Adventures in Aberystwyth

Tuesdays are usually our day for spontaneous trips and succumbing to wanderlust. Midweek exploration benefits from quiet roads, beaches free from humans and empty attractions. Heaven!

I had stumbled across Bwlch Nant Yr Ariant the night before, whilst faffing about on the internet. I scrolled through the sites attractions and discovered they had Red kite feeding. That was me sold.

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Aberystwyth is a 2 hour drive away, and allowing for traffic and breaks I figured it would be best to start out early. I was flying solo today so bundled the kids into the car along with a picnic, snacks and birding gear and set off shortly after 8.30am.

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We headed north, cutting across the misty Preseli mountains. As we crested the summit we spotted a herd of wild Welsh mountain ponies grazing close to the road. We drove on, vowels disappearing from the village names (Eglywsyrw…need I say more!) the further North we got. Eventually we made it to our destination, four and a half hours before Kite feeding time! Plenty of time to explore!

We started off in the visitors centre. First stop-the loo.

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By the time we had ‘freshened up’ the café had opened and the smell of breakfast was wafting out from the kitchen. I hadn’t planned on buying anything but C decided otherwise. Whilst my back was turned she had helped herself to a milkshake carton from the fridge, unwrapped the straw  and was settling down at a table to drink it.To be honest, it didn’t take much to twist my arm into buying a coffee and sausage sandwich. The girls enjoyed sitting up at their very own pint sized picnic bench whilst I lounged back and enjoyed the view.

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Over breakfast we were treated to an avian floor show.Siskin, redpoll,sparrow, blue tits and chaffinch flitted back and forth from the evergreens to a massive feeder hanging from a climbing rope.

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Once my mug was drained and sandwiches scoffed we headed to the  adventure playgrounds. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a climbing frame with such an amazing view.

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The girls would quite happily have stayed on the basket swings all day, but I thought we should attempt to have at least a short walk. The most accessible route is the circular Barcud Trail, which leads along the shore of the lake and round to the Bird hide. It is perfect for little legs and buggies, and their are plenty of strategically placed benches along the way.DRAG.jpg

To keep little minds engaged you can take part in the animal trail, and try to spot the wooden animals that are dotted about. Unfortunately some are really quite well hidden, and it wasn’t until I spotted the dragonfly (number 10) that I realised we were going backwards along the route!DSC_0564__1468007935_52989

The wind was whipping over the lake, rippling the surface and sending tiny, choppy waves in to shore. A crested grebe propelled itself solemnly across the water, heading for a patch of reeds on the far side.

DSC_0629__1468008397_10609We followed the gravel path along the shoreline, gently sloping down to enter a stand of conifers.The scent of evergreen resin and pine needles hung heavily in the warm air. Further on it meanders through birch, rowan and oak trees. We traced our steps back along to the hide.We claimed our spot right in line with the feeding area, set out our picnic and played with the bird call ‘machine’.Lunch was eaten in the company of ‘a prince'(according to C, they were due to be married.Such an imagination!)

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Around 2pm the slate grey sky began to fill with kites,their whistles and shrieks bouncing around the valley as they lazily rode the thermals.  By 2.30pm I estimated there were about 100 birds waiting patiently for their meal.

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The 3pm feeding frenzy was spectacular. Birds practically dropped from sky, plummeting down to the patch of green grass to snatch up scraps of meat before shooting out over lake. Some flew low over the water, dragging their talons behind them over the surface Others hassled a gull that had floated a bit too close to the feeding station.

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Once the majority of the meat had been snapped up, the crowds of people dispersed quickly. We wandered back to the playground which was almost level with the Kites that had remained.A young boy  stood beside us and watched, open mouthed as a juvenile kite soared overhead. He stretched his arms up towards the bird as it disappeared over the crest of the hill. ‘Woah, did you see that?’ he exclaimed to nobody in particular.

