A walk along the cliffs

Last Monday, before setting off on the long drive home, we took a couple of hours to go for a walk on the cliffs north of Whitburn near Souter lighthouse.

The lighthouse opened in 1871 and was the first in the world with an electrical powered lamp. It was decommissioned in 1988 – but not before the foghorn kept me awake during my first visit to Whitburn, when it operated throughout a foggy night, while we were staying at J’s auntie’s house (the house where she was born!).

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Battered by the sea and the elements, the cliffs are eroding, a process being accelerated by climate change. Since we were last here, sections of the coastal path have been diverted due to safety concerns

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The cliffs are home to sea birds, including Kittiwakes, Fulmar, Cormorants, Shags and Guillemots.

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To the south of the lighthouse, the coastal path descends and there is access to a small cove known as the Wherry, a popular local recreation spot in the past when fishing boats were kept in and launched from the cove.

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There’s a lot of history in the area. Although today the coast between Whitburn and South Shields are owned by the National Trust the top of the cliffs is a pleasant lawned area not that long ago they were dominated by industry with a coalmine (Whitburn colliery) lime kilns and a railway running along the top of the cliffs. There’s no sign today of the mine, (where my wife’s grandfather used to work) but the old lime kiln just over the coast road still remains as a reminder of the industrial past.

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The Marsden Banner Group have some good information on the history of the colliery and the village on their website.

The shore at Seaburn

Last weekend we were up in Sunderland for a family wedding. We hadn’t been up to the North East for about 4 years, visits delayed due to lockdowns and travel bans, so it was good to have an opportunity to catch up properly with family, rather than relying on posts on Facebook and Instagram.

We drove up on Friday, the day before, and stayed in the new Seaburn Inn hotel on the sea front. Although it’s very much an industrial town, Sunderland has a fantastic beach and coastline stretching from Roker through Seaburn and then on to Whitburn. We had paid a little extra for a room on the front with a balcony, hoping to enjoy the views over to the sea. The weather was rather dull when we arrived and it rained on Saturday (but, I’m glad to say, this did’t spoil the wedding), but it brightened up for the next couple of days. I’m always up early and was out for a walk along the Prom each morning irrespective of the weather.

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A dull morning, but it’s still enjoyable to walk along the Prom

And on Sunday afternoon, after a family gathering in the morning, we were able to enjoy a walk along the beach in the sunshine, from our hotel as far as the start of the cliffs at the boundary with Whitburn.

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We then spent a little time on the balcony reading and enjoying the view before an earlyish tea in the hotel bar. After that we enjoyed an evening walk along the shore towards Roker and back, finishing off with a drink on the balcony.

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Castleton

For the last day of my little break, I’d hoped to slot in another walk before heading over to Hope to catch the train back home. The weather forecast was, however, not looking so promising. Although I woke up to bright sunshine heavy rain and thunderstorms were forecast for the afternoon. So not wanting to get caught up on the hills in a heavy downpour a change of plan was in order. I decided I’d wander over to Castleton village and have a mooch. Although I’d been to Castleton a few times I’ve never looked around the village properly, so that seemed like a good option before I walked back across the fileds to Hope station.

Castleton is located at the end of the Hope valley, on the boundary of the Millstone Grit plateau of the Dark Peak to the north and the limestone landscape of the White Peak. hemmed in by the “Great Ridge” to the north and limestone hills to the west and south, it would be a dead end except for the dramatic Winnats Pass and Cave Dale, steep sided valleys cutting through the limstone.

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A close up shot towards Winnat’s Pass

It’s an old settlement, going way back to before the Norman Conquest. There were certainly people around here before the Ronans, with the remains of an Iron Age fort still visible on top of MamTor. After 1086 the area came under the control of William Peveril, allegedly an illigmitate son of William the Bastard, who had a castle constructed overlooking the village – it’s ruins remain today under the stewardship of English Heritage.

