Thursday’s Special ~ Being Serially Arrested In Wales

This week Paula’s Pick A Word  challenge is giving me the chance to post more views from our March trip to the Conwy Valley in North Wales. Projecting, arresting, pastoral, convex and communal are the prompts, and this distant shot of snow-dusted mountains pretty much covers the first three. However, I won’t let that stop me.

Arresting is my word of choice for all the following images; Wales was at  its magical, magnificent best – from the glittering waters of the River Conwy to the surreal towers and ramparts of Conwy Castle. It made you want to burst into song. Cue: Land of My Fathers, the Welsh National Anthem, which you can join in with at the end, and so definitely cover the communal. It doesn’t matter if you can’t speak Welsh; humming will do. Besides, there is nothing quite like the quality of Welsh singing voices.

Also look out for Thomas Telford’s amazing suspension bridge in the next shot of Conwy Castle. It was built between 1824-26 to improve access between Holyhead on Anglesey and Chester, and was also part of Telford’s larger road and bridge improvement scheme to enable swift and safer travel to London for Irish Members of Parliament. A triumph, then, in both function and form.

The castle was built between 1283 and 1289, and is another of Edward I’s overbearing edifices to oppress the Welsh. Not only did he invade, he also cleared out the monks who occupied the site and set about building both a fortress and a model town below it, the latter confined by massive defences. Today, these walls still surround the town, and you can walk around them, though I should issue a warning: the wall-top walk is not for the faint-hearted or those prone to vertigo. But if you don’t mind heights, they provide striking views in every quarter.

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A few miles upstream from Conwy is the market town of Llanrwst. It is claimed that in 1947 its town council made an unsuccessful attempt to gain a seat on the United Nations Security Council as an independent Welsh state. One has to admire this piece of Celtic chutzpah. I’m sorry they did not succeed. P1070238

Anyway, one of the present day arresting features of Llanrwst is this bridge, the Pont Fawr or Great Bridge. It was built in 1638 and still cars drive over it. There are other names too – the Shaking Bridge – because if you tap the central parapet the whole structure vibrates, and also Pont y Rhegi – bridge of swearing, explained by the fact that the carriageway is too narrow for vehicles to pass, and the height of the central arch too steep for forward visibility,meaning that everyone meets in the middle and this happens…!&?#!

The view through the central arch shows the ground on which the National Eisteddfod was held in 1989. The town is currently campaigning for a return of this annual extravaganza of Welsh culture in 2019. Which is a good point to bring on the choir. Croeso – welcome!

A Sea Full Of Sky

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What a blessed scene. We could scarcely believe our eyes – a sea so still, so blue, and sky to match; the Great Orme slumbering on the horizon, and all this happening just last week on the Menai Strait, North Wales.

I love winter beaches whatever the weather, but this vista seemed to awaken a whole new plane of perception. I could see why the Celtic Druids made Ynys Mon their stronghold. You never do know what the light will do next. It is transporting.

The little boy and his dad seem caught up in the magic too. So it’s a good thing that the Great Orme is slumbering; for this Viking name for the limestone headland means sea serpent, and we don’t need him abroad disturbing the tranquillity.

It’s an odd thing, though, about that particular promontory. The weather along the Strait may be foul, but more often than not, there’s a beam of sunlight slanting down on the Great Orme. Perhaps it is all part of an enchantment that keeps the mighty serpent dormant. Sleep on, Great Worm. Dream and dream between sky and sea.

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Thursday’s Special  This week Paula has given us five words to fire up our New Year imaginations. I’m using two of them here – the sea permeated with sky colours, and the limpid waters of Menai Strait. Follow the link to find out more and to see Paula’s fine photos.

Spirit of the Past: Black & White Sunday

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I’ve written about the Iron Man of Llanbedrog in other posts. (Personally I think it could be a woman – Boudica perhaps, the last of Britain’s Celtic warrior women). I’ve also posted variously edited versions of this shot before, but not this one exactly. This week at Black & White Sunday, Paula is reprising the popular Traces of the Past challenge, and I thought that although this iron figure is not especially old, everything about it speaks of the ancient Celtic spirit. And of course there are the ‘rocks of ages’ just visible in the distant mountain range of Snowdonia. In many senses, then, Wales is an old, old land, and the traces of the past are everywhere across the landscape.

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You can read more of the Iron Man’s story at Warrior Wind-Singer Of Llyn

The Railway Men 2 ~ Black & White Sunday

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Here’s another portrait from our Victorian day out on the Talyllyn Railway in June. Looking at their website this morning I see they’ve got a very special trip coming up next month – The Halloween Steam and Scream. Oh what a hoot. I think I want to go. It’s my birthday too. There will be a choice of two Steam and Scream trains departing from Tywyn station at 5.15 and 7.15 on several October nights including the 31st. Everyone can dress up as ghouls, goblins and witches; there are prizes for the best carved pumpkin lantern, and you can book a feast at the railway cafe.

