Posted by: carmarthenbaywatcher | June 22, 2013

Wild Wet Windy Wild West Wales and it’s Mid Summer!

Daddies Little Sheepdog and I have been investigating stuff this afternoon. Prior to investigating stuff I had to fit a new toilet seat and bugger me it was a tough job. Whoever fitted out our bathroom must have been quadruple jointed or at least had an extra universal joint between their elbow and wrist, getting underneath the back of the toilet to tighten the wing nuts that hold it all together was damn near impossible. We are getting the whole bathroom refitted in a couple of months so I’ll make sure accessibility is built in!

The weather today has been atrocious – more like October than Mid Summer – gale force winds and horizontal rain most of the morning and still gale force winds this afternoon. What a difference a couple of days make:-

Looking West From Town Beach on Wednesday

Looking West From Town Beach on Wednesday

Looking south west across The Saltings today.

Looking south west across The Saltings today.

So this morning DLS was walked around the field behind us – I couldn’t let him run loose as he interferes with the horses that have been illegally parked there. This afternoon we went investigating. As the tide was in flood I couldn’t let him run absolutely free in case he got trapped – salt marshes can be dangerous places with deep gulleys and mud and unfortunately he really is that stupid (in Welsh, “Twp”)! So I kept him on his harness with a 10 metre extending lead.  At least I got  a couple of nice pictures of him looking investigative:-

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Investigating the strand line – a bike track / footpath runs along the top of the bank to the right.

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Anyway I think a hairdresser must have been washed overboard somewhere because today we found:-

  • a comb
  • one pink plastic hair roller
  • a hair bush.

As usual there were numerous shampoo bottles, drinks bottles and also a couple of wheels. We are trying to find the piece of rubbish from farthest away and currently the most exotic include a bleach bottle with Chinese script on it and an orange juice carton with Arabic writing.  Whilst I like to imagine the bleach bottle bobbing across the worlds oceans – across the Pacific and Indian Oceans, round the Cape of Good Hope into the South Atlantic, up the coast of Africa, past the Cape Verde and Canary Islands, bob bobbing away past Spain and Portugal, across Biscay, into the Western Approaches, skimming past Lands End and into the Celtic Sea, up towards the Bristol Channel until it finally came to rest up the Burry Inlet, it probably got chucked off a giant container vessel loaded with a billion more unnecessary plastic objects that will eventually end up on The Saltings. However, I suspect the orange juice carton really did get left behind from a beach picnic in Dubai, drifted past the Straights of Hormuz, into the Indian Ocean, down past the coast of Oman and Yemen, past the Red Sea avoiding pirates off Somalia, sunny Kenya, Zanzibar and Tanzania………..or maybe not.

It doesn’t really matter. What does matter is the amount of plastic washed up – much of it is torn and damaged fishing nets, just imagine the damage that stuff could do to sea life caught up in it. I’m going to start taking pictures. Could this be the start of a campaign?

Posted by: carmarthenbaywatcher | June 16, 2013

The Problem with the Saltings and other problems….

OK, three days after the last blog it started raining. The rain stopped (albeit temporarily) yesterday afternoon and things brightened up although it remained windy. As a consequence, to avoid being shot blasted by the sandstorm on the beach, Daddies Little Sheepdog and I walked along the edge of the saltmarsh known as The Saltings:-

The tide was well out but things weren’t particularly dry – the morning’s rain had made sure of that. The Saltings have an interesting geography being a tidal inlet between two extensive dune systems. As a consequence anything washed in on the tide tends to stay there. It is probably The Dog’s favourite place – particularly after a spring tide when all kinds of stuff turns up. At the moment we are moving to a neap tide so there isn’t much new to investigate. This is a problem because the dead gannet is still there and yesterday I realised that Daddies Little Sheepdog was carrying something yep, The Gannets Head (great pub name) was being brought to me. Bearing in mind it had been there for well over a week, I didn’t really want it.  A quick bribe with a gravy bone sorted that problem out but then, from somewhere deep in the marsh he brought back a dead mullet.  What a good boy! I was going to run out of gravy bones at this rate also my black and white dog was also mostly black mud and stank of dead sea creatures as he had slid into a creek.

