​Snow time!

I’ve relocated to Betws-y-Coed for my second PGCE placement. The first few weeks of this year have gone so quickly and again, we’ve done a lot as a group. I’ve covered a lot of it in my Back to Uni… post but I didn’t mention Blwch y Plwm mine, Borth-y-Gest nor the snow…

Living in the van is still proving interesting. It now makes a ‘chugging’ noise like a train when it starts up from the cold and I’ve had to remove important papers from the vehicle due to them getting damp… still, it’s cosy at night time. My placement has said I can park up on site when the centre is in use and use the showers and toilets there. So that’s two fewer worries. They even feed me lunch!

I didn’t see much of the snow during uni whilst still in Bangor. I was in Swindon (now dubbed Swindonia) when it hit, then when I returned it had gone… so, a trip back to Swindonia was needed to actually have the opportunity to play in it!

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Terry and I decided to visit one of our favourite places in England just for a couple of hours walking and admiration of our favourite views. The Worcestershire Beacon, the highest point in the Malvern Hills at 425m (1,394ft), you can see three counties from its point. Once used as a signalling beacon, in 1588, it formed part of a chain of warning fires which were lit when the Spanish Armada attempted to invade England as well as being lit for commemorative events, such as coronations of various kings and queens.

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It was a glorious day albeit a tad windy! As you can see, Bailey enjoyed the chill on his face!

Then I blinked and I was back in Bangor! I’ve joined a popular canoe/kayak club as I want to improve my skills in this area and their first yearly trip out was great fun!

The group paddled over Pontcysyllte and Chirk aqueducts in Llangollen and through the Whitehouses and Chirk tunnels before ending at the Poachers Pub for refreshment!

Anybody who has ever been to Llangollen would have seen the Pontcysyllte aqueduct, it is the longest aqueduct in the UK and the highest in the world at 38m (126ft) high (336 yd (307 m) long, 12 ft (3.7 m) wide and 5 ft 3 in (1.60 m) deep). It was fun to paddle across with the drop on the right-hand side!

The group is really fun and involving. I recognised a face when I turned up… turned out it was the woman who interviewed me for my PGCE place! Small world indeed!

In our last week at uni, we got to spend the morning at Borth-y-Gest looking at beach activities for younger students. Terry and I have visited this place several times and each time it gets more beautiful than the last! I just wanted to post some photos here of this wonderful place.

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My first week in placement is over. Centre work is much different from working within a school – it’s not as fast paced but is longer throughout the day. It will take me some time to get used to it. The centre itself is lovely and very well organised. The council supports what they do so they have good equipment, happy staff and regular schools attending (the 2020 calendar is 90% full already!). It’s an amazing place to be a part of and I hope my time spent here is enjoyable; it will be interesting to work with much younger students than I’m used too, I just don’t think I’ll hear much, if anything, disgusting about gross bodily parts, unusual bodily functions and who is ‘doing’ whom from this age range…!

Just Joanne

Exploring North East Wales

So, just finished my second week at my first placement. I’m used to the hustle and bustle of school life but throwing in the added mix of class lists, assignment and lesson content and it suddenly becomes more complex.

I did have a serious moment of wanting to quit and just travel in the van… But that was because of witnessing glorious sunrises and sunsets…

So glad I’m not a vampire…

So aside from school, I’ve tried to get out. Where I am currently staying the Clwydian Range is nearby, in fact I can see them every morning from my van as I drive from Ruthin to Mold. At the highest point is Moel Famau, which in Welsh means ‘bare(moel) and ‘mother(Famau has different variations of the spelling- Fama, in old texts. ), so is sometimes referred to as “Mother’s hill“. On top of this hill is the Jubilee Tower, or what’s left of it. At three stories high it could be seen for miles, but due to being unfinished and a storm, it now only has the base left. It was built to commemorate the golden jubilee of George III in 1810. Some great views from this point.

On a clear day you can see Snowdon to the west (35miles away!), the Irish Sea to the North and Blackpool Tower to the East! Signs at the top point the landmarks out for you.

So, I took a walk up the popular southern route within Bwlch Penbarras, only 1.25miles to the top, which didn’t take long. The route is part of the Offa’s Dyke way and is well maintained- plus there’s a couple of Geocaches on route..

I didn’t want to camp up here, it was the weekend and I imagine it gets very busy with racers so decided to find somewhere else. What I did find was the most stunning sunset I’ve ever seen within the United Kingdom.

The last time I saw a sky this red was in Nepal at about 3,000m high. So beautiful.

In the morning, I decided to take a wander around the trail of Alwen Reservoir. It’s a blue mountain bike route, only 7 miles long, but nice to walk as it passes through coniferous and dedicious forests and over moorland.

After the walk I ventured over to Llyn Brenig to enjoy the free WiFi and all day breakfast (yummy!) whilst looking out over the lake at the fishermen.

When I originally found out I’d be in this area, about an hour away from Snowdonia National Park, let’s just say I was annoyed and disheartened. There didn’t seem to be as many interesting ventures to be had around here than what I’ve experienced in the five weeks in and around Bangor but, not being one to sit and grumble, I’ve been looking around at what I can do/hike/look at/enjoy.

I’ve spent a couple of nights in Llangollen, explored a quarry and walked along the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and decided to walk the hills around the area.

On a suggestion given to me by a friend, I was told to check out the Berwyn Range, to the South West of Llangollen… So, I picked the highest points (may never come back this way…) and walked up Cadair Berwyn and Cadair Bronwen.

There’s an interesting thing about these mountains. In 1974, there was an alleged UFO landing on these mountains but scientific evidence indicated that the event was generated by an earthquake combined with sightings of a bright meteor widely observed over Wales and northern England at the time. The didn’t stol UFOlogists claiming that a UFO crashed and the British Government covered up the military’s recovery of a crashed spaceship…

Lastly, I decided to run in the Run Wales Flintshire 5k event. Starting in Mold, this round route was really enjoyable. I haven’t run for a while but didn’t do too badly I thought, least not for me! A t-shirt and a nice medal later, I was celebrating in Subway with a 6inch meatball marinara sandwich (cheese melted, lettuce and bbq sauce. Hmm).

A fitting end to my second week here. Only one more to go then a couple of days back at uni, then to Swindon, then eight weeks till end of placement. It’s scary how quickly it goes. In the meantime, I hope I win the lottery and can make travel my full time occupation… So much to see and do out there!

Just Joanne