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Sunday 8 September 2013

[Saturday 7 September 2013]

North Wales

Day 251  Sunday 8 September Ezekiel 38-39

Janet wrote, ca.7.15am:
As I lay in bed this morning I decided I wanted to go home tonight if we can possibly manage that, no matter what time we get there. I don’t care how long we have to wait around or if it’s the early hours of Monday morning. I’m looking forward to Portmeirion and both trains… and don’t want to miss them (neither does [John]), but we don’t want to spend another night in this bloody awful hotel. I want to enjoy today, pack our begs, and go home. We’re off to breakfast soon and I’ll ask Pam what time we’ll be back here tonight. [John] will take the Little Feller down with us (down the stairs covered in filthy-dirty carpet) and after we’ve eaten we’ll go into the lounge and see if we can (please!) get home tonight (oh, how I hope and pray we can. We’ll enjoy the day so much better if that’s the case).

After breakfast, we indeed went into the lounge, where there was wi-fi internet access, to explore the possibility of “escape” by rail after the day’s activities this evening; but the single fare for both of us, even using Senior Railcards, was over £100. Janet said she’d pay out of her own money, but I said that it was not feasible. She took the key and went off to the room. She wrote:

Well, we went for breakfast, then into the lounge, to discover it was not feasible to go home tonight. I wasn’t unduly surprised. I did think this might be the case; after all, it is Sunday — but this was not what I wanted to hear and I returned to the room feeling pretty distressed. Shit. Shit. Shit.

We boarded the coach without speaking to each other, and the silence persisted for quite a way. I can’t remember at what point we made up, but make up we did and were “pals” again. At 8.35am the coach set out, after Paul had told us about the route we’d be taking over the Crimea Pass, and initially retraced the return route of yesterday. It was sunny, in an almost clear sky. We turned right, onto the A470 (08:57), initially beside the Conwy estuary, with the castle visible, somewhat behind, off to the right (08:59), by the muddy, wide river where the wading birds had been (09:04). We continued through the wide vale as the river narrowed, and it started to rain (09:10). When we entered Llanrwst (09:13), it had become dry but continuing grey. On the right as we passed it a second time, was the narrow, three-arch stone bridge, which Pam again said was built by Christopher Wren.[i] There was cloudy sun as we continued through the vale, and the pine-clad hills drew closer (09:20). We turned right onto the “A470 Dolgellau” (09:22).[ii] Paul stopped, and spoke of the route we were about to take, including a difficult bend of the road just ahead (to 09:28), which we negotiated without mishap. Fairy Glen was pointed out, across the river (09:30).[iii] It had started raining again, when we went through the village named by Pam as Dolwyddelan (09:38). We left the river valley and went up and over the Crimea Pass. Approaching the summit we should have had a view to the right of Snowdon, but it was again completely blanketed by clouds (09:42). We reached the summit of the pass (09:43), and descending we saw to the right what we were told was now the McAlpine slate quarry, with big piles of spoil (09:45). The quarries-and-spoil-heaps landscape persisted similarly through Blaenau Ffestiniog (09:47). We continued to descend through the wooded Vale of Ffestiniog. A road approached our A496[iv] at an acute angle from the left, and we bore right (09:54) and continued along it. We turned right at a T-junction into the road, the A487, that cut across ours, i.e. along the right bar of the “T” (09:56), and continued along it. We travelled now in a more level, broad vale, with a slow-flowing river[v] to our left (09:59). We bore right, away from the river, and went through less level terrain (10:02), and through a small town.[vi] We entered Minffordd (10:04), and turned left into the road to Portmeirion (10:05), going along a narrow, long lane through trees. It was raining quite heavily, when we stopped (10:09), and a man got on and welcomed us in Welsh and English, and explained some of the features of the place, including the free “forest train”. We got off the coach, passed a few tree-shaded buildings and entered the “village” itself.

[i] According to Wikipedia, it “is said to have been designed by Inigo Jones and it was built in 1636 by Sir John Wynn of Gwydir Castle.” There’s no mention of Christopher Wren.
[ii] This must be just south of Betws-y-Coed. We were already on the A470, but here there is a T-junction: straight ahead, the road becomes the A5 and continues along the Conwy valley; the A470 turns right, runs more or less parallel to the A5 for nearly a kilometre, then turning right crosses the Conwy and proceeds along its tributary the Lledr.
[iii] On the map, the label “Fairy Glen” appears just upstream on the Conwy, at the confluence of the Lledr and the Conwy, the line of which the road follows at this point.
[iv] We must have turned right onto the A496 just at the entrance to Blaenau Ffestiniog (so it’s not true to say “The quarries-and-spoil-heaps landscape persisted similarly through Blaenau Ffestiniog”). The road approaching from the left would be the B4391 from Llan Ffestiniog, which becomes a continuation of the A496 after the junction.
[v] The Dwyryd.
[vi] Penrhyndeudraeth.