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I, on the other hand found a nice bed of young tender samphire which was reasonably accessible so I’ll have to watch it and pick some before it gets too tough or picked by someone else!  Whilst on the subject of foraging, one of my fellow dog walkers and I discovered a hazel tree absolutely covered in baby cob nuts. In about two or three months time these will be fantastic and ready for picking.

Hazel is a very common hedgerow tree in these parts and one of my pre-occupations involves selecting suitable coppiced shoots for making walking staffs and sticks.  A few days ago DLS and I found a brilliant hidden clump which will be just right for harvesting in November. The trick is to collect the sticks in the winter when the sap has gone back into the roots – it still takes 18 months or so for the wood to season but in 2015 I’ll have a really good collection of staffs to sell or give away!

I’ve bought a new pair of walking boots with some birthday money and while I was in the shop I let myself be conned into buying gel insoles to make them even better. DON’T FALL FOR THIS! if your feet get hot and the gel gets damp it starts to slide on the bottom of the foot bed. This is hell to walk on.

Have fun, keep the faith!

Posted by: carmarthenbaywatcher | June 7, 2013

What a week!

Well here in Wild West Wales we’ve suffered from unbroken sunshine for about 10 days now and I’m deeply regretting not buying a hosepipe from Homebase a few days ago. C’est la vie – at least my arms are getting stronger from carrying 20 full watering cans every evening.

Yes, it’s been a whole year since my last attempt at writing – no particular reason just laziness I suppose. So, what’s been happening on and in the Bay?

  • The tide continues to come in and go out mostly twice a day
  • I’ve got a dog
  • The cats have moved upstairs
  • I’ve hardly ridden a bike since getting the dog
  • The weather happens.

OK, we rescued a kind of sheepdog / spanielly thing (Daddy’s Little Sheepdog or DLS) in the early autumn and pretty much every day since we’ve walked / run / jumped and swam along the beach, the old harbour and the Saltings. Even during the blizzards in the bleak mid winter we were yomping for four or five miles a day -

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21st December 2013 Burry Port Beach

Our cats have not really accepted The Dog and refuse to come downstairs. They are now fed, watered and toileted in the box room and sleep with Mrs Carmarthenbaywatcher and me. The dog is kept downstairs behind a big gate that bars the stairs and the front door. This is probably for his own protection, Pickle bites!

One outcome since getting the Dog has been the formation of  The Burry Port Institute For The Study Of Things Washed Up On The Beach And Other Stuff. This not yet august (july?) body is comprised of me and my faithful assistant and we investigate stuff. Recently we investigated a newish fender of a yacht or small vessel, a nice frisbee and a brand new blue Ikea tray. We missed out on investigating the Dead Cows incident because they washed up AFTER we had been for that morning’s patrol. That could have been challenging. DLS investigated a dead gannet and frequently investigates feeding seabirds and little brown birds on the salt marsh. This often makes him unpleasant to share a sofa a lab with.

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April 2013 DLS on the Saltings investigating Stuff.

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On The Beach with The Gower in the background.

As we find more interesting stuff we’ll be able to report back – now that Summer seems to have arrived there will probably loads more stuff, especially on Monday mornings so things could get sticky interesting!

Have Fun, Keep the Faith.

Posted by: carmarthenbaywatcher | May 14, 2012

The Road goes Ever On and On…….til it fizzles out

The Challenge facing the Welsh Government proposals for national cycling and walking routes.

