by Kathy James

Archive for August, 2012

A Big Thank You!!

What a week?!

It exhausted me, but ‘Anglesey Marine Week 2012 Wythnos Morol Mon’ is now over. It took two whole days off nothingness to help me recuperate (the first bank holiday I’ve not worked since goodness knows when), however it was all worth it!

The whole idea was to create a week of events to enthuse people about the sea and we definitely succeeded. It may have been my brainchild, but it could not have gone ahead without the hard work of the event organisers and volunteers which gave up their time.

I am happy with where we’re at; a marine week that Anglesey can be proud of, build upon and enjoy! There are learning points for next years event, of course, but with the basics now laid out the island can take hold of the event if it wishes and run away with imaginative ideas for inspiring people in 2013. Good luck Mon Mam Cymru!

All, but one, events were attended and I would like to thank Elgan Hearn from the Holyhead & Anglesey Mail for his part in that. I was surprised at the recognition I got from having my snorkel-clad face in the local paper!

We had the rain to thank for the poorly attended ‘Spot the Dolphin’ which was such a shame as we were perhaps on the best place on the island that day. Tucked below the lighthouse at Point Lynas we saw porpoise feeding throughout the two hours. To  my delight I spotted a mother with calf breaching the surface, with their seeming singular body and double dorsal fin. A special moment thanks to Emily and Lauren from Seawatch Foundation.

The week was kicked off at Moelfre Lifeboat Day where I was astounded by the feat of organisation by the commitee; a real triumph and  a regular date in the diaries of regular visitors and islanders alike. Emily and Lauren from the ‘Spot the Dolphin’ event held a stall in the Seawatch Centre and chatted to people about cetaceans as well as the work of the Marine Conservation Society – thank you ladies! Also, thanks to Rod, Mandy and all the other commitee members that organised Moelfre Lifeboat Day on the whole.

The weather was on our side for most of the week (unlikely as that seems!) with Sunday getting off to a drizzley start. Nonetheless, Caroline from Anglesey Wildlife Walks entertained us out on ‘the range’ (or Penrhosfeilw Common). Although we didn’t see any seals we heard about many of the medicinal uses of the plants that although beautiful can be so easily overlooked.

On Monday I headed back to Cemlyn where I had spent the summer as a tern warden for the North Wales Wildlife Trust. This time I joined in with a trust of the national variety as we ripped out an old kissing gate and replaced it with a shiny new one. Surprisingly, although the original gate was seemingly fine, it was not wide enough for our new physiques… the guys from the National Trust cheerily advised me that there we many more that needed replacing should I fancy it.

The seawatch at RSPB South Stack was rather lacking on the ol’ bird front, but that’s just the way of the world. It was a beautiful evening enjoyed by quite a crowd as we explored the heath in full bloom the last remaining chick on the sea cliffs, a chubby fulmar. This was also the first event at which we were joined by Alison who had come to North Wales specifically to join in with Anglesey Marine Week festivities.

On Tuesday, I missed out on a guided walk at Cemlyn by the Friends of Anglesey Coastal Path. Chris managed to make it though and he text me to say ” Lovely walk around Cemlyn Bay today. Nice pace, good company”, I was pleased. Chris really made the most of Anglesey Marine Week attending eight of the weeks events!

The next event was a guided walk of Newborough Warren by Graham Williams, the CCW reserves manager. We were all flabbergasted by Graham’s knowledge; he showed us the intricate relationships between the plant species, insects, mammals and birds as well as throwing in a bit of social history for good measure. When we stopped for lunch, Chris had to remind us to let Graham eat as we continued to bombard him with questions!

Whilst I was being windswept on Newborough Warren, the National Trust were at it again at Cemlyn Bay with a fully booked driftwood carving session… photos welcome guys…?!

Wednesday was a very hectic day with drama coming from Dave from Outdoor Active (the coasteering provider). Dave had very kindly agreed to collect the extra chairs needed for Glyn Davies’ talk later that evening. In the meantime however he managed to slip and stab himself in the hand with a knife! Ouch! Dave was in the capable hands of Bangor A&E department and I needed to find some chairs now that our original supplier was shut. So huge thanks to Nigel Brown of Treborth Botanical Gardens for his help in keeping us sat down for “Welsh Light” in Glyn’s gallery.

“Welsh Light” came at the end of a very busy day and was the perfect antidote. We admired Glyn’s stunning landscapes and were transported by his poetic descriptions. Glyn is a captivating speaker and I gained a brilliant understanding of his motivations which are much more complex than merely to take a pretty picture. His emotional connection with the sea, for me, summed up the importance of Anglesey Marine Week; our unspoilt world is food for the soul.

Despite having joined the Friends of Anglesey Coast Path down at Malltraeth Estuary on Thursday morning, I spent almost the entire time with Adam and Jeremy from BBC Radio Wales (sorry guys!!). The ‘friends’ diligently picked up litter and kept the coast path accessible whilst I chatted about Anglesey Marine Week and our brilliant coast for the weekly programme ‘Science Cafe’. Until Tues 4th September you can listen to the episode here – Science Cafe Seaside Special.

