Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A New Airport

The other day I received a brochure from the local council among which was a brief article about the island's new civilian airport. Although it is actually a sharing of the RAF Valley base the civilian side will be known as Anglesey Airport. This is the name the council came up with when they sat down to debate a name for the airport. Now who would have thought they would make this its name?????
As for the logo it looks like a red dragon in flight so full marks for an appropriate symbol for a Welsh airport. We are told that negotiations are still underway and that the chosen airline to fly the Anglesey-Cardiff passengers will be advised in January. Another thing we were advised was that work had already started on the new terminal building. Now, don't go haring off down to the airfield, expecting to see the footings being dug for the building. The only sign that any change is happening is that there is a JCB down there and several men working to change the profile of the junction just by the guardroom!
In fact, I understand that visitors and passengers will access the airfield by driving through a gateway directly opposite the road to the base. At present you have top turn sharp left to approach the guardroom or right to take the road which goes across the end of the nearest runway and heads towards Valley itself. In other words, what is now a T junction will become a crossroad as you drive onto the civilian area.
At the beginning there will be two flights per day in each direction with a possibility of later routes to Dublin and London. If we get London flights I bet they are not to either Heathrow or Gatwick. My money is on London City Airport which has really blossomed recently and hosts flights all over Europe. My secret wish is that we shall be able to use the airport when we go on holiday. With the current increase in low cost flying this should be possible.
If more visitors come to our lovely island because we have an airport that will be excellent news because our economy is forever precarious. Looking at the transport infrastructure of Wales in its entirety one can see a great need for improvement. If you live in North West England then you have an excellent road in the A55 North Wales Expressway. It takes you all the way to Holyhead where you can take a ferry to Ireland. However, if you live in North Wales and wish to visit either South or Mid Wales you have only the A470. It is a road that runs all the way down from Llandudno to South Wales. But at no point is there a dual carriageway! So it is all too easy to have to follow slow traffic for many miles. As a journey it can be dreadful.
Now that we are to have flights to South Wales things will improve. Because at present the roads from North to South are totally inadequate. Despite our love affair with the island there are times when we need to travel elsewhere and this is when we feel to be cut off from the mainstream of life. People say, "It is because of all the mountains that we have no roads." Well I can tell you that Greece is a very mountainous country but they have an excellent road network.
But, just think of it - can't you just hear the flight announcer at Anglesey Airport saying one day, "Will the final two passengers for Robin Hood please make their way to the aircraft." (Robin Hood is the name of the airport for Doncaster and Sheffield)
Yes, we have to start somewhere and we have made that start. 2007 will see an airport in Anglesey. I am sure it will grow and grow and become a great asset to the island and North Wales. Well done to all who have worked hard in negotiations and discussions.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Yellow everywhere

It was back in Easter 1960 that I first saw Anglesey. This was the first of six consecutive Easter visits as I attended the Bangor Youth Conference organised by the Lancashire Congregational Union. Many teenagers over 16 years old used to come together and experience a great weekend based at St Mary's College in Bangor. There was free time in the afternoons and it was inevitable that we migrated over the Menai Suspension Bridge to Anglesey for a few hours. After all these brief visits to Anglesey I have one abiding memory. There was so much yellow gorse on the island.
Later, as an adult, I brought my family here on a number of holidays. Everywhere was the colour, yellow. Gorse is a prolific plant in Anglesey. You see it wherever you drive. Sometimes it lines the road and lanes and sometimes it just grows in massive clumps in the fields. When I see the gorse in bloom I think back all those years to a very happy time. But what I came to realise only two years ago when we settled in Anglesey was that the gorse flowers twice each year. It comes into bloom in early spring and remains so for months before the flowers die away. But it also starts flowering again in the autumn.
As I look out of my study window I can see thousands of yellow flowers hanging over my garden wall. This will remain a lovely view for a long time as the winter approaches. Mind you, I have also realised how difficult it is to handle gorse. From time to time I have to cut back the bushes that hang over my wall and threaten to put my garden entirely into the shade. After the gorse has been cut back there is then the problem of removing it from the garden. I challenge anyone to pick it all up without scratching themselves. Even gorse which is long dead has the ability to rip your hands to pieces if not handled with great care.
Each branch of gorse has many thousands of very sharp spikes which attack the unwary. It is the worst plant I have ever dealt with in a garden. The thought of being thrown into a gorse bush fills me with horror. A victim would be very badly scratched and would be in pain for a long time. The spikes which protect gorse are incredibly vicious and so are effective in the way they do their job. Compared to gorse, cutting back rose bushes is a pussy of a task.
Yet, as I look out of the window I see a lovely picture of thousands of tiny yellow flowers forming a border along the garden wall. It is strange how effectively nature gives protection to some of her most lovely flowers. Just now Anglesey has become a yellow island again. It tells me that even though the season of winter is approaching there is still sustainable life in the countryside. But there is another aspect to gorse which people may not realise. It can be burnt very easily and we get many gorse fires in Anglesey.
Recently we drove to Devon and returned on a lovely sunny day. The route took us through the Vale of Llangollen and we saw the changing autumnal colours of thousands of trees in nature's most wonderful setting. It is truly a beautiful sight around Llangollen and you can go there any weekend and take a train journey along the preserved railway line which runs through it.
Mind you, the end of the journey saw us travelling through the mountains of Snowdonia with heavy black clouds actually sitting on the summits of the mountains and turning the A5 route into darkness. Then, to cap it all, I experienced that "horizontal rain" as I drove across the island. As I stopped the car outside our house I suddenly realised that we were experiencing something worse than "horizontal rain." It was "horizontal hailstones!" Now that was an experience as we unloaded the car and dashed indoors.
But the gorse continues to brighten our days, regardless of the weather. Anglesey is a beautiful island.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Horizontal Rain

