Category Archives: Seaside

Views from Tywyn over the hills behind the Dysynni and beyond

On a recent flying visit to Tywyn, walking along the beach towards the Dysynni, it was terrific to see the autumn light on the hills and water over the Dysynni valley, like Tal y Garreg, Llechlwyd and Craig yr Aderyn (Bird Rock).  During the Iron Age some of these hills housed fortifications, implying that the landscape below was farmed at this time, just as it was further to the north.  A beautiful place to live on a day like this, safe in the knowledge that the central heating waits back at the ranch, but it must have been a hard life during the Iron Age with the winter closing in.

 

Late afternoon light on Tywyn beach

My father and I decided to take a three-night break in the Aberdovey area.  After leaving my home in Aberdovey and moving to the Chester area in February, I decided to take a break for a few months before going back for a flying visit.  I wanted to find somewhere self-catering, and near the sea, and the place that ticked all the boxes was in Tywyn.  I have taken 100s of photographs of the beach at Aberdovey, walking a long way towards Tywyn, but only rarely took photographs on the beach at Tywyn itself.  The beach at Tywyn is so different from that at Aberdovey!

The most obvious difference is the presence of breakwaters, long wooden structures that run from the promenade down into the sea in order to lessen the erosive and carrying impact of waves and cross-currents on a sloping beach, effectively dividing the beach into multiple small sections.  When the tide is very high it is impossible to walk along the beach without climbing over the breakwaters, but a promenade along the top of the beach means that the sea can still be enjoyed by dog-walkers, joggers and visitors.

Within these divisions, the differences continue to impress.

There are lovely rock pools with superbly coloured seaweeds floating in them, the rocks sometimes housing colonies of tiny white barnacles.  Beyond the rock pools are highly textured sand structures that look a little like coral but are honeycombe reefs, made by the Honeycomb worm (Sabellaria alveolata), which form colonies.   The colonies form on hard substrates and they need sand and shell fragments for tube-building activities.  They manufacture the tubes from mucus to glue the tiny pieces together.  When the tide is out the worms retreat deep into the tunnels, but when the tide covers their reefs their heads protrude and they feed on micro-organisms in the water, including plankton.

There are lots of pebbles, rounded by being rolled in the sea and over sand and other pebbles, a variety of shapes, sizes, colours and textures.  There are almost no shells, but there are occasionally limpets, which are only rarely found at Aberdovey, probably due to the lack of rocks for them to cling to.   Perhaps because of the breakwaters there is nothing in the way of a strandline capturing oddities from the sea, but this is good news for sun-bathers.  The Tywyn beach very definitely has its own personality.

Staying so close to the beach meant that we could walk along it both first thing and last thing, which was a treat.  We were so lucky with the weather, and the autumn sun, quite low in the sky, danced wonderfully on the waves.  It was cold at each end of the day, but by staying on the move, hypothermia was avoided.

Here are a few of my late afternoon snapshots.  There will be more to follow on future posts.  The light was simply extraordinary.  We’ll be back 🙂

New book: Richard Mayou, “The Dyfi Estuary – An Illustrated History”

I am very excited to have taken receipt today of Richard Mayou’s new book “The Dyfi Estuary – An Illustrated History”, just published by The Machynlleth Tabernacle Trust.  I will report more when I have done more than devour the feast of lovely photographs, but for anyone wanting to secure a copy, it is available from the Machynlleth MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) at https://moma.cymru/en/product-category/books/.  There are two versions of the same book, one in English and one in Welsh.  Here’s the preview from the back cover:

The Dyfi estuary looks peaceful and unchanging, but the book tells
a different and dramatic story.  There have been armies, great estates, a centre
of seaborne trade, a great woollen industry, cattle droving and fishing of
salmon and herring and internationally renowned mines and quarries.
Now its post-industrial landscape is a place of
sheep-farming, conservation and tourism.

I’m chuffed to bits that this blog is listed in the further reading section.

