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Tag: Wild Animals

Meadow and Medieval

Meadow and Medieval

A few years ago our friend Marie from the USA came over here and on one day we took her to Stokesay Castle near Craven Arms in Shropshire. We travelled by car and parked in the Stokesay Castle car park as that seemed to be the most obvious thing to do.

We recently decided to visit Stokesay Castle again but this time we were planning to park in the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre on the outskirts of Craven Arms and walk to Stokesay Castle. Marie will probably recognise the views of Stokesay Castle. The Discovery Centre is on the edge of Onny Meadows; a large area of very nice water meadows with numerous footpaths.

We parked and then set off from the Discovery Centre to find the path that would take us across to the other side of the River Onny. We probably would have missed it if it wasn’t for the fact that I had my smartphone in my hand which showed us our position on a map. At the point at which it showed that we had reached the start of the path there was a rather insignificant gap in the hedge and that was the path we wanted. We probably wouldn’t have recognised it otherwise.

We were now heading for the river and on the way we passed some rather nice timber framed cottages.

Then we soon arrived at the ‘White Bridge’ over the river.

I stopped on the bridge to take a photograph of the river so there are no prizes for guessing whose shadow that is.

On the other side of the river we started to climb whilst travelling parallel to the river. The path went through some nice landscapes until it was fairly high above the river and then began to drop slowly until we reached river level again.

The River Onny here is quite deep and so flows very slowly. The overall impression is that of a pond rather than a river and there were plenty of dragonflies about.

As we walked alongside the river I spotted this Reed Canary-Grass which I thought looked rather nice. It is, unsurprisingly, a waterside grass.

Where the river was very shallow at the edges we saw a lot of fry, possibly Minnow, in large shoals. Each fish was only about one inch long.

It didn’t take us very long to get to Stokesay Castle which was looking its usual splendid self. This is an English Heritage property and all visits currently have to be pre-booked because of the Covid-19 situation but entry was quite straight forward. Needless to say there are plenty of features to look at and it really is interesting. They do have a nice gift shop at the entrance and we left carrying three jars of assorted fruit preserves and a bottle of liqueur. I don’t know how that happened.

Having had a good look around we decided that it was time to leave and started to walk back to the Discovery Centre. We passed this recently harvested field and I couldn’t resist a photograph partly because those large hills on the horizon are actually clouds.

We returned on a different path which passed through this wooded area of mainly Ash trees which looked very nice in their silvery bark.

Onward through the meadows were these Tansey flowers which I haven’t seen for some time and this is probably the largest bunch that I’ve seen.

As we approached the Discovery Centre we passed through these wooden representations of Mammoth tusks. These are here because there is, in the Discovery Centre, a full sized replica of Woolly Mammoth remains which were found near Condover, Shrewsbury.

The Discovery Centre is a modern building with a low profile and a grass roof.

The interior is very pleasant with a large gift shop and a well stocked cafe where we had lunch including, of course, finishing up with ice cream ( a very good selection of flavours). This is the passageway to the cafe.

That was the end of another interesting and enjoyable little trip.

The Island in the Sky – Day 1

The Island in the Sky – Day 1

It all started with a boot full. That is to say a car boot not a boot on the foot. “But wait” I hear you cry “Surely you’re not going on another trip so soon after the other one?”

Well, from the look of that boot,with cases, I would say we are going on another trip and, this time, it’s Lake Vyrnwy about 50 miles north of us. The navigation system estimates the journey time to be about one and a half hours. Welsh roads don’t y’ know (one car wide).

The journey proved to be fairly straightforward and we arrived at the hotel without any problems. The hotel is the large building on the hillside in the distance beyond the lake. Just in case you wondered it is all of that building.

It is a nice hotel with two separate seating areas and we had a room overlooking the lake so you’re bound to get some views from the room later on.

The sitting room above had a small balcony outside with some tables and chairs.

Our room isn’t going to be ready until later this afternoon, which we expected anyway, so we decided to drive up to the far end of the lake to have a look at a waterfall.

