The Great Strait Raft Run I

Great Strait Raft Run

Date

4 June 2017

Location

Britannia Bridge
SH 54165 70870; 53.21480°N, 4.18546°W

Information

The Great Strait Raft Run is an annual event that raises funds for local causes. The route along the Menai Strait is approximately 6 km long and starts from Y Felinheli and ends in Menai Bridge, passing under the Britannia Bridge, past Ynys Gored Goch, and under the Menai Suspension Bridge. The raft run started in 1984 but was discontinued later that decade with it being restarted in 2002.

Further Reading

Great Strait Raft Run (official site);
Britannia Bridge;
Menai Strait

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Beaumaris Pier

Beaumaris Pier

Beaumaris Pier

Date

28 February 2015
Location

Beaumaris, Anglesey

SH 60575 76001; 53.26261°N, 4.09178°W

Information

Designed by Frederick Foster and constructed from limestone blocks, Beaumaris Pier originally opened in 1846. After being damaged in a storm it was rebuilt in 1872. The original masonry causeway was extended with a wooden-planked deck on iron girders supported by timber piles. Further alterations were made in 1895 when a T-shaped landing stage and a pavilion were added to the pier head. A narrow-gauge railway, carrying hand trucks to convey passengers’ luggage along the length of the pier, was also added at that time.

The Liverpool and North Wales Steamship Company operated both local cruises and services to Liverpool from the pier. Following the decline in the popularity of pleasure cruises during the 1950s, however, the pier fell into disrepair and the cross pier head was subsequently demolished. Various repairs were carried out from the 1960s to the 80s, with ownership of the pier passing to Anglesey Borough Council in 1974.

More recently, as its condition had been allowed to deteriorate over the years, Anglesey County Council oversaw a major refurbishment programme as part of the £5.6 million Anglesey Coastal Environment Project with funding from the European Regional Development Fund and the Welsh Assembly Government. Work on the £2 million upgrade started in March 2011 and the pier was officially re-opened in June 2012. The project involved the following: strengthening the lumber supports with stainless-steel plates; replacing the wooden deck and restoring it to its full original width; renovating the pier-head shelter and the gift kiosk at the entrance; building a new connecting bridge and floating landing stage for use by the local angling and pleasure-cruise vessels that dock at the pier.

The new pontoon was damaged in December 2012 by a storm and high tides and was repaired in March 2013. By August 2013 concerns were being raised over the lack of general maintenance with the County Council not allocating any funds in its budget for the upkeep of the pier. Calls were also made for any money raised by the pier through docking fees to be ring fenced for its ongoing maintenance.

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Bangor Pier (1)

Bangor Pier

Bangor Pier

Date

22 February 2015
Location

Garth, Bangor

SH 58451 73224; 53.23710°N, 4.12236°W

Information

Bangor Pier was built not only as a promenade pier but also to take advantage of the popularity in the late 19th century for pleasure-boat trips. The Liverpool and North Wales Steamship Company – which was established in 1890 as the New North Wales Steamship Company and which changed its name the following year after taking over the competing Liverpool, Llandudno and Welsh Coast Steam Boat Company – operated services between the new pier and Liverpool, Fleetwood near Blackpool, and Douglas in the Isle of Man. Following the decline in local pleasure cruising during the 1950s the company was wound up in 1962.

The pier, which was opened in 1896 by the 2nd Baron Penrhyn, was designed by Lancashire-born civil engineer John James Webster (1845-1914) and was constructed from steel girders supported by cast-iron columns and had a pontoon landing stage at the end. The structure, in the Garth district of Bangor, originally projected 1550 ft (472 m) into the Menai Strait. Currently 1500 ft (457 m) long, it is now the second longest surviving pier in Wales (the longest, Llandudno Pier, is 700 m long).

There are a number of kiosks along the length of pier and a 14-sided pavilion at the end, whose café originally served steam-boat passengers. There was also originally a narrow-gauge railway running the length of the pier to convey passengers’ luggage. Unlike many other piers, the one in Bangor has never hosted typical seaside amusement facilities.

The structure was seriously damaged in 1914 when the 130 ft vessel SS Christiana, which was incidentally built in the same year as the pier was completed, slipped it moorings at the pontoon and struck the pier. A temporary gangway was put in place to bridge the gap in the pier caused by the accident. The three-foot gauge railway was also removed when this repair work was undertaken. Permanent remedial work was, however, not carried out until 1921.

