An hour in the garden between 1100 and 1200 for the Big Garden Birdwatch 2020 this morning produced the following bird count. I do lure birds in with peanuts, mealworm and nyjer seeds, so the deck is stacked in my favour. Not putting in an appearance during that hour were other visitors that I see most days including magpies, collared doves, great tits, wood pigeons and rarer visitors like coal tits (which were regular visitors last year but are few and far between this year), greenfinches and house sparrows. There were six goldfinches on the feeder during the hour, but looking out of the window there are now nine of them all fighting for a position on a feeder that can handle a maximum of six. The pheasants are tame and queue up outside the kitchen door to be fed peanuts.
For an explanation of the Twiddly Bits series, see Aberdovey Twiddly Bits #1
Two lovely postcards showing sailing vessels at Aberdovey, moored against the wharf. I have no information about either. The names of the vessels are not visible and there is no information on the postcards themselves, not even a postcard manufacturer name. As to a date, the postcards post-date the building of the wharf and jetty in 1885. In spite of the lack of additional information, I love them. They are incredibly evocative of 19th Century and early 20th Century Aberdovey, when the village was an important trans-shipping port for for exports and imports. The symbiotic relationship between Welsh sailing ships and the growing network of railway lines, the juxtaposition of old and new, was all about using the best possible solutions for the growth of trade and communication both within Britain and across the Atlantic.
Both postcards were unused, and apart from the fact that they were printed in Saxony, there are no further details.
For an explanation of the Twiddly Bits series, see Aberdovey Twiddly Bits #1
On my travels today I was lucky enough to see some remarkable weather. Things started out with a sky so blue and a sun so yellow that the colours seemed almost fantasy-land. The grass was white-topped and scrunched under foot when I left the house, and the air was so cold that it froze my breath. It was a challenge, after turning right at Bryncrug and heading towards Tal y Llyn, to keep my eyes on the road, because the scenery was so glorious as it emerged from its icy white lace. Tal y Llyn itself was simply spectacular, mirroring the sun-lit south-facing slopes in a near-perfect reflection. At this time of year the contrast between sunny colours and black shadows is dramatic.
As I approached Llanuwchllyn, which sits at the foot of Llyn Tegid (Lake Bala) and according to the Visit Bala website means “Church at the top of the lake,” there were fascinating horizontal bands of cloud sitting above the ground and beneath the hilltops. On the south-facing slopes these were against bright hillside colours and blue skies. On the north-facing slopes they sat above trees and fields still spiked with frost, the sun so bright that the sky seemed silver against the darkness of the hills. My lovely Canon digital SLR (known for reasons lost in the mists of time as Josephine The Second) turned out to be impossible to get to in a hurry, so I used the little Sony that I keep in my handbag. It struggled desperately with some of the lighting conditions, but I have posted the photos anyway because they do capture something of the magic.
These strands of white mist presaged, to my surprise and dismay, a tediously dreary fog. Ahead of me a car was just a ghostly shape, and beyond that any other vehicles were a mere suggestion. The lake was invisible. I had been expecting to stop and take photographs of another beautiful mirror image, another spectacular vista, but beyond the road that runs along its north bank there was nothing but a dense veil of unvarying, damp, impenetrable murk. In the picture below, where I pulled the car over, I am standing at the water’s edge. Normally the lake would stretch out as far as the eye can see, contained within a sloping valley, very beautiful. Today even the seagull floating only a few feet away from me was seriously blurred and ill-defined.
When I quite suddenly re-emerged into the sunshine, the impact was rather like stepping off an air-conditioned plane onto the top of the mobile steps in a very hot country – a moment of pure sensation and a blissful sense of mild disorientation and very pleasurable surprise.
Following a stunning day of sunshine and blue skies after a crisp, scrunching frost, another outstanding Aberdovey sunset. Life is head-spinningly hectic at the moment, so it is great to take a peaceful step back, to enjoy the scenery and be a little mellow. Again, no filters applied, no Photoshop employed. A true miracle of nature.
Thanks very much to the Visit Aberdovey Facebook page for posting this photograph of Aberdovey in the final years of sail. It is in the National Library of Wales archives, where it is listed as “The landing stage, Aberdyfi.” It is thought to date to about 1885 and was taken by Ceredigion-born John Thomas (1838-1905).
The schooner nearest to the camera is called Adventure. She is not mentioned in Lewis Lloyd’s book so she was probably not built at Aberdovey but, like the Ellen Beatrice, discussed on a previous post, was probably a coaster that visited various ports on the Welsh coast. The Crew List website lists over 40 vessels named Adventure between 1857 and 1940, but none of those clustering around the mid to late 19th Century seem to fit the bill. I’ll continue to look into it, and update the post when I have more information.
All three vessels are beached on the sand at low tide. If you click on the image to enlarge it and look behind the ships and you can see the rails that ran along the wharf, with some trucks in situ, with a man sitting on one at far left of the shot, and a linkage between the truck and Adventure. There is a mobile gantry next to the trucks, which would have been shifted along the tracks to assist with the loading and unloading of ships. I haven’t seen the gantry in other photographs. Beyond the trucks are what appear to be sails drying. On the whole, this wonderful photograph poses more questions than it answers.
The People’s Collection Wales website has the following details about Thomas:
Born in Cellan, Ceredigion in 1838, John Thomas was the son of labourer David Thomas and his wife Jane. Following his education in Cellan, first as a pupil and then a pupil-teacher, Thomas began an apprenticeship at a tailor shop in Lampeter. In 1853 he moved to Liverpool to work in a draper but was forced to leave after ten years to find work in the open air due to ill health. It was due to this that he began work as a traveller for a firm dealing in writing materials and photographs of famous people. Small photographs of celebrities, known as ‘carte-de-visite’ photographs, were extremely popular at that time and made for a very lucrative business.
But, during his travels, John Thomas noticed that there was a lack of photographs of Welsh celebrities. This was inspiration enough for a new business and so, having learnt the rudiments of photography, he began taking photographs of famous Welsh people. He began by asking well-known preachers to sit for their portraits.
His venture was a success and in 1867 he established his own photographic business, The Cambrian Gallery. Travelling the length and breadth of Wales, he photographed celebrities, ‘characters’, chapels, churches, homes and buildings and landscapes, though he remained based in Liverpool throughout his career. Undertaking photography of this style, and on such a scale, was not an easy task. Photographic techniques remained rudimentary for the purposes of external photography, and travel was not easy at this time. Despite this, John Thomas succeeded in capturing individuals, landscapes and buildings in every corner of Wales during his thirty-year career. The worth of his vast collection was great. He realised its importance and chose some 3,000 glass plates which he sold to O. M. Edwards for a very reasonable price. Thomas had worked for O. M. for many years, supplying him with images for the magazine Cymru and his images would continue to illustrate the magazine even after his retirement.
John Thomas died in October 1905. The negatives bought by O. M. Edwards now form part of the photographic collection of The National Library of Wales and are an important contribution to People’s Collection Wales.
Truly fascinating. Later this year I hope to post more of his photographs of Aberdovey here, with accompanying information when I can find it.