 

 

A hazy beach at high tide

 

 

Before I left the house I checked my tide clock to confirm what the view from my window had already told me – the tide was all the way in.   It was still a surprise when I got down there at how high the tide actually was.  I have never seen waves lapping at the foot of the pillbox, for example, and there was just a thin band of sand, a couple of feet wide, because the sea had reached the pebbles and the dunes.  Checking the tide tables on my return, it was indeed a pretty high tide at 4.83m.  

There was nothing much to see on the strandline, which was mainly bladder wrack, leaves and old wood, but the sea itself was absolutely spectacular, and the sky, veering from bright blue to blue-black and back again, provided a wonderful backdrop for both the frothing white waves, the yellowish sand dunes and the bright green golf course.   There were good signs of life on the dunes, with brave early plants producing bright new leaves.  Not just a feast for the eyes, however, but the ears too.   What had originally drawn me to the beach was the thundering roar that announced itself when I opened the front door this morning and on the beach itself it was explosive.

 

 

Apart from two men wielding metal detectors, there was absolutely no-one around, so no need to worry about social distancing, which was lucky as short of scaling the sand dunes, or going for an unseasonal paddle, there were places where it would otherwise have been difficult to avoid someone coming in the opposite direction.  On my return leg via the golf course there were a lot more people around, mainly walking dogs but a small group was considerately collecting litter.

Blue skies on Sunday

It seems quite remarkable as I look out of the window this morning, that Sunday was all blue skies and sunshine, simply lovely.  Today I can barely see beyond the end of garden.  The rain is relentless and the sky such a pale  shade of grey that it is almost white.   The gloom is unbelievable.   So it is really quite a relief to look back to Sunday when I went for a stroll on the beach at low tide, much the best option for a safe way to take exercise during lockdown, as there are no gates to open or stiles to cross.

 

Leaflet: The Submerged Forest at Borth

I found another batch of leaflets today during a sort-out, and will post some of them in the coming weeks in case they are of interest.  I’ve never seen the submerged forest at Borth, which needs a very low tide to see it properly, but it’s now firmly on my radar.  As well as previewing the leaflet in the images below, you can download it as a PDF by clicking here:  Submerged forest leaflet

A gloomy day alleviated by finding and cooking a delicious parasol mushroom

Well the news today is first that in Wales we are going back into lockdown for a 17-day “firebreak” period from Friday 23rd October until Monday 9th November.  Second, according to the NHS Covid app loaded on my phone, the LL35 postcode (Aberdovey) is now a High Risk area for Covid.  Not terribly surprising, though, after the summer influx.  Hey ho.

After a tedious few hours doing paperwork and filing I had to go to the Post Office this afternoon, so even though it was grey and dull, I took in a brief stroll along the golf course, sand dunes and walked back along the beach.

On the golf course I was hoping for some wild mushrooms, and just as I had given up, and was about to walk over the dunes to the beach, I spotted a single parasol (Macrolepiota procera) in the tall grass where the sand dunes meet the golf course.  A beauty, and a real result.  It was so perfect that it was almost a shame to eat it, but eat it I did.

Normally I would just have it in butter, garlic and parsley, but I had already planned a Hungarian chicken and mushroom dish for the evening, Paprikás Csirke (paprika chicken), so instead of shop-bought field mushrooms the parasol was deployed.  There are many different ways of doing Paprikás Csirke, but I simply do it the way my Mum did it, which is a very simple, quick recipe that produces a super meal that is full of flavour.

In the recipe, button mushrooms are added to the sauce as described below.  In the picture, however, what look like two pieces of steak are the two halves of my parasol mushroom top, served on the side of the chicken in the paprika and sour cream sauce, alongside griddled courgette discs.

Paprikás Csirke. Instead of adding button mushrooms with the chicken to the sauce, a giant parasol mushroom was halved and served on the side with courgette discs.

First, depending on how many people you are feeding, use a a whole chicken that has been jointed, one or more chicken joints, breasts or thighs.  Whatever you choose, this is poached with a bay leaf, sliced onion, lemon zest and peppercorns.  I also added the stalk of the parasol, because although it has flavour, it is too woody to eat.  The poaching stock is reserved, because it is used to make the sauce.

