Cycling to Mizen Head, Ireland, late June – early July 2019

Having ‘done’ Malin Head a few years ago, it was always intended to visit Mizen, the Land’s End of Ireland. This trip took about two weeks and c. 700 miles of cycling. We took an inland route there and came back along the south coast of Ireland.

Monday 24th June 2019 Left home about 11.15am and rode to Pembroke Dock, via Tesco and Bierpool Bike Shop (a good bike shop in Pembroke Dock). Reached the docks in plenty of time for early afternoon sailing – think we actually cast off at 3pm. Great views of St Anne’s Head, Skomer and Skokholm, and then Grassholm further out. Then a quiet sea, slight, until Rosslare at about 6.40pm. Cycled to IOAC (Int Outdoor Adventure Centre) where we camped – lovely sunny evening. Had noticed Chinese take away on google map so Chinese food. I’m reading The Secret Pilgrim – Le Carre. It’s billed as the last ‘Smiley’ novel, but he plays but a small part in the action, though at one point a rather touching, sweet even, role.

the r700 to kilkennyTuesday June 25th 2019 From Tagoat to Kilkenny. A long day in the saddle – Just over 60 miles. Slow getting off – c. 11am. Then headed westwards along quiet roads to Wellingtonbridge, then up to Old Ross then New Ross (thus avoiding the hellish N road). Stopped for lunch at a commemorative stone for various World Ploughing Contests – going back to 1973. I had a headache due to lack of caffeine, a familiar start of ride situation. After New Ross we followed the lovely R700 which winds for 40kms to Kilkenny, with our campsite (Tree Grove) just before the town’s ring road. Pitched and then shopped, some tension over whether to shop at Lidl or Supervalu! Campsite has a kettle, so a late tea. Mostly sunny weather. Traffic on the R700 was rather bad as we got near to Kilkenny. Too much, too wide, evidently commuting – though we didn’t reach Tree Grove until about 7.20pm. This reminded me of Josie Dew’s comment that what she wanted (to make cycling better) was less, and smaller traffic. Roads designed for old Fiat 500s are difficult for drivers when the traffic is mostly 4WDs and there’s a slow travel cyclist ‘in the way’. When shopping visited Kilkenny centre – seems very historic. Big castle along the main street. Nice Red Beer for dinner… Kilkenny is associated with Smithwick’s brewery. We don’t rate the beer much…

Kilkenny CathedralWednesday 26th June 2019 From Kilkenny to The Apple Farm near Cahe(i)r. 50 miles. Walked around the cathedral with its ancient monastic round tower (predates the cathedral) then we’d already worked out how to find the R695 which we used until we could go south towards Callan and then R691 which we followed to Killenaule. Had lunch in little garden at Ballingarry – lovely sprawling rosemary, astilbe (with bees all over it), arty paving slabs, excellent. A big local funeral was going on, people dressed up. Down the R689 to Fethard, rather excellent medieval bits, then managed to find our cross country route diagonally towards the Caher road. Then along the horribe and busy N24 east for two kms to The Apple Farm. Reached this at about 4.10pm so very good time considering we left Kilkenny at about 11am. Roads were mostly quiet and undulating so speedy for a bike. Lovely roses, apple trees everywhere! The Apple Farm gave us free apple juice to welcome us! Great shop too – bought a very fruity evening meal of cider, bread, crisps, bananas, some remainder of cheese. There’s a kettle in the shed so tea too. Excellent!

Thursday 27th June 2019 From The Apple Farm to Cork, 65miles. In morning we had strawberries for breakfast with apple juice, sitting in the sun at the edge of the orchard. Then set off along N24 took first left, worked our way to Ardfinnan on R665 then up and over the Knockmealdown Mountains, initially via a side road then joined the R668 over the pass and down to Lismore, a lovely town with a large castle and lots of elegant buildings. The video above is a bit poor, I only had my very basic phone camera, and I mixed up Wexford and Waterford, we are, of course, entering County Waterford! Guy put me off by laughing all the way through. But the pass is just as shown – lovely rounded mountains. Then down the N72 to Tallow then along R628 to Rathcormack then R614 all the way to Cork, a quiet route in. Found the hostel by noticing the church with the fish above the tower. Ate at Wetherspoons! The weak pound means that Wetherspoons was a great choice – cheap enough for Brits… Cork is a partying sort of place. We did try the Franciscan Well Brewery – city centre prices and very crowded. We asked a local where he would drink and he said, of course, ‘not in the town centre, I’d go to my favourite local out of the centre and pay less…’

