Tuesday 22 February 2011: The wild goats of Llandudno
Here on the north coast of Wales the Victorian seaside town of Llandudno straddles a peninsula called The Great Orme, or worm, so named by the Vikings for its resemblance to the jutting head of a serpent. Its limestone cliffs and crags rear up above the sea and must be visible from a long way off. The town itself stretches across the 'neck' and benefits from beaches on either side: Orme Bay in the east and Conway Bay, seen here, on the west, thus doubling the seaside experience for its many visitors.
I've always wanted to explore the Great Orme for its wildlife, its geology and its prehistory but I'd forgotten, until we almost bumped into them, its best-known inhabitants: goats! Strictly speaking they are feral but they live wild, foraging on the coarser vegetation, scrambling over the limestone pavements and taking shelter in the huge caverns left by quarrying. They have been here over a century and they number between one and two hundred. When the herd increases in size it can cause problems but the townspeople are attached to their goats and mount furious campaigns when culling is discussed. There is even proprietorial concern when every so often some of the goats are rehomed - indeed, I should mention that they are available for adoption.
These are not native animals but are descended from a herd of Kashmiri goats brought to England in the 1880s to provide cashmere shawls for the royal family - Queen Victoria was amused. That some of them were transplanted to this rugged Welsh headland, have bred and flourished here and still peer down upon this Victorian resort, seems very fitting.