As the sun was going down there was sure to be something spectacular going on after a sunny day in Southport, despite gathering cloud. I had never really noticed this particular feature before – the Clwydian Hills of North Wales, emphasised by back lighting from the setting sun, framed by the picturesque structures of the Victorian pier.
Just wait for the walker to reach the centre and shoot… Shame about the bin.
Southport pier is the second longest in England, after Southend-on-Sea.
It is August 1877, and the newly constructed pier at Llandudno is opened, replacing an earlier wooden pier from 1858. The next year, steamboats ply their way between Llangollen and ports in North Wales, the North West of England and the Isle of Man. The venture proves so successful that the pier is widened and extended (1910), with a pavilion and a tramway. Throngs of people pay to enter and walk/ride up and down the pier, and attend concerts in the pavilion. Even in 1969, when the landing stage was rebuilt in concrete, Landudno was still known for its ferry trips to the Isle of Man.
Llandudno was one of many seaside resorts established in England and Wales with the coming of the railways. At 700 m in length, this is the longest pier in Wales and the fifth longest in England and Wales.
A walk down the pier to the pavilion is still popular today (featured image). The tramway, concerts and steamers are long gone. The ironwork and decking show signs of wear, but the structure is still sound, and the ‘entertainment’ is now mostly rather loud bars, ice cream and amusement arcades. But the air is fresh as ever, and the views stupendous.
On the way back you see the Grand Hotel silhouetted like an enormous pleasure liner against the mountains of Snowdonia.
The largest hotel in Wales opened in 1902, replacing an earlier hotel alongside the pier, an adjunct to the 1855 bath house. The evidently once-grand bath house is now just a skeleton ruin. The hotel is still in business, despite a period of ownership by Butlins (1981-1998).
And the pier is but one of the many attractions of Llandudno!
The National Trust’s Bodnant Gardens, set in a sheltered valley near the mountains of Snowdonia, make available to the people grounds that were at one time private property. And what wonderful gardens they are, well worth visiting. Here’s a selection of photographs. Click to view as slideshow.
I’m still sorting out photos from our visit to the National Trust’s Bodnant Gardens in North Wales. This stand of monterey pines (pinus radiata) is not quite as spectacular as the black pines previously shown, but they are softer and more colourful.
Monterey pines are native to California and Mexico, but are extensively planted as a wood/pulp crop.
The black pine is native to southern Europe. We found this gathering of black pines at Bodnant garden, in Snowdonia, North Wales. Bodnant lies in a sheltered valley, enabling many exotic species to flourish within this mountainous area. What really struck me was the enormous trunks extending up far and away, with just a relatively small amount of branches and leaves in the high canopy. The effect is striking, almost monochrome.
We haven’t seen many butterflies so far this summer, but there were plenty of these brown ringlets in the woodland during our recent visit to the National Trust’s Bodnant Garden, North Wales. Fortuitously, one paused on a neaby leaf allowing this shot.
Exploring Llandudno’s Great Orme, we came across this picturesque cemetery at just the right time, with the late afternoon September sun low enough to provide superb lighting.
The cemetery was opened in 1903, just next to the graveyard of nearby Saint Tudno’s church, hidden behind trees to the right. Saint Tudno is the patron saint of Llandudno and gives its name (Llan – dudno). What a magnificent setting!
In the distance is the Gwynt y Môr wind farm, said to be the fifth largest operating offshore windfarm in the world.
It took a while to identify these waders, a fair number of which were rummaging about the beach at Rhyl. Then sudden inspiration from she who knows more than I do about birds – redshank. Slowly the light dawned – orangey legs, a color once known as red – and parts of legs known as shanks. The name was pretty obvious really.
Of course, they were too nervous to let me get close enough for a really sharp photo with my travel zoom.
You wouldn’t think that shooting almost directly into the afternoon sun about an hour before sunset would produce good results. This shot was taken pointing just below the sun. The effect reminds me of a Roerich painting.
Taken from the beach at Rhyl, North Wales, with the Snowdonia mountains in the background.
I don’t usually pay much attention to the common Herring Gull, as they are pretty plentiful in the UK (although the RSPB says the population is declining and the bird is red-listed). However a splendid sunny day at Conwy and Llandudno in North Wales gave the opportunity to see them up close.
On top of lamp
On the nest
The photograph on the right shows a gull on the nest in strong sun. Chicks were wriggling about underneath her. What I’d never seen before was the tongue hanging out, presumably helping to stay cool, like a dog.
Some of the mottled brown chicks were making their first forays out into the world, watched over by mother, and precariously positioned on a high part of the town walls at Conwy.
The patterns of nature often show an incredible beauty, like this sandbank, water and beach in the Conwy estuary, North Wales, that just caught my eye. What sinuous shapes the wind and tides have created. A beautiful sunny day helped.
One of my favourite places to visit in the North West of England is Crosby Beach, home to Antony Gormley’s Another Place. The beach is studded with statues of a man looking out to sea, and the effect is remarkable.
The statues, beach, sea, skyline and offshore wind farms provide almost infinite possibilities for photography (not forgetting the starlings).
I rather like this one, at telephoto zoom, showing pooled water on the beach, with the windfarm in the background. In between is the deepwater channel where you occasionally see vessels making their way to/from Liverpool. The shadow on the horizon is the hills of North Wales.
The large sandy beach makes a good place to walk, but is not usually appropriate for traditional ‘bucket and spade’ activities as there is usually a fair wind.
And what’s this about wind farms being an eyesore? In the right place they can even add to the natural beauty of a location, which is not really something you can say about a nuclear power station. Yes I’m biased.