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I've just done a two day Welsh course at the outdoor pursuits centre near Bala. Normally the courses are held in the local college in town, a mere 10 minutes walk away, but the January one is always held in Glan Llyn and this is the first time I've been able to go because the college starts back the first normal working day after the New Year, so I've always been teaching.

It was a really good course and I think I am slowly improving. I have finally graduated to the top class and we spent the entire two days speaking nothing but Welsh. We even kept the conversation entirely in Welsh when we left the classroom for our morning tea break and the lunch break.

I've got out of the habit of early morning drives and the first day was bitterly cold overnight. I had taken the precaution of putting the covers on the car, so there wasn't all that much scraping to do to free the windows from ice. It was clear but cold at home, but I ran into thick mist near the lake and at morning tea break on the first day, the trees were white frost skeletons and you couldn't see across the lake at all. It was like something out of a fantasy film. But by lunch time, the sun had burned off the mist and this is what the lake looked like.

Deceptively sunny, it was actually pretty cold.

Glan Llyn, Bala

And another view showing more of the lake.

Glan Llyn, Bala

Of course the sun only lasted one day and it clouded over on Thursday night so that Friday was much warmer, but miserable and wet.
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This morning I noticed that the phantom slug has been wandering around the conservatory again. Every so often, I awake to find a meandering slug trail on the carpet tiled floor. I have tried, several times, to track it to see either where it came from or where it went, but it just seems to materialise out of thin air, wander about for a bit and then de-materialise. Or I suppose it could be a phantom snail. As I've not seen it, I'm just guessing as to species...

And in other news, I must go and buy diesel because I have an early start tomorrow as I'm driving up to Llandudno to meet one of the people who live in my computer.

Current Mood: pensive puzzled

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G wanted to explore another potential location for the geology book, so on Monday we set off to walk up the Trawsfynydd side of the Roman Steps.

The Roman Steps are not Roman and mostly are not steps, but that's the name of the footpath that leads from Trawsfynydd to the coast. There are places where there are rocky steps, but they're not Roman and the trail is reputed to have originally been part of the Medieval pack horse route from Harlech to Chester. I'm sure, however, that people have been crossing these mountains at this point since well before the Romans came, but there are Roman remains near the Trawfynydd side of the trail and in earlier times, anything ancient was given the label "Roman".

The day was very bright and clear, which meant there had been a sharp frost overnight. The single track lane leading up into the forest was very icy in places, but we made it safely to the car park. To our astonishment, there were several cars already there and the car that had been behind me on the main road had also followed me down the track. We hadn't realised the place would be so popular on a cold winter's day.

Rhinog Fawr (Big Rhinog): View near the start of the walk not long after leaving the car park.

Rhinog Fawr

More photos behind here...Collapse )

It was a gorgeous bright January day, but very frosty on the higher ground.

Roman Steps, looking back

It was also very difficult to take photos because of the contrast between the shaded foreground and the bright mountains in the distance.

Here's the point where we turned back. It's the top of the pass and gives a lovely view of Llyn Morwynion. It was so still, the lake was like a mirror.

Llyn Morwynion

Llyn Morwynion means "Lake of the Maidens". According to the Mabinogion, Blodeuedd's maid servants fled in terror when she was turned into an owl for her infidelity, but the girls lost their way and drowned in a nearby lake. However, I don't know whether they were supposed to have drowned in this lake or the one on the other side of Maentwrog which is also called Llyn Morwynion. Until this week, I'd always assumed it was the other one, but if they had decided to flee over the mountains to the coast, it would have been this one. I suspect it will have to remain a mystery.

Current Mood: accomplished accomplished

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Here we go again! It's a new year, it's a new weekly alphabet challenge.

1/52 for the group 2017 Weekly Alphabet Challenge

This week's theme was: A is for Artistic

As I'm not going to have much time for the rest of the week, I've done an artistic treatment of one of the photos I took on Monday on our walk in the Rhinogs.

Though I liked the artistic filter, I felt it was lacking something so I added a fancy frame. In case anyone is interested, this is the palette knife filter in PhotoShop Elements.

Gate into field with mountain
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Happy New Year! It looks like 2017 has installed correctly and I hope it's an upgrade on 2016. Though having said that, on a purely personal level, 2016 was pretty good for us. We finally retired and we started settling into a new life working on our own projects. If you had a good 2016, I hope that 2017 continues in the same vein, and if it was a difficult year, I hope that this new one is better.

Current Mood: peaceful peaceful

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This is a Public Service Announcement:

Unless and until LJ goes tits up, I'm not moving over to DW. I'm certainly not backing up all my posts over there because it feel dishonest to pretend that's where I originally posted stuff. Fear not, I do have an offline backup using LJ Archive, which is good enough for me.

