After a quiet Christmas (sausage rolls on the beach on Christmas Day is going to become a new tradition, I think), we had a busy family New Year in Leeds, extended due to our lift getting ill. Sad for them, but it meant more time catching up with our hosts. Mind you, I am glad to be back home by the sea, my city living days are definitely behind me.

With a list a mile long of Things That Must Be Done, very few of which are gardening-based, I took one look at the sunshine this morning and bunked off and went for a walk instead. I don’t know if Les@A Tidewater Gardener is going to do his winter walk meme again this year, but I decided I would share the walk with you all anyway, as it gives you another perspective on where we have moved to.

Traeth Bach, Cemaes

I am so lucky, having Traeth Bach (Little Beach) at the bottom of my road, I have to confess that I frequently don’t get any further than this when I leave the house. I find the ever changing patterns of sand, seaweed and waves endlessly fascinating. However, one of the things I love about Cemaes is that there is more to it than just the sea. The river Wygyr runs through Cemaes and carves channels through the sand as it joins the sea, and there is a network of paths running up the river from the harbour.

Channels carved by Afon Wygyr

Since I hadn’t walked up the river for a couple of months I walked past the little beach, resisted the temptation to take a detour out on to the harbour wall, and walked on down the road.

The road past the harbour
Glimpse along the harbour wall

I always find myself pausing by what I have inaccurately christened the Hobbit House because I can never quite believe that someone actually uses a door that is only five foot tall…

The hobbit house

Further down the road there is a gap in the buildings that provides a view of the old quay.

The old quay

Now used as a mooring for yachts, this used to be where the tramway from the local brickworks ended, and where the ships tied up to be loaded. You can see old black and white photographs of how it used to look on the Penmorfa website.

A little further on there is a bridge across the river, giving a great view of the harbour.

Afon Wygyr runs into the harbour at Cemaes

There is a lovely walk that runs from the harbour to the big beach, but today I am heading the other way, up the river.

Afon Wygyr

A set of steps lead down into the deep valley. If you turn right at the bottom you can walk through the tunnel under the road bridge that the tramway used to take to the harbour.

Steps down to the river
Tunnel to quay

I am turning left, to follow the old tramway up the river to the remains of the brickworks. The valley has steep sides, clothed in ferns, foxgloves, ivy and brambles, but the valley floor is quite wide and flat, and Anglesey Council in conjunction with Cemaes in Bloom have done a lot of work in recent years to improve the network of paths on either side of the river.

Slope covered in foxgloves
River winding along the valley floor

Although it was pleasantly warm in the sun, you can see that the frost was still lingering in the shadier areas. The buildings you can see above the treeline are the houses that run along one side of the High Street. Further along I was interested to see that there was still ice caught up in the bend of the river.

icy waters
brickworks tramway tracks

Despite the proximity of the High Street this is a quiet walk, the soundtrack is birdsong mingling with the gurgle of the river as it tumbles over the rocks and round the corners in its race for the open sea. You can still see the old tramway tracks in places, it must have been a much noisier place when the trams were running up and down, carrying coal to fire the brickworks up the river, and then bricks back down to the quay and the waiting ships.


Not far down the trail the path divides. Off to the right, over the river, the ground opens out and there are benches to sit on to watch the water from. The left hand side of the river is much more closed in, a place of shadows where frost lingers on foliage.

Last time I walked this way the trees were just shedding their autumn leaves, everything glowed yellow and orange. I expected this to be a much bleaker walk, but instead I saw more lichen than I think I have ever seen growing on trees before. Not brightly coloured, perhaps, but beautiful nonetheless.


Further up the river, where the slope of the valley is a little more shallow, there are even more foxgloves, I can’t wait to see them all in flower.

Some of the trees are quite old, and shelter moss and ferns at their roots.

A main road cuts across level with the end of the High Street, and the river runs through a very unprepossessing corrugated iron tunnel. Nevertheless, it offers a glimpse of a different landscape beyond.

Sure enough, the path emerges onto a scene of green fields and grazing sheep.

emerging into new landscape
rolling fields

It’s tempting to walk out into the light, but that path is for another day. Instead, I follow a very muddy track through a tunnel of hawthorn, blackthorn, ivy and brambles.

natural tunnel

And there, suddenly, is the brickworks chimney, looming over the surrounding countryside.

brickworks chimney

The chimney stack rises up 92 foot high, but the surrounding kilns are in a very poor state. The brickworks was started up in 1907 by local landowner Lady Sarah Hughes-Hunter, but closed down again at the outbreak of the First World War. I got talking to a man walking his dog up there who said that a few years ago the site had been cleared of brambles, parts of the structure had been repaired, and an information board put up, in the hopes of making it more of a tourist attraction. Sadly it was quickly vandalised, and now it is a wild place, which the birds and small mammals probably appreciate but seems quite sad. Poking around the base of the old kilns looking for a scratch-free way in to the heart of the complex I was brought up short by a combination of leaf and stem that any gardener would be delighted to have achieved.

