Dinorwic Quarry Explored

P1110999 - Dinorwic Quarry
Since my earliest days I’ve had a passion for exploring abandoned places. To begin with it was family holidays spent in our caravan which provided me with ample opportunity to visit castles, monasteries and all sorts of industrial fare but it was our time staying in north Wales which perhaps had the biggest impact. Surrounded by towering spoil tips formed through generations of slate mining I was left in awe, uncomprehending at how man could change a landscape so fundamentally and completely. Of course back then the constraints of caring parents meant that forays to the most enticing workings were banned, something about the risk of plunging to my doom or disappearing under a collapsing pile of slate. That left only sanitised museums such as Llechwedd to quench my curiosity which although enjoyable only really served to whet my appetite for the “real thing” further. Fast forward a couple of decades and now with risk assessment in my own hands I’ve been trying to get out to a few of those sites which had me enraptured all those years ago. Top of that list sits Dinorwic, the second largest slate quarry in the world whose prominent position dominates nearby Llanberis. Even from a distance its multitude of inclines, winding drums and tramways are clear to see, each acting as a beacon calling me to venture closer.

Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr

P1110643 - Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr Walk
August bank holiday weekend isn’t exactly renowned for great weather but with opportunities running out it was exactly the right time for us to crack out our tent for the first, and probably last, trip this year. As for destination we ran through a whole host of possibilities before settling on Beddgelert in Snowdonia. Just down the road from Snowdon itself this is the ideal base camp from which to launch an ascent of the country’s most walked mountain with the added bonus of being surrounded by some truly dramatic scenery.

Ringed Plover Consolation

P1120239 - Ringed Plover
Still with Black Terns in mind we headed over to the Pwll area on Saturday morning, parking up near Burry Port and walking out to the jetty at Tywyn Bach. With a distinctly wet weekend forecast it came as a pleasant surprise to be met with sunshine but in the distance dark clouds were already gathering.

P1120180 - Burry Port

Taking inspiration from the old adage that out of sight means out of mind we turned our backs on any impending doom and set off. With the tide only just starting to drop there wasn’t a whole lot of beach on which to walk but we made it over to the mound easily enough, area of choice for visiting Black Terns. Three or four Sandwich Terns and a pair of Great Crested Grebes were soon in the bag as was a nice quartet of Common Sandpipers plus six Mediterranean Gulls roosting amongst a flock of twenty Redshank and a hundred or so Black Headed Gulls. Lone Cormorants passed down channel at sporadic intervals with Oystercatchers also on the move but of our target species? Not a sign. As consolation prizes go though stumbling upon this incredibly tame Ringed Plover must rank pretty highly. It didn’t seem concerned by our presence at all and these are easily my best photos of this species to date.

P1120239 - Ringed Plover

P1120204 - Ringed Plover

P1120238 - Ringed Plover

Of course our luck with the weather had to run out at some time and with the beach exit in sight we were hit with an absolutely torrential downpour. Shelter was limited to put it mildly but we did manage to cower beneath a section of concrete jutting from the sandy cliffs. Not recommended but at least it saved us from a drenching.

It was only a few minutes before the sun broke through once more but with another bank of thick cloud approaching we thought better of extending our stay. Before we go though I should mention an interesting Seal sighting which at the time we thought might have been a Common Seal. This would be an unusual record for the Burry but as the animal was only bottling I couldn’t quite see enough to be sure.

Moving on we headed over to WWT Llanelli where inevitably one of the Black Terns had been spotted an hour or so earlier. Another case of wrong place wrong time, something which is becoming my own personal mantra of late. Most of the roosting waders had also moved on but we were left to enjoy a pair of Greenshank and a small flock of ten or so Wigeon. With the latter in eclipse plumage they were causing a bit of confusion for some visiting birders so it was nice to be able to confirm their identity and also point out two pairs of Gadwall. The less said about the increasingly heavy and regular showers the better.

P1120245 - WWT Llanelli

We called it a day not long after and have probably missed our chance now with this latest influx of Black Terns.

Burry Inlet - Birds and Sunsets

P1120166 - Curlew, Burry Inlet
Last week saw a mini influx of Black Terns to our local area with sightings being reported from Pwll, Penclacwydd and Kenfig. In order to save any suspense I’ll tell you now that we failed to connect with all of them, though certainly not for want of trying. Our main problem you see has been that opportunities for local birdwatching of late have been limited to after work jaunts which somewhat restricts the locations that we’re able to get out to. The last thing I want to do for instance is spend another hour in the car having endured an entire day bashing my head against metaphoric brick walls. To that end the prime Black Tern hotspot of Pwll was out but the stretch of coast path from the WWT reserve along Morfa Bacas was most definitely in. The fact that I’d never quite got around to walking this particular route was just a happy bonus.

Lydstep Caverns and Lawrenny Quay

P1110476 - Lydtsep Caverns
I’m slowly catching up with the last few months backlog whose very existence speaks volumes for quite how busy we’ve been and how many great days out we’ve had. Continuing in that vein the subject of this latest entry takes us back to the middle of August and a trip out west to Pembrokeshire. Originally we’d planned a day of kayaking and to that end had spent the previous evening studying OS maps searching for stretches of coast which looked particularly interesting. Pembrokeshire being the way it is there were no shortage of candidates but one, Lydstep, seemed to leap out above all others. Accessible from either Lydstep village itself or further along at Manorbier the promise of cliffs and caverns was too enticing to ignore but alas, the great British summer had other plans in mind.

Autumn Approaches

Dare I say it but things are starting to feel distinctly autumnal around here. Take yesterday evening for example, a good few degrees cooler than in recent weeks despite clear skies and with the sun now setting behind my oft-photographed “sunset tree”. Just a few weeks ago this perfect alignment wouldn’t have been possible but since then the sun's trajectory has rapidly narrowed bringing its final resting place much further south. This change also heralds the shortening of daylight hours, something which fills me with dread, meaning it won’t be long now before I’m leaving work in the dark and any sunsets will be right over the Loughor estuary itself. Until then though I shall continue to enjoy fine evenings such as this.

P1120113 - Sunset

There seems to have been a noticeable change in our local birds as well. Any fledglings have long since grown up and gone their separate ways, returning our garden feeders to some sense of normality. Hirundines too have done a bunk, Swifts vanishing at the beginning of August following several evenings of raucous overhead action with only the odd lingering Swallow or House Martin still present. In contrast Mistle Thrush numbers are slowly building and we enjoyed watching at least six fly over whilst photographing the scene above. Past winters have seen flocks of up to forty or fifty birds roosting on Cefn Drum and I’m expecting the same again this year. More noticeable perhaps is the change in leaf colour. As I write this now the scene before me is one of mixed hues, golden browns slowly seeping in amongst what I’m sure was a sea of green last time I checked. Yes autumn is definitely on the way so make the most of what time we have left before the skies finally fall silent once more and the long nights of winter are upon us.
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