04 March 2021

Back to Llyn Bochlwyd

 When I decided to try out my biking skills, I wanted to do something with the distance I would cover. So I decided to go for a walk from Ogwen cottage. I decided on a little loop to Llyn Bochlwyd. I first walked to Llyn Idwal, and then scampered up the hill where I had never realised there was the faint trace of a path. It was nice to see some new terrain, even though it wasn't much! I drink my coffee on the slope overlooking a sunny Nant Ffrancon. And after a while I got to the lake. It was lovely and beautiful and there was no one there. I had lunch there. I hadn't been in years!

From there I just went back to my bike. It wasn't a long walk, but it was nice. And my dad had his birthday! I wanted to phone him. So I didn't want to be home too late. It was a nice walk anyway!

Nant Ffrancon and Llyn Idwal seen from an elevated position

Tryfan looming over Llyn Bochlwyd

Walking around the lake

Sunny selfie

I couldn't resist this picture of the water fall

03 March 2021

Arms good enough for bike again

I don't think I have ever spent a year biking so little as I have done in the past year, or at least not since I learned to ride a bike. So when I got serious RSI, I didn't immediately realise it hampered my biking. It took a while for an opportunity to arise to make that clear! But in the beginning, pretty much everything hurt, including holding on to handlebars. I did a few very short rides to the start of a walk, but wearing wrist splints, and these actually combine really badly with handlebars. So the bike ended up gathering even more dust.

When I spoke with my second physiotherapist, he recommended that I give it a try again. And I did! But it was still uncomfortable, especially on steep bits. So I avoided these. What I sometimes did, though, was bike to the end of Gerlan and park there, to make sure I could do the last bit of any walk in the south-western Carneddau quickly and comfortably on a bike. The bit on asphalt is not very scenic, and after a walk sometimes my feet are a bit sore, and doing 20 minutes or so on asphalt is then the last thing you want. And that is only a few minutes on bike so even if it wasn't particularly comfortable, I would sometimes do it. And I had been keen to try if I would be able to do a reasonable bike ride again after several weeks of physiotherapy, but the weekends were so atrocious I postponed it.

Then there was beautiful weekend. Time to give it a go again! So I took my bike and went over the old road to Ogwen cottage. And it worked! My arms were okay with this, both on the steep bits up and the steep bits down. I was really chuffed!

The implications of this are twofold; one, my action radius is bigger now. I can do walks again that start at Ogwen cottage, for instance. That helps! And two: it is legal to exercise with someone else again, but you have to exercise from home. I haven't done this yet! But now that I know I can bike reasonable distances, I can go and organise with a friend that we both bike to some location in between where each of us lives, and then bike a bit together as well. It would be nice! I haven't socially seen people for a while, except the old accidentally bumping into someone on a hillside. So I might be able to widen my horizons both physically and socially now!

Parked at Ogwen cottage; notice they even have parking for electric bikes!

02 March 2021


We had had a lot of snow this winter. And after the snow came torrential rain and heavy winds. It had been rather unpleasant! The first day of good weather was the day I installed the catflap. That day I decided to have lunch in the garden for the first time this year. It was lovely! And then a strange week followed: on Monday, when I was in the field, it was amazing weather. Then on Tuesday and Wednesday we went back to heavy rain and wind. And then on Thursday it was great again, and it stayed that way for days! And the forecast was for more! It finally felt like spring. And the second lunch in the garden happened. I think it will be the first two of many! And of course the weather can turn again; after all, the Beast from the East hit in March. Something like that can happen again! But for now I am enjoying this renewed acquaintance with my garden. And with the sun!

01 March 2021

First time this semester: in the field with the students

It had been a while! The last time I had been in the field with students it had been at the start of the first semester. We had gone to Llanddwyn; the traditional first trip of our fieldwork module. By the time we did the second trip of the series, I was already off sick. Now we were doing the third and I was back!

It wasn't going to be a big trip; it was only timetabled from noon onwards, and we were never going to get the full cohort of students. Some were undoubtedly shielding, some might not be on campus, for some both might hold; and it wasn't a big group to start with. But it would be difficult enough as it was given this restrictions. We can only transport ten students in a coach, and you can't rock up at a location with lots of coaches as the locals will get spooked.

