Often when I walk on the beach in the summer, looking north to Tywyn there is a big blue sky with little fluffy white clouds and when I turn round to look back at Cerdigion it looks like the coming of Armageddon, with dark clouds gathering in an unbroken, uncompromising line. It was just like that yesterday, and it made for some dramatic colour and light contrasts.
I came down Gwelfor Road, emerging on the coast road by the Post Office, thereby bypassing what I always think of as the family section of the beach, the stretch leading away from the lifeboat station, handily close to all the facilities. It tends to be fairly jam-packed at this time of year. I usually like to wend my way through the melee to enjoy people having fun, but given the ongoing risks I thought I’d give it a miss. I headed straight into the sand dunes, which were only being used by others as a thoroughfare to cross from the road to the beach.
There was a stiff and slightly chilly breeze that occasionally developed into a fairly strong wind. Although most people were in shorts, as I was myself, most also wore jackets and fleeces, and on the beach there were a lot of colourful windbreaks erected.
A giant inflatable pink swim-ring making its way apparently under its own steam across the dunes, one of the more surreal things that have caught my eye this year. Eventually the owner became visible as he and his swim-ring, still held aloft, proceeded down the beach towards the water’s edge. I assume that a child was following on somewhere behind.
There wasn’t much in the way of wild flowers and I eventually walked down to the beach and along the water’s edge. The sea was fairly turbulent for the time of the year, and the combination of a good wind and waves seemed to be ideal for some watersports.
Watching one sailborder wading with his kit into the sea, it seemed to me that one needed a fairly impressive amount of strength just to get it out beyond the shallows, never mind to climb on board, stay on board and direct the thing. Very skillful, and so much more rewarding than thundering around on a jet ski.
When I reached the Second World War pillbox (about which I have previously written here), I crossed the dunes to take photos of the Trefeddian Hotel for yesterday’s post about the hotel’s architectural changes. It was looking quite dramatic in the full sunshine against the dark hillside.
There were a few people using the golf course, but not very many, so I wandered back along one of the water courses that wend their way through the course. I know nothing about golf, but in spite of the blatant artifice I have always found the undulating landscape and the manicured greens of a golf course rather soothing. Or at least, when not at risk of being hit in the head by a golf ball. The water courses are thriving ecosystems in their own right, with incredibly clear water and a remarkable variety of plant life. They appear from and disappear into underground conduits. There must be a direction of flow, but no current was visible today. Most of the plant life likes shallow, slow-moving water, like the great swathes of water cress, and full sunshine, like the patches of duck weed and blanket weed. There were several red damsel flies darting around, only occasionally settling.
Amphibious bistort, above and below (Persicaria amphibium). Sorry about the fuzzy image of the flower above – it was seriously windy and it simply wouldn’t sit still for long enough for me to get a clear shot. It did, however, show the leaves clearly. Between that and the one below, which shows the flower a little more clearly, but not much of the leaves, I think you can get the idea. It’s a perennial and flowers in slow-moving water from June to September.
Nearby in a hedge, was a curtain of purple, which turned out to be tufted vetch (Vicia cracca).
Patches of Ccommon centaury (Centaruium erythraea) were on the edges of the sand dunes and the golf course. Centaury is named for the centaur Chiron who used it to cure wounds inflicted by the multi-headed Greek Hydra, but it has been used as an improbable cure-all for all sorts of diverse conditions.
Walking back along the golf course, I was lucky enough to find both a puffball and, the absolute highlight of my nascent foraging activities, two enormous parasol toadstools! They were both about 10 inches tall and around 6 inches across. Absolute beauties. The nearby fennel has now gone to seed, but I picked some of that too, as it makes a great base for a stock.
Wild fennel. A few weeks ago it was covered with feathery green leaves, but now it has gone to seed. The stems and seeds are still wonderful in stock, and the seeds can be dried out and ground into and over all sorts of things, imparting a delicious, slightly aniseed flavour. Where I group up in Spain it was known locally simply as “anis.”
And here is one of the parasol tops sitting on a handy diffuser, ready for the frying pan. The stalks are too tough to eat, but I put it in a bag in the freezer for making a stock for a beef dish on another day.
I had the puffball sliced and fried in a little butter with a sprinkling of parsley on a side dish as a starter. I saved one of the parasol mushrooms for my father and served the other fried almost the same way in butter, parsley and a little garlic, with streaky bacon and a poached egg on top. It looks a bit like very flat burger in the picture, but that’s just the colouring from the butter and bacon. Dividing the two mushrooms into two dishes allowed each one to be appreciated for its own particular virtues. Wonderful. God I was stuffed!