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Peveril’s castle on the hill overlooking the village

Although today it’s a “honeypot” attracting droves of tourists, walkers, cyclists and cavers, it was originally a working village, the main industry being mining for lead, other metals and the fluorite banded mineral known as “Blue John“. There’ several shops selling jewellry and trinkets using the attractive blue and yellow stone.

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It was a relatively short, pleasant walk through the fields from the hostel on a sunny morning. I fancied a coffee, but none of the cafes opened until at least 9:30, so I had a wander around the narrow streets of the village. There were plenty of attractive stone cottages that would have once been the homes of miners and other workers.

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The war memorial cross
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A closer look at the memorial

When you’re in the village, you can’t fail to notice a huge cavern set back in the hillside. This the Peak Cavern, one of the four show caves near the village, although that’s not it’s original name. Until a visit by Queen Victoria it was known as the ‘Devil‘s Arse’. In the past the cave system was mined and later there was a rope works here. In more recent time, as well as being opened as a tourist attractions, it’s been used as a concert venue and a cinema.

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After wandeing around I was ready for a coffee so indulged at the cafe attached to the Visitor Centre, by the main car park. There were several frustrated motorists looking for change as the car park doesn’t accept payments by card and since the events of the past 18 months people are less likely to be carrying coins in their pockets.

Refuelled with caffeine I set off on the walk back to Hope to catch the midday train.

Menacing clouds were gathering over the hills to the west

It’s a pleasant walk through the fields with views over to the Great Ridge.

The clouds continued to move in and were starting to look menacing as I approached the train station. This was the view looking back

I boarded my train just as the cloud moved in. The train headed straight towards it and as it emerged from the tunnel at Chinley the heavens opened.

We’d passed through the cloud by the time we reached Manchester Piccadilly where I just made the connection to Wigan. It was sunny by the time I got home. But that was the end of the good weather for a while – all changed the next day!.

A Summer evening in Grasmere

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After a hot day in Borrowdale I drove over to Grasmere for a fianl night in the Lake District. After checking intot eh hostel, showering and having a bite to eat, it was far too nice to stop indoors, so, making the most of a beautiful, warm Summer’s evening I went for a mooch around the village.

In the daytime it is usually heaving with day trippers, but in the evening, although the pubs and resterraunts were busy, it was quiet in around the lanes around the village.

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Stone Arthur
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Seat Sandal
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Helm Crag
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Stone Arthur and Heron Pike

As the sun started to go down I went back tot he hostel and sat outside for a while with a bottle of Nanny State and then turned in for the night. I had a good walk planned for the next day!

A walk from Winster

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The final day of my short break in the Peak District I followed another route from the Vertebrate Day Walks in the Peak District guide. Setting out from the former lead mining village of Winster, taking in woodland, heath, an ancient stone circle, gritstone rock formations and Elton, another former mining village. For at least part of this walk I would have been walking in the footsteps of some of my ancestors – my family history research had revealed that a great x 7 and great x 6 grandfathers had been born in Elton and my great x7 grandmother had been born in Winster. It’s likely that this branch of my tree originated a little further north, near High Wheeldon where I’d climbed two days before.

The family were lead miners and at one time, this part of the world, on the boundary between millstone grit and limstone geology, was lead mining country. My research revealed that, like a number of Derbyshire miners, moved to work in North Wales, in their case at the Minera mine near Wrexham. The father of the family died relatively young by modern standards at about 50. The nature of the work meant that lead miners were exposed to toxic dusts and other dangers and this was typical life expectancy.

I parked up in the free car park on the outskirts of Winster near the local school and after booting up and after a short walk along the road I climbed over a stile and set off across the fields, the grass still wet after the downpours the day before. No rain was forecast and although the sky was grey it brightened up towards the end of my walk.

I passed through a gate and entered the broadleaf woodland

The trees were quite dense and I had to duck under their branches in places.

