The Learn is set in North Wales on the Isle of Anglesey and the mainland coast, close to the Great Orme and River Conwy. All these places see and watch each other from high points: stone age, bronze and iron age forts as well as mediaeval castles.
I have included a picture of a sunset, taken this summer over Anglesey. It was snapped on my phone spontaneously. I have cropped the bottom off the picture but made no other adjustments of colour or form of any kind. The picture speaks for itself. The landscape of mountains and beaches constantly changes with the day and the seasons.
- Myth - Pearls and Mussels
There are many myths and legends in the dark ancient mists of the culture that comes out the landscape. I wanted to create a new "myth" and set it at the heart of my story. Mussels are harvested from the Conwy estuary, from the sandbanks exposed at high tide. There is a sculpture/statue of a coagulation of mussels on the quayside close to Conwy Castle and a sign saying pearls can come from mussels. I was surprised by this and had to go and check again. I had thought pearls came only from oysters. I knew that when the Romans came they coveted the Conwy Pearls fishery. The myth of Conwy pearls in The Learn as Goddess tears and how they come to be inside the mussels and of varying colours came to me from those morsels of history and the present.
- Language and Words - The Richness of Place Names
I don't speak any Welsh but over thirty years you absorb something of the language at least in place names. I am always drawn to want to know the meaning of a place name, so in my car there is a book that breaks down the composite Welsh names of many towns and villages. I think my favourite is Cerrigydrudion. The book says this is "Warriors Crag". I presume that Druid became warrior and so it is warriors crag, but to me it is Druids Crag and I cannot drive through and see the small town sign with looking at the high places that guard the valley and wonder where the Druid warrior stood and watched. In the Learn, all Druidii, men and women, are warriors, scholars and priests. The Learn is their way.
- Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age Artefacts
There are burial mounds, stone circles, stone solstice observatories, a lake of sacrifice (Llyn Cerrig Bach) and more. There are two stone circles on Conwy mountain. Stone axes from a nearby quarry are found over the sea in Europe.
- High Mountains - Snowdonia
I have walked up several high steep mountains this year, including Cnicht, Moel Siabod and Snowdon. I have heard it said that Moel Siabod has the best views in North Wales; with a 360 degree span that takes in Snowdon amongst other high points.
Despite the crowds that can be found on Snowdon, it is easy to find quiet gulleys, valleys, hills and high peaks where few people venture to their loss.
- Conwy Town and Castle (Conway to the English)
The town is famous for its mediaeval castle and walls, much of which can be walked; from where you can look down on the small town and the river, then to the hills beyond. Famous as a part of King Edward's "ring of iron", it is today becoming known for craft beer, good food and well planned tourist events from a food festival to artisan and river festivals. The bank, is now called the "Bank" and has become a wine bar. Two run down pubs have been completely brought up to date by a cooperation of micro breweries and you can have not only their and guest craft beers, but novel high quality snacks to help the beer flow. One pub, The Albion is an old atmospheric Arts and Crafts delight. It is worth a visit for the beer, the internal architecture and for bottles of Prosecco with olives at a reasonable price
- Beaches and Sea
I like the deserted beaches, but those near Llandudno are worth a look as is the town itself. I probably prefer isolated summer beaches in the rain when it is warm and wet. Next comes any winter beach when the wind is driving in and challenging walking amongst other things. Favourite beaches are the sands of Rhoscolyn, Newborough and the unique unusual dunes close by. So many Anglesey beaches are special in different ways.
This beach is perhaps my favourite though it can be hard to choose. Setting off North from the car park you get the best views of small inlets and the rocky cove. A circular walk can take you to the White Eagle for very decent gastro pub fayre at a sensible price.
- My Children and Walks
My children were born in North Wales where my wife's family have roots and where I worked for ten years. I am happy there, lifted and positive when I arrive. I have a cache of favourite places in the hills. I first took my children walking in Wales at as toddlers. It seems to have put them off walking outdoors, for life.
This is one of the best preserved Victorian and Edwardian seaside resorts in Britain, boasting sandy beaches, a pier, Victorian tram and even a dry ski slope with some of the best views in the country from the top. When busy in the summer Llandudno retains charm, cleanliness and architectural interest having avoided the "kiss me quick" that is such a part of resorts that have declined.
About the author: Born in London, Tony Halker studied geology at Leeds University after which he worked as a geologist, travelling extensively overseas. Following an MBA at Cranfield School of Management, he became a manager in hi-tec business and later a businessman and entrepreneur. His writing is inspired by powerful natural landscapes and his interest in the people and technologies emerging from those hard places. His two daughters were born in North Wales. He lives with his wife there and in Hertfordshire. The Learn by Tony Halker (published by Clink Street Publishing 29th September 2016 RRP £8.99 paperback, RRP £3.99 ebook) is available to purchase from online retailers including amazon.co.uk and to order from all good bookstores.