The road to North Wales

The road to North Wales

Despite my love of travel, in the grand scheme, I’m not very well travelled. In fact, I’ve barely touched the sides of the UK. My photography in the UK very rarely exceeds a roughly 70 mile radius of home, which is why Wales feels like another world. Another world I was hell bent on checking out.

A month or so prior to the trip I was doing my usual internet travels, browsing the popular section of Instagram, when I came across a photo of what looked like a row of abandoned houses surrounded by winding and twisting tree branches. It was beautiful, yet slightly haunting. I'm a lover of history and the many quirks of this crazy little island and in true fashion, something about this photo really captured my imagination. I spent the rest of the evening diving in and out of Google Maps and exploring various areas on the app. It wasn’t long before I established that this photo that had consumed my evening was taken was from above an active slate quarry in North Wales. Not the sort of place you would associate with captivating photography, but hey ho.

Dinorwic Barracks - These buildings were once used as temporary homes for the workers that travelled from around the UK to work on the quarry.

For whatever reason, I’d never considered Wales, let alone North Wales as a photographers paradise, which may have been my lack of travel or pure naivety. At the end of the day North Wales is home to one of the highest peaks on this island, Snowdonia. An idea was born. I jumped straight on to the Messenger app and messaged my good friend and frequent photography travel companion Damon to get his take on travelling to North Wales for a night. In true Damon fashion, he was sold. When it comes to exploring and travel, we're pretty aligned. Not long after, we found ourselves booking rooms in the Travelodge at Holyhead, which also happened to place us just 10 minutes drive from South Stack Lighthouse... Coincidence? I think not!

Roll on Friday 31st March 4pm, when I fight my way, eagerly, through the rush hour traffic streaming up through Rodley and Horsforth to grab Damon, so our exciting little weekend could get off the ground. With our team Leeds Rhinos playing the night before our drive to Wales, Damon stayed the night at our house to watch the Rugby. Given the performance, the conversation about rugby ends right here. (Damn you, Rhinos!). On our way back to Pudsey, we had to pass the Calverley Arms, and of course it would be rude not to.

Boy was I excited. When I'm behind a camera or exploring, the world ceases to exist for a while, the realities of life; finances, relationships, mental health, surgery... It all vanishes in to a little cloud that finds its way back to Pudsey waiting for me to return so it can open up like a proverbial storm all over my susceptible little mind.

Saturday 1st April, 4am I find myself awake checking my phone and watching the minutes tick away until my 5am wake up call but nope, I'm ready to get up and go... Yep, I'm like a child at Christmas. I packed up all my gear, roused Damon from his slumber and jumped in to the photography mobile... Also known as my little Vauxhall Astra. I generally enjoy driving, unless it's the rush hour crawl in to a city centre, but taking to the roads early morning is an almost blissful experience. Nothing but you, your thoughts, the open road and the occasional truck driver carrying our important goods to their next destination. Long before the idiots arrive to make you question your driving licence, you're pulling up in your first destination and unloading your camera. Ahhh. Success.

40 minutes after taking to the roads we arrive at destination 1, and quite possibly the most important destination of all... Birch Services. The blue shine of the Greggs sign like a holy beacon sent to save us all, except it was closed for another 20 minutes. I anxiously awaited my breakfast, wondering if I'd make it. One chocolate muffin later (yes, it is breakfast, just don't tell my surgeon), and a bottle of Oasis and I'm rip roaring and ready to go. We jump on to the slip road, back on to the splendour of the M62 and within what feels like minutes we're crossing the threshold in to the land of the sheep. Another 30 minutes or so and we arrive at our first photography destination, Llanrwst. Llanrwst is home to possibly the most beautiful and the most famous tearooms anywhere in the UK. Yep that's right, I travelled to Wales to photograph a damn tearooms, what's the problem? Anyway, if you fancy a spot of tea then head to Tu Hwnt I'r Bont Tearooms and I'm sure you won't be disappointed. Tell them Glenn sent you, by the time this post goes out my photograph will be uber famous and I'll be revered as a god. Or at least I'm sure Karen from Etsy will say so. I hope. Please buy my photos? 🥹