We parked the car and set off on our walk but hadn’t gone very far when a very friendly local decided he wanted to join us. There was no “Do you mind if I join you?” – he just joined us. Here is Amanda with our new friend.

He eventually became tired of our company and we left him behind. A little further on we spotted these mountaineering sheep on quite a steep slope.

Continuing with our walk we came up to the brow of a hill and suddenly there it was.

We were determined to get to the foot of the falls so we pressed on which involved crossing the river. Not so far to go now.

Then we could see the waterfall in all its glory.

Finally we reached the foot of the falls. The view from here wasn’t quite as good as from further back but it was a lot noisier.

It was now late afternoon so we went back to our hotel. Our room was ready so we took our luggage up and had our first look out of the window. We couldn’t really complain about that could we?

So, dinner this evening, then it’s off to bed ready to wake to a new day.

Sun, Sea and Sand – Day One

Sun, Sea and Sand – Day One

We struck lucky with the weather on this trip although the first part of the first day was cloudy (no sun, sea or sand) but after that it was sun all day every day.

We left home at about 9.00 AM for a two and a half hour journey so decided to break it up by visiting a National Trust Property at about the one and a half hour mark.

We stopped at Dinefwr Park and, for those of you that don’t know, Dinefwr is pronounced “Din ever”. It consists of Newton House (a stately home), the ruins of a medieval castle (Dinefwr Castle) and lots of parkland which is home to a herd of deer.

As I mentioned above this morning was cloudy but I took the following picture anyway.

However we called in here again on our way home when the weather was better and I photographed it again. Which picture do you think is better?

Inside the house it didn’t matter what the weather was like outside so I carried on taking photographs.

Those rooms, as you might expect, look rather grand. The Dining Room in the top picture and the Sitting Room in the bottom picture. The interesting thing about this property is that nobody minds if you touch the furniture or walk on the carpets or even sit on the chairs.

I did go out to the back of the house where it overlooks the Deer Park and surprise, surprise I saw some deer. They were quite a long way away so even using my telephoto lens to its maximum this is the best that I could achieve. You should, at least, be able to see their antlers.

I took that photograph above from the small formal garden shown below which is at the back of the house. That is the only gardens they have here.

We also had a look at the castle both times we stopped here so as the weather was better on the way back these photographs are from then.

There is a reasonable amount to see in this castle ruin even extending to a few medieval spiral stairways which can be tricky to negotiate because the height of each tread can vary as can the width.

It is possible to see Newton House, together with some lovely views, from some of the high points of the castle so it is worth the scramble.

We had some lunch here at Dinefwr then headed off to our final destination. We booked into our hotel and after sorting out our parking space (they have only 10) which we had reserved we went outside and this is the first photograph I took of Tenby from outside the hotel.

Here in Tenby at 4 o’clock we now have sea and sand but no sun yet but we set off to explore anyway. The hotel has gardens at the front that are terraced down the steeply sloping cliffs to the beach and that is where we went.

It is now 5 o’clock and look, the sun has appeared! So now, finally, we have sun, sea and sand. What a change in just an hour.

We were able to walk along the beach as the tide was out and went to have a look at that lump of rock sticking through the sand. You can see that the rock bedding is steeply inclined and, as we later discovered, that applies to most of the rock on this coast. That tiny bit of head together with a splash of red on the right-hand edge is Amanda.

We walked along the beach until we found some steps up into the town. This is a view back the way we came from town level. You can see that lump of rock that we stopped to make friends with and just to the left of it is a small cream building. Our hotel is directly above that.

It is now 5:30 PM and you may notice that the cloud is dispersing rapidly.

Now I have to ask – have you ever seen a fat seagull?

Well you have now. As you can no doubt work out it is a little cafe so we went in for some coffee and cake.

It was a nice little place and the cake was good. That’s Amanda over on the right against the wall. Having finished our refreshments we went back into the town. Want some colour? We can find you some colour!