Following the demise of the pleasure-cruise services, the pier fell into into disrepair during the 1960s and was closed on safety grounds in 1971. It was acquired in 1974 by Arfon Borough Council, who decided to demolish it. Bangor City Council, however, managed to prevent this by obtaining a preservation order which led to its being granted listed status. Ownership passed to the City Council, which subsequently secured the funding necessary for its renovation. Restoration work carried out by contractor Alfred McAlpine commenced in 1982 with financial backing from the Welsh Development Agency, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Historic Buildings Council for Wales and the Manpower Services Commission. The pier, which is now a Grade II* listed structure, re-opened to the public in 1988.

The pier is currently in need of essential repair work and the City Council is faced with a major shortfall in the funds necessary for this. In 2011 it was announced that although over the past 25 years the council had been putting money aside for its maintenance amounting to £1 million, the costs involved in treating corrosion and painting the metalwork were likely to exceed £2 million. At the end of 2014 the council appointed consultants to assist with an application to be submitted this year to the Heritage Lottery Fund for financial support to develop more detailed renovation plans.

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Ynys Gored Goch / Whitebait Island

Ynys Gored Goch in the Menai Strait with Britannia Bridge behind

Ynys Gored Goch in the Menai Strait with Britannia Bridge behind

Date

8 November 2014
Location

From Church Island, Menai Bridge

SH 55108 71736; 53.22284°N, 4.17175°W

Information

Differences in the tides at either end of the channel separating Anglesey from the mainland give rise to strong currents flowing in either direction at different times through the Menai Strait. The stretch between the two bridges (Telford’s Menai Suspension Bridge and Stephenson’s Britannia Bridge) – known as the Swellies – is the most hazardous and experiences various whirlpool currents owing to the rocks. Tidal conditions in the strait were, however, favourable for catching fish using traps. These employed weirs that allowed fish to enter at high tide but then left them enclosed at low tide. One such fishery was located on the 100m-long island in the strait close to Britannia Bridge. Ynys Gored Goch (literally, Red Weir Island, but known in English as Whitebait Island) is documented as having been owned by the Diocese of Bangor in the late 16th century, when it was leased to a Thomas Fletcher of Treborth for an annual rent of £3 plus a barrel of fish. There are two buildings on the half-hectare island: the main house together with the now converted smoke house where the fish were cured. During the early 20th century visitors could cross to the island by boat to avail themselves of a ‘whitebait tea’ for a shilling. The church authorities sold the island in 1988 and it has had a number of private owners since then. Mains water and electricity were installed in 1997 and for a while the house was used for holiday accommodation.

 

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Ynys Llanddwyn

Twr Mawr and St Dwynwen's cross

Date

19 November 2011
Location

Newborough, Anglesey

SH 38502 62513; 53.13522°N, 4.41559°W

Information

Ynys Llanddwyn is a tidal island — cut off only by the highest tides — on the western approach to the Menai Strait. It forms part of Anglesey’s Newborough Warren National Nature Reserve and is managed by the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW).

Its name means Island of the church of St Dwynwen. Dwynwen — the Welsh patron saint of lovers — lived as a recluse on the island until her death in about 465 CE and during the Middle Ages Llanddwyn became an important destination for Christian pilgrims. The ruins of the 16th-century church are said to stand on the location of her original hermitage.

At the end of the island there are two early 19th-century towers — Twr Mawr (big tower) and Twr Bach (small tower). These were probably originally built as unlit markers for ships entering the Menai Strait bound for the slate ports of Caernarfon, Y Felinheli and Bangor. Twr Mawr is 35 ft high and of a design reminiscent of an Anglesey windmill. It was established as a lighthouse, with a lantern window on its ground level, in 1846 and was in service until 1975, when it was replaced by a flashing directional light fitted to Twr Bach. Twr Mawr featured in the 2006 Demi Moore film Half Light, in which its appearance was significantly altered digitally in post production.

Close to the towers stands a row of four pre-1830 two-roomed pilots’ cottages, two of which now house a CCW exhibition about the island. In times gone past the pilots would row out to approaching ships in order to guide them in their passage past the hazardous sand banks in Caernarfon Bay. A lifeboat, crewed by the pilots and also by volunteers from Newborough, was also stationed on the island up until 1903. The cannon outside the pilots’ cottages was used to call for assistance from Newborough village. The pilot station was closed in 1943.

Featured in NASA Earth Science Division’s Earth Science Picture of the Day, 18 December 2011.

