Dave’s day of fun

I had a vague idea of two things I wanted to do today. Walk part of the Pembrokeshire coastal path near Tenby and revisit the Red Kite feeding centre, near Llanddeusant. The two are many miles apart. I accepted the challenge.

Driving down to Tenby, the road changes abruptly from fine dual carriageway to barely capable A road. And this is the main artery to three of our key ferry ports. I expected traffic, even on a Wednesday, and I got it. First of all it was someone driving to the speed limit. But one in their own mind. I worry when I see someone doing 30mph in a 60mph zone. Not because I’m in a hurry (I’m not, I enjoy driving and these days I keep the speed down to improve the fuel consumption) but because they are either unable to drive faster or are not aware of the speed limit. Then we hit roadworks. I think the driver in front panicked because there were so many signs and lights. The good news was that the roadworks were for a new stretch of road that should make the journey quicker and safer for traffic.

I finally arrived at Penally to find the red flags of the firing range fluttering away. I was pretty sure that would mean the coastal path was closed and sure enough, as I got to the top of the cliffs at the end of the South Beach, the gate was closed and the guard was watching. Still, the views out to Caldey and St Margaret’s islands were spectacular. Walking back I decided to take a different route off the beach and suddenly I was in the middle of a caravan holiday park. I spent a little while trying to find the exit. I was tempted by the pool, the funzone and the tennis courts, but I was on my way to the second destination and I was running a little late.

The Kite feeding centre was about 90 minutes away, although I wasn’t sure what the traffic would be like as the route was the same for much of the way. At least this time I wasn’t behind the snail. It wasn’t too bad and by the time I reached the centre, I had about 30 minutes to spare. So I had a coffee. In the hide, the wind seemed to be blowing right through the open end. It was cold standing there, but as soon as the Kites began to swoop and circle, I forgot about it. I had two cameras with me, set to different focus and exposure setting, and I swapped between the two. This was very much a test of the settings as well as another attempt to get decent photos of the magnificent birds as they fed. In the end I took some 700 pictures (and sorting them out afterwards, I got rid of around 150 – some were doubles, the majority were out of focus as I had expected).

On the way home I decided to call in to the quarry at Foel Fawr. It’s a regular place for Rufus and me and the area around is very photogenic. I had the infra red camera with me so that came out and I spent about 30 minutes climbing the hills and snapping away.

Today was one of those days without a firm plan and was all the better for it.

The Tenby route.

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Lets go fly a Kite

Yesterday started off with a nice stroll along the tow path of the local canal. The Tennant canal was completed in 1790 to transport coal from a pit at Glan y Wern near Crymlyn the river Neath, where it was transferred to larger boats. It fell into disuse after only 20 years but was restored and enlarged to carry barges of up to 50 tons in 1818 by George Tennant. I pass it often, crossing by a bridge at Jersey Marine, and I’ve equally often promised myself a visit one day.

Part of the path was closed due to engineering works on the nearby electricity pylons, so I was forced to head north towards Briton Ferry. But on the tow path, it was impossible to work out exactly where I was. And that was great. Minutes before I’d been driving through the suburbs of Swansea and suddenly I was transported nearly 200 years back in time.

As I walked, the landscape changed from a valley, in which acres of reeds grew, to a more industrial one with the remains of storage depots and little engineering sheds, now in ruins. I passed under several bridges, ironic symbols of the canal’s demise as they carried rail and road over the water. I passed horses content to graze and watch me with no concern. Eventually, I got to the motorway bridge, a vast modern construction completely out of place in my little world. Just beyond the modern concrete bridge, a smaller stone bridge contemporary with the canal stood, signifying an early track across. I turned around here as I had other plans for the rest of the day.

I went with friends out to Carreg Cennen castle. The Medieval castle sits on an outcrop of rock and is by far the most impressively set fort I have visited. It reminds me of Dryslwyn’s castle near Carmarthen, but is much grander. The views from the top take in the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountain, with Carmarthenshire off to the west.

We explored the castle, and ventured down into the natural cave that winds its way under the castle courtyard. It was dark and narrow, with a slippery floor but we came prepared with torches and squeezed the stooped our way down to the very end. There we found a natural spring, which would have been a useful water supply for the castle occupants during a siege. Evidence was found here of pre-historic occupation and, more recently, finds of two Roman coins suggests at least a prolonged visit by the Romans.

After a delicious lunch in the cafe, we drove along the northern edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park. We spotted signs for the Red Kite feeding centre and decided to take a look. We were so fortunate, because just as we parked, one of the staff told us we were just in time to see the feeding. For the next 45 minutes we watched from the hide as around 50 Red Kites wheeled and swirled in the air currents, dropping en mass every so often to swoop and pick up the meat that had been left for them. It was a magnificent sight, and even more special for being totally unplanned. Definitely one to return to.

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