The mushrooms are tossed in butter before setting on one side.  The sauce is made by adding flour and paprika (and optional cayenne pepper) to the mushroom juices  – add some more butter if necessary to soak of the flour.  Slowly add the required amount of strained poaching liquid, stirring constantly, to make a light velouté.  Keep stirring until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  The chicken and button mushrooms and some lemon zest are then added to the sauce (mine differed because instead of many smaller mushrooms I divided my one large mushroom into two and served them on the side), and everything is simmered til warmed through.  Sour cream is then added and stirred in and heated through for a minute or so with a good handful of chopped parsley.  If you cannot get hold of sour cream, any cream will do as a substitute although the slight sharpness of crème fraîche or Greek yoghurt are a good match.

To serve, place a dollop of the cream on top of each serving, give it a good grind of black pepper and sea salt.  I also like a good squeeze of lemon juice over the whole.  It is good accompanied with plain white rice, noodles or your preferred veg.  Ribbon or griddled courgettes go very well with this dish, and I opted for the latter.  Optional additions to make it go further are cooked baby new potatoes and/or small, butter-fried shallots thrown into the sauce before the cream is added.

A September sunshine swan-song before Autumn: walking across the hill, returning along the the beach

A nice walk over the hill and down the other side on the 25th September, through the Gywddgwion farm on the footpath, dropping down into a (mostly) dry stream bed that doubles up as a footpath in the summer, to collect some blackberries, emerging at Dyffryn Glyn Cul farm.  We strolled down the single track lane to the coast road, crossed over and headed towards the dunes, and from there down on to the beach.  This is my favourite bunch of beach photos to date.  There were a couple of nice days after this, but it was the last of my walking for the time being, as I had to get down to some work.  Adding the photos to this post rather belatedly on October 4th, the difference between those divine last days of September and the onset of October wind and rain is truly amazing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lovely cloud formation low over the Dyfi estuary

Last Thursday we were treated to a remarkable sight over the Dyfi estuary – a bank of pure white cloud that sat over Ynyslas and moved forward towards the water, eventually dispersing into wispy strands before clearing completely.

A relaxing stroll on the beach after a frustrating walk

Nearly every walk I’ve done around Aberdovey has been a riotous success, but on Saturday it all went slightly wrong in spite of the stunning sunshine.  I was trying to scope out a route to another hillfort.  I had already made the mistake of crossing a footpath through a field that turned out to be very boggy, so ended up with soggy socks and damp jeans, before turning onto a single track road for a couple of kilometers.  Its hedges were so high that I couldn’t see much of the scenery and when I turned onto the footpath it was so overgrown with brambles that it was a struggle to get anywhere.  There were a few nice flowers, including toadflax, lots of honeysuckle and a few late foxgloves, and a couple of damselflies and dragonflies, but otherwise it was just a fight against the increasingly vigorous thorny tendrils so eventually, when they were knee-high and seriously impeding progress, I gave up.  Fortunately I was in jeans rather than my usual shorts, which saved my legs, but it was disappointing.  There’s another approach that I’ll try on another day.  I decided to return home, stopping first at the beach outside the crush in Aberdovey itself, parking up opposite the cemetery.

As I crossed the dunes and walked across the grey pebbles down onto the beach, the sight was rather bizarre – facing towards Aberdovey it looked as though several lines of humans in the distance, in silhouette, were moving in slow motion towards me.  It was slightly eerie, shades of zombie invasion movies.  Fortunately, they were just out to enjoy the sunshine, like me.  There was a vintage RAF propeller plane overhead.  Many thanks to Hugh Tyrrell for responding to my request for information about it.  He says that it is a restored Avro Anson from Sleap airfield in Shropshire, painted in D Day colours.  It is owned by a aviation enthusiast who takes passengers for local trips. This time he was further away from home and was probably flying back after visiting Llanbedr.  It was a really marvellous sight, with a very distinctive engine sound.  An elegant visitor and a contrast to the super-fast jets that we often have roaring overhead around here, also rather fascinating in their own particular way.

Stonechat in the sand dunes

Click to see the details of an amazing crush of shells, in a part of the beach that has an enormous amount of razor clam shells. Razor clam shells always give me real craving for Portuguese food!