Pier Pressure Day 13: Blowing a Gale in Wales

Actually we’re starting this write-up with the end of day 12, where we left off yesterday, in Aberystwyth. We had a concert at St Michael’s church there, and although the audience was on the small side, they were very enthusiastic! After this we retired to a local hostelry with a couple of Sheffield friends who were at the concert, Andrew and Mary, and two of their local friends, before all going for a very nice curry together. At this point, we decided to head back to the pier, where the club is named after our tour, “Pier Pressure”. Sadly (perhaps) it was shut, so we didn’t get to enjoy the Aber nightlife, and just got this selfie instead…

However, through the night we could hear the wind picking up, and by the time we left there was truly a gale blowing across north Wales. A long and beautiful drive through the heart of Snowdonia wasn’t enough to abate this, and when we arrived at Bangor at 11.30, the wind seemed stronger if anything. Certainly walking down the long pier here was difficult with the cellos being blown about, and fortunately there were a couple of shelters at the far end which enabled us to play. In these winds, I don’t think we’d have been able to even hold the cellos in the open, let alone play them effectively! This pier was also notable because James’s wife Zoe, and their young son, came out to meet us, which was lovely (and explains why there’s a small child in the picture below!).

After this we headed over the Menai Straits to the Isle of Anglesey, and a few miles up the road to the coastal town of Beaumaris. The pier here is not so long, and although unspectacular in many ways has a beauty in its simplicity. It was also busy with people (old and young) fishing, despite the even stronger winds, which caused both sand and water to buffer our faces as we walked up. Like Bangor, we were grateful for some shelter in which to play (a covered bench, at least), and we were delighted to see our old friend Emily turn up here. Nevertheless, we were pleased to get out of the wind after about 20 minutes’ playing to go and get our fish and chips – our thirteenth portion, and we are now starting to get slightly sick of them…

While on the road round the coast to Llandudno, we got word from BBC North West Tonight that they’re going to follow us round tomorrow, so that put a spring in our step. Llandudno is a lovely pier in a lovely setting, and fortunately the strong winds here were mitigated by the massive hill behind the town – the Great Orme. It was still quite cold however, and started to rain as we played for about 30 minutes with lots of passing holidaymakers. We were also met here by our old friend Shaun and his daughter Catherine, who then followed us around to Colwyn Bay for the last pier of the day.

Ah yes, Colwyn Bay. This was one of the piers where we knew we couldn’t get on: it’s been closed for years, but we had contacted the Colwyn Bay Victoria Pier Trust, a local organisation who have been battling to save it (the County Council preferring to demolish it, although they are unable to due to its listed status). The Trust put the word out far and wide, and we turned up to find dozens of local people (including two professional cellists!) waiting to see us perform outside the locked gates of the pier. They gave us such a warm welcome (as well as donating generously to our charities, Alzheimer’s Society and CHICKS), that we felt really moved by the whole thing. The pier itself is obviously in a poor state of repair, but there was nothing to us that seemed worthy of demolition, and clearly it was a great traditional pier in its day. Hopefully it will be again at some point in the future. We played for about half an hour there, before having all sorts of photographs and conversations with members of the Trust. Good luck to them for their continued battle!

And so we’re staying tonight in Chester – James will be sleeping in his own bed, which he is greatly anticipating! One more day only to go… and five piers to play on; Southport (10.30), St Anne’s (12.30), Blackpool South (14.00), Blackpool Central (15.00) and finishing the whole tour at Blackpool North at 16.30. Nearly there!

Weather report: More cold and wet weather at times, but it was the gale-force winds that really threw us off. Fortunately the Jargar Strings held up not only through this but also through James’s cello case taking a serious bump in Llandudno! The temperatures varied between 18.7 and 20.1 celsius, with humidity between 66.5% and 70.5%.

Quote of the day: “I tell my pupils about you to inspire them to play the cello!” A cello teacher we met in Colwyn Bay, who has also taken lots of her pupils up Snowdon to recreate what we did!

Pier of the day: Colwyn Bay