Showing posts with label anglesey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label anglesey. Show all posts

Monday 1 January 2018

Hello 2018

Monday 1 January 2018

We don't generally celebrate New Year's Eve. We much prefer to wake up early and clear-headed on 1 January and welcome in the new year with a walk.  Today we were up in darkness at 0700 and drove half an hour from home to South Stack on the westerly side of Holy Island, Anglesey. The sun was just coming up and as we climbed up Holyhead mountain, the clouds disappeared and we we were enveloped by beautiful blue skies.  It was very windy but we nevertheless enjoyed the beauty and isolation of this lovely place. We descended the other side and followed the coastal path back to above the lighthouse, where we sat on a bench enjoying a hot flask of tea and the last of our Christmas cake.

2017 was the year we both retired; it's now 7 months since we kicked off our work shoes and started our 'Gap Life'.  It was several months earlier than planned, but I had some form of mental breakdown in February and, after much soul-searching (and several re-checks of my retirement finances spreadsheet), we decided to finish early.  We haven't regretted it.  Most of the summer was taken up with Trusted house sits, firstly in Penmon on Anglesey, then Callington in Cornwall and finally in mid-Wales.  We enjoyed them all.  Around all of this we were trying to sell our house and an offer was finally accepted in August. Luckily we also found a house to buy on Anglesey and so everything lined up.  We moved out at the end of October and into our new home in Llangaffo a week later, having spent a week on the White Lodge Caravan Park just outside Newborough, which is also home to the Marram Grass restaurant.  Since then we've mixed Phase 1 of the house refurb (decorating bedrooms) with getting out and about as much as we can.  Most days we visit our local beach at Newborough - a lovely, long sandy beach with views of Snowdonia and the hills of the Llyn Peninsula. We combine this with a beach clean and regular visits to Llanddywyn Island.  Phase 2 of the house refurb (replace the old LPG gas boiler) will start shortly.  

So 2017 was a strange year. Exactly a year ago today we woke up at 0500 and drove to Anglesey from our home in Cheshire.  We enjoyed a beach walk then, followed by lunch at the Sea Shanty Cafe in Trearddur Bay; never in our wildest dreams did we think then that we'd be moving to the island later that year.  Life sometimes throws us curve balls.

This year we plan to have our first long trip to Spain and Portugal in our campervan, leaving around early March and returning around the end of May, ready to enjoy summer on Anglesey.  We hope it'll be a great trip and the first of many.  It will be a practice run for a similar trip at the end of the year, when we'll spend Christmas and New Year on the south cost of Spain or Portugal, perhaps mixing in a couple of housesits  during the trip.  In between we'll continue to improve our home and garden.  We're also planning to get involved with Keep Wales Tidy on 'Long Forest', a three year project to restore, manage and create hedgerows on Anglesey.  We also want to walk the Anglesey Coastal Path (in bite-size chunks!) and I want to explore many of the lanes on my road bike.  This first full year of our retirement should turn out to be a good one and we're very excited.  Whatever you have planned, make sure you turn some of it into action.  Do it now, because tomorrow may be too late.

In the meantime, here's some New Year's Day 2018 photos from this morning to get you in the mood for exploring our beautiful country:

Saturday 7 October 2017

Moving on

It's been a while since my last post, after our last house sit in Wales.  Some of that time was spent negotiating offers on our house; at the time it looked like it was going nowhere, but once we returned home one offer firmed up (and moved to the right side of sensible!). Since then it's been the usual, painful process of solicitors, searches, surveys.  When pretty much everything is now available online, I have no idea why it still takes 8 - 12 weeks to sell a house. Despite having first time buyers (so no 'chain pain') it seems to have been a long and torturous road.  The good news is that contracts have been exchanged and a completion date agreed.  We're pretty much up to date with the logistics of moving - funds in place, just about everything packed ready to go into storage (thanks to Cathy, who is amazingly organised when it comes to packing), address changes ready to go.  

