy coincidence were having an evening social kayak and barbeque.
Stackpole colleagues see us back out to Capercaillie
We then headed for Tenby, where we were to meet our next colleague-passenger tomorrow.  This journey took us past Manorbier and Lydstep Head, the Trust's first property in Pembrokeshire, donated in 1936.  We eventually rounded Tenby's St Catherine's Island and moored in the harbour with minutes to spare before the ebbing tide landed us gently on the sand at 10pm.
The bright lights of Tenby, from the harbour
Go to Day 11