Welsh Castles IV – Powis Castle

This castle – much further north then the previous three – was used as a stopping off point to break our journey home. As you can see it is not ruined like the other three we visited which means no charging around on the battlements, but on the other hand it means amazing treasures inside (including may from India due to Clive of India’s connection with the house) and a stunning garden.

The orangery.

Welsh Castles IV – Powis Castle

Welsh Castles III – Carreg Cennen

Carreg Cennen is stunningly situated on a bluff on the edge of the Brecon Beacons. It’s a favourite spot of ours and I think that this is our fourth visit.

TBH inexplicably puts herself in the stocks.

An Archer’s view.

Battlement harebells.

From the castle we watched a large raptor circling, we think probably a red kite.

Probably the most exciting thing about this castle is the descent into…

…and exploration of, the cave below…

We almost made it to another castle later that same day. In the grounds of Dinefwr Castle we came across this medieval encampment…

It was raining quite hard and we were glad to get under the shelter and to listen to the knowledgeable re-enactors  talking about and demonstrating cooking, calligraphy and fletching. The boys got to handle a variety of different swords and then played some ancient games…

Here they are stabbing their sticks through thrown quoits. You can also see the small bucklers which they used to deflect a ball which was thrown at them.

When the weather failed to improve we elected to try the drier environs of Newton House, which is within the same park, and to leave Dinefwr Castle for another time.

Welsh Castles III – Carreg Cennen

Welsh Castles II – Llanstephan

Laugharne Castle sits at the mouth of the Taf and Lllanstephan likewise dominates the mouth of the neighbouring Tywi estuary (and there’s another castle at Kidwelly on the far side of the Tywi, which is also well worth a visit, although we didn’t fit it in this time).

Both Laugharne and Lllanstephan are owned by Cadw, the Welsh heritage people, but unlike Laugharne, Llanstephan is outide the modern village, unmanned and free. What’s more, having climbed the hill to the castle in a shower we had the castle entirely to ourselves. We’ve been to Lllanstephan once before, but didn’t make our planned visit to the castle – I’m glad that we tried again: it’s a fabulous place.

The main gatehouse is the most intact building and it’s possible to climb to the top of the tower on the right. It’s also possible to climb the right hand tower in this building….

…although that does involve an actual climb to begin with and is probably not what Cadw intend. The hill on which the castle sits is small, but none the less the castle has great views along the estuary.

After our trip to the castle, and a spot of lunch in the excellent cafe behind the village store and post office,we went down onto the extensive beach beside the estuary.

Castle Hill seen from the beach.

Welsh Castles II – Llanstephan

Welsh Castles I – Laugharne

To begin at the beginning: we are just back (well a week back actually) from another holiday in Wales. We stopped in Laugharne where Dylan Thomas lived for many years and which I think was the model for Under Milk Wood. Although we did other things – a marvellous sunny day on Pendine Sands, a dire shuffle around a ‘chocolate farm’ tourist attraction – we seemed to spend a lot of our time visiting castles: hence a series of brief posts on Welsh Castles.

Laugharne is a pretty cool castle – we were particularly pleased to look around because on our previous visits to Laugharne, which were around New Year, the castle has always been shut and we’ve had to content ourselves with a walk around the outside. The castle has a tall tower with a spiral staircase to climb – always a bonus. In the centre of the photo above you can see A and B practising their archery with the bow-and-arrows they had just bought in the gift shop.

Jackdaws on the battlements.

Welsh Castles I – Laugharne

Bannerdale Round

Angle Tarn

A splendid walk in the excellent company of my old friend CJ. My increasingly obsessive peak-bagging has brought me to a corner of Lakeland which is quite unfamiliar to me. We parked near the old church in Martindale…

…and after a little navigational hiccup, by climbing Beda Head which is the first prominent bump on the long rising ridge of Beda Fell. That ridge eventually brought us to more familiar territory on Angle Tarn Pikes, where we even enjoyed a little sunshine.

Brother’s Water from Angle Tarn Pikes.

