Sunday, 26 August 2012

Braving the Barrage - Cardiff Bay

This was something we've never done - the walk along the  ( now not so) new barrage in Cardiff's prestigious development.

So the car was parked at the Penarth end and we thought we'd walk to the far end and back - just a short stroll.  Smooth paved surface  so no need for the boots. Sandals would be fine.

Our timing was perfect. We'd just crossed the swing bridge when the alarms sounded and they started to open the lock between the harbour and the sea. Of course we stopped to watch.

An amazing piece of engineering. A far cry from the traditional locks you see on all the canals. For a start it is much much bigger!

Once the show was over we continued across the barrage admiring the view. The barrage was a lot wider than I'd anticipated. The landscaping has won environmental awards - ironic considering the millions of tonnes of environmentally friendly concrete that must have gone into it!

The view across the harbour  - you can see the Millennium Stadium in the background.

Getting closer! It was further across the barrage than was immediately apparent but still nice easy walking. The weird copper coloured building is the Millennium Centre ( not to be confused with the Stadium!)

Close up the frontage is decorated with huge inscriptions in English, "In these Stones Horizon's Sing  and in Welsh
 Creu Gwir Fel Gwydr o Ffwrnais Awen (Creating truth like glass from the furnace of inspiration)

Having reached Cardiff Bay itself, it seemed a shame not to go into the Senedd ( home of the Welsh Assembly). Once you get past the airport like security you can wander around the the second and third floors quite freely, the lower floor where the actual chamber is, is out of bounds but you can look down in to it....

....but looking up was much more interesting!  It reminded me strongly of the World Tree. Anyway a quite amazing sight and worth going inside just for this.

 Starting to get hungry by now so took advantage of the dozens of places to eat by sitting outside in the sun and watching the local Mini club assemble in the square.

Torchwood fans might consider this familiar ( minus the giant strawberries of course)

Moving on refreshed  it seemed a shame to retrace steps so we continued on....... only then realising that we had let ourselves in for a 10km trek. I was rather regretting the sandals at this point but by then it was quicker to carry on then turn back.

Walking under the main road gave some interesting photographic opportunities though.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Snuffling out hidden Bristol

Out and about today with a group of friends.

Considering I've lived pretty close to Bristol now for the best part of a decade. I really don't know the city at all so today was a bit of a revelation.

The walk started at Eastville Park which is close to the huge Ikea store but it could have been a whole world away.  I was expecting parking to be "difficult". This is central Bristol after all but no - the car park was mostly empty which boded well for a nice day out.

It's a pleasant level walk along the Frome Valley and despite it being one of the rare dry Sunday afternoons this summer was not as busy as it could have been.

Crossing the main road and into River View leads to another car park - much fuller this one and the welcome sight of a small open air cafe. We were able to sit at picnic tables and enjoy the view of the river before heading on to Snuff  Mills itself. Nice cup of coffee for  £1 and served in a proper china mug as well!

The mill itself was used for grinding corn and the old wheel is still there although looking a little sorry for itself.

(The name Snuff Mills  is said to have some from the habit of the miller who had a heavy snuff habit and whose apron was habitually covered in it)

The mill was also used for crushing stone from some of the quarries along the river valley. 

This is the Double Egg Ended Boiler used to provide the power until around 1889 and is the only one still in its original position.

Easy to see how it got its name.

And lastly a reminder that summer is drawing to a close and that autumn will soon be upon us. These were dangling tantalisingly out of reach above the water ....

Monday, 13 August 2012

Two hill forts - yes really there are!

On the hunt for Iron Age remains you quickly learn that there are those that are popular and those that just  - aren't. What is the difference between those that are preserved and cared for and those that are allowed to just moulder away? 

The weekend was spent on the Welsh heritage coast  - more specifically at the small town of Llantwit Major which was hosting the 2012 National Eisteddfod.

The cliffs are broken at Llantwit and it is possible to walk along them in both directions. Today we chose to go east - towards Aberthaw and passing two iron age hill forts.

The coast is eroding here quite rapidly, the layers of limestone interspersed with shale are very unstable and falls are common. The path is continually having to be moved back and at more than one point I was wondering if there was anything solid underneath us at all.

The views though are magnificent. The cave visible in the middle of the shot is at Tresillian and you can just see the lighthouse at Nash Point above the trees in the far distance.

Looking down gives super views of the limestone pavement that this stretch of coastline is justifiably famous for.

So on to Castle Ditches. This is very hard to see from the ground. The remains of the fort are buried in dense vegetation and part has been lost to the sea. 

It is obvious whether you are crossing the embankments and ditches but because of the undergrowth just about impossible to see the extent.

However our objective was the hill fort at Summerhouse Point. This turned out to be further away than anticipated ....

...and there it is  - yes also buried under dense vegetation! This is a semi aerial view taken from the Seawatch centre. This is a converted Coastguard station and we were very lucky to find it open  - it often isn't.  We were greeted with enthusiasm by the volunteer on duty and treated to a tour of the navigation and meteorological instruments housed there as well as shown some of the fossils and other marine detritus collected from that stretch of the coastline.

The hill fort itself is also being lost to the sea and has never been excavated. It is ( so I'm told!) semi circular and dated from around 700BCE to 100CE. It is mooted that it was just a look out point rather than having been inhabited but without an excavation it cannot be proven one was or the other.

The fort  gets  its name form the octagonal tower which was built by the Seys family in around 1730. The views must have been spectacular but today it survives as an ivy clad ruin.

You may need to take my word for it that there is indeed a building under there!


Sunday, 5 August 2012

Storm Dodging in Dorset

It's been a pretty grim summer here in the UK. Today was "good in parts" so a careful study of the weather map was made and the decision taken to head down to Dorset and Hambledon Hill.

Hambledon Hill - a very prosaic name for a quite amazing site. It was originally a Neolithic site but little of that remains and it is now a prime example of an Iron Age hill fort. There is dating evidence for 2850 BCE and the site looks to have been finally abandoned around 300 BCE.

Parking the car in the nearby and quaintly named village of Iwerne Courtney we could see our destination at the end of the chalk downs of Cranborne Chase.  A quintessential English summer sight - a local cricket match.

We just hoped it didn't rain on them!

It is a pretty climb up from the village, especially at this time of the year.  The poppies are out and this barley field was almost ripe but still a little too green.

Everything seems to be late this year; nature hasn't appreciated the cold wet summer. Today though was quite warm. Provided that is that the sun was out. Which it wasn't all the time.

The fort itself is breathtaking. The sheer size is breathtaking in itself and the number of hours of labour it must have taken to construct the numerous banks and ditches made this no small undertaking.

 The site covers more than 1 sq  km with the long barrow on the top being approx 68 mt long. In all there is believed to have been 3 barrows here with one being buried under a later earthwork.

 From the top we could watch the storms passing by. Miraculously they all missed us - not sure how. Obviously our weather map reading was spot on.

All in all there are worse ways of spending a Sunday morning, sitting on a hill top and watching the ravens circling around. We weren't the only ones up there, it is popular with dog walkers and horse riders too but it wasn't too busy as you can see.
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