Natural beauty at its best. I found a lot of unantural beauty in the old brick chimney set against blue sky, and the juxtaposition of 1900’s industry and the 21st century windfarm beyond. I know some people see windfarms as a blot on the landscape, and there is a campaign afoot on the Island to prevent more windfarms being installed. Personally I think they have a stark beauty all of their own, and think they add to the landscape rather than detracting.

Brickworks chimney
cemaes brickworks
old brick works

The footpath continues on past the brickworks, brightened by winter flowering gorse, but I turned round and headed for home, past more moss-covered trees, fascinating fungus, back to the rushing river.

winter flowering gorse
mossy tree
rushing water

I walked back along the other side of the river, for a change of perspective. It is much more open, with concreted paths and plentiful benches.

bare trees
plenty of benches

The last time I saw this grove of trees, they were ablaze with autumn colour! At least mature trees have a beauty all their own, even when bare.

winter trees

Back at the main bridges, it was tempting to turn left and take the steps up to the High Street – they happen to emerge next to a coffee shop…

I exercised restraint and headed for home instead.

I really like winter days like this, cold, crisp and bright. But with signs of bulbs pushing up and perennials putting on growth, I find my thoughts are turning more and more towards Spring, and the sowing of seeds. A huge thank you to all who have stuck with this blog over the past year, which has been decidedly sporadic of late. Thanks to all who visit silently, and to all who leave the comments that brighten up the many, many dark wet days we seem to have been having up until now. Happy 2013, may it be a good one, whether in the garden or in the rest of life.

57 thoughts on “A winter walk up the river

  1. Oh Janet, what a marvelous walk! Thanks for sharing all the wonderful nooks and crannies of the old tramway path. Pity the vandalism occurred — a bit of history shared is so nice. Love that old chimney.

    1. Hi Janet, glad you enjoyed it. The chimney is rather magnificent, isn’t it!

  2. I loved every image of your walk. Your expressive and detailed writing had me feeling as if I was right next to you on your walk. What a blessed woman you are to live in such an interesting and lovely place.

    1. Thank you Cat, so glad you enjoyed it. I am indeed very fortunate to live in such a beautiful and varied place.

    1. Isn’t it lovely? I am glad to be able to share it, and happy you enjoyed it.

  3. It’s all so magical, Janet! How wonderful to have such a lush winter landscape. It appears every season in your new community is spectacular.

    1. There does seem to be plenty of interest whatever the season, I am so very fortunate, it makes winter a lot easier to live through, not the same sense of aching for Spring when winter itself has its own magic.

  4. Wow Janet, what a lovely start to the year by taking a walk on such a serene and picturesque looking place. You live in a beautiful part of the world :)

  5. Hi Janet,

    I was wondering where you’d got to just the other day ;) Glad to see you’v had a nice time out and about. I can completely understand why you often find it difficult to get past the beach; I know I would too… It’s very easy to just sit and watch the tide come in and out for hours.

    1. We have become experts on exactly what state of the tide generates the most interesting wave patterns on different parts of the beach!

  6. What a wonderful walk, thank you for sharing it with us. The sea and pattens in the sand are so mesmerising, but your walk along the river was just as beautiful. Those foxgloves will look amazing in a matter of weeks! As you say, there is a stark beauty that is special to winter – beautiful!

    1. Hi Pauline, I don’t think I have ever seen so many foxgloves all in one place before, it is a good incentive to make sure I do that walk regularly so that I don’t miss them at their best.

  7. Thank you for sharing your walk, I really felt I was with you. You live in an amazingly beautiful place. With such beautiful surroundings the garden seems less important I think. Have a great 2013. Christina

    1. Hi Christina, glad you enjoyed the walk, it really is remarkably beautiful around here, and so varied too. Getting out and about is a welcome relief from my garden-centric plotting, planning and dreaming, and a great way to escape the empty gaps and unfinished fence.

  8. Lovely photos and such a varied landscape. The lichen remind me of photos taken in the highlands of Scotland. They hung like tinsel from a tree.