After climbing up along the path I reached a track and then the route doubled back taking a dog leg through along a path higher up in the woods.

I passed the remains of of water wheel which would probably have been used to drain a former lead mine

I carried on along the path which emerged from the woods meeting a track. After a mile I turned off through fields of cattle and then past a farm and camp site before reaching the edge of Stanton Moor.

Stanton Moor is owned by Stanton Estates and managed by English Nature . The area has been occupied since prehistoric times and there are a large number of ancient monuments scatttered across the landscape, most of them hidden in the heather and undergrowth.

I crossed the moor

passing a number of millstone grit outcrops

passing Victorian folly, built to commemmorate the Reform Bill in 1832.

I eventually reached the Nine Ladies stone circle, an ancient monument in the care of English Heritage.

The names of the monuments derive from their associations with folk traditions, in which it is said that nine women were dancing on the Sabbath to a fiddler – the King Stone – and were turned to stone.

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Time to stop and take a rest and a bite to eat, perching on a gritstone outcrop, and then carried on across the moor passing an old disused quarry

until I reached the “Cork Stone”, on of a number of “megaliths” found on the moor, Supposedly associated with ancient rituals.

The Cork Stone is certainly associated with one more modern ritual – the footholds carved into the rock are evidence of the Victorian version of “bouldering“.

A right turn and a short walk along a path took me off the moor, joining a quiet road. After a relatively short walk on the tarmac , I turned off opposite a stone works, crossed a car park and took a path through the woods until I reached the small village of Birchover.

I took the track past the Druid Inn, which looked like a god place to stop – but I carried on.

The track took me through pleasant farmland

and finally a path through a field.

Crossing the road and then through a field I reached a track which was part of the Limestone Trail. Turning right I follwed this route heading through fields up towards Robin Hood’s Stride.

I took a slight diversion to visit the Hermit’s Cave at the bottom of the Cratcliffe Tor gritstone outcrop

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To be honest, I found it rather underwhelming!

Leaving the cave it was only a short walk to Robin Hood’s Stride, a large gritstone Tor.

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The legendary Robin Hood is supposed to have between the towers at either end of the tor. He must have had extremely long legs!

Time for another rest before carrying on across a field before meeting a minor road. I then had to tread the tarmac for about a mile before climbing over a stile and descending down and then up a path crossing fields of cattle heading towards my ancestral village of Elton.

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On reaching the village, the sun was shining. Given the family connection I had to explore a little. I had a look in the church graveyard but I couldn’t see any gravestones for possible family members. Not so suprising really as they lived in the early 18th Century and being poor lead miners it’s unlikely any ancestors buried here could have afforded a headstone.

I had a wander round the village . There were plenty of old houses, some of which may have been miners’ dwellings, although today they’re desirable and expensive stone cottages.

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The village isn’t very big so it didn’t take long to explore. I carried on along the road before rejoining the Limestone Trail heading towards Winster.

My route took me through the older part of the village, which used to be a market town and larger than Elton

I passed attractive stone cottages that were probably originally the home of the better off miners.

I had a wander down the main street

The village shop is owned by the local Community

The old Market House is in the care of the National Trust and was the first property they aquired in the Peak District back in 1906.

The NT website tells us

The House itself is two storeys high and rests upon a massive stone base. It follows the traditional pattern of such buildings, originally having the whole of the ground floor open with the upper storey supported by five arches. The date at which these arches were filled in is not known but it was probably during the decline of the market, between 1795 and 1855. The upper chamber is mainly of brick resulting in an attractive contrast with the stone arches and facings.

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and the building is listed by English Heritage.

I was starting to feel tierd by now so made my way back to my car. It had been a cracking walk with lots of interest and a good end to an enjoyable break. I headed home hoping to get back in time to watch the England v Germany match on TV. I hadn’t realised it was an early kick off but managed to get home in time to catch the end of the first half.

