Day 227 Mile 227: Chilling with the Mountain Ponies

Day 227 Mile 227: Chilling with the Mountain Ponies. Every so often you come across the bit of magic in he ordinary, today was one of those days.

This morning I was not quite sure where to go for a run but realizing that I needed to get petrol and that the petrol station is down at the other end of the village I decided to link these two factors together.

Just beyond the end of the village the mountains rise up to form the seaward end of the Carneddau range, providing a natural stop point to the settlement. I found a new path on these I had not explored yet and decided to take that.

It turns out that getting up, putting the kettle on to boil and then checking the map on your phone while having a poo is not the most reliable system of navigation! As a result I arrived in the hills to find the ‘new’ path was in fact 0.5 miles west of where I thought it was and was in fact very familiar.

As a result I carried on further along the road. To the next path, which trends in the opposite direction. So I had a new route and just a few feet from the start I came across a herd of the mountain ponies. The mountain ponies have ranged wild over these hills for possibly hundred of years for instance: four hundred years ago Henry VIII declared they must be destroyed as they couldn’t carry a knight in full armor, but the wild horses have lived on, helped by the remote location and generations of hill farmers who have protected them. The ponies remain and tend to keep to the quieter parts of the hills. Researchers from Aberystwyth University have discovered that the wild ponies grazing the Carneddau Mountains  are a genetically exclusive population and thus something really special. These wonderful creatures are remarkably tolerant of people when it is on their own terms and it was amazing to spend a bit of time with them.

My route then wound on around the hill, through the bright morning sunshine following the tracks left by the generations of horses and noisy sheep, disturbing a covey of partridge from the heather as I picked my way slowly across the precipitous (occasionally gorse-prickling) hillside, still slippery from last nights rain.

What an amazing day to be out.


I’m running a mile each day everyday for 2017. If you feel you can sponsor me please do, as all the money raised will go to the Cleft Lip & Palate Association (CLAPA) who provide services all across the UK to support people affected by it.

Distance: 1662.9 meters recorded

(1 mile = 1609.34 m.)

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Thanks as ever for all the support!

Ed

Day 226 Mile 226: Lunchtime Escape Run

bridge river trees bethesda ogwen north wales CymruDay 226 Mile 226: Lunchtime Escape Run. Today’s run goes through beautiful woodland at the bottom of the Ogwen Valley just outside the village of Bethesda It starts by the entrance to the Penrhyn Slate Quarry although with the trees in leaf it is almost impossible to see any of the massive piles of rock only a few meters away. The quarry was first developed in the 1770s by Richard Pennant, later Baron Penrhyn. From then on, slates from the quarry were transported to the sea at Port Penrhyn on the narrow gauge Penrhyn Quarry Railway built in 1798, one of the earliest railway lines. In the 19th century the Penrhyn Quarry, along with the Dinorwic Quarry, dominated the Welsh slate industry and at the end of the nineteenth century it was the world’s largest slate quarry; the main pit is nearly 1 mile long and 1,200 feet deep, and it was worked by nearly 3,000 quarrymen. It has since been superseded in size by slate quarries in China, Spain and the USA.

The route took me along the cycle path which now follows the course of the quarry railway, along through the trees beside the river. The water sparkles as it cascades down the rocks in the sunshine and the bright light and wind in the trees seem to manage to block out the external world entirely. It is a little tunnel haven of green leaves, cadmium sunshine, slate blocks and the raw umber of the wet rock in the river.

Reaching the bridge to the Ogwen Bank the route then turned north and up onto the A5 or to give it one of it’s older names ‘Watling street’ the road that connects the English Channel to the Irish Sea striding the land from Dover to Holyhead. Luckily I didn’t have to go that far and a quick downhill jaunt took me back along Telford’s 1826 reworking of the original route.

All in all a lovely lunchtime escapade!

I’m running a mile each day everyday for 2017. If you feel you can sponsor me please do, as all the money raised will go to the Cleft Lip & Palate Association (CLAPA) who provide services all across the UK to support people affected by it.

