Out and About - Wales
Cardigan Bay SAC
Between Ceibwr Bay and Aberath is the land side of the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation and I found it incredibly rewarding walking part of this coast, sat with a flask of tea watching the Bottlenose Dolphins from a large hill by the coast called "Mwnt" was brill, also from the coast you can see quite a few seals with pups.
For more information go to these great websites:
- Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation
- Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Center
- Mwnt Beach Cardigan Bay - Cardiganshire Coast and Country
Gigrin farm is a Red Kite feeding station close to the town of Rhayader, Powys, Mid Wales. It feeds the kites 365 days of the year and the number of Kites using the feeding station can vary, anything from a dozen to 400+ depending on the weather and time of year.
When I visited there was 300+ kites, 10 buzzards, and crows of every description. There must have been 1000 birds scrapping for food which was quite a spectacle if not very cold! I would advise that you wrap up if you are using the more open hides in cold weather as I got caught out and should have known better. I found it a friendly place to visit as well.
For more information visit the Gigrin Farm website.
National Wetland Centre Wales
Set in a 450 acre the centre has plenty of lakes, pool and lagoons created on the scenic Burry Inlet, Llanelli. The Wetland Centre is home to many hundreds of wild and resident species which you can see from the numerous hides and walkways. There are plenty of educational attractions such as the Water vole city and the Millennium discovery centre.
The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust's innovative centre at Llanelli is at the forefront of wetland conservation in Wales. Its newest feature is the Millennium Wetland complex, home to wildlife as diverse as dragonfly and Little Egret.
Facilities included restaurant, gallery, gift shop, disabled access and free parking.
This is another great WWT site, brilliant to show the kids and get up close and personal with the wildlife.
- Recommended map:
- Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 164
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is a national park along the Pembrokeshire coast in West Wales. It was established as a National Park in 1952, and is the only one in the United Kingdom to have been designated primarily because of its spectacular coastline. It is one of three National Parks in Wales, the others being the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia.
The National Park has a varied landscape of rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, wooded estuaries and wild inland hills, covering a total area of 629 km² (240 square miles). It falls into four distinct sections. Running clockwise around the coast, these are the south Pembrokeshire coast, including Caldey Island; the Daugleddau estuary; the St Bride's Bay coast, including the coastal islands; and the Preseli Hills. However, not the entire park is coastal, and there are even forests and marshes on the edges of the park.
The geology of the area is of particular interest with many good exposures both inland and along the coast, exhibiting a variety of rock types and structural features such as natural arches, stacks, rock folding and sea caves. In the north, the rocks of Carn Llidi, Pen Beri and Garn Fawr, together with the extensive moorland on Mynydd Carningli and Mynydd Preseli, give an exposed and mountainous feel to the landscape, cut through by the wooded valleys of the Gwaun and Nevern. In the west, the National Park is dominated by the broad sweep of St Bride's Bay, bounded at its northern end by Ramsey Island, near St David's peninsula, and at its southern end by Skomer. The southern coast is another contrast, with the limestone plateau and cliffs of the Castlemartin peninsula, the steep-sided wooded valleys inland from Amroth; the Bosherston lakes - now, like much of the coastal strip, in the care of the National Trust - and the tourist resorts of Tenby and Saundersfoot. Between the western and southern areas of the National Park lies the Milford Haven waterway, where the tranquil Daugleddau estuary feeds into one of the finest natural deep water harbours in the world.
The National Park includes many sites and areas which are of national or international conservation significance in their own right, including 7 Special Areas of Conservation, a Marine Nature Reserve, 6 National Nature Reserves and 75 Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
Some web sites for further information
- Recommended map:
- Ordnance Survey Explorer Maps OL35 & OL36
Skomer is a 2.92 km² island off the coast of southwest Wales, one of a chain lying within a kilometre off the Pembrokeshire coast and separated from the mainland by the treacherous waters of Jack Sound.
