For the past few years Les @ A Tidewater Gardener has hosted the Winter Walk-Off. The challenge is to leave your house on your own two feet and post about what can be seen within walking distance of where you live – without showing anything from your own garden. Back in 2011 I posted about the village and surrounding countryside that I lived in, and got a new appreciation for the location and its architecture. I missed it last year, lost as I was in a sea of depression. Last month I posted about a walk up the river in Cemaes, to the old brick works, and I’m sure I could have “entered” that as my Winter Walk-Off post for 2013, but that felt like cheating. I had intended to post about the cliff walk that starts from the other side of the bay, but all my energy has been stolen by Project Fence, which seems to roughly translate in to Project Dig Up Another Large Shrub, so instead I took a wander off to the big beach.

The start is the same as the river walk, past the little beach that is at the bottom of our road, past the harbour and the Hobbit House, down the steps into the river valley. To get to the brickworks I turned my back on the sea and walked up river. This time I turned and headed off through the tunnel.

Tunnel leading to harbour

This comes out at the quay that I talked about in the river walk post, where the bricks made in the brickworks were loaded on to ships and sailed off to be sold. Now it is a peaceful mooring and a lovely place to sit and admire the harbour.

Cemaes Quay

Harbour-side seating

There is a tiny sandy beach just inside the harbour wall where people leave tenders and, in the summer, canoes and dinghies. This one clearly hasn’t been used for a while…

half-buried boat

Looking back at the harbour you can see how small it is, but already there are more boats in the water and quite a few trips out of the harbour, or there were before the weather closed in again and winter reminded us that it hasn’t left just yet.

Cemaes Bay harbour

The big beach is very different to our little local beach. There is a broad promenade and large car park, for starters, and it is, well, bigger… And has more sand…

Big  Beach promenade

This is as far as a lot of the tourists get, and even the adventurous rarely venture further than the harbour, so even in summer our own little beach rarely has more than a dozen people on it. The big beach is a firm favourite with dog owners, though in the summer dogs are banned, and my neighbour B, who had a triple heart bypass in December, likes to use the promenade for his daily walk. The high wall is necessary because when the storms come in from the north they hammer the beach. The regular breaks for steps down to the beach proper are protected by wooden shutters, most of which are only unlocked and removed come Easter.

Cemaes Big Beach

Down on the beach proper you can see that despite all the sand there are still the same kind of multi-coloured rock formations that make Little Beach so interesting, just fewer of them.

multi-coloured rock

Apparently the geology of Anglesey and the nearby Llyn Peninsular is extremely complex, attracting geologists from all over the world. Something called the Gwna Mélange runs from the north of Anglesey across the Island to the Llyn. This melange – literally mix of rocks – is why there are so many different colours and types of rock right next to one another. Anglesey is an official Geopark, and with funding from UNESCO GeoMon is setting up guided walks and information points all around the Island. Cemaes has its own Geotrail! Since I know one of the people who gives GeoMon guided walks I don’t think I have much excuse for remaining as ignorant of all this geology I am living in the middle of for much longer. At the moment I am still at the “it’s pretty” stage!

rock and pebbles

More nice rocks

I am heading across the beach towards the cliffs that I am wimping out of walking up.

gorse on the cliffs

When we first lived on Anglesey I expressed surprise at seeing gorse blooming in the winter. The boss had to explain that different types of gorse flower at different times of year, and on Anglesey you are pretty much guaranteed to see at least some flowering whatever the month. Oh, and if you are wondering why I am not sharing beautiful photographs looking out to sea, it is because I would be shooting in to the sun until I get further round, sorry. Strictly sand, rocks and cliff plant life for now…

Tenacious cliff growth

Further on round the bay I have left the promenade behind, and the cliffs loom. OK, not really, they aren’t very high at all, but they are beautiful even in winter. In fact, if you look up at the gorse and the blue sky, only the bare brambles give the game away that it isn’t a beautiful summer’s day. That and the fact that I am warmly wrapped up against the chill.

almost summery

gorse and blue sky

This end of the beach is sheltered by the cliffs and faces almost due south. I wanted to see what was growing right down near the tide mark, as I was amazed at the variety of plants when I walked this way last summer.

sheltered end of beach

As for the view from here, well, you can see Wylfa Nuclear Power Station if monolithic industrial architecture is your thing.

