While I spent this last sunny weekend doing the kind of walking you’d probably expect of me, around North Liverpool, Sarah was up to something entirely different. Fulfilling a big dream out on the sea waters around Anglesey for the first time. Fortunately for the rest of us her camera is waterproof.
“I arrive at 9am on Saturday morning with the list of kit we’ve been asked to bring, feeling as nervous as anyone on the first day of anything, let alone something as new and different as sea kayaking – Sea Kayaking Anglesey provide the essentials of wetsuit, cagoule, buoyancy aid and spray deck. (OK, I am not a complete novice as I have had a few hours experience as I’ve been kayaking with a local club, which has included me getting some of my own kit).
Our coach Stuart Leslie puts us all at ease and I meet my fellow kayakers – who are all complete novices, Martin, Steve, Dan and Vicky. After some initial discussions we’re off on our first voyage. We are in good spirits as we prepare to set off, wetsuits and general kayaking gear is donned, as well as lunches and cags stowed, and plenty of water and suncream. Stuart, our coach, asks if it’s OK to take photos…so many of these are by him… and so our day begins.
We are at Trearddur Bay, and it’s surprising really, we don’t look like complete beginners as we take to the water.
We spend some time here getting used to our kayaks and paddles, and we’re soon ready to start going a bit further up the coast. We stop for lunch, and I make a kayak switch, and am now in a green boat.
And it’s all going very well.
We’re all very comfortable and gently guided by our lovely coach, Stuart, and day one has gone well. The weather has been amazingly kind for us novices, warm and still, and so the water had not been challenging, which is unusual for Anglesey’s tidal waters.
But, of course, you have to remember that capsizing is always a possibility, so we end the day practising. This is me being rescued by Steve.
We end the day happy (and wet), and I go ‘home’ to my Cabban at Anglesey Outdoors where I am in bed by 9.30pm and sleep soundly until the next morning.
Thinking about day two, I remember that my camera, my Sony Cyber-shot, is actually waterproof. It wasn’t a feature I especially wanted, but this camera was a birthday present in 2013, and we went to Llanddwyn that day, and here I am with my new camera. As we walked along the beach a haar came down and two canoes slipped passed in the grey silver water, and I was enchanted. Earlier that summer I had observed kayaks from the cliffs at Anglesey, at South Stack, and said, ‘I want to do that’.
And my inspiration for wanting to do this… viewed from the clifftop near South Stack in June 2013.
So now I am doing kayaking, plus I can take photos on day two as well. We begin day two at Bull Bay on the north coast of Anglesey.
The kayaks are lined up ready for us to take to the water.
As we set off today we are a couple of hours after low water, I am completely taken by the seaweed, the big brown fronds of Laminara, I want to photograph it, but I am not feeling confident enough to use my camera and be in control of the kayak.
There is a bit more swell and we approach our first moving water.
I am finding it harder today to feel comfortable on the water, the swell and the waves are much more noticeable. I am not afraid, but feel very aware that I am a very small craft on a very big ocean.
Stuart finds us different things to practise different manoeuvres. Here we learn how to reverse into a cave… in case we need to leave in a hurry, or find there isn’t enough space to turn round.
We all have a go of getting our kayaks around some small rocky passages.
And then we are back out into the sea and continuing to our destination for today.
The cliffs are spectacular, and I am thrilled to be viewing them from this vantage point, rather than the usual walkers view from the clifftop.
And then, ‘Wow’.
Porth Wen comes into view.
Here is Stuart guiding us into the bay.
And we are all amazed at this place.
We stop here for our lunch.
And for a look around.
This is the abandoned Porth Wen Brick Works. The Porth Wen works was in operation between 1850 and 1914 and produced bricks of a special quality, capable of withstanding very high temperatures and so making them suitable for use in kilns or furnaces. From Urban Realm website:
Here between 1850 and 1914, silica ore was mined by hand from open cast pits on the now National Trust headland, to be transported down to the coast via a funicular railway – where it was chipped and processed down a series of staggered terraces and chutes, using gravity to move it along production stages. At the cliff bottom, bricks were moulded, dried and then fired in the three circular beehive kilns to be shipped off from the adjacent quay. The raw material used had such a high silica content that it produced hard bricks of great resistance to high temperature, and these were used both in the steel industry and in the construction of Liverpool docks. Now most of the landmark structures (quay walls, terraces, chimneys, beehive kilns and quayside buildings) grimly hang in there, against the continued ravages of time, wind and tide.
The kayaking students – Vicky, Dan, Steve, Martin and me.
It’s time to prepare to leave this very special and magical place.
A group of kayakers who were on the beach when we arrived set off.
And then so do we…
And we happily paddle back to Bull Bay. We’ve seen a porpoise on the way here, and a seal pops up which we all find really enchanting.
With a few challenges from Stuart along the way.
And a three point turn in a small creek. (Well done Vicky).
And then we arrive back at our starting point, happy and fulfilled.
It was a great two days. Thanks to Sea Kayaking Anglesey, and especially Stuart Leslie our coach. In addition to the practical kayaking, Stuart gave us some really good theory about tides and weather, which has given me a great starting point for my sea kayaking adventure.
And thanks to my fellow students.
I will be back.”