Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Moel of Famau (hummed to the Moll of Kintyre)

Saturday 14 March 2009
We left the
Caerwys View Holiday Park for the last time this morning. It was a lovely respite for the past week, but we need to keep moving. For once, we were leaving just as the staff were arriving and so the girls were not there to say goodbye. If anyone is ever in this part of the world, this is the perfect place to base yourselves. Over the last week we have seen most of Mid Wales, a little of South Wales and some of North Wales. There were two things left to do this morning before we headed north to the coast.

Michael had been wanting to walk up to the Victory Tower from the first day we saw it, so armed with Google directions we set off, only to find ourselves at the end of the paved road and about to embark down a boggy quagmire before the directions had been completed. Michael recalled that he had seen directions from the opposite side on a walking site, so trusty AA Britain map in hand, we turned around to go this way. We got to a point where we were pretty sure we needed to take a single track road that appeared to go up to the heavens. Trouble was, there was other traffic on the road as well - both vehicles coming down! Had a hairy moment reversing down a 9% slope to find a driveway to slip into so the first car could pass, and thankfully, the second car - a Land Rover, pulled up on to an embankment as the only place I could have gone was down, way down over the mountain side. It was only 1.3 miles from the turnoff just outside Llanbedr-Dyffryn-Clwyd but it really was a thousand miles from anywhere. And yet, when we got up to the car-park it was amost full - I mean there were about 40 cars up there with nothing but the hills, the birds and the wind!
The walk to the summit and the Jubilee Tower was 2 miles according to the signs that detailed all the walks. But it was still all uphill on tracks that are minimly maintained. So I opted to wait and start a new book. The wind was blowing at about knots and the clothes of the many walkers whipped around the bodies as though to hug them tighter because they (the clothes) were cold! There were lots of walkers with dogs - seems strange to because back home dogs are not allowed in national parks, but the, dogs seem to be given a whole different level of status in Europe.

So, camera in hand, dorky beanie tied on, off Michael set. The walk up and back took him about 1½ hours and when he got back his face was very wind burned.

From the surrounding countryside you can see great swathes of the gorse bush cleared in parallel lines. Turns out that the authorities are trying to encourage grouse (a ground bird) back in to the area and they are particularly partial to the young shoots of the gorse. Michael also said that he wastold that the patterns they cut are favoured by the grouse. These cuttings can be seen from 20 or more miles away. The Jubilee Tower is only fairly new even though it is in ruins. It is the remains of a planned monument built 1810-12 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of George III. It originally featured a central obelisk and turrets at the corners, but the former was destroyed by a storm in 1862. Only the base remains today.

The photos he took of the surrounding landscapes show the real beauty of the area.

The other thing was to call in to the Cathedral at St Asaph on our way through. The present building - said to be the smallest Anglican Cathedral in Britain, dates back to the 13th Century after King Edward I had th earlier church burned down in 1282. This semed to be a regular practice in the area as the English and Welsh fought for the land. The Cathedral is also the home of the William Morgan Bible the first one ever fully translated into Welsh providing a link with Welsh culture and literature. This is not availble to see. Some of th memorials though were very moving and the stained glass was beautiful.

By now it is 2 pm so we head off for Conwy. We are staying in the Bryn Derwen B&B for the next three nights while we explore more of North Wales. The drive was not far and we arrive just before 3. Conwy Castle still dominates the whole town - in fact the streets still pass through its narrow gateways. Once we had driven around the castle once, spied where we needed to go for the night and had a cuppa, we thought we would have a couple of hours at the Castle - but no, they close at 4 and suggested that we visit on Monday. We could however walk the ramparts. While much of them are intact, there are spots where you have to climb stairs down move through the streets a 100 m or so and climb back onto them, around buildings that are literally built into the walls. And remember my love/hate relationship with the spiral staircases? Well, it continues!

Around 5 pm we checked into Bryn Derwen and asked for dinner recommendations. Andrew suggested a couple of restaurants in town, cautioning that it would be very busy tonight as the football had just finished and the Welsh had been victorious, so the celebrating would bring the local out. And he was right. We first tried Alfredos only tobe told that they had no hope of ftting us in without a reservation. So we crossed the (small) town square to The Raj for an indian meal. Dinner was good, the food wholesome, but the service was lacking.
We shared a meal that consisted of:
Pappadums and Chapati
Lemon Rice
Special Butter Chicken (cooked with sweet date sauce, methi, chopped tomatoes, creamy & mild sauce)
Special Korahi Gosht (Tnder lamb cooked with spices in curry sauce, delicately flavoured with Bangladeshi herbs & spices)
Chana Bhaji (Chickpeas) and Bhindi Bhaji (Okra)
Mango Chutney and Lime Pickle.

Then as a special treat we decided to take ourselves off to the flicks. Saw The International starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts about the link between international banks and the arms trade in third world conflicts. Very thought provoking. Back to the B&B arriving just before midnight and a welcome date with a bed!

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