Thursday, 1 June 2017

Nearly a wash out... : Family Adventure #2

Based on the weather during our 125 mile drive we were expecting to get wet! And when I say wet, I mean drowned-cat drenched. It poured most of the way. The coastal hills of North Wales were shrouded in a soggy blanket which was being consistently and vigorously wrung out as we progressed toward Anglesey.  

Nevertheless we had set out to have a family adventure, we were prepared for what the weather could throw at us (reasonably) and we were going anyway. We needn't have worried. By the time we got to the RSPB's South Stack reserve near Holyhead the rain had stopped, the cloud had lifted (although not cleared) and the temperature had risen to the point where shorts and t-shirts were a realistic proposition. We enjoyed an hour or two viewing the sea bird colonies and beautiful coastal landscapes at South Stack. Razorbills and Guillemots aplenty garnished with a few Puffins, Choughs and Rock Pipits. Did I mention that the water looked stunning! A gorgeous blue-green which while not exactly crystal clear still revealed enough of the secrets beneath the surface to make me more jealous than I am willing to admit of the people who came past on a speed boat tour!

My 5 year old daughter gleefully pointed out the similarity between the flocks of black and white sea birds jostling on the ludicrously cramped, guano-stained cliff ledges and the penguins that she has enjoyed watching on documentaries like Frozen Planet. It was great to see her enthusiasm, even when the best views were granted by descending goodness knows how many steps towards the lighthouse, and then reascending the same steps. Luckily I have discovered that all it takes to get a 5 year old upstairs quickly is to make it a race.

Moving on from South Stack we went to meet a friend who was very kindly putting us up for the night and then went to the beach with her and her children. Newborough is a lovely stretch of sand trapped against the shore by a swathe of forest frequented by Red Squirrels (although we didn't see any this time sadly). It was still grey and dull but warm enough for a paddle - my little boy (1 1/2 years old) was straight into the water and after the initial consternation that the water was a) moving and b) colder than his baths, he loved it! 
The tide was going out while we were there and a small flock of Oyster Catchers gathered awaiting the banquet which was about to be revealed. As interested as they were in the food being unveiled they allowed me to get quite close and photograph them foraging on the shingle banks. A very enjoyable 30 minutes or so - they are such characterful, colourful birds!

The next day before heading for home we headed to the shore of the nearby Menai Straits for a bit of beach combing, crab wrangling and slipping over on seaweed. I miss the coast - as a teenager I lived in North Devon, just a 10 minute drive or so from the coast - snorkelling during the summer months was a regular and favourite pastime, rock pooling was a family favourite too. The local coast lent itself perfectly to nights under the stars with a drift wood camp fire and the gentle swell of the tide and the rumble of pebbles to lull you gently off to sleep.
Now I am reaching the point where I can introduce my own children to the excitement of anticipating what might be found by lifting a rock on a shoreline - and hopefully in the not too distant future, by diving down to the sea floor - is a great feeling, even if it does remind me how old I am getting! 

Hope you enjoyed a brief account of a very enjoyable few days - there will be many more of these family adventures in the natural world to come! We all heartily recommend Anglesey as a family holiday destination, particularly for the outdoorsy, nature watching, adventuring types - we will certainly go again!