A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Reptiles, Writers And A Prime Minister

The pretty little resort of Abersoch lies in a sheltered spot facing east at the hinge of 2 sandy bays on the Lleyn Peninsula's southern shore. I didn't linger there long. I wanted to climb the small hill of Mynydd Tir-y-cwmwd (at 132m the highest ground on this section of coastline) from the even prettier nearby coastal village of Llanbedrog.

It was ever cold but the sun shone in blue skies and the vistas were wide-ranging. A steep flight of steps curved up to the top of the cliff and I took the coastal path round the headland. The view back over Llanbedrog (1st pic), the broad sweep of the bay and the panorama of the Snowdonian mountains (2nd pic) were pulse-racing sights. Or was my heart beating faster because of the short, sharp shock of the ascent? On the way to the top of the hill I passed what I thought were 2 shed adder skins - transparent, crinkly, ultra-thin sloughs patterned in black and white (3rd pic). The habitat here seemed just right for this snake, the only poisonous snake in Britain - heathery heathland strewn with gorse bushes and smallish rocks.

On the path down I saw lots of springtime flowers - primroses, wood anemones, violets, bluebells and wood medick (which is really a grass, but very attractive) in the shady margins of woodland; rubbery navelwort clinging to the high, stone walls; and celandines and Star of Bethlehem on the grassy banks.

Driving back along the peninsula, I paused briefly at the village of Llanystumdwy near Cricieth. Here is the home of the National Writers' Centre for Wales at Ty Newydd (see 4th pic) - run by Sally Baker whom I met at the Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival a few years ago. The Centre holds residential writing courses. Its location is idyllic. If writers can't be inspired here, I don't know where they can. Ty Newydd was the final home of the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George who lived in Llanystumdwy until the age of 16. He's also buried here in a lovely place by the river on the outskirts of the village, in a grave designed by Clough Williams-Ellis of Portmeirion fame (5th pic).

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