Last week the Welsh Assembly published it’s White Paper “Consultation on Active Travel (Wales) Bill” seeking input from interested parties and experts. Essentially Wales has become the first country to propose a new law placing a duty on local authorities to map the walking and cycling routes in their area, and make a plan and budget to improve them. What they want to do is make active travel between work, shops, hospitals, schools and leisure facilities a realistic alternative to the car and to quote Carl Sargeant the Minister for Local Government  and Communities,

“I am clear about my ambitions for Wales. I want to
see a Wales where people are healthier and more
active. A Wales with lower greenhouse gas
emissions. A Wales where poverty and
disadvantage are tackled. I want to see a Wales
where businesses can flourish, the economy can
grow and where communities are strengthened. All
these reflect our commitment to sustainable
development in Wales.
One of the ways I am working to make this happen is enabling people to get out of their cars and travel in healthier and more sustainable ways. This Bill is aimed at tackling some of the major barriers that are preventing more people from walking and cycling.

This should be music to the ears of any right thinking cycle campaigner but let us not underestimate the challenges he faces in this ambition.

First he needs to get people out of cars. Down here on Carmarthen Bay there is a strong and vibrant tradition of leisure cycling. This is aided by the provision of some excellent cycle routes including The Millennium Coastal Route on NCN Route 4 and the Swiss Valley Trail – part of NCN 47. These routes are popular year round as can be evidenced by the number of people who drive their bikes to the car park, take them off the bike rack and go for a ride. Nice shiny people in nice shiny helmets riding nice shiny bikes around approximately 25 miles of traffic free paths. The challenge the minister faces is getting these people to leave the car in the drive. The minister wants people to walk and cycle so here is an example of what he faces:-

Saturday was a beautiful sunny day so we went to Burry Port beach which is about 1/2 mile walk from the nearby shops and cafes, it is however about a 2 mile round trip by road. I overheard a family discussing lunch (chips etc), the mother asked for the car keys so she could drive to the chippy. This meant a walk to the car park (about 1/3rd of the total walking distance) then the aforementioned 2 mile drive. She could see the shops from the car park! With this kind of attitude what chance is there of her cycling or walking anywhere? I’m sure that this isn’t unusual or limited to South West Wales but it is worrying.

Another challenge the minister faces is reversing decades of appalling, thoughtless planning. NCN Route 4 is almost literally on my doorstep – I cycle 300 hundred yards on traffic calmed roads and I’m on the traffic free path. I can cycle from Kidwelly to Lougher completely bypassing Llanelli town centre – and there’s the rub, bypassing Llanelli town centre!* In fact you don’t only bypass Llanelli, you avoid the out of town shops at Trostre and Pemberton and the Hospital at Dafen. There is a really good, fast road from Llanelli Town Centre to Trostre which avoids the alternative brutal climb, sadly it is horrible to cycle unless mixing it with 60 MPH traffic is your forte – cycle lanes would have been so easy to put in when it was built…..ah well. It’s not limited to cycling. Try walking between Trostre Park and Pemberton (about 300 yards). Frankly it’s safer to catch a bus!

This poor planning is still going on. Llanelli town centre is undergoing massive redevelopment in an effort to reverse the decline caused by the aforesaid out of town site. Eventually this will include planned cycle routes addressing my point above however, when I first saw the plans I noticed something missing – bike parking – yep, they want us to ride our bikes but don’t you dare think of getting off them to go shopping!

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A Mile Post on NCN 4 looking across to the Gower

I’m lucky, Carmarthenshire Council recognise the value the cycling can bring to the county and they want to work with the various cycling bodies. I also have a strongly supportive MP in Nia Griffith however, I don’t believe that this is the case across Wales. In addition, the Welsh Ramblers, in an attempt to get their retaliation in first have also announced their opposition to any attempts to allow cyclists to share their paths.

Obviously far too many Welsh Ramblers are mown down by kids cycling to school or people riding to the shops and we must be supportive in stopping this carnage…….the fun begins. The Millennium Cycle Route is a shared path and I haven’t yet heard of any fatalities – most people – even Ramblers are considerate. However, to be honest, I’d rather not share cycle paths with pedestrians, footpath conversions are often a lazy cheap option favoured by highways departments.  Then again, there are many places where the pedestrian usage is so light that it wouldn’t make any difference.

We are in a fantastic position to influence the active transport policy of an entire country, maybe we should be replying to the consultation suggesting that all Traffic Planners and Highways Engineers take a trip to The Netherlands to see how it should be done before they start!