This is just one of the many narrow lanes in Tenby. There is plenty more to see but we are calling it a day and are going back to the hotel until tomorrow.

Tipula maxima

Tipula maxima

No, I'm not being obscene.

We had two of these in the house/conservatory today.

It is a rather large Crane Fly. Crane Flies normally have clear, rather boring, wings; but not this one. We think that this particular species, Tipula maxima, is rather attractive. I can imaginge that many people would think that they might sting or bite but, no, they are completely inoffensive. We put them back outside.

Amanda took the photograph.

The Other End – Day 3

The Other End – Day 3

Wake up. Draw curtains. Wall to wall sunshine again. Whoopee. Another nice, relaxed breakfast.

Today we are going back to the bus station and catching the same bus again but we are going a little farther this time; a 20 minute journey. We alight at the first bus stop after the bus turns away from the coast road in Oystermouth which is part of Mumbles. Both names are said to be corruptions of welsh names. We walk, for just a few minutes, back to the coast. Looking straight across Swansea Bay we can see Swansea on the other side.

Looking to our left we can see buildings in Oystermouth. That rather prominent stone building on the hill is Oystermouth Castle.

Looking to our right we can see Mumbles Pier which is where we're headed. Mumbles seems to be quite a busy little place with plenty of shops and cafes and we have a slow, pleasant walk along the pedestrian/cycle path which follows the shoreline. It isn't very long before we arrive at Mumbles Pier.

Mumbles Pier is Victorian, as most piers are in this country, and is apparently privately owned. Access is free and we walked out to the decking at the outward end. That part of the pier between the shore and this deck at the outward end is in a bit of a state but it is apparently being renovated as this outer part shows.

The pier buildings on the shore are also Victorian and the left-hand end is a cafe where we had our morning coffee. It is a nice little cafe which also serves food but we didn't try that. The cafe seems to have preserved many of the original Victorian features including the chandeliers and fans.

After our brief rest we climbed the obvious steps to the top of the cliff and walked south-west past Middle Head and Mumbles Head and then looked back to this view. Mumbles Head is the one with the lighthouse on it and Middle Head is the one behind it.The lighthouse was completed in 1794 and initially two open coal fire lights were displayed which were difficult to maintain and were soon replaced by a single oil-powered light within a cast-iron lantern. The lighthouse is now unmaned.

We walked as far as Limeslade Bay and went down onto the beach where we rumaged around looking at the rocks. The rocks on the Mumbles promontory are steeply inclined and from the Carboniferous period being limestone at the seaward end and coal measures at the landward end. We found this among some of the bedrock and I don't profess to know what process would have caused it but it is very striking.

It was at this point that we made another mistake. Looking at the map it was obvious that if we went back the way that we came we would be travelling in a semi-circle whereas cutting through the side streets would be a straight line. Well it would have been if the ground had been flat so we ended up travelling in a semi-circle, but vertically, as we went up and over the hill. I should have looked more closely at the contours shouldn't I? The road down turned out to be interesting as it was obviously an old road, very narrow in places and winding all over the place.

We got there in the end and ended up at Oystermouth Castle. The castle is Norman, probably built around 1220, and is the responsibility of the local authority but is run by a volunteer group called 'The Friends of Oystermouth Castle'. The entry charge is £3.50 for adults and £2.50 for us oldies. I have to say it is certainly worth it.

One of the unusual features is a glass bridge about 30 feet up and, yes, we did walk over it and back again. The fun part is going up and down the spiral stairway and there are a number of those in this castle.

There are lots of features in this castle including wall walks, intricate passages running hither and thither and various halls and rooms. One could become quite disorientated with little effort but that's part of what makes it interesting.

There are also good views from the upper parts.

We left the castle early afternoon to get the bus back to Swansea as we wanted to visit the Tram Museum by the Marina. This museum is open only on Wednesday and Saturday and as today was Wednesday now was our chance. I suggested to Amanda that we go back to the bus stop then start to research bus times in case one comes along. When we got to the road a bus came along with 'Swansea City Centre' on its indicator board so we had to run for it. The doors shut just as we got there but the driver did notice us and re-opened the doors. Nice chap.