O'Donovans Castle near DrimoleagueFriday 28th June 2019 From Cork (Shandon House Hostel) to Drimoleague, about 47 miles. We decided to go south across town and leave Cork via the little lane that joins Cork to R589. It might have been wiser to use the River Lee valley immediately to the west of Cork. It was tricky finding the little lane since there’s now a huge dual carriageway taking the N24 (?) west. We found the road eventually by doing a bit of cycle land alongside the new dual carriageway. Lots of traffic getting out of Cork too. The R589 reached Bandon and then the R586 got us to Drimoleague. Lunch was by the river (Bandon) in Ballineen – Guy glimpsed a bit of green down a side street. Friendly little dog sat with us for lunch. Great flower beds and a living willow tunnel in the making (I tied a bit back together that had come undone).Drimoleague has a Supervalu and so we stocked up and went up the the Top of the Rock campsite. Great secluded camping spot for us. Did a riverside walk along a mini version of the Ingleton waterfalls walk. Much smaller but very beautiful. Orchid spotted (haha). Kitchen allows for tea making so soaked in tea again as at the Apple Farm. My caffeine levels are OK again. The picture is actually from the next day – but it’s visible from the campsite on the other side of the valley. It belonged to the O’Donovans. Evidently the clan still meet here because there was a memorial to the millennium get together. I think the castle may have been knocked down by the O’Sullivans, the other big local clan. We saw an O’Sullivan castle the next day…

Coming up towards the Healey PassSaturday 29th June From Drimoleague to Adrigole, about 65 miles. A farm visit was in progress when we left, small children were guessing the age of oak trees (older than they thought), petting orphaned goslings, looking at the curious mix of goats, a calf and sheep that all grazed in a friendly manner in a field. Back route to Bantry via the ruined castle of the O’Donovans. Then tried to find back route to Killeal and found ourselves back on the route we came in on, so pushed along the main N road to Ballylickey, saw an O’Sullivan castle, then up to Killeal on the R road. Then through the Borlin valley though we almost got lost but a car pulled over and put us right (we were heading to her farm and beyond that were only footpaths). Borlin valley had a little col then a ruddy big col, so slow going. Must have been nigh on 1700′ at the top. Met a cycling club coming up as we were going down. Down to Kilgarvan where at the shop at the filling station we met Manfred from Germany who had cycled from Tipperary though accompanied by too much traffic owing to a closure of the N road from Tipperary. Yes, the R569 was ridiculously busy, tediously busy. Into Kenmare which didn’t have a food shop that we could see (must be one somewhere there) though a lovely touristy town, quaint pubs etc. Then Lauragh via a little col, then over the bigger Healey pass, excellent if occasionally drizzly. Great views of mtns c. the size of Cader Idris, and lakes and sea. The photo is from before Lauragh, a climb which gave great views over a lake, sparkling in the sun between the clouds. Then we went to see level at Lauragh and then over the Healey Pass. Arrived at campsite (Hungry Hill at Adrigole, not as nice as our last two campsites but more expensive tho’ does have a kettle so lots of tea) rather late at about 8.30pm. Shops closed (Pegs Shop) but we had a lot of food left.

Healey Pass

Sunday 30th June From Adrigole to Ballylickey (Eagle’s Point Camping) via the Ring of Beara – about 63 miles. Peg’s shop opens at 9am at weekends so we had an excuse to have a lie in. All the more sensible after yesterday’s late arrival. Got going at about 11am to Castletownbeare then over the spine of the island to start doing a ring around the tip of Beara. A bit cool and drizzly. Surprisingly hilly for a coast road – had lunch at a tiny beach, I paddled in a mild sea, tide coming in. Around to Allehies then further round to Castletownbeare. Was now about 4.45pm so shopped at Supervalu and hurried on. Back through Adrigole and then on to Glengarriff then on the N71 (quiet now at 7pm) to Ballylickey. Saw a fair number of tourers doing the ring of Beara. A Dutchman was doing Cork to Dingle then down the various fingers and back to Cork, he’d travelled from Kenmare that day and was camping at Allehies (saw his tent later by the beach there). Now snoozing in the large and pleasant campsite at Eagle’s Point. I didn’t seem to take photos today! The weather was a bit iffy, so the photo is from the top of the Healey Pass, yesterday.

Monday 1st July 2019 From Eagle’s Point to Barley Cove Caravan and Camping, about 50 miles. Mostly a very sunny day. We went down to Bantry on the relatively quiet N71, shopped ready for the remoteness of the Sheep’s Head peninsula. Went around the Sheep’s Head – just the ring that goes through Kilcrohane, though there’s evidently lots more beyond. A Dutch driver with wife and child in the car asked if a road went beyond our ring to reach nearer the end. Odd, no map! He looked at ours. And set off down a little lane that looked like i would get him a few miles nearer the end of the peninsula. Sat nav must have reached its limit. Then from Kilcrohane to Ahakista (sounds greek) then Durrus then the R591 towards Mizen. Via Toormoor (yes, we should), Goleen, then took the short route towards Mizen, but took the turning across a causeway for Barley Cove Caravan & Camping. Passed two gorgeous beaches before reaching the campsite. Pitched and then went to Mizen Head. Not the most spectacular headland, though a view of the Fastnet lighthouse enlivened it. The shop and a special viewing bridge were closed (7pm or so). Lots of photos, then back to campsite. I swam in the sea at the sandy beach very near the campsite – pretty cold. I had seen a head out in the sea, thought it was a seal then saw it was human. A German lady, retirement age, who when I later spoke to her said how warm the sea was, she swims throughout the year… The sea temperature made my local beach at Wiseman’s Bay seem positively tropical. The fall off from here to deep water is quick…. The video is from the Goat’s Pass on the Sheep’s Head peninsula, and note that when I said Berea, I meant Beara. We cycled through Berea, but it was in the USA…

