Thursday, April 14, 2011

Discovering Wales: much more than sheep!

guest post by Juliette Harrisson from Pop Classics

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Nearly five years ago, my parents moved to Snowdonia, in North Wales. When it comes to permanent living arrangements, I tend to be more of a city girl, who needs to be less than an hour and a half away from the nearest multiplex cinema, but the area they’ve moved to is absolutely beautiful and it’s wonderful to get away from the smoke and traffic and wander in the hills for a while! I lived at home for nine months of last year so I got plenty of opportunity to explore the area.

It’s an old joke in England that there’s nothing but sheep and mines in Wales, but it’s not *quite* true! In North Wales, we have impressive medieval castles:

Harlech Castle, Snowdonia

picturesque seaside towns:

pubs with waterfalls inside them:

The Last Inn, Barmouth

and exciting geological phenomena:

Petrified Tree
The remains of a petrified forest, submerged under the sea between Borth and Ynyslas, just north of Aberystwyth. We didn’t see the biggest trunks, as the tide was too far in, but we did see a few impressive remains (and I’ve even learned, finally, to refer to them properly as ‘petrified’, not ‘desiccated’, which is of course entirely wrong! You can read about the submerged forest here:

 However, we do also have a lot of sheep:

There are lots of interesting walks in the area, including the wheelchair-and-bicycle-friendly trail along the old railway line from Dolgellau to Barmouth:

My Mum, wrapped up against the cold and unbothered by the snow! This walk is perfect for wheelchair users or parents with buggies as it’s really long, flat and the views across the estuary towards the sea – which you get to further along – are stunning.
On the Railway Bridge over to Barmouth

and sometimes, if you’re lucky, you might see a llama!

 These live over the valley from us. They get moved around from time to time, so you never know if you’re going to see them or not.

 Come back tomorrow for tramping adventures on the slopes of Cadair Idris, and more sheep! ;o)

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Juliette Harrisson blogs about appearances of Greek and Roman stuff in popular culture (and sometimes Egypt, the Near East and archaeology) on her blog Pop Classics. She is an associate lecturer with the Open University and an external lecturer at the University of Birmingham, and specialises in mythology, religion and Roman period literature.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing this with us Juliette! You've reminded me of how much I enjoyed my two visits to Wales (the mountains are gorgeous and I ADORED the castles!), I need to go back and visit southern Snowdonia now! ;o)

    You say you need to be " less than an hour and a half away from the nearest multiplex cinema"? YIKES! That's about an hour too far away for me!!! :p

    Question: have you read the Susan Cooper novels? The Dark is Rising sequence? Two of the books are located in your neck of the woods (of course, with all the King Arthur legend connections!). 'Cause at one point in the fifth book they are trying to solve a riddle that leads them to a "drowned land" and mention a drowned forest... is that the same petrified forest you mention? :o)

    I think your mom looks great in that shot! All nice and warm and enjoying the outdoors! People here in Alicante would be too scared to go out in that kind of weather! :p

  2. Sorry Cris I was so wrapped up in conference mania I'd missed your comment!

    I haven't read The Dark is Rising but I keep meaning to, they sound really good! And I wouldn't be surprised if that was the 'dorwned forest', this is a bit area for Arthurian legend.

    I could not cope with the lack of cinema! There are a couple of tiny cinemas nearer to us, but they get films weeks after everywhere else and don't have wheelchair access :( That's why I had to move!

  3. The Dark is Rising is one of those series of books I return to regularly as if visiting a friend, they're wonderful! Ever since I read them I've wanted to visit both Cornwall and Wales where most of the excitement takes place.
    I believe you could probably even mention one (the last I think) of them in your blog as there is a visit to Roman construction site. ;o)


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