But, there had to be a but didn't there, this turned out to be one of those buses which diverts from the short route to make a circuit of the suburbs. Luckily it wasn't as long as happened yesterday but I did say then that we learn from our mistakes; we obviously don't. We may have been more fortunate if we had missed that particular bus. We still got back in time for the Tram Museum except for one minor point; it wasn't open. I enquired in the Swansea Museum nearby to be told that only one of the two required volunteers had turned up that morning so they weren't allowedto open it. Bother!

A quick change of plan saw us heading back north in the direction of the railway station to a shopping centre called 'Parc Tawe Shopping Centre' just north-east of Castle Square. No, we weren't going shopping but we were planning to visit 'Plantasia'. The local council describe it thus:

'We decided to create a Rainforest in the middle of the City to highlight the need and importance of looking after and protecting the World we live in. So come in and walk around our Tropical Paradise, take time to learn about the plants and animals which call the beautiful Rainforests their home.'

The entry charge is £3.95 for adults and £2.95 for us oldies. Not a lot.

Lots of interesting plants and there is a large pond with a waterfall together with a lot of large fish. When we leaned over the rail to get a better look the fish came rushing over to have a look at us. We saw a notice later which mention packs of fish food to buy so I think that they must be used to visitors giving them food. They were out of luck this time.

They also had two Cotton Top Tamarin monkeys which are among the most endangered primates in the world with a population of somewhere around 2500 individuals and which were apparently rescued from a zoo that was closing down. So they now have a home here in a wired off enclosure that appears to be the full hieight of the building.

They normally hide in the densest undergrowth which is what they were doing when we arrived but a bit of patience paid off when they eventually appeared. They are about the size of a domestic cat and rather cute with it.

There is also a separate section where some tropical birds can fly freely although not this particular one. It does know a few words but wasn't at all communicative when we were there. I seem to have that effect on people.

These Lorikeets were able to fly around and at one point I felt the draught as they flew close over my head. Cheeky little blighters. They are capable of talking and are also good whistlers. We didn't hear any of them say anything but their whistles were piercing.

The end of another perfect day so back to the hotel for a meal and, hopefully, a good nights sleep. So I'll wish you all a good knight and, luckily, we have one to spare courtesy of Oystermouth Castle.

Sorry but I couldn't resist.

More sightseeing tomorrow – our last day.

The Other End – Day 2

The Other End – Day 2

We wake up early on the first morning in our hotel. A bit too early as it turns out. It is 5:00 AM and we have been woken by the extractor in our bathroom starting up very noisily. It seems to have a mind of its own as there doesn't seem to be any logic to its operation. I later mentioned it to reception who later told us that it had been checked and there was a fault so they've temporarily disconnected it. We went back to sleep and eventually woke again at 7:00 AM.

Drawing the curtains tells me we have wall to wall sunshine. Super! We have a pleasant relaxed breakfast. Very friendly and cheerful staff and lovely food. Can't complain at all.

After breakfast we set off for the bus station which is a 10-15 minute walk away and we catch a bus towards Mumbles. We aren't going as far as Mumbles and we alight after about 12 minutes at Black Pill near the Woodman pub. Anyone that knows this area will realise where we're going but before we got there we sidestepped onto the shoreline for a quick photograph of Swansea across the bay.

You should be able to see a tower on the right of the picture. That is near the Marina where I previously photographed this same beach. Quite a beach!

We went back across the Oystermouth Road and down the lane beside the Woodman pub and we arrive here:

Clyne Gardens are known for their Rhododendrons and Azaleas and I make no apologies for the number of 'flowery' pictures. Consider yourselves lucky that I haven't included all the phogographs I took. This is one of those places where one wants to take another photograph after every step. We planned to make this trip at this time (8th-11th May) because of the Rhododendrons and Azaleas displays. The intensity and variety of colour is astonishing and more so when you consider that entry is FREE. You cannot get better value for money.

