Tuesday 29 September 2015

Postcard from Wales

When T and I packed to go to Wales almost the first thing to go in the car was what we call our Welsh box, containing out considerable collection of guidebooks and Ordnance Survey maps.

This was our eight visit since we first started going in 2003. We've been back almost every year since then. And ever since we discovered Bryn Aere Bach

We'd always stayed in mid-Wales - and in Powys in particular - but once we discovered this outstanding accommodation we've never stayed anywhere else. I'd be happy to try somewhere else, and in maybe a different part of Wales, but T is a creature of habit - and no mistake.He may have a point; there's a lot to be said for not wasting precious time (we only ever go for a week at a time) by finding one's feet. Everything felt so familiar on our arrival it felt like we were going to visit a home from home. Everything was just as we'd left it!

T is normally keen to do nothing much at all on holiday and in the past we've compromised by going out on alternate days. 

But this time we went out every single day; even on our first day when I accompanied T to the Co-op at Machynlleth.  As I often spend all week indoors at home I jumped at the chance to go out and about.  As the surrounding countryside is so lovely I was really pleased to see it, again.

I was pleased that the sun was shining, because I knew the weather forecast for the week was not good.  It had been outstanding throughout the UK during the previous week and I was rather sad that we'd picked the 'wrong' week.  However it didn't rain today, and nor did it rain all week!  We were even promised a nasty storm on Wednesday that either didn't materialise or just passed us by.

On Monday we drove to Aberystwyth and visited our usual haunts: the National Library and the Arts Centre.  

I managed not to spend too much money, save that I did buy some Christmas presents and I could not resist a divine lilac moleskin notebook.  

And T, who had already bought my Name's Day present, bought me a lovely pair of earrings to replace the other Welsh pair that I lost in Poland, earlier this year.  What a lovely surprise.  

There was a lot of see, but nowhere near enough time to do it justice.  We opted for a really good exhibition of images produced by students on a course called Black & White Photography and a Robert Mapplethorpe touring exhibition on loan from the Tate. 

In view of Wednesday's impending storm we decided to take advantage of Tuesday's good-ish weather and go over the mountains to Bala. I think the drive over Bwlch y Groes (Pass of the Cross) is probably one of my most favourite routes. I never tire of it. And the view are stunning.   

Fortunately, T enjoys the challenge of driving it, even if he's not so keen on looking at the drops to the valleys below.

A trip to Bala always includes a visit to our friend, Awen Meirion' s Welsh language bookshop.  He does a brisk trade in this town where Welsh is the predominant language and most people didn't being speaking English until they were obliged to learn it at school.  Fortunately not everything he sells is written in Welsh!  I finished my Christmas shopping and bought some greetings cards.  And then, for the first time ever, we walked down to the lake.  We'd never seen it from this vantage point before.

As we made our way home the weather brightened!

So, when we woke on Wednesday to another nice day thought we'd try our luck at Dolgellau before walking the Mawddach Trail, from the other end. Previously we'd always walked a part of it from Dolgellau; but first we had to buy some provisions from the local Co-op. Unfortunately we hadn't been to Dolgellau for so long that we'd forgotten how to get there. It must be the most out-of-the-way shop known to man! 

That achieved we drove to join the Mawddach Trail at the Barmouth end. Once we'd eaten out sandwiches I was very keen to cross the railway bridge over the mouth of the estuary into Barmouth. To be honest, I could not believe this was the bridge that we'd glimpsed - from the other end - for years (!)

It took us some time to get there (manual wheelchairs are slow going) and then going over the bridge itself was not a comfortable ride.  

But well worth it.  I knew it was a long way, but I hadn't realised how long until I checked it out when we got back in: 2253 feet.

It was hardly surprising that we didn't cover very much more of the trail after that. Phew!

It must have taken more out of me than I'd realised because it was that evening that I suffered the most painful attack of Trimaligin Neuralgia I think I've experienced.  This complaint had been with me - on and off - for several weeks, but it was now as almost daily occurrence and the discomfort was intense.  Previously it had occurred after I'd eaten or drunk something, but this time it came out of nowhere...

But I was right as rain on Thursday (my Name Day).  For my treat I wanted to go back to The Railway Inn at Abergynolwyn and to see the sea.   First, thought we needed to go into Machynlleth.  There were a couple of shops I wanted to visit.  But, the shops I wanted to visit were closed.  However, there was one shop I'd noticed earlier in the week that was open; namely The Deco Shop.  And I wasn't disappointed: what an emporium.  I did spent money here - on art supplies - and it was here that I found a bathroom tile that I actually liked.  And would you believe it?  The tile is manufactured in Devon!

Lunch was a disappointment, but the weather most certainly wasn't. We stripped off and sunbathed at  Tywyn.  What a treat!

Friday was our last day, and in the past I wouldn't normally have so much as considered packing until early on Saturday morning, but my health no longer permits me to push the boat out, so once we'd been out for a short trip to Machynlleth after lunch I began to pack. I'm glad I did; it took me some considerable time.  My reward?  The delicious freshly picked blackberry dish that T had helped me prepare that morning.  It's years since I've cooked anything, so that was a real treat.  I used to love cooking....  What a shame T doesn't!

We set off home at 9:30 on Saturday morning in the best weather of the week (!)

But we still had another treat in store.  We called in at Hay-on-Wye to see our friend A. The weather was so warm we had lunch in a pub garden. And then I was so glad that I'd persuaded T I wanted to see the Black Mountains on the way back to England.  The view is every bit as stunning as everyone says it is.

What a shame I had to spend Sunday in bed, in recovery; and in dreadful pain.  We had enjoyed a really good holiday.  Minimal internet access and no television, but lots of opportunities for photography and reading.  

I also did a lot of reflecting and came away feeling resolved to implement a lot of long overdue changes in 2016.  A good holiday can change one; and this one was no exception.


  1. Thanks for the views... makes the Blackdown Hills look flat.

  2. So good to hear you both had a lovely time. The photos are, as always, simply wonderful!

    1. Thank you, Helen. There are rather a lot of photos in this post (25), but it was so hard to whittle them down Message to self: take less, in the first place!

  3. Lovely pictures my friend as always. Lovely part of the world and someone must have been smiling on you as not much rain in sight. Unusual for Wales.

    1. Why, thank you! We did indeed get lucky. It didn't rain ONCE - despite an ominous forecast :-D

  4. it made me a wonderfull feeling, knowing such places made your pictures so awesome to the memory, and they are so good - I guess I should stop making any photos! It all made me miss you sooooo much <3