Claife Viewing Station

I’ve not written an architectural post for a while, mainly because restrictions over the past year have largely precluded visits to National Trust, English Heritage, Cadw and other properties, and I’ve been avoiding visits to towns and cities. However on the first day of my recent mini-break up in the Lakes I did have the opportunity to take a look at a historical curiosity close to the start and finish of my walk near the ferry terminal on the western shore of Windermere – the Claife viewing station.

This neo- Gothic style tower was built in the 1790s as a viewpoint over Windermere and became paricularly popular during the late Georgian and early Victorian period when viewing “picturesque” sites became the thing to do amongst the wealthy visitors to the Lakes.

It’s only a short walk from the ferry terminal, and is well signposted from there. You first reach the castellated wall at the entry to the site.

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A short way along the path and the tower comes into view up on the hillside. There’s stiff, but short climb up some steps to reach the tower.

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The original building on the site was constructed for one Reverend William Braithwaite in the 1790’s. He comissioned an architect, John Carr, to build a summer house a two storey octagonal tower in a neo-Classical Style. On his death, the land was purchased by John Curwen, the wealthy owner of Belle Island, the largest island on Windermere, which is visible from the tower.

The Curwens had the tower enlarged and modified in the neo-Gothic style which was becoming fashionable. They entertained their friends in the tower holding landern lit parties. Visitors were encouraged to enjoy the views.

The Picturesque is an aesthetic ideal popularised by William Gilpin in 1782., which he defined as

‘that peculiar kind of beauty which is agreeable in a picture’

According to the early 20th Century architectue critic, Christopher Hussey, a Picturesque view has elemnts of

“roughness and sudden variation joined to irregularity of form, colour, lighting, and even sound”

Hussey, Christopher (1927). The picturesque: studies in a point of view.

Following popular guide books of the time, the visitor, on reaching a recommended viewpoint, such as the tower, would turn their back on the landscape, looking at the reflection in the Claude Glass. The National Trust website tells us

many amateur artists and tourists used a ‘Claude glass’ to frame the landscape. These small, tinted, convex mirrors were used to make a natural scene look more like a picture by the celebrated seventeenth-century landscape painter, Claude Lorraine.

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Pin by Corey Ackelmire on Too Old | Claude glass, Picturesque, Claude

Over the years the building fell out of use and deteriorated. Along with the nearby land it was left to the National Trust in 1962 and they have worked to partially restore the tower, making it accessible to visitors to get a taste of the views experieinced by the original visitors.

There’s views over the lake from both the ground and first floors

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On the first floor, the National Trust have inserted samples of coloured glass. The Curwens had

windows tinted with coloured glass, designed to recreate the landscape under different seasonal conditions. Yellow created a summer landscape, orange an autumn one, light green for spring, dark blue for moonlight and so on.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hawkshead-and-claife-viewing-station/features/claife-viewing-station-National Trust
View towards Ill Bell and the Kentmere Fells
View over the lake
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Interesting shadow effects

There used to be “viewing stations” throughout the Lakes, with seven around Windermere. As far as I know, Claife is the only one remaining.

Last day on Anglesey

The Wednesday of our holiday turned out as forecast – wet and windy. So it was a day for staying in, relaxing, catching up on some reading and, at least for one of us (not me!) watching the French Open tennis on the TV. Thursday was very different – a bright sunny day.

We’d thought of driving off to somewhere else on the island, but instead decided we’d repeat our walk along the coast to Moelfre and see if we could get a bite to eat in the cafe or pub.

After the rain on Wednesday, the path down to the beach across the fields was muddy and slippy inplaces, but we were wearing our boots so that wasn’t a major problem.

When we reached the beach, unlike previous days, the tide was in. And, unlike Saturday, the sea was calm.

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Traeth Lligwy with the tide in

We followed the same route as Saturday but here’s a few pictures, this time with a calmer sea.

