Around Rhaeadr-fawr

On Saturday we had planned a hill walk in North Wales but the weather forecast was for thunder, lightening, heavy rain and strong winds in the early part of the day clearing up by the afternoon as the weather front progressed northward.


As we sat in the cafe in Abergwyngregyn we watched a mini torrent flowing down the street as driving rain continued to fall.  By 12.30pm we decided to brave the weather and do a less ambitious walk skirting around the head of Rhaeadr-fawr better known in English as the Aber Falls.


It is suggested that Llywelyn the Great, one of the last native Prince of Wales who was born in 1194, held court around Abergwyngregyn.  The village’s name translates into English as ‘The Mouth of the River of White Shells’.



We took the path from Bont Newydd through a forest by the fast flowing Afon Rhaeadr-fawr and then a rising track along a wide span of scree around 300 feet high.  The screes are said to date from the last ice age formed following frost erosion of Bera Mawr and Bera Bach which translate as the ‘Large Haystack’ and Small Haystack’.



Following the scree slope the path carried on through boggy and rock scattered valleys with mosses and rough grasses.



Ahead of us were an expanding view of the northern Carneddau mountain range – Foel Fras, Drum, Bera Bach and Drosgl.  These are more ‘grassy’ mountains with rocky outcrops unlike many of the more rock strewn peaks elsewhere in Snowdonia.



Had we kept on the path you can climb all the way to the major peak of Carnedd Llywelyn some five or so miles away.


Looking northward there were good views of the Irish Sea and the south eastern tip of the Isle of Anglesey.


We took a bearing right crossing a number of streams draining off the hillsides and up and down over a couple of minor valleys.



The slopes were covered with bilberry and bracken which sapped our energy as we traversed the slopes emerging to the right of the Aber Falls or in Welsh Rhaeadr-fawr which means ‘Big Waterfall’.




The water falls 120 feet (36.5m) over the hard igneous rock of granophyre at Creigiau Rhaeadr-fawr.



By the time we got here it was the best part of the day with warm sunshine on our backs as we headed down the valley back to Bont Newydd.



Barnston Road fields


A couple of weeks ago the field of oil seed rape or ‘rapeseed’ was in full flower on Barnston Road one of the main roads into Heswall.


I’ve taken photographs before of oil seed rape fields, as they make such a contrast in the countryside with their yellow flowers against the green vegetation and blue skies.


As I travel past these fields now the yellow flowers have gone and the field is green and as the plants turn through gold to brown they will be ready to harvest in late summer.


British production has risen from a few thousand tonnes in the 1970s to a couple of million today, more or less doubling in the last 10 years alone.


In 2012 the UK was the seventh biggest producer of oil seed rape in the world.


Rapeseed is grown for the production of animal feed, vegetable oil for human consumption, and biodiesel and lubricants.


…in perpetuity


Richard Henry Hooper (known as Harry) Hooper was born 1865 and was a successful local business man who lived in the large house known as ” Knollwood” in Gayton.  We don’t know much about Mr Hooper but a sign passed by hundreds of motorists everyday between Barnston Road and Brimstage Road advises us that in 1930 he presented the pinewoods at the Gayton roundabout to the parish of Gayton ‘for the use of the public in perpetuity’.


His house at “Knollwood” in Well Lane Gayton is still standing today; a local landmark for its very fine entrance gates which are from the former Birkenhead Woodside Railway Station which closed in 1967.



Mr Hooper was clearly a keen golfer as he was Captain of Heswall Golf Club in 1912.  He died on the 4th May, 1936.




Today the pinewoods are maintained by Wirral Council as well as a local resident who tidies the area on a regular basis.  The woods are no longer solely pine woods with other deciduous trees now growing.




The woods are an oasis of calm between two busy roads and have benches laid out for sitting on.  Many of the timbers have rotted on the benches and the local Rotary Club have replaced most of them.



I wandered through them one very sunny late afternoon a few weeks ago when the bluebells were still in flower.



Thank you Mr Hooper for leaving to the community to enjoy …in perpetuity.


MS Queen Victoria departs Liverpool

The Cunard cruise liner MS Queen Victoria arrived in Liverpool on Friday and spent the night berthed on the River Mersey at the Liverpool Cruise terminal.  The liner’s visit to Liverpool was to mark the 100 year anniversary of Cunard’s superliner the RMS Aquitania – one of the company’s most successful ships – setting sail on her maiden voyage to New York from the Liverpool waterfront in 1914.


On Friday evening there was a spectacular fireworks display watched by hundreds of people from the waterfront and passengers on board.


I didn’t manage to get down to the river for this event but I was on the Wirral shore for the liner’s departure at 4 pm yesterday afternoon.


I managed to get some shots from Egremont promenade next to the ‘Black Pearl’ pirate ship.  As the cruise liner passed down the river to the mouth of the Mersey the passengers were on the decks to wave at the thousands of spectators on the shore.  The mighty ship blasted its siren several times before moving away from the dockside and into the middle of the river.


The Queen Victoria is carrying around 2,000 passengers on this trip arriving in Liverpool from Greenock on the Firth of Clyde in Scotland and now going onto Dublin, Cork and back to Southampton from where she started this round Britain cruise.


The Queen Victoria was laid down in May 2006 after being built at a cost of nearly £300m by the Fincantieri Marghera shipyard in Italy.  The liner has a gross tonnage of 90,000 and is the smallest of Cunard’s ships in operation.  She is crewed by 900 people; is more than 960ft from bow to stern; has a top speed of 24 knots and facilities include seven restaurants, thirteen bars, three swimming pools, a ballroom and a theatre.


MS Queen Victoria does not carry mail and as such does not carry the Royal Mail Ship (RMS) status.  Also unlike many previous ‘Cunard Queens’, Queen Victoria is not a true ocean liner as she does not have the heavy plating throughout the hull nor the propulsion system of a dedicated transatlantic liner. However the bow was constructed with heavier plating to cope with the transatlantic run to New York.


The Queen Victoria was sailed into Liverpool by her master, Commodore Christopher Rynd, who has brought all three Cunard Ocean Queen liners into Liverpool during his career.


All three are set to come to Liverpool at the same time in 2015 to mark the 175th birthday of Cunard which started in the city.  The Pier Head’s Cunard Building was the company’s headquarters until 1967.  The three liners – The Queen Elizabeth, Mary 2 and Queen Victoria – will arrive in the city for a historic three-day event in the Mersey on May 24 to 26 next year.  It was 175 years earlier that saw the departure of Cunard’s first ship the Britannia which sailed from the city in July 1840.


Last May I took a number of shots of the Cunard liner the Queen Mary 2 when she was berthed in Liverpool.  See here  I’ll see if I can be there for the three Cunard liners next year.