Black & White Sunday ~ Traces of the Past

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The old railway bridge over the Mawddach River at Barmouth, Gwynedd, Wales

And mazy sands all water-wattled
Waylay her at ebb, past Penmaen Pool.

Gerard Manley Hopkins Penmaen Pool – from a poem written for the visitor’s book at the George Hotel 1876

Black & White Sunday: Traces of the Past

St Bride’s Castle ~ After And Before At Black & White Sunday

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Over at Lost In Translation, one of Paula’s recurrent themes is the conversion of a colour image to monochrome. It’s always interesting discovering what will or will not work; which details become more or less significant. Sometimes there are quite striking and unexpected differences in mood. All of which is to say, I’m not sure why I even thought of converting this first photo to monochrome. As an indoor, night-time shot with too many light sources, I wasn’t expecting it to work at all. But then I found I rather liked the monochrome version. It somehow has a more formal or stately feel about it. It was taken in the hall-drawing room of St. Bride’s Castle.

Coming up is the front entrance. I don’t think the conversion does much for the image here:

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This next exterior shot perhaps works better: austere geometrical silhouette against active clouds:

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And I do rather like this clump of monochromed daffodils found in the castle grounds:

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Black & White Sunday: After and Before

More about St. Bride’s HERE

In which Six Go Potty In Pembroke With Cockapoo Puppy  – holiday snaps #10

St David’s Cathedral ~ Thursday’s Special

These ruins of the Bishop’s Palace at St. David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire, South Wales stand on the site of the monastery of Menevia founded in the 6th century by St. David, patron saint of Wales (500-589 CE). The nearby cathedral (coming up below) was consecrated in 1131, but has undergone many phases of re-building, including major remedial work, first after an earthquake c 1247, and then after the devastation wrought under Cromwell’s Commonwealth of the 1650s. Welsh architect John Nash oversaw extensive repairs in 1793, but his work, proving substandard, made it necessary for the whole cathedral to undergo complete restoration by George Gilbert Scott in the late 19th century. A bit of a mash-up then, architecturally speaking – Gothic and Perpendicular not the least of it – but still an imposingly handsome building. It also hosts a very excellent cafeteria.

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St. David’s has long been a place of pilgrimage, papal decree stating in 1123 that two pilgrimages to St. David’s was the equivalent of one to Rome. England’s monarchs from William the Conqueror onwards hot-footed here, which probably accounts for the increasing grandeur of the Bishop’s Palace, still apparent today despite its ruinous state. After confession comfortable lodgings and some fine dining would doubtless be the next royal requirements.

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The cathedral’s presence confers city status on the community of St. David’s. This may seem a trifle curious for a place scarcely larger than a village. With a population of less than 2,000, it thus has the distinction of being the United Kingdom’s smallest city, and so by default the loveliest – its peninsula siting bounded by scenic coastlines west, north and south and its hinterland composed of rolling Pembrokeshire farmland. A good place to visit then, although perhaps best done out of season.

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P.S.  The daffodils on the cusp of opening in the header photo are the national flower of Wales and worn on St. David’s Day on the 1st of March.

Thursday’s Special: Traces of the Past

Darkness And Light ~ Thursday’s Special

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Solstice – the longest night – a time for drawing in; earth quietness; immanence; a conjuring of new possibility.

This photo was taken a few Decembers ago – the view from the island of Anglesey looking across the Menai Strait to Snowdonia on mainland Wales, terrain of antique tales of shape-shifting princes and magicians, their black deeds and bloody conflicts.

Thursday’s Special ~ darkness and light

Partners In Steam On The Talyllyn Railway: WOO-HOOOOOO

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Take two steam enthusiasts

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It has to be the best day out in Wales – a trip on the historic narrow gauge Talyllyn* Railway, setting out from Tywyn on the west coast and meandering up the hills to Nant Gwernol. The line was built in 1864 when the McConnell brothers of Manchester decided to branch out from cotton spinning into slate mining. The railway brought in supplies for the miners, and later carried a few passengers between the various valley communities. But mostly it delivered slate wagons which, from the railhead in Nant Gwernol, were winched on cables up mind-boggling inclines to the the heights of the slate quarry, and thence returned laden with slate for export from the port of Aberdovey.

As a preserved line, Talyllyn is the world pioneer. The Preservation Society was set up in 1951, and ever since has run with the help of passionate volunteers who have supported the small corps of paid staff. One of the early volunteers was the Reverend W V Awdry who wrote the Thomas the Tank Engine books, still much loved by children big and small. But Thomas apart who cannot fail to fall in love with a locomotive that looks like this? It’s an original Victorian  engine too.

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For our first trip on the line we had booked to go on the special Victorian Train Experience, a four-hour potter on an original period train which departed Tywyn Wharf at 11.15 am and aimed to return around 3.20 pm in time for a cream tea in the station restaurant. Our guide, David Leech (seen here in his guard’s uniform) informed us that we would spend that time “wombling around” on the line, fitting in between scheduled services which we would have to give way to at various points. He also explained that the train would stop in several scenic locations so we could get out and photograph it. This also included having the train reverse a mile or so back down the track so we could position ourselves on, or above bridges and catch it on the return, steaming at us for all it was worth.

It was all extremely silly, but thus enormous fun. And we didn’t even mind that it kept pouring with rain. We shared our carriage with a retired British Rail signal man and his wife, and a young extant signal man with his mate. For the first leg of the trip David Leech sat with us telling us daft anecdotes – Tales of the Talyllyn Railway. He had once been the railway’s traffic manager as well as being a life-long volunteer.

