Aboard a train ... rolling toward Wales and the house where Percy Bysshe Shelley and Harriet Shelley lived for a bit in 1813 ... Photos I took from the train.
While I was riding west in the train toward Wales and Tremadoc, I was writing furiously in my journal. As I just read it over, I see in it a freshness of observation that I’ll lose if I just summarize and rewrite. So here it is—just as I wrote it in May 1999 (okay, I changed a few things—embarrassment being my most fastidious editor):
Between Crewe & Chester, the terrain is still suited to dairy/sheep/agriculture, rather more flat, even, than earlier today. (I think I’m going to have only a couple of hours here—must move fast, catch buses, etc.) And now, only a few minutes later, the hills begin—a ruined castle off to the left on the crest of a hill. I’m impressed w/ this old train: it’s loud, but it’s flying—and a smoother ride (as is apparent from my handwriting) than the “luxury” portion of this trip. 1:15 I’ve been in Wales a bit—hills in the distance—but I’ve been reading the Times & wrestling with its crossword puzzle (got about 2/3 of it, maybe more). Just left Fhyl and are now curving toward the coast of the Irish Sea. In fact, it is just off to the right now, but a levee is so high that I can’t see it yet … Ah, there it is, blue & beautiful—liquid sky. Colwyn Bay—a gorgeous seaside community. 1:45 Slowly rolling through Welsh hills along bright blue lakes, hedged pastures, people on holiday walking & picnicking. These mountains we are approaching are—again—Appalachian/Alleghenian in character, although here at North Llanrwst, there are pastures up to the top of some of the hills; yet others are wooded solidly. 1:59 Llanrwst. Some of these little stops are like stops on a bus line. Sheep in the valleys, with new lambs chasing about. The noise of the train send the little ones scurrying; the old ones don’t even look up. … Joining the hardwoods on the hills now are evergreens, some scattered about, others in groves, but all presenting a solid green front. Four more stops—we’re at Botws-y-coed at 2:00. Some stone fences separating fields here and there; some have broken down, reminding me, of course, of “Mending Wall.” Climbing … Climbing … (We could be in the Penn. mts. on I-80 right now.) This is a gorgeous rail line, winding through these mountains, many of which are showing granite faces now. At times we run beside rapid streams where rocks break the water into white and blue. Just watched a border collie herding sheep. (Taking a few train shots—just in case.) At 2:20—2 more stops.
2:55 On train to Porthmadog—I may not make it back to London tonight—in which case this will be expensive, for my rail pass expires at midnight, & I’ll have to buy tickets all the way back. What I’ll do—I hope—at Porthmadog is hire a taxi to run me to places & then to get me back here by 17:29.)
This area is shale: the mountainsides are covered with it, as if a roofer just dumped enormous loads on the summits, and then watched with glee as it just slid down the slopes. Very near here we saw the ruins of a very lovely Roman stone bridge—only part of the arch support remains. (My luck: On this holiday no buses are running!)
(We leave at 15:05, and it’s a little over an hour—maybe 16:15—that would give me less than an hour to run around and pay a taxi to drive me back here—but that’s what I’ve got to do—or lose lots of money.)
Rugged, Wild West sort of look—far too rough a ride to write, so I write quickly at stops.