Distance: 1624.7 meters recorded

(1 mile = 1609.34 m.)
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Ed

Day 225 Mile 225: Coming ’round the Mountain

ed wright running charity CLAPA CymruDay 225 Mile 225: Coming ’round the Mountain. Foel Lûs overlooks the sea, and arches up as a sensual roundure of tanned rhyolite from the enveloping modesty of the sea below.
With sparse plant cover on the acid soil (the vegetation is slowly recovering after almost the whole are of the hill was set on fire in 1976) the views from the path are truly wonderful; to the north and east magnificent coastal scenery while to the south and west the stark, rugged landscape of the northern edge of the Snowdonia National Park.

The path around approximately the 800’ contour of Foel Lûs was opened in 1888.  Originally it was to be named Foel Lûs Path, but it became popularly known as Jubilee Path commemorating Queen Victoria’s Jubilee of 1887.  The path on the North and East facing slopes had to be dug out of the loose scree with nothing more sophisticated than a pick and shovel by contractor Joseph Jones and two assistants.  There were already tracks to the west and south to link up with and these had only be widened and tidied up.  The whole contract cost the princely sum of £50 plus and extra £5 to build two pillars which mark the entrance.  It took just four months to complete the work.

Jubilee Path Penmaenmawr East

On June 23rd, 1888 the opening ceremony took place.  The honour of cutting the ribbon did not go to the Local Board member Mr.R. Lloyd Jones who first thought of the idea, but to the wife of Colonel Stewart.  The latter had formerly been a resident of the town.

The path provided and extra leisure amenity in the rapidly growing tourist town of Penmaenmawr, which had grown to popularity thanks mainly to the regular patronage of W. E. Gladstone, three times Prime Minister of the U.K.

Jubilee Path Penmaenmawr West sunset

Today’s run took me around the loop of the path, a wonderful mini-adventure which must have felt like a real journey into the unknown wilds for some of those Victorian sensibilities!

I’m running a mile each day everyday for 2017. If you feel you can sponsor me please do, as all the money raised will go to the Cleft Lip & Palate Association (CLAPA) who provide services all across the UK to support people affected by it.

Distance: 2577.1 meters recorded

(1 mile = 1609.34 m.)

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Thanks as ever for all the support!

Ed

Day 224 Mile 224: Penrhyn Parkrun + Precipitation = PB!

Penrhyn Castle Castell Wales CymruDay 224 Mile 224: Penrhyn Parkrun + Precipitation = PB! Today I got the chance to return to the Penrhyn Castle Parkrun. It is very wet but the atmosphere is fantastic as the grimness of the climatic conditions seems to bring out a grinning spirit of camaraderie mixed with an alloy of ‘whose idea was this anyway?’!

It is a bit slippy today and I’m amazed that I didn’t fall over at least once as that is the sort of thing I would do, although having to stop to retie my shoelaces counts as a close second. None the less I ran the 5km course faster than any other time over this distance this year! Yay! 🙂

It is a beautiful place, a massive stone Victorian re-imagination of the medieval castle that once stood on this spot, the grey walls adding a sense of solidity and monolithic gloom to the rain falling on and among the happy throng of brightly coloured runners, dogs and supporters. The run through the grounds is equally impressive, with the natural hues of trees and flowers slightly heightened into bright contrasts by the moisture in the air and the otherwise murky light.

It was also great to catch up with a few friends; both running and marshaling (a truly invaluable role which does not get applauded enough!) sorry I didn’t have time to hang around for tea and cake after 😦

I have no idea how I got a PB today. It just goes to show that when you take it as it comes, have BBQ and beer for tea the night before and don’t put too much pressure on yourself every so often it all strings together! 😀

I’m running a mile each day everyday for 2017. If you feel you can sponsor me please do, as all the money raised will go to the Cleft Lip & Palate Association (CLAPA) who provide services all across the UK to support people affected by it.

Distance: 5137.7 meters recorded

(1 mile = 1609.34 m.)

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Thanks as ever for all the support!

Ed

Day 223 Mile 223: Starting the Clock

East_side_of_stela_C,_Quirigua

Day 223 Mile 223: Starting the Clock. The Mesoamerican Long Count calendar is a non-repeating base-20 calendar used by several pre-Columbian cultures, most notably the Maya. The Long Count calendar identifies a day by counting the number of days passed since a mythical creation date that corresponds to August 11, 3114 BC.

