Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A Beautiful Island

I was 16 years old when I first saw Anglesey. Each Easter the then Lancashire Congregational Union organised a Youth Conference at St Mary's College, Bangor, North Wales. This was my first time as a delegate and it impressed me greatly. One of the spin offs from the Conference was that in the afternoon on Saturday and Sunday we had no lectures and were free to do whatever we wished. Two of us walked down to the Menai Strait and walked across the magnificent Menai Suspension Bridge onto the island of Anglesey. This was the first of many visits.
Each year that I came I was impressed by the number of gorse bushes in glorious flower on the island. Those delegates with transport filled their cars and we all came over the bridge. At that time it was the only road link to Anglesey. Each year that I visited the scene was etched deeper in my mind. My last conference visit was when I was 21 years old and engaged to be married.
In later years when Pauline and I talked about where we could go for a family holiday I suggested Anglesey. The first time we came for one week and stayed at Clegir Farm on Bodafon Mountain. We had excellent weather and started to explore the coast and its lovely beaches. The next year we stayed on another farm near Trefor for a whole fortnight. Our next experience was in a bungalow called Sarn at Maenaddwyn. It was on this occasion that, crossing the bridge, we saw a notice telling us that the RAF Open Day at RAF Valley was happening right then. We arrived at the bungalow and shot off in the car to RAF Valley and arrived just in time to see the Red Arrows performing in their Folland Gnat trainers.
By now we felt to be regulars. Our next holiday was in a bungalow in the village of Llanfaethlu on the way to Church Bay. It had four bedrooms. We were really in luck! The following year we shared the same place with our friends and their daughter. That was the last time we came to stay for a holiday. But we came again many times for a day or two. Eventually we came and stayed at the White Lion Hotel in Beaumaris with a view of the castle over the road. This was the time when my trade union held its District Meeting in Bangor. After the meeting Pauline and I came back onto the island for a last look before going home. "How would you like to retire here one day?" I asked. "I would love it!" was the reply.
We never lost that feeling. Our aim was to retire to Anglesey. Eventually we placed our house on the market, back in Milnrow, Rochdale. We had not a single offer so took it off the market until the following spring. A second attempt the following year brought a result and on the 16th September 2004 we drove to Anglesey to our new home in Penysarn. What a feeling it was to be contacted by the estate agents to say the purchase was complete. That was good because we were only two miles away from the new home when the message came through!
Since that day we have never regretted making our move. It is a dream come true. Each day we smile at each other as we think of the life we now have together in this beautiful place. The beauty of Anglesey and its mild weather seem an extremely well kept secret. It is amazing that the place has not been overrun by people coming for retirement. But, of course, it keeps the island just as we like it and as the locals like it. We live about two miles from the coast so we can be there in minutes to walk the beaches and ramble along the coastal path in many places.
We know lots of short cuts and alternative routes around Anglesey. That was very useful this morning when the traffic was halted on the A5025 because of an accident. I simply turned the car around and found my way past the blockage by way of two lanes I knew. We have lived here now for almost 18 months and life gets better by the day.
It is an island of small hills - Bodafon Mountain is one of these. There are many sandy beaches, some suitable for surfing and kite surfing. There are two small harbours in addition to the port complex in Holyhead where ferries leave for Ireland. The population is about 67,000 people spread across small towns, villages, hamlets and scattered communities. The small shop is still viable here, yet we do have supermarkets in strategic places. Our little village sports a general store, a post office and a pub! There are numerous organisations for every interest. One very popular pastime is painting and there are numerous art groups all over the island. Pauline is a member of the WI at Llaneilian and attends their weekly art classes.
As time permits I shall expand on what Anglesey is all about and what problems it faces. Watch this space. It will be interesting.


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