Cycling Through Wales, England, and my Wife’s Family History

I thought I would once again write a travelogue based on a recent holiday (as I did two years ago).   I realise that 90% of the readers of my blog want to know about NLG, not my holidays, but I enjoy writing travelogues once in a while.

My wife Ann with her mother Mary

This holiday was in northern Wales and nearby areas of England, which has a special interest to me because my wife’s family has strong links to the area.  Both Ann’s father (John) and mother (Mary) spent a lot of time in this area.

Linguistic note – I am comfortable calling John my father-in-law but feel reluctant to call Mary my mother-in-law since she tragically died many years before I met and married Ann.   Since she was not alive when we got married, is she my “mother-in-law” or “my wife’s mother“?   Not sure, once of many interesting “edge cases” in word meanings!


Welsh single-track road

Tuesday, 21 May – My first full day on holiday in Holyhead, Anglesey, North Wales (I spent most of the previous day travelling to Holyhead by train).   The family link is that  John and Mary (my wife’s parents) met in Anglesey in the 1950s, while Mary and her mother were running a shop there. Anyways, its a lovely area, and I was fortunate that the person running my B&B was an avid cyclist, so could  give me excellent advice on places to visit and good cycling routes (always listen to the locals!).   I was especially impressed by the South Stack near Holyhead.  I was also amused by some of the single-track roads in Wales.  We have single-track roads near Aberdeen, but they are proper roads, just not very wide.   Some of the Welsh ones seem more like tracks.


Google Maps thinks this is a bike path!

Wednesday, 22 May – I cycled to Llandudno on the north Wales coast.   A really nice ride (following the route suggested by Mr B&B!), on country lanes and coastal paths.  Glorious weather and a tail wind helping me along, what more could I ask for?   Well, one thing would be more accuracy in Google Maps, which I used to plan my route.   Mostly it was OK, but on the last stretch into Llandudno, I followed a Google Maps “bike path” which degenerated into beach with no path in sight anywhere.  I had a few “choice words” about Google Maps while pushing my bike along this beach…


Bronze-age copper mine

Thursday, 23 May – I visited Great Orme near Llandudno, especially the bronze-age copper mine.  This was one of the largest copper mines in bronze-age Europe, which sent ore all over Europe.  Also one of the biggest industrial sites in bronze age UK.  In some ways, sort of like a bronze-age Aberdeen (which in the 21st century is the centre of the modern UK’s biggest resource extraction endeavour, North Sea oil).  Anyways, it was incredible to think of bronze age miners developing the extensive tunnels and mining operations in the site, using only stone tools.


Entering England!

Friday, 24 May – Cycled across north Wales, largely along a superb coastal cycle path.  Along the way I passed Kinmel Bay, where John (Ann’s father) lived in the 1990s.  We visited him several times, and I wondered if I would remember the town, but I didnt (of course a lot has changed over the last 25 years).  I then crossed into England, and ended the day in Chester.  I wanted to stay several nights in Chester, but could only stay one night because of an English “bank holiday” (three-day weekend).   Most people look forward to these, but they are a curse to people like me, because it means accomodation becomes very expensive and hard to find.  Oh, well, I had been to Chester before, in conjunction with visiting John in Kinmel Bay.


Swan family in a canal

Saturday, 25 May – I cycled to St Helens near Liverpool.  A lot of this was very industrial (factories, power plants, etc), but there were some lovely bits along canals (subsequent days as well).   This trip made me realise how many canals there are in this part of England, and indeed how important they were to transport.  At night, I had dinner in the nearby town of Newton-Le-Willows. where Mary (Ann’s mother) was born and grew up.  Nothing special about it, but nice to visit after hearing it mentioned many times!


Liverpool Signing Choir (from website)

Sunday, 26 May – It was rainy, so I left my bike at the hotel and went by train into Liverpool,   I’d only been to Liverpool once before, visiting Ann’s grandmother, so it was nice to wander around and explore.  One impressive thing I ran into was a performance by the Liverpool Signing Choir (who sign rather than sing to music) (photo is from their website, I dont like taking photos of children without permission).  On a negative note, though, the train I was supposed to take to Liverpool was cancelled and I had to wait an hour; a similar thing happened the previous night going to Newton-Le-Willows.  I was actually travelling along the line of the world’s very first railroad, the Liverpool and Manchester (and the stop by the hotel, Lea Green, was also a stop on the L&M). I wondered if service was more reliable in 1830 (when the L&M opened) than in 2019…


Struggling to get my  bike through a gate

Monday, 27 May – I cycled up to Preston, mostly along canals, especially the Leeds and Liverpool canal.   Lovely scenery and paths,  but the gates were an absolute pain.   I had to lift my bike vertically to get it through some of the gates, assisted in some cases by other cyclists or hikers.   The canal paths would be much nicer for cyclists if they put in cycle-friendly gates!   But anyways, it was overall a really pleasant way to bike through a heavily industrialised area.


Keeping a vigil on a fracking site

Tuesday, 28 May – I cycled (day trip) from Preston to Blackpool.  I’d heard a lot about Blackpool but never been there, it was in fact similar to the Aberdeen beach area, but on a much bigger scale (many more shops and cafes, much more impressive roller coaster, etc).   Anyways, on the way to Blackpool I met three women protesters who were keeping a vigil by a fracking site.  They had a small hut by the road (photo) and basically were watching the site and keeping track of what the fracking company was doing.  I’ve got mixed opinions about fracking (I can see both good and bad points), but I was certainly very impressed by the protester’s dedication and commitment!


Wednesday, 29 May – I originally was going to go home on Friday, but the weather forecast was not good (wet and windy), so I decided to go home on Wednesday instead.   Overall a very nice trip, especially because of the family connections.

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