Portmeirion North Wales

A Folly of a Village

Portmeirion is a unique and magical Welsh village that was created by Sir Clough William-Ellis between 1925 and 1977. It is mainly built in the style of an  Italian village, although there are other influences too. It is though unlike any other place in Britain.

William Ellis named it as Portmeirion as. ‘port’ relates to its coastal position and. ‘meirion.’ is derived from the county of Merioneth (Meirionydd) where it is. Currently it is run by a charitable trust and is a top tourist attraction within North Wales.

Portmeirion became famous during the 1960s when it starred as ‘The Village,’ in the cult TV show, ‘The Prisoner, which is a show well worth watching.

If you go as a day visitor there is a small admittance charge, which is cheaper if bought in advanced online. There is also an option to book into the hotel or stay in one of the rooms within the village which are used both as hotel rooms and for self catering holidays. In the village you will also find shops, a cafe, restaurant, ice cream parlour and beauty spa. There are also woods to explore in you are feeling energetic and if you are not that you can also hop aboard the forest train. Ever since the beginning the mermaid has been used as the symbol of Portmeirion.

The Building of the Village

portmeirionSir William Clough-Ellis designed and built Portmeirion. It was his tribute to the Mediterranean village. Many people claim he based it on the Italian village Portofino, but whilst Clough-Ellis confessed that he loved Portfino he disputes the fact that he designed his village based upon it

He had purchased a house and the land for £5,000. The previous tenant had died but she too had been an eccentric who had let the ground become very overgrown, but despite this it was still possible to see that this was a magical place.

The buildings within the village had been inspired or in some places moved from many different places. The main hotel, and the cottages, ‘White Horses,’ ‘Mermaid,’ and, ‘Salutation,’ were already on the site and had previously been part of a private estate known as, ‘Aber la,’ (Welsh for Ice Estuary) and built about 1950s when there was a boatyard there.

Clough William Ellis

portmeirion walesClough William-Ellis was born in 1883 and was the son of a Anglican priest. He was the fourth of the six boys his parents had. He went to a  fee-paying school, and later studied at Trinity College, Cambridge but left before he had completed his course. He also fought in World War I and inherited his family estate.

He often wore bright yellow stockings, bold waistcoats and bow ties. Yet, it is also said that he had a simple humour and conservative tastes in art. He was married to Amabel Strachey from London and they stayed united together until his death. They had a son and two daughters together. They both believed that nature needed to be protected and were interested in conservation, between them producing several books and pamphlets. He believed in protecting the essence of Wales.

Castle Deudraeth

portmeirion wales

Portmeirion On TV

Portmeirion first appeared on TV in 1960 in an episode of the British TV show, ‘Danger Man,’ episode, ‘A View from the Villa,’ starred Patrick McGoohan as John Drake. Later other episodes of the same show were filmed there. McGoohan then went on to launch, ‘The Prisoner,’ which ran between 1967 and 1968. The Prisoner was based a secret agent who resigned from his job, only to be kidnapped and held prisoner in, ‘The Village.’ ‘The Village was of course Portmeirion. The Prisoner Appreciation Society – Six of One – still hold their annual conventions at Portmeirion The Prisoner is not the only time Portmeirion has been used for filming. It was used for Ingrid’s Bergman’s, ‘ Inn of the Sixth Happiness,’ in 1958; a production that donated a Buddha statue to the village, Dr Who, ‘ The Masque of Mandragora in 1976, Brideshead Revisited (1981) and the final episode of Cold Feet in 2002.

Visiting Portmeirion

portmeirion walesPortmeirion is open all year round. During the summer months it can become busy and the hotel is more expensive. If you want to stay at Portmeirion there are some good offers during the autumn and winter months. It is also worth following their official Facebook or Twitter page to see what offers are on. The weather is typical of Wales, but even out of season it is OK and it is possible to enjoy your visit without perfect weather. No dogs are allowed into the village itself.

Jools Holland goes to Portmeirion

Portmeirion Central Plaza

Visit the official Portmeirion website Here

Donna Nook Grey Seal Colony

donna  nookDonna Nook Grey Seal Colony and Bombing Range

donna nook 2013Donna Nook is one of the largest and most accessible grey seal colonies in the UK.  It Is a site well worth seeing. I have talked to many wildlife experts there who have travelled to many colonies and most of them claim it is the best place.

