Category Archives: Beaches

The curve of the Cefni

One of the channels of the Afon Cefni that runs out to the sea across the Malltraeth Sands has slowly been making its way eastwards. Now, even at low tide, if you go to the furthest west point of the forest, you are within a few metres of the channel. And at even a moderate tide, the east side of the bay is full in a beautiful sweeping curve.

In previous years, this area has been popular with terns and all kinds of other shore birds: I suppose they’ll move over to the Bodorgan Estate this year – which may even be better, at least more peaceful, for them.


Malltraeth sands at high tide from the point where Dwynwen’s path reaches the beach

The only slight spoiler when I took the photo was the amount of scum at the water’s edge – I guess it was something washing down with the river as it was only along the Cefni’s edges.


Scummy foam on the tide

Funnily enough, as the Cefni is shifting in to the east, the Braint (the river that flows through Dwyran and comes into the Menai Strait just after the Rhuddgaer stepping stones) has been shifting to the north west – so between them, they’ve got a bit of a pincer movement going on.

Yesterday was the first day of British Summer Time. And if summer is as summer does, it was definitely summer here this weekend: blue skies, and flat calm blue seas.


Penrhos Beach – first day of summer time


Penrhos Beach complete with one of the many fish boxes and oil containers washed in from the boats…


Borne by the wind sailors

Velella velella – borne by the wind sailor. Sporadically, lots of these little creatures will be blown ashore on  Newborough’s beaches. It must be about 10 years since I last saw a big batch of them, so I’d been keeping an eye open for them all through the winter, thinking a stranding must be due. Today,when I thought we were too far into spring for me to spot them, here they were. Not in huge numbers, but quite a few.


Velella velellas washed ashore by the tide


Velella velella – borne by the wind sailor

Clearly when I found them today, they’d already been ashore for a few days: if they were fresh, they would have had a deep blue-ish colour to their footplate, the colour of a blue mussel shell. But by today, they were more or less deliquesced leaving just the clear chitinous structure.


The structure that remains when the living parts of the sailor have washed away

The site has lots of information and lovely pictures of these fascinating creatures that spend their lives sailing on the oceans at the whim of the wind.

(Incidentally, I’ve always known them as Velella-velella-borne-by-the-wind-sailors; the scientific and common name combined to make a little rhyme, but I notice that the ‘borne’ bit isn’t usually included.)

The calm after the storm

Yesterday storm Doris swept through Anglesey. For the first time I remember, the forest (and ostensibly the whole of the Nature Reserve) was announced to be “closed” due to dangerous conditions…

This morning, the sea was so calm it was hard to believe how powerful yesterday’s storm was.


Llanddwyn Bay

There was little detritus washed up on the beaches: there were a few clumps of dead man’s fingers (Alcyonium digitatum)* – some of them were quite large. Usually when I see these it is just single lobes, not whole “hands”.


Deadman’s fingers (I think) – Alcyonium digitatum

There were lots of branches, twigs and cones blown down; quite a few trees leaning with their root plates lifted; and a few of the dead trees along the postman’s path had blown over. Other than that, in the parts of the forest and the beaches I’ve visited so far, the storm seemed to have left little by way of destruction.


One of the small dead trees blown across the Postman’s Path

One nice thing is that after each storm, the wind banks up the sand more and more, repairing the cuts that NRW cut through the dunes along Penrhos Beach.


One of the cuts made by NRW in the dunes along Penrhos Beach – nature is working hard to block these off again…


*I struggled to find where the name Alcyonium originated from until I found a lovely old book in Google called The Nature Displayed in the Heavens and on the Earth, written by Simeon Shaw in 1823. He says that the Alcyonium part of the name comes from a supposed resemblance of some species to the nest of the kingfisher (halcyon). And I think this is what these blobs are, but wouldn’t know for sure.

A sea mouse and frozen sands

This little creature was washed up on the morning’s tide. It’s a sea mouse.


The underside of a sea mouse (Aphrodita aculeata)

I’ve never paid enough attention to these little creatures before, because usually it is their shaggy surface showing. But this one was upside down and its segments were clear to see, reminding me of a giant woodlouse. Then I picked it up and noticed its bristles and beautiful brassy fur down its sides.


This pictures doesn’t do it justice, but the “fur” down the sides of the “mouse” is beautiful and iridescent

The sea mouse isn’t a mouse, obviously: it’s actually a big fat worm! You can read more about them on the ecomare website. And see some fabulous microscope photos of sea mouse hairs on the Quekett website.

Today it was so cold on Penrhos beach that the soft sands above the tideline had frozen solid, creating a little frigid landscape of miniature mesas and buttes.


Frozen sands with their miniature desert-style landscape

The Athena goes into hiding

Earlier this year, the remains of the Athena were more exposed than they have been for a long time.


The wreck of the brig Athena in May 2016

But gradually the sand level on Penrhos beach has got higher and higher and now you’d be hard pressed to even spot where the Athena lies.


The Athena looking towards Llanddwyn May 2016


The Athena early October 2016


The last stubs of the Athena poking through the sand 25th October 2016

(Maybe she was fed up of being photographed so much!)

Barrel jellyfish on the spring tide


These two jellyfish were washed in on the high “spring” tide this morning. I flipped one over, and I think they are barrel jellyfish (aka dustbin lid jellyfish – although these were only about 16″ across).


The last few nights have seen the highest tides of the year – and it will be a few years before they are so high again. But, because the weather has been so gentle, the tides have done very little damage; hardly even altering the shoreline.

The term “spring” in spring tide comes from old northern European languages meaning to burst (like a pipe springs a leak). The opposite is the “neap” tide, which means pinched (like nip) or scanty.