Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wild West Anglesey

Friday brought in an early start to the weekend but even by then the roads were getting busy with the beginning of the school holidays. Kirstine and I planned an early escape from the Welsh holiday traffic by paddling directly from the campsite at Rhoscolyn, to Trearddur Bay to get supplies in for the weekend.

Apart from avoiding the traffic and general chaos of supermarket shopping, we got a splendid afternoon of sea kayaking on the way to the shops.

We visited the seals that live at Rhoscolyn Beacon...

...and we explored the depths of the deep cave at Rhoscolyn Head.

On Saturday we joined a group from North West Sea Kayakers to circumnavigate Holy Island. Once again we started at Rhoscolyn wheeling our kayaks down to the beach to avoid busy roads laden with holiday traffic. The Cymyran Strait and Inland Sea were both very shallow but bristling with birdlife. We saw cattle egret, redshank and a female red breasted merganser with half a dozen fluffy chicks.

Before we could cross Holyhead Harbour entrance we had to wait for the fast ferry to pass before heading off towards North Stack.

We stopped briefly to chat to another group who were enjoying the sunshine and shelter of Parliament House Cave, before heading accross Gogarth Bay and round South Stack. Finally the ebb tide brought us back to Rhoscolyn in plenty of time for a barbecue supper.

On Sunday we hatched a plan to paddle from Church Bay, out to the Skerries and onwards to Cemlyn.

Most of the Arctic tern chicks have now fledged leaving a few latecomers with some catching up to do.

Parent birds are busy catching sand eels to feed to the rapidly growing youngsters.

Before the mass migration to the south Atlantic this tiny group of islands is still swarming with birds...

...and its waters teeming with grey seals.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Lleyn Peninsula and Bardsey Island

The weekend provided ideal conditions for sea kayaking around the Lleyn Peninsula. Several of us based ourselves at the Aberafon campsite beside the pebbly beach, just to the north of Trefor. Having stopped for fish & chips on the way, we arrived just in time to raise a glass to the setting sun.

The next morning saw us heading off early to launch from Porth Oer in dazzling sunlight. The rock hopping between Porth Oer and the end of the Lleyn peninsula is excellent. There are countless gullies and teasing rock gardens ready to claim white gelcoat deposits from the boats of cocky or careless paddlers.

The crossing of Bardsey Sound is rarely 'straightforward' and this time 'slack water' evaded us in spite of careful planning. The wild west shores of Bardsey greeted us with yet more rock hopping fun amongst the kelp hollows with a few grey seals thrown in for good measure.

Soon after landing beside the slipway we set about exploring the island. The first item on the menu was the lighthouse and the southern tip that we had just passed in our kayaks. The red and white painted lighthouse along with the fog horn building look in need of a spot of paint and some other repairs.

The main course of our Bardsey adventure feast was the summit the hill that gives the island its grand facade. Mynydd Enlli towers 167 metres dominating the lower parts of the island to its west. The eastern cliffs and crags drop steeply to the turbulent waters of Bardsey Sound. Whilst adolescent choughs swoop amongst the rocky outcrops hundreds of Manx shearwater burrows remain silent by day. After dark these sea cliffs come alive with their ghostly, underground, nocturnal chuntering.

For dessert, we descended the west side of the hill via the 12th century abbey ruins and the bird observatory before launching our kayaks once more and heading back to Porth Oer in the golden, hazy afternoon sunshine.

Back at Aberafon campsite, the warm evening begged for a barbecue on the beach. Gradually tales of the day's adventures grew taller and more obscure until we were overcome by sleep.

The next morning brought a new adventure in the form of a paddle to the pub. The paddle from Trefor to Porth Dinllaen is full of all sorts of contrast. The first headland is riddled with all sorts of nooks and crannies. A luminous blue back-lit cave has an underwater passage through to a secret storm beach built steeply with fist-sized pebbles.

A series of dark craggy stacks stand guard over more rocky beaches that lie in the shadow of Yr Eifl. These 3 peaks mark the northern root of the Lleyn Peninsula. Further south is Nant Gwrtheyryn. This was once a cursed valley but is now re-born as the home of the Welsh national language and heritage centre. It is here that we stumbled upon a group of sea kayakers enjoying their morning Tai-Chi among the abandoned quarry workings above the beach.

The headland of Penrhyn Glas has tall cliffs with ledges tightly packed with kittiwakes, razorbills, guillemots and cormorants. This is a noisy, hectic and messy place where guano rains down from the shanty towns above.

From here, 6 kilometres and three sandy bays separated several thirsty paddlers from the welcoming hostelry, 'Ty Coch' at Porth Dinllaen. The pace quickened in the final kilometre. The perfect beach picnic was an assortment of sausages, cheese, grapes and freshly dispensed draught beer.

The return to Trefor was much slower that expected. In the clear glassy waters we noticed other slow things too...