Mizen HeadTuesday 2nd July 2019 From Barley Cove to Skibbereen (Hideaway Campsite). We set off initially to Crooktown – on the way there saw a memorial to Marconi who used a nearby headland to communicate with Poldhu in Cornwall and prove that although the curvature of the earth means straight line (line of sight, so to speak) communication is not possible between those two points nonetheless communications could be sent – over the horizon communication was after all possible! Hoorah, but why does it work?Though not known at the time, the signals bounce off the ionosphere so it works. Reminded us of Orford Ness and the project for over the horizon radar.

Most Southerly Pub in IrelandWe sped on to Crooktown where we saw the most southerly pub in Ireland, plus hordes of children getting into boats. Looked like a lot of fun! It is school hols already here (yes, 3 months of holiday, must be difficult to go back after that…). Then on through Goleen and then Toormoor (again) and then Schull (lunch in a car park but lots of flowers) Ballydehob(nob) where we ate a commemorative biscuit. Then on to the N71 which wasn’t so very busy and along the 16 kms to Skibbereen. We arrived at the campsite and put the tent up then cycled to Baltimore (13kms away) – even more children getting out of even more boats, so picturesque and very boatie. Ice cream on the quay then back to Skibbereen for dinner. We chatted to a man from Hull who had come to Skibbereen for the Rudge motorbike gathering, and stayed on for a few days. Rudges ceased production, apparently, back in 1939 when the factory was requisitioned. Lidl provided two irish beers – both surprisingly good (Crafty Beer Co Red, and their stout too). But €1.89 (we’re used to the Tesco and Sainsbury’s £1.50, but the pound is undervalued just now…).

St Patrick and St GeorgeWednesday 3rd July 2019 From Skibbereen to Kinsale (Dempsey’s Hostel) – about 50 miles. By the end of play yesterday there were two long distance cyclist’s tents, plus another tent where they arrived by car but were doing bike rides, plus the Rudge enthusiasts (who were impressive by their commitment to a bike that ceased production 80 years ago!). Everybody got going earlier than us but we weren’t much behind. The motorbikers had a problem with a clutch lever and set off for a garage. Hope they got the Rosslare Ferry in the afternoon. We set off for Castletownsend, where we knew Somerville and Ross lived back in the late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. We saw the church where Edith Somerville was organist for seventy years, and her grave next to the grave of her fellow writer and close friend Violet Martin Ross. Together they wrote the Memoirs of an Irish RM. The stained glass was wonderful. Two of the many marvellous characters of the old Anglo Irish. The churchyard contained a ginko biloba, unusual, I’ve one in a pot but they do get rather big. The picture is of the stained glass of St Patrick and St George, separated by a bit of Irish Sea. Then on to Unionhall (mackerel pate factory) then Leap, then Ross Carbery (large spider spotted with a curious sack underneath, unfortunately spotted when exploring my arm). then Clonakilty for lunch, which we ate in a park by the cathedral. Then onto the R600 through Timoleague (tremendous abbey ruins) then around a very pretty bay, the road at the waterside, some cycling tour group with a sag wagon overtook us (their bikes were probably a third the weight of ours, no bags, etc), then inland a bit to Ballinspittle, then the traffic increased severely and we arrived in Kinsale. Pretty, touristy, crowded. We hauled up at Dempsey’s Hostel. The wild-ish garden outside was lovely – evening primroses, a sprawling rosemary, roses, evergreen bushes.

Charles FortThursday 4th July 2019 From Kinsale to Clonvilla Caravan & Camping (nr Youghal). Left the hostel at about 10.30am after discussing music (folk), travels, bike riding with the hostel manager. She was more well travelled than us since one of her former jobs was that of an air hostess. Set off but got a bit side tracked by Charles Port which is a Vauban style massive pointy fort to keep out the French. American tourist: ‘I know I said I wanted to do this honey but frankly I need some downtime!’… Got us going saying ‘I need downtime!’. Then we set off to Belgooly and then Carrigaline and then Passage West where we got the ferry across the River Lee. Heron standing by the ferry landing. Then went to Cobh (pron. Kobe) where we saw the spot where millions (well something less than 3m) left for America. The railway station for America was there. Also the last place the Titanic called at before sinking – the port used to be called Queenstown. Then via Belvelly and the backroad near Barryscourt Castle to Midleton (traffic heavy on main road, so this neatly avoided the N25). Nice flowers in Midleton but heavy traffic. Then off to Cloyne then R629 to Shanagarry (Sharon and Garry?) where the tide was high so we stopped moving on and I swam. Sea warm but lower rather cold layers kept swirling up. Also not that clear but clear enough to see little white disks – jellyfish – here and there, not huge numbers. Nice view of Ballycotton and its two islands, one with a lighthouse. Then on until Guy spotted Clonvilla a bit earlier than we had expected since it is 11kms to Youghal where we planned to shop. Pitched up and went 2 kms back to Ballymacoda as a coda to the day’s cycling. Small shop so just milk and cereals, no beer. I’m afraid we just ate linguine (done in the microwave!) with salad dressing. We had eaten pasta at the hostel – excellent kitchen and even had pots of herbs (mint and basil used) for guests. There was a lady cyclist staying, just starting (third day) a big trip doing the coast of Ireland by bike. England, Wales and Scotland already done. I think she must be a school teacher. If only she had a blog I could read….

