There was no admission charge for the water gardens and dogs were allowed in as well so with Sophie and Poppie on the lead I set off round the nature trail to look for the capybaras. I found them eventually in an enclosure with a small pool, and though I was hoping to see at least one of them swimming neither of them seemed to want to get wet just then. Looking rather like guinea pigs on an overdose of steroids they just mooched about round the enclosure, though at one point the smaller of the two came to sit right in the corner close to where I was standing - it looked almost as if he was posing for me and I got a great shot of him.
Next on the agenda were the otters but even though I walked round the trail twice I didn't see any, and a brief conversation with a couple of other visitors produced the information that there were none to see as they had apparently been taken away for breeding. Well at least I'd seen the capybaras and got a couple of shots of the fishing lakes so with that I took the dogs back to the van then went in search of a pancake.
The restaurant menu seemed to be quite extensive and I was spoilt for choice when it came to the pancakes but I eventually settled on one with cherry sauce and whipped cream and a latte coffee to go with it. I must admit though, when the pancake arrived I was distinctly underwhelmed; expecting it to be liberally spread with a thick cherry sauce and with a decent portion of cream I was rather disappointed to see just a thin zigzag drizzle of sauce across the surface and a very small portion of cream plonked in the centre.
Thinking I wouldn't have been able to eat a large one I'd only ordered a medium, and though it was a decent size the lack of any substantial filling really let it down and I almost wished I'd either ordered a large one or chosen one with a proper filling. The coffee wasn't the best either, it was strong and bitter and even adding extra sugar didn't improve it so I didn't drink it all. The prices weren't exactly cheap either; I've had better desserts and coffee elsewhere for much less so somehow I don't think I'll be having anything to eat there again.
After (reluctantly) paying my bill I went next door to look round the aquarium section. An above-ground pond in the outside part housed some very large koi carp while the smaller tanks inside were home to different types of tropical and cold water fish. Photo taking wasn't too successful though because of the light reflections through the water and glass but I managed to get some decent shots of the bright corals and other things in three of the tanks; I hadn't a clue what the numbers were for but they must have been there for a reason.
From the water gardens I drove back into Conwy itself and on only the second circuit of the one-way system (the place is a nightmare when it's busy) I managed to find a parking space and nipped into it just ahead of a guy coming down the road from the opposite direction. He didn't seem to be very happy and shouted at me through his open car window, but the space was on my side and I was nearer to it anyway so I just ignored him and went to get a ticket from the machine. Presumably if the positions had been reversed he would have had no hesitation in driving in there before me so all's fair in love and war and parking spaces.
With three hours on the ticket and the dogs on the lead I set off to explore a corner of Conwy I hadn't been round before. At the far end of the quay a tarmac path with a low stone wall on the beach side skirted an area of woodland owned by the National Trust and took me in the general direction of Conwy Marina. After a while the path turned inland and followed a tidal creek; up ahead a blue-grey steel bridge crossed the creek but if I had any hopes of using it to get to the other side I was out of luck. It was closed off with a locked gate so I followed the path right to the end and came out onto a road through a private housing development close to the marina.
At the far side of the marina I crossed a rough-surfaced car park and finally reached a wide beach near the end of the estuary and separated from the nearby golf course by a wooden fence. Now on a sunny day that beach may look quite nice but with the grey sky and very few people around it didn't look terribly interesting, so with just a couple of shots taken I turned and retraced my steps.
Crossing back over the busy A55 I stopped to take a shot of the entance/exit to the tunnel which took the road deep under the estuary then rejoined the path past the blue-grey bridge and headed back in the direction of Conwy quay. It was a pity the bridge was closed off, I would have saved myself a fair bit of walking if I could have crossed it.
At the far side of the quay I turned and walked along the road bridge and through the roadside gardens to the Deganwy side of the estuary; a tarmac path led in the direction of Deganwy itself but there didn't seem to be too much along there so I didn't go very far. There was a great view of the castle from there but it was marred somewhat by the scaffolding and boarding on the side of the road bridge so with just one shot taken I turned and headed back.