It was last permanently inhabited by the Codd family (all year round) in 1958, and is known for its stone circle, standing stone and remains of prehistoric houses, as well as for its abundant wildlife. Skomer is a National Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Protection Area. Much of Skomer has also been designated an Ancient Monument. It is surrounded by a Marine Nature Reserve. It is managed by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales.
Skomer is best known for its large breeding seabird population, including Manx Shearwaters, Guillemots, Razorbills, Cormorants, Kittiwakes, Puffins, Storm-petrels, Shags, Oystercatchers and gulls, as well as birds of prey including Short-eared Owls, Kestrels and Peregrine Falcons. The island is also home to Grey Seals, Common Toads, Slow-worms, a breeding population of Glow-worms and a variety of wildflowers. Harbour Porpoises occur in the surrounding waters. The Skomer Vole, a sub-species of Bank Vole is endemic to the island.
There are over 10,000 breeding pairs of Puffins on Skomer and Skokholm Islands, making them one of the most important Puffin colonies in Britain. They arrive in mid April to nest in burrows, many of which have been dug by the island's large rabbit population. The last Puffins have left the island by the second or third week in July.
With an estimated 128,000 breeding pairs of Manx Shearwaters, Skomer and 'sister' island Skokholm, are the world's most important breeding site for these birds, the numbers comprising over half the world population of the species. They usually nest in rabbit burrows, a pair reportedly using the same burrow year after year.
Shearwaters are not easy to see as they come and go at dusk, the Manx Shearwater has a remarkable life. After fledging the young birds migrate to the South Atlantic off the coast of Brazil. They remain there at sea for five years before returning to breed on their natal island. On their return they navigate back to within a few metres of the burrow in which they were born. As they are ungainly and vulnerable on the land, they leave their burrows at dawn for the fishing grounds some fifty kilometres out to sea, not returning until dusk. Thus they attempt to avoid the gulls to which they would fall easy prey.
Skomer has one unique mammal - the Skomer Vole - a distinct form of the Bank Vole. The lack of land-based predators on the island means that the bracken habitat is an ideal place for the vole - with the population reaching around 20,000 during the summer months. Then the resident Short-eared Owls may be seen patrolling the areas close to the farmhouse in the centre of the island for voles to feed their young.
Boats sail to Skomer from Martin's Haven on the mainland, a 15-20 minute trip every day except Monday (Bank Holiday Mondays excepted) from April to October. There are limits on the number of people allowed to visit the island (currently 250 per day), and long queues can develop early each morning. I started queuing at 7.30am as it is "first come first served". I have been unlucky on my visits as due to the weather, I've only been able to land once out of five visits due to the sea conditions. If you can't land you do get a chance to sail around the Island and can still get close up to the birds. If you are a National Trust member the Car Park at Martins Haven is free.Go to the following web sites for more info:
I just love this mountain, it has some great walks and some of the best scenery around, its well worth the trip!
Snowdon, is the highest mountain in Wales and the third most prominent peak in the British Isles. It has been described as probably the busiest mountain in Britain. It is located in Snowdonia National Park, in Gwynedd. The summit is 1,085 metres (3,560 ft) above sea level.
The first recorded ascent of Snowdon was by the botanist Thomas Johnson in 1639. However, the 18th-century Welsh historian Thomas Pennant mentions a "triumphal fair upon this our chief of mountains" following Edward I's conquest of Wales in 1284, which, if true, indicates the possibility of earlier ascents. As the highest peak in Wales, Snowdon is one of three mountains climbed as part of the National Three Peaks Challenge, the other two are Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis.
- Recommended map:
- Ordnance Survey Outdoor Leisure Map 17
Climbing on Snowdon
The many steep cliffs in the Snowdon range are significant in the history of British rock climbing. The first recorded climb in the area was the 1798 ascent of the Eastern Terrace of Clogwyn Du'r Arddu by the Reverends Peter Williams and W. Bingley, botanists looking for alpine plants. The north face of Y Lliwedd was explored in the late 19th century and in 1909 was the subject of the first British climbing guide, The Climbs on Lliwedd by J. M. A. Thompson and A. W. Andrews. Also, Edmund Hillary trained here for his climb up Mount Everest.
