All of these sea kayaking posts by Sarah are about the meaning of life in their way. The joys of small attentions and big adventures. In this one Sarah and her coach Geth get slightly more of an adventure than they’d planned for.
All ends well, though you should know that by the end of her day’s exploring and then the drive home from Wales, Sarah walks very carefully into our house, her exhausted arms and legs needing a very good sleep before they’re all working properly again!
Anyway, here’s Sarah, to tell us about being alive.
I am back in Anglesey for a couple of days kayaking, and am able to leave Liverpool early on the Friday. I go straight to Llanddwyn, and arrive just after 1pm. It already feels like the day is setting.
The beach here is looking magnificent.
Plenty of shells on the walk over to the island, some of which are collected, and when I get to the island, lots of rock pools.
And plenty for me to explore and observe.
I love this magical place.
Plenty of lichens too.
And I find this – and having found a similar, but smaller, one at Hilbre last weekend, I now know this is the egg capsule of the Large-spotted Dogfish (Scyliorhinus stellaris), and this one even has the young fish still inside it. (I don’t know whether it will still be alive, they take 10 to 12 months to mature before they hatch, so I leave it where it is).
Too soon it’s time to leave the beach.
The next day Geth and I are in Barmouth. We are taking three of Geth’s clients out for the first time.
And we have a splendid day – wind, tide, current, a big wide estuary… and a huge bridge!
Enjoyed by all. Thank you Barmouth.
The next day Geth and I are exploring. We’ve been paddling together since July this year and have had some great days – most particularly ‘filling in the gaps’ on my determined circumnavigation of Anglesey (so a proper circumnavigation but not all in one go). This way of circumnavigating the island provides the opportunity for some serious exploration of the edges of the coast of Anglesey and going to places that aren’t on the usual paddling trips. So it’s about time and attention, not speed.
We’ve been poring over my map together and decide to explore a section of the north west coast of Anglesey. We begin at Four Mile Bridge.
Here we’re going to explore a place called The Inland Sea, before going up the coast. The Inland Sea is a lagoon formed between the main island of Anglesey and Holy Island. The water here is trapped between the Stanley Embankment at the north end and the older bridge at Four Mile Bridge – these restrict the tidal flow, forming this basin of water.
The restriction of the tidal flow at both ends of the lagoon create ‘features’ which are used by surfers and kayakers for recreation when the tide is at a safe level. They are to be crossed with care though, and at the right state of tide, or they are dangerous.
I’ve already done the popping through the hole in the stone bridge at Four Mile Bridge at the end of our trip up the Cymyran Estuary back in the summer. It was a bit like going though a water chute, but in a kayak, and caused much giggling from me! So we begin today on the other side of the bridge, launch into The Inland Sea, and go off exploring the creek – accessible as we’re just approaching high water.
In passing Geth shows me a small hill that his dad used to climb, as he grew up in this part of Anglesey.
We pause to observe wildlife and some very profuse lichens here.
Next, it’s Stanley Embankment.
There are actually two crossings here – the older one is Stanley Embankment, built in 1823 and designed by Telford, it carries the A5 and, since the 1840s, the railway line. The A55 expressway arrived in 2001 and there’s a separate bridge for that which runs just in front of the embankment.
I should tell you at this point that since yesterday Geth has been telling me terrifying tales of crossing Stanley Embankment. About how the small gap in the embankment forces tide to be restricted so it comes through at considerable speed. And how it can also create a particularly vicious ‘stopper’ which is a wave that can trap you inside the space. If this happens you will drown. Surfers, apparently, use a safe wave for playing on a flooding tide on The Inland Sea side, but the other side is referred to as ‘The Dark Side.’ I’m suitably forewarned, and feeling more than a bit anxious.
We arrive at Stanley Embankment, having carefully checked the tides and safe timings, expecting to be able to get through at 1pm.
I let Geth go first to make sure all’s well and wait at a safe distance.
Geth returns to tell me that the tide is still flooding – we are on a large spring tide – and that it’s not yet time for us to attempt to make our way through.
So we patiently wait, while Geth continues to terrify me by telling me about the signs he’s seen that say that it’s not safe to go through the gap, and would I like a photograph of the signs?
Twenty minutes later all is ready and we’re on our way, even through Geth then tells me about the guillotine which sometimes drops down as you go through the passage. He bangs the metal with his paddle and the noise resonates in the tunnel. (It’s a metal ‘door’ that can be closed for maintenance).
No photos get taken, and I am relieved to make it to ‘the dark side’ as we carry on our journey.
Arriving at the Alaw estuary we have lunch.
Lunch breaks at this time of year don’t tend to last very long, as it’s getting chilly.
As we get back on the water, Geth makes the curious observation that there are a lot of birds walking around. And sure enough the ebbing tide has revealed a vast expanse of sand.
Well, we’re now used to the unexpected from our other estuary explorations, and so are unfazed. Getting out of our boats we drag them some way until we find water that’s deep enough to get paddling again.
As we get back on the water the sun starts to slip away across Holyhead harbour.
And we are both very happy to be out on such a lovely evening. The far sky is deep grey and there is a rainbow on the horizon, the sun reflects on the water, creating pink and blue shapes around us, a flock of curlew take off and flash black and white against the sky. Magical.
We arrive back at Trefadog, the beach where I navigated us to this morning, and where we have left Geth’s car. Carrying our boats up the beach we’re both happy to have discovered a new place to land, and spent this day exploring new coastline too.
As I get to the top of the beach though I realise this is not ‘our’ beach, and that the car is not here. Geth consults the map and we realise we’re actually parked in the next place along, just up the coast.
We leave the boats where they are, and find a farm track which leads us through muddy fields and over a gate to the car. Geth jokes as we walk that if I wanted to take any photos of this part of our journey then I’ll have to use the flash!
We arrive safely at the car, drive back for the boats, pack up, then return me to my car back at Four Mile Bridge, and congratulate ourselves on another great day. A day of explorations and ‘new’ coast.
And, I reflect, that it would be easier not to do this, especially at this time of year, when it’s colder and the days are shorter. It takes more effort, more care to keep warm, but it is so great and I feel so alive. And that above all else is my reflection from these days away.
I am alive.