    So you came close to use for New Year – must admit I rarely go into Leeds. I’ve never really enjoyed being in a city!

    1. Hi Sue, I love the description of lichen being like tinsel, it reminded me of the flowers on the witchhazel. As to the city, I couldn’t do it myself, but bil and sil have a lovely house overlooking a park and then the moors beyond, so it doesn’t feel like city living at all.

  9. Janet I look forward to your wonderful posts sporadic or not. I have to say that this post just brightened my day. To live in such a beautiful place you would have to pinch me to wake me from a dream. I don’t even know how to comment the tour was so incredible…makes me want to visit this area one day. I have to say though that I would love to go into the Hobbit House as I would just fit through that 5 ft door as that is just my size :)

    1. Hi Donna, thank you, what a lovely comment. I have yet to see the occupants of the hobbit house, so don’t know what height they are. I suspect it is a holiday let, and people put up with the door as a novelty and because it is so close to the harbour with all its bustle. And I frequently feel I should be pinching myself, I have certainly not become used to living here. Such a privilege.

  10. Definitely a cup of tea and two biscuits post, which is what I had whilst enjoying reading it and looking at all the photos.
    You are so lucky to have all that on your doorstep, and to be able to see it change through the coming seasons.
    Happy New Year! xx

    1. Glad to have given you a two biscuit break Flighty! I am indeed very lucky, and I am really looking forward to watching it change through the seasons. Happy New Year.

  11. What a lovely walk. My dream is to live by the sea but I do think I wouldn’t get much gardening done because I’d always be on the beach. We came across a disused walled garden that looks out to sea last year in Cornwall and I would have loved to have been able to create a market garden there. Unfortunately circumstances mean it isn’t possible but to be honest how much gardening would I could stare at the sea. ;) It looks like a very beautiful place that you’ve moved to and how exciting to see spring unfurl there. Thanks for the post.

    1. I sympathise, I know you yearn for the coast, I must admit I would never have dared to dream that I would wind up living somewhere like this. I must be more addicted to gardening than I realised as sometimes it is an effort to tear myself away and stroll down to the sea. Mind you, sitting down on the beach watching the waves is the perfect way to recover from wrestling with a stubborn shrub stump. And I do get to garden accompanied by the sound of the waves. I hope there is a seaside market garden or something similar in your future, I have learnt that life is very unpredictable.

  12. Hi Janet – your photos as usual are splendid and gave the feeling of a real treat as we came on the walk with you – although your posts have been sporadic they are always worth waiting for. Wishing you a very happy and healthy new year.

    1. Hi Elaine, so glad you enjoyed the post(s)! A healthy and happy New Year to you too.

  13. Oh Janet reading your post is like a breath of fresh air on a most cold and grey day here, where perhaps even views like yours would not entice me out :) You have really struck gold in moving to such a lovely part of the country. Will you please do again in spring for us? Wishing you a happy and above all a healthy new year, with many hours of enjoyment in your new garden xxx

    1. Hi Anna, having just walked back from the shops and been stopped dead in my tracks at the play of the evening sun on the beach, I have to agree – gold, pure gold. I’ll certainly post again in Spring, hopefully I will catch the foxgloves, but I am wondering what might pop up earlier too. Enjoy your tree planting, and hope you have a great year, in and out of your garden.

  14. Janet… I’ve now seen Heaven and I want to go there. I was born to live by the sea, love everything about it. Your pictures are divine. I feel as though I’ve walked with you today. The musty smell of the wet woods are simply intoxicating. If I can’t be there… memories are the next best!

    1. Hi Carolyn, hope you make it to the sea soon, it is rather wonderful, being able to wave watch every day. Glad you enjoyed the taste of the woods, though “woods” might be a bit generous, more lightly wooded valley!

  15. I’m not sure that I can say anything that hasn’t been said (except I’m with Donna on the 5 foot door)? It was an absolute delight to share this walk with you – I first read your post on my posh new phone but without the pictures, so it was a real treat to go back to it with a cup of a tea and a piece of cake and indulge myself by reading it properly. It was SUCH a good way of bringing it to life, having all the photos, making us feel as if we were with you every step of the way. Mind you, despite the loveliness of your location and what people have said about it, I am sure all of us could go out on a local rural (or at least ruralish) walk, feel the same closeness to nature and the environment, and take lots of pictures that would commend it to others – but it’s the getting out and doing it that’s important, so well done Janet! And yes please, let’s have some more walks with you :)

    1. Hi Cathy, thank you, how lovely that you thought it worth re-visiting to see the photos, though I am guessing it didn’t make much sense without them! I was lucky with where I lived before, in that there were some great country walks, but I never made it outside to do them as much as I do here, I have to admit.