Snowdon has six ridges, these are steep and rocky to the north and east, shallower and grassy, but more remote to the south and west. There are many cwms formed by glaciation in the ice age, some filled with tarns (meltwater lakes). Subsidiary summits include Garnedd Ugain (1,065 m), the knife-edge summit of Crib Goch (923 m), Y Lliwedd (898 m) and Yr Aran (747 m). Snowdon offers some of the most extensive views in the British Isles; on exceptionally clear days, Ireland, (the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland), Scotland, England, and the Isle of Man (as well as Wales) are all visible, as well as 24 counties, 29 lakes and 17 islands. It is also possible to view the newly built Beetham Tower in Manchester and mountains of the Peak District and South Pennines that surround the city from here. The view between Snowdon and Merrick (southern Scotland) is the longest theoretical line of sight in the British Isles at 144 miles (232 km). In practice atmospheric conditions make such sightings extremely rare and to be honest on the four times I have been to the peak it has been very foggy or cloudy in the surrounding areas.
Routes to the summit
A number of footpaths lead to Snowdon's summit from all sides, and can be combined in various ways. The circular walk starting and ending at Pen-y-Pass and using the Crib Goch route and the route over Y Lliwedd is called the Snowdon Horseshoe. The routes are arranged here clockwise, starting with the paths leading from Pen-y-Pass. During winter, all these routes become significantly more difficult.
Over Y Lliwedd
The southern-most of the paths leading from Pen-y-Pass leads up Y Lliwedd, to the south of Llyn Llydaw, and from there over Bwlch Ciliau , where the Snowdon Ranger paths joins with it, to Snowdon itself. Shortly before the summit, this path merges with the Rhyd Ddu path. This is one half of the Snowdon Horseshoe, together with the Crib Goch route. It includes a sharp ridge and requires some experience of scrambling and a head for heights.
I've done this walk with my son but be careful that you stay on track as its easy to get diverted.
The Pyg Track is a popular path leading from the car park at Pen-y-Pass along the lower slopes of Crib Goch before zig-zagging above the smaller lake Glaslyn to the col between Snowdon and Garnedd Ugain and thence to the summit of Snowdon.
The Crib Goch route forks off upwards to the right from the Pyg route at Bwlch y Moch, whilst the Pyg route itself carries straight on, initially dropping down slightly onto a flatter section of path before the ascent towards the zig-zags. Some less experienced walkers have been known to get confused at this point, later finding themselves out of their depth on Crib Goch.
I've done this track with my son, it's a good walk and a fun scramble but again watch you keep on track.
The Miners' Track begins at the southern end of the Pen-y-Pass car park. After approximately 750 metres (2,500 ft) to 1,000 metres (3,300 ft), it passes above Llyn Teyrn and then continues for another kilometre before reaching the shore of Llyn Llydaw. After crossing Llyn Llydaw and following it around, the track rises more steeply and eventually leads to Glaslyn. The final part of the Miners' Track consists of a scramble from the edge of Glaslyn onto the latter part of the Pyg track, although recent step-building has improved this considerably. The combination of ascent via the Pyg track and descent via the Miners' track is one of the most common ways of combining routes on Snowdon, due to their sharing a start point at the Pen-y-Pass car park.
Crib Goch route
I've done this and with a very experienced climber, great views and would love to go back.
The Crib Goch route also starts at the Pen-y-Pass car park and initially follows the Pyg track before separating off from it at the Bwlch y Moch and leading up the side of Crib Goch. From there it follows the ridge of Crib Goch, over the summit of Garnedd Ugain and on to the summit of Snowdon. This forms half of the Snowdon Horseshoe route, the other half passing over Y Lliwedd.
