Category Archives: Aberdyfi

Regrow your supermarket spring onions / salad onions

The latest crop from a shop-bought packet of spring onions that I planted last year, still providing me with lots of lovely flavour.

I’ve been regrowing shop-bought spring onions / salad onions for about 10 years.   If you buy a pack that has those spindly little white roots still attached (most of them have them) you can place them in water and regrow them.

It occurred to me today that at this particular time, this can be done very easily even if you are self-isolating, to make your spring onions go further.  Kids would probably love to do it. Best of all, after you cut your first crop, they will grow back!  You should get several crops in a single season.  They will be dormant in winter but will come back in spring.

Note that these will not grow into the same solid spring onion that you originally purchased, but they will produce giant, hollow chives, which are utterly delicious in salads, mashed into spud, or fine-chopped and sprinkled over stews and casseroles.  You can see mine in the photo to the left.  I first planted them last year and they are still going strong in their pot this year.

I don’t actually have any shop-bought spring onions at the moment, or I would photograph the process, but it’s dead simple and here’s how I’ve been doing it for years:

Buy spring onions that have their little white hair-like roots still attached, such as the ones in the picture on the right (which I’ve borrowed from the Ocado website).  If they have been cut off, this won’t work.

As soon as you have your spring onions home, cut off the last 3-4cm (a bit over an inch) that have the roots still attached.  Place these in glass or jar of cold water (a glass or jar is better than a cup so that you can watch what’s happening).  You only need enough water to cover the roots and a bit of the stem.

In a couple of days new, healthy white roots will appear and start growing.  When the new roots reach a good size (I find that anything over 3-4cms / an inch long works) you can plant them out into your garden or into pots (or the bottoms of used plastic bottles, with holes made in the bottom for drainage).

When you plant them, make sure that whilst the roots are under the surface, a bit of green remains, sticking up.  Water well, and keep moist, but don’t drown.  In only a couple of weeks they will begin to grow and when they reach a good height you can cut them and eat them.   Best of all, they will regrow!  The photograph at the top of the page shows the ones I planted last year and am still eating today (quite literally – they are going to be sprinkled over tonight’s home-made curry to give it a bit of zing in the absence of any coriander).

 

Reminder that the clocks go forward tonight

The clocks go forward tonight, Saturday 28th /Sunday 29th 2020.  It is easy to lose track of this sort of thing at the moment.  Enjoy the lighter evenings, always something to look forward to.  Sunset was at around 7pm tonight, so it will be 8pm tomorrow.  Even under the current circumstances, it’s a bit of a silver lining.  The last few days, so incredibly sunny and warm, were astonishing for March, and the promise of things to come.

 

 

The Loss of the 1857 Aberdovey Schooner Frances Poole


There are a lot of newspaper reports about groundings, collisions and total losses in 19th Century newspapers centred on north and mid Wales.  I stumbled across this story about the loss of the Aberdovey-built schooner Frances Poole whilst looking for something else, and it was less the loss of the ship and crew that startled me than the remarkable brevity of the report.  The story was published in the 27th March 1869 edition of the Cambrian News.  It is a nod at a total loss, and in its very brevity is a comment on how regularly coastal ships foundered with partial or total fatalities.  Ship accidents and tragedies were a dreadfully common occurrence.

I went back through various sources to find out more about the ship, her background and her crew.  The Frances Poole was built in Aberdovey and her senior officers lived in Aberdovey.  There is nothing that particularly stands out about the ship.  She was an average cargo carrying ship going about here daily tasks when she fell foul of a gale on the Cornish coastline when she was just 12 years old.  A reliable ship that made several voyages to eastern Spain, she was well-built, admired for her speed and generally well thought of.

The John Jones schooner Catherine. Source: Lloyd 1996, volume II

Frances Poole was a, 84-ton schooner built in Aberdovey in 1857 by John Jones.  She was 75ft long with a 20ft beam, fitted with the figurehead of a woman.  Sadly there is no known picture of her, or of her builder John Jones.  The photograph to the left is another John Jones schooner, the Catherine Jones, 76 tons (8 tons lighter than Frances Poole and built 12 years later), but gives an idea of the type of schooners that John Jones built.

