by Kathy James

Posts tagged “Porth Dafarch

Helvellyn Triathlon

My last post was all about ‘Anglesey Marine Week 2012 Wythnos Morol Mon’. The week was all about enthusing people about our surrounding sea and through the varied and interesting range of events I am happy that we succeeded. Different local businesses and charities were involved, all benefiting from extra exposure and some from monetary donations. I can now add to that by letting you know how much money we raised for the Marine Conservation Society. Anglesey Wildlife Walks contributed 50% of the ticket price of the Heathland and Seals guided walk; Glyn Davies donated 20% of the ticket price of his talk “Welsh Light”; Carol Mead had a donations box in her studio (where she is a personal trainer) and also gave up her time for free with a seaside poetry workshop where she collected £4 per child towards the cause; Laura (who runs Ann’s Pantry in Moelfre) very kindly baked some delicious madeleines and donated 20% of the price of those sold. In total these guys raised a brilliant £99 which is now winging it’s way over to the Marine Conservation Society. I was also able to add gift aid to that donation, increasing the money to £123.75. Good old gift aid!

Everyone that attended an event should have had the opportunity to enter a prize draw to win ‘A Field Guide to the Marine Fishes of Wales and Adjacent Waters’ donated by the Marine Conservation Society to celebrate the eight days of  ‘Anglesey Marine Week 2012 Wythnos Morol Mon’. Using the time honoured method of closing your eyes and delving around with your hand, the name we conjured up at random is Steve Lawson who joined us on Outdoor Active‘s exhilarating coasteering session. I hope Steve and his family enjoy this beautiful book.

Since ‘Anglesey Marine Week 2012 Wythnos Morol Mon’ I have been lucky enough to take a trip to the beautiful Lake District and, rather fortunately, during perhaps the best weather of the year so far! Get in! I had gone along to Ambleside as a spectator to the Helvellyn Triathlon where around 700 crazy people decided to swim 1 mile though the seemingly black Ullswater, cycle 38 miles on the road (including up the aptly named ‘struggle’) and run 9 miles over the 3118 feet of Helvellyn. In my book, anyone that completes that deserves an Olympic medal.

At these events being a birder really comes into it’s own; everyone struggles to make out their loved ones in the sea of lycra and rubber and I stand there smugly with my all-seeing bino-vision. Having watched the swim and the seething mass of shiny wetsuits and blue caps in the first wave I headed off up Helvellyn; the place of legends.

I don’t know why I hadn’t gone with her; but one weekend perhaps sixteen years ago my Mum went on a Helvellyn adventure. Teamed up with a climbing instructor and a bunch of kids she set out to the summit of Helvellyn via Striding Edge; the name alone conjures fearful images in my mind. On many occasions my Mum has recounted the tale of how the children skipped along the rocky ridge whilst she clung to the ground sobbing with a steep drop to her right and and certain death to her left.

The mist was rolling in over the top of Helvellyn as I approached and this gave me reason to think about approach from a different angle, missing out the infamous Striding Edge. Down where I was at that moment, the sun was baking me and I stopped to drink and asked a couple that I’d caught up with if they’d like a photo together (I figure if I do this enough times people will also randomly ask me and my friends and family on other occasions where a group photo is absolutely neccessary!). The couple turned out to be Jill and Ken who’s son Chris was competing in the triathlon. We kept the same pace and I hope they don’t mind that we chatted all the way up to the point where the paths diverged and it was either straight up the mountain or via Striding Edge (dum, dum, duuummmm!).

Retelling my Mum’s story to the pair fired Kens memories of a long forgotten trip over striding edge and from then on he was set on joining me on that rather unwelcoming, misty knife-edge.

I did my best crab impression on the very top of the ridge at times, but to be quite honest the mist had cleared and I could do nothing but admire the stunning view and think of my lovely Mum with her ‘being-at-height issues’ and enjoy the moment for her. Jill bounded on ahead despite saying she wouldn’t look down.

The worst bit for me was a scramble up some crumbling scree before we reached the safety of the summit. I like a rock you can trust.

Here is Ken and Jill at the summit:

I had a brief moment of false-joy when I was privileged to be in the lead of all the runners as two headed up the second rise of their run (White Side). These first two powered past me with unbelievable speed and were fifteen minutes ahead of their nearest competitors.

My seemingy slow descent allowed be to say “Well done” to the first 138 runners before I reached the bottom, equally sweaty and exhausted as the triatheletes embarrassingly. Ken and Jill’s son Chris came a very respectable 28th. I think everyone that took part was completely amazing though. To add insult to injury whilst those triatheletes were probably skipping over a mountain or two I was greeted my two red and swollen knees the following day. Oh dear.

Knees now fully recovered, I am back in North Wales and inviting you to join in with a beach clean I am organising at Porth Dafarch on Holy Island (Anglesey) on Monday 17th September. It will start at 3:30pm and is part of the Marine Conservation Society’s ‘Big Beachwatch Weekend’. I adopted this beach last year and had a great team of helpers turn up. Would you like to help this time? For more info please email: Kathy@naturebites.co.uk Hope you can make it!

Kathy x

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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


Nature bites back.

Having had an emotional rollercoaster in recent history I realised that getting outdoors and experiencing our wildlife is a great form of therapy. I knew that already, but sometimes I guess we just need reminding. It was also an added challenge to have Spring unfolding all around me and yet to have none of the joys of it. It pained me to see how beautiful everything was, bursting into fabulous life! I’m back on track now and I’d just like to share with you the things that helped break through the gloomy bits.