The entire Talyllyn enterprise is infused with the most enormous goodwill, humour and enthusiasm. It embraced us from the moment of our departure, and went on hugging round us as we rattled up into the hills to Dolgoch Falls and beyond. At Abergynolwyn we stopped for lunch in the Quarryman’s Tea Rooms where we were warmly welcomed by the serving staff who were dressed in Victorian costume while managing to not look naff.

After lunch we had to wait on Abergynolwyn Station while another train came through so the platform was crowded with waiting passengers just like a main-line railway – the difference being the palpable excitement was all for the train ride itself rather than the destination. While we waited, and rain pummelled the platform roof, the Station Master told us jokes.

All this and the beautiful Welsh landscapes.  A steaming good day all round.

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Taking on water at Dolgoch Falls

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End of the line at Nant Gwernol and the incline ahead; the slate trucks were winched up and down here to and from the Bryn Eglwys quarry. Sometimes the winch cable broke.

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Looking down on Abergynolwyn village from the train. It began as a slate miners’ community in the 1860s.

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Our driver taking a break while we wait for another train to pass on the line.

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Heading back to Tywyn. The Brynglas crossing.

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At Brynglas Station, and behind the slate fence, is the Talyllyn Railway’s Memorial Garden. The ashes of supporters may be interred here. Those attending the funeral service get go there by train. What a send off.

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* ‘ll’ in Welsh is roughly pronounced ‘cl’

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell

 

Daily Post Challenge: Partners

#RheilforddTalyllynRailway

Cloud shadow: contrasts II

 

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The light, the clouds, the sun do extraordinary things over the Menai Straits, the narrow sea channel between the island of Anglesey, Ynys Môn, and mainland Wales. This photograph was taken at midday in late December.  I was standing on Beaumaris seafront and looking towards the mainland. To the southwest the mountains of Snowdonia were frosted with a light cover of snow. It was all very dreamlike. And it made me think that  it was no accident that the Druid priests of the ancient Celtic tribes made the island their sacred stronghold, or that after the Romans withdrew from Britain, the early Celtic Christian missionaries established their sanctuaries and churches on the island. Whatever your faith, or even if you have none, such glorious vistas surely speak straight to heart, spirit and soul.

For more images of Ynys  Môn see my earlier post Island of Old Ghosts.

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© 2014 Tish Farrell

Weekly Photo Challenge: Contrasts

Warrior Wind-Singer of Llyn

 

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It is said that the Iron Man of Mynydd Tir y Cwmwd sings in the wind. I can believe it too: bold laments of long ago battles, a proud Celtic warrior fending off invading Roman governors and power-hungry English kings. Sadly, the cause was lost on both fronts, although at least these days Cymru,* Wales, has its own Welsh Parliament, and Cymraeg, the Welsh language, is nurtured, learned in schools and spoken widely with great pride. And so it should be. It is one of the world’s wonderful languages, the words formed from the rush of sea on rocks, the wind whistling down from the heights of Yr Wyddfa** (Snowdon, Wales’ highest mountain). Under past times of English domination much was done to stamp out the Welsh culture altogether. It is what invaders do – belittle, ban, override  heartfelt expressions of a conquered people’s culture.

{*roughly pronounced Kumree and Ur Oithva}

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Llyn Coast Path, Mynydd Tir y Cwmwd

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Recently I have been writing much about preserving and respecting heritage (Valuing the Past…and also Is the Past past saving in The Heritage Journal) but I recognise, too, that nothing stays the same – at least not in the physical world. The Iron Man is a case in point.

 

The first man standing was a carved ship’s figurehead placed there in 1911 by Cardiff entrepreneur, Solomon Andrews.  Andrews had bought the nearby grand house of Plas Glyn-y-Weddw some twenty years earlier and turned it into a public art gallery, the first of its kind in Wales. Today the house is the home of the wonderful Oriel Gallery, run by a trust, and the place where Welsh creativity is celebrated.

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Oriel Plas Glyn-y-Weddw from Llyn Coastal Path

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The ship’s figurehead did not fare so well. In 1980, after it had been set on fire by vandals, local artist, Simon Van de Put replaced it with a figure of an ancient warrior made from recycled sheet steel. As had been envisaged, the warrior , exposed to the sea winds, weathered away until only his boots remained. But in 2002 reinforcements arrived, delivered to the headland by a helicopter and winch.

Today this new Iron Man surveys Cardigan Bay with the kind of stance that says  he means to stay. In fact I’m not altogether certain that he might not also be a woman. This warrior, then, is the work of local craftsmen Berwyn Jones and Huw Jones.

To me the rope-like ironwork  suggests sinew and muscle. It is thus simultaneously  symbolic of both decay and regeneration; a rare act to pull off.  The tilt of the head is dignified, but wistful too. I would like to feel I have the courage to stand up behind this guardian.

I am not Welsh of course. As far as I can tell my ancestors were Anglo Saxons and Normans. But if we do not celebrate the best of our culture, our own and other peoples’, then think how much is lost – all those things that make us  truly well nourished humans – the poem, the saga, the dance, the metaphor, the hymn, the riddle, the rune, the touching words, the art – all that makes us recollect and care, confers insight and wisdom, gives us heart and good heartedness. For now though I take joy in the knowledge that when the wind blows across Mynydd Tir y Cwmwd (The Headland), even though I am not there to hear it, the iron warrior sings.

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The cliff top path to the Iron Warrior

 

© 2013 Tish Farrell

Related:

For more on Oriel Plas Gwyn-y-Weddw

http://www.oriel.org.uk/

http://www.oriel.org.uk/en/home/lost-woodland/69-winllan-history

 

Frizztext’s WWW Challenge

And also: Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Sky