Our house purchase (a lovely bungalow on Anglesey) is running behind the curve, mainly delays at their solicitor's end, but also our tardy surveyor, who 'forgot' to book it in, so losing us about 3 weeks on the timeline.  We'd planned on having a short air gap between selling and buying (listing our house as 'no onward chain' definitely helped), but we'll be living in Nido in the interim.  This was fine when we hoped to sell the house in the summer, but as winter fast approaches, the days shorten and the wind and rain becomes more frequent, the thought of living in a 6m x 2m tin box for longer than a couple of weeks isn't so enamouring! With contracts signed (but nowhere near being exchanged), we don't need to stay too close to here, so could head off somewhere for a few days.  But sod's law says as soon as we organise that, the bottlenecks will open up and it'll be time to move.  We're leaving our car at Cathy's sisters and will aim to find CLs or CSs with hardstanding and electricity; we don't want to sink into soft ground and we do want to be warm and dry.

It's taken nine months to shift this house, much longer than we expected, but we're finally started to get excited about moving to the Isle of Anglesey.  We'll be living about 3 miles from the coast and close to Newborough forest, beach and Llanddwyn island, one of our favourite spots.  The new place is only 20 years old so we can move in without a major refit (a first for us!), aside from some decorating and extending the drive to fit the van.  We're really looking forward to settling in, getting to know the local area and the wider island and finally starting the enjoy the benefits of early retirement; it feels like we've been in limbo for the past few months.  So our planned winter trip to Spain and Portugal has been put on hold to allow us to move and get the house sorted, although we are planning to head south around March next year for about 3 months.

We're looking forward to the next chapter.....Moving On.  We still can't quite get used to the idea that we'll be within walking distance of here:

Monday 12 June 2017

Penmon, Isle of Anglesey: 8 - 12 June 2017

Thursday 8 June 2017
We woke to a work-time alarm at 0545, a bit of a shock to the system for a pensioner and a drop-out!  We were out and at the Polling Station for opening time at 0700; it was already quite busy.  Back for breakfast, load up and a drive to Anglesey through wind and rain.  We stopped off at the Waitrose in Menai then on to the house sit, near the village of Penmon on the Isle of Anglesey.  We've visited Penmon Point a few times and also parked alongside the Menai Straits on the odd occasion, so know the area quite well.

The cottage we're housesitting was down a long, narrow country lane.  Parked up, we were warmly and enthusiastically welcomed by Jess the golden retriever and Meg the springer spaniel!  We had a good, thorough handover with the owner, including doggy routines, before she left for a long weekend.  Car unpacked, we quickly changed into walking gear, grabbed the leads and headed off to take both dogs for a walk.  We were soon crossing the fields towards Penmon Priory, where we stopped to take a look at St Seiriol's Well.  We followed the road down to Penmon Point and on to the pebbly beach.  Jess had sniffed out the sea and nearly dragged Cathy into the water!  Both dogs had a good swim; Meg was content with a couple of dips but Jess really didn't want to get out.  It took a while to entice her out and back into her lead, before we followed the coastal path back along the peninsula, crossing several fields before returning to the cottage.  We'd already been briefed to give the dogs a hose down on return and that they wouldn't be that keen!  But they were fine and were soon rubbed down with a towel and back in the garden for a well-earned treat. I popped into Beaumaris for a couple of bits while Cathy lit the log burner in the upstairs living room, with views over the hills on one side and the sea on the other.  The dogs had a good snooze followed by their dinner, while we had a lamb and veg stir fry.  The forecast for tomorrow is better, so we'll take the dogs out for another good walk.  Once we'd eaten we spent a good half an hour outside with Jess and Meg playing pull the rope and chase the ball, plus Cathy gave them both a good brushing; it was blowing a hooley so the hairs soon disappeared, no doubt to become nesting material for the myriad birds.  They really are lovely dogs - Meg (the springer spaniel) is fairly quiet and reserved, but loves a cuddle. Jess is more of a handful and likes to play tug of war and 'test the waters', but is still a lovely, friendly dog.  When out for a walk she's very much the 'mother hen' checking to make sure we're all still there. We're all weary tonight so I think we'll all sleep well, ready for another day by the sea.