Back across the estuary I decided on the spur of the moment to try and get some photos of the suspension bridge. Sandwiched between the road bridge and the rail bridge it's not the easiest of things to see or photograph unless you're either actually on it, above it in the castle or below it in a boat so finding a decent viewpoint could be tricky. A path from the roadside went down by the castle towards the end of the bridge but I could only go so far before a large locked wrought iron gate barred my way.
Taking shots over the nearby wall wasn't easy as there were so many trees and bushes in the way so with my feet jammed between the bars I stood on the bottom of the gate to gain a few more inches in height, tilted the camera sideways and passed it through the bars followed by my right arm. Clinging onto the gate with my other arm, and in danger of throttling myself as the camera was still attached to me by the strap round my neck, I managed to get a fairly decent one-handed shot of the bridge, and of the half dozen shots I did get that one turned out to be the best.
With that last shot I made my way back to the van as the time would soon be up on the ticket, but it was only 5pm and I didn't want to go back to the camp site too soon so I headed into Deganwy instead. I'd been there a few years ago but hadn't stayed long as there's nothing much there; on that occasion I'd parked by the station and gone left to explore the marina but this time I drove over the railway line, parked along the roadside and walked the other way - and that's when I discovered a very pleasant pedestrianised promenade which I hadn't known was there.
About halfway along was a kiosk selling drinks and snacks and with a few tables and chairs outside. My lunchtime pancake had long since worn off and the kiosk was still open so it was a no-brainer - I would stop and have something to eat and drink. I ordered a ham and cheese toastie and a large milky coffee; the toastie was freshly made and came garnished with a decent amount of rocket, onion, tomato and coleslaw, and the milky coffee was really good. I felt like I'd almost had a proper meal, and at £2 cheaper than the pancake it was much better value.
From the kiosk I walked along until the concrete promenade gave way to a shingle path bordering a golf course then with just one shot of the beach looking towards the Great Orme headland I turned and headed back to the van. As I walked along I was overtaken by a small brown and white Jack Russell dog running hell for leather towards the station but he stopped when he reached the end of the promenade and came trotting back towards me. Thinking he may be lost and looking for his owner I kept my eye on him for a few minutes until an elderly man who was obviously local told me that the dog came from nearby and was actually trying to race the train to the station - one had just gone past. Apparently he did it every day but knew when he was beaten and gave up before he got to the station - I was glad he was only playing a game and he wasn't actually lost.
Only a short distance from Deganwy was Llandudno's West Shore so I decided to drive round there and search out the White Rabbit statue. Created in 1933 to commemorate author Lewis Carroll's supposed connection with the town it was originally situated by the pond in the promenade gardens but was taken away for repairs in 2012 - I went to look for it when I was last there and was disappointed to find it missing. Even as far back as the early 1960s it had been vandalised - I remember as a small child seeing it with part of its arm missing - and after further damage in more recent years it ended up encased in a wrought iron cage before finally being removed. It was put in its new location, on the green by the Victorian tram shelter, last year after being repaired and cleaned.
Now obviously I don't know what the rabbit's original arm had looked like but I wasn't terribly impressed with the new one. From elbow to wrist the jacket sleeve didn't seem to match the upper sleeve, it seemed to be slightly bigger, and the join was clearly visible. The rabbit stood sideways on to the tree and viewed from the front the paw looked more like half a peeled tangerine than a rabbit's foot; maybe it could have been done better, maybe not, but presumably the residents of Llandudno like it.
Those were to be my last photos of the day; it was 6.30pm by then and I'd done enough walking and wandering so it was time to head back to the camp site. It didn't take too long to get back there and once I'd got the van in the right place alongside the tent it was time to chill out with my book for a while. All the walking about must have really tired the dogs out as they were most reluctant to get out of their beds for the bedtime walk later on so it was only a very short one, and as the daylight faded at 10pm all three of us were snuggled up in bed for the rest of the night.