Tu Hwnt I'r Bont Tearooms

Okay, what bones do I have to pick? Oh yes, the weather forecasters. I'm looking at you Met Office. For the weeks leading up to our trip, it went from sunny to rainy to hurricanes monsoons and armageddon level earthquakes... Okay maybe not, but they did change it every day so we couldn't be sure if we'd even make it to the land of the sheep. We did somehow get lucky and the weather was lovely and calm, but a tad on the grey side. Though anybody that has ever had me take photographs of them will know, I love cloudy skies. Although I do love a cloudy sky, I'm also a sucker for colourful sunrises or sunsets, however over the years, and with plenty of failed trips, i've taught myself that you don't always need that beautiful morning or evening light to grab great photos, you just need a positive mental attitude. A nice location does help too I guess. 👀 After all, those photos I spotted on Instagram weeks earlier of Dinorwic Quarry didn't suck me in because of the beautiful blues, oranges or pinks. In fact quite the opposite, the author had gone for an almost haunting feel with use of strong contrast and a bold subject. And yep, I stole his style. Though a quick google search shows everybody does the same thing because in life, we're all just imitating one another. On the conditions front, if you’re wanting the best colours, then maybe March is not the time to head out anyway. Wait until October. 🍂

The Menai Bridge with the mountains sitting pretty in the background

Over the course of the next several hours, we visited a couple of beautiful lakes surrounded by stunning peaks, hiked up the side of the quarry to visit the old barracks and even headed to the local tourist beach hotspot for a spot of lunch. By teatime, we were both feeling the effects of our early morning start and headed to the Travelodge for a much needed rest, which was the perfect opportunity to find another location to visit before we finished the evening sat on the cliff side by South Stack Lighthouse. What a day and what a country.  

We finished our trip on Sunday morning, with a visit to Penmon Point, a beautiful secluded beach area with a rocky coastline and a big lighthouse. Who doesn't love a lighthouse?! It proved to be the perfect final destination for some coastal photography and to grab some aerial footage for use in my silly little travel video. 3 hours later, we were home.

Penmon Point - A beautiful rugged coastline, apparently popular with fishers and photographers... No awards for guessing why.

It may seem odd that I've published this 6 weeks after the trip, but the truth is I wrote the majority of this in the 2 weeks that followed the trip, but then as it always does, life dropped a few dinosaur loads of turd on us and it has sat in my drafts folder ever since. I've spoke about my mental health troubles at length in the previous two posts so I won't get in to it too heavily here, but returning from trips is always a strong reminder of how distraction can do great things for the mind. Sadly it is never long before things seem to come over all dark again. The past 4 - 5 weeks have been pretty tumultuous. On the 5th May I should have been pushing past my fears and finally having this nasty little disease removed from my left ear, until I got given a swift taste of the state of health in our Great </sarcasm> country. After returning from Wales I was bouyed with a little bit of confidence and a will to get through this operation so I could resume 'normal life'. After all, my anaesthetist had told me I was in the right shape, my preop went successfully, my heart wasn't about to explode any time soon and my blood pressure although a little high (who doesn't have raised blood pressure when the wonders of modern medicine are staring you in the face)  was perfectly reasonable. Days later, like a punch to the jaw, Mr Anaesthetist mark 2 telling me I'm too much of a risk and thus my operation has to be cancelled and switched to the LGI at an unknown date to come. Now it would seem the private hospital that are 'caring' for me (he says loosely) have vanished in to a black hole and have seemingly decided I'm not worth the paper needed to keep me abreast of my own treatment.

Many will have heard the term 'black dog', for me the black dog has returned and is following me around again. Some days I do well and keep him on a lead, others I hate him and the world around me.

Maybe it's time for another photography trip?

Thanks again for reading another one of my daft little brain dumps, enjoy some more photos and a video from the wales road trip.

All my photos are available on me Etsy account, have a nosey: ☺️