Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Short Visit to Wales - Great Orme

A bit of back tracking is involved here as the visit to Wales was made in mid September just as the tail end of Hurricane Katia arrived in the UK! We spent the first night in Oswestry which is just on the English side of the border. Kaitlyn was so desperate to actually be in Wales that late in the afternoon we drove over the border and into the small Welsh town of Llangollen.The photo above is the River Dee which rises in Snowdonia and flows through the centre of Llangollen then on towards Chester.

The next morning we headed for Llandudno on the North Wales coast. My DH had told us that we should go up the Great Orme as it was really worth seeing. We managed to park very close to Victoria Station where the Great Orme Tramway begins its ascent.
This is the only cable-hauled tramway still operating in Britain and has been taking people up the Great Orme since 1902. With wooden seats and no glass in the windows it isn't exactly luxury travel:) The line is in two sections the lower half being the steepest with a gradient of 1 in 4. At Halfway Station you have to change on to another tram to do the second half of the journey to the top.

Journey's end - just outside the little station at the top is a statue of one of the feral Kashmir goats which have lived wild on Great Orme for over 100 years - the original goats came from a herd at Windsor Great Park which belonged to Queen Victoria.

Maybe you are wondering what the word Orme means (or maybe you aren't but I'm going to tell you anyway!)- it's believed to originate from the old Norse word 'urm' which means 'sea serpent'. The Vikings thought that the headland resembled a coiled serpent. The word worm has the same origin.
Our original plan was to do some walking and visit the iron age hillfort and hut circles and also the 12th century St Tudno's Church. The wind was incredibly strong though and once out of the shelter of the station and up on the summit it was obvious that we weren't going to be able to do this. Kaitlyn and Lucy were actually being blown about by the wind and I had trouble standing up in it as well. The different shades of blue and green in the sea were really beautiful but the photo isn't sharp because I couldn't hold the camera still.

Instead we headed down the hill to Bishop's Quarry and looked for fossils. The limestone here is full of the fossils of sea creatures from the time around 300 million years ago when the land that is now Wales was covered by a shallow tropical sea. The fossils you find have to stay put though, you aren't allowed to take any away.

Steve was anxious to visit the prehistoric copper mine so we went back down to Halfway station and followed the signs to the Ancient Mine. Originally there would have been opencast mining and this is an artist's impression of how it would have looked 4000 years ago. You'll need to click on it to see it more clearly.

This is the opencast site as it looks today.

If you want to go into the underground mines then you have to wear a hard hat so after collecting these we set off down the path to the mine entrance which is that narrow opening under the righthand sign! More clicking required here.

Kaitlyn and Lucy absolutely loved it in here much to my surprise, I thought they'd find it either boring or scary but I was wrong! All the tunnels are very narrow and the narrowest could only have been worked by children, some of them as young as five - the age that Kaitlyn is now. The mining was done using stone hammers and bone scrapers and mostly in total darkness. Archaeologists have so far found over 2500 stone hammers and over 30000 bone scrapers in the mine and more than half of it has still to be explored. Every so often as we made our way through the tunnels we found these little information boards.

I love the colours in this photo and it also shows again the narrowness of the tunnels. The tourist route through the mine only goes down through two levels but there are nine levels descending to a depth of about 230 feet/70 metres.

This is the 3500 year old Bronze Age cavern, it's thought to be the biggest prehistoric underground excavation in the world. At this point we were about 80 feet below ground.

These tunnels were blocked up with mine waste during the Bronze Age and are still to be explored by the archaeologists - this is an ongoing archaeological project that will last for many years. It's been estimated that more than 1700 tonnes of copper was extracted from this mine during the Bronze Age, enough to make 10 million axes! The copper was combined with 10% tin to make the hard alloy Bronze which was used not only for axes but also for many other items too including swords and jewellery.

This clearly shows the green malachite which contains copper. It has to be smelted at a very high temperature to extract the pure copper metal - 1100 degrees centigrade to be precise.

Eventually we returned to the surface again after a really interesting and fun visit. We were first on the tram for the second half of the descent back into the town so had time to make a thorough examination of our surroundings:)

The ride back down provides some spectacular views, this is about halfway down with the sweep of Llandudno Bay and, finally, a bit of blue sky.

