Places to visit over Easter

With the Easter holidays upon us I thought I’d share some of my easy to get to, favourite places in Wales, that are well worth a visit for a day out.

1. Rhossili, The Gower

If going to the coast is your thing over the holidays why not visit one of the best beaches anywhere in the UK. Whether it be endless sand to enjoy games on the beach, shipwrecks to explore or a walk along the coast path towards Worm’s Head. Rhossili has it all, the views are breathtaking. If you’ve never visited, why not?

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The shipwreck of the Helvetia on Rhossili beach

2. Gigrin Farm, Rhayader

If you love wildlife and birds of prey then Gigrin Farm in Rhayader is a must. Not far from the beautiful Elan Valley, the farm is home to the Red Kite feeding centre. Feeding is 3:00 every afternoon (after the clocks change in March) and takes place every day of the year. The spectacle of seeing so many Red Kites, which once faced extinction in Wales, is a sight to behold.

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Red Kite at Gigrin Farm

3. Big Pit National Coal Museum

Learn about the heritage of mining in Wales. See and hear how coal was king and how Welsh coal powered the world. Underground tours give you the real experience of the conditions miners faced every day. There is plenty more to see in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Blaenavon as well, the Ironworks, the steam railway and beautiful scenery looking out over the Sugarloaf from the Keepers Pond.

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Big Pit National Coal Museum, Blaenavon UNESCO World Heritage Site.

4. Raglan Castle

If you love history and grand buildings then Raglan Castle is a great place to visit. A late castle by Welsh standards with work beginning in the 1430s. It played host to one of the last sieges of the Civil War, when it held off parliamentarian forces for thirteen weeks. If you are good with heights check out the view from the Great Tower over the rolling Welsh countryside.

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Raglan castle

5. Ogmore Castle

Another beautiful ruin of a castle. Ogmore Castle dates from around 1100. The castle is open daily from 10:00 – 4:00. If the water level is low try out the famous stepping stones. If you’re looking for a walk why not explore Merthyr Mawr, which you can walk to along the path from the castle.

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Ogmore castle

6. Newport Wetlands

A great place to visit for a stroll or for spotting wildlife. There are a number of different routes around the reserve that you can take, bird watching hides are available looking out over the reed beds, there is also a visitors centre where you can grab some refreshments while watching the birds. Why not check out the East Nash Lighthouse, one of the smallest lighthouses on the Wales Coast Path.

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Views from the Newport Wetlands reserve

7. Llanthony Priory

The ruins of the priory date from around 1100 and are found a short drive outside of Abergavenny. Set within the Brecon Beacons National Park the priory is backed by the beautiful Black Mountains. Not far from here is the world famous Skirrid Inn, why not stop here too, one of the oldest inns in Wales.

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The ruin of Llanthony Priory

These are just a few suggestions, but there’s loads of amazing places in Wales to visit. So get out exploring.

If you need more inspiration for places to visit, check out some of the places on my website: www.nathanaeljonesphotography.com or on Instagram: www.instagram.com/nathanaeljones

All the images used in this blog are the copyrighted property of Nathanael Jones.

Friday roadtrip

Yesterday my wife Claire, my son Noah and I headed off on a roadtrip through Mid Wales to the edge of the Snowdonia National Park and then back down the coast through Ceredigion before heading home via Lampeter and Llandovery.

The journey in total was just over 260 miles. We left at 8ish in the morning and got home at 17:30, not bad for a day out.

We got to take in some of the most beautiful scenery in Wales. And visit some new places that we hadn’t been to before.

For Noah who is nearly 3 the journey was very exciting. From the tractor shop at Builth Wells to the cows, sheep, horses and red kites throughout the trip. The highlight for him though was two passes by an American special forces MC-130J (Hercules), once just outside Machynlleth and then again straight over the town at somewhere near 600-700ft. There was a very big “Wow” from the back seat. Another highlight was the choo choo train crossing the level crossing in front of us just outside Borth.

First stop was Machynlleth. The Powys town is full of history with the Clock Tower at the centre of the town instantly recognisable. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to visit, to photograph this beautiful places with its backdrop of mountains. Machynlleth was also the location of Owain Glyndwr’s parliament in 1404. Glyndwr was a legendary Welsh ruler and the last native Welsh man to hold the title Prince of Wales.The building on the site where the parliament once stood now houses historic artefacts related to him.

Another photo stop was the Museum of Modern Art near the Clock Tower before heading to the Pont-ar-Ddyfi bridge over the River Dyfi which sits on the edge of the town on the A487.