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 10:17:52
Portmeirion


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 10:18:08
Portmeirion


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 10:18:54
Portmeirion


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 10:19:20
Portmeirion


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 10:19:52
Portmeirion

We went into the first café we came to — the blue-and-yellow building, shown below — a tiny place with only about three tables, to get out of the heavy rain. The two young women serving spoke to each other in Welsh, perhaps the first we’d heard used conversationally. Most of the people we’d encountered this weekend had been English so far. Janet had a diet cola and I a little carton of orange juice. I said, “Thank you, or perhaps I should say, ‘Diolch’.” She replied “Diolch!” to me also. When we were about to leave, I asked how to say “goodbye”, but I couldn’t follow the words, so she suggested that I could say, “Ta-ra!”


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 10:38:06
Portmeirion


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 10:38:18
Portmeirion


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 10:38:26
Portmeirion


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 10:39:20
Portmeirion

We walked through the estate to the square where the little road-train was. Unable to locate standalone toilets, we had a pee at the nearby restaurant. I noticed it sold Italian fare, but the translations of the Italian terms were solely into Welsh. Because it was still raining, we went in a gift shop just across the square. We’d asked when the train was going to leave, and availed ourselves of the gift shop till it was time, then we boarded. It kept us out of some very heavy rain. Trouble is, that everyone had been told “Ten minutes”, regardless of when they had asked. Before we set out, a man came round with a squeegee, clearing the rain off the outside of the windows and the condensation from the inside; that held up starting the trip even further. We bumped around the narrow forest paths on a circuitous route, passing a pond with an oriental-style bridge, and returned to the square outside the shop.


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 11:16:12
Portmeirion: Forest Train


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 10:57:10
Portmeirion: Forest Train


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 11:12:26
Portmeirion: Forest Train

We went back in the shop, looking for a small piece of pottery to put in our souvenir cabinet at the top of the stairs, and while we were undecided, the assistant suggested we go to the shop just outside the “village” that sold seconds. The weather was brightening up, the rain stopped, and the sun even peeked out, so we wandered round the estate before heading for the exit.


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 11:20:34
Portmeirion


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 11:21:42
Portmeirion


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 11:22:18
Portmeirion


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 11:23:12
Portmeirion


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 11:24:08
Portmeirion


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 11:24:54
Portmeirion


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 11:26:04
Portmeirion


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 11:26:26
Portmeirion


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 11:26:34
Portmeirion


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 11:27:00
Portmeirion


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 11:27:30
Portmeirion

We passed back under the gatehouses and went in the aforementioned shop, where we bought a small mustard-pot. We returned to the coach, which set out at 12:11. We turned left onto the main road (12:16), and Paul pointed out to us the flat land to the right, reclaimed by the building of the causeway called “The Cob” across the mouth of the river. We went along the Cob (12:19), and just beyond it parked in the forecourt of the Harbour Station of both the Ffestiniog Railway and the Welsh Highland Railway.


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 12:19:38
Crossing the Cob into Porthmadog

Janet and I went in the station café, which was busy. I occupied a table by the window looking out onto the platform, and she joined the slow-moving line at the counter. I’d chosen a minted Welsh lamb burger, but when Janet didn’t seem to be moving — and I thought of the preparation time for the food on top of the waiting time in the queue, I went to a cabinet and selected a beef-and-tomato sandwich instead. Eventually, she came back with that, and a Pepsi Diet for herself and a Vimto for me. Through the window I could see a Welsh Highland Railway train waiting, in the position shown in “13:13:54”, below — though that is a photo of our Ffestiniog Railway train. I wish I’d been free to observe and photograph it. For when it set off, it went out first onto the Cob, halted, then proceeded in the opposite direction leftwards along the tram-style track that goes along then across the main road. I think it was pulled out; I don’t recall seeing a locomotive pushing it. But there’s no track for the pulling locomotive then to move to the other end of the train. Before boarding our train I went out a short way towards the town and took some photos.


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 12:56:14
Station for the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways, Porthmadog


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 12:57:58
Porthmadog Harbour


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 12:58:40
View in the opposite direction to 12:57:58


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 12:59:08
Welsh Highland Railway where it crosses the street, Porthmadog

My notes say “1.05[pm]”, which was the time that Pam specified for us to meet up outside at the entrance of the station, by the sign marked “Welsh Highland Railway” (shown on the left below), before we boarded the 13:35 train. However, most of our party were gathering on the station platform, as suggested I think by Paul. We dithered for a bit, going between them, opting then to go outside. We did see Pam eventually. I thought she’d made her arrangement so she could count people, but she seemed unconcerned that people had gone onto the platform, and just suggested we board the train. There was a coach reserved for the Newmarket party.


