The Trip of a Lifetime? The Galapagos


Inspired by David Attenborough’s 3 part documentary, and the tales of friends who visited 15 years ago, we decided our retirement present would be a trip to the Islands of Tortoises, better known as the Galapagos Islands. Situated in the Pacific Ocean, some 600 miles off the west coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos were, of course, made famous by Charles Darwin who, having visited them, came up with his theory of evolution, “The Origin of the Species”.

AlbatrossWe flew to Quito which is situated in the foothills of the Andes. At 9,500 feet, it is the second highest capital in the world (for quiz buffs – La Paz, Bolivia is the highest). The city was founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca city. It has the best preserved, least altered historic centre in Latin America and has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Spanish colonial buildings dating back some 500 years are impressive but it’s the interior of the Jesuit cathedral of La Compania that sticks in the mind for its gold leaf work, gilded plaster and wood carvings.

It’s just over a 2 hour flight from Quito to the Galapagos Islands and from there we took a short bus and boat ride to our cruise ship which became our home for the next 7 nights.

All 19 islands of the Galapagos are there as a result of repeated volcanic activity – they simply rose up from the seabed. This, and their isolation from the mainland, begs the question as to how they have come to be inhabited by such a variety of plants, animals and birds, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. The theory is that their ancestors were somehow brought here by the sea currents; the islands being located at the confluence of 3 ocean currents. The same theory goes for the birds – though substitute air currents for sea.

In order to survive the inhospitable volcanic terrain the animals and birds learnt to adapt; those that didn’t, so the theory goes, died. Some of the iguanas learnt to swim and forage in the sea for food; the marine iguanas can now drink seawater and snort the excess salt out through their nostrils. The cormorants found that they didn’t need their wings and these shortened over time so that the birds are now flightless. In order to survive the heat the penguins became shorter. And the famous Darwin finches? Well, over time the size and shape of their beaks changed on the different islands, in order toaccess the different types of food available to them.

The isolation of the islands and so few predators means that the wildlife have little fear of humans. Talk about getting up close and personal. We were told to keep at least 8 feet away from the animals – the problem was that no-one tells them that. And sea-lion pups are very inquisitive and very cute; and so your head tells you to back away as they come up to you whilst your heart says other things. I could certainly see from their lack of fear how the dodo came to be extinct in Mauritius. The giant tortoise was lucky not to have suffered a similar fate. Pirates and whalers came to the Galapagos from the 18th century and the tortoises provided them with an easy supply of fresh meat. The guide told us that they were taken back to the ships alive and then stacked upside down for ease of storage. In that cruel state they could survive for up to a year!

Ecuador appreciates the uniqueness of its islands and has got its act together on the ecotourism front. Fifteen of the 19 islands are uninhabited and form the Galapagos National Park, which, in 1979, became the first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Around 30,000 people live on the islands and some 2000,000 tourists visit each year. Tourism is strictly regulated. We went everywhere with guides who were born in the Galapagos, had been educated to university standard and really knew their stuff. They were very friendly and so obviously enjoyed sharing their knowledge of the islands with us. Having said that anyone who strayed off the path or lagged behind to take that extra photograph, my husband included, was suitably chastised!Tortoise

We saw so many wonderful things. The highlights for me on land were spotting our first blue footed booby and seeing an albatross nesting with its egg. In the ocean it was snorkelling with sea turtles and watching a marine iguana feed off the seabed. The sea was beautifully clear but freezing, even with a wetsuit. With minimum light pollution the night sky was also something special. We stared open-mouthed up at a very bright and sparkling Milky Way.

Well – was it a trip of a lifetime? Only time will tell of course …. but it will take some beating. Our next trip? Well that’s slightly closer to home. We’re off to beautiful West Wales – fingers crossed on the weather front and spotting a dolphin.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

by Mohsin Hamid

At a cafe table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man talks with an uneasy American stranger. As the sun moves across the sky and shadows become darker, he begins the tale that brought them to this ominous meeting. This is a first- person novel where the narrator, Changez, establishes an enticing and gripping hold on the reader as he reveals his life story to this American.

We learn that Changez is a highly educated Pakistani who was top of his class at Princeton in America. He worked as a financial analyst for the prestigious firm of Underwood Samson in New York. But after a disastrous love affair and in the wake of September 11 Changez finds his position in his adopted country is not viable and he returns disenchanted to Pakistan..

Opinions by the Page Turners were unanimous.

 An eerie quite powerful story.

 There is a menace there and something is about to happen, and soon..

 It was an exciting novel written well and containing good language.

 There is tension as the novel unfolds and keeps the reader guessing and gives the novel depth and power.

 It was a seriously good book.

