Over the winter we have been busy refurbishing the cottage. We are delighted that as a result we have been upgraded to a 5* rating by Visit Wales. The cottage has been completely redecorated and refurbished with new furniture. It still, of course, retains its cottage character with the log burner, oak floors, and bedrooms with exposed beams and open to the eaves, but is more fresh and contemporary (and feels strangely much more spacious!).
Hello – we’re Jane and David and we are the delighted new owners of Coed y Berclas. Dorothy and Daf have moved on to embark on new adventures in life and we took over in November 2018. We are just so happy to have achieved a long held ambition to move to Anglesey from Cheshire. We wake up each morning amazed by the mesmerising and ever changing views.
We’ve had a hectic few months welcoming guests to the Cottage and Apartment, alongside finishing our work and selling up in Cheshire. But busy-ness is all so worth it as we settle into our new home. The house and views exceed anything we had ever dreamed of!
The Cottage and Apartment were taken over fully furnished so returning guests will feel right at home. The location of course is still as beautiful as ever. We are so grateful to Dorothy and Daf who have been very kind and generous with their time and expertise to ensure that the transition is as seamless as possible for returning guests. We have had a wonderful season so far and it’s been an absolute delight to meet the most lovely people and share this place. It really feels like the best ‘job’ in the world.
New Guest Room at Coed y Berclas
In addition to moving we have converted Dorothy’s art studio in the main house into a spacious Guest Room. It is furnished in a similar style to the Apartment with solid oak furniture and has a very comfortable king size bed and en suite shower. The room has its own south-east facing terrace, with chairs and table, and private access from the lawn. The idea is it is available as additional accommodation to either the Cottage or the Apartment, or on its own. We have a daily and weekly rate so short stays can be easily arranged. Please contact us for details and photographs.
If you have stayed before then we would love to welcome you back. If this is your first visit then please come and experience the unique appeal of this very special and peaceful place.
The full moon rose above the mountains of Snowdonia in a darkening azure sky
Moonlight glistening on the calm waters of the Menai Strait. As I watched from our kitchen, the scene was so absolutely beautiful, it dawned on me to take a photograph! Out on our terrace I took just one shot which you can see below. I stood there very still, watching the moon quietly.
We are accustomed to stunning views from nearly every room in Coed y Berclas house. Occasionally we see a special, infrequently seen, image which stands out – like this moonlit night. The combination of full moon, clear sky, calm water and the lovely silvery reflection, definitely qualified as ‘special’.
The atmosphere we enjoy is affected by weather, time of day, state of tide and the magical water of the Menai Strait. In different seasons we step out onto the terrace listening to the birds, especially at this time of year. The dawn chorus begins very early in the day, reaches a crescendo, and doesn’t fade until daylight is done.
In the summer, we see boats of all types and sizes, drifting, sailing, fishing or racing, so embroidering the scene on the water. Members of the Royal Anglesey Yacht Club in Beaumaris sail and race their Fifes, in mid summer. The Fifes are locally made boats thus are excellent sailers for the Menai Strait. Here’s a shot of them passing Bangor Pier.
We often eat meals out on our terrace, gazing at Snowdonia beyond the waters of the Menai Strait. We have been found sitting out there on blue sky days in January because its been so beautiful and warm.
However, none of this is relevant to last night, because the birds were quiet, and there were no boats moving. It felt as though everything was at peace while the beautiful full moon rose in that wonderfully clear sky, casting her gentle silver reflection on the calm waters of the Menai Strait.
It felt as though it was all just for me.
Some of Duncan’s wildlife photography can be seen here, taken on our island or just offshore.
The Apartment at Coed y Berclas is a favourite of Rachel and Duncan who come to relax in the magnificent view.
Anglesey boat trip
Their holiday weather was beautiful and, whilst travelling around Anglesey, took a boat trip along the Menai Strait to Penmon. They were lucky to see porpoises playing around the boat – and captured some shots to add to Duncan’s wildlife collection.
Dwynwen, Llanddwyn, Squirrels, My Art
Our guests also visited Llanddwyn; three miles of beautiful sandy beach fringed by woodland. A walk along the sand leads you to Ynys Llanddwyn (Dwynwen’s Isle). Dwynwen lived on the island in Celtic times. She is still the patron saint of lovers in Wales and her small chapel is a place of pilgrimage.
As a Textile Artist, some of my work has involved research into Celtic history and mythology. The Mabinogion character Branwen features in two of my works and Llanddwyn has a particular interest for me. Branwen 1 and Branwen 2
Whilst walking through the woodland, our guests were lucky enough to see one of Anglesey’s red squirrels and Duncan took this lovely photograph. Grey squirrels have been removed and the red squirrel numbers have consolidated because Anglesey is an island. They are, after all, our native wildlife species so it is good to see them taking back their woodland territory.
The Hidden gardens
The Hidden Gardens at Plas Cadnant are about two miles from Coed y Berclas. Anthony and his partner have lovingly restored the original gardens over the past twenty years. Our Guests described the gardens as ‘a sheer delight’ photographing the calm pool and topiary as a reminder.