Views towards the Great Orme

Lovely view from our en-suite bedroom

Play time!

More play time!

Friday 9 June 2017
What an amazing, chilled out day!  It was peacefully quiet last night and we slept well, although woke up early.  I was first up, fed the dogs and sat in the kitchen enjoying a cup of tea in the peace and quiet.  Madness had descended overnight with the general election but I feel far enough removed from it here not to harp on about it.  We enjoyed our breakfast and took the dogs out for their first walk, down a footpath through an ancient forest with a stream flowing down the middle of the small valley.  It was cool but full of life, with lots of vibrant greenery and and abundance of birdlife, butterflies and bees.  The path took us down to the clifftop but no further, so we had no choice but to reverse our route back up; Meg was let off the lead and, in true cocker spaniel style, enjoyed racing up and down the valley and through the streams.  Close to the top we bumped into Ken and his border collie - Millie, who we both met briefly yesterday.  We had a good long chat - he was fascinating to listen to.  He grew up in Knutsford (like Cathy) and moved to the island about 20 years ago, having had to give up work due to failing eyesight.  He now renovates old organs in a man-shed in his garden. We mentioned visiting a place called white beach and he told us some of the history of the old quarry by the beach and how to get there.  Jess had other ideas though, dragging us back towards the cottage, so we went back to have a brew and play tug of war in the garden for an hour (while cooked a chicken for later).

Refreshed, we took the lanes and eventually branched off along the coastal path.  This particular stretch was lovely - along old field paths, through wildflower meadows and past old Welsh cottages.  Ken's directions were spot on and we eventually walked the final stretch down a single track road which ended in a small National Trust car park at Fedw Fawr.  We followed the path down and white beach appeared to our right, with Puffin Island in the foreground and the Great Orme in the distance - what a beautiful spot!  We let Jess and Meg off their leads and they soon disappeared down the path and steps to the pebbly beach.  They were both in the sea by the time we reached the bottom, enjoying a welcoming cool off.  Cathy was soon to follow (with a 'whoop' as the sea was a bit chilly!) and it was funto see them all swimming together. I took a few videos and photos then joined them in the sea; it WAS cold but I eventually got used to it and was whooping with the best of them!. We hadn't taken any swimwear or towels with us, so we swam in underwear and dried off in the sunshine afterwards.  The dogs continued to play in the sea and on the beach, as we explored the strand line and rocks.  It was the sort of place you could arrive early in the morning with chairs and a picnic and spend all day without seeing another soul. After a great swim, we dressed and reversed our route, enjoying the warm sunshine back through the fields and along the quiet lanes.  This part of Anglesey so reminds us of the secluded villages of France; not only the lack of traffic but the quiet lanes and stone cottages.

Back at the cottage, we showered and changed and I prepared our dinner - the cooked chicken, some new potatoes boiled and served with mint from the garden, plus a salad and a dijon mustard, raspberry vinegar and olive oil dressing, all washed down with a bottle of Portuguese rose wine.  Once we'd eaten I fed the dogs; Jess is on special, hypoallergenic food and Meg is on normal dog food. They were clearly ready for theirs as it was gone in seconds!  Now sat in the upstairs living room, both dogs are crashed out after their busy day.  I'm blogging (of course) and Cathy's learning some Greek via Duolingo.  Later, a pot of coffee and some bara brith beckons.  What a lovely relaxing day; for the first time I felt properly retired, enjoying a holiday-type existence on what is (for most people) a normal working day.  The weather forecast for tomorrow is dire - wind and heavy rain - so I think it'll be an in day; maybe I'll bake some soda-bread and watch the clouds scurry across the sea. It's a hard life!

Meg loves the streams

A short calm period

Our first sight of white beach

Come on in - it's lovely!