In my earlier blog, Windy Anglesey I referred to our house hunting day when the wind and rain conspired to put me off moving to Anglesey. Well, yesterday was another day just like it. We experienced a lighting circuit fuse and needed a special fuse for the consumer unit. The local supplier in Amlwch was closed for the half day so we had to make the journey over to a company based in Rhostrehwfa, near Llangefni.

As we were in Amlwch it was necessary to take the road to Llanerchymedd, running past Parys Mountain, the site of Anglesey's former boom industry of the 19th century. Climbing the hill I could see across to Llyn Alaw, the huge reservoir that supplies so much of the local water. I have to say that it was best described as a very bleak view. The whole feel of the weather was doom and gloom. There seemed nothing to look forward to as we saw the heavy clouds scudding along in the direction dictated by the wind.

When you look upwards it is not uncommon to see occasional Hawk jet trainers zooming along as the young pilots are trained to fly fast jets. There were none to see yesterday. The only birds seemed to be seabirds which are plentiful here. But the inland birds seemed conspicuous by their absence. The previous Friday, we had taken my mother in law to Church Bay to sample the seafood at the Lobster Pot Restaurant. Driving there in darkness had been an experience because there are just no street lights on our narrow country lanes! It seemed just as desolate a landscape yesterday in daylight hours.

Having bought our fuses, bulbs etc, we returned home. This time we drove first to Maenaddwyn via Tregaian and Capel Coch. It is quite a good fast drive, even taking into consideration our many speed restrictions around the island. At Maenaddwyn we crossed the Benllech road and continued up past two small lakes as we passed the foot of Mynydd Bodafon (Bodafon Mountain). This really did take me back to that day when I experienced the horizontal rain and asked myself why I wanted to come and live here. The reason is that it was in just that place that I stood and encountered the rain flying at me.

When you drive over Mynydd Bodafon in poor weather it always seems bleak and uninviting. Yet, on a sunny day, it is absolutely charming. On the larger lake all I saw were three coots swimming around, looking for food beneath the surface. The other birds must have been sheltering from the wind and rain.

I remember that, after the snow of last winter, I took my wife up to Mynydd Bodafon to take some photographs of the scenery covered in snow. I drove up the road with the tyres very firmly remaining in the tracks left by earlier traffic. When I pulled over into the snow by the roadside to get some shots my wife got very worried that the car would get stuck. It was only a few inches of snow but she reacted as if I had driven into a snowdrift! I did take some lovely photographs that day and one of them was borrowed by Pauline for an oil painting. She painted a wonderful scene and the man at the gallery where she had it framed wanted her to leave it to be sold! It now graces our hallway and we are pleased to see it every day.

To return to yesterday, the light was failing rapidly as we drove back home over the "mountain" which is only about 700 feet above sea level. We got home and I installed the cartridge fuse and the kitchen lights came on again. All was well.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Point Lynas Lighthouse

Did you see the BBC "Coast" programme? If you did then you will remember that Point Lynas lighthouse was featured in the section covered from Holyhead to Liverpool. The presenter was able to demonstrate what used to be known as the optical telegraph system.

It appears that in the heyday of shipping owners were keen to steal a march on their competitors by getting advance information that their ship was on its way back and had stopped at Holyhead. There were telegraph stations every few miles within sight of each other and messages could be in Liverpool in a few minutes. The messages came in sets of numbers and the recipient needed the code book to be able to interpret the message.

There was a reference to the loss of the Royal Charter in an unusually strong hurricane. The BBC presenter was taken out in the Moelfre lifeboat to demonstrate how the ship was able to rig up a breeches buoy to transfer people to shore. The ship itself was lost when she approached Liverpool in the hurricane. It was the time when steam was starting to threaten sail and the Royal Charter was a sailing ship with an auxilliary steam engine. She was blown onto the rocks near Moelfre where the rocks shelved down into the sea. Despite deploying all her anchors she could not avoid the rocks. Questions were asked at the time as to why a number of crew were saved but no passengers. It was because the crew members were sent forward to rig up the rescue just before the ship broke in two. The passengers were kept back for their own safety!

If you visit Sea Watch in Moelfre during the summer you can see in the car park a section of the iron hull of the Royal Charter. At the seaward side of the building you can see a very lifelike sculpture of the late Dic Evans the former coxwain of the Moelfre lifeboat. Dic was famous for having won two gold medals for bravery and a bronze medal whilst coxwain.

Later the programme looked at the work of Bangor University's Ocean Sciences department which are located on Anglesey. Then they went on board the small ships that worked in the mussel industry. All in all it was an excellent programme.

Mention should be made of the visit to Great Orme where they showed the hidden cave. It was all fascinating and I felt proud to live in this amazing island with its extremely interesting history.
 Posted by Picasa