If you’ve stepped foot on the Anglesey coast path, felt the sand through your toes at Ynys Llanddwyn or Traeth Bychan, or seen glittering mackerel lifted from the rocks at Moelfre or Tŷ Croes then you’ll know precisely why we celebrate Anglesey’s surrounding seas each summer.
I am not a native of the island, I hail from the border of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire in the East Midlands and like many midlanders my family have made pilgrimages to Wales to be beside the seaside. It was my father in particular that brought me to Anglesey. A pleasure fisherman of rivers in our region he would make at least an annual trip to Anglesey to try his hand at sea-fishing from the rocks. As youngsters, me and my brother would have the most amazing holidays on this fair isle. By day they might fish at Aberffraw whilst I collected sea snails and arranged them into caravan parks or sometimes I was even tasked with catching bait fish for their more challenging fishing endeavours. I won’t forget the amazing colours of the wrasse or crazy-looking sea spider which my Dad hooked by accident which seemed to point a limb at us at it was brought up from the depths. We indulged in night fishing too, and although I was mainly a bystander it was another experience not to forget; moths would be attracted to the lamp (I’ve had a fascination with moths ever since) and once we had a rather scary pitch-black encounter with a seal which had hauled out on to the rocks. We couldn’t see it, but it honked repeatedly right next to us, even my Dad was alarmed and we all laughed nervously as we gathered around the lamp. ‘Conger-bongers’ were the prized quarry of any trip to the island and we went down to the Menai Strait and other locations in groups to see if we could hook one. I have to say that I found them equally fascinating and terrifying! I still do.
It wasn’t all fishing, on a rainy day I might be treated to a trip to the Sea Zoo but most of all I loved the beaches! In those endless days of summer holidays we would spend long days on the sandy Aberffraw or the enclosed Cable Bay (our favourites) on the west of the island. My brother was a fantastic swimmer (I remember one occasion he swam around Ynys Llanddwyn whilst we walked!) and I was always less confident, but I would paddle around in the estuary looking for flatfish, explore the secret lives of rockpools or just sit on the beach digging for Australia. Happy days.
I came back to Anglesey in March 2011 when I was lucky enough to gain employment at RSPB South Stack. Along with my job I was offered the opportunity to rent a house on the reserve. It was 72 hours after moving in that I could actually see where I was thanks to the seasonal sea fret. And what an incredible garden I had! I had farmers fields with singing skylarks and noisy pheasants right beneath my bedroom window, leading to a view of grassy fields with feeding chough and my neighbours horses. Onward still Penrhos Feilw and The Range (the less visited part of the RSPB reserve), the Irish Sea and the the Llŷn Peninsular beyond, staggering.
Day-to-day I was spending time in Ellin’s Tower looking over the seacliffs full of razorbills and guillemots and helping people to find their prized puffins. Special memories for me here include seeing a hummingbird hawkmoth with my then five-month old nephew and bizarrely, missing out on six killer whales passing my home whilst I was elsewhere. Just knowing that these things are out there is sometimes enough.
Now that I lived by the sea it was time to arrange a beach clean, something I already felt passionately about. So I signed up to arrange a clean and survey for the Marine Conservation Society. I worked with Keep Wales Tidy, put a notification in the local paper and had a pretty decent turn out.
My next year on Anglesey took me to Cemlyn Bay where I was a tern warden for the North Wales Wildlife Trust; a very special experience spent alongside a record-breaking number of breeding sandwich terns and my now good friend David Wright (the other warden). It was during one of the rare sunny days I spent that summer at Cemlyn that a pod of bottlenose dolphins entered the bay, much to the amazement of myself and all our visitors- another unforgettable Anglesey experience.
It was the beginning of that year, 2012, that I had decided that I wanted to make an event to celebrate Anglesey’s amazing island location and so Anglesey Marine Week was born! Along with the idea there was an ethos. I wanted people to be able to find out new things about the sea, whether that be knowledge, inspiration or a new activity. I wanted the events to be varied and accessible, so not all about my love of wildlife, but also food, sport, art or whatever we could collectively think of! Part of the accessibility would be that event would either be free, at reduced cost and/or to raise funds for charity. Lastly, if the events would benefit the local businesses or the organisations that ran them, even better.
A photo especially for Anglesey Marine Week.
Taken by local birder and Cemlyn regular Stephen Culley who I asked to give me a helping hand!
In that first year there were thirteen varied events with big names such as Natural Resources Wales (then the Countryside Council for Wales), National Trust, RSPB and Sea Watch Foundation taking part alongside local business people who took a gamble on this new event – thank you!
Graham from the then CCW giving us a tour of Newborough Warren as part of Anglesey Marine Week 2012.
Each year I have attempted to build on the success of the one before, we have repeated the popular events and tried to add new ones each year. I’ve tried to reach people with news broadcasts, radio interviews, newspaper releases, banners around the island, flyers, the web and social media.
Chris Dearden from BBC Radio Wales at Treaddur Bay to interview me about Anglesey Marine Week in 2016.
In 2014, I followed an offer of work with Sea Watch Foundation down to mid-Wales. Nonetheless, I was determined that Anglesey Marine Week would continue. Inevitably, arranging the event in my spare time has meant waning input at some times and some years, but so long as we can get some semblence of Anglesey Marine Week out there, I feel as though it’s worth the while!
In 2017 I struggled to find the appropriate amount of time to pull together the style of event we had run previously, but I didn’t want to give up. I decided that online outreach would still achieve many of the objectives of the ethos of the event so I ran a series of guest blogs which reached tens of thousands of people. Although the physical events were missing, I felt that was a great success.
In 2018 I changed my job roles and took on some part-time work so I had high hopes for getting Anglesey Marine Week 2018 back on the ground. However, in typical yes-woman style I soon found myself taking on two jobs and being busier than ever – particularly in the spring when so many of the arrangements need to be made. I had vowed to do the guest blogs again following the success of the previous year but I had hoped we would have some events running too. With not long to go until the start of the week I had three event providers step forwards with events they would run as part of the event, to whom I am extremely grateful.
I hope that what you can see from the story of Anglesey Marine Week is that things like this don’t take place unless you have some awesome people willing to give their time and efforts to a good cause. Without each of the event providers that have ever taken part in Anglesey Marine Week it just wouldn’t have happened. August is a busy time for a lot of our local business people and yet they are prepared to break-off from their usual pursuits to offer cheap or free, or fundraising events and that’s simply because they believe in the ethos too – that’s a wonderful thing for me to experience and I am extremely grateful. The organisations, busy with their own agendas, take time out of their days to provide me with photos for social media and that’s because they believe in the importance of inspiring people about our seas too. Without these individuals and organisations we’d have no event. Please take a moment to view just a few of these fabulous events in the photo gallery above.
Over the past six years Anglesey Marine Week has reached thousands of people on the ground when they have attended our events and tens of thousands of people remotely via our web and social media outreach. Each one of you interacting helps ensure the success of the event too, so I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to make our efforts worthwhile.
So, why do we celebrate Anglesey Marine Week? I’ll leave that with you.
These days Kathy is working as Trust Development Officer for the West Wales Rivers Trust, spanning Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. She is also working for Aden Productions making a wildlife documentary with Iolo Williams titled ‘Iolo’s True Nature’, due out early in 2019.
This year, Kathy and her good friend Ken are taking time out from running their guided wildlife tours on Anglesey through Naturebites whilst they follow other pursuits. Whilst Kathy no-longer works for Sea Watch Foundation, this photograph was taken yesterday when Kathy was running a watch for dolphins off Aberystwyth as part of the National Whale and Dolphin Watch event which she has proudly organised for the previous four years.