Friday, May 22, 2015

The month that vanished

To my horror I’ve realised that it’s nearly three weeks since my last post and I simply do not know where May has gone! When I last posted we were still in the far north, with the General Election looming, closely followed by our planned return south. Since we arrived home, almost a fortnight ago, life has been a blur of unpacking, garden tidying, service planning and general catching-up with people and commitments and it’s only now starting to slow down to a more manageable pace.

It has been good to realise yet again that the new house is a very welcoming place to come home to. It’s also been fun to come back to a garden which was still almost dormant when we headed north and see what is now making its presence felt. I even managed to remember to take my camera with me on a walk to and from a church meeting in the village to capture something of our rather different surroundings and perspective down here in the valley.

So here, from a still cool and showery Mid-Wales, is a glimpse of our new normal.

Half-timbered Mid-Wales

Hedgerow country

Hills to the right of me

Hills to the left of me

On the bridge looking upstream...

...and across the road looking downstream

Along the winding road to home

Monday, May 04, 2015

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside

For much of my childhood the highlight of the summer was our annual Wakes Week holiday at Fleetwood or Morecambe or another of the even then slightly faded but much loved seaside resorts which line the Lancashire coast. If we couldn’t manage a whole week, there would be at least a day-trip or two, always by train. My memories are of buckets and spades, sandcastles, donkey-rides on the beach and first paddling, then swimming, in the always chilly waters of the Irish Sea.

When we moved to Mid-Wales in the early 1970s the resorts changed, but the pattern of occasional day trips to the seaside, now by car, continued while our children were small, though with wonderful countryside immediately around us, the pull of the coast rapidly diminished. Instead it was their grandparents who took our two for a week at the seaside from time to time.

Now in retirement we are lucky enough to spend extended periods of time in close proximity to a very different kind of coast, empty of resorts, and with not a promenade or wrought-iron pier in sight. Instead, within a very few miles of where we stay, there are cliffs and sandy beaches, little coves and tiny harbours, sandbanks where seals can sometimes be spotted sunning themselves, and the kind of tempting, uninhabited islands that children’s stories were written about in my youth.  And what is even more wonderful is that, far more often than not, when you go there you will have these magical spots entirely to yourself.

So come with me on a short tour of our favourite corners in this small area of the eternally fascinating and unspoilt coast of the North-West Highlands.

We begin on the Kyle of Tongue, that wide, shallow estuary
 to which Ben Loyal and Ben Hope form such a magnificent backdrop.

There we find the sandbanks, where, if you're lucky,
you may see seals sunning themselves and occasionally 
rolling over into the water to catch themselves a quick snack.

Continuing north along the Melness peninsula, we come to Talmine Bay.

Here, as well as its pale sand and pebble beach,  is the small stone jetty 
which turns this corner into a safe harbour for small boats
and a final resting place for a long-abandoned one.

Towards the tip of the peninsula lies one of our favourite places, 
 the tiny former fishing hamlet of Port Vasgo in its little bay,
its boats long gone and half its cottages now in ruins.

No gentle sandy beach here, just knife-edged rocks, 
through which those long-ago fishermen laboriously cut a channel
 to allow their boats to be winched up out of the water to safety.

From Port Vasgo you can walk west across sheep-nibbled turf 
to a tiny, nameless beach, tucked between cliff and rocks.

Even Perpetua reverts to childhood dreams here.

Another quarter turn to the left and from the rocks you can see Midfield beach, 
though you can only access it by clambering precariously across the rocks, 
or more sensibly via another path from inland.

It's back to the car to drive round to the inner edge of the bay 
and lovely Achininver beach, where you climb down  wooden steps
and across tussocky sand-dunes to reach the water's edge.

And finally, for a proper view of those Enid Blyton adventure islands, 
we need to drive to the other side of the Kyle 
and look back across to Melness and its hidden gems.