It seems, however, that at least some of my friends have decided to move to DW, with or without cross-posting. I do have an account on DW, though it is currently dormant, but if you want me to see things over there, can you please check whether you have given me access? I am heleninwales on DW too. I will try to remember to look in over there a couple of times a week, but it is Another Place To Check, and I'm at my limit with social media, especially since I was promoted to moderator on Habitica, which is now possibly my most important online home, closely followed by LJ.

If there is general movement DW-wards, I may consider cross-posting again. I've done it in the past, but it was tedious to keep it up. Right now I'm just planning to sit tight and see what happens, but if there is a huge influx of LJ-ians, especially a load of Russian bloggers, then I have my doubts that DW will be able to cope, so it might not prove to be the haven that people think it will be.

To be honest, if LJ does fold or become unusable, I'm more likely to move somewhere like Tumblr for blogging than cross over to DW, though ultimately, we will have to wait and see.

Current Mood: calm calm

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There are supposed to be 52 weeks in a year, but we'd completed twice through the alphabet by last week. (I think it's something to do with the challenge weeks always starting on a Sunday.) So there was a week in hand which meant I could make up for the one week I missed in September.

Total weeks in 2016: 53
Total photos taken & uploaded: 52
Total missed: 1
Total off-topic photos: 8
Total on-topic photos: 44

Which is a slight improvement on last year when I only managed 41 on topic and missed 2.

Of course I've signed up again for next year. :)

Weekly alphabet challenge 2016 mosaic

1. Ready for an adventure, 2. Blue sky and snowy mountain, 3. Grey rainy evening, 4. Rock specimen, 5. Chwilen / Beetle, 6. Overgrown flight of steps, 7. Ground level, 8. Castell Deudraeth, 9. Mother's day flowers, 10. Jagged keys, 11. Be kind, 12. Old granite setts, 13. Moonlight, 14. New addition to the biscuit aisle, 15. Welsh scrabble, 16. A parting of the ways, 17. Blossom and snow shower, 18. Green mug, 19. Spring in the park, 20. Tourist coach, 21. Bee & Owl, 22. Vanity, 23. Western Cape Fairtrade Chardonnay-Viognier, 24. Xmas poster in June, 25. Bananas, 26. Brexit confusion, 27. Athletic, 28. Before & after, 29. Stuck!, 30. Delicate pink flower, 31. Ty Gwerin, 32. Rowan berries, 33. Having a grand time!, 34. Heavy horse, 35. Dragon milk, 36. Jar of wool 37. Garden Bridge protest, 38. Refuse collection, 39. Boats near and far, 40. Rowan & birch, 41. Pointed grave marker, 42. Gamifying your to-do list, 43. Recycling, 44. A sunny day at last!, 45. Worn tread, 46. Camden Lock, 47. Editor's viewpoint, 48. White lights on the tree, 49. eXtremely remote, 50. Yard, 51. Zenith, 52. View near Torrent Walk

Current Mood: accomplished accomplished

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We have several named walks locally. There is the Panorama Walk, the Precipice Walk, and the New Precipice Walk. I've done those three many times. There is also the Torrent Walk which, for some reason, I have never managed to do in nearly 40 years of living in the area.

The reasons for this omission are various. It is a pretty wooded valley with a river tumbling through it, but there are many similar ones locally and in fact, for about seven years, we used to live in one. Also it's a bit too far to walk from home and walking there would involved a tedious trek up the main road. And yet it scarcely seems worth driving there because by the time you've decided to drive, there are many more beautiful locations within easy reach.

But today, finally, I made it! G wanted to revisit with a view to including it as one of the locations in the geology book.

Trailing ivy

I don't think I've ever noticed ivy hanging in festoons like this. It reminded me of something out of a Tarzan film.

The river runs in a deep chasm at this point. more photos behind here...Collapse )

After completing the walk, when we emerged from the wooded valley and returned to the car, the sun had come out!

View near Torrent Walk
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As it was a fine day, I decided to get a jump start on one of my New Year Resolutions and work off some of yesterday's Christmas dinner by taking Boxing Day walk. It was just a few miles around the back lanes, but it was very pleasant and there was even some blue sky. (I can't remember the last day we saw blue sky.) Near the start of the walk I saw seven magpies today, flying across the clear sky. So I'm looking forward to something silver coming my way before too long. :)

Tree silhouette

On my way back home, I took this quick shot. This year we not only have a traditional Christmas tree in the town square and multiple small Christmas trees decorating the pubs and shops, we also have an illuminated tree in the park!

Tree lights

Current Mood: accomplished accomplished

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I braved the rain and wind this morning to buy the last few things we needed for Christmas. This afternoon I put up the tiny tree, so now I can hibernate until next Wednesday.

Our tiny Christmas tree
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