Llanddwyn Island (Anglesey History);
Ynys Llanddwyn (Heliwr.com);
St Dwynwen’s Day (national museum wales);
Lighthouse, Llanddwyn Island (Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales)

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HMS Conway’s Anchor

HMS Conway's Anchor

Date

8 October 2010
Location

Victoria Dock, Caernarfon

SH 47768 62981 53.14215°N, 4.27742°W

Further Information

“ANCHOR from H.M.S. Conway

“This 5 ton anchor belonged to the School-Ship H.M.S. Conway which was wrecked in the Menai Straits in 1953.

“Launched as the 92 gun H.M.S. Nile in 1839, the ship was renamed ‘Conway’ in 1875 when she replaced earlier vessels of that name as a training ship on the River Mersey. She was one of the last ‘wooden walls’ to survive afloat.

“Brought to the Menai Straits to escape the Liverpool Blitz in 1941 the ‘Conway’ was first moored at Bangor, but was later moved to a new berth off Plas Newydd (four miles north of Caernarfon), in 1949.

“This anchor was one of two removed from the ship at that time and sited on the Anglesey shore as part of the permanent moorings. (The other anchor of the pair is on display at the Merseyside Maritime Museum).

“When recovered in September 1987 it was found that the wooden stock had disintegrated and a new oak replacement was fitted in 1988. This was made possible with a grant from P.H. Holt Charitable Trust.”

 — Caernarfon Maritime Museum information plaque

HMS Conway

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Britannia Bridge

One of the four limestone lions, by sculptor John Thomas, guarding the bridge at rail level

Date

2 October 2010
Location

Britannia Bridge, Menai Strait

SH 54254 70899 53.21509°N, 4.18414°W

Further Information

“Opened in 1850 to carry the Chester & Holyhead Railway, this tubular bridge, and that at Conwy, were the forerunners of modern box girder bridges. Their engineer, Robert Stephenson, surmised that if the top of the trough girders were enclosed, the girders might be self-supporting, a concept confirmed by strength of materal studies and large-scale model testing.

“As at Conwy, the tracks were carried within two riveted tubes formed of wrought iron plates. The four tubes for the two 460 feet mainstream spans, each weighing 1800 tonnes, were built on the Caernarfon shore then floated out and jacked up 100 feet onto the towers. The 230 feet side spans and the main spans for each track were connected end to end through the towers to form 1511 feet long girders, providing material economy through continuity. Hitherto, the longest wrought iron span was 31 feet and 6 inches.

“In 1970 a fire destroyed the protective timber roof above the tube, the heat causing the roof to tear apart, losing continuity. The bridge was replaced with new main spans of steel arches, the side spans being divided into three and rebuilt in reinforced concrete. The new bridge also carries the A5 road above the rail tracks to relieve the Menai Suspension Bridge of heavy traffic.”

 — Gwynedd Council information board.

The original construction used limestone from the nearby quarries at Penmon. Following the fire in 1970, the bridge was reopened to trains in 1972 and the new upper road deck opened in 1980.

Britannia Bridge (Wikipedia)
John Thomas (sculptor) (Wikipedia)
Photo of Britannia Bridge Lions, 1890 (francisfrith.com)

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HMS Conway, Treborth

Timbers from the wreck of the ill-fated cadet training vessel HMS Conway

Date

2 October 2010
Location

Treborth

SH 55374 71215 53.21823°N, 4.16752°W

Further Information

The 92-gun Rodney Class HMS Nile was launched in 1830 and in 1859 was officially opened as the cadet school ship HMS Conway in the Mersey. During WWII it was decided to move the ship to a safer location and in 1941, undertaking her first sea voyage in 65 years, she was towed to Glyn Garth Mooring near Bangor Pier. And in 1949 she was moved on to a mooring near Plas Newydd, Anglesey.

In 1953 she was being towed back to Birkenhead for a refit when she ran aground and broke her back. She lay on the banks of the Strait for three years until being consumed by an unexplained blaze that raged for 18 hours burning her down to the waterline. There had been a protracted period of legal wrangling over the responsibility for the disposal of the wreck and at the time various rumours circulated as to the circumstances of the fire. Alleged possible causes included vandalism and the involvement, unintentional or otherwise, of the contractors eventually engaged to remove the remains of the vessel.

Photo of HMS Conway aground on the banks of the Menai Strait (hmsconway.org)
Aerial photo of HMS Conway aground on the banks of the Menai Strait (hmsconway.org)
HMS Conway (Wikipedia)
The Loss of ‘HMS Conway’ (hmsconway.org)

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