Between October and December it can be home to over 3,000 seals. The colony first arrived in the 1970’s, but it was much later before the public realised this. I lived in the area at the time and had never heard of at the time.

Despite Donna Nook being a bombing range the seal do not seem to mind the noise (and obviously the seals are never put in danger by the bombs).

Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust currently manage 10 KM (6.2 miles) as a nature reserve and provide the volunteer wardens .

Donna Nook gained its name after the ship, ‘Donna,’ which was part of the Spanish Armarda, which sank close to the area known as ‘The Nook’ in 1588.

The seals at Donna Nook seals in Lincolnshire are one of those sites that is worth seeing. it is nature at its best. The only ‘manmade,’ elements that are there are designed to help protect the seals from the never ending stream of humans coming to have a look.

The seals are only there a short time around November each year in order to give birth. A beach full of seals and pups is quite an amazing sight. The volunteers on hand could not do better. They are friendly and helpful. This is one of the few times that humans can get to see seals out of the water and yet in the wild.  There is something quite magical about this event.

All to often children and adults only seal creatures such as seals in zoos and sanctuaries. This is one of the few chances in life to see them as nature intended them to be. There is a small shop, information boards and little quizzes. it is quite easy to spend several hours at Donna Nook and never get bored. This is regarded as one of the best places in Britain to view the grey seals and it is easy to see why,

donna nook

The path to the seals is long, but flat and wide so the majority of disabled people probably will be able to access the viewing area. There is parking available.

The nature reserve itself is made up of sand dunes, slacks and inter-tidal areas, so there is much to see here even when the seals are not there.

Donna Nook is also a practice bombing range. So if red flags are flying it might be a good idea to stay of the beach.

The pictures on this page where taken by me the day before the high tides in November 2013. Donna Nook was badly damaged but the majority of seals survived. On the day I went you could see the seals sensed the on coming danger and had gathered at the fence as though they were pleading to go to higher ground. The volunteers removed the fencing a few hours later and the seals escaped the tides.

donna nook

Nature and Wildlife

Besides the seals  at Donna Nook there is plenty other wildlife to see. Birds that are often sighted include snow bunting, reed bunting, dunlin, field fares, shore lark, hen harrier, meadow pipit, brent geese, knot, woodcock as well as gulls.

During the summer it is possible to see birds such as the  red-legged partridge, dunnock, whitethroat, linnet, skylark, yellowhammer and tree sparrow

In winter there are fieldfare, redwing, starlings, woodcock, hen harrier and short-eared owl.

The saltmarsh provides a home for the  little grebe, moorhen, reed bunting and meadow pipit.

The sandflats provide a breeding area for little tern. There are also ringed plover and oystercatcher in this area.

On the mudflats you may see brent geese, shelduck, twite, lapland bunting, shore lark and linnet.

Plants that you may find include sea buckthorn with its orange berries. Then in the sand dunes you can find marram and sand couch. WWildflowers, include marsh orchids, yellow-wort, and bee and pyramidal orchids

Other wildlife at Donna Nook include animals such as the fox, badger, stoat, weasel and 3 species of shrew.

Things to Remember 

If you do pay a visit then have consideration for the seals. In the past inconsiderate photographs have been blamed for a high mortality rate.

Do not use flash photography when you are close to seals. Nobody wants a flash going off right in their eyes and this applies to seals too.

Please also note the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust ask that you do not go over the fence so the seals are not disturbed.

Also remember that whilst seals are cute…..they bite. So don’t touch them even though they may within hand’s reach.

No dogs are allowed

RAF Bombing Range

Remembering that Donna Nook is also used as a bombing range. If they are red flags flying they do not go onto the beach. The bombing practises are more likely to occur midweek, rather than weekend.

 

For more information contact the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust

 

Caistor, Lincolnshire – Roman Town

Caistor is a quirky little town that can be found on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds. It has great potential when looking for a setting for a fantasy novel or story.  It has a rich history and is a town which oozes character.

It is a little Roman market town. The name Caistor is derived from the Latin word, ‘castra,’ which means camp.

Caistor is made up of series of squares – Market Place, Buttermarket, Cornhill and Horsemarket. There are fifty seven grade II listed buildings throughout the town. In the centre of the market place there is the town pump which dates to 1897 and commemorated the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Under the pump there use to be public toilets although they have now been closed (filed in?)