St Declan's OratoryFriday 5th July 2019 From Clonvilla to Tramore (Newtown Cove Caravan & Camping). About 53 miles. Through Youghal, with picturesque clock town and harbour (where we sat and stared at the shoals of small fish) and the location for some of the scenes (in a pub) of the John Huston and Gregory Peck film version of Moby Dick (which had the great Alan Villiers managing the Pequod, the whaling ship) and where Youghal stood in for New Bedford. Then onto the N25 until the turning for Ardmore. Ardmore is mostly about St Declan – an earlier christianizer of Ireland than Patrick – apparently they met. There are church ruins, his little cell and, on the shore, his retirement spot – another smaller church and a place of pilgrimage. The round tower, a place of safety for people and precious books and chalices, etc, is wonderfully tall. Then from Ardmore to Dungarvan following the coast road through Loskeran, with great views over Dungarvan as you approach the town. Dungarvan was a rather late lunch. Once again a harbour, and a castle. Then out on the Stradbally road. A quiet route – coinciding with a european cycle route following the coast, marked as route 1. Past old copper mines (this coast is called The Copper Coast). Eventually into Tramore and found the campsite – a family seaside hols sort of place and a bit of a shock after the quiet of Clonvilla. Curious that the rules said all sorts of thing – no cycling, no football except where designated, etc – that were simply ignored. Why have the rules then? We did cycle… a kettle and a microwave were very useful. We arrived so late (8pm) that exploring was put off to tomorrow. The photo is of St Declan’s Oratory, the oldest bit of that site.

Lafcadio Hearn Japanese GardenSaturday 6th July From Tramore to IOAC Camping, Tagoat, near Rosslare. About 40 miles. There were two things to do in Tramore after we got going at about 10am, the first was to see the Guillamene swimming cove. It is near the Newtown Cove Campsite. There were people already swimming so I decided to try it out. And yes, the water is quite cold being a cove and deep enough to dive in from the diving platform. I walked down the steps and gave myself a couple of minutes to get used to the temperature, a little bit numbing at first but then OK. Then I tried jumping off the diving platform which is excellent. Slightly unusual for indoor swimmers is the fact that it is hard to judge the depths because you are diving into a deep cove with weed at the bottom, but several people had dived head first before me so it was evidently fairly deep, looked to be probably 10+ feet deep. Great and very popular with locals. Then, secondly we went to the Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens. Mr Hearn was a translator of Japanese back in Victorian times. Irish born, he lived mostly in Japan, though childhood hols brought him to Tramore. The garden is impressive, still very much developing (founded in 2012), and well worth a visit for 5€. Plenty to read for free on Gutenberg, so go and read some Lafcadio now! By now we were running late so we hurtled towards East Passage, getting onto some quiet back roads. Then after the ferry we headed for Tintern Abbey – sister to the abbey in Monmouthshire. Fascinating history, including a Staffordshire name – Colclough – and the dissolution. Then on to Wellingtonbridge then Tagoat, where once again we camped at the IOAC and ate veggie food from the nearby Chinese take-away. Ah, but with lovely Irish Milk Stout. Catching the ferry at 8am tomorrow so early night….

Tintern Abbey, County WexfordSunday 7th July 2019 We did about 18 miles today, to the ferry was about 3, and then from the ferry we did about another 15. The most memorable thing was an Irish man of Polish origin (I think) and his two boys setting off from Pembroke Dock to do various bits of England and mostly by bike (a bit by train). They had wonderful multicoloured cycling jerseys, and I recognised a Raleigh bike ridden by one of the boys – an classic Raleigh. They were aiming for 60kms per day, which is a very decent mileage for the under 12s. Other than that, we saw, as going out, Grassholm, various wonderful offshore bits of Pembrokeshire, and a pleasant ride through some lanes. Pembroke Dock seemed a bit seized up with traffic. The photo is of the Irish (County Wexford) Tintern Abbey that’s a sister of the one in Monmouthshire.

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Sunflowers and Sand

Claret SunflowerThe sunflowers, far from being eaten by the slugs as I had expected, have rocketed up and are starting to flower. Most of them are multi-headed red ones – ‘Claret’. They are about five or six feet at the moment.