We always look forward to welcoming returning guests to Coed y Berclas!
The holiday season is well under way here at Coed y Berclas with Sunshine and showers and Spring’s arrival.
Our guests in The Cottage and Apartment have had a good balance of sunshine and showers recently. We have had lovely comments in the Visitor’s book and lots of promises to return, clearly enjoying their holidays to the full.
We love greeting guests back time after time – they become friends.
Our vegetable patch
The sunshine and showers made gardening a challenge too. The weather is kinder with Spring’s arrival so birds are in full song. Our vegetable patch has been thoroughly weeded, and seeds are planted to feed us organic vegetables for the year ahead. Picking our own fruit and vegetables in our own garden is a joy. The fruit trees in the orchard have all flowered well and the spring blossoms were not harmed by winds or heavy showers. We should expect a good crop of fruit later in the year.
As this is a bank holiday weekend, we have seen many yachts sailing through the Menai Strait. One in particular makes an elegant and tranquil scene from our terrace. The yacht is a fine example of the legendary Nicholson 35. She is moored on the Menai Strait, and we can see her framed perfectly through the viewpoint in our woods.
The birds at Coed y Berclas are incredibly busy as the days lengthen. They fly from branch to branch, singing and warding off interlopers, or search for bugs and worms in the grass. Everything seems so very alive – except this worm in the Song Thrush’s beak!. Whenever I’m working in the garden, I’m quickly joined by a robin, which comes incredibly close to snap up the worms I’m disturbing. It is a real privilege to be so involved with nature. There’s a lot of work to do in the garden in spring, but it’s wonderful to work outdoors… soak up the sunshine and dodge the showers!
It’s 10:00 am and I’m sitting down for a few stolen moments to write a blog – there’s a lot to catch up on.
This morning the tide is high and there is a shimmer of light on the water in the gentle breeze. We watch more yachts sailing by, on the Menai Strait, as the season begins. The pink fishing boat, ‘Lottie Holly’, has just passed the end of Bangor Pier and is motoring south west, towards Caernarfon. The mountains of Snowdonia ar partly shrouded in cloud and the sun is playing hide and seek.
I hope the weather will be kind to me today, I need to finish preparing the vegetable patch for planting.
Daf has built a new door – from scratch! – for the Cottage utility. It looks wonderful and keeps the leaves out.
We have had a lot of work done on the lower banks at Coed y Berclas. They have been re-profiled and turfed. They are splendid. The only drawback is the amount of grass-cutting Daf will need to do but,as he says, it’s cheaper than the gym.
That’s a reminder to me that I should be digging the veg patch – great, the sun’s shining!
The tale of our infatuation with steam trains continues with…
…the Welsh Highland narrow gauge railway running between Caernarfon and Porthmadog, where it links to the Festiniog Railway, running from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog high in the slate mountains of Snowdonia.
At 09:30 on Thursday 16th June we were standing on the platform with lots of others awaiting the arrival of the 10:00 steam engine which would pull the 10:00 train from Caernarfon all the way to Porthmadog passing the foot of Snowdon on the way.
When the engine pulled into the station, there was a ripple of excitement. It is, like all steam engines, a living breathing thing, a Welsh dragon come to life.
Aboard the train, I felt like an excited child on a birthday outing. As the train pulled out of the station, I looked back to watch Caernarfon Castle slipping out of sight as we puffed along the track.
The narrow-gauge engines on the Welsh Highland Railway run on tracks two feet wide. To go round the sharp corners required to take them snaking up steep inclines, they are articulated in two places. Each steam engine is made in three parts, a central boiler with driver’s cab, a watertank and a coal bunker.
Welsh Highland Railway. Brief history
The brief history of the line between Caernarfon and Porthmadog goes back to 1864 when a tramway was built to carry slate from the mountains to the coast for export. The line was extended over time until it eventually joined up and carried both slate and passengers.
Sadly, the Welsh Highland Railway was never a financial success and in 1944 a ‘winding-up’ order was made. The company was never actually closed, so eventually, in 1989, it was possible for the Ffestiniog Railway to make a bid for the track. In 1999, they aquired the assets from the official receiver and with the aid of a Milleniun Commission grant, much fund raising, and a lot of volunteer labour, the Welsh Highland Railway was reconstructed, bit by bit, to become the wonderful entity it is now.
It is still run on volunteer labour.
Journey from Caernarfon to Porthmadog
The journey from Caernarfon to Porthmadog is 25miles long and runs through beautiful countryside. It climbs from sea level at historic Caernarfon to 197metres before descending through forests and the beautiful Aberglaslyn valley until it arrives back at sea level in Porthmadog.
We loved every bit of our journey and can heartily recommend it to visitors. We took lots of pics and video. The best bit of the end of the end of the journey was that we could do it all again on the return journey from Porthmadog to Caernarfon!
This amazing shot of a Rainbow in eerie evening light appeared on Friday after a strong rain shower, so Daf whipped out his camera and fired off a few shots.