This is about the steepest part of the tramway and you really,really hope that the cable doesn't break at this point! On the left is another tram on the way up. One day I'd like to go back and spend more time both in the town and on the top of Great Orme but we still had quite a long way to travel before reaching our hotel in Caernarvon. In my next post we'll visit Caernarvon Castle.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Autumn Again

A very quick post this time as my entire family will be here over this coming weekend. Neil, Cesca and the boys are coming up from Suffolk to see Steve, Hannah and the girls before they return to South Africa on the 17th. Juliette will also be around for part of the time so it's going to be a busy weekend. The weather has changed drastically since my last post, it's much cooler and finally we've had some rain. The first thing I saw as I walked down Short's Lane was a rainbow - and it isn't the way I'm holding the camera, the field really does slope like that:) The green is the new crop coming through, I'm not sure yet what it is.

Further down on the other side of the lane there's a rabbit warren, usually I'm not quick enough to get a photograph but this little rabbit posed nicely and happily B Baggins didn't see him:)

I was really surprised to spot this lovely foxglove in full bloom.

There are a lot of silver birch trees in the woods and up on the moor so I see quite a lot of bracket fungus but this one was perticularly splendid.

The bridle path leading up to Lenny Hill looking very autumnal now.

Almost at the top I was admiring the view when I realised that the view was looking back at me:) I'm not sure whether this is a young red deer stag or a roebuck. In spite of desperate attempts to see whether the telltale heart shaped white patch was on his backside I couldn't make an identification. There are a few roe deer on the moor so either is possible. Anyone know for sure?

I climbed up a track to try to get a better look from higher up but he was hidden in the bracken. It was worth the climb to see the lovely view though.

Walking back down Strawberry Lee I spotted these fly agaric on the other side of the little stream at the bottom of a steep slope so risked life and limb scrambling down a deer track so I could get near enough for a photograph.

More wildlife - this was actually the previous morning, I looked down to see Mr Toad struggling through the dead leaves towards the stone wall. In spite of missing the large rabbit and the even larger deer B Baggins did spot the toad! By the time I got his lead on Mr Toad had made it to the wall.

He decided that discretion was definitely the better part of valour and with much scrabbling of feet and rustling of dead leaves he disappeared slowly from sight.
That will be it from me until next week now - hope you all have a good weekend.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Autumn Mornings

We've been having some really wonderful weather over the last few days and I've been taking B Baggins up onto Blackamoor every morning. Early in the week I was lucky enough to see this stag, he had his little harem with him but they were half hidden in the bracken which is shoulder high now. Of course I only had my small camera with me so it's not a great photo, ever since seeing him I've been taking my Olympus but naturally I haven't seen him again!

This was a real surprise, I certainly wasn't expecting see and catch the scent of honeysuckle flowers in late September.

I've been seeing a lot of fly agaric and some of them have been really big - a good 6 inches in diameter in several cases. These are poisonous mushrooms......

but not to some creatures judging by all the evidence of feasting on many of the ones I see:)

There are still blackberries around but now that Michaelmas Day is behind us they are best left to foxes, birds and mice.

There are quite a lot of different fungi around and I find them fascinating even though I can name very few of them. These were growing on dead wood and I think might be sulphur tuft.

The purple sloes have almost disappeared from the area where they were so abundant a couple of months ago - obviously they have been gathered by people who don't know that they are best picked after they've had a frost on them.

There are a lot of rowan trees up on the moors and the red berries add a lovely splash of colour to the scene especially now that the leaves are beginning to turn as well.

Can you spot B Baggins in this photo? At this time of year he blends into the background so well that he's almost invisible.

This is cowberry which often grows among the bilberry bushes on the moors and they are equally edible. If you click on this photo to enlarge it you will be able to see the heavy morning dew glistening on the leaves and berries.

I'm thinking that this might be a Cep mushroom but I'm not thinking it confidently enough to try eating it!

Ripe elderberries looking really beautiful with the sun shining on them.

I don't have even a guess to offer on this one, if any fungus experts reading and can tell me what this and any of the others are I'd be delighted to hear from you.

I'm wondering whether this is a Shaggy Inkcap?

Now these I do know! The hawthorn trees are absolutely laden with berries this year - a sign of a bad winter to come in old country lore.

There are still plenty of lovely ripe rosehips about. Autumn has so much to offer especially when we get wonderful golden days like these. It's always been my favourite season of the year.

Another of my wild guesses - a yellow russula? There are likely to be quite a lot more fungus photos during October as this is the best month to see them especially if we get some rain. I do keep saying that I hope to post more regularly and it should start happening now. What I'd forgotten is that I would need to put a lot of hours in on the book I'm co-writing about the WW1 soldiers on our local War Memorial. It is just about ready to go to the printers now and they will produce a proof copy and tell us how much it will cost - then we have to persuade our Local History group to pay for it!