From here we headed to the RSPB Nature Reserve at Ynys Hir, famous for its Osprey visitors every spring. It’s one of the only places in Wales to see Ospreys.

The next section took us down the Ceredigion coast. First stop was Borth, somewhere neither me or Claire had been before. We all enjoyed a good walk along the pebbles even finding some perfectly shaped shells.

We then made the short trip to Clarach Bay another new location for us. Here we parked up over looking the beach and again had a nice walk in the fresh air. It was picnic time, taking in the sea views with hardly a cloud in the sky. The Welsh coast at its mesmerising best.

After lunch we travelled through Aberystwyth and on to Llanon. The views from the coast road just outside Llanon are spectacular. Our stop here coincided with a farmer feeding his sheep and lambs which were grazing in a field over looking the coast. They were perfectly placed to be in the foreground of an image with the coast behind them.

From Aberaeron we started to head home, via Lampeter, Llandovery, Brecon and Abergavenny.

Wales at its finest with spring well and truly in the air.

You can see more of my images here: www.nathanaeljonesphotography.com

With Ceredigion images here: www.nathanaeljonesphotography.com/Ceredigion

Port Eynon

Port Eynon on the Gower Peninsula has special memories for me, it’s where the majority of our family holidays were spent when I was young, at Highfields caravan park over looking Port Eynon bay.

Port Eynon is the most southernly point on the Gower Peninsula and has a beautiful sandy beach, it’s a great place for making cool images. As well as the beautiful bay, there are also plenty of historical features to explore and incorporate into images.

The ruin of the Salt House on the sea front is perfect for adding some drama to a landscape. It has been extensively excavated and is a listed historic building. Stories say that the Salt House was linked by an underground tunnel to Culver Hole for smuggling and piracy.

Culver Hole is another historic location. Follow the Wales Coast Path up on to Port Eynon point and walk along the headland. The Culver Hole is found on a narrow steep path that drops down from the cliff top and Overtone Mere. The Culver Hole will not be visible until you get to the bottom of the path. It’s tall thin structure stretching up into the cliff side.

Every time I visit here I still find it amazing how it was ever built into the cliff face. The coast here is daunting, with jagged unforgiven rocks. At high tide the sea fills this area, so be aware. Stories tell of smugglers and pirates waving lanterns from the Culver Hole to draw ships onto the rocks and then take their cargo. It’s a location that still causes debate, smugglers hideout or elaborate dove cot?

The coastline at Port Eynon is notoriously hazardous and there are many shipwrecks that highlight its reputation.

One shipwreck that can still be seen is that of the SS Blue Bell, which floundered on the rocks here on February 15th 1913. All 12 crew survived and made it to shore.

At low tide you can walk to the remains of Blue Bell from Culverhole. Walking over the jagged rocks is hard going though, so you should take care. Always monitor the tide times, the tide comes-in fast here. Tide Times is a useful mobile app which I always use when I’m at the coast.

From Port Eynon Point the wreck can clearly be seen in the rocks below at low tide.

Another historic monument is found in the village at St Cattwgs churchyard. The marble statue of a lifeboat crewman remembers the Port Eynon lifeboat disaster of New Years Day 1916. Lifeboat Janet responded to distress signals from S.S. Dunvegan. Whilst trying to get to the stricken ship Janet capsized multiple times, with 3 crew men being lost.

The RNLI still have a lifeboat station at Port Eynon, it is situated close to the beach at Horton if you want to visit it.

Another wreck which cannot be seen is that of the Prince Ivanhoe which sank here in 1981. Everyone was rescued but sadly one person later died of a heart attack. For years the wreck was marked in the bay with 2 large marker buoys, it was a favourite spot for divers. The buoys have been removed now and it’s unclear how much of the ship actually remains.

You can see more of my Port Eynon and Gower images at www.nathanaeljonesphotography.com/Gower

and on my Instagram www.instagram.com/nathanaeljones

St David’s Day mission

About 10 days ago I was contacted by Visit Wales and asked if I would submit images to be used by them on St David’s Day.

Visit Wales have shared my images from Instagram on their Twitter and Instagram accounts before.

The brief was that the images had to be easily identifiable as Wales and if possible have references to St David’s Day, so beautiful daffodils in bloom. Images of spring were also wanted, lambs and their mothers and flowers.

I jumped at the opportunity and over the last 2 weekends set about getting possible images.

Locations I visited included:

  • Caerphilly Castle
  • Castell Coch (twice)
  • Abergavenny Castle
  • Big Pit National Coal Museum
  • Talgarth
  • Brecon
  • Usk
  • Chainbridge

12 images were submitted and 2 were used on the Wales Facebook page, which you can view on the link.