I have reproduced a plan of the gardens below which is a photograph of the board displayed at every entrance and you can just read the text in the larger version. You should notice that the gardens are roughly divided into two; the lower part with all the paths that seem to wind all over the place along the route of a small stream, giving a sense of seclusion, and the upper part which is on higher ground and is more open. Both areas are utterly delightful.

We entered the gardens at the extreme right. We made a mental note that just inside the gate there is a refreshment tent and just a short distance on are toilets. A good combination for us oldies.

We were then faced with this view. Doesn't that path seem inviting? Don't you feel that you want to see what treasures it holds? We had decided to follow the little stream to the large pond at the end then come back along the path which borders the stream valley so we took the first left. We were immediately assailed with bright colours at every turn.

It's alright for some of us who have time to sit and admire the view but someone has to take the photographs. Click, click, click. It is rather like being inside a kaleidoscope.

It took us quite a while to cover any distance as there is so much to look at but we did, eventually, arrive at the Japanese Bridge. The little waterfall feeds the stream running through the gardens.

This is the pond at the end of the garden that feeds the waterfall above.

This garden does have many plants that are not especially colourful but which, nenertheless, are interesting.

We made our way back toward the entrance although we weren't ready to leave, toilets don't ya know., then went back along the path which follows the top edge of the gardens. There were, of course, yet more colourful displays and some very impressive specimen trees. This garden has something for everyone. No, it has everything for everyone. This next picture is from the top part of the garden and you can see that it is higher than the secluded parts with a view across Swansea Bay and showing Swansea on the left.

We went back towards the entrance and had some hot drinks, some items left over from yesterday's lunch together with some purchased cake as a light lunch whilst sitting outside in the sun. When we were finished we strolled off towards the bus stop where we hoped to catch a bus for a short ride back towards Swansea to Singleton Park. I had an application on my smartphone which gives details of bus routes, bus stops and times which we found to be very handy and this gave us a bus at around 2:30 PM. We had a choice of getting off at one of two places. The first involved a walk which I estimate would have taken us 10-15 minutes and the second would drop us off at a stop which was significantly nearer. We chose the second. Big mistake! What I hadn't realised is that the bus goes all round the streets in the suburbs and turns a 10 minute ride into 40 minutes. Oh well, one learns by one's mistakes but we got there in the end.

This time we were visiting Singleton Park although not all of it but just the Singleton Botanic Gardens. We walked through a small part of the park to get to the botanical gardens and saw this stone circle on the way. This is not a genuine stone circle but one that was built in 1925. Known as the Gorsedd Stone Circle it was erected for the National Eisteddfod of Wales' Proclamation Ceremony.

The botanical gardens are described by the local authority as 'one of Wales' premier plant collections, with spectacular herbaceous borders and large glasshouses' and we wouldn't argue with that. Once again entry was FREE. I do like Swansea.

The greenhouses are large enough to have pathways and they didn't seem overly hot.

There was an arid greenhouse which featured numerous cacti, succulents and the like.

The local authority also says 'Although the gardens are at their most stunning during August, when a full programme of events and tours are staged, there is something to see throughout the year. The herbaceous borders are a fantastic sight from late March until mid October'.

They can say that again!

We wandered out of the Botanical Gardens into the surrounding Singleton Park which was originally part of a large family estate. We saw this Swiss style chalet built in 1826 as part of that estate and was designed and built locally. There are plans to use it as a cafe although there were no signs of life when we were there. It is, apparently, a listed building and Swansea Council is now working on the legal details of a plan to lease the Alpine-style building to Swansea University.

As well as refurbishing the inside of the cottage to provide a tea room and a café, the university is also looking into the possible introduction of a visitor centre and cycle hire facilities there in future. Watch this space.