Along with the wonderful girly fun I had with my friend Hilary, we had a lovely ‘Springy’ moment in the woods at Newborough. Hilary was another volunteer when I donated myself to the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust for a month back in 2010 and this was her first visit to Anglesey. On our way to Llanddwyn Island (always like to impress my visitors with this gem) we stopped for lunch in carpark in the forest where the rangers fill up bird feeders. The birds were not phased by the arrival of my car and continued busying around the feeders. We saw Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpeckers all stocking up. It was really the first moment that it felt like Spring. We looked for Red Squirrels in the surrounding trees but to no avail.

Another ‘spring-euphoria’ moment for me was the day that England played Wales  in the Rugby (I’m sure we don’t need to be reminded of the result), as I buzzed around Holy Island that morning it was like summer! The sun was beating down and I was listening to the tunes in my car. Ken rang me to say he’d spotted a Black Redstart near the ferry terminal and as I was nearby I went, light jacket in tow, to have a gander. The little fella was flitting about the shoreline as a friend of ours and top birder, Robin, sat on the ferry waiting to go to Ireland with his bride-to-be. As I drove down the A55 later that day, birds were flying out from all angles and curiously seemed to be paired up. I found the drive exhillarating as I headed to Menai Bridge to watch the game with company. Even in the carpark I was uplifted by the pairs of Blackbirds, the gaggle of House Sparrows chattering away and…a Great Tit singing “teacher teacher” – spring had most definitely sprung. Those are the moments when I breathe in and feel happy to be alive.

Back in the midlands I spent a day with my Mum and sister at Carsington Water where my sister treated me to a willow weaving course. The Derbyshire Wildlife Trust lent their expertise and we helped to craft a living-willow hide for school groups to use on their visits. Barnacle Geese flew overhead as Lapwings patrolled the shorelines. I would recommend this activity to anyone, the ladies that ran the course were lovely and would have helped to achieve whatever we needed out of the course. I will definitely be doing more of this!

I spent some time with my sister and family in Matlock and was greeted by fantastic sunshine! We ate lunch in the garden and little Jack, now 14 months old, saw his first Ladybird and was fascinated by the bee surveying the honeysuckle.

My Dad was eager to show me around what has now become ‘his patch’ one Saturday morning back in the Long Eaton area, but the weather was not on our side. We drove to a couple of sites where Dad has seen woodpeckers flitting around but they too were not impressed by the weather. We caught up with a Whooper Swan in a field with a load of Mute Swans, a nice comparision to be had. Finally, my Dad wanted to take me to what will be part of the Midshires Way, Hopwell Hall. As we battled the miserable downpour (I had left my sensible coat at my sisters) we were rewarded with a splendid sign of spring. Twenty Skylarks performed to us all the way up the drive to this former stately home. Zooming up into the air and parachuting back down, these singing sensations were our first of the year. Unexpected and warmly received.

My little nephew Jack has been a real tonic. The first installment of his magic was going to watch him at ‘Otter Tots’, he and his friends all try to remain cheery as their Mummies dunk them rhythmically along to nursery rhymes – hilarious. Jack was very pleased to have an audience and would stretch out his arms each time he saw me. It’s nice to be wanted 🙂

After my visit home, my sister Caroline and Jack accompanied me back to Anglesey. Jack is quite the bird expert and loved the noisey seagulls, we did point out that some were Black-headed Gulls like he sees on the duck pond in Matlock and the others were Herring Gulls – poor child. One afternoon we headed down the road to feed the tiny ginger pony I have dubbed “Ginger Jack” – a comparison easily drawn when you see baby Jack’s gorgeous red hair. After the two Jack’s were aquainted, baby Jack added Chough to his 2012 list (he met them on a previous visit when he was five months old!). We also took Jack down to the beach at Porth Dafarch; Caroline and Jack donned wellies and I opted for the ole wet feet option…soggy boots. Here we saw Jack’s awe as he saw seaweed, trickling beach streams and limpets. He also got his pointing finger out for some vocal gulls and another pair of Chough.

This afternoon I said goodbye to Jack and Caroline as they got on the train to go home. Before they did though, we had just enough time for a visit to my fave cafe that i’ve mentioned before, Y Caban near Llanberis. We took Ken along too as he hadn’t yet sampled the delights. Fun and good food was had by all. Siskins on the feeders a personal highlight and perhaps panoramic birdviews the highlight for Ken and Jack.

Nature bit back and has me back on track.

Lastly, a little house-keeping…the winners of the birdrace prizes. Unfortunately, not everyone that took part voted so I have had to use a bit of blog-keepers license in my awards! I figured as there was not actually anyone with multiple votes that I would just go with my intial reaction which I already stated. I am going to award ‘best race’ to John and June from the West Midlands for their inspiring effort, on buses around Birmingham to find three lifers!! Congrats on your efforts guys – prizes donated by Neil Glenn of ‘Best Birdwatching Sites in Norfolk” fame. ‘Best Bird’ I am going to award to ‘Not your avergae birders’ who did their race in Hampshire for their account of the Bearded Tits. Not only are they some delicious-looking birdies, but I loved their account of their experience that day. So well done to you too guys…you will be receiving a signed copy of The Biggest Twitch, donated by the authors and world-record holders Ruth Miller and Alan Davies.

Hope spring has you smiling,

Kathy x