During the night at Aberdovey we heard the rain pouring down and it was still very wet when we got up. We got into conversation with our hostess, who was a very charming woman. Discussing our position on a large map which was produced, someone mentioned it was a pity to miss seeing Ireland when we were so close to it. It was suggested that as I was so fond of Irish stew it would be a good idea to ascertain exactly how it was made in the country of its origin. This went on for so long that in the end we had decided to go across for three days, seeing that we were already ahead of our programme.
We therefore left with plans all made for the trip. After having the best breakfast since we had arrived in England and having also slept in the most comfortable bed with Vi-spring mattresses we felt ready for a big day. The rain was most disappointing, as we went through the best scenery in Wales and yet could not get any photos. I took one or two snaps where the light was not so bad, but there were very many places where I had to simply pass on disappointed.
At Barmouth I made preliminary enquiries about the boats to Dublin and was told we would have to present our passports. This presented a difficulty, as we had not brought them with us. They told us in the office that we could obtain full information at Caernarvon. We went on our journey to talk about our new venture and to admire the different scenery.
Previously we had roads with walls of earth. Now we were going through country with nothing but stone walls. The whole countryside seemed to be filled with stones. We saw high hills of bare stone. There were stone walls dividing the paddocks or fields.
Farmhouses were built of the same rough stones. There were barns, stables and other outhouses built of the same material.
Mile after mile there were the same stones.
We also saw more of the rhododendrons on the roadside. I do not remember whether I mentioned how these grow wild on almost every road from London. In most cases they were a pinky blue colour, but occasionally we saw bright red ones. To-day we saw them by the hundred and the blooms were beautiful.
We also saw some sheep on the road to-day for the first time. They are smaller than our sheep and their tails are not cut. It seemed so strange to see these long tailed sheep moving slowly on the road. We had previously noticed that the sheep in the fields had long tails, but this was the first time we had seen a flock on the road.
There seems to be something of special interest for us to see every day. Yesterday we came across what is called “The Devil’s Bridge”. This is a modern iron structure curiously superimposed on two earlier stone bridges. The lowest one is known to have been in existence in the year 1188 A.D. It is generally supposed to have been built by the monks about 1080. The metal bridge was erected over the other one in 1753. The third bridge was built only a few years ago right over the other two.
Another feature of this weird spot is the volume of water which passes through a narrow cleft in the rock only a couple of feet wide. The force with which it runs and drops has worn the rock at one spot and a pot hole has been formed in which the water whirls in a circle with tremendous force. Wordsworth composed a sonnet to this tarn in 1824.
All the time we were enjoying the beauty of the country we were discussing our visit to Ireland. Of course, we would have to go to Killarney to see the lakes and we would have to buy some real Irish linen. We went through Harlech and saw the old castle as we passed by. At P e n r h y n d e u d r a e t h we had lunch. Now, please don’t stumble over a word of four syllables! Perhaps I might add that it is supposed to be the longest name for any town in Wales.
When we reached Caernarvon I immediately went to the customs office to make enquiries about Ireland. The officer rang through to the office at Holyhead and I was pleased to learn that it was not necessary to present passports and I was also told that the A.A. man would make all arrangements regarding the shipping of the car. We then felt quite happy about the trip and in spite of the rain, which was still falling, we went on a tour of inspection of the Caernarvon Castle.
This castle is one of the most imposing in the United Kingdom. It was started in 1285 and the building was not completed until 1322. Now most of it is in ruins, but these ruins are most interesting.
We spent about an hour going over it and just as I was leaving I saw the castle key which was presented to the King only a short time ago when it was handed over to him on behalf of the nation. This key weighs five pounds and is padlocked to a heavy chain so that it cannot be removed. I got the man in charge to unlock it and hold it while I took his photo.
It was now getting late in the afternoon and we still had about 40 miles to go before we reached Holyhead, from which port we were to sail for Ireland. At Bangor we turned to the island of Anglesey and went over the very high Menai suspension bridge. We were only permitted to go at 4 miles per hour and when I looked over the side of the bridge it made me feel dizzy.
