Sunday, 30 September 2012

Singing for William Hill in Llandudno

It was great to be a member of the choir at St Paul’s Llandudno on Saturday 29th September. We formed at 10am, a very mixed bag in which most people already belonged to a choir and were familiar with the pieces to be sung.

For some reason I had assumed the choir would be much bigger than the forty we were and was feeling a bit exposed at being 20% of the bass line! But Michael crossed over from the tenors and then we were six.

At 7:30pm we were on stage by the altar singing a bit of Messiah and then the ‘Palestrina’ but my favourite was Vivaldi’s Gloria. With Chris like a tuning fork on my left and Michael on my right, nudging me when to sing or stop, and various hand movements to indicate a wrong note or which bar we were in – I muddled through and loved the experience. My first time in a choir since schooldays.

Our goal was to help raise funds for the William Hill organ installed back in 1910. A total of £150K is needed but I think sufficient funds are now available for at least the bellows to be fixed. This is what a 102 year old organ sounds like in a cold church with a very high ceiling:

Thanks everyone for making it such a great occasion and to Alison Smith for organising it.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Campbell’s to Blaenau with views

This year’s mini-fest of walking began with a breezy walk to Bwlch Stwlan, along the miners’ tramway then across the plateau to Rhosydd. From here to Cwm Corsiog and up the ridge, with deep views of Cwmorthin, to Llyn Conglog whose fish were wiped out in the severe winter of 1947. In recent years members of the Cambrian Angling Club have carried some 25,000 baby wild brown trout by rucksack for release in what must be the highest fishing lake in Wales. 

Onwards from here it was virgin ground for me with great 360° views. From Allt Fawr, below us the wasteland of the Oakeley and Gloddfa Ganol quarries with Blaenau behind.  Across, the spectacle of downhill bikers, dropped at the top by yellow mini bus, snaking down the mountainside.  

We followed the ridge down onto and across The Crimea past ‘Esgidiau Meirw’, the pile of military surplus ‘dead boots’ burnt here at the end of the war.  All that remains are the rusty eyelets, nails and horseshoe bits for toe and heel. There was once a monumental stone, but that disappeared some years ago.  

Onwards up Moel Farlwyd then Moel Penamnen, down across the moorland to the incline above Maenofferen. Negotiating the path, overgrown with rhododendron ponticum, was not easy – must do something about this. Finally, into the centre of Blaenau with slate sculptures and a smart looking Gwesty Tŷ Gorsaf where once was a grotty Queens Hotel.

After seven hours of walk the tea and carrot cake of the Bridge Café were most welcome. Then steam back to Campbell’s? We missed our connection so Sue kindly picked us up.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

One man and his dog

September heather is blooming. Bracken is turning to gold. First cranberries are out on the sphagnum moss. Dragon and damselflies are making the most of late sunshine.  Wild brown trout are high up the small stream.  And Molly could fetch Frisbee all day long. It's one of the best times of year.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Dragon’s Back Race past Campbell’s Cottage

From Conwy Castle past Campbell’s Cottage to Carreg Cennen Castle – a mere 186 miles and 45,000 feet of elevation in five days. Eighty four competitors set out at 07:00 on 3rd September and I went to meet them as they reached their overnight camp two miles east of Beddgelert. That first day took them over seventeen summits including all the Welsh 3000s.

The front runner, Steve Birkinshaw, made it in just under ten hours. He had been weighed at Conwy and by the end of that day was 3.5 kg lighter. Having drunk 6.5 litres of water along the way, that means he must have sweated 10 litres!

Steve said it had been tough, especially the run over Crib Goch, and only thirty seven of the competitors completed that first day. The reward for those who were slow or did not complete was an earlier start the following day at 06:00. Up Cnicht, Moelwyn Mawr, Moelwyn Bach, past Campbell’s Cottage then the Rhinogydd and overnight camp at the old abbey north of Dolgellau.

Twenty eight completed the full course on 7th September at Carreg Cennen Castle (near Llandeilo) with Steve in overall first position in 43 hours 25 minutes followed by Rob Baker in 45 hours 22 minutes. Helene Whitaker was in fourth position with 49 hours and 10 minutes – she had the benefit of running and winning the race when it was last held twenty years ago in 1992.

Dragon's Back Race and results.

Steve running into the first camp:

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Singing for the Organ

Long ago I stopped making negative new year resolutions, like less this and that. These days, after a glass of wine, I like to be enthusiastic and that’s how I ended up with sore knees and a big smile at the end of my first trail marathon. My other resolution for this year was to join a choir and perform in a concert. But time had been running out with little progress until a fortuitous invite arrived by email.  

I’ve applied and, even though I explained my lack of experience, have been accepted into the choir that will be formed on Saturday morning (29th September) to perform A Fistful of Glorias that evening. The venue is St Paul’s Church Llandudno and the cause is the William Hill (nothing to do with gambling) organ, installed in 1910, which needs a £150,000 overhaul.

By 7.30pm I’ll be in my suit ready to sing Vivaldi’s Gloria and Glorias by Bach, Handel, Palestrina and Weelkes. If you’d like to join the choir, please contact Alison Smith on 07955 070885 or by email to If you’d like to enjoy the concert I am assured there are some proper job singers and all you need do is arrive and make a donation.