To the left there is a reproduction of a Mayan carving with hieroglypic writing showing the creation date of 13 baktuns, 0 katuns, 0 tuns, 0 uinals, 0 kins, 4 Ahau 8 Cumku – August 11, exactly 5131 years ago today!

The village I live in is thousands of miles from South America but it is quite renowned for its stonework and also having a massive clock which dominates the mountainside. So to commemorate today’s chronological carousal I decided to take myself up the mountain to visit the aforementioned monolithic timepiece.

The clock in the quarry was given to the Penmaenmawr Granite Company in the 1930s by The Euclid Company from America, which was the company which provided the digger machinery for the quarry. It no doubt proved invaluable for workers in the village in terms of not being late but these days it is also really handy if you are on the beach and need to know when to get back for tea!

The front of clock itself is almost impossible to get up close to, being built on a steep slope in the quarry covered in dense foliage and brambles. However here is a photo from further back courtesy of The Glebe Blog and following that, one from derelictplaces.co.uk who obviously managed to get up close, either on a day when the brambles had died down, or at the very least not wearing running clothes.

I did manage to get around the back of it though to see if there was a non-painful way to the front but was thwarted! This shot does give you some idea of the scale though as the building is roughly the size of the clock face, and the gates are approximately 6 feet tall.

Penmaenmawr, quarry, clock, back

The run back down was amazing. Primarily because it was all down hill, but also due to going directly through part of the working quarry as it started up for the day. It is fascinating to become aware of something you live so near to but are so far removed from.

Running down the concrete roads with their marble-like patches of spilled gravel, I was met with the deep rumbling of massive machinery, geared down to be slow, but strong enough to literally chew up and excrete a mountain if required. In places the dust stung in the eyes and left a vague hint of an acrid smell, like iron filings but from a long way off. As the huge lorries with their load of stone went past it was genuinely nice to get a wave and a thumbs up, quite reassuring when you feel rather small, insignificant and easily squashable in such an environment!

It was wonderful to get to explore somewhere I have not been before, and to go and find a monument to the passage of time which I see everyday, but until now have never actually visited. Thanks must also go to the workers at the quarry who let me do this. There aren’t any official footpaths up there (its a working quarry so potentially fatal if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time) and thus access is on a permissive basis at best. So, many thanks lads 🙂

I’m running a mile each day everyday for 2017. If you feel you can sponsor me please do, as all the money raised will go to the Cleft Lip & Palate Association (CLAPA) who provide services all across the UK to support people affected by it.

Distance: 1645.8 meters recorded

(1 mile = 1609.34 m.)

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Thanks as ever for all the support!

Ed

Day 222 Mile 222: Quercus-Caucus Race

Lucombe oak tree Bangor Treborth GardensDay 222 Mile 222: Quercus-Caucus Race.

`What IS a Caucus-race?’ said Alice; not that she wanted much to know, but the Dodo had paused as if it thought that SOMEBODY ought to speak, and no one else seemed inclined to say anything.

`Why,’ said the Dodo, `the best way to explain it is to do it.’ (And, as you might like to try the thing yourself, some winter day, I will tell you how the Dodo managed it.)

First it marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle, (`the exact shape doesn’t matter,’ it said,) and then all the party were placed along the course, here and there. There was no `One, two, three, and away,’ but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had been running half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out `The race is over!’ and they all crowded round it, panting, and asking, `But who has won?’

This question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought, and it sat for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead (the position in which you usually see Shakespeare, in the pictures of him), while the rest waited in silence. At last the Dodo said, `EVERYBODY has won, and all must have prizes.’

ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND by Lewis Carroll

This morning finds me in the Treborth Botanic Gardens doing a run through the woodland and bowled over by some of the trees that are here. Treborth Botanic Garden covers an area of 18 hectares on the shores of the Menai Strait and has been owned by Bangor University since 1960. The garden comprises 15ha of native woodland, 2ha of species rich unimproved grassland and 1ha managed orchard and many mature trees and shrubs. That analysis really doesn’t do justice to the majestic flora from all around the world which can be found here.