We arrived at Holyhead at 5.30, just as the A.A. man had left for tea. I made enquiries at the shipping office concerning fares, etc. and then went to have some tea ourselves so that we could get back to have the car attended to by the A.A. man when he returned at 7.30.
I got back before he had arrived and went on board the boat to see what the accommodation was like. I found it was not as good as I had expected. All the ladies slept in open bunks down one side of the ship and the men sleep in similar bunks on the other side. However, I thought it would only be for one night and as we were only on the ocean for a little over three hours it would not make much difference whether we slept or not. Then I saw the A.A. man, and crash went the whole scheme. I could not take the car because I did not have the proper papers, nor could I get a car over in Ireland as I did not have an international driving licence. In fact, there were so many difficulties in the way that in about three minutes he had convinced me that the trip was quite impracticable and I had to break the news to the others that our much-talked-of trip was quite impracticable and was now “off”.
With great disappointment we retraced our steps and drove as quickly as possible back into Caernarvon and on to Llanberis, where we arrived just before 10 o’clock.
Unfortunately, on account of being late we did not do as well as last night in the selection of a place to stay the night, but we managed to get a good sleep and a breakfast in the morning.
When we left at about 9 o’clock the weather was still bad and we ran into rain almost immediately.
This was very disappointing, as we were then going through the Llanberis Pass which is quite different from anything we had previously seen on our trip.
On the right was Mt. Snowdon, which is the highest mountain in England and Wales. It is not a high mountain as we know them in New Zealand, for we would scarcely call it a hill. However, it is well known and many people come to ascend by the railway which runs almost to the summit.
On the other side of the pass were the slate quarries. These were mountains about the same size, but they were nothing but slate. The road winds between the hills for several miles and the rough and rocky country were very majestic this morning and their beauty and majesty was no doubt enhanced by the rain which gave the hills a misty appearance. I took a couple of photos. but do not expect to get a result worth while.
We then went on to Betws-y-Coed. This place was well known to us by name as Rozie’s mother had frequently mentioned it. We found it very pretty . The buildings were all built of a dark slaty stone and in the rain they looked very uncommon. I again tried to get some photos. but do not know whether I met with success.
We now decided to give up the itinerary laid down by the A.A. people and pay a special visit to Stoke-on-Trent where the Wedgwood pottery is situated, as I was given a letter of introduction to these people and also one to another pottery firm in the same town. This meant going over 100 miles out of our way, but that was a small item if we could see the famous Wedgwood pottery.
On the first piece of new road we entered, by the way, was a large factory and a settlement of houses built along the same lines, which indicated that they were owned by the people running the factory. These turned out to be the property of the Aluminium Co. of Dolgarrog. I went down and was successful in seeing the manager and he very kindly gave us a man to show us around the huge works. We followed the process from the smelting of the ore from Iceland, which was like coarse flour, to the finished pieces ready for delivery. They use a tremendous amount of electricity for this work and they make their own from the water of a lake a few miles away, at a cost of ¼d. per unit.
The ore is smelted for four days by means of electrical power and it is then run off into negatives. We saw these negatives being rolled and that was the most interesting part of the work we saw. They put in a block of aluminium about 6” thick and 18” wide and 2′ long. By means of great rollers these blocks are rolled out into sheets 10′ long in two or three minutes. The pressure is so great at first that the aluminium actually caught fire. We then followed the sheets through all the other stages of rolling and cutting, the whole inspection taking over an hour.
We hurried on through several little towns and had our lunch at Conway, which is a couple of hundred yards from the old Conway Castle. We arrived at Stoke-on-Trent at 7 p.m. and found it to be much larger than we expected, but very dirty. As it is purely an industrial centre we expected to see some soot about, but the buildings were very close to being black altogether. Being very weary we retired to bed early to get a good start in the morning to see several of the potteries before we went on our way, as previously arranged.