From Angle Tarn Pikes we scorned the path and traipsed over Cat Crag to the slightly underwhelming ‘summit’ of Brock Crags. The steepest climb of the day followed taking us on to Rest Dodd, from where a broad and boggy ridge – with genuine Black Peak style peat hags – led us to the Nab.

CJ is also a bagger and had the relevant Wainwright guidebook with him. Apparently the Nab used to be inaccessible – Wainwright issues stern guidance that the land is private and that trespassers are not welcome before going on to give five pages of details which make it quite clear that he must have trespassed. There is no such restriction today, although we didn’t see any other walkers there and judging by the faint path it isn’t a particularly popular route.

We doubled back to find an old stalkers path – the reason that visitors were barred is that the area was a deer park  – there are still signs warning that the area is used for deer conservation. As we descended towards Yewgrove Gill we spotted a group of deer and watched them cross below a waterfall in the gill.

As we contoured around the hill and then walked down the valley we saw many more groups of deer – I’ve never seen red deer in anything like these numbers in the Lakes before. Many of the groups had this year’s fawns with them…

Bannerdale and the neighbouring Rampsgill, which meet below the Nab to become Martindale, are both very quiet and must be ideal for the deer. I will definitely come this way again.

CJ and I had both been struck by the strange building in the valley here, not built in the local style, green with a red roof and a veranda all around it. Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture of it, perhaps because the rain which had been threatening to arrive on and off all day, had finally arrived. It’s called the Bungalow and is available for holiday lets. More interestingly, it was a hunting lodge built for a visit by Kaiser Wilhelm.

Bannerdale Round

Eaves Wood Landmarks

A’s birthday.*

“So, what do you want to do on your birthday?”

We didn’t need to ask twice – she reeled off a menu for each meal and a complete plan for the day. Part of that plan was a walk in Eaves Wood – it’s good to see that the apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree!

Of course, a walk in the woods actually means climbing trees and  revisiting old dens. Somebody gave A some Usborne Spotter’s Guides for her birthday. They remind me of the old eye-spy books which I remember with great affection. So we were looking for wildflowers and ticking off and collecting points for the ones we found.

For the kids a walk in Eaves Wood must progress via a series of familiar landmarks: this old coppiced beech is The Climbing Tree, but later they would expect to visit The Best Climbing Tree which is a yew. From there they know how to find The Root House – where a pair of beeches have fallen away from each other leaving a hollow sheltered on both sides by their roots – or The Witches Garden which is a set of limestone steps – the name comes from a game they played there some time ago.

Perhaps this stunted oak, near the the Pepper Pot, will become a new station in our itinerary since it too turned out to be good to climb…

  My own walks too link familiar landmarks – The Cloven Ash, The Inevitable Heron, The Lichen-toed Beech, The White-Violet Verge. Patrolling these spots and seeking out seasonal  landmarks which mark the passing of the year – the daffodil wood, the bird’s-eye primrose meadow, the winter starling roost – have become as important as annual rituals as the marking of birthdays.

Speckled Wood

* Yes – this was some time ago – I am once again hopelessly behind.

Eaves Wood Landmarks

Supernumerary Rainbow

I was sitting with S in his room as he drifted off to sleep, reading, perhaps appropriately, ‘Cosmic Imagery’ by John D. Barrow a great book to dip in to on just such an occasion, when that call went out again – “Dad, Dad come and look at this.”

Two very intense complete hoops – it took me a while to find my cameras and the photos are not a patch on how it looked at the time, but…as well as the reversed secondary it’s just about possible to see inside the principal rainbow a fainter band which is a supernumerary rainbow. There’s a scientific explanation here.

This crop is not exactly sharp but it is possible to see the extra colours inside the violet.

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The next day we were enjoying sunshine in the garden when they were at it again. This time they wanted to show me a slowworm which their mum had found in a flowerbed. Very beautiful – and not particularly slow when we picked it up. No photos  this time sorry – but there is one here from earlier in the year.

Supernumerary Rainbow