Here’s Porth Forllwyd. With the tide in there was water in the little harbour

and there were a couple of fishermen perched precariously on the rocks

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The pebbly beach

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Getting close to Moelfre now. There was a good view across the calm sea to Snowdonia. There was some rain falling over there.

Moelfre is an old fishing community but depends on tourism these days. It’s a small village, with not a lot there, but it does have a cafe, a pub, a chippie and a siop (Welsh spelling!)

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On a sunny day the cafe was quite busy, but we did manage to get a table outside on the terrace and enjoyed a drink and sandwich after logging in and ordering our selection from the menu via a website – a precaution against you know what. It was still possible, however, for staff to take orders.

After finishing our meal we had a stroll around the village, and then set back retracing our steps along the coastal path to LLigwy beach and then back along the quiet lanes to our accommodation.

We had a relaxing evening then it was up early on the Friday morning to pack , tidy up and load our stuff into the car as we had to leave by 9:30. It was a grotty, morning so we decided to set of back for home. Our options for stopping off on the way home were limited, anyway due to restrictions that had been implemented the day before along most of our route through North Wales.

It had been a good week’s break. The weather had been kind to us, with just a couple of grey, wet days and on one of them I was able to get out in the morning. We chose our week well for the the weather but also because just 2 weeks after returning home, as we live in Greater Manchester we aren’t allowed to travel to Wales 😦

Cemaes

After our walk around Parys Mountain we decided we’d drive a little further along the north coast of the island to the small resort of Cemaes – the most northerly village in Wales. Originally a fishing village, particularly for herring, and a port for the export of bricks, today it very much relies on tourism with it’s sandy beaches and pretty little harbour.

We drove into the village, missing the turn for the car park down by the beach but managed to find a large car park up the behind the main shopping street. I was amazed to find that parking there was free. Makes a change!

It’s quite a small place and it didn’t take long to look round. We walked along the main street, which had a only a few shops (some of them shut down, sadly), and then down towards the picturesque harbour. the tide was out so the fishing and pleasure boats were all stranded in the mud.

There was still some evidence of fishing and we saw a couple of men loading up crates of lobsters into their van. None for sale locally, though.

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Then on to the beach

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There were signs up making it clear that dogs were only allowed on a resticted section of the beach during the main season (which hadn’t finished). But what did we see. Yes, several dog walkers ignoring the instruction. It illustrates the problem that if you implement meaures people are required to follow the message must be clear (it was in this case), reinforced and enforced. Just the same with masks and social distancing at the moment. (Rant over!) Having said that, there were very few people on the beach and the promenade. It was very quiet and peaceful.

We were intrigued by this structure standing on the beach

A little research revealled it to be “St Patricks bell“. It’s one of several bells located at coastal locations around the UK by the Time and Tide project to celebrate the connection of local communities between themselves, the land, the sea and the environment. In Cemaes the bell celebrates the local legend that St Patrick was shipwrecked on the nearby island,Ynys Badrig, where he founded a church in 440 AD, introducing Christianity to Britain.

The bell is rung by the high tide, and is meant as a reminder of rising sea levels caused by global warming. Gillian Clark, a favourite poet of mine, composed a poem for the dedication of the bell and read it at the installation ceremony

Mewn gwynt a glaw,
gwyll neu oleuni,
heulwen, lloergan,
pan fo’r tonnau’n taro
ar y traeth dan dynfa’r lleuad,
bob dydd, adeg y penllanw,
swn y tonnau,
sain y gloch yn canu.

And in English:

At the turn of the earth,
heartbeat of the deep
under the wind’s breath,
as the sea stirs in sleep
under the moon’s gravitational pull,
when the tide’s at the full,
at the twelfth hour
the bell will toll.

Cast in bronze, the colour of the metal changes due to the action of the environment – air, water and salt.

I notice that one of the bells was installed last year on the Stone Jetty in Morecambe. I’ll have to go and have a look some time.