The sea down the road is now warm enough to swim in quite comfortably – though Wiseman’s is a fairly rocky beach. It seems best on the right hand side where the sand is heaped up against a rock outcrop. It’s lovely to swim there as the tide comes in over warm sand – though the surf break that’s said to appear at high tide has not worked for ages. Mainly a winter phenomenon.

I’ve been reading Jacques Ellul La raison d’être – a meditation (not a commentary, not verse by verse) on the rather gloomy book of the Bible called Ecclesiastes. Ellul comments that this is his last book – and he was an elderly man when he wrote it. This echoes Ecclesiastes in that the biblical book feels rather like someone trying to make sense of their life and not finding much. Ellul’s interpretation is, as usual, fascinating. Where many commentators find a rather rough assemblage of texts, with pious later additions (the book is mostly rather bleak – life is generally vanity, justice uncommon, all hopes of leaving something worthwhile foolish, etc, so more traditional pious statements look questionable), Ellul finds something dialectical – we are led to see the hopelessness of life in order to get beyond trust in riches, work, politics, the future, conventional religiosity. And then we might find a rather bare ascetic sort of faith. Though at this stage of Jewish faith there was no belief in immortality so it’s a curious sort of this-worldly asceticism – the pleasures of eating, drinking, etc, are encouraged, since that’s your lot! But on the other hand there’s this desire to see things are bluntly and bleakly as honesty demands. It reads a little bit like a depressed man in old age, finding not a lot of value in his life. Ellul himself has always been thought rather bleak and he is famous for his rejection of just about every obvious path out of the modern impasse (however defined!) so it’s natural that Ellul finds Ecclesiastes full of insight. Rather nice that such a bleak thing found it’s way into the Bible! Though it is a book that taken on its own presents a rather one-sided view of life, a view of life more from, perhaps, its conclusion than from its centre.

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Shiny Seas

Shiny Sea and Cloud, Wiseman's BridgeSpring has brought a nice combination of cloud and sun to the coast – as the photos show, great for glitter. The swell lines were also picked out by the sunlight, but there was almost no swell there to pick out, just smooth sea.

There had been a heavy rainstorm just before the photos – and that’s more evident in the picture lower down. Anyway, rather arty.

I read a review of The Uninhabitable Earth which recommended it so I bought it  on a cheap offer (6.99) – it’s a global warming ‘possible trajectories’ sort of book. So far, most interesting. Of course, it is very unlikely under any of the current scenarios that the earth would ever be uninhabitable, so the title is just hyperbole (or a sales gimmick). Two things stood out for me – one was the statement that 50% of all the carbon we’ve released has been in the last 30 years (wow, though that does cover the period of the rise of China, now the world’s biggest overall emitter, etc), the other was the hopelessness of the response so far (the book suggests that 3°C of heating is probably the most optimistic that we can now be). Most people are, perhaps, aware that 2°C has long been the limit of non-catastrophic climate change.

So much for the big points, the book is also good at getting at the finer detail of the difference between no warming, 2 degrees, 3 degrees and more. It points out one of the major dilemmas in tackling climate change – individuals generally won’t change their behaviour (get rid of the 4WD, walk to the shops, rarely catch a flight) because most people aren’t highly determined by an abstract or reflective view of  ‘what’s right’ but rather by what keeps up with the next door neighbours, amuses them, makes them feel OK, etc, so you’d think it was governmental action that would be key – but no government making the sort of actions we desperately need (fuel escalator set to high, flight taxes, carbon taxes, big subsidies for electric vehicles, more subsidies for public transport, etc) would get elected – prevented by these very same people. Evidently whatever policy would have to make sure that the poor don’t lose their access to transport while the rich can still afford to fill up, but it doesn’t look electable, especially given the gilets jaunes protests in Europe. All those modules I took in ethical theory were rather irrelevant, it turns out, most people don’t bother with ethics as such, whether utilitarian or of virtue, etc. Social solidarities and pragmatics seem far more important. Indeed, perhaps morality, as Nietzsche said, is just a Platonist / Christian thing and now getting long in the tooth. There are many curious psychological features of how people don’t deal with climate change – a rather too assertive and unevidenced denial, silly alternative theories (the ‘natural not humanly caused’ sort of thing), displacing the blame (‘it’s the governments job’), an smug assertion of inability to change anything in their lives (‘kids have to be taken to school’, etc).

Wiseman's Shiny SeaThe book has also pointed out the obvious oddity of people condemning their grandchildren, supposedly their beloved offspring, to a dangerous, perhaps lethal, world of super heatwaves, likely resource conflict and tropical diseases spreading north, just because they can’t give up frequent flights (though most people don’t fly that much, a few people fly very frequently) and are too lazy to walk to the shops…. Yes,  I know you, dear reader and member like me of the conscientious 10%, walk to the shops but most people don’t….

There is an obvious link between the shiny sea and global warming – the beach will mostly have disappeared even with just a couple of degrees of warming – well, 2°C will give us, eventually, six meters of sea rise according to footnotes 13 and 14 in the chapter on ‘drowning’. Well that would certainly mean, eventually (a bit after my lifespan I suspect since the sea level effect lags the temperature rise), no beach.