Kindred Spirits

Puffin Island plus the Great Orme

Reminds us of France

Dinner outside

Saturday 10 June 2017
Less done today due to the weather - very windy with occasional wet spells but still very warm.  After breakfast I popped into Beaumaris for some shopping.  I was back in the Little Chilli Shop, buying some dried chillies - smoked chipotle, habanero and kashmiri - plus some fresh tumeric. Back at the cottage we headed out with the dogs for a walk to Penmon Point, only this time the reverse route.  Jess was most dis-chuffed at her lack of sea swim time, but it was an ebbing tide and perhaps not so safe.  We were pretty wet by the time we got back, so a brew and some TV was called for.  I cooked dinner later - chicken fried rice - then the dogs had theirs too. After that the sky cleared although it's still blowing a hooley, so we played outside with the dogs for a mad half-hour.  Now inside, I'm watching the high white clouds scud across a blue sky.  Tomorrow is set very windy still but with less rain.  It's also National #2minutebeachclean day, so we plan to combine a first visit to Llanddona beach with a bit of a clean up.

Sunday 11 June 2017
Today has been a windy day - a very windy day!  Anglesey is known for the wind and it really hasn't let up all day (and is still going strong!).  I don't think it's dropped below 40mph all day and probably gusting way above 50mph.  But the sun shone so the combination of sun and wind has left us not only battered a bit but also very brown!

We packed a lunch for our day trip.  We wanted to visit Llanddona beach to do a #2minutebeachclean.  It's a no dogs beach at this time of the year, so we had to leave Jess and Meg at the cottage.  It was only about 15 minutes in the car, with the final mile or so down a 25% steep single lane road (in fact all the roads were single lane) - at the bottom I saw a sign for a road climbing at 35% - not one for the bike!  There's a large free car park by the beach with some toilets.  We grabbed our bags and walked up and down the beach, picking up litter - mainly plastic bags, plastic bottles and drinks cans, but also a child's shoe and some socks.  We also found some nylon fishing net, which we kept to take home for the garden.  We walked a little further towards Red Wharf Bay, but the very strong wind resulted in us being sand blasted, so we turned back to the car park.  Beach clean done, we drove back up the steep lane and headed for the small car park above white beach; it was quite full but we managed to squeeze into a space.  There were a couple of people on the beach this time, but it still felt empty.  We enjoyed our lunch sat on the (unforgiving!) pebbles down by the sea, then had a wander around, again filling a bag with rubbish.

Jess and Meg were pleased to see us and after a brew and a game of tug the blanket, we took them out for a long walk.  We stuck to the lanes to start with and again came across Ken and his dog Millie, stopping for a good chat.  It turned out he used to be the rent collector the the house Cathy lived in in Knutsford - small world.  We took a footpath and made our way down to the village of Llangoed, walking through the nature reserve including visiting Castell Aberlleiniog, a small ruined castle on top of a hill surrounded by a large but now overgrown moat.  We carried on through some lovely wildflower fields with small copse of young oak trees, before returning to the lane and walking back up the road through Penmon towards the cottage.  On the way we met a lady walking the other way with a border collie; she recognised Jess and Meg and we had a brief chat.  Everyone is so friendly here.

Back at the cottage Cathy kept the dogs occupied outside while I prepared a spanish tortilla and salad.  She then came in with a package of newspaper containing 5 small mackerel. The neighbours were chatting to her and mentioned they'd caught them off white beach this morning; the same beach we sat on for our lunch.  So the parcel was passed over the fence and I quickly cleaned them - what a kind thought.  We enjoyed them grilled with sea-salt and eaten with our hands like sardines, followed by the tortilla and salad - a lovely meal. Cleared up, showered and dogs fed, we're now relaxing in the upstairs lounge as the wind continues unabated, with the occasional sharp shower hitting the velux windows in the roof.  We're both tired so I don't think we'll be late to bed, ready to pack, clean up and hand this lovely cottage and the dogs back to the owner tomorrow.  We've had a very relaxing few days in a beautiful part of Anglesey.  We'd not really explored this area much before, but the countryside, quiet deep lanes with high hedgerows, plus the many paths and lovely beaches really remind us of Cornwall.  It's only served to reinforce our wish to move to the island.

