“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.” ―
I don’t know if it is just me but I utterly fall apart January-March, my entire body goes into shut down waiting to emerge in the spring. And that is no exaggeration all my major life changes happen during this period, its as if I fall into disappear and just can’t cope so I make bad choices. But the second we hit spring I burst into life full of all the energy I have been saving up over the winter. I started this spring with my trip to Barcelona where I was reunited with the ocean, my heart aches for the sea regardless of the last time I visited. Nothing in nature calms my soul or excites my spirit in the same way as looking out into the vast emptiness.
The second the clocks went forward I was at the beach, ready to soak in the sea air and cleanse myself from my winter funk! I arrived at 11pm (it’s a good three-hour drive from my house but worth every second of it). I am not ashamed to say that I ran from my car to the shoreline, throw my arms in the air and filled my lungs, I must have looked like a lunatic. Once I managed to compose myself, it took a while I headed off to make sure I took in every inch of the area. I ran from one dune to the next like an excited child, bobbed my head around trees, liked down holes before collapsing to the ground to look for bunny shapes in the clouds.
“When was the last time you spent a quiet moment just doing nothing – just sitting and looking at the sea, or watching the wind blowing the tree limbs, or waves rippling on a pond, a flickering candle or children playing in the park?” Ralph Marston
In 1955 Newborough Warren and Ynys Llanddwyn was declared the first coastal National Nature Reserve in Wales. The forest was planted between 1947 and 1965 with Corsican pine trees for timber to protect the village of Newborough from wind-blown sand and to stabilise the shifting sand dunes.
Between 1940 and the early 1970s Newborough Forest was established with about 700 hectares given over to predominantly Corsican Pine afforestation. The remainder of this 950 hectare is Newborough Warren, salt marsh at Malltraeth and the sand dunes backing both Llanddwyn and Newborough beaches. The main purpose of the afforestation was to stabilise the mobile sand dunes and also create a source of wood, which was a vital national need during the 1940s.
One of the reasons I love Newborough so much is Ynys Llanddwyn a stunning little island which is only accessible once the tide is out, which was about 3pm at this time a year. The water was far too cold to swim across, so I curled up in the stand against a tree soaking up the spring sunshine and listening to the sea kiss the shore.
Ynys Llanddwyn (Ynys is Welsh for Island) is an enjoyable walk from Newborough beach and totally worth it, the views are stunning. The island is very rich in legends and in particular the association with Dwynwen. The name Llanddwyn means “The church of St. Dwynwen”. Dwynwen is the Welsh patron saint of lovers, making her the Welsh equivalent of St. Valentine. Her Saint’s day is 25 January and is often celebrated by the Welsh with cards and flowers. The island bears the ruined remains of St Dwynwen’s Church.
I won’t attempt to describe the story of St Dwynwen except to say that she was the daughter of a Welsh Prince and that the story of her unrequited love was not exactly happy, so she decided to live out the rest of her days as a hermit on Llanddwyn. With the views of Snowdonia and the Llyn Peninsula, I can think of worse places to live as a hermit! Being a true Christian she wished other lovers, the love she herself missed out on. Later lovers came to the well on Llanddwyn to see whether their partner was faithful. St Dwynwen’s Church became an important place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages but did not fare well in the Reformation. Dwynwen, the Welsh Patron Saint of Lovers has her Saint’s Day on January 25, the Welsh equivalent of St Valentine’s Day. The isle is also very attractive to lovers of geology. The rocks here are some of the oldest in Britain. They formed when this area was where tectonic plates met deep below the ocean. Lava oozed out forming the characteristic pillow rocks on view today.
A Celtic and a plain cross dominate the skyline of Llanddwyn from many directions. One cross was erected at the end of the 19th Century, the other at the start of the 20th. Both were erected by the island’s then owner, F G Wynn.
The poignant inscriptions on the Celtic cross read: “they lie around did living tread, this sacred ground now silent – dead“. In English on one side, and Welsh on another. Apparently, F G Wynn erected this cross to commemorate Llanddwyn Church, which at that time was largely ruined and overgrown.
The inscriptions on the plain cross, one on each side, read: “Dwynwen“; “in the sixtieth year of Queen Victoria 1897“; “in memory of St Dwynwen Jan 25th 1465“; and, “erected by the Hon F G Wynn owner of the isle“.
With it still be so early into the year the beach was almost empty, I came here last summer and the beach felt completely different. People who brave the chilly air to spend time at the beach are my kinda people!
The island is home to two lighthouses. Twr Bach (little tower) and Twr Mawr (big tower) are the two lighthouses on the south-east and south-west tips of Ynys Llanddwyn. A beacon, called Tŵr Bach, was built at the tip of the island to provide guidance to ships heading for the Strait. Another more effective lighthouse, Tŵr Mawr, which was modelled on the windmills of Anglesey, was built nearby in 1845. The older lighthouse has now returned to service after a modern light was placed on top.
“We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining- they just shine.” Dwight L. Moody
Before I knew it, it was time to head home, sad but feeling utterly refreshed and excited, exhausted, peaceful basically all the feels I am praying for an endless spring when flowers are forever blooming, hope lives in the air and beaches seem still a secret from the masses. Autumn feels like closing a chapter but my god does spring feel like opening a door to an old friend.