Caucus-Race-Dodo

The run today describes a ‘sort of circle’ starting and ending (if a circle can) at an amazingly impressive Oak tree, shown in the photo. The Lucombe Oak (Quercus x hispanica lucombeana) is a very rare hybrid.  William Lucombe (1720 – 1785) was a horticulturalist and nurseryman. He noticed that one of the saplings produced from a Turkey Oak acorn he had planted kept its leaves in winter. He later observed that these features occurred where both parent species grew, Quercus cerris (Turkey Oak) and Quercus suber (Cork Oak). True Lucombe Oaks are clones of the original tree, but the name ‘Lucombe Oak’ is also often used to refer to any hybrid between Turkey Oaks and Cork Oaks.

* * *

800px-Quercus_cerrisThe European Turkey Oak – Quercus cerris gains it’s name from one of it’s native source Countries. It was introduced to Britain in 1735 as a substitute timber for the English oak – Quercus robur which was, at that time, the main timber provision. However it proved disappointing with it’s wood being poor quality and brittle and only being good for panelling, gaining it its other name of ‘Wainscot’ oak. It’ s popularity stemmed from its fast growth, adaptability and strange mossy acorn cups, or more correctly, cupules. It grows to a height and spread of 30m.

Mature_Cork_OakThe Cork Oak – Quercus suber, is a medium sized evergreen oak native to South West Europe. It grows to 20m in height and is identifiable by it’s thick rugged spongy bark, or cork. It is this cork that made this tree so popular, with the bark being harvested every 10 to 12 years primarily for the wine trade, growing specifically in those regions, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain, amongst others, with Portugal being the main source, with the industry producing in excess of 250,000 tonnes each year, a vast quantity considering how light cork is.

* * *

Lucombe felled the original hybrid in 1785, keeping timber from it from which his coffin was to be made when he died. He stored the boards under his bed. However, he lived an exceptionally long life, dying at the age of 102 years. By that time the planks had decayed in the Devon dampness. Instead, on his death, timber from one of his early graft propagations was used to make his coffin.

This particular tree is amazing, planted in about 1850 it has a thick stocky trunk which whirls and twists with the eddies of age. This supports long curving limbs which flow outwards like ribbon payed out under-water beneath the dark green of the leaves and the starburst of sunshine from above.

The run carried on through the clear morning air past many other impressive trees with the light dappling down from the sky and across from the aquatic reflections of the Menai Straits. This looped around for 3/4 of a mile or so through Red Squirrel inhabited woodland before emerging into the light of a newly mowed field  where the Britannia Bridge and lights from athletics track peer over trees.

A quarter of a turn around the track takes me back onto the road that leads back into the gardens to close the loop of the Quercus Caucus route, once again at the foot of the tree ready to declare myself the winner!

I’m running a mile each day everyday for 2017. If you feel you can sponsor me please do, as all the money raised will go to the Cleft Lip & Palate Association (CLAPA) who provide services all across the UK to support people affected by it.

Distance: 1760.3 meters recorded

(1 mile = 1609.34 m.)
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Thanks as ever for all the support!

Ed

Day 221 Mile 221: In Memoriam 9th August 1915

Today’s run through Penmaenmawr (the village I live in) is slightly sombre, commemorating the memory of Penmaenmawr Company of the 6th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers. This company, and nearly all who served in it, was destroyed in one day on the beaches of Gallipoli 102 years ago to the day on 9th August 1915.

The BBC article below recounts the history better than I can, but suffice it to say that today’s run starts from the remains of the house of Lt. Col Charles Henry Darbishire and makes its way to the war memorial. After all the lighthearted history of late, this bit of local memory leaves one with a sense of shock and odd loneliness, as a solitary runner marking out the route. It somehow seems important to share this bit of history, having mined a rich seam of fun stuff, it therefore is only right to remember the sacrifice that these brave men, their friends, families and countless others like them around the world made.

WW1: The rise and fall of the Penmaenmawr Quarry Boys – BBC News

By Neil Prior BBC News

Fusiliers Image copyright Penmaenmawr Historical Society
Image caption F Group of the 6th Battalion prior to final training before sailing to Alexandria and Gallipoli

They grew up together, worked together, and in a single day at Gallipoli a century ago, many of the quarrymen of Penmaenmawr died together.