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Spring Tide Walks

low spring tide at the eastern end of Marros SandsAt low tide on the Spring Tide – occur at the equinoxes – it’s possible to walk on sand all the way to both Tenby in one direction and Pendine in the other. In both cases there are places where the gap between cliff and rock and sea is a mere few feet – even at low tide – so timing is important! It certainly gives you a different view of the coast walking on sand past headlands that are usual surrounded by water. The  narrow point in the Tenby direction is between Monkstone Point and Tenby North Beach, in the Pendine direction it’s just at the eastern end of Marros Beach (a wonderful and fairly remote two mile stretch of sand that has no road to it and is shut in at both ends by headlands). The picture shows the pinch point at the eastern end of Marros Beach – as you can see it isn’t possible to walk on sand even at low tide without wet feet and the water is deeper than you might think.

The low tide (0m) looks impressive – acres of usually seawater covered sand are revealed, including remains of old forests (because Carmarthen Bay was, until the end of the last ice age, wooded land) and a few hints of old wrecks (well, there’s apparently some bits of a schooner from the early Nineteenth Century at the eastern end of Marros Bay though there’s little enough now to see).

We walked to Pendine on sand and back along the new-ish Wales Coast Path – excellent, though quite hilly. The views over Marros Bay are impressive. A great place to escape the crowds for a quiet bathe on a hot summer’s day and a good place for a walk on a cool and drizzly one! The picture shows Marros Bay from the headland at the western end, the tide has now come in two thirds of the total amount. Those waves are very dribbly – the sand shelves very gently and I’d guess that it doesn’t produce a very good surfing wave, Amroth or Wiseman’s is a better bet I think. The headland is now impassible from sea level – though there are footpaths connecting the beach to the coast path so at the expense of a few hundred feet of climbing you can get out and in. Lots of violets and spring blossom. It’s a great place for gorse. Of course…

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Planting Fruit Trees, Herbs, etc

I planted five fruit trees today – there’s already a pear (that was crushed between clumps of bamboo, now liberated) and an old, and rather too high to harvest, apple. I wanted some favourites, but I also wanted a couple of Welsh varieties, something that might appreciate a good deal of rain. Although Pembrokeshire is sunnier than most of the UK, it is also wetter than most, and I’m not sure how the average apple tree will react. I guess they’ll be OK if the drainage is sufficient, which I reckon it is. So I’ve got a Bardsey apple (found in the ruins of a monastery on Bardsey – island off North Wales so well used to rain) and a Abergwyngregyn Damson – from the Menai Straits. They are maiden, one year old, trees. I’ve also got a Bountiful, a cooker/eater, just because I’ve seen that in my mum’s garden and it seems tough, productive and tasty. And I also got a Warwickshire Drooper, partly because of the name (!) but mainly because of the Plum Jam I got from Morville Hall Dower House garden last year – when I went to an open day. With both a funny name and a superb taste, plus an interesting drooping habit, it seems an obvious choice. Plus being a Midlander as I am, I liked the idea of something from the midlands. Oh, and a Doyenne de Comice pear, largely on the combined recommendations from Monty Don and Bob Flowerdew in their respective writings. Being maiden trees they aren’t going to fruit this year – they have no network of fruiting spurs – but delayed gratification is good for you.

I’m getting into planting herbs – the rosemary that sat in the yard in a tub for more than ten years has now got a place on a west facing wall, sheltered and in glorious sun, as it deserves. It’s just along from another rosemary that I took as a cutting from it a few years ago and itself has sat in a pot for a couple of years – already seems to be growing well (in Feb!) in its sunny spot. Thyme, parsley, salad burnet, winter savoury and germander are all in that same area, some in tubs. And the fruit bushes (redcurrants and blueberries) have gone in to their respective slots – blueberries in ericaceous compost tubs. Probably the birds will get them all… they are well located for netting them though.

I’ll add a photo soon. Ah have done. Hmm, the sticks look a bit big for the little trees – but they’ll do. The front one is the Bardsey and the back one is a Bountiful. Give it a year or two and I’ll post another one of them to show the changes.

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Just how far away is that dot on the sea’s edge…?

Snow on the GowerSnow on the Gower on a recent cold but clear day. This is only about 15 – 20 miles away – I didn’t imagine that it would be possible to see the coast of Devon from the coast of Pembrokeshire – but on a clear day you do get a bit of Devon and you can also see Lundy. This is only possible if you are on the cliff tops by Amroth – though from the beach you can see a very high bit of Exmoor, though you wouldn’t realise it unless you’d already seen the view from Amroth – it just looks like a very distant cloud or ship. They are certainly a long way off, but quite clear if there is decent visibility. I’ll try to get a picture sometime, my phone just produces an indistinct blur on the horizon.