The shot below was perhaps the best. We have seen this effect a few times while living here. Because the view is so expansive and the strong evening sun is striking the low level rain clouds from the North West, the clouds are lit up orange and cast a veiled light over the area beneath – in this case, us!
The shot was taken from the Berclas terrace just beside the holiday apartment main bedroom.
We have two ponds at Coed y Berclas – or water features. The upper one is a rill on the terrace in front of the house. It contains water lilies, irises, oxygenating plants and a few water insects. The lower one is larger.
In addition to having similar plant and insect life, it is also home to a number of newts, and in spring we are visited by two or three Mallard ducks. They stay only briefly and always fly off to a safer roost for the night.
A less welcome visitor is the occassional heron. We worry that it will eat the newts or puncture the pond liner. Fortunately, there are no fish to keep it visiting, so I suspect it flies away disappointed but has a short memory!
Unfortunately, we also have blanket weed in both ponds, which is very invasive. Therefore, from spring throughout summer, I have the task of taking out as much as possible, to stop it taking over. I don’t think we will ever get rid of it, but there was hardly any in the upper pond this year. That was very encouraging.
This might be seen as just another task to add to a long list, but here’s the funny thing: I really look forward to getting out my specialist equipment and spending ages by the pond picking out masses of fibrous bits of blanket weed.
I put it down to the magical relaxing effect of being by tranquil water. My equipment may not fit most people’s idea of ‘specialist’. It’s a pink plastic hairbrush tied with string to the longest cane I could find. It works really well at picking up clumps of the hair-like fibres. I always look carefully at the blanket weed for wild-life. I have found snails, dragonfly larvae and small newts. They are all returned to the water as quickly and gently as possible.
The dragonfly larvae are fascinating. when mature, they climb up reeds and cling on while they metamorphose into beautiful electric blue insects which dart backwards and forwards, across the pond, on their iridescent wings, hunting for food. I can hear the whirr of their wings as I seek out fibres of blanket weed. It’s wonderful. The old outer cases of the larvae are left clinging to the reeds or fall in the water. I have wondered if they are the reason for the name ‘dragonfly’.
The sound of water trickling from the upper into the lower pond also adds to to the sense of peace and serenity. Guests staying in the Luxury Holiday Apartment at Coed y Berclas, step out from the sitting room onto a patio with table and chairs, which is close to the pond. While enjoying the view of the Strait and Snowdonia, they can also listen to water falling into the lower pond.
As a member of Cwilt Cymru I produced two quilted textile hangings to our chosen theme ‘Cynefin’. Cynefin is a Welsh word which refers to a place where one belongs. It has a spiritual and emotional dimension as well as a physical one. Because of my relationship and sense of belonging, I chose to create images for Cynefin based on our two ponds.
Daf and I were both brought up near water. I lived close to the North Sea and Daf to the Menai Strait. Neither of us would wish to live too far from water. At Coed y Berclas we are on an island surrounded by water, we overlook the Menai Strait, and over Bangor Pier to Snowdonia, and we have our two ponds. This makes us feel very ‘at home’.
When we heard that the Flying Scotsman would be crossing Anglesey we had fun finding the best place to photograph her. Crossing Anglesey was part of the Flying Scotsman’s journey from London to Holyhead. She was also returning later in the day.
We both love steam engines and feel the ‘romance of the age of steam’.
The day before her arrival, we looked at views of the Britannia Bridge, which crosses to the island over the Menai Strait – the stretch of Anglesey Coast we overlook from Coed y Berclas. We drove for miles across Anglesey, on roads parallel to the railway track. We looked over bridges and across fields. We waited at railway crossings. We wanted to find the best place to see the Flying Scotsman as she steamed her way across the Isle of Anglesey.
Eventually we settled on a lane, Lon Myfyrian, which runs along the edge of a field. This gave us a prolonged view of the railway track.
The next day we were there in good time, to set up our cameras and await the arrival of the Flying Scotsman. We kept thinking we heard her coming, but it must have been the nearby A55. She was running a bit late, so by the time we heard the distinctive sound of a steam engine approaching, we were stiff but excited.
Daf’s brother Wyn, who has been photographing trains for half a century, photographed the image below, at Myfyrian bridge.
I took stills and Daf shot the video above. We were both over-awed and excited at watching this beautiful steam locomotive, The Flying Scotsman, pulling many coaches across our beautiful Isle of Anglesey, and the sound of her sent a thrill through us both. We have watched the video a lot since that day!
In the afternoon, Daf and I were at Bangor station to watch the Flying Scotsman pass through on her return journey. As she pulled slowly into Bangor station, everyone went quiet. I took video above and Daf mainly took stills.
It was wonderful to be so close to the Flying Scotsman, such an iconic engine. I remember as a child standing on Durham station awaiting the train which would bring my Great Aunt on a visit from London. I cannot be sure I ever saw the Flying Scotsman then, but I distinctly remember being over-whelmed and rather scared of the size of the engine and the sound of hissing steam. Now I think it is all quite wonderful.