Whilst in the main park we saw something unusual. The next photograph won't win any awards but it is the only time I have managed to photograph a Kingfisher. There is no mistaking that brilliant blue and we saw it fly a number of times. They aren't rare but they are very shy and you will be very lucky to see one. We were on the other side of the lake and I was using maximum telephoto. Must be a good omen.

We finally had had our fill of plants and flowers for today so wandered back to the bus stop. This time the bus didn't go all round the houses but went straight back to the bus station from whence we went back to the hotel.

If you are a keen walker you could walk along the sea front from near the Marina to Clyne Gardens, a distance of about 3 miles, and then walk from Clyne Gardens to Singleton Gardens which is probably no more than a mile.

We are looking forward to tomorrow.

Squaring the circle

Squaring the circle

Another sunny day. Another dash for the car. Another zooming off to somewhere.

This time it was Radnor Forest which is 10 miles (or 20 minutes) from home. The nearest village is New Radnor and it’s called ‘New’ Radnor because it was new when it was built in Medieval times to replace Old Radnor.

We passed through New Radnor and travelled on the A44, heading south-west, for about 1.5 miles until we saw a car park signposted where we turned off. We followed the rather bumpy track for about 0.6 of a mile and parked the car.

We walked along the track until we saw a path and stream going off to our left and followed it. Here is the intrepid Amanda following the stream.

We are both keen to see what’s around that bend ahead and, when we got there, this is what we saw:

It wasn’t quite as high as we expected and it certainly wasn’t impressive but it is pretty. It is fairly dry at the moment and we can always pop back after some heavy rain when it should be carrying a lot more water. There is no way in other than the path that we used and there’s no other way out.

The path is easy to navigate and it has been supplemented with boarding in places where the bank would otherwise be too steep to walk on without falling into the stream and, to prove it, Amanda didn’t fall in.

When we arrived back at the junction we turned left instead of back towards the car and carried on. We soon found ourselves climbing a very steep slope. So steep that had it been a bit steeper it probably been a hands and knees job. We got to the point where we were wondering whether to turn back when we saw the top not too far up and decided to continue.

On the way up we met this chunky little chap.

That is a Dor beetle. They are not uncommon and are of a type of dung beetle which all have the rather unattractive habit of eating dung. I thought that you might like to know that. We left it to its business, so to speak, and finally made it to the top of the slope.

We were rewarded with this sight after we realised we were being watched.

It was a Roe Deer. It watched us for a short time then trotted away. We joined another path and headed downhill. This time the slope was reasonable and at the bottom we were greeted with this view:

We rejoined the track and were soon back at the car.

We hadn’t quite finished yet and although we were headed back home we were looking for something on the way. How would you like to see a stone circle? Well unfortunately for you there isn’t one but we might manage a stone square. A stone square?

What can I say? Apparently these groups of four stones are not uncommon hereabouts and they are more common in Scotland but nobody has any idea what they are for.

Amanda had also noticed, on the map, another item marked ‘standing stone’ which was on our route back so off we went. We found the right area and found a place to stop the car and get out. We looked over a nearby field but couldn’t see anything remotely like a standing stone. We moved to the gate of the next field which had a lot of sheep down the far end and spotted a small stone near the sheep. There was no public access in that field but there was a public footpath in the next field so I thought I’d walk along it to see if I could get a photograph.

Now this is where it gets embarrassing. I found a gap in the hedge which enabled me to get a clear view of the stone.

Then one of the sheep spotted me and started bleating which started some of the others bleating as well. That soon moved through the whole flock. I realised that they were all looking at me and going baaaa. Time to move, I thought, and headed back to the car. I was horrified to see them start to follow me. Remember that I’m not in the same field but in the next one and there is a stout hedge between us.

By the time I got to the car the sheep had reached the gate of the other field and we noticed that there were some small metal troughs on the ground with some of the sheep putting their noses in them. It suddenly dawned on us that they thought I was Mister Food and were waiting for the goodies. We didn’t have any, of course, and as we drove away we could see dozens of little faces watching us through the gate. I felt really mean.

We went home.