Join us for a fun spooky evening train ride along the Talyllyn Railway to the haunted woods at Dolgoch, says the blurb.  Those woods are pretty spooky in broad daylight, but on a dark autumn night in the Welsh hills…Watch out for the Hessian Horseman  and his Celtic brother. Yikes! And double yikes!

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Now please visit Paula at Lost in Translation for more B & W Sunday portraits.

 

@TalyllynRailway

#RheilforddTalyllynRailway

Unexpected: Monochrome Mawddach Sunset

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The most unexpected thing about this shot is that it came out at all in such low light conditions. I do love the Dynamic Monochrome setting on my Lumix. It creates all kinds of unforeseen magic, even with much added zoom.

I suppose the other piece of unexpectedness here is the perversity of shooting a limpidly pastel sunset in monochrome. But I like the way it silhouettes the old railway viaduct across the estuary mouth. In Welsh it is called Pont Abermaw, and in English, Barmouth Bridge. It was constructed mostly from wood during the 1860s, and included a drawbridge section that would open allow tall masted ships to pass through, sadly not a facility much needed these days.  It would be fine sight though, so please add your own sailing ship to this vista.

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Black & White Sunday  This week Paula requests we show her the unexpected. Please drop in there for more creative renditions of the theme.

 

#MagesticMagicalMawddach

Magnificent Magical Mawddach

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We drove through one hundred miles of rain to reach it. From South Shropshire to the Welsh coast clouds piled on clouds and the rain dashed down the windscreen with only brief interludes of drizzle. Climbing and climbing the precipitous road through Dinas Mawddy, sky and mountains closed in, reminding us that we humans are rather puny ineffectual things, and that the motorized carapace that transports and shelters us may just  not be enough in a land like this. Even the sheep, inured to the place, stand hunched and motionless on the hillsides, backs to the downpour.

And then at last we’re here, on the banks of the Mawddach Estuary, just downstream of Penmaenpool, and the rain recedes,  leaving stillness and shadow, the slow curves of the river, Welsh Black cattle grazing the salt marsh, a buzzard calling, canoeists returning to base, and on the far horizon the knowledge of the sea, though unseen,  marked by a sudden flush of brightness out in the bay.

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copyright 2016 Tish Farrell

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#SnowdoniaNationalPark

 

Iron in the Soul ~ Warrior of Llyn

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I have been a multitude of shapes
Before I assumed a consistent form.
I have been a sword, narrow, variegated,
I have been a tear in the air,
I have been in the dullest of stars.
I have been a word among letters,
I have been a book in the origin.
From a translation of the Welsh medieval text of The Book of Taliesin, a sixth century Welsh bard and courtly singer.

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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}

You can read the rest of this earlier post about the Iron Man of Llanbedrog at Warrior Wind-Singer of Llyn

copyright 2015 Tish Farrell

This Sunday at Lost in Translation, Paula’s ‘Black & White’ word is ‘winding’. Please follow the link to take part her challenge and see more winding renditions.

The River Runs Through It: Afon Mawddach Between Land And Sea

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I’m on the last lap of Ailsa’s current challenge with this post. These photos were taken last September when we were staying near Dolgellau in Gwynedd, mid Wales. The Mawddach (roughly pronounced Mouthack) Estuary is a glorious place -for mountains, birds and all round peacefulness. You can walk or cycle beside much of it, too, following the Mawddach Trail that was once the railway line from Dolgellau to the holiday town of Barmouth.

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The old toll bridge at Penmaenpool

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We followed the route to the most southerly point where the Mawddach meets the sea, at the bleak little town of Fairbourne. You could call this place a failed resort. In the late 1800s, and after the arrival of the railway, baking flour magnate, Sir Arthur McDougall developed it into a holiday destination for English East Midlands workers. These days, though, it has a desolate air, although it does have a magnificent beach. We bought an ice cream at the dingy seaside caf,  but when we broached the sea wall to see the sea, it was so windy it blew our ice creams away and all over us. That’s not supposed to happen when you go to the seaside. Nor did we have Mummy to wipe us down. What a pickle.100_6564

Fairbourne Beach looking towards Barmouth

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Related:

Now that summer’s done, we take the Dol Idris path

Thursday’s Special: Manscape to Landscape

 

Where’s My Backpack: Where Land Meets Water

Sarah by the Sea ~ Black & White Sunday

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This photo was taken two Christmases ago on the island of Anglesey (Ynys  Môn) in North Wales.  The island saw the last stand of the Celtic druids, who were defeated there during the Roman conquest of Britain. This edited image, with the faint glow of light around the dark silhouette,  suggests to me the lingering Celtic spirit – quiescent and contained now, but still purposeful.

Inspired by Paula’s request for quiet. For more hushed compositions in black & white please visit her blog at Lost in Translation

Related: For more of the Druid’s last battle see my earlier post Island of Old Ghosts.
Rule of Thirds