 The author has captured a particular reality.

 A great read.


It was good to have a book at last that everybody in the group felt was a good read, and one that we would recommend. The score was a 9.

Mediterranean-Style Lamb Stew with Olives


2 tbsp garlic oil

500g lamb neck fillet, or a shoulder cubed

1 onion sliced

3 cloves of garlic finely chopped

125ml dry white wine

1 x 400g chopped tomatoes

2 large strips of orange peel, pith removed

2 good sprigs of thyme

Handful of Kalamata olives

1 large red pepper, seeded and sliced


Heat 1 tbsp of the oil and brown the lamb all over, remove from the pan and set aside. In the same pan heat the remaining oil, add the onion and cook for about 5 mins until softened. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 secs more. Increase the heat and pour in the wine leave to bubble for about 2 – 3 mins until reduced by half. Return the lamb to the pan with the tomatoes, thyme, orange peel and 200ml of water. Cover and simmer for about an hour, adding a little water as reqd. Stir to stop it catching. Add the red pepper, olives and cook for a further 15-20 mins un-til peppers have softened.

Remove the orange peel before serving. Serve with prepared, [as per the packet], Cous Cous, crusty bread to mop up any remaining juices a glass of good Spanish wine.

Spiced Seafood Jumbalaya


1 tbsp garlic oil

1 tsp smoked paprika

3 good sized garlic cloves, finely chopped

1tsp chilli flakes

1 large onion, roughly chopped

1 green pepper, seeded, cut into chunks

1 large courgette cut into chunks

150g good chorizo, skin removed, sliced

1tsp dried oregano

350g long grain rice

750ml bought fish stock

5oog mixed seafood [defrosted]

3 tbsp flat leaf parsley

1 large onion thinly sliced [see end of recipe]


Heat the oil in a large pan, add the pimento, garlic, chilli flakes and the chopped onion. Cook for about 2 mins. Add the green pepper, courgette, chorizo and the oregano. Cook for about 3 mins until the chorizo and vegetables are golden. Add the rice and cook for about 2 mins, pour in the fish stock, bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 mins, or until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is ten-der. [Stir from time to time, don’t let the rice burn or stick]. Add the seafood mix, stir to combine, season. Cook for about another 5 mins until the seafood is heated through. In another pan add another tbsp of oil and fry the sliced onion until almost crisp [don*t let in burn]. Garnish the cooked jumbalaya with the parsley and onions. Serve while hot. Enjoy with a cold larger or a large jug of Sangria.

September Nature Notes.

Wander into the countryside and you can easily spot birds and wildflowers. Even if you cannot see the birds you can often hear them calling despite being hidden in trees and undergrowth. But how many mammals will you see? Deer are not yet seen around Wenvoe but you might spot the odd fox or badger. Evidence of moles comes with the molehills often visible in early Spring before the vegetation gets too tall. And if you venture out on a warm summer evening you will see bats whether in the centre of the village or out in the countryside. But what about the many small mammals that we know are out there – the voles, mice and shrews? Not only do we not know how they are faring locally but even nationally there is very little information on how well or badly they are doing.

We do know that the UK has lost 500 native species of wildlife in the last 200 years including the extinction of 12% of our land mammals. Hedgehogs are down in the last 40 years from 30 million to 1.5 million. To our children and their grand-children Mrs Tiggy Winkle and Ratty (the water vole in Wind in the Willows) will be as remote as the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood (officially Britain's last wolf was killed in 1680). Here is a quote from the Act for Wildlife website:

‘Conservation must start at home in our back gardens, parks, cities and open spaces. The wildlife we have in the UK is fascinating and diverse and it is our heritage and responsibility’.

So what about our small furry friend in the photo? It is a field vole found alive and well on the Upper Orchid Field. They favour tussocky grasslands and orchards. One of the reasons the grass on the Community Orchard has been allowed to become tussocky is to encourage them and we know that they are establishing themselves there although whether there are 2, 10 or 100 we really do not know. Hopefully one day someone with the necessary survey skills will be able to give us a clue.

WI news


There was no August meeting for Wenvoe WI. However seven members joined Dinas Powys at their August meeting and enjoyed a fish and chip supper and a beetle drive. Congratulations to Phyllis who won the prize for the highest score. On August 22nd fifteen members enjoyed the skittles evening at Dinas Powys rugby club.

Our first meeting after the summer break will be on September 1st at 7pm.

Please remember that all future meetings will be held at the church hall unless otherwise advised. Our speaker on this occasion will be Elin Jones from Ty Hapus which supports people living with dementia and we will handover our fundraising cheque to her. Anyone who wishes to hear more about the work of the organisation will be very welcome.