View of Wylfa Power Station

But back to the plants. Lots. At first just single small specimens hanging on to life nestled in sheltering crannies.

safe cranny

another occupied cranny

Further on there was a large clump of thrift (I think). And a rather nice foliage combination.


nice foliage contrast

At this point we get to plumb the depths of my ignorance when it comes to maritime wild plants. For instance, I haven’t a clue what this is, but there is lots of it:

mystery plant 1

more mystery plant 1

Although I’m not even sure that those are the same plant, one seems to have more pointed leaves. See? I need help!

And clearly this is a starfish. Or perhaps, given the drop in temperature and the current weather forecast, a green snowflake…


Can I distract you with some more pretty rock?

more pretty rock

No? OK, well perhaps someone can tell me what these are, and recommend a good identification book, because I clearly need one…

mystery plant 2
mystery succulent

I am always astounded at how close to the high tide mark plants find ways to survive.

living near the tideline

Fortunately my bird identification book is better than my wildflower book, so I can tell you that this is a grey wagtail. Clearly a ridiculous name given the lovely plummage, but hey, at least I was able to enlighten my ignorance from my own bookshelf this time!

grey wagtail

beautiful grey wagtail

grey wagtail preening

So there you have it, a little stroll to The Other Beach. Re-tracing my steps and enjoying the sight, sound and smell of the sea, I have to pinch myself yet again to prove this isn’t a dream, I really do live here now. Looking back across the clean blue water towards the cliffs, I felt deeply content to call this home. If a trifle ignorant about the native flora…

Do check out Les’ Winter Walk-Off blog post for links to more walks around people’s neighbourhoods, it is fascinating.

64 thoughts on “Winter walk along the big beach

  1. What a beautiful place to live.
    I did enjoy your pictures of the harbour, beach and the lovely wagtail. Those maritime plants must be extremely resilient given the conditions they face, so close to the high water mark.

    1. Hi Jessica, I am incredibly lucky, glad you enjoyed the tour – and thanks for visiting! I am constantly amazed at the way plants can adapt to extreme conditions.

  2. Lovely. I’m off to do a two week walk on Thursday, Janet and can only dream of weather like yours. And scenery. And yep, I fear my geological knowledge will never get past the “it’s pretty” stage. Dave

    1. Where are you walking Dave? Hope there are plenty of good pubs en route, though it looks as if it will be getting milder again. Just potentially a little damp… As for that weather, it went AWOL again, back to mostly grey and very cold. Very cold indeed. Just when I put my broad beans out. Hoep one layer of fleece is enough! Happy walking, hope the weather is kind to you.

      1. Hi Janet, I’m off up to St Bees, Cumbria to walk the Coast to Coast path to Robin Hood’s Bay, Yorkshire. Anxiously studying the weather as I had hoped March might be a little kinder than it has suddenly turned out to be! Looks like plenty of snow on the fells. Ho hum – best pack me thermals. D

  3. Oh Janet what a lovely walk – I really don’t know why I live inland when my heart is on the coast. I think the first plant you couldn’t identify is sea beet and the other looks like plantain – like you I am building up my knowledge of coastal plants – when we holiday in N.Norfolk my head is nearly always pointing down at the flora – wildflower book in pocket and camera in hand.

    1. Hi Elaine, I was in your position for years, so take hope, the miracle can happen! Thanks for the plant IDs, used them to find a great foraging site, so maybe I can supplement my winter diet with wild coastal plants. Another good reason to go for regular walks!

    1. You’re welcome Christina, I am still child-like in my delight in this area.

  4. Grey wagtails and yellow wagtails are always confusing to identify!

    Could the plant with the ribbed leaves be sea plantain – just going by the ribbed leaves. Maybe for others we need to see a flower.

    1. Hi Sue, I definitely need a new bird ID book then, it only had grey wagtails in it! Though having just checked on the RSPB site, it was a grey wagtail I saw, no green in the plumage and they appear to be summer visitors. And yes, having been given a name by Elaine and followed up online I am pretty sure the ribbed leaved plant is sea plantain.

