Wednesday, 16 July 2008

"The Witches Cauldron" 16/07/2008

The main objective of today's trip was to visit the Witches Cauldron which I haven't been able to find the entrance to previously, but with a bit of serious research I am now hoping today will be the day.

I left from Parrog by Newport Boat Club. Even though it was nearly low tide I only had a short carry as I could use the Afon Nyfer to take me down to the sea. It was good to start a paddle with a leisurely float and letting the current do all the work.

I paddled in a north easterly direction paddling alongside high sea cliffs with numerous caves, small inlets and impressive rock formations, totally different to those which I paddled yesterday, wish I knew more about geology!

Just before the Witches Cauldron there is a great example of a natural arch.

When I reached the right coordinates it still took me a little while to find the entrance but it was well worth the effort.

I paddled into the arch which opened into a larger cavern with a large opening into the Witches Cauldron and a smaller opening to my right which accesses another smaller pool which, at this state of the tide was cut off from the sea.

As you paddle into the Cauldron it is pretty breathtaking as there is a small pebbled beach in front of me with another small cave to my right with a small stream flowing into it and all around me is amphitheatre shaped sheer cliffs almost 200ft high.

Apparently the Cauldron was once a sea cave which was eroded by the sea and eventually the roof collapsed forming the Witches Cauldron. I apologise for the amount of photos but it really was a pretty mind blowing experience.

Leaving the Cauldron

Entrance to smaller pool

In smaller pool going back into cave entrance

Out to sea on the left, into Cauldron on the right

I was going to paddle onto Ceibwr Bay but when I finally left the Cauldron the wind had picked up considerably so I decided to paddle back and onto Dinas Head. Even though the wind was against me I had the tide with me so progress wasn't too bad.

At Dinas Head there are again impressive high sea cliffs with Pen Y Fan being the highest point on the headland at 466ft (142m). There is a cave that goes straight through Dinas Head but the tide wasn't high enough to go through today.

Paddling away from Dinas Head I approached a seal who was having a crunching snack on a large crab. As usual soon as I got the camera out he heard me and disappeared. Still an impressive splash.

The coastline here again is riddled with caves which I took a bit of time to explore as this stretch was sheltered from the wind.

This cave when inside opened right out with another smaller entrance just big enough to get through where there were numerous jellyfish in the sheltered water.

Passing Needle Rock, which is a large sea stack where large numbers of sea birds nest, I found another inaccessible beach from the land to have a well deserved brew.

On leaving, again in the sheltered waters of the bay were large numbers of jellyfish.

Paddling on I entered Cwm-yr-Eglwys (the Valley of the Church). Here are the remains of the 12th century church dedicated to St Brynach which was destroyed by a hurricane strength storm, known as The Royal Charter Storm, in October 1859. Accounts say that in the morning following the storm, coffins from the churchyard were seen floating out to sea and had to be recovered by boat.

This storm was named after the SS Royal Charter which was a great hulk of a vessel; it had an iron-clad hull, and it had steam engines as well as sails. On October 25, 1859, she was nearing the end of a long journey, having set sail from Fremantle, Western Australia. She was carrying some four hundred passengers and also a large quantity of gold bullion, then valued at around half a million pounds.

The storm sprang up that evening. As the northerly wind strengthened to gale force and beyond, the Royal Charter dropped anchor off the north coast of Anglesey, her sails lowered and her engines shut down.

Other ships in the area were able to find shelter close to the Irish coast or nearer to Liverpool where the wind was much less strong. The Royal Charter's captain preferred to ride out the storm rather than continue to Liverpool, reasoning that such a northerly gale would tend to drive him towards the coast of North Wales. He was not to know that the strength of the wind was much lighter to the east of Llandudno.

In the event, the ship foundered during the early hours of October 26 off the village of Moelfre with the loss of most of the passengers and crew, and the entire cargo. By daybreak the ship had completely sunk, and the villagers had succeeded in saving just a dozen or so people.

An enquiry was held into the disaster, and as a direct result of the storm of October 25-26, 1859, it was decided to make use of the new electric telegraph to warn of storms in British coastal waters. Thus the first official gale warnings were inaugurated in June 1860. Between 25 October and 9 November 1859, a series of storms around the coast of Great Britain resulted in 325 ships being wrecked and 748 lives being lost.

All along the Welsh coastline 114 vessels were wrecked during that storm causing enormous loss of life, with 3 ships being wrecked between Cwm-yr-Eglwys and Dinas Head.

Along the coast back to Parrog there is much evidence of the sea quarries where slate was quarried. When I got back to Parrog the tide was in so there was even less distance to carry the boat.

Yet another fantastic paddle with the Witches Cauldron being the highlight of the day covering 16 nautical miles (approx 18m, 29km).


eurion said...

That looks a very interesting trip Richard. The great photographs of the caves and of the cauldron in particular have put this trip on my list!

Anonymous said...

Fabulous trip - Gerry in Belfast.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,i was googling rock pools and stumbled on your blog spot. Amazing pictures and such beautiful scenery and wildlife.I am going to a camp site at Cae Du near Twyn in august with my hubby with a view to doing a lot of walking and seal/dolphin spotting.I wish i was confident enough to tour sea caves like you but am not a very salty seadog but just looking at your photos is wonderful.We live in such a beautiful country and would probably never see it in full in a lifetime.
Many thanks for your brilliant blogspot

Richard said...

Hi Jayne, thanks for your comments and taking time to read the blog. You are right about not having enough time to see it all, often when I paddle the same stretch of coast I spot something different. Hope you have a good holiday and manage to see some seals and hopefully dolphins.

jaynewyn said...

You are very welcome.