In September 2013, on my birthday, we drove to Anglesey for the day. I think, in retrospect, that’s when it started… the monkey puzzle blog idea. I had for some time, well most of my life, been fascinated by monkey puzzle trees, but this was the first time I went, ‘Oh look!’ and made a note on my iPhone: ‘Springfield Hotel near Halkyn, 24 Sept 2013 seen from A55 just before junction 32’. And of course driving along at 60mph it’s impossible to capture a photograph, but I’d made the note and was ready to record this when we next passed this way. Which happened on Friday on our way to Anglesey for the weekend, and at the right moment I asked Ronnie, ‘Er, can we just…’ He knew what I wanted, and so we pulled in to record this very fine specimen.
It wasn’t an ideal weather day for photographing monkeys, they do look much better with a blue sky background, but you can see from the building in the background this is a lovely tall monkey.
And at the bottom of the tree they have created this lovely monkey pergola. I wondered if the Springfield Hotel had been a particularly grand house, it doesn’t really look like it… but then the monkey has completely oversized its setting. Marvellous. Historically the town of Holywell has been very wealthy with the industries of lead mining and cotton milling, so the central part of the current hotel could perhaps have been the home of a merchant living in the area outside of the town here in Pentre Halkyn.
As we travel on wonder if this is a good omen, that we might be travelling into good monkey territory.
And, dear readers, it turns out we are. Further along the A55 and into the Bangor area there are several sightings made. But they will have to wait for another day when I return to photograph them. But on Anglesey, I found these, the ‘Newborough duo’ as Ronnie instantly labelled them.
The next day we are approaching Newborough village on the B4421, and it’s a ‘stop the car now’ moment. Ronnie seems to be getting quite used to it. Straight ahead I have seen the unmistakeable profile of an adult monkey behind a rooftop. When we stop I am delighted to see there is a young monkey in front of the house. Have I found another monkey ‘front and back’ like those I saw in St Helens?
Closer inspection reveals that no, they are not in the same house. This young one, my first in postcode area LL, is in a front garden. (It seems crazy that most of North Wales and Anglesey – which is definitely a separate place from Llandudno – share the LL postcode, but it’s the cataloguing system I am using so I am following it). I actually speak to the owner of this young monkey, who is pottering about with a watering can. ‘Did you plant this?’ I ask. He nods, and I ask, ‘Did you plant it because you liked the big tree?’ He nods again, but says he can’t recall when, maybe 10 or 12 years ago. ‘Do you particularly like monkey puzzle trees?’ I ask, hoping to have an enthusiastic monkey conversation. ‘Oh, I like all plants me,’ he says, and proceeds to wander up the front path with his dog.
Some history – Newborough (Niwbwrch) was founded in 1294 by citizens of Llanmaes in eastern Anglesey, who were evicted by Edward I. He removed the Welsh population from the the medieval port to build his new castle and port of Beaumaris and control the Welsh. He’s known to history as ‘Hammer of the Scots’ is this Edward. Actually he was the hammer of pretty well everyone. A brutal character.
So we travelled on, as you can see on Ronnie’s blog. More monkeys were noted, so eight in all over the weekend – and three of them featured here for now, the others will follow. And the Welsh section of the complete monkey catalogue now being well underway, it would be good to hear details from any Welsh readers of monkeys round your way?