    1. Hi Catherine, I look forward to your ditch-peering, never know what you might find! Hopefully good spring wildflowers rather than rubbish…

  5. What a super walk, didn’t do that one when we stayed for our weekends, I keep hoping to see the house we stayed in, just up some steep steps from the little beach I think, well it was 30 yrs ago! We took the dog for a walk along the cliff tops to Wylfa, not a pretty building, but the flowers along our walk were wonderful. The rocks are amazing colours and shapes, I can understand you being so taken with them. I think I would need flowers to identify your plants, not so easy with just leaves, you may find that some of them are edible!

    1. Hi Pauline, I wonder if you stayed at Treddolphin Guest House, or possibly the house next door if you had the whole place, though those steps are now very over grown. Amazing views out across the bay from either of them. The cliff walk towards Wylfa is the one closest to us, and the wildflowers I see along there are inspiring some of my ideas for the front garden.

  6. I remember your 2011 walk and just loved it so I was excited to see this walk too. What a fascinating place. I noticed the gorgeous rocks and can see why geologists from all over come there…and the flora is interesting…I noticed the thrift as I have some in my small front gardens.

    You are in a such beautiful place that is home.

    1. Hi Donna, how lovely that you remember the 2011 walk after all this time! Glad you enjoyed this, very different, walk. I want to grow some thrift in my front garden, in crevices in the border edging. Lovely little plant.

  7. Hi Janet,

    Lovely walk; so such views around here when I walk out of the house! :D

    Initially I thought your unknown was Sea Holly, but it could well also be Seabeets as someone else suggested and the second one is Plaintain.

    1. Hi Liz, it is a real privilege to live here, even local tradespeople are impressed with the house’s situation. I am trying to grow some sea holly from seed, but it is being rather recalcitrant. This is one of the reasons I love blogging – I now know that I have sea plantain and sea beets growing locally, both of which are edible, so I need to get foraging. Add in the wild garlic I have planted, and the hungry gap isn’t looking so hungry…

  8. How wonderful to have a walk as gorgeous as this out your door! My sister-in-law lives in Bristol and I’m working on a novel set in Devon and Cornwall by the sea. The landscape I’ve described is similar. I’m glad to hear you got through a year of depression and are back to walking and gardening. I’m off soon to walk on the beach with my dog – it is uplifting.

    1. Hi Sarah, thanks for dropping by and commenting. I have just moved from a village a little north of Bristol! Great city, I used to love down in the center until the traffic got so horrendous. Beach walks do indeed boost the spirits amazingly, even on a dull day.

  9. You live in such a beautiful part of the world Janet :) you can feel the tranquility and serenity of the place just by looking at the photos. Pinch yourself all you want, definitely not a dream and so lucky it’s real :))

    1. *Happy sigh* – and apparently I get to eat the local flora too! Am going to give up pinching myself, the bruised look is not attractive, unlike the local rock formations.

  10. What a lovely walk. A shoreline is always interesting and I can just imagine the fresh air (although it was bracing). It so happens that on my “must do” list for this year is to learn more about coastal wild plants and I’m also looking for a good guide.

    1. Hi Wendy, if I come across a good coastal plants guide I will let you know! The web is wonderful once you have a couple of ideas, but it is getting that initial ID that beats me, fortunately other bloggers are more enlightened!

  11. A beautiful walk, Janet, and such stunning colours everywhere, from gorse to rock. It will be fascinating to learn more about the special geology and flora of your area. The wagtail is a handsome chap, too!

    1. Hi Sara, I love all the colours, and the way they change as the light changes. I think GeoMon do leaflets, so I must at least get some of those to start reducing my ignorance.

  12. Amazing plants that can hang on where others don’t survive! But, yes, thanks for the distractions of the beautiful rock formations, too. Your new neighborhood is excellent. Thanks for the beach walk!

    1. You’re welcome, it is nice to be able to share my pleasure in my new surroundings.

  13. You obviously hadn’t heard that ‘kissing is in season when gorse is in bloom’, Janet! Thanks for sharing another walk with us, reminding us that wherever we live we can still leave the gardening sometimes and go out for a walk, even though our strolls would be very different from yours.

    1. Hi Cathy, even living here it can be hard to remember that there is a world outside the garden that is worth exploring! I think they call it obsession…

  14. Thanks for sharing this lovely walk with us, especially with all the interesting pictures.
    Lucky you seeing a grey wagtail. I only ever seen two, which were here at home the past couple of winters when there was snow on the ground. As you say they’re poorly named. xx

    1. Hi Flighty, it was my first grey wagtail, beautiful little bird. There are some wonderful sea birds around here, but I never seem to have my camera with me or to get close enough. Maybe this year I will learn a bit more about how to photograph them, I particularly love the brightly coloured oyster catchers.

