Customer Takeover - "The Brecon Beacons Beckoned..."
We've handed over the blog reins to one of our lovely customers this week. To get us in the mood for summer (and distract us from the never-ending rain), here's an account of the adventures of Martin, Alison, Boris (their dog), Absinthe (their van) and their glawning during a trip to Wales in the summer of 2016.
The Brecon Beacons beckoned...
(Originally published 5th September 2016) By Martin Bellamy
We'd been due to go to Camper Calling in Warwickshire over the August Bank Holiday but personal stuff got in the way and we had to give it a miss, which was a shame because apparently it was a great event.
We’d booked to move on from Ragley Hall, where it was held, to a site near Llandovery in the Brecon Beacons. In theory, this would have been a relatively short distance on a BH Sunday but, in the event, we drove there from home in Lancashire so it took us a bit longer than planned.
Again, it was nice not to have to drive too far south on the M6. We left the motorway to join the M56 and then drove down through Wales, arriving around 3.30pm. We’d have been there a little earlier if the SatNav hadn't taken us down a very tight junction onto a narrow country lane, that entailed me unhooking the trailer and hand-balling it off the main road, whilst Alison backed up Absinthe to get us round. The road got narrower and narrower, causing us to lose the top section of our radio aerial at one point.
The road was also extremely steep and with the trailer rammed full of the Glawning, stove and other gear, we were worried we'd not make it up some of the hills. Make it, we did, though, and as we pulled up alongside reception, another car which had followed us in, parked next to us. The lady passenger got out and said she recognised us from the Caravanner of the Year programme. She was made up, whilst we weren't sure how to react, as it's the first time it's happened (apart from the RAC guy when we broke down on the way to France).
We had a limited choice of pitches because the site was almost full, as you'd expect on a Bank Holiday weekend, and in some respects that makes life easier, than having the whole site to chose from – we picked one backing on to a hedge and soon had the kettle on for a brew.
We'd brought the new Glawning that I'd bought off a chap on Facebook who hadn't even used it, but needed the funds to pay for vet’s bills for his dog and we soon had it erected. I really like the new design and the sewn in groundsheet makes putting it up much easier.
We'd brought the new stove, too, but decided to fit it later in the week when we'd decided where the hole for the chimney needed to be cut.
The site is quite remote but all the better for it. There's a pub in the small village which involves a walk up a very steep road to visit. We left that treat until our last night on site. The river Dovey runs alongside the site and, if we visit again, I'd like to bring my rods, although at £15 per day, tickets aren't cheap.
On Monday we walked along part of the Cambrian Way which passes through the site and beside the river. We'd been walking for a couple of hours when we decided to stop for a beer in Cilycwm. Boris was flagging, the sun was shining and a pint in the beer garden seemed like a good idea.
Unfortunately, when we got to the pub, there was a sign saying it was closed because they were running the bar at the Cilycwm Agricultural Show. So, what to do? Walk two hours back to the site or try and find the Showground?
We eventually found the Show by following the sound of the PA system announcements for the horse and pony arena. It was another 45 minutes away from the pub and by now Boris’ tongue was on the floor.
We paid £4 each to get in and, after a bit of banter with the very Welsh chaps on the gate, headed straight to the beer tent. I queued for quite a while to get the beers and was delighted to hear everyone speaking Welsh. It's a lovely melodic language although I think I'd struggle to learn it.
I apologised to the lady serving me because I was ordering in English but she just smiled and said something back in Welsh. Everyone was extremely friendly and we had a great time. The show itself was really small but obviously very important to the rural community hereabouts.
All the livestock looked in great condition, with owners who were obviously very proud of their husbandry skills. The star of the shows for us was a duck in the poultry show which won Best Overall Bird. It was a calling duck and didn't stop quacking for a minute – it looked great and made everyone in the tent smile.
It took us nearly three hours to walk back along the road to the campsite and we were all ready for sit down and a chill. Most of the other visitors had left and the site was extremely peaceful and almost empty – just what I needed.
On Tuesday, we drove to Llandovery and had lunch in a café before pottering around the town. We walked up to the castle and popped into the tourist information centre where we got talking to the lady behind the counter. We mentioned the Agricultural Show and it turned out it had been held on her land. Her son had won the silver cup for best Welsh Ram for the second time in a row and was, justifiably, made up.
The town, she said, is struggling a bit. There wasn't a supermarket and the school had closed, as youngsters left the area to find work. Community is very important in areas like this (and everywhere, I suppose) but how to attract jobs is a real conundrum.
In the afternoon we drove to Brecon, another town with a