We didn’t stay very long but after strolling along the beach set back off to our accommodation, stopping at the sizeable Co-op in Amlych to pick up a few supplies. We then finished off the afternoon by walking down to Lligwy beach. Unfortunately the little cafe was closed 😦

Return to Parys Mountain

Last year during our family holiday in Anglesey, we drove over to Amlych to visit the “Copper Kingdom” in Amlych and the nearby Parys Mountain – a massive wasteland created by the extraction of copper from what was once the largest copper mine in Europe. The reserves had been exploited from Roman times, and possibly even before that during the Bronze Age, right up to about 1900. Initially most mining was by open cast but from underground workings were opened up by miners brought in from Cornwall after 1800. It’s the vast open cast workings that dominate the site today.

During our recent holiday we were only a short drive away from Amlych so decided on another visit, following the waymarked trail around the site, descending deep into the bottom of the pit.

I can only repeat what I wrote last year

It’s a desolate industrial wasteland, and due to the high level of soil contamination, little life can survive here. But it has it’s own strange beauty. With a range of colours it was rather like a 3 dimensional abstract painting.

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The reserves here aren’t worked out and there’s a possibility that mining of copper and other metals could take place here again in the not too distant future. The pit head visible in this photo belongs to Anglesey Mining, a company set up to explore the potential.

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Yr Arwydd – Anglesey’s highest mountain

Now, Anglesey isn’t particularly noted for being mountainous – it’s quite flat with a few low hills. So I was rather surprised that the holiday home next to ours was called “Mountain View” (we were in “Sea View” and we could see the sea from the living room window). However, it was facing a rocky hill which turned out to be Yr Arwydd, the highest point on Anglesey and which did have the characteristics of a mountain, even if was only just over 580 feet high. Despite having some of the highest mountains in England and Walesover in Snowdonia, the Welsh do call any large hill a “mountain”. And in case you think Holyhead Mountain is the highest point on Anglesey, it isn’t. Although it is higher it’s actually on a separate, smaller island – Holy island – now connected to the main island of Anglesey by a causeway. So Yr Arwydd is the highest hill on the main island of Anglesey.

Well, I never can resist a hill, so, on the third day of our holiday, even though the sky was grey and rain was promised for the afternoon, I set off mid morning to “head for the hills”. It was dull morning and the light was very flat. Not so good for photos. But I snapped a few with my phone for the memories!

There was a stile just over the other side of the road and climbing over I was on a path through heath and woodland heading in the direction of the hill.

The path took me to a minor single track road which I followed.

It joined another, larger one, not exactly a main road though as I was passed by very little traffic as I made my way towards the hill. I didn’t have to walk too far on the tarmac before I reached a track which skirted the bottom of the hill.

I turned up a path cutting across heathland

Looking back towards the coast

There’s my objective

I took a path across the heather and started my climb up the rocky slope

The path through the heather was indistinct and tricky in places and a little mild scrambling over the rock was required to climb up to the summit.

Even on a grey day, the views from the summit were extensive. Everything on Anglesey was lower than me at that moment and I could see over most of the island.

Unfortunately the mountains the other side of the Menai Straits were completely obscured by cloud. It was clearly chucking it down over there!

Those mountains are under the mass of grey cloud

The views from up here would be outstanding on a clear day.

There was a good path down the west side of the hill which descended to a parking area. I then followed a track that doubled round and cut across the heather to a small collection of houses

I passed through the hamlet and set of down a path through the fields – I took a wrong turning at one point and had to retrace my steps.

It was really pleasant countryside with some variation in the terrain

I reached the main road at Brynrefail, less than a mile from my accommodation. It was starting to rain now, but it didn’t take me too long to get back. Time for a brew and a bite to eat!

Only a realively short walk that took me a couple of hours, but a very enjoyable one. I’d have have liked to have repeated it on a fine take to take in those views. perhaps another time.