It was a magical mystery tour of places I hadn’t been to in years. My son Noah loved it too, especially the castles, Abergavenny seemed a particular favourite of his with room to run around and explore.

I went to Castell Coch twice, the first time it was veiled in heavy mist and looked very eerie. The daffodils had only just started to open. So I returned a week later when the skies were lighter and a few more dafs had opened.

The search for lambs took me to Abergavenny, Talgarth and Brecon without a single lamb being spotted. I then tried Usk, Chainbridge and Goytre with more success.

Here are a selection of the images I made over those 2 weekends.

You can see more of my images on my website including my gallery of Welsh castles and monuments.

Guardian

I visited Six Bells this afternoon near Abertillery in South Wales.

The reason I went to Six Bells was to photograph Guardian. The incredible giant sculpture of a miner which looks towards the former colliery town with outstretched arms “a Welsh answer to Antony Gormley‘s Angel of the North.”

What is the significance of the sculpture? On June 28 1960, an underground explosion killed 45 miners at the Six Bells colliery. For the 50th anniversary of the disaster in 2010, the sculpture designed and created by artist Sebastien Boyesen, was unveiled on the site where the pit used to be.

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This was my first visit to see Guardian. The landscaped park where he stands was quiet and I found the experience very moving. Information is displayed which tells the story of that terrible day in 1960 and the statue is engraved with the names of those that lost their lives.

Mining and Wales go hand in hand. Throughout the South Wales Coalfield reminders of the mining heritage are still clear to see. Pit head wheels act as markers as to where the mines once were. Growing up in a valleys town everyone had relatives or friends who had worked in a pit.

Everyone in Wales grows up knowing about the terrible tragedies. The Aberfan disaster in 1966, killed 144, 116 children and 28 adults. The true events of what had caused the disaster were shamefully covered up by the then government and only exposed years later. The Hillsborough of its day.

The Senghenydd disaster in 1913 near Caerphilly, killed 439 workers and one rescuer, and remains the worst mining disaster in British history.

Everyone knows about the struggles too, the miners strikes of the 1980s and the decline of the coal industry that followed.

The working pits are all gone now but some remain as educational facilities. In the UNESCO world heritage town of Blaenavon, is the Big Pit National Coal museum. Here you can tour the mine, going underground just like the miners did. You can see how cramped the mining conditions were, feel the heat of working underground, and see the underground stables where the pit ponies were kept. You can even turn your hat light off and experience the dark like you’ve never experienced it before. To say it is an eye opener is an understatement.

Mining has shaped the land and the people of South Wales. Communities still feel the strong bond and spirit that was built with the pits.

For me the reminders of the pits dotted around the valleys are vitally important to preserving our history and educating people. As a photographer they provide emotions which I try to capture in my images.

The struggles and loss which continue today, of the people who worked and lived in these communities, always needs to be told.

From the final sentence on the Guardian memorial:

“for coal mining communities everywhere.”

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Marloes Sands

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you’ll know that I recently visited Marloes Sands in Pembrokeshire for the first time.

Marloes Sands has been on my radar for years. I’ve even parked at the car park before, but never made it to the beach due to the weather closing in.

It’s regularly listed as one of the best beaches in Pembrokeshire so this time it was all systems go.

Late January so the sky had that grey look to it. The forecast said that the weather would break for a few hours.

Having parked at the National Trust car park, the beach is a 0.5 miles walk away. The walk is fairly easy, a downhill stroll. My two year old son had no problem on the early section of the path even if he was distracted by enjoying muddy puddles in his RNLI wellies and kicking sticks.

Some of the views from the path to the beach are breathtaking, the winding path really draws you in which is why I love the feature image I’ve used on this post so much.

Mid way into our walk and my son Noah fell over, running as he spotted the beach. Hands down to save himself, but a bump on the face. Panic stations! a quick count and all his teeth are still there. Phew! I always carry a first aid kit with me, so out came the antiseptic and the tears eventually stopped after a few cuddles off mum and dad. Like me Noah loves the sand and the sea so the promise of a big beach to play on soon had him smiling.

As we made it on to the beach it was clear that there was not another person in sight. Heaven! There had been a few cars in the car park but they must have been enjoying the Wales Coast Path.

First impressions this place is epic. The rocks are staggering. Holes are carved right through the stone and the layers in the rock stand out line by line. The beach is huge with lots of sand. one to remember for the summer.

