From there the lane went quite steeply downhill, round a bend and up through a hamlet of half a dozen cottages before levelling out, and still there was no sign of a footpath so I kept on walking - there had to be one somewhere. Eventually I came to a sign and a path which led me through a gap in a stone wall and diagonally across a field to another path which bordered the wall and extensive gardens of a big white house - I could neither see nor hear the sea but I knew I was going in the right direction so on I went.
As I reached the bottom end of the field I could see a chimney built halfway up the steep hillside to my left - I'd finally reached my goal, or so I thought, but when I got there the ruined stone building at the bottom of the hill bore no resemblance to the photos I'd seen of the brick works. The building was in a small valley with a cove at the end and steps built into the steep hill on each side - presumably part of the Anglesey Coastal Path. It was an intriguing place though and as I wandered round I realised what it was - the old Llanlleiana Porcelain Works.
The works, when in operation, produced porcelain from deposits of china clay found on Llanlleiana Head but closed in 1920 after being badly damaged by fire. In the fields behind the ruins are the remains of St. Ana's church and on the headland above are the remains of an Iron age settlement. Just off the coast, and to the right of the cove, was Middle Mouse Island, uninhabited except for various sea birds but an attraction for visiting scuba divers. During the 19th century Middle Mouse was used as a navigational aid for ships sailing into Liverpool and any vessel passing the island without signalling was liable to incur a fine.
Thinking back to when I'd checked Google Maps the week before, I remembered that Llanlleiana was some distance to the left of Porth Wen so I'd decided to try to find both places on the same day if I could, though Porth Wen was the more important. However, it seemed like I'd found Llanlleiana first by accident and I still had quite a walk to get to Porth Wen so I'd better get on with it.
The steep hillside was part of a small headland and I didn't think there was any point going all the way up the steps as I would probably only end up going down the other side so I found a path which took me diagonally across and up the right hand side of the hill, joining the main coastal path at the top of a flight of steep steps leading down to a dip where the next hillside and set of steps rose steeply up in front of me. In the dip the path took me past the end of a deep and narrow cove called Hell's Mouth and the only thing between me and the steep drop down onto the shingle was a flimsy bit of shrubbery - when I got safely to the other side and part way up the next set of steps I took a quick photo looking back at it.
Going up the steps wasn't easy as some of them were deeper than others, which wasn't good for my relatively short legs, but I got to the top eventually only to be met a few yards further on by the next obstacle. Above a narrow inlet on my left the cliff had eroded away and the path was within inches of the very steep and unprotected drop down into the sea, with some rough and rocky terrain on my right. Difficult enough to negotiate on my own but with two dogs it definitely wasn't easy, however a bit of scrambling got all three of us across safely and the next bit of the walk along the grassy cliff top was quite pleasant.
Eventually I came to another rocky area but the path across it was quite reasonable, and as I got to the far side I came across a couple sitting in the grass and studying an OS map. I got chatting to them, and glad of a few minutes rest I joined them for a while. I told them where I was heading and it seemed I hadn't far to go from there, so as they were heading in that direction themselves they walked with me to where there was a path down to Porth Wen itself. The cliff top there was wide and grassy and at one side were the remains of the winding house with its three large wheels on a square drive shaft, where three or four sheep were being sensible and getting out of the sun's heat by sheltering in the shade of one of the walls. The brick works area couldn't be seen from there as it was down by the edge of the sea so I walked on a bit further and looked back, getting a great view of Porth Wen beach and the brick works set down below the cliff.
The first part of the path down to the brickworks was fine, it was wide and grassy, but then I came to a gate and from there onwards things got really rough. I'd been told by more than one person, and I'd also read on the internet, that the brick works itself was private land and out of bounds to the general public but other than a 'please close the gate' notice on the gate post there was nothing to tell me to keep out and no furious landowner with a shotgun - anyway, I wouldn't be the first person to go down there nor would I be the last, and I'd gone too far not to go down so I went. The rest of the path, if you can call it that, was steep, narrow, rocky and overgrown with tall grass and brambles, and the last bit had to be negotiated in almost a sitting position but my efforts were rewarded by finding myself in one of the strangest and most unique places I've ever been to.
The brick works was established in the mid 19th century, producing fire bricks made from quartzite and used to line steel making kilns. Production ceased sometime during the first half of the 20th century, the brickworks closed and has been left to the mercy of the elements ever since. There's far too much detailed history about the place to put on here but the ruins include two chimneys, the engine house, brick kilns, the crushing house on several levels, the main building and the loading quay. There's also a beautiful natural stone sea arch, made from a huge lump of rock presumably battered by the tides and bad weather. Without knowing how safe it was I didn't venture into any of the buildings but I spent a good while wandering about round the outside before deciding I'd had enough and it was time to go.
Scrambling back onto the first bit of the path was no mean feat but having the dogs helped - they went up first and pulled me up after them, then after fighting my way through the overgrown brambles I went back through the gate and emerged onto the grassy path across the cliff. From there it was a case of retracing my route back to the van although I didn't feel too keen on negotiating the bit where the path was right on the edge of the steep drop, but the three of us did it without losing life, limb or paw then we tackled the uneven steps down the steep hill and up the other side. Eventually we passed the path down to Llanlleiana and came to the driveway of the big white house, and a big sign which I hadn't noticed before told me that the place was actually a self-catering country house.
From there we were back on the lane though it seemed to take ages to get back to the van, in fact I was beginning to think someone had come along and somehow moved it further away, but we got there eventually - and timed from the cliff path immediately above Porth Wen it had taken us an hour and fifteen minutes. After a good drink the dogs went back in the van and I headed back to the main road - I hadn't planned on going anywhere else but even if I had I wouldn't have done as the three of us had gone far enough, so we were heading 'home' to the camp site.
Driving back along the A5025 I did stop briefly in a lay-by at Bull Bay to take a couple of photos, something I've meant to do every time I've driven past there but never have. While I was there a colourful little bird landed on a twig sticking up a distance in front of me; it was a cute little thing and I didn't want to get too close and frighten it away so I took a couple of zoom shots. Not the best but if anyone can identify it then please let me know as my knowledge of birds, apart from the obvious ones, is zilch.
Those were to be my last shots of the day and I completed the journey back to the camp site with no further stops. The evening was spent in total relaxation and the bedtime dog walk later on was just a short one - after such a challenging and long walk during the day I don't think any of us wanted to go very far that night!
**Since getting back home I've found out four things (a) that section of the Anglesey Coastal Path is one of the toughest stretches on it, (b) having studied Google Maps at length I could have driven much further along the lane from where I left the van and I wouldn't have had to walk so far, so maybe that explains why I couldn't find the footpath I'd been told about (c) the place where I left the van is actually a basic camp site open during the long school holidays in July and August, and (d) there's a little church on the coast to the left of Llanlleiana, so a new place to explore next time.