For this trip, we had booked two coaches. Some of the students would drive themselves. I would meet the coaches on campus and accompany them to our site. But shortly before I would leave I got an email; another student had pulled out, and we would only have 10 students. So that would only require one coach! But two appeared. To be on the safe side, I asked the second coach to wait until we were ready to leave. In the end, only eight students showed up! So the second bus could indeed just go wherever it wished. And I followed the other coach to Cemaes.

We were there to look at a mélange associated with an old subduction zone, a thrust fault, a fossil stromatolite, Ordovician gravels lying on top of Precambrian quartzite, and some more things. Quite a lot of the history of that subduction zone and how it stopped being that and changed into a thrust zone. Interesting stuff! And we had great weather for it; this could not be taken for granted. We had had amazing weather that same Monday in the field, but that Tuesday the weather had been absolutely atrocious, and a fieldtrip involving other staff and students had had to be called off. The Wednesday was quite rainy and windy as well! But we were out on the Thursday, and it was amazing again. You don't often get that lucky.

We make sure to stay 2 m apart and wear masks, but then we were on the beach and we could start talking geology. It was lovely! The previous time we had done this trip we could walk all the way around, but that had been when we had the entire day. So we walked back to the bus and then walked to the last location from there. And then time was up!

I think it went well! I never felt like we were taking risks with Covid, and the students were engaged, and the weather helped. I am looking forward to the next one already!

Getting ready for geology at the White Lady

Looking from the viewpoint over Patrick's well to the Ogof Cynfor headland

Dei gesturing wildly inspired by a Palaeozoic dike

Full moon over the bay

27 February 2021

Unusually sunny day filming in the field

We had decided that a module with 80 students is not a module with which you can easily do a fieldtrip, so we had decided to go virtual for our usual two days in the field. That plan had already brought us to a rainsoaked and windswept Cwm Idwal, and now it would take us to Red Wharf Bay. The module is Earth, Climate and Evolution, and the fieldtrips deal mainly with the first two of these.

This time, the weather couldn't reasonably have been any better. It was still February, but there was an almost cloudless sky! It was a little bit windy, but not too bad. This time it would only be Jaco and me, and the photographer. Katrien was otherwise engaged.

When I drove up I was met by Jaco who informed me that we couldn't park where we normally do, but he had found a layby that did the job too. While we walked up I received the result of the Covid test I had done on the way up; negatives, of course. Later that week I would go into the field with students, and I would have to be able to show I wasn't infected.

Because of the tide Jaco wanted to walk all the way to the end and then do all the filming on the way back, but we started with taking some drone footage, as we weren't sure the conditions would stay that good. There is a big lump of limestone towering over the bay, and only a drone can take a nice good look.

The beach looked amazing!

When that was done we went to the end. There I did a little introduction, and then it was time to go look for some of the most recent deposits there (except modern beach sand, of course): Devensian till. Jaco had chosen to walk the slippery way. I'm not keen on falling on my face, so I avoided the seaweed, and got to the till without difficulty. The photographer wasn't far behind. I decided we had better use the time efficiently and just record a spiel about the glacial deposits without Jaco. I was just done when he reappeared. At least he hadn't slipped on the seaweed and got into trouble! He had just got distracted by nice fossils. A much more cheerful reason to go AWOL for a while.

We then went on to the best part of the beach; an ancient karst landscape with weird sandstone plugs, with adjacent a cliff made up of very organic shale, overlain by more sandstone and limestone. The contact between the shale and the sand is absolutely riddled with trace fossils! Here both Jaco and I did a spiel. I did the karst and he did the cyclothem, and the trace fossils.

The best part of the beach

Jaco talking about stratigraphy

Dragon isThen the best bit was over! We rounded things off by pointing out some fossil coral, and a weird layer of solifluction deposits. Jaco decided that he would record a voice over for the drone footage of the limestone cliffs; no point recording that standing on the ground. So that meant we were done!

Even though it had been a lovely sunny day with beautiful geology, I was glad we could call it a day; this way I could pop by the lab to pick up face masks for the next trip, and then get another Covid test, as the University requests two of these before any face-to-face contact. And that worked! I think the students will regret not having been on this trip, as quite unlike the previous outing, this one must have looked amazing in the recordings. But I think the University would not have been thanked if it would have sent many tens of students swarming over this rather popular spot!

