Rhosneigr

For some reasom, my post on Rhosneigr is jinxed. I wrote and it disappeared. I rewrote it and it disappeared again. There is not a huge amount to say.

Rhosneigr is a nice, small, seaside town on the south-west coast, with shops selling surfboards and wetsuits and full of whitewashed 1950s bungalows and later, grander villas, with large cars and boats parked outside. Costa Brava on the Irish Sea.

This was where we had our takeaway picnic:

image

This was one of the nonconformist church halls:

image

image

This was the window of the house next door:

image

And this was another house that caught my eye:

image

Standard

Din Llugwy

I’m embarrassed to say that we normally avoid prehistoric monuments in Anglesey.   This is because, from previous experience, they too often consist of a couple of stones in a barren field.   But this year I was encouraged by an entry in Simon Jenkins’s book on what to visit in Wales to go to Din Llugwy, a Romano-British settlement set in a wood overlooking the sea in north-east Anglesey.   It is everything Simon says and more:  an extraordinarily evocative, dense set of stones, whose purpose is not altogether clear, set in remote woodland.   It’s an early homestead, a Druidical villa, with two round huts of which the bases and door lintels survive.  What’s more, not many people visit it, so that it feels like Avebury must have felt to those eighteenth-century archaeologists.  No tickets, no tour guides, just fields and trees and stones.

This is the route across the fields next to Capel Llugwy, a roofless early medieval church:

image

These are the surrounding trees:

image

image

This is the remainder of a building in the north-east corner (Pevsner includes a numbered ground plan, but no key to the numbers):

image

This is one of the round huts, seen from above and its entrance doorway:

image

image

image

This is apparently the main building:

image

This is a view of another, maybe later, hut:

image

But photographs give no sense of the mystery of the place, the sense of a lost ancient settlement, of people in the trees.

Standard

Moelfre

We used never to go to the east of the island, regarding it as the land of the caravan.   But, in recent years, we have taken to Moelfre, a small fishing port half way down the west coast with views across Red Wharf Bay towards Llandudno.   It has the added advantage of Ann’s Pantry, a place to have lunch with lamb burgers and corn bread and Snowdonia ale from the Purple Moose brewery in Porthmadog.

This is a view of the harbour:

image

This is Ann’s Pantry:

image

These are scenes from a short walk along the coast:

image

image

image

And this is in the village:

image

image

image

Standard

Gates

One of the things we have noticed this holiday have been a number of well-designed nineteenth-century iron gates.   This was down the road to Llanidan church:

image

These were alongside Menai Bridge:

image

image

This is Herbert North’s gate:

image

And this is our gate:

image

Standard

Bangor

I’ve always thought Bangor a rather unsatisfactory city.   It’s got a fine university, which has traditionally dominated the city with the Edwardian gothic university buildings by H.T. Hare up on the hill and now with a new arts centre designed by Sir Nicholas Grimshaw PPRA and currently under construction (hence the crane in the photograph):

image

It’s got a decent cathedral, St. Deiniol, of very early (sixth century) foundation and containing the Mostyn Cross, a rare piece of late medieval wood carving:

image

image

image

But Bangor long ago allowed its town centre to be hollowed out with a high street of cheap shops and discount stores.   No sense of civic presence, only a long line of discount warehouses out west beyond the railway station.

Standard

Roy Porter

While on holiday, I have been reading Roy Porter’s Enlightenment:  Britain and the Creation of the Modern World.   It was one of his books which I failed to read when it came out.   I’m sure there are many others as he published so much.   Reading it makes me mourn his loss.   He was a larger than life figure, product of the school of Jack Plumb (he’s generous about Jack in the book).   There’s no aspect of the eighteenth century that he doesn’t know about as he swoops from John Locke to Grub Street.   He makes the eighteenth century sound unexpectedly like the 1960s:  ‘the Enlightenment should be viewed not as a canon of classics but as a living language, a revolution in mood, a blaze of slogans, delivering the shock of the new’ (p.3) and ‘Acquisitiveness, pleasure-seeking, emotional and erotic self-discovery, social climbing and the joys of fashion slipped the moral and religious straitjackets of guilt, sin and retribution’ (p.17).   It’s a great book.

Standard

Llanfairfechan

We have been introduced to the pleasures of Llanfairfechan by Jon Savage, the historian of Punk.   It’s a beautiful, early twentieth-century model development, designed by Herbert North, who lived here (his grandfather, Richard Luck, settled here in the 1850s), having previously worked as an assistant to Lutyens.   He published books on The Old Cottages of Snowdonia and The Old Churches of Snowdonia.  

His own house, Wern Isaf, but previously called ‘Rosebriers’ is the best, up on the hill and constructed on a curious inverted butterfly plan and beautifully preserved, with elaborate arts-and-crafts detailing, not big.   This is his signature over the front door:

image

Next is the Church Institute, down in the village, which North designed free of charge and where he liked to perform pageants.   They would have performed Under Milk Wood this year if it hadn’t been banned by the Thomas estate.   It was opened in 1911, incorporated a rifle range during the first world war, and still has a strong atmosphere of pre-war village life:

image

Beyond is the Churchmen’s Club, built in 1927 for the Church of England Men’s Society and now surrounded by chickens:

image

image

image

image

Above the Church Institute is The Close, a planned development of model houses, each of which was expected to cost no more than £1,000.   £1,000 could buy you a lot in those days – a small garden, a hipped-roof garage, an inglenook, all designed in a spirit of art-and-crafts utopianism.   Everyone was out trimming their hedges:

image

image

Standard

Plas Rhianfa

Now that it’s been converted from holiday apartments into a luxury hotel, I was able to get permission to poke around Plas Rhianfa, a François 1er chateau on the banks of the Menai Straits.   I’ve always been interested in it because my grandmother died here at the beginning of the second world war.   My grandparents were staying with Sir Harry Verney, who had served in Asquith’s government and owned Claydon.   She was buried nearby, but I’ve never been able to find the grave.

This is the house:

image

It was designed by a Liverpool architect, Charles Verelst, on the instructions of Lady Sarah Hay Williams, one of the daughters of the original owner.   She lived at Bodelwyddan and had been taught to draw by Peter de Wint.   I particularly liked the summer house: Continue reading

Standard

Llanddwyn Island

At the end of Llanddwyn Beach lies Llanddwyn Island, the site of an early Christian settlement.   Cut off by high tide, I have always regarded it as a semi-magical place with its row of four pilots’ cottages, two crosses and ruined lighthouse overlooking the Atlantic ocean.   Island of the blessed, it’s called.   Each year I cannot help but notice that access to it is more heavily policed.   I suppose that this is an inevitable consequence of increased mass tourism and the need to look after the natural habitat.  It just increases the urge to seek solitude.

This is the lighthouse, built in 1824 at the behest of the Trustees of Caernarvon Harbour:

image

image

And these are the pilots’ cottages, which had a lifeboat and a gun to summon the crew from Newborough:

image

Standard

Menai Bridge

Menai Bridge is the middle class stronghold of Anglesey, where I always assume retired Professors from the University of Bangor live and where the Duchess of Cambridge is occasionally spotted shopping in Waitrose.   There’s the noble bridge itself, a monument to Thomas Telford’s engineering skill, connecting Anglesey to the mainland for the first time on 26 April 1825:

image

Continue reading

Standard