John Jones, “Jac y Taeth” was the most prolific of the Aberdovey shipbuilders.  He probably settled in Aberdovey in the 1840s, having been born in Llanfihangel-y-Traethau in around 1816, and was accompanied by his wife Catherine with whom he had seven children.  Lewis Lloyd  suggests that John Jones had probably served an apprenticeship in Porthmadog as a ship carpenter.  All his ships were built on the river Dyfi, most at Aberdovey and some at Llyn Bwtri near Pennal and at Derwenlas.  He often had more than one vessel on the go at once, and Lloyd says that he laid 16 keels between 1857 and 1864, and some 29 throughout his shipbuilding career, specializing in schooners.  Of these the smallest of his schooners was c.45 tons and the largest were Sarah 106 tons and Eliza Jane, 131 tons, which seems to have been converted into a schooner.  He also built a small smack, Morben 28 tons, a 209 ton brigantine Rebecca, and the 258 barque Mary Evans, amongst others.  He was clearly a man who could put his skills to whatever type of sailing ship was needed, small or large.  Two of his sons, Robert and Evan, also entered the business.  As shipbuilding declined he seems to have shifted from building ships to repairing them instead, a common solution for former shipbuilders faced with the difficulties of the shipbuilding industry towards the end of the 19th Century.

Frances Poole was registered in Aberystwyth, no.17350.  Her managing owner, the agent for the shareholders and responsible for overseeing it as a business venture, was David Jones, resident in Machynlleth. The first shareholders for the ship (listed in Lloyd 1996, p.143) are as follows:

  • 16 shares – Griffith Jones, Farmer, County of Merioneth
  • 8 shares – Master William Lewis, Master Mariner (no certificate), Aberdovey
  • 8 shares – John Lewis, Master Mariner, Aberdovey
  • 6 shares – Mary Brees, spinster and shopkeeper (owned shares in a number of ships), Machynlleth
  • 4 shares – David Jones, clerk and managing owner of the Frances Poole, Machynlleth
  • 4 shares – Edward Morgans, farmer, County Merioneth
  • 4 shares – William Jones, coal merchant, Machynlleth
  • 4 shares – Robert Williams, grocer, Aberdovey
  • 4 shares – John Jones, flour dealer, Machynlleth
  • 4 shares – Thomas Edwards, farmer, Cardigan
  • 2 shares – Thomas Llywelyn, clerk, Machynlleth

As Lloyd points out, the large number of shareholders from Machynlleth is an indication of how important the commercial ties between Machynlleth and Aberdovey were.  It is notable that John Jones, the builder, is not amongst the shareholders.  Unlike many shipbuilders, he never owned shares in the ships that he built.

The Frances Poole‘s master since the date of her launch was one of her owners, Captain William Lewis (1827-1863), who was born in Borth in 1827 but had moved to Aberdovey.  She was built partly to meet the needs of the slate trade.  Slate was an important material in rapidly expanding industrial areas, and neighbouring Tywyn and, further afield, Corris, had an excellent supply.  The slate was transported to Aberdovey’s wharf, and was loaded onto small coastal ships, offloaded at suitable ports for carriage inland.  Having dropped off her slate, often in London, Frances Poole then loaded cargoes at those ports for other destinations before returning to Aberdovey.  When she was unable to source an ongoing cargo, she headed to the next port that offered the best potential for a return cargo, known as being “in ballast.”  Although she was initially destined for coast-hugging work, after a decade of coastal work, she began to engage in the Spanish and French trades, suggesting that she was a very robust vessel.

Crew records sourced by Alan Jones (2010, p.52-68) for the year 24th July 1861-17th July 1862 provide a useful insight into the sort of distances that the Frances Poole covered:

The destinations of the Frances Poole in 1861-1862. Source: My Welsh Ancestry, John Jenkins.

  • July 1861, Aberdovey to London with slate
  • London to St Valery at the mouth of the river Somme, unknown cargo
  • In ballast (meaning no cargo loaded) back to Newport
  • Newport to Aberdovey, probably with coal
  • Aberdovey to London with slate
  • London to Penzance, unknown cargo
  • Penzance to Newport, in ballast
  • Newport to Aberdovey, arriving December 1861
  • 11 February 1862, Aberdovey to Bangor
  • Bangor to London
  • London to Whitehaven
  • Whitehaven to Newport by 29th April 1862
  • 2nd May 1862, Newport to Aberdovey
  • Aberdovey to London
  • London to Whitehaven
  • Whitehaven to London by 17th July 1862

The crew for these voyages consisted of:

