Beasties Meet Beastie on the Welsh Highland Railway - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties

Paddy and Plunkett – The Railway Less Travelled

Well, after a quick New Beastie break last week, the boys are back… And this time they’ve left the island of Anglesey and headed to the Welsh mainland to explore Snowdonia! Oh yes, and guess how they’re travelling?
Beasties Meet Beastie on the Welsh Highland Railway - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesThat’s right, it wouldn’t be a Paddy and Plunkett day out if they weren’t wreaking havoc on a train somewhere… And this time it’s the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway that’s getting the Beastie treatment. Luckily for them, the railway has a monster of its own to keep these two under control – the legendary Welsh Red Dragon!

That said, there’s still some silliness afoot as the boys wait for their train to arrive. Lads, that’s probably not a good idea.
Paddy and Plunkett, off the rails - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesNope, definitely not.
Beasties, behave! Welsh Highland Railway - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesFortunately, Plunkett has got some sense into his woolly head – juuuuuust in time, by the looks of things!
Plunkett's Train Arrives - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties

Oh, how cool! All the trains on the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway are restored vintage diesel and steam engines, and they transport their lucky passengers along a short route between the town of Porthmadog and Pen-y-Mount junction a few miles away. The line is staffed almost entirely by volunteers, and the trains are clearly their pride and joy… So much so that many of them have names and profiles on the railway website!
Trains of the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesI tried to ID Paddy and Plunkett’s train, but I didn’t get too far… Are there any locals out there who can help?

Then, on the return trip, the train stops off at Gelert’s Farm, so the boys hop out to investigate a well-known local landmark – Gelert’s Grave.
Paddy and Plunkett at Gelert's Grave - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties“This Gelert must have been a pretty important person!” says Paddy.
“Hmmm… Well, he wasn’t exactly a person…”
“He was a dog.”
“What? A dog? But look at this thing! It’s, like, 5 Beasties tall… With headstones in English and Welsh!”

Plunkett has no choice but to launch into the sad tale of Gelert. Let’s listen in, shall we?

“According to local legend, Gelert was the prized hunting dog of Llywelyn the Great – a prince born in the late 12th century, who eventually became ruler of all Wales. One day, he went out hunting…”
“Wait… Without his prized hunting dog?”
“Apparently so, yes. Gelert was left behind to look after Llywelyn’s baby son. But when Llywelyn returned home, he found the baby missing, the house in a mess, and Gelert covered in blood!”
“Bad dog!”
“That’s what Llywelyn thought. He drew his sword… And killed Gelert on the spot!”
“But then he heard a baby cry out from underneath the overturned cradle…”
“…And he saw his son there safe and sound, lying beside the body of a wolf.”
“You mean…”
“Yes… Poor Gelert had not only NOT killed the baby, he’d also dispatched the wolf that had tried to attack them both!”

Paddy is uncharacteristically speechless.

“That’s… The saddest thing… I have EVER heard!”

Plunkett, seeing how touched Paddy is by the story, decides not to elaborate on the prevalence of the “faithful hound” motif in European and Asian folklore.

Or to mention how the grave mound might have been built in the late 1700s by the enterprising proprietor of the charmingly-named Goat Hotel, in an effort to encourage tourism.

Instead, he knows exactly how to cheer Paddy up.
“Hey Paddy – I think your letter from Hogwarts might be here!”
Paddy, Plunkett and Some Owls - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesHanging out with all those owlets certainly put a smile back on Paddy’s woolly face.
Owls on the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties

And later on, in the Anglesey Transport Museum, his woes are completely forgotten.
Paddy and Plunkett at the Anglesey Transport Museum - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties“Plunkett! PLUNKETT! Can you see the keys for these anywhere? I think I’d like to take one of them for a spin!”
Don't let Paddy drive! H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties

Oh dear. Join us next week to see if Anglesey has declared a state of emergency… Or at least sent the lads packing!

Under the Sea in Anglesey!

Hello, Beastie friends! We’re joining Paddy and Plunkett again today, for an adventure with a bit more of an aquatic theme than last week’s! To set the scene, we’ll meet up with the boys at the tidal race in the Menai Strait… And what’s this? A rare photobombing by Plunkett?Plunkett at the Menai Strait, Anglesey - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesThe Menai Strait is the narrow stretch of water that separates the island of Anglesey from the Welsh mainland. It looks calm enough here, doesn’t it? But strong and ever-changing tidal currents make it highly unpredictable and tricky to cross. In the past, this served the locals well – Anglesey was one of the last refuges of the Druids, at a time when they were being displaced all over Britain by the arrival of the Romans.

But today, the lads will not be seeking out ancient Druid strongholds – however much Paddy might want to. Instead, we’re heading to… The Anglesey Sea Zoo!