  15. What a fabulous colour the sky was during your walk – such a glorious day must have motivated you to set off to the great outdoors! I love beach walking – it’s something I look forward to whenever I visit my parents who live on the Hampshire coast. Reading through the comments above, I hadn’t realised that you used to live north of Bristol – one of my sisters lives in Alveston, just north of the M4 and Bristol. Small world!
    I think we’ll all be putting off doing gardening this week – snow this morning in London, strong north-easterly winds and minus temperatures! Brrrr!

    1. Small world indeed Caro, TNG’s parents lived in Thornbury, but before that they lived in Alveston too, I know it well! We seem to get a lot of sunny days here, a neighbour says it is one of the sunniest places in the UK though I have never checked that out, but goodness it is cold out there at the moment, I am finding it impossible to motivate myself to wrap up and get out and dig.

      1. I quite fancy living somewhere sunny at the moment – yesterday I was looking out of the window at heavy snow falling! Luckily it didn’t settle and I hope a good cold snap is putting paid to lots of pests and diseases in the garden!

  16. I enjoyed that walk and my feet are not sore one little bit! Lovely pictures – what a beautiful place to live.
    I thought of Sea Holly for picture No 6. You are going to have to go back when they are all flowering I’m afraid ;)

    1. HI Angie, if you liked this one you will love it when I eventually garner the energy for the big cliff walk, all the views and no aching thighs! I will try and get back when they flower, though it is such a hardship…

  17. What a great idea for a post. You’ve got some stunning scenery there. I’m off to the sea tomorrow to get my fix of waves and salty air. Would have liked it to be warmer though. Hope you’ve escaped the snow. ;)

    1. Enjoy your dose of sea air, though I imagine it will be a little on the bracing side. We had some snow – horizontal snow, blown in on the NE gale – but the crocuses have survived and it is gradually getting warmer again. And greyer…

  18. I bet if you had a tail it would wag because you get to live in such a beautiful place. Thank you for posting your walk off, I love seeing your part of the world. You know I love the coast, but ours is so different here. The land just gradually emerges from the sea, and sometimes the sea takes it back. You have to go miles inland before you get even the merest of hills, and any rocks we have were brought here by man, not nature.

    1. Hi Les, I think it would wag itself right off! Our coastal experiences are very different aren’t they, I think it is one of the reasons I enjoy your blog so much, the landscape is so “other” to me. I suspect the Norfolk coast has more in common with your own than Anglesey’s, though even on this tiny Island it is very varied, everything from towering cliffs much loved by climbers to rolling dunes that appear out of pine forest and seem to go on for miles.

  19. What a lovely walk, Janet, and on such a perfect, blue-sky day, too! It must look different every day, depending on the light. I have the feeling that next year when you lead us on your walk, you will know all about the geology and the coastal plants, and will be on a first-name basis with the (very handsome) wagtail. What a great new set of potential obsessions to have before you…

    1. Hi Stacy, I was pondering how variable the sea and sky are just yesterday, I glanced up from where I was languishing on the sofa feeling slightly sorry for myself to see that the sea had gone from a pale grey that merged seamlessly in to the sky to a deep blue almost black, the contrast with sky so sharp it looked drawn with a ruler. As to the rocks and local wildlife, I am glad I am here for the long term as I think it will take a while for me to tear myself away from the obsession that is creating a new garden in order to indulge they new ones!

  20. Thank you for allowing me to tag along on your walk, Janet! I visited Wales when I lived in London but didn’t get to see this gorgeous coast area.

    Please come visit me in the mountains of North Carolina at I will will be hosting a Walk Off journey in a couple of days where I am 3600 feet above sea level! Cheers, Lynn

    1. You’re welcome Lynn, glad to have given you a glimpse of the parts of Wales you missed before. I’ll certainly come and visit when your Winter Walk post is up.

  21. A favourite memory from the past was a day on the Llyn Peninsular – you have reached wonderland Janet. This walk made a refreshing change from gardening but even so plants and rocks were a welcome insertion. Loved the green snowflakes – no doubt – when you have time -you’ll be doing a geology course!

    p.s. we have a grey wagtail visit here when the flat roof below is flooded (bit of a misnomer but it’s much greyer than its yellow counterpart). How does it know to stop by?