Instantly 4 Choughs fly over us, a rare sight on our coast but Pembrokeshire is a stronghold for them. The cliffs and rocks here make it the perfect habit.

Sea life is abundant here mussels, limpets, barnacles, gulls.

There is just so much to photograph. Rock formations, amazing pebbles, golden sand that goes on and on and not a single foot print in sight.

The sea was whipping up a little so the waves were creating a mist along the coast line with spray, adding a mystical atmosphere to the shots looking across the beach.

The dramatic backdrop reminded me of a film set from Jurassic Park, thank goodness there was no T-Rex!

3 hours of photo taking elapsed very quickly. You can see the results here: Pembrokeshire

The walk back up to the car was slightly more challenging. Noah had now run around for ages so was starting to get tired, lots of carrying back to car! Fair to say I was gasping for a drink by the time we got to the car park.

A totally amazing place that we’ll definitely visit again this year. The Welsh coast at it’s epic best.

Note: Not sure why the National Trust toilets were closed at the Youth Hostal, but they are open at most other beaches like Broad Haven South. Worth remembering if you plan to  visit out of season.

Here we go

It starts

For as long as I remember I’ve loved the outdoors. As a child most weekends were spent exploring. My dad had a motto that if you took kids to shops on weekends it made them unhappy, as all they wanted was stuff they couldn’t have, so getting in to the wide outdoors was the perfect solution. Endless fun that didn’t make us grumpy and it didn’t cost anything either.

Most weekends found us either in the mountains of South Wales or having a bonfire on the beach and cooking a tin of beans.

As the grandson of a Cornish man on my mums side and Pembroke man on my dads side, I guess I was destined to love the sea and the coast. The sound of the waves breaking on the shore, even the sand blasting me in the face when the wind is blowing, I love it!

Photography

In 2007 I went to Canada to explore the wild outdoors with my trusty compact Casio camera, which was about 2 mega pixel and ancient by today’s standard. One day sailing between Prince Rupert and Vancouver Island on the BC Ferry, a bizarre incident took place where a British woman approached me as she had been told I was a professional from England. She asked to see my photos of Canada and asked if I would give a presentation of my images to the Women’s Institute in Kent. Ever seen a pro photographer use a compact camera? me neither! I don’t know who told her that but I owe you a thanks, I didn’t do the presentation but it did make me think maybe I should do more photography.

Fast Forward…I decide to buy a digital SLR. teaching myself shutter speeds, iso and composition.

Motorsport

By 2010 I was photographing motorsport events with my brother. We had both always loved motorbike racing, so why not, it was fun for us. Our images got noticed and in a short space of time we had just under 3000 followers on Facebook. We covered major events, the UK motorcycle show at the NEC, the Isle of Man TT. We met celebrities like Murray Walker and Guy Martin, we got given food, hospitality it was a blast.

It all cost serious money though, every weekend up and down the country non stop. Weirdness too, people copied our shots, copied our captions, followed us to stand in the same spot, copied everything. You couldn’t make it up! It was all a bit cut throat. It was one big learning curve.

My Ford Fiesta was soon starting to disintegrate and generally shedding parts in various places around the UK, just from the miles we were covering. The inside of the passenger door would fill up with water every time it rained and then freeze as a solid block of ice on cold days. This was a rock n roll lifestyle. When I was dating my wife, she would always ask what’s that water sloshing around in the door…my water feature!

Remember the motto from earlier…..why do something that costs you if you can do something better for free.

Landscape

So I started taking pictures of Wales instead and people seemed to like them.

Waterfalls, coast, wildlife and nature.

Then I started to use filters, getting creative and making different shots.

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it” – Ansel Adams

Landscape is everywhere and it’s different everywhere. So many options of how you can take a photo. I became like the robot in Short Circuit…need more input, constantly reading and researching finding new places to go.

Why do I love it?

It means I’m out in the fresh air. My wife and our son who is 2 come with me.

In Wales, where I live I can be in the Brecon Beacons National Park in under an hour walking in the mountains or in an hour and a half walking on Rhossili Beach in the Gower, Newport Wetlands and marshes are 15 minutes away. All these places are different, have unique features. I could visit each one, every day for years and capture different things.

If it’s raining and I get drenched, so what it adds something to the photo.

And it’s not just Wales either it could be Cornwall, Yorkshire Dales, Lake District etc. the same applies.

This is why I love it.

Finally

I’ll end this post with one of my favourite quotes

There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.” – Ansel Adams

Every photo I make has me in it, hopefully as you join me on this adventure you’ll find you in each photo too.

I’ll be posting about places I go, images I capture and all sorts, it’s going to be fun!