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By now the girls had had enough. We managed to pick up a handmade Red kite badge as a souvenir (family tradition, its getting quite tricky to find real badges!) from the shop, and started out on the journey home. Soon both children were asleep. I spent the remainder of my trip with Mr Packham, narrating his amazing ‘Fingers in the Sparkle Jar’. Bliss.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Withybush woods

‘Accessible walks’ – yet another thing I have become accustomed to now that I am Mummy to two small children. In deepest darkest West Wales these are quite a novelty I am slowly expanding my list of walks that are ‘buggy and toddler friendly. Two and a half years in I have a few firm favourites. One of these is Withybush woods. It ticks lots of my criteria for walks with both a toddler and a baby. There is a car park, most of the paths are tarmack  or at least easy- to- push-a- buggy on , it is a relatively short distance and has plenty of flora and fauna to keep them (and me!) interested. The only downside to this walk is that the local firing range is just through the trees, so it can be a bit unnerving at times!

The woods are located at the end of an industrial estate in Haverfordwest. They once formed part of the Withybush Estate, which no longer exists.  C was quite keen to get going on today’s adventure, and shot off down the path as soon as I got her out of the car.

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Toddler on the loose!

The sycamore trees at the start of the trail house a rookery, and the inhabitants were quite raucous today. We followed the path until we came to the first stone bridge over the stream which meanders through the woods.

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C hasn’t quite fallen in love with ‘Pooh sticks’ yet, so my offer of a game was met with a resounding ‘no!’. I had a quick squint for otter spraint or tracks, as one of the information boards listed them as a resident of the woods. I couldn’t see any , and although it does look like good otter territory the woods are a favourite with local dog walkers.The banks around this bridge were churned up and full of doggy paw prints. I would be surprised if there were any otters here. DSC_0791

The wooden bridge is quite beautiful in its own right. I love its zigzag shape. F was quite content in her buggy listening to the different bird calls that filled the air. On top of the buggy are the different leaves we collected on our walk. I hope to make a simple identification chart for the girls .

Once we crossed the bridge we turned right to carry on with our figure of 8. The path on this side is tarmacked which is super for buggies. I remember doing this stretch just a few weeks after the birth of C. I was still extremely sore from the c section, and the distance from the car to the pond seemed vast.

The lake used to supply Withybush Estate with wild duck and fish. Now it acts as a haven for a myriad of species. Today we settled on our favourite bench and watched theWhirlygig beetles shooting across the surface. It wasn’t long before we were joined by the resident family of Mute swans. The Pen appeared with her beautiful brood of cygnets. Unfortunately there were only four today – one less than we counted on our visit 4 days earlier.

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Pen and cygnet

The cygnets were having a whale of a time, splashing about and practicing diving. They reminded C of her ‘Ugly Duckling’ story book at home.

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Very downy cygnet!

The Cob was swimming nearby, fending off some Mallard ducks who dared to swim just a bit too close to his brood.

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The family stayed close by for some time before making their way back across the pond towards the nest site. You can’t see it in this picture as it is well hidden in amongst the reeds behind the Rhodedendron bush.DSC_0847C and JoJo were busy enjoying a snack so I had the chance to watch some of the other bird life. I spotted several blue tits, coal tits, chaffinches, a robin, blackbird and nuthatch within a few minutes of sitting quietly on vantage point. I could also hear the distinctive two note call of the Chiff Chaff from amongst the trees behind me. After a while the girls started to get a bit restless so we headed on our way.

A few feet further up on the bank of the lake sat another Swan. It looked like a cygnet from last year as it still had a few greyish feathers. I am suprised the pair hadn’t driven it off from the lake yet. There were also a few Coots milling about on the pond, as well as some Mallard drakes.

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We crossed the stone humpback bridge which marks the end of the lake and headed back along the path towards the car park. I tried to keep a mental tally of the different trees we passed. around the lake were sycamore,ash, beech, oak and holly. The marsh land behind the lake was covered with alder, bog myrtle and willow. We crossed the bridge and were back amongst more beech, sycamore, hazel, lime and horse chestnut trees. C was quite tired now, and wanted carrying on my shoulders. Fortunately it wasn’t long before we reached the car park. C said goodbye to the rooks and told them we’d come to visit again soon.