Yesterday , Rob and I went out for our first paddle together this year. With strong north east winds forecast we opted for the shelter of the Menai Straits. Starting near Britannia Bridge we used the tide to help us go towards Menai Bridge.
I took a few minutes to digest the fact that this landscape is set to change dramatically in the next few years.
Well; the latest structural development in the Menai Straits connected with Ireland is now looking a reality. The first bridge to span the Menai Straits was the Thomas Telford suspension bridge that opened in 1826 to allow the mail coach to get to Holyhead and thus speed the mail journey form London to Dublin. This was followed by the construction of the Britannia Bridge from 1846-1850 built to take the railway to Holyhead. Following a fire, it was rebuilt in stages with the addition of a road above the railway that opened in 1980. This road is a key part of the Euro route to Dublin and the main bridge that local commuters use. The fact that it narrows to go over the bridge has caused delays and sparked much discussion regarding solutions to the problem over a long time. After years of politicians and engineers deliberating options, it is now looking likely that a third crossing will be built next to Britannia Bridge.
Worth taking some moments then to enjoy the landscape as it is, reflect on fun times I've had playing on the tidal flow under and around the bridge, wonder how the engineers will meet the challenge of the tide and hope that the birds won't be too disturbed whenever the construction work starts.
We continue on to Ynys Gorad Goch (Island of Red Weirs) where we play on the tidal flow for a while. The fish weirs were built to trap the fish on the ebbing tide, it is thought that fish traps were first constructed here in the 16th century but the present structures were probably in place just before Menai Bridge opened. We make our way up to the area near Ynys Tysilio (Church Island) named after the saint. Here between sessions of playing on the last of the tidal flow we marvel at the cormorants and shags on the rocks. It's so handy when you have them both on the same rock and they are starting to develop their breeding plumage as it makes it so much easier to tell the difference!
We stop for an early lunch in the shelter by the Belgian Prom originally built by Belgian refugees in 1916 .. ah even more history in this tiny stretch of the Menai Straits! There is history everywhere we go today!
We take advantage of the high tide to explore the estuary by Ynys Tysilio before we saunter back on the now slack (not flowing) water. There are plenty of birds including teal, herons and oystercatchers. Rob sees a kingfisher darting between the trees and I spot a curlew subtly standing on a rocky outcrop. Always a temptation to get too close but we try to keep a distance that doesn't disturb them and so we can see them for longer. We conclude our saunter with some photos by Nelson's statue... More about Lord Nelson and the significance of the statue's location some other day!