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CAPEL SANT TRILLO – ST. TRILLO’S CHAPEL, RHOS-ON-SEA

I had taken a few walks down to the promenade and seashore without realising I was within a few feet of this charming little chapel.

This intriguing building is thought to be the smallest church in The British Isles, seating only 6 people. It is names after St.Trillo, the 6th century Celtic saint who built his cell here.

The chapel has seating for just six people

The chapel is built on the site of an ancient spring.This provided the saint with his supply of drinking water and would have been an important factor for him picking this site.The well can still be seen in front of the altar. For centuries this well provided water for baptisms all over the extensive medieval parish of Llandrillo.In times gone by it also had a long tradition of being a healing well. Communion services are still held in the chapel. It is humbling to think that you are standing on a site that has been a site of Christian worship for nearly 1500 years!

Celtic monks usually built an enclosure around their cell so that they could farm to feed themselves. This was known as a “Llan” and Rhos means marsh, so Llandrillo-yn-Rhos, the Welsh name for Rhos-on-Sea, means St. Trillo’s enclosure by the marsh, as the surrounding area was originally very marshy. Thus St. Trillo gave his name to today’s village.

Rhos Fynach Fishing Weir

Close by the chapel, at low tide you can see the remains of the foundations of the medieval Rhos Fynach Fishing Weir, one of many once found round the Welsh coastline. There used to be two fishing weirs at Rhos. They consisted of a large V-shaped enclosure made out of wicker fencing. At high tide the fish swam into the structure, and were then trapped in a pool as the tide went out. Weirs such as these were so effective that by Victorian times they were a danger to fishing stocks, particularly salmon. Therefore in 1861 Parliament passed a law ordering their destruction. As a result the other weir in Rhos was demolished. However the new law granted an exemption where the owner could prove his weir had existed before the time of Magna Carta (1215 AD). The owner of this Rhos Fynach weir was able to prove its medieval origins to the satisfaction of the Commissioners, and so it escaped destruction – further evidence of the antiquity of the settlement at Rhos.

Mussel beds, rock pools & birds

Rhos Point is a promontory on the North Wales Coast that marks the east point of Penrhyn Bay and the west point of Colwyn Bay. Battered by the Irish Sea it can appear a barren landscape but there is an  abundance of wildlife to be found there. At varying times, ringed plover, cormorants, turnstones, oystercatchers, curlews, red shanks, dunlins, and purple sandpipers may all be observed; the hours either side of high tide can be the best time to view the birds, as it concentrates them closer to the shore.

I have seen Sandwich Terns in varying numbers most days since I’ve been here, but over the Easter weekend the numbers were high. I don’t know enough about the local area to be sure why they are here, but I suspect they are gathering and feeding before setting off to their breeding ground. Again, I can’t be sure, but I do know a colony breeds at Cemlyn Bay, on the north west coast of Anglesey, which is not that far away.

My photographs are not brilliant as the birds were a good distance away on the edge of the shore at low tide, but it’s was good to see them in such numbers and in their summer breeding plumage; in Spain I see small numbers of the birds during the winter months on the local coasts and around the Guadiaro Estuary, when they are in their winter plumage. (see ‘pages’)

Sandwich Tern – Sterna sandvicensis

This is a medium-large tern, 37–43 cm (15–17 in) long with an 85–97 cm (33–38 in) wingspan, which is unlikely to be confused within most of its range.

The Sandwich Tern’s thin sharp bill is black with a yellow tip. Its short legs are black. Its upperwings are pale grey and its underparts white, and this tern looks very pale in flight, although the primary flight feathers darken during the summer.

In winter, the adult Sandwich Tern’s forehead becomes white. Juvenile Sandwich Terns have dark tips to their tails, and a scaly appearance on their back and wings.

The Sandwich Tern is a vocal bird; its call is a characteristic loud grating kear-ik or kerr ink.

Mussel beds

The main attraction for birds to this part of the coast is its extensive mussel seed beds, best appreciated at low tide.

Shells of the edible mussel – mytilus edulis

It’s a strange feeling crunching over the shells of millions of mussels as you walk, but  that’s the only way to discover what may have been left behind in the rock pools at low tide.