Recently I’ve been doing a loop on my bike taking in Saundersfoot, Lamphrey (via National Cycle Route 4), Carew Castle, West Williamston, Cresswell Quay (a gorgeous location), and then more back lanes to Saundersfoot. A good winter ride. Cycle route 4 is a great route – certainly the bit around here – low traffic, quiet lanes, historic castles and some excellent cafe and pub possibilities. Google maps says it is about 25 miles, with about 1000′ of climbing (and so 1000′ of downhill too!). There’s usually other cyclists on this route – which is nice because after cycling the back lanes of Ilkley and Burnsall we got used to heaps of bike riders and it’s nice to see a few here too.

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Pembrokeshire Cycling, New Home

Camarthen Bay CloudAfter many a year in inner city Bradford, my job has recently come to an end and it seemed like a good time to move house to somewhere else, perhaps be a bit drastic (well, no, I haven’t moved to rural Slovakia or anything) so we’ve moved to Pembrokeshire. Quiet lanes, beaches, coastal walks, gorgeous woodland are a decent incentive, and if a job proves hard to get, well it is after all a great place to do nothing (oh, err, anyone want to employ, remotely (ah yes, VPN), a slightly used Java, etc, programmer, good with virtual learning environments, happy with databases, with Linux as standard?).

The wuthering will still go on since we’ve got more long distance cycling to do – Australia and the Adventure Cycling Northern Tier route both looks interesting, and lots more local rides to plan too. It has been rather wet but I’m trying to do a regular day where I cycle to the swimming pool and swim 2km, since it is 20km to the pool and back it turns out neatly to be 20km cycling and 2km swimming. On a short winter’s day with rain falling steadily that has proved to be about right! The area has plenty of castles, well that’s Wales for you, and so bike rides can easily incorporate romantic prospects – such as Laugharne Castle, Manorbier, Pembroke, etc. Since the coast is hilly, it’s possible to do a thousand feet of climbing just by going along the coast a bit and coming back. Great for the legs.

The photo is a view of Camarthen Bay with a nicely situated cloud. My phone camera is not that good, but in this case it has given a decent impressionism to the whole thing. Not much surf that day, but nicely glassy. The semi-circular line of rocks is interesting – it is marked on the tourist map of that bit of coast as volcanic, and it certainly looks like a wave of lava.

The one thing that’s very much missing is a decent folk club within walking distance. Anyone in Bradford should treasure the Topic Folk Club!

The various plants seen in the yard in Bradford are now located either here in Pembs or else at a staging post in Stoke-on-Trent. There seem to be enough to populate a decent sized garden so that they fitted into a yard in Bradford is impressive, though the neighbours called the yard ‘the jungle’ when it was at its height in Summer. The honeysuckles, clematis, jasmine and some assorted herbs remain in the borders of my old yard, so at least there’s a legacy of greenery to combat the gradual disappearance of habitats for birds in BD3.

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First Puncture on the Leeds-Bradford Bike Route

My first puncture on the Bradford – Leeds Superhighway, due to a 1″ nail. Didn’t look like a deliberate sabotage since there was only one nail, and I managed to run over it! Well someone had too and the bang it made when the tyre punctured was perhaps worth the trouble. So my hardshell gatorskin met its match, though it is a couple of year’s old now. Didn’t take long to throw in another tube, though I will mend the old one. I’ve been using the ‘superhighway’ for just over a year, on and off, and I can’t say usage has increased at all as far as I can tell. It’s generally lightly used in Bradford, more heavily used during the rush hour in Leeds. Most people don’t cycle and Bradford is a tough place to start. Superhigway is a misnomer, it’s a discontinuous strip of tarmac alongside a roaring mass of metal and fumes. Miss Marple would not venture forth. The Thornbury area usually has some parked cars in the cycle superhighway just for extras!

I’m always amused by the people that walk in the cycle way while staring at their phone and listening to music on their headphone. These are people with a serious disconnection problem, though they think they are super connected. In my current Jean Giono book, Les Trois Arbres de Palzem, he predicts the failure of cinema and television in favour of the livre de poche, the paperback suited to the pocket, on the grounds that TV and cinema don’t engage the imagination in the way that a book does, that they are very rarely works of genius in the way that a book can be when it meets with a receptive mind. The reason he gives for this is that films are made in a compressed bit of time, they lack the leisure and time that goes into a book. Well, it’s debatable but he was a film maker so perhaps he should know. He’s probably right in that livre de poche has surely done far more good to the world than the TV and cinema, which  are, of course, just Plato’s cave and its misdirection all over again. Ah, but what about Antiques Roadshow, Wildlife Programming, etc? Wildlife programming is interesting since it usually delights in an exotic pristine environment far away and is precisely the sort of misdirection that the TV specialises in. If only it showed the desperate plight of the birds of BD3, with an ever decreasing habitat, as wasteland is in-filled and a yard is where  you park your car, and the few large trees getting ever fewer…  I think we’ll jet off to a National Park in Malaysia…

The wickedness of diesel is ever more apparent – amongst this week’s stories there was a medical report about the correlation between particulate air pollution and Alzheimers. It is, of course, difficult to prove that the first caused the second. One snag about the bike route is that it parallels a very busy road and so the cyclist does get hit by a fair amount of air pollution at rush hour. At least a bike rider is likely to notice the stink, whereas in a car with the air freshener making the driver think of woodland glades s/he may be completely oblivious to what’s going on in his/her lungs.