Llanddona Beach

There were loads of sea anemone shells


Castell Aberlleiniog

Lovely neighbours gave us some mackerel

Monday 16 May 2016

Sea Salt and Beaches

Friday 13 May 2016
I finished work at the normal time and we hit the road around 1730. Our destination was the Isle of Anglesey.  The traffic wasn't too bad and at about 1930 we arrived at our wild camping spot, a small car park right on the Menai Straits, facing east and overlooking Snowdon. Caernarfon and the castle was over the water to our right.  Another Motorhome was also parked up, plus a couple more just up the road. The tide was receding and as it did, flocked of sea birds arrived to peck over the recently sea-covered rocks and sand. Cathy warmed up our dinner and we sat in the cab seats enjoying the food and the view. After a full day at work, then a long drive, my eyes and ears started to adjust to the peace and quiet.  Although sunny there was a stiff northerly wind, which was quickly bringing down the temperature; the past week had been very warm but it was going to turn a lot cooler overnight and into tomorrow.  We wrapped up and took a walk along the shoreline. The remnants of a wooden and concrete pier were now exposed and we walked out on this. Large numbers of small mussels were available for gleaning, washed twice daily by the fierce tidal Straits - they would have made fine moules!  As we turned to walk back, the sun was setting over the fields at the back. We made some tea and sat watching the light fade over the mountains as the lights of Caernarfon twinkled across the water. There was still some light in the sky as we turned in for the night.

Saturday 14 May 2016
Our plan today is to visit a few of Anglesey's many beaches.  We've tended to visit the same places and had ignored the west coast, home to some of the best sandy beaches.  We slept well and woke to clear blue skies and sunshine, albeit still with a stiff, cool wind.  A cuppa and healthy breakfast of blueberries, pineapple, granola, dried fruit & nuts plus Greek yogurt set us up and once packed up we drove the 200m to the entrance of the Halen Môn sea salt place.  They make some of the best sea salt we've tasted.  We particularly like the plain white flakes and needed to top up.  We were there before opening time, so Cathy sat on the van bench in the sun, while I walked back to the road to take some photos.  We topped up with sea salt and also bought some crackers and pork scratchings to add to our lunch.  I set the satnag and we drove north along the coastal road to the small car park above Porth Trecastell, aka Cable Bay.  We parked alongside an old Adria Twin on a German number plate. The owners said hello and I helped them push their van back off the dune so he could tinker under the bonnet! We walked down the short dune to the beach, with soft sand at the bottom, sheltering us from the offshore wind.  A few families were already camped for the day, plus some surfing dudes in older 'selfie' van conversions, who were out on the water on stand up paddle boards; I'd like to try that one day. The tide was out and we walked down to the water's edge for a paddle - yes, it was mighty cold!  Cathy christened her litter grabber, filling a rubbish bag with mainly plastic. This is a nice beach although I suspect it's crowded in the summer. 

On the way there we passed through Aberffraw, with a car park by the estuary and dunes, so we decided to backtrack and take a look.  Once parked up next to a large Motorhome, Cathy prepared lunch, then we crossed a small stone bridge to walk by the right side of the estuary, along the coastal path.  We  passed a few small coves - mainly sand/shingle with lots of rocks and half an hour later reached Porth Cwyfan, an expanse of sand, shingle and rocks.  It was a bit noisy with motorbikes racing around the Anglesey Circuit on the other side of the bay, but they occasionally stopped and peace returned. Within the bay is the small Cribinau Island, which can only be reached on foot at low tide and, sitting on top of this walled island was the equally small, white-washed church of St Cwyfan, which has stood there since the thirteenth century.  The church was locked but we took a nosy throug the small windows! Back on the beach we found a sheltered, sunny spot on the soft sand and enjoyed our lunch. We returned via a small lane, passing several lovely cottages, before reaching the car park.  It felt chilly in the strong northerly wind, much colder than the past few days, but the strong sunshine and blue skies compensated. 