*actually there is a route from NCN4 to the town centre but it is not well signposted – I’ve successfully missed it despite cycling up and down the path probably 60 times. It is not signed at all from the Discovery Centre the main stop off point on the path!

Posted by: carmarthenbaywatcher | May 2, 2012

Anniversaries, Elections and a bad lunch!

Mrs Carmarthenbaywatcher and I have just celebrated 30 years of marital bliss. Our married years have seen some incredible changes in the British national memory.

We met a few weeks into Maggie Thatchers premiership and  married the day after British forces landed in the Falklands. We survived the grim days of the 1980s – the Miners strikes and the subsequent closure of the pits and the death of British heavy industry, we joined CND as nuclear annihilation seemed imminent and rejoiced with the ex-commies as walls came tumbling down. We watched in disbelief as the Tories committed political public Hari Kari not once with the back stabbing of Thatcher but twice with the dirty dealings of ministers in the 1990s. The election of Blair in 1997 should have heralded a sparkling new era but within weeks, Chancellor Brown shafted all married couples and mortgagees and we were suddenly £97 a month poorer. Obviously Brown’s raiding of the pension funds screwed us even more and the failure to halt rail privatisation made my daily commute increasingly expensive – this despite John Prescott promise to resign if he didn’t fix the UK’s transport system. Well, Two Jags Prescott like all politicians hung on like grim death and my commute got worse. Then Blair lied us into an illegal war and like idiots the Great British public voted for him again (go figure!). Brown eventually got in and screwed up leaving us in the mess we are now with the poor getting poorer and the rich getting let off.

So dear reader, what is the point of this? Well, 30 years of marriage has taught me a serious lesson:-

  • There is nothing wrong with inertia – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

This is where politicians go wrong, they can’t leave well enough alone and it’s why I won’t vote Plaid tomorrow. the LibLabCons have consistently ruined my life (and that of millions others) but the new leader of Plaid Cymru is a republican and she want’s to dump the Queen! Why? Well the only reason that she (and most republicans) can give is the “it’s not fair”. It’s not fair that an unelected member of a privileged family is our head of state. Well guys, I’ve got news for you, Grow Up! Life’s not fair.

OK, that’s a bit pithy and flippant but (aside from the president of the US), how many elected heads of state can you name? Go on, who’s the President of Germany or Ireland? HM The Queen is universally admired and we should be proud of her. In an earlier life I swore allegiance to the Crown – not a flag or a person but to a concept and it was explained to me that this meant that nobody was above the law. I liked that idea and I’ve not seen a better alternative.

This all leaves me with a big problem. I won’t vote for Labour, Liberals or Conservatives and now Leeanne Woods has blown away my Plaid vote……..

Yesterday I took Mrs Carmarthenbaywatcher to Carmarthen for a nice romantic lunch in a Harvester (OK our real romantic meal was still to come). Sadly, Harvester could have tried harder. The new Harvester in Carmarthen has all the ambiance of a 1970s bus station caff with acoustics to match. Why is it that you can hear the whinging  baby three tables away and the tsk tsk tsk tsk of the music system but can’t hear your companion across the table? Anyway we only went there because I had a yearning for Sharing Nachos but the mean portion size and overall meal experience means that we won’t share them there again!

At last, the weather is getting a bit warmer so I can get out on the bike again and start writing about serious stuff. In the meantime I spotted a really good  bit of bike path marking overkill yesterday on NCN Route 4 just outside Carmarthen where the county council have put Stop markings on the bike path on either side of a gated private drive! Come that glorious day comrade…….

Posted by: carmarthenbaywatcher | April 11, 2012

Hello world. Life may well be a beach!

Croeso, Welcome, Bienvenido etc..

Well, if by some amazing miracle you’ve ended up here, sorry we’re not quite open for business.

Come back in a few days for ramblings on cycling, fishing, and other stuff that may or may not happen on the edge of Carmarthen Bay.

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