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.
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.
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.
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…
Further down the road there is a gap in the buildings that provides a view of 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And there, suddenly, is the brickworks chimney, looming over the surrounding countryside.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.