Our next stop was Porth Trwyn. I'd seen this on Google Maps but what interested me was a small campsite right next to the beach.  The approaching road was narrow with passing spaces and, although the beach looked lovely, there was nowhere to park.  But the small campsite with EHU looked interesting so I'll need to investigate that further.  I punched in the coordinates for Cemlyn Bay, which is quite close to the power station on the north of the island.  This is a stony shingle beach, not unlike Chesil Beach, including a similar brine lagoon cut off from the sea by the shingle bank. The parking was good and free and we took a short walk along the beach, before returning to the van, where Cathy had a snooze and I sat on the van bench with the side door open in full sun, but protected from the chilly wind - lovely.

And so on to our final destination today - Lligwy Bay.  We've stayed here a few times before. There's a large car park that belongs to the café owners.  They allow vans to pitch overnight for £10.  But the view from there is lovely and it's peaceful once all the day trippers have left. When we arrived there were already several campervans and motorhomes parked up. We found a spot on the front next to another van conversion. Our chairs and table were soon out and we sat in the sun with an apero and a snack. Cathy prepared the veg and lentils while I cooked a couple of pork chops, some green pepper and tomatoes on the BBQ, all enjoyed sat outside in the sun with a bottle of red wine.  Mind you, by the time we'd eaten it was starting to get chilly.  Cathy washed and dried up, while I packed everything away. She then shot off for a beach walk - I was wiser and stayed in the warm!  She soon returned shivering - shall I let her come in?  To be fair she made a cuppa on her return.  It's still a clear blue sky as the sun sets and the wind has completely dropped, but I think it'll be quite cold tonight. We're all warm and cozy in the van though. Early night to read then snore I think! 

Sunday 15 May 2016
It was quite chilly in the night and I didn't sleep well with neck ache and the van on a bit of a wonk, so I eventually got up and made us a cuppa.  We had a short walk on the beach before breakfast. Cathy did some litter cleaning around the overflowing bins and got chatting to the café owner, who told her the council wanted to remove the bins - how mad is that? She repaid the favour by only charging us parking fees for the night and not today. We'd just finished clearing up when a lady popped over to say hello.  Her and her husband were in the Autosleeper PVC next to us and she was interested  in comparing notes, particularly as they'd only had their van one week.  It was a nice van with plenty of galley prep space and rear benches that make up into 2 singles or a double bed.  It seems their only compromise was storage space, so they're looking at ideas for maximising what space they have.  It was good to compare notes, especially about travelling in France. 

We still had plenty of sunshine, although with a lot more high cloud today, and the annoyingly fresh breeze was still with us. So we took a jacket for our walk north along the coastal path towards Dulas.  We eventually came across another beach, so had a mooch around searching for sea glass and other 'treasure', before clambering over the rocky headland to walk back along the tide line.  The water felt warmer than yesterday, but it's all relative in mid-May!  Cathy made us a brew while I set up our chairs on the grass and we enjoyed our last hour of sunshine before packing up and driving home, for a couple of hours' van cleaning before I returned him to storage.

Although a short weekend, we made the most of the sunshine and beaches.  We found some new places to chill out and will soon be back to one of our favourite places. 

Great view from our night stop by the Menai Straits

Loads of potential moules!

Our new LED mood lighting thanks to our friend Ian

Time to top up with more excellent sea salt

Cable Bay - lovely sand and a surfing dudes' paradise

Collecting plastic rubbish 

#2 Minute Beach Clean

St Cwyfan church

Great parking spot at Cemlyn Bay

Saturday night at Lligwy Bay

First BBQ of the season!

Can't beat eggs for breakfast!

Lligwy Bay

The water was definitely warmer than yesterday!