The Romans settled here, possible attracted to its because of its natural spring, natural defences and the supply of iron ore from Claxby nearby. Coins dating back to AD 69 and the Roman occupation have been found in the area. Parts of the Roman wall can still be seen today. At one time seven and a half miles were encircled by the wall.

In 1086 there were fifty two families living in Caistor according to the Doomsday survey.

Caistor was an early ecclesiastical centre and may have been the sight of a monastery which used the walled centre as its precinct. This would explain the market being to the east outside of the walls. In 1536 the Lincolnshire Uprising and Pilgrimage of the Grace took place. This  lead to the dissolution of the monasteries.

In 1681 Caistor was nearly destroyed by a great fire. Most of the timber framed houses were destroyed and forty five families were made homeless. Several people were killed. It cost £6, 786 to repair the  town and it was rebuilt in the red brick that is still seen today. Caistor also suffered badly during the plague.

In more modern times people would herd their sheep from Caistor over the Wolds to market.

Caistor Church St Peter and St Paul

The Church is a Grade I listed building. It is open daily for prayer and meditation.

In a glass class to the left as you walk into church is the Gad Whip. This was traditionally cracked on Palm Sunday and held above the vicar’s head during the service.

There are also medieval effigies of two knights and a lad which date from the 14th century

The chancel was rebuilt in the 1848 and the church in general was restored in 1863.

Part of the existing Roman wall can be found at the rear of the church. It is marked with a plaque but it is often overgrown.

The warmest and most comfy part of the church is the choir seating.

 

Caistor Grammar School

Caistor Grammar was founded in 1630. The stone of the front of the school is inscribed with a quote from Homer’s ilad which means, ‘Always to Excel,’ which is the school’s motto.

The school’s library is now housed in the former Congregational church which has a graveyard at the rear.

The school is said to be built of the site of a ancient battle site. Think hand to hand sword fighting.

 

Ghosts

No town with a history as long as Caistor can be ghost free. The Grammar School is said to be haunted by a former student who died in the boarding block.

There is also a stone at Fonaby top which use to be a bag of corn.  It belonged to a selfish farmer who refused to share it with a holy man. So the holy man said, ‘Then stone it will be,’ and so it was. Anyone who attempts to move the stone is cursed.

More Information

List of listed Buildings in Caistor

Magical Chocolate Biscuits

biscuits Once upon a time there were some biscuits. These were not just ordinary biscuits; these were filled with creamy chocolate chunks.  They were special and unique.

One day a little girl came along. She was very hungry and she ate all the biscuits. When she had finished she swept up all the crumbs and placed the tin back where it had been, as though nothing had happened.

When the other people came back they were very angry. The little girl did not want to admit that she had eaten the biscuits. She could not hide the fact that she had eaten them for long. For soon everything she touched turned to chocolate  biscuits.

The other people were amazed. They never had to buy chocolate biscuits again. Whilst these biscuits may not give you magical powers why not have a bite today.

 

Benedict Cumberbatch Writes Letter for Fan’s Funeral

Benedict Cumberbatch may be best known as Sherlock Holmes, but recently he proved that in real life he has a heart of gold.

Eva Shepherd, was just 14 years old when she died of breathing complications.  She had been born prematurely at just 28 weeks She was not expected to live longer than 24 hours, yet she lived 14 years. In that time she was loved. In her life she underwent 200 operations, and had a tracheotomy  tube fitted.Her funeral was held 1st February 2015, at Padgate Methodist Church, in Warrington, England.

Benedict was busy filming Sherlock that day. He is, after all, a very busy man. You may think a funeral in Warrington was not that important to him. Eva, though was a superfan. She loved Sherlock and she loved Benedict. So Benedict send a letter, which was read out at the funeral.

It read;

“I send my deepest sympathies to Eve’s family. To lose someone so young who fought for her health all her life must be beyond endurance.

“I hope they can take solace from the fact that she was clearly much loved and her support of our show is hugely appreciated and shall be remembered.

“I wish I could be there but sadly am filming the show she loved. God rest her soul. With all my love and sympathies, Benedict xxx”

The funeral possession left to the sound of the Sherlock theme tune.

Her family will miss her, and will always remember her. Her family wish donations to be paid to Peter Pan ward at Great Ormond Street Hospital , Alder Hay Breavement Centre,  and Warrington Animal Rescue