  16. What a lovely walk – thank you for sharing it! Despite not being that far away, I don’t know your area, so even more thanks. And look at all that SUN!

    1. Hi Kate, I know, wish we had more of it – sun, that is. It made a brief appearance again this morning, when I couldn’t get outside, and then hid, when I was free again… As to the area, you’ll have to come and see it for yourself some time when the weather warms up!

  17. Janet, I enjoyed my walk with you, Invigorating and relaxing, even I had to duck my head getting into that unusual house. Lovely pictures, I enjoyed myself so much I was thinking of having a go at my version, I hope I wont be in trouble for copying.

    1. Hi Alistair, glad you enjoyed it, and copy away, I nicked the idea from Les anyway, and I’d love to go for a virtual walk around your way.

    1. Hi Helen, it was a gorgeous day, far too nice to be inside. I am really lucky to live here, I know, I still pinch myself most days, plus I got an extra greenhouse out of it – it doesn’t get much better!

  18. Living by the coast is a distraction isn’t it – though the beaches here in E Sussex are all pebbly so not so good to walk on. I have to say I’m with you on wind turbines. Glyndebourne have built a very controversial one on the downs above the opera house and I pass it every day on my way to work. I think it magnificent. (A view not shared by all). And there is a cottage just outside Ambleside in the Lakes which I have called the Hobbit house for nigh on 30 years with a very similar door. Hobbits may not be as rare as we think. Dave

    1. Hi Dave, pebbly beaches can be a little tiring to walk on, but at least you get to see the sea – and hear it. I can never get enough of that sound. Glad I am not alone on the wind turbine front, always knew you were a man of good taste – except when it comes to mahonias ;-) As to the hobbits, maybe this is the holiday home of the Lake District ones? I don’t like the idea of them being commonplace after all.

  19. What a gorgeous area! It seems so idyllic – very different from where I live. I wish I’d been there to take the walk with you. :) I would have moved there, too!

    1. It really is pretty idyllic, still can’t quite believe our luck! Sea, cliff walks, river walks, rolling fields, so much in such a small area.

  20. What a fabulous walk in a glorious part of the world! You have moved to a very special place, as I have. I think of our area being like Middle Earth so I am going to look for Hobbit doors too!

    1. Hi Judith, am intrigued by your Middle Earth reference so am off to find out more… Thanks for commenting!

  21. What a fantastic place you’ve moved to. No wonder you’ve been enjoying it so much. Looks like there’s some great walking trails around too. Count me as one who likes windmills, the first time I saw a number of them together I was captivated.

    1. Hi Marguerite, isn’t it wonderful here? It is really nice to be able to share it, just as I really enjoy the glimpses I get of your wild and wonderful area. Looking fowrward to getting the kayak out this summer and exploring some of the bays too.

  22. Your place on the planet looks magical. The woods, the sea, the fields, the ruins and the history. You have some of all. And yes, I will be doing my Winter Walk Off this year. You are welcome to link this post to it when all is up and running. I can’t imagine many more entries as interesting as this one.

    1. Hi Les, I’m glad you got a sense of the magic of this place, it truly makes my heart sing. Glad you are going to do your winter walk off again, I will certainly link back in, it is too easy to stay indoors at this time of year, remembering your blog challenge is what gave me the added incentive to get further than wave watching!

  23. Nice walk. The lichen is “Old Man’s beard” and indicates a healthy air quality. The fungus looks to be Auricularia auricula-judae (Jew’s Ear). If it’s growing on an elder tree then it’s certain!

    1. Hi Mal, am so glad you found this post and commented, am impressed you were able to identify the lichen and fungus, thank you! They represent two worlds I know nothing about.

  24. Lovely janet. Nice to hear les will be hosting the winter walk again!

    Now, some of us would fit quite nicely under a five foot doorway I’ll have you know!

    Beaches and their ever changing vistas captivate me. Nice to see your beach and your surrounding area, what a lovely mix of habitats.

    Lichens on trees a sign of really clean air :-)

    My subscription isn’t working so I’m off to resubscribe and catch up, ought you’d just been quiet!

    Bonne 2013 to you all too.

    1. Oh, I would pay to see you stood in the doorway of that hobbit house Fay!! Good to know we have clean air thanks to all that lichen – I’d forgotten that important fact. I will enjoy it all the more now. Hope your resubscription works OK, sorry you had problems, seems to be something to do with blogger…

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