It includes a very sharp ridge and requires some experience of scrambling and a head for heights. It should not be attempted in high winds or rain. In winter it is classed as a full climb requiring appropriate equipment and skills.
The Watkin Path has the greatest change in altitude out of all the paths up Snowdon. Starting at 60 metres (200 ft) above sea level at the Nantgwynant car park south of Snowdon, and finishing at Snowdon's 1,085 metres (3,560 ft) high summit, the Watkin Path has a height gain of 1,025 metres (3,360 ft). It follows the course of the Afon Cwm Llan river and passes the Gladstone Rock which commemorates the opening of the path in 1892 with a speech by William Gladstone, then Prime Minister, on Justice for Wales. The path then heads up the hillside to Cwm Ciliau (between Y Lliwedd and Snowdon) and onward to Snowdon. It is also possible to walk from Nantgwynant to Bwlch Cwm Llan, between Yr Aran and Snowdon and from there, either down to Rhyd Ddu or along Allt Maenderyn, along the top of the Clogwyn Du cliff face to meet the Rhyd Ddu path going to the summit. During the summer, apart from views of the surrounding Welsh countryside, plenty of tourists take to "cooling down" in the local waterfalls, part of the way up the path. The path was originally built by Sir Edward Watkin and extended in 2003 by the National Trust.
Rhyd Ddu Path
I've done this walk and found this quite easy. You need to watch the last bit close to the summit as the path can be tricky.
Rhyd Ddu path leads from the village of Rhyd Ddu to the west of Snowdon, gently up on to Llechog, a broad ridge to leading west from the summit of Snowdon. It is also possible to walk from Rhyd Ddu to Bwlch Cwm Llan, between Yr Aran and Snowdon and from there, either down to Nantgwynant, or along Allt Maenderyn, along the top of the Clogwyn Du cliff face to meet the Rhyd Ddu path going to the summit. All walkers tread carefully at the last 100 metres (330 ft) or so because of a steep slope with scree. This is the path, but it is potentially dangerous.
Another branch, the Beddgelert branch or Pitt's Head path, begins at Pitt's Head on the A4085 road.
Snowdon Ranger Path
I've done this walk, again with my son. I found it a nice gentle walk and make sure you give yourself enough time to go up and back again.
The Snowdon Ranger Path is named after an early mountain guide, John Morton, also known as "the Snowdon Ranger". His former home is now the Snowdon Ranger Youth Hostel. The path begins on the shores of Llyn Cwellyn, close to the youth hostel and Snowdon Ranger railway station. The path rises gently to Bwlch Cwm Brwynog, between Moel Cynghorion and Snowdon, and then along the top of the Clogwyn Du'r Arddu cliff face to Bwlch Glas between Snowdon and Garnedd Ugain.
Also known as the "Tourist Path", the Llanberis Path leads from Llanberis, approximately along the course of the Snowdon Mountain Railway. This is one of the longer routes up, although as the slope is mostly comparatively shallow, it is considered one of the easiest.
Snowdon - the Summit
On most of the paths as you get close to the summit the going gets very steep. Don't give up, take it easy, and be heartened by the thought you will be able to rest in relative comfort and have a nice cup of tea or soup, a bite to eat in the café at the top. It's a bit surreal having a café at the peak of a mountain but I am sure it's a welcome site for those not usually found up a mountain. :o)
The summit is marked by a cairn, on top of which is a brass plaque which points out what you might be able to see, and the distance away it is. If you are lucky you might get good views - however, you might only just be able to see your hand in front of your face! Whichever way, you can be proud you reached the top!