Beasties find it hard to resist an aquarium – as regular readers will remember from Explorer Beastie’s travels in Germany last summer. Paddy and Plunkett can’t wait to make some fishy friends themselves! But first of all, let’s visit the Lobster Hatchery.
Beasties at the Lobster Hatchery - Sea Zoo Anglesey - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesThe Lobster Hatchery is one of several conservation projects based here in Anglesey Sea Zoo. Overfishing in the 1980s meant that local wild lobster populations took a huge hit, so the Hatchery is here to help them get back on their spiny little feet. The main focus of their work is a captive breeding programme, but research and education are also important aspects of what they do.

Paddy is delighted to meet the lobsters… But Plunkett suspects that they’re more likely to eat him than he is to eat them.
Plunkett Vs Lobster - Anglesey - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
This is probably more your scene, Plunkett… Watching the fish from the quayside!
Plunkett Ponders the Fish - Sea Zoo - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties

Meanwhile, Paddy has taken a trip to the Moon!
Paddy and the Moon Jellies - Anglesey Sea Zoo - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesWell, moon jellies, if you’re going to be particular about it… But they do have an otherworldly look to them, don’t they? He could have watched them for hours – which is unusual for Paddy!

Plunkett is nice and relaxed now too, now that he’s been gazing at the gently waving arms of the sea anemones for a few minutes. Aaaahhhhhh!
Plunkett and the Anemones - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesAnd although Paddy was momentarily distracted by the starfish that was taking a stroll across the front of the tank…
Strolling Starfish - Sea Zoo Anglesey - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties… It wasn’t long before he found a new way to pass the time – playing hide and seek with the fish!
Paddy plays hide and seek - Anglesey Sea Zoo - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesBut what’s that stirring in the hidden depths of the aquarium? Uh-oh!
Octopus Hug - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesWill the boys be able to wriggle free and swim to safety? Or will they remain imprisoned in the darkest depths of Davy Jones’ locker? You’ll have to tune in next week to find out!

See you then!

Blue Rocks at Parys Mountain - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties

Paddy, Plunkett and Parys Mountain

You know, a girl could find herself getting a little jealous of Paddy and Plunkett. It seems like the woolly twosome only just got back from their trip to Scotland… And then the next thing I know, I’m getting more photos from another away trip! This time, they’ve headed further south, and ended up in this strange place – Parys Mountain, in Anglesey, Wales!

And as we join them today, it appears that Plunkett is being uncharacteristically selfish…

“Mine! It’s all mine!”
Plunkett lays claim to Parys Mountain - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesBy all accounts, Paddy was ready to storm off in a huff… Until Plunkett corrected himself. Parys Mountain is a mine – in fact, during its heyday in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was the largest copper mine in Europe.

The story of this runaway success starts in 1764, when Charles Roe leased the mountain from its owners in the hope of mining it for copper. I’m not sure if he knew at the time that the area had been mined as far back as the Bronze Age – archaeological evidence for this only really came to light in the early 2000s. But copper ingots with Roman markings had been found near the mountain and on other parts of Anglesey Island well before that, which suggested that searching for copper here might not be such a bad idea.

And it turned out he was right! Four years later, on the 2nd of March, Rowland Pugh – a local miner working on the site – stumbled on a great mass of copper ore relatively near the surface. After that, it was open season on copper at Parys Mountain!

Nothing lasts forever though, and mining work stopped here around a century ago. There’s still copper in them thar hills, but the finished product doesn’t fetch the tasty prices it used to, when it was in demand for protecting the hulls of wooden ships and making cannons. These days, the former mine is open to the public – both human and Beastie – so they can explore this strange lunar-like landscape!
Parys Mountain Landscape - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties

It looks like Paddy has found something interesting already!
Blue Rocks at Parys Mountain - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties“Look, Plunkett! Blue and orange rocks!”

The mineral deposits in the stones here make for a pretty crazy colour palette – everywhere you look you’re greeted by strange psychedelic hues! But where has Plunkett gone?

Oh, wait, he’s checking out some industrial architecture. Obviously.
Plunkett at the Parys Mountain Windmill - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties“Hmmmm, what have we here? An old stone windmill, perhaps for pumping water out of the mineshafts? Fascinating! And look at that stonework!”

His reverie doesn’t last long, though. Paddy’s calling him over to see something else.

“Plunkett! Look at this!”
Paddy Explores Parys Mountain - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties“Wow! That’s pretty incredible!”
The Main Main at Parys Mountain - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesIt really is! And all the more so when you remember that this massive hole in the ground…
a) Used to be a mountainside (check out this video for an aerial view of the whole mountain)
b) Was carved out by people using only picks, shovels and the odd stick of dynamite.

And that’s before you take the labyrinthine underground network of tunnels into account!

Paddy was all for exploring the mineshafts too – he had heard that there are deposits of gold and silver in there, and he also entertained the hope that he could maybe pick up an unexploded stick of dynamite as a souvenir.

But the idea of Paddy with dynamite was enough to convince Plunkett that it was time to leave. Onwards to the next adventure!

Join us for part 2 of Paddy and Plunkett’s Anglesey exploits next week! And are there any weird and wonderful places to visit near you? Tell us all about them in the comments!