Island View

A weekend visit to Wales. Time to take it easy in favourite places across the Llyn peninsula after so many months of lockdown.

Acquired from an Inverness charity shop many years ago, this much loved picnic rug in the clip below has since enjoyed adventures day and night, far and wide! Today it served to line a a deep sheltered dune hollow where the summer sun warmed soft sea air.

The view was magnificent across a vast bay littered with shipwrecks, known as Hell’s Mouth, or Porth Neigwl. Here the Atlantic Ocean bellows on tempestuous days, the roar is spine tingling. Skilled surfers ride risky waves and coastal path walkers battle hard to remain upright.

Yet today the great deep was serene, perhaps wearied by stormy winter or maybe its calm was a generous gift to soothe souls who have been much locked away during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The opportunity to daydream in a dune nest to the accompaniment of whispering waves was heavenly!

Stirring ourselves, we tracked through country lanes, thick with wildflowers, to Tafarn Yr Haul or The Sun Inn, a popular hostelry in a snug of cottages around a country church.

The historic place of worship is dedicated to Saint Engan, a sixth century soul who gave his name to the village – LLanengan. The church has long been a staging post on the pilgrim route to sacred Bardsey Island.

By night, the beam of the holy island’s light house flashes warning across Hell’s Mouth, telling of the treacherous currents that swirl around the isle. The beam is broadcast by solar power from the tallest square tower lighthouse in the UK. The stocky beacon sports stripes of red and white and reminds me of socks on a footballer’s chunky calves!

I saw this lovely doorway in the village and appreciated the smart simplicity of paint, bare wood and an open heart.

One of my favourite Welsh verses is a romantic and anonymous promise:

Mi gerddaf gyda thi dros lwybrau maith
A blodau can a breuddwyd ar ein taith,
I'th lygaid syllaf a dal dy law,
Mi gerddaf gyda thi beth bynnag ddaw.

I will walk with you across distant paths,
Flowers and dreams will bless our journey,
Into your eyes I will gaze and hold your hand,
I will walk with you whatever may come.

Postcard from: Porth Y Swnt Centre of Coastal Excellence

Aberdaron, wild west Wales

Aberdaron, wild west Wales

The Welsh Government celebrates three centres of coastal excellence; Swansea Bay, Pembrokeshire and Aberdaron, where the new National Trust visitor centre Porth Y Swnt opens on March 28.

Named in a competition won by local schoolgirl Elliw Jones Evans. Porth Y Swnt translates as Gateway to the Sound, an evocative name in keeping with the unspoiled landscape. Aberdaron is the gateway to Bardsey Sound, the treacherous passage to Ynys Enlli, or Bardsey Island.

Glorious daffodils; , the national flower of Wales

Glorious daffodils, the national flower of Wales

The wild Welsh LLyn peninsula is hugely inspirational. Here priest poet RS Thomas wrote haunting verse about his vulnerability, struggles with faith and deep connection to land and sea.

Thomas is among my favourite poets and I was hugely privileged to receive permission from his family to include his poem The Other in my book 52 Weekends by the Sea.

photo

On a recent visit to Porth Y Swnt, builders were busy with finishing touches ahead of the grand opening on March 28 2014.

Set in stone: Sion and Mike fix firmly poetry at the door

Set in stone: Sion and Mike fix firmly slabs of poetry at the threshold of Porth Y Swnt

Evocative poetry at the threshold of Porth y Swnt

The poem ‘Aberdaron’ by Cynan

I suspect many visitors will share the sense of longing and devil-may-care rebellion expressed by Sir (Albert) Cynan Evans-Jones CBE,  known simply as Cynan, in the Porth Y Swnt threshold poem Aberdaron.

Here the first verse in Welsh, followed by a translation of the  full poem in English.

Aberdaron

Pan fwyf yn hen a pharchus

Ac arian yn fy nghod,
A phob beirniadaeth drosodd
A phawb yn canu ‘nghlod
Mi brynaf fwthyn unig
Heb ddim o flaen y ddôr.
Ond creigiau Aberdaron
A thonnau Gwyllt y Môr

Aberdaron 

When I am old and honoured

With silver in my purse

All criticism over

All men singing my praise

I will purchase a a lonely cottage

With nothing facing its door,

But the cliffs of Aberdaron

And the wild waves on the shore

 

For there I will discover

In the stormy wind and its cry

Echoes of the Old rebellion

My soul knew in days gone by

And I will sing with the old passion

While gazing through the door

At the cliffs of Aberdaron

And the wild waves on the shore

The landscape of poets; Aberdaron

The landscape of poets; Aberdaron

To Hell’s Mouth

Nefyn    Bardsey Island   Aberdaron   Porth Neigwl

The wild windswept LLyn peninsula is a favourite haunt; any season, any weather.

I’ve written about this rugged and magnificent Welsh speaking landscape in my book 52 Weekends by the Sea; I return again and again to this coast. Whatever my mood there’s always something to inspire.  Here are recent pictures, taken on my phone camera as usual.

Local people are impressively bilingual, road signs plunge you into a wonderful language. Check out this rustic sign at the end of a muddy farm track; I can only dream of pronouncing these words correctly.

An instant Welsh lesson

Nefyn is one of the largest communities on the peninsula. From here Welsh seafarers moved to new lives in far flung countries where Lllyn’s wealthy businessmen invested heavily. Hence the extraordinary link with Argentina. Puerto Madryn takes its name from the Welsh Castell Madryn. Town twinning to celebrate the historic links began in 1998.

Far flung friendships

Canny sheep know which holiday houses lie empty when wintry gusts and pelting rain sweep the shore, they flee to sheltered boltholes, unseen by the homeowners.

Shelter from the storm

If you long to blow out cobwebs then climb Mynydd Mawr, a heathery hill where red legged black choughs perform acrobatics on seabreezes. Mystical Bardsey island offshore, illuminated on dark wintry days by a diminutive lighthouse indicating the island’s fearsome surroundings; turbulent waters and savage rocks. Nearby is lovely Aberdaron, a great beach and a church with poetic associations.

Poetic inspiration: Aberdaron

Winter island: Bardsey

There’s more fearful water at Hell’s Mouth, Porth Neigwl. This four mile beach is backed by clay cliffs. From here you’ll spy black clad surfers in wetsuits on barrelling waves below.

December surfers, Hell's Mouth

Southwesterly gales slam the beach, shipwrecks abound and rip current are a danger to all.

Beware rip tides

Know how to handle a rip tide? This notice at Hell’s Mouth is essential reading.

Hell's Mouth: be prepared