For those who do not wish to or are not able to walk, or wish to walk one way only, the Snowdon Mountain Railway (a rack railway) runs from Llanberis to the top. When the Snowdon Mountain Railway was opened in 1896, a hotel was built at the terminus, a short distance from the summit. In the 1930s, this was replaced by a restaurant designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis. By the end of the twentieth century, this was run as a café and shop complex. However it was becoming increasingly dilapidated and was described by Prince Charles as "the highest slum in Wales". Its state led to a campaign to replace the building. In April 2006, Snowdonia National Park Authority agreed a deal to start work on a new café and visitor centre complex costing £8 million. By mid-October 2006 the old building had been largely demolished. The shell of the new visitor centre was erected during 2007 and was due to be formally opened in Spring 2008, (now amended to summer 2008 Poor weather, however, has hampered construction progress, and in July 2008 the National Park issued a statement saying "At present it is impossible to confirm a completion date or to name a day when a formal opening can take place." The BBC News reported that it is unlikely the visitor centre will be open to the public this year.
The old building displayed a slate plaque with the following couplet "Grwydryn, aros ennyd; ystyra ryfeddol waith Duw a'th daith fer ar y ddaear hon". (Wanderer, wait a moment; consider God's wondrous work and your short journey on this earth.) The Welsh National Poet, Gwyn Thomas, has composed a new couplet for the new building - to be displayed at its entrance and on the windows - and this will read "Copa'r Wyddfa : yr ydych chwi yma, yn nes at y nefoedd". (The summit of Snowdon: you are here, nearer to Heaven.)
Notes for any route
I am constantly amazed when out walking, even with all the education and warnings about the weather and the danger of certain walks you see people up hills and mountains in totally imprecate shoes and clothing with no idea where they are going. Please, please wear the right clothes, walking boats and take maps, compass and know what you are doing with them! The first time I went up the Pyg track there was a woman in high heels walking her young son towards the peak-absolutely crazy! The Snowdonia National Park website includes weather forecasts for the area and other useful information.
Whichever route you take up the mountain, be sure to look out for markers which will show you the way down - it is easy to take a wrong path, and some are not suitable for inexperienced walkers, or those without proper climbing gear. Although many thousands of people climb Snowdon each year, it is still a mountain with steep cliffs in places, and can be very dangerous.
Because of the numbers of visitors conservation work is ongoing in the mountains. Be sure to keep clear of areas where the path has been diverted to guard against erosion, and make sure you take all your rubbish home with you. Any of the walks will take you across farmland, and sheep roam freely on the mountain. If you take your dog with you it must be on a lead.
Having climbed Snowdon once, if you enjoyed the experience you can always plan to do it again.
Ynys-Hir Nature Reserve is set in a stunning location at the top of the Dyfi Estuary with the Cambrian Mountains as a backdrop; it is run by the RSPB. The reserve covers 550 hectares and includes a variety of habitats extending inland from mudflats and salt marsh through farmland and pools to oak woodland and hillside scrub. Facilities include a small visitor centre and seven hides. There are also several marked nature trails - the shortest route is 0.5m and the longest three miles
Breeding birds include important numbers of waders such as Lapwing and Redshank. Little Egrets have recently joined Grey Herons in the heronry. The woodlands hold Redstart, Wood Warbler and Pied Flycatcher while Red Kites frequently pass overhead.
Wintering birds include many ducks such as Shelduck, Wigeon and Teal and waders such as Oystercatcher and Curlew. Ynys Hir is probably best known for its Greenland white-fronted geese. Every year, about 150 of them fly in to spend the winter in this part of the world. It's their only regular wintering site in the whole of Wales and England.
Other wildlife on the reserve includes Otter, Polecat and Hazel Dormouse. Among the insects are various dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies and the scarce weevil Procas granulicollis. Among the wild flowers are woodland species such as bluebells and species associated with peat bogs such as sundews, bog asphodel and bog-rosemary.
I enjoyed my visit here and would recommend it, most of the paths are good but in the woods obviously you have to be a bit more careful, especially on the slope.
- Recommended map:
- Ordnance Survey Explorer Map OL23
© Simon Thurgood 2017
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