By the time you are reading this we are hopeful that we will have reached agreement with all parties and that Wenvoe Library will have been handed over to Wenvoe Community Library Limited as a not-for-profit company acting on behalf of the community. As we have always indicated there should be minimal change evident at first, the same opening hours and the same services.

Our volunteers have been working alongside the Vale's librarian and are increasingly proficient in their tasks. We need more volunteers, particularly for Saturday mornings where there are two shifts, 9- 11 and 11-1. Please let us know if you are interested. Contact 07581489837, alexgrattan01@ or call into the library and leave your contact details.

We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the first Friends' Book Sale on 3rd September.



Green Flag Award Ceremony


Green Flag Award CeremonyThe photo shows Sue Hoddell receiving our Green Flag awards at a ceremony for Vale of Glamorgan winners. We have decided that our fourth entry next year will be the Welsh orchard near Maes y Felin. This is our largest orchard and includes fruit trees of Welsh origin. If you would like to be involved with the development of this orchard please contact the Wildlife Group.

A number of people have mentioned that they are not clear on where our community orchards, woodlands and meadow are situated so we shall be featuring each of them in turn starting with the Upper Orchid Field.

First where is it? Also known locally as the Sledging Field it is midway between Wenvoe and Twyn-yr- Odyn and can be approached by footpath from either end. From Wenvoe go round Walston Road until you come to the sharp turn at the northern end and follow the public footpath and Upper Orchid Field signs through woodland. Cross a road which is used by lorries filling Whitehall Quarry and the Upper Orchid Field is the other side of the gate. From Twyn-yr-Odyn cross the road to the Quarrymens’ Tribute and follow the new public access footpath which brings you into the top of the Upper Orchid Field. There are other footpaths leading into the field if you look at a map but most people use the two described here.

What is it? The Upper Orchid Field is a traditional meadow of 4-5 acres covered in wildflowers, not least orchids, and with a high concentration of wildlife. In Britain we have lost most of our wildflower meadows and with them the insects, birds and small mammals that are associated with them. It is one of very few left near Cardiff. There are paths around the site, noticeboards with information and features such as Molluscopolis where you can find out about snails and slugs. It is owned by the Vale of Glamorgan Council (VoGC) and managed under licence by the Wenvoe Wildlife Group. The licence obliges the Council to cut the field every year but since 2014 it has been a victim of budget cuts and we have relied on the help of local farmer Robert Reader to get it mown. If this was not done it would revert to woodland, scrub and bramble which was very much the state it was becoming when we first became involved just under 10 years ago.

You will also hear references to the Lower Orchid Field. As you emerge from the bottom of the Upper Field heading back towards Wenvoe this is the field to your left running alongside the quarry access road. It is also owned by but is not managed by anyone although a hay cut is often taken. There are no public rights of way through it although a path down the southern boundary is often walked.

The Upper Orchid Field can be accessed at any time and visitors are most welcome. If you are new to Wenvoe why not wander over and take a look. If you would like to get involved with conservation work either here or at our community orchards get in touch with the Wenvoe Wildlife Group. For more information look at our website or Facebook (Wenvoe Wildlife Group).



The Creative Rural Communities is working with the community of Wenvoe to explore the assets in the area and identify opportunities for future initiatives.

Please give us 5 minutes to complete the survey to give us feedback about how you feel about your neighbourhood, the services in the area and your priorities for the future development of the community.

If you live in the Wenvoe community area – (Wenvoe village, Brooklands Terrace area, Twyn-yr-Odyn, St Lythan’s, Dyffryn and the two new development areas – The Grange and St Lythans Park) we are keen to have your views.

The survey can be accessed on line at     or at  . Paper copies will be available from the Community Centre and other local outlets. There will also be a representative available at the Community Centre to discuss the project and complete a survey form on September 17th during the staging of the village show.

Please complete the survey by Monday 3rd October 2016. Thank you!

Leisure Group Update


Leisure Group recommences on Sept 7th at our new venue ,the Community Hall. Leisure Group was first formed in the 1980s,in the Village Hall and was for both men and women, who met for a chat and some light entertainment. Over the years it has become ladies only and the age group now is 50 plus.

We still meet weekly and have a variety of speakers, we have the occasional quiz or game of bingo afternoon teas and celebrate special events. Members pay an annual fee of £6 and a weekly subscription of £1.

To celebrate our move to our new venue,and the start of our Autumn session, we are holding a musical afternoon Members of the Cardiff Live Music Club will be coming to entertain us on their keyboards.

So ladies,why not come along on Sept 7th and enjoy the music,meet with friends, and learn what our forthcoming Autumn programme has in store. We welcome visitors and new members.

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