  • The Master (no certificate), Captain William Lewis of Borth, resident in Aberdovey
  • The Mate, Thomas Jones, age 29, of Borth
  • AB (able-bodied) seaman John Davies, age 20, of Aberdovey
  • OS (ordinary seaman) John Jenkins, age 21, of Borth
  • Ship’s boy Thomas Edwards of Borth, age 16, on his first voyage

The seaside town of Borth was not a trading port in its own right, although it had a long fishing tradition, but it supplied a lot of the Aberdovey trading coasters with crew, and several of the Aberdovey-based Masters came from Borth, much like Captain Williams. Captain Williams sailed with the ship until his death on board at Newport in October 1863 from “a rupture of a blood vessel” at the age of 36.

Captain Williams was replaced the next day by Captain John Evans, aged 43, who held a Certificate of Service (no. C.S. 701507), a native of Bangor but resident in Aberdovey, and the Master of Jane Gwynne (also built by John Jones, and of a similar size).  Under Captain Evans, the ship engaged in the Spanish trades, calling at Valencia, Lloret de Mar, Malaga, Tarragona and other ports, sailing mainly from Newcastle.  She also visited French ports, including Boulogne, Dunkirk, Dieppe, Quimper and St Valery.

Captain Evans was succeeded by John Williams (no certificate) from Aberdovey, by 1867.  From then on here trips were mainly along the British coastline, again, but included at least one visit to St Valery.

Captain John Williams was in turn succeeded as Master by John Morris, aged 35, of Aberdovey in 1868 (no certificate), the same year in which he became managing owner for the Frances Poole.  He had formerly sailed on Mountain Maid, and took on William Morris, aged 33, as Mate, also formerly on Mountain Maid.  By 1869 he had been replaced by Hugh Pugh of Aberdovey, having previously served on the Mary Jane. A common port of call was Runcorn.

The Frances Poole was still sailing and trading until March 1869.  The Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard reported on the loss on 27th March 1869 (the short report is shown on the left).  Frances Poole had set out from Cork, heading from Liverpool, then Runcorn before heading down to Faversham with a mixed cargo.  She was wrecked during a gale against the rocks of “Godvery” (probably Godfrevy) Head near St Ives in Cornwall, with the total loss of the ship, the Master and other unnamed crew members.   The captain, John Morris, and crew member Hugh Pugh both came from Aberdovey.  The Mate, William Morris, may have been the elder brother of John Morris.  The captain’s widow was pregnant with three children.  Pugh had worked on the paddle steamer Elizabeth, which provided a ferry service between Aberdovey and Ynyslas when the final leg of the Cambrian Railway was being built to connect Aberdovey, Machynlleth and Aberystwyth.  He left a wife and child. Frances Poole was not the only ship wrecked in the area that night, but the other ship’s crew were fortunate enough to survive.

As I said in my introduction, it is the brevity of this report that is so startling, not just because all lives were lost, but because it is clear that this was not an unusual event.  Ships and crew were lost on a distressingly regular basis, and rarely merited an in-depth analysis in newspaper reports.

 

References:

The National Library of Wales
https://papuraunewydd.llyfrgell.cymru/view/3305862/3305866

Jones, A. 2010.  John Jenkins of Borth – A Welsh Master Mariner’s Story.  Maritime Wales/Cymry A’r Mor 31, p.52-68.  Available online at: http://www.mywelshancestry.co.uk/John%20Jenkins/John%20Jenkins%20Story.html

Lloyd, L. 1996.  A Real Little Seaport.  The Port of Aberdyfi and its People 1565-1920. Volume 1. ISBN-10 1874786488

Lloyd, L. 1996.  A Real Little Seaport.  The Port of Aberdyfi and its People 1565-1920. Volume 2. ISBN-10 1874786496

Some *good* news: Aberdovey is one of “The Best Places to Live 2020” (The Times)

According to The Sunday Times, which has done a survey of the Best Places to Live in the UK 2020, Aberdovey is given a superb write-up in the Welsh category.   The full write-up is here, but you have to be a Times subscriber.  I’m not a subscriber, so you’ll just have to talk nicely to someone who is!  However, a short summary piece actually is available to read, and you can find that here.  Here’s an excerpt

So beautiful, yet so modest: there’s not a hint of bling in this exclusive resort, and the community comes together for the annual panto and in the queues for plaice and chips at the Bear of Amsterdam or a caramel ice cream from the Sweet Shop. Yes, there are a lot of holiday homes, but they are well loved and well used by owners who mostly live within a couple of hours’ drive — it’s 2½ hours to Birmingham and three to Manchester — so this is no out-of-season ghost town.  Local characters include Carlos the dog whisperer and Dai the fisherman.

