Sunday of the last weekend before Paul and Mavis return from Australia begins with the sun climbing into a bright blue sky.
Our drive between Byrn Celli Ddu and Aberffraw had taken us past Newborough Forest. In fact we mistakenly pulled up in one of the car parks that is used by horse riders to access the forest roads thinking that this was the beginning of the short coastal circuit route we were searching for on that drive.
We return to the same car park, our plans are to walk to the coast and the island Ynys Llanddwyn beyond.
Outside the gravel confines of the car park the soil is light loam and sand beneath our feet. Without prior knowledge of where we are I would have already known we were near a coastline.
Trees in Newborough Forest are mostly conifer species. Tall, straight, dark and evergreen.
Vague paper maps and very ordinary navigational skills have us casting about for a true path, We weave through the trees and take a few wrong turns.
Soil left over moistened from the weeks of rain has loosened the shallow rooted grasp of the trees. Accompanying gales have been the last straw for many.
Our path leads under the trunk of a fallen tree that is still supported far from the ground by radiating branches. Boughs so green are unlikely to let the trunk fall further, we risk the pathway underneath.
Soon after we come to a wide gravel road and turn right heading towards the coast.
People walking back along the road advise us the walk to the coast is quite long and to just continue straight along the road we are until it veers sharply to the left.
Easy advice to follow.
This is pleasant walking, a firm wide gravel road with puddles easy to avoid. We make good time.
Where the road turns left we continue straight. The trees abruptly end leaving a well travelled path over one last dune.
At last we have found a true beach.
Our timing is good, the tide is low and the sand expanse broad and long. There is even surf.
Pam dares me to go swimming. Its not the hordes of fellow visitors looking on or the cold weather that stop me stripping down. Overturned jellyfish line the waters edge.
‘I’ll do it if you do it’ I call out to end the taunts.
Low tide makes Ynys Llanddwyn a peninsula rather than an island. We climb the rocks that separate long stretches of beach and look Westwards.
We are not alone in our enjoyment of the beautiful day. Children who have obviously cooped up for weeks with the bad weather run wild. Dancing dogs weave between their legs and chase tennis balls or swim in the salt waters.
Hairy coats must keep jellyfish tentacles at bay.
Further down the second sweeping bay we can now see kite surfers preparing their huge kites. Beyond the long sandy curve lie the waters of the Menai Strait and the snow capped mainland Snowdon Range.
The low lying stretch of stones that would be covered by the sea with each high tide is swiftly crossed. We climb a stone staircase surrounded by coastal grasses.
Signs warn that this area is used for grazing by horses. We join other visitors making their way through the weathered wooden gates to the island beyond.
Llanddwyn takes its name from Dwynwen (Dwyn ‘the pure’ or ‘blessed’) a saint of the Celtic Church who died in AD465.
Reputedly when Dwynwen’s love affair with a youth Maelon turned unpleasant God gave her a potion to forget her passion and turned Maelon into a block of ice. Rather perversely she was henceforth known as the patron saint of Welsh love and founded a hermitage on the island.
January 25th is now St Dwynwen’s Day and is celebrated by sending cards to your true love in a manner similar to the more widely known Valentines Day.
The grassy windswept low lying island spreads out before us.
Many of our fellow walkers are speaking Welsh which adds local authenticity to the glorious day.
Structures remaining on Llanddwyn include ruins of a church built on Dwynwen’s original hermitage site during the 16th century.
Passing the ruins I capture photos showing the Twr Mawr (large tower, one of two lighthouses that have functioned on the island) and the large Christian cross standing near the tip of the island through one of the remaining arches.
To the left of the ruins a Celtic cross stands in solitary vigil on a low rise.
Circling around the large freshwater puddle blocking the gravel path take us close to the Tai Peilot, a low row of adjoining cottages built from 1824 – 1845. These cottages provided accommodation for the teams of pilots who guided ships into Caernafon Harbour.
A cannon used to summon aid in emergencies still stands beside these low dwellings.
Now we have a choice, Twr Mawr to our right or Twr Bach (little tower) to our left. Twr Bach was built in 1800 and superseded by Twr Mawr in 1845.
We choose the stone walled concrete path to Twr Mawr first and walk around the lighthouse base. A little sandy beach running up to a broad stone and concrete ramp separates the two lighthouses.
Walking between the two I capture the silhouette of a handsome dog cresting the dune above.
A family attempts to fly a stunt kite on the small beach in the lee of the ramp wall. I smother my urge to tell the father to find a better spot in front of the ramp where there would be no ‘dead’ air.
The handsome hound watches their antics with wry amusement.
Pam tells me that as I was trying to get multiple shots of the dog standing on the stone ramp it’s owner is indignantly saying ‘that fellow is taking pictures of mah doog’.
As a mere admirer I meant no harm.
From Twr Bach we return to Twr Mawr and climb the hill to the large Christian cross at its top.
A weathered wooden seat engraved in magical swirling Welsh words provides a welcome respite.
Ever in search of new paths we walk the other side of the island in return and climb down to the church ruins. Pam is getting tired by now and is urging me to ‘get the lead out’.
I am engrossed in finding new shots, a stone wall with a crested back like a Stegosaurus draws my attention and walking down brings me to a small wooden gate with twirled carved tops like something from a Michael Leunig cartoon.
Back at the cattle grid sealing the main entry to the island we realise all the gates have these carved tops, a detail I have missed on entry.
Soft sodden soil yields to my stabbing Pacerpole tips yet supports them freestanding. I foresee many more photos like this in our future. Pacerpoles around the world.
Wild horses make their entry as we leave the island in our wake.
Paul and Mavis return on Tuesday afternoon. While they were in Tasmania we have been in frequent communication with them via email and they had offered us to stay on for as long as we would like with them in Anglesey.
Had such a kind offer been made prior to our arrival we would have been all to happy to have accepted. Of course from their end they would have had no way to know who they were accepting into their home and were wise in timing their offer.
From our end we have arranged for the return of the hire car the next day and have booked accommodation in Glasgow and Edinburgh for the weeks ahead.
After Scotland we have been fortunate to have been accepted for another two house sitting gigs, the first in the suburbs of London and the second in the rural village Cricklade.
Unusually for us, our plans for the next month or so are fixed in stone and we have to decline Paul and Mavis’ kind offer.
We spend a delightful laughter filled evening sharing tales of two islands, Tasmania and Anglesey.
Paul and Mavis are very tired yet happy to be home.
That evening as we all sit in the living room Martin jumps up on my lap and preens himself serenely.
Pam and Mick