The story of the Penmaenmawr Quarry Boys is typical of the north Wales towns and villages who sent their men to fight in WWI.

Inspired by quarry chairman Lt Col Charles Henry Darbishire, the men of the Penmaenmawr & Welsh Granite Company had already been volunteering for their own territorial unit, long before war broke out.

Despite his protests and being in his 70s, Lt Col Darbishire was deemed too old to fight alongside his men.

But with his encouragement, in August 1914 at least 113 of the Quarry Boys rushed to sign up for the Penmaenmawr Company of the 6th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

Almost exactly a year later, many of them would die in action when they landed on the beaches of Turkey’s Suvla Bay.

Swansea University’s Word War One expert Dr Gerry Oram explains that by the time they arrived, the Gallipoli Campaign had already been raging for over three months.

“The Gallipoli Peninsula was key, as whoever controlled it controlled the Dardanelles straights, and the route to supply Russia via the Black Sea,” Dr Oram said.

“But the Allies had vastly underestimated the will of the Ottomans, who were generally regarded as the ‘Sick Men of Europe’.

‘Gunboat diplomacy’

“When old fashioned gunboat diplomacy failed, on 25 April 1915 the Allies adopted another traditional British tactic, an amphibious landing – which did manage to gain a toe-hold on the beaches.

“However, these small gains came at an astronomical cost – even by the standards of the first world war – as Turkish and German machine-guns and artillery controlled the high ground overlooking the landing sites.”

It was into the teeth of this bombardment that the Penmaenmawr Quarry Boys landed on 9 August 1915.

After just one night sheltered near “C” beach, and after a breakfast of tea and hard tack biscuits, the Quarry Boys received orders to advance across a dried-up salt lake to attack Scimitar Hill.

Historian Anne Pedley says that not even in their worst nightmares could they have known what they were about to march into.

“They’d had three weeks at sea, seeing places and things they could only have dreamt about,” she said.

“It must have seemed like an adventure, until they were called into battle and found themselves marching with a full pack across the great salt lake, sinking up to their calves in ooze and being torn apart by machinegun fire from above.

“By that night – in the space of one day – the Penmaenmawr Company simply didn’t exist anymore.”

By the autumn the campaign had faltered into stalemate.

Soldiers Image copyright Penmaenmawr Historical Society
Image caption Three survivors of the Gallipoli campaign pose at a studio in Alexandria 1916

Dr Oram stresses, however, that the terrible hardship did not end there.

“The Ottomans fought tenaciously to prevent the Allies breaking out of the beachhead. Eventually the Allies were also worn down by dysentery and thirst,” he said.

“Then, in November, came a terrible storm. Trenches dug into the sand flooded and collapsed, and the battalion diary records ‘the flood is up to two to four foot deep in front of trenches… with the enemy apparently in a worse position as men’s dead bodies floated down on the flood’.

“After that came a freeze. One newspaper report described how ‘Sentries who had been watching at the loopholes of the trench parapets were found dead at their posts. The bodies were frozen, and their rigid fingers were still clutching their rifles’.

‘Spectacular disaster’

“By December it was obvious that Gallipoli had been a spectacular disaster, and attention turned to what was, ironically, a textbook evacuation.”

The remnants of the Penmaenmawr Quarry boys went on to fight in Palestine, and finished the war in Jerusalem.

But Ms Pedley says the memory of that day in August 1915 continued to cast a long shadow for many years to come.

“Families were dependent on the quarry for not only their living, but also their housing and their sense of identity,” she said.

“The shared trauma for the men who did come home left a divide between those who had experienced Gallipoli and others who couldn’t even imagine what the survivors had been through.”

Today’s earworm is not so much an earworm as just the ‘right’ piece of music for it. Sorry about its clunky visual presentation.

I’m running a mile each day everyday for 2017. If you feel you can sponsor me please do, as all the money raised will go to the Cleft Lip & Palate Association (CLAPA) who provide services all across the UK to support people affected by it.

Distance: 1751.1 meters recorded

(1 mile = 1609.34 m.)

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Thanks as ever for all the support!

Ed