26 February 2021

Cat flaps sorted: cat outside

The second weekend the cat had lived here I had removed the old cat flap from the kitchen door. That's as far as I managed to get! So the third weekend it was time to make more progress. I could tell she was keen to go outside. And after two weeks she probably would feel sufficiently at home here to not immediately run away. I was a bit nervous; what if she did run away after all? What if something would spook her, and she just ran away in an arbitrary direction, only to not find her way back? But I had to take the risk. I couldn't keep her indoors forever.

On the Saturday, it was atrocious weather. Fine weather to sort out the catflap in the door to the conservatory. So I started on that. I cut a hole in the door, and try to fit the old catflap I had removed from the kitchen door in. It was a bit of a precision job. The screws with which you are supposed to attach it are about 2 mm from the hole, if that, so while if the hole is not big enough the catflap doesn't work, if you make it only marginally bigger, you can fix it to the door any more. So that was a bit of a faff. But I got it done! And there soon as the hole was in the door, the cat realised what this was for and started hopping through it. When the catflap was in place, that did not deter her; even though it was a bit frictional, she just pushed through. She clearly knew the concept.

I did start drilling holes in the plastic panel of the conservatory, and I started a little bit with the sawing, but I didn't continue as I knew that in order to finish the work I would have to be outside as well. And I didn't want to do in that weather! So that was postponed until the Sunday, which was supposed to be a lot nicer.

On the Sunday, after breakfast, I set to work. I started sawing away. I remained undisturbed, as sawing in a PVC panel with thermal insulation in it makes a terrible racket. The cat didn't like that.

I had to do a bit of filing to make the catflap fit through. But it was good it was a bit tight! That meant the thermal insulation hadn't been too much compromised.

Before I had installed it, I had put batteries in it and bribed the cat with cheese to stick her head in. It was one of those with a chip detector. Given how brazen the neighbourhood cats poo in my garden, I figured they might also brazenly stomp into my house if I would give them the chance. So this catflap only lets Mevrouw Moor in!

By the time I was installing it I had stopped making a lot of noise, so the cat came to have a look what was on. And out she went! I wasn't even finished and she was already at it. I dropped my tools and went with her.

She was careful! She didn't start running away. She just carefully checked out the environment. And after a while, she carefully went down the stairs. I followed. She explored in the direction of the apple tree. I followed. And then the neighbour's dog noticed I was in the garden! That always inspires him to come barking to the fence. That's his way of demanding cuddles! But the barking spooked the cat. She was back up the stairs in a flash.

I was very relieved to see her behind the conservatory door when I came up too! She was a sensible cat, and she had run straight back into the house when she was scared. Excellent!

She didn't stay inside for long, though. She was out again in no time! And she explored the garden of a neighbour, and the area in front of the house. She is the explorer type!

I noticed she never stayed outside very long. Maybe she just wanted to stay close to me! Or maybe she still found it a bit scary. I'm sure she'll make bigger forays later in spring, when I am outside a bit more myself. But the first day was a success. I'm glad!

How it started


I wasn't even done installing it!

Sawing a hole in one's house

Ready for the catflap!

Again; before I was really finished installing

Out exploring!

25 February 2021

Creating a memento

 I am convinced that there is nothing anyone can say or do that helps against the pain of your child dying. I am also convinced that some things can make things worse. I could imagine that no one marking the passing of your child would be one of those things. So when the International Office of the University invited people who had known our student who had died to send a message of sorts to the parents, I wanted to make a gesture. I wanted to create something tangible as a message from the country where their daughter had gone. Something that had something to do with what she was studying here. And I decided to send them a shell of an ocean quahog (Arctica islandica), which is a very long-lived species of clam. As they live so long, they are beloved by people who try to make very high-resolution climate records. You can just count their annual growth lines, so you have absolute age control. And the calcite documents things such as temperature.

I had to personalise it, of course; I wanted her name on it. But I assumed her parents would think of her in Chinese characters. So I asked the International office if they knew what that would look like, and of course they did. So I did my best engraving them on the shell. I was a bit nervous; what if you get it slightly wrong and the character then starts meaning something else? But I think I stayed so close to the instructions it really reads like her name.

I don't think this gesture will make a huge difference, but if it gives them the faintest comfort then it will have been worth it!