    1. Hi Laura, The Llyn is stunning, isn’t it, I worked just up the coast from there in my summers when I was at Uni, and it was a favourite place to go to when we wanted to escape. Funnily enough my Mum is doing a geology course at the moment, though she has lived in Brixham nearly 20 years now, so it may take a while for me to get around to really getting to know the rocks… I often find myself wondering how birds, with their tiny brains, “know” so much.

  22. What a great idea! Maybe I can participate next year. Your harbor is gorgeous — we don’t have anything quite that dramatic in my neighborhood. Love the yellow gorse with the sky photo and your gray wagtail reminds me of a less yellow meadowlark.

    1. Hi Eliza, I love the harbour, anywhere that has boats is great, but I particularly love it when there are proper working boats. Thanks for stopping by!

  23. You can distract me with another pretty rock any day of the week! Looks like learning some maritime plants is on the agenda in the near future. Love that little Grey Wagtail, love the yellow underbelly. I enjoyed this walk, what a great seawall and shoreline to walk. oh look, another pretty rock. :-D

    1. Hi Janet, lots and lots of pretty rocks! I really do need to find myself a good little guidebook for the plantlife around here, I hate feeling so ignorant when I am out and about. Thank goodness for digital cameras, the Internet and knowledgeable bloggers!

  24. Does look like living in a dream – with many resonances with the dream we live in here in Dorset.

    Cliffs don’t have to be high to be cliffs.

    Stars don’t have to be silver or swim.

    For IDs –

    Hope your spirits were lifted while you walked.

    1. Hi Esther, yes, you have some amazing coast down near you, but I am happy to no longer be envious of your location! I am in love with the star. Thank you for the id link, will have an explore, I certainly need help!!

  25. You live in such a beautiful place for walks. Lovely colors in the rocks however they got there in the first place. Bird and flower books are challenging in themselves, so glad you were able to ID the pretty bird.

    Thanks for sharing your part of the world with us.

  26. Oh Janet – tempus fugit and all that – seems as if your 2011 post was only yesterday!
    I think that you are living in an even lovlier spot now but that maybe influenced by my dream of living by the sea : ) What fun you will have learning all about seaside flora – there must be a book out there somewhere on the topic.

    1. Tempus very much fugit, I have just seen an ad for the village plant sale, which had just happened when we came to see the house for the first time last year. Can’t believe how quickly time has flown by. The village and surroundings were very pleasant, but this place makes my heart sing. Even when I am having a bad day a glimpse out of the window of the sea makes me smile. I need to get on Amazon and find myself a good book, as you say, there must be one. That or I just rely on the internet. Which has the benefit of being free – well, already there, anyway…

  27. thanks Janet for the lovely walk, your thrift looks like thrift to me but I have no idea about the other plants, nice rock formations as well,
    good to see you taking some wee breaks from gardening too, Frances

    1. HI Frances, you’re welcome, glad you enjoyed the wander – and I figured I should prove that I do sometimes tear myself away from the gardening!

  28. What a gorgeous place you live at. I grew up in the lake district, but on the coast and I miss the beach. All the little plants and the birds are just wonderful. My husband’s parents live firther up the coast in the lakes, near seascale power station and your photos remind me of there, more than the beach I grew up it. It looks very natural and ‘wild’ in the most beautiful sense. I love visiting them and we go for walks and bike rides along the coast. I miss the sea!! Thanks so much for sharing :)

    1. Hi Anna, it is fabulous, and yes, very wild and unpsoilt, it is what I have always loved about Anglesey. I don’t know the coastal Lake District, but it was on our shortlist of places we might move to. Happy to have given you a visual reminder of the sea!

  29. Working my way through the Winter Walk-Off list and have so enjoyed your post. Nice to meet someone else who doesn’t know all the plant names but loves them nonetheless. I haven’t been to your area (yet) but I did visit the Lake District last July and it is my favorite part of the UK so far. It’s lovely to live in a garden but the wild places are best, aren’t they?

    1. Hi Marian, thank you for dropping by and leaving a comment. The Lake District is a wonderful area, I went there on holidays a lot when I was a child, and then later as an adult, and it is where I learned to sail. And yes, I think the wild places are both precious and wonderful, I feel extraordinarily lucky to live in one.

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