The weather forecast for Friday was terrible, but instead of heavy downpours I was greeted at Cemlyn by red hot sunshine and the smiley faces of Nia and Ben from the North Wales Wildlife Trust. Here we undertook everyone’s favourite seashore past-time, rockpooling! We produced a great haul! I was particularly excited to find a sandeel and felt that this was my most advanced qualification yet to work with seabirds 🙂 Hat’s off to the youngsters though as they really did us proud! Our specimen trays were full to the brim with sticklebacks, blennys, shrimp, crabs and the most gigantic prawns!

Last Saturday I was joined by my friend Anna for the weekend and she and I went along to Carol Mead’s childrens’ poetry workshop down in Llys Llewelyn, Aberffraw. The info had said for 6-11yr olds, we were all engrossed! Carol read from her award-winning book ‘Sea Things’ and we joined in, wobbling like a wibble-wobble-ish Jellyfish! It was particularly pleasing that a young chap inspired by his rockpooling with the Wildlife Trust the day before had come along to express himself through this medium. Having too much fun, we ran over time and Anna and I dashed off to join in with the last event of the week up at Porth Dafarch.

As mentioned before, Dave from Outdoor Active had managed to stab his own hand and spent Saturday having surgery in a Liverpool hospital and so was unable to jump off cliffs with us! In his place, the lovely Geraint lead us round the stunning coast left out of Porth Dafarch. Our group was diverse, aged 10-60 and with varying levels of ability and bravery. We swam, scrambled, climbed and jumped our way along the course for two hours. I was very happy scrambling around the rocks, but my legs turned to jelly (like the wibble-wobble-ish Jellyfish) when I had to jump in. I was completely put to shame by ten year old Grace who showed us all how to do it. With out a doubt she was the most fearless participant and I wish could have captured the look of disappointment on her face when we turned to head home.

So that was it. Anglesey Marine Week over.

The feedback I’ve had from everyone that’s joined in has been great and if you are, I’m definitely on for next year?!

A massive thank you to everyone that gets a mention in this post and also Laura from Ann’s Pantry, Hayley from RSPB South Stack, Ann and Angus from the Friends of Anglesey Coastal Path, Gwynfor and Bryn from the National Trust, Ken Croft & David Wright for their time volunteering at the South Stack seawatch, Jon Pinnington (North Wales Tourist Guide), Steffan Hughes from the Anglesey County Council Tourism Department, Danielle Gibas from Seawatch Foundation, Gareth Owen from Keep Wales Tidy and Rebecca O’Dowd from the Marine Conservation Society.

Thank you to everyone who made Anglesey Marine Week a success!

Kathy x

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The view from the top.

My head is a whirlwind at the moment, we are writing the end of year report at Cemlyn, I am busy organising ‘Anglesey Marine Week 2012 Wythnos Morol Mon’ and I am trying to sort out my future employment. Sometimes, we just need a break don’t we?! In order to get away from it all, I thought dangling from a steep rock face would do it.

For all you non-climbers (such as myself) out there, I’d like to go through so climbing terminology with you. Climbs are graded; according to their technical difficulty and how protected they are (as in how many places you can attach yourself to the rock with a big sigh of relief!). I get the impression that anyone who climbs looks straight to the grades that I am not even going to mention…beneath those, however you have climbs rated moderate, difficult ‘diff’ and very difficult ‘v.diff’. A note on this terminology: these descriptions were coined by the pioneers of modern-day climbing way back when and refer to the severity of the climb as it would have been at the turn of the last century (without today’s knowledge and fancy gadgetry). However, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that ‘diff’ means this climb is going to be difficult, shortening the word isn’t going to fool me! If people who were bona-fide climbers back in the day thought it was difficult then I won’t be so bold as to think that a novice like me can waltz up there (no matter what you climber types tell me!).

Yesterday’s adventure took me, in very capable hands, to Glyder Fawr in the Snowdonia National Park looking over the stunning Llyn Idwal and Ogwen Valley. We were going to climb a route called the Cneifion Arete. According to the guide books, this is a ‘moderate’ climb or a top-grade scramble (i.e. the full ropes and harness set up is not needed). It was around a 45 minute walk from the already high up Ogwen Cottage to the foot of the “scramble” and from here the arete (a thin ridge of rock) headed vertically away from me to a jagged ridge curving left high above my head (140m above my head to be precise). The nature of the climb meant that I would use all my might to meet my guide at a belay point (a place of anchorage) and he would toddle off ahead on the next pitch like he was hopping over a style in a grassy meadow! It was at these points where the pleasure of the experience was most intense. Firstly, I made it. One hurdle down. Secondly, a rest for my weak arms and legs. Thirdly, a Raven calling (below me!) swirling around in the air; king of the mountains. Finally, the excitement of my next part of the challenge as the “safe” call beckoned me upwards.

I look quite happy in the photo… If you had a true series of events unfolding in pictures before you, it would be something quite different. I noticed that I bite my bottom lip a lot, as if that is somehow going to magically propel me upwards and I make some great tennis-playing noises as I commit to grab a hold above me.

After all the playful moaning about what an ordeal I was having, for the most part I felt a fantastic sense of achievement and was able to admire a staggering view from an aspect I would not normally have been able to visit.

Oh and my biggest inspiration to reach the top…dinner! It’s amazing how hungry you get clinging to the side of a rock!

Kathy xxx