Aberdyfi’s attractions are natural and bountiful. Reports of a Mediterranean climate are best taken with a pinch of sea salt, but the glittering night skies are unsullied by light pollution and the rugged mountains of Snowdonia are a suitably dramatic backdrop for the four-mile sandy beach. If what’s on offer at the butcher, the pharmacy, the village stores and the Coast deli isn’t enough, there’s a supermarket, a GP surgery and a cinema four miles up the coast in Tywyn, where you’ll also find the nearest primary and secondary schools.

I felt almost embarrassed by my own good taste in living here 🙂  I was glad to see Dai of Dai’s Shed getting an honourable mention – I’ve eaten serious amounts of the fish he catches, and the same applies to the excellent butcher.  And of course, The Sweet Shop sells my favourite ice cream in the UK.

Terrific to have some good news in this particularly difficult period.  Thanks to family friend and bee-keeper Kelvin Heywood for alerting me to it.

Contrasting attitudes to tourism and Covid-19

I had no intention of talking about Coronavirus on the blog, but I was seriously struck by two contrasting attitudes today.  The first concerns the excellent approach of local holiday business Dyfi Cottages, and their online Coronavirus statement, which is impressive because of its simple common sense.   Here’s an excerpt but see the link for the full statement:

Increasingly this week, with continued lack of clarity on what the social distancing measures meant for self-catering cottages, we are now realising that our friends in the community including health care professionals, police and other essential services, are now asking for us to help them by asking people to stop travelling on holiday in the near future. Visit Wales has now also posted advice on their website regarding visitors to Wales: https://www.visitwales.com/coronavirus?fbclid=IwAR0W4XAWOu0S-iM24G3iO5mvo8pATiN48HUAeXvCBF4PVQruwOGUZ-KfFX0

It is for this reason, we are ceasing taking new bookings for the period up to 15th June 2020, we are also asking that any customer with a booking in the properties listed by us and due to depart between now and 30th April 2020 defers their booking or move it to a date later in 2020 or 2021. We are also asking all of our owners to continue to support us in deferring these dates. We expect that we may need to extend this period at some point in the next few weeks, and we will continually monitor and review the situation.

Serious congratulations and thanks to this successful local enterprise run by Paul Fowles for turning away much-wanted business in the short term, because it is the right and sensible thing to do.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution shop, a favourite of mine, has also made the tough, but sensible decision to close its doors at least in the short-term.  It is an excellent cause, a splendid shop run by terrific people.  I look forward to it opening once again when things are safe.

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By contrast, there’s a report today on the BBC website, from which I have lifted the following photograph in Bala, which highlights how day-trippers have been pouring into Wales ignoring all the social distancing protocols that we all know about and should all be observing.  This is short excerpt so do check out the BBC website for the full report: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-51994504

Car parks and trails could be shut to stop people from visiting Snowdonia National Park after “unprecedented scenes”, according to bosses.  There were so many people on mountain summits on Saturday it was “impossible to maintain effective social distancing” . . . . Welsh ministers are considering their legal powers to force people to stay away during the coronavirus outbreak.

Deputy Economy and Transport Minister Lee Waters said some people were “pretending everything is normal” at a time when hospitals were “turning canteens into spillover intensive care units”.  It comes as seven more people in Wales died after contracting the virus, taking the total number of deaths to 12.

There have already been calls from local politicians and medics to encourage second home owners and caravan owners to stay away from Wales’ holiday hotspots, where some people have travelled to self-isolate.  They also urged them to adhere to guidance on social distancing to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Local residents of Bala, only an hour’s drive away, were quite clearly very upset by the influx, and took peaceable measures to inhibit it, as the above report, and the photograph showing a vehicle and a trailer parked across the entrance to the lake’s main carpark, demonstrate.

I didn’t venture down into Aberdovey today, although I seriously enjoyed the sunshine on my balcony, so I don’t know whether it was any better than the rest of Wales, but I suspect that it will be difficult to keep the crowds away when the weather is like this, unless the government, local community groups, businesses and responsible members of the public can ram it home that social distancing will save lives.

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