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The Bees Favourite…

bee and agastacheAgastache is a favourite with bees. There are some modestly popular cultivars, such as Mosquito Plant (doesn’t sound as good does it?) and Anise Hyssop. They are good for making herbal tea from the leaves. It’s worth planting just for the pleasure of seeing a parade of bees visit it. It’s on a par with bergamot for bees. Most of the bees visiting my agastache are not honey bees, and I imagine there are no hives very near (though perhaps the local allotments about a mile away have some). There are plenty of buff tailed and quite a few small dark bees. The neighbours have worried about whether they will sting, but this is, of course, very unlikely. They are no effectively no risk at all to us, whereas the human overpopulation is slowly killing them off with loss of habitat (as the concrete spreads over our local patch of rough ground!), loss of forage (agastache, etc), and disease spread by human’s wandering from continent to continent at an historically unprecendented rate. So plant some agastache, it will help to stop colonies dying out. But above all plant it because of the pleasure that bee watching and identifying should bring to you.

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Climb Every Mountain

view from langbar over bolton abbeyThis was the view from the third big climb in my ride last Sunday. It is the now familiar route taking in the Moor above Fewston Reservoir, Blubberhouses Moor (Côte de Blubberhouses since the Tour de France), Langbar Moor above Ilkley, then Ilkley Moor. Delightful, and must be about 50 miles or so long since I start at Menston and end at Bingley (commuter pass means I don’t need to endlessly cycle the dull corridor out of Bradford). Google maps amazes me by saying that the route includes 4000′ of climbing, well I guess that’s probably true.

The route is mostly quiet roads, though there’s a little bit of the A59 downhill, mostly, from the top of Blubberhouses. The ride ended up at the Welsh Society Evening Service at the Methodist Chapel in Bingley. What better language to sing lustily in than Welsh? Even if you don’t have any Welsh…

The bergamot has bloomed and the bees have expressed their preference. Bee balm it is. Though the Bishop of Llandaff comes in second, so a single dahlia is evidently a pleasure not just to the gardener but to the bee.

The Bishop of Llandaff may be gorgeous, but my reading is about the wonderful Bishop of Oxford (and other Sees), Charles Gore. Prestige’s book on Gore is a great traverse across a large chunk of nineteenth century history. It has at least one good effect, that of making the reader aware that if you thought the contemporary church was unique in its divided, struggling character, then you would be very wrong. Gore had little sense of success as a bishop, having failed quite to bring about the turn to the credal and gospel roots of faith that he had hoped for. Nevertheless, he gives a model of belief that is as valuable today as then. Charitable for the most part, thoughtful, faithful, free of the materialism of his age, free of being posbish of llandaffsessed by comfort and wealth, committed to living a gospel that was for the poor at least as much for the rich (‘The Christian Social Union’), escaping from narrow church party  politics so he could work with anyone who shared his practical and theological aims, he exemplifies much that is the best amongst Anglican bishops. He reached a point of despair over discipline though. How do you tell a clergyman (it was men in those days) not to use forms of liturgy that are theologically, very likely legally, wrong for the Anglican Church? A united front amongst bishops failed to materialise and Gore was enraged by clergy who knowingly flouted the rules he tried to impose on Oxford diocese, particularly over the reservation of the sacrament. There is some evidence, reading Prestige, that Gore wasn’t the best person for diplomatic handling of difficult situations. Gore failed to keep the monks of Caldey Island within the Anglican church, Gore publically requiring as a minimum a list of things that the monks of Caldey regarded as well beyond their maximum! Yet Gore had been in dialogue with them, had visited them; did he think they would accept episcopal weight? It may be, though, that no-one was likely to succeed with that particular situation and Gore was moved by exasperation! Although a liberal catholic, and therefore willing to make faith understandable in modern terms while remaining faithful to the creeds and councils, Gore campaigned against contraception. His reasons were the familiar ones to do with the point of procreation, written in nature by God. He also had an uneasy awareness of how sex and marriage might come apart further if contraception was easily available. His campaign looks, with the benefits of hindsight, utterly without hope of success. This was, of course, before the pill. His understanding of nature was, writing in the 1920s, innocent of the complexities of Darwinian theory or a sense of just how incredibly varied and complex nature is. The wider problem of holding a very disparate communion together remains, perhaps particularly within England, except now we’ve all got used to it. Preaching by untrained laity (though the worst sermon I ever heard was from a Dean!), poorly structured and with a highly questionable content, services that don’t quite make sense liturgically, and so on, are quite familiar situations. The book borders on some big questions – liberty and discipline in the church, faith and politics (in the early days of socialism), how far do you have to believe the creeds to belong / represent, at what point does identity dissolve in anarchy? At least he left a legacy – foremost amongst which, the Community of the Resurrection, as found in West Yorkshire….

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