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 13:10:02
Outside the station, Porthmadog


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 13:11:04
Station ticket office, Porthmadog


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 13:13:54
Our waiting train, Porthmadog


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 13:19:28
Fuelling and watering our train’s locomotive, Porthmadog


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 13:20:20
Our party’s reserved coach


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 13:28:40
Paul, our driver, shares his expert knowledge as a Ffestiniog Railway volunteer.


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 13:30:10
Our loco on its way to the front of the train


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 13:30:24
Our loco on its way to the front of the train


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 13:30:30
Our loco on its way to the front of the train


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 13:32:08
Our loco approaching the front of the train


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 13:32:16
Almost there!


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 13:37:44
Crossing the Cob out of Porthmadog


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 13:38:30
View from the Cob


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 13:47:34
A stop at Minffordd station


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 13:53:34
Capel Fron evangelical church


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 13:53:34
Capel Fron evangelical church: detail 1


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 13:53:34
Capel Fron evangelical church: detail 2


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 13:58:34
View from the right side of the train


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 14:14:38
Passing place at Tan y Bwlch station

I observed the spiral by which the track is lifted to a deviated route to pass the Tanygrisiau Reservoir, which flooded the original track-bed — though I failed to photograph it. I had another Tomos Watkins Cwrw Hâf; I failed to spot, however, that they had available Purple Moose (which rhymes in Welsh: Mŵs Piws), of which Paul had been singing the praises, till I saw it served to the people opposite.


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 14:23:44
Views from the right side of the train


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 14:23:56
Views from the right side of the train


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 14:25:24
Views from the right side of the train


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 14:31:10
Tanygrisiau Reservoir


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 14:31:50
Tanygrisiau Reservoir


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 14:32:44
Tanygrisiau Power Station


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 14:32:54
Tanygrisiau Power Station


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 14:34:18
Views from the left side of the train


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 14:35:16
Views from the left side of the train


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 14:36:46
End of Tanygrisiau Reservoir



Sunday 8 September 2013 — 14:42:30
View from the left side of the train


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 14:48:10
At Blaenau Ffestiniog station


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 14:48:18
Transferring to the waiting standard-gauge train


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 14:50:44
Boarding the standard-gauge train


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 14:55:26
The Ffestiniog Railway locomotive on its way to what’s now the front of the train

There was no rain at all while we were on the Ffestiniog Railway, but it started to rain again when we were on the next train, which went under the mountain that we’d gone over on the Crimea Pass, but then followed the same route as we’d come, sometimes on the other side of the river, though.


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 15:05:34
View from the left of the standard-gauge train


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 15:06:44
Interior of the standard-gauge train

When the River Conwy widened out, we saw a grey heron, some similar but smaller white birds — perhaps egrets of some sort — and oystercatchers in the estuary shallows and mud banks (15:53).


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 15:58:00
Distant Conwy Castle seen from the left of the train


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 16:01:22
(16:01:15, according to the station clock)
The train’s terminus: Llandudno Junction station


Sunday 8 September 2013 — 16:06:14
Llandudno Junction station seen from the waiting coach

We arrived at Llandudno Junction, “where [as Janet put it] Paul was waiting with the coach to take us back to Rhyl and the Hellhole Hotel.” We set out (16:12) and got onto the A55 (16:15), a direct route taking us across to the north coast, i.e. not going via Llandudno as I thought we were going to. (The original plan had been to change trains at Llandudno Junction and be picked up in Llandudno itself.) We kept to the coast where the A55 deviated away from it, going along the A548 (16:26). We went through Towyn (16:29) where I noticed the interesting criss-cross pattern of dark and light slates on the roof of the church. One or two adjacent buildings similarly had geometric patterns on the roofs. We traversed the bowstring girder bridge taking us into Rhyl (16:34), and arrived outside the hotel (16:37). Copied the photos from the camera, 65 of them (16:56–16:57), and edited them using Photoshop (17:02–18:25, 20:08–20:40). The gap in timings of the latter is when we went down for dinner. On the menu tonight was “vegetable soup”, but we decided against it when we saw the unpleasantly glutinous wallpaper paste that others were being served. The boiled potatoes must have been cooked from real, raw potatoes, but everything else came out of can or freezer. The roast beef wasn’t roasted and sliced there; it was bought in ready-sliced, and reheated. The menu mendaciously said “seasonal vegetables”, as if frozen vegetables, such as waterlogged green beans, had seasons! We had coffee in the lounge, before returning to our room. Janet went to bed early. Finished editing the photos, then made a PowerPoint presentation of them (20:41–23:08).

[Monday 9 September 2013]



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