Friday, 24 April 2015

Mapping Mountains – Trimble Surveys – Pen Llŷn

20.04.15  Pen Diban (SH 112 205) and Mynydd Enlli (SH 123 219)   

Mynydd Enlli (SH 123 219)
Ynys Enlli lies as a dominant influence for people with faith, especially so in medieval times when it was a major centre of pilgrimage with a legendary 20,000 saints laid to rest in its grounds.  Today the island supports a small community of farms and a bird observatory, as well as a small tourist industry with holiday lets and day trips by people seeking solitude of island life and an ascent of its hill; Mynydd Enlli, which at a map height of 167m is listed as a Marilyn.

Although I wanted to visit the summit of Mynydd Enlli and do a number of surveys, including Pen Diban at the southern point of the island, I also wanted to explore its land and history.  I’d wanted to visit the island for many years and having watched the sun sink into the sea close to its darkened silhouette just after last Christmas I decided to make a concerted effort and visit the island during this year.

The opportunity arose when visiting Ynys Tudwal Fach and Ynys Tudwal Fawr, as John Mackay said that the boat to the island was leaving at 10.30am on Monday from Porth Meudwy.  The skipper was Colin Evans who had taken us over to Ynys Gwylan Fawr in early February of this year.

I drove from Nantlle toward Porth Meudwy with a beautiful and welcoming blue sky overhead and a weather forecast that was perfect for visiting the island, with sunshine all day and only a light breeze predicted.

It takes a little navigating on narrow lanes to find the earthen large car park to the south-west of Aberdaron which is the starting point for boat trips to Ynys Enlli.  This car park is situated at SH 158 259 and as I pulled in it was quiet, I got by walking boots on and relaxed for a few minutes before another car drove in.  The occupants were a couple from Norfolk on holiday, as they started down the track toward the small bay I followed.

Arriving at Porth Meudwy was similar to many of the Greek island bays that I had been to over the years, as it was secluded and today it was bright with sunshine and a lapping blue sea.  Colin soon arrived followed by John and Marian and a few other people, some arriving via the cliff footpath.

Marian next to the Benlli III at Porth Meudwy
We set off on the 20 minute trip over the sea and approached the island down its eastern coast with Mynydd Enlli on grand display rising steeply up from the sea and culminating in its small rocky top.

Part of the eastern face of Mynydd Enlli
A seal met us as we pulled into the well protected bay where the slipway came out to sea, it’s head bobbed up out of the water looking inquisitively as we chugged the last few metres toward the slipway.

A single seal met us as we arrived on Ynys Enlli, many more were on the rocks when we departed
Within a few minutes Colin had attached the boat to its trailer and pulled it onto the slipway with a tractor.  We climbed down the ladder onto the gravelled patch of land just above the narrow isthmus that separates the higher bulk of the island from that of its Lighthouse at Pen Diban.

Marian, John and Colin next to the Benlli III and the slipway on Ynys Enlli
Colin attached the boat to its trailer and pulled it ashore with the tractor
We gathered on the grass just above the boat where Colin gave an informative and sometimes humorous account of the island’s history and its current state of affairs.  This talk was given with passion and benefited because of it, with Colin being able to trace his family’s direct association with the island back six generations.  He was brought up on the island at the small school house that now has a number of information boards on its walls.  He went through its history, its population decline and the recent struggles he had had with conservation bodies.  He instructed us that we had about 3 hours 45 minutes to enjoy the island and off he went to investigate his lobster pots.

I decided to walk toward Pen Diban first and left the others chatting with Colin before he took back to the waters, leaving the small group of people I joined a gravelled track come path that headed toward the Lighthouse, on my way I assessed the connecting bwlch which is at the island’s narrowest point, before continuing south toward the high point of Pen Diban.  This small hill used to be listed as a Pellennig; one of the remotest hills of Wales, as it just qualified with c 15m of drop.  However, later on-line mapping which had 5m contour intervals suggested a drop of only c 14m, so the hill was deleted from the Pellennig ranks.

Colin chatting with our group beside the slipway on Ynys Enlli
I walked into the Trinity House compound where the Lighthouse is situated and over a wall toward the high point of the hill, this has a circular concrete structure on it which is built on a small rock outcrop.  I took data from two points outside of the structure, both on rock outcrops.  Whilst the Trimble gathered its allotted data I looked out to the southern tip of the island and then to the north where Mynydd Enlli rose up with sides of grass and gorse, Colin had previously suggested that one of the best routes up the hill was to follow a narrow path on its southerly ridge, with another path zig zagging up through the gorse on the hill’s western side.

Gathering data at the first surveyed summit position of Pen Diban
Gathering data at the second surveyed summit position of Pen Diban
Once the Trimble had gathered its summit data I packed it away and re-joined my inward route back down to the bwlch at the isthmus.  This proved relatively easy to assess and as the Trimble gathered data I took a few photographs and looked out to the western sea.

The critical bwlch of Pen Diban is also the narrowest point of the island
As I walked back toward the slipway I could see small figures ascending the southern ridge of Mynydd Enlli and having previously decided to use the zig zags as an ascent route I changed my mind and headed toward the base of the southern ridge.  A track leads from the slipway toward a number of houses with one being where Jo was outside happily crafting a basket, we chatted for a minute or so, she asked if I would like a drink and although the thought was tempting I wanted to press on and leave myself sufficient time after the ascent to investigate the northern part of the island.

Jo crafting baskets
As I left Jo the sun beat down with refreshing warmth, I found the path up the south ridge and slowly made my way up, occasionally looking back as I gained height onto the southern land below with Pen Diban circling left and almost separated from the main part of the island.

The southern part of Ynys Enlli
As I gained height there were large areas of hillside covered in spectacularly bright yellow gorse which contrasted against the blue of sea and sky.  I soon met John and Marian on their descent from the summit, they kindly told me what to expect as I wanted to survey the southern top of the hill which is given a 166m spot height and only one metre below the higher map heighted main summit.  They described each summit and where the zig zag path leaves the southerly ridge path, this I wanted to take on my way down as it would take me toward the north of the island.

Hillsides of gorse
Meeting John and Marian on their descent from the summit of Mynydd Enlli
I was now amongst the hillsides of gorse and I looked back one last time on Pen Diban, now just a curved flatland extending southward out to sea.

The curved shape of Pen Diban
As I crested the summit ridge the slight breeze was welcome from the unusually warm April weather.  I found the southern top and placed the Trimble on its grassed mound, before walking over to the obvious high point of the hill.  This consists of a large rock which I immediately stood on and peered out to sea, looking down reminded me of a visit to the high point of Kos three years ago, where the land shot down to the blue sea below.

Gathering data at the southern summit on top of the grassy mound
I balanced the Trimble on the rock and aligned its internal antenna with its high point, with it set firmly in place I pressed ‘Log’ and walked off to catalogue the details of the survey.  Once five minutes of data were collected I took a number of photos and sat next to the rock and ate a butty.  No one was on the summit and for the next ten minutes I happily drank in the atmosphere of this the high point of Ynys Enlli, a marvellous place.

A spectacular position for the Trimble
The Trimble aligned with the high point of Mynydd Enlli
Gathering data at the summit of Mynydd Enlli
My descent route was directly north-west on what I thought to be a path; this turned into open hillside of grass and gorse and proved easy to negotiate.  In time this route took me down to the remains of St Mary’s Abbey which is perched in the cemetery of the island.  I looked at some of the inscriptions on the grave stones, including one to the wife of the Lighthouse keeper; she was only in her early 30’s when she died.

The remains of the Abbey at the northern end of Ynys Enlli
Neatly engraved slate plaque on the cemetery wall
Mention of the legendary 20,000 saints
The remains of the Abbey
After investigating the remains of the Abbey I walked south on the track toward the slipway, past a number of houses, some of which are holiday lets with the same people re-visiting each year, and why not I thought, what a fantastic place to come and stay and immerse yourself in the peaceful existence of island life.

Beautiful Carreg Bach
As I walked on the track I decided to look in on the Bird Observatory and met Emma and Steve Stansfield, who had met on the island, married and stayed.  Steve had been a resident on Ynys Enlli for 18 years and Emma for 14 years; they are a lovely couple and kindly posed for a couple of photos.  It was interesting speaking with them as I voyeuristically scampered around the island photographing and visiting and hill bagging and surveying, and they stood and chatted about their life and the rigours and fun of adapting to having no electricity or gas, and the feeling of visiting the mainland and the fun of doing a six month shop in one visit to a supermarket!

Steve and Emma Stansfield
On my way back to the slipway I looked in the school house, where Colin had been brought up.  Before leaving the island I headed over the fields to a small beach on the west of the island where a pair of Choughs were circling overhead and occasionally landing on the sand.

I wanted to take a data set beside the water to see if the processed data gave a negative reading, I sat the Trimble on top of a small rock and hoped that it wouldn’t slither off into the seaweed and salty water, and set it to log another five minutes of data.

Gathering data beside the sea
Seals relaxing in the afternoon sunshine
As the boat pulled out to sea I sat contentedly watching the eastern part of the island slowly pass me by.  Colin then stopped the boat to point out a Peregrine high on Mynydd Enlli, he then took us on a magical journey close to the rising eastern face of Mynydd Enlli before venturing out to the open sea and stopping the boat again.  He said that on most days he encounters porpoise in this spot and as the sun shone down we started to spot the fins of porpoises rising and then disappearing into the water.

Ynys Enlli rising out of the sea
It's hard to photograph a porpoise, a fin can just be seen toward the bottom right of the photo
Colin seemed in no rush and as we left the porpoises he took the boat toward the Parwyd, which is an impressive 3ooft cliff.  Again he stopped the boat as it slowly meandered its way toward the cliff which was forever getting larger in sight.

The 300ft cliff face of Parwyd
From here we slowly made our way around the eastern part of the coastline passing beautifully structured rock formations with stunningly coloured blacks and yellows butting against one another, and all set against an illuminated blue of sea and sky.

Striking yellows and blacks of the mainland close to Porth Meudwy
It had been a lovely day on Ynys Enlli, one that had given a very different feeling when compared to the adventurous previous day on Ynys Tudwal Fach and Ynys Tudwal Fawr.  Although I had whizzed around some of the places as I wanted to survey at least five points, the atmosphere of the island had pervaded, leaving me quietly content and happy. 

Survey Result:

Pen Diban

Summit Height:  20.0m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SH 11235 20585

Bwlch Height:  5.0m (converted to OSGM15)

Bwlch Grid Reference:  SH 11285 20949

Drop:  15.0m (reinstatement of Pellennig confirmed)

Dominance:  75.06%

Mynydd Enlli

Summit Height:  167.9m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SH 12312 21930

Drop:  167.9m

Dominance:  100.00%

The data set taken at the sea attained a negative figure of – 0.44m (converted to OSGM15) at SH 11441 21234

For further details please consult the Trimble survey spreadsheet click {here}


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