25 March 2009

Wales Part II

After the beautiful hike in the hills of Snowdonia, we decided to take a drive to the sea. Mark had done some interwebbing and knew of a few surf spots in Wales, so we first headed to a surf shop about 15 miles away. One moment we were driving on Welsh farm roads, surrounded by sheep, and the next moment we were in... Oak Bluffs? Or some similarly surreal beach town, with limited parking, girls wearing Roxy sweatshirts and guys who could have come from southern California if not for their accents. 

The town itself wasn't our favorite, but Mark was able to chat with some of the guys in the shop and learn a bit more about our 'local' break, which seems to be similar to the Cape. After a brief walk through town, we decided to head out to Hellsmouth, five miles of coastline with a decent break not too far away.

It took us longer than we thought, since we kept looking for a 'main' road but found ourselves on narrow farm paths crisscrossing the countryside (it turns out there is no 'main' road to Hellsmouth), but eventually we parked the car and walked out through the dunes.

We watched a few people paddle in the knee-high waves, taking it in (and trying our hardest not to compare it with Coastguard and the National Seashore) before looking more closely at our surroundings. 

Now, I don't know if this is a British thing, but it's definitely something we've noticed since moving here: litter. Around Liverpool, especially it's beautiful parks, there is so much litter and dog waste that it's really disheartening. Sometimes people will take the time to pick up after their dog and bag the waste, but then they leave the bag on the sidewalk, or beside a bench. And the litter is so pervasive that we find ourselves talking about it quite a bit. We're hoping that with the warm weather of spring, there will be a clean-up day in Sefton Park (which isn't as bad as other places we've seen: the Otterspool promenade, for instance) and we can help pick up.

But this beach was sad. More than the occasional soda bottle, condom, and beer can - there were rubber gloves, household waste, and other assorted items. I don't know if these were washed in (in which case, the poor sea!) or if people dump their waste at the beach, but it soured the experience for both of us.

Maybe we've just been spoiled, but I hope this has just washed in from the winter seas, and that people respect their surroundings this summer...

In any case, after the beach we drove back to our cottage and watched a movie next to the wood stove until it was time to get ready for dinner. We went out on a date at Poachers and had a wonderful time.

The next morning we sadly began to pack our things to head home. As we thanked our hosts for our great weekend, Katherine (the wife of the farmer we met the first day) suggested that we follow her husband to (insert Welsh name here). He was packing a few lambs into a trailer and would be heading out in a few minutes. Mark and I found ourselves agreeing, and within five minutes were struggling to keep up with the truck ahead of us. As he careened around sharp turns on the narrow farm roads, we started laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. Everyone in Wales drives at least 50mph on these roads, but there is barely enough room for one car. When another car approaches, both have to slow and turn almost completely off the road to allow eachother to pass. I don't think this picture does justice, but here goes:
In the meantime, at every bump we could hear the sheep bleating in the little trailer. I panicked as I thought - are we following these lambs to slaughter? Mark tried to comfort me and tell me that there was no way he'd invite us to see that, especially after seeing me moon over the lambs each morning in the barn. 

(As a side note, do you want to know the cutest things about lambs? Within days, they are too tall to easily suckle from their moms. So they head over, bend their front legs, and crouch to get at the teat. Their butts stick straight into the air, and as they begin to get milk, their tails start wagging furiously. It is the cutest thing in the entire world.)

Anyway, the truck veered off onto a dirt road and we paused, unsure whether to follow. We then hit the gas and followed him up the hill to the most beautiful view we'd had yet. Rolling green hills sloping to a bright blue sea.

The farmer has additional land over by the sea, and he was moving the ewe and her lambs to the other site. We were both in awe at the beauty of the place, and have since tried to convince the farmer and his wife that they should build a little cottage there. And we would move there.

But the time had come for us to leave, and so we packed our bags and said good-bye. On our way back, we had decided to stop at one of the castles we had passed on the Friday before, and decided on Caernarfon.
This beautiful castle juts out to the sea at the mouth of the River Menai, and was the location of Prince Charles' coronation as Prince of Wales. The castle itself was built in the thirteenth century by Edward I (though I think it took a few more Edwards to see it to completion).
And so ended our first (of many, I hope) trip to Wales. The trip back was adventurous, as well, since they decided to close the main autoroute and so we were diverted through the Welsh countryside and had to fight the same traffic we'd seen on a major autoroute on those little Welsh farm roads I described before. You haven't lived until you've tried to steer around a giant truck (lorries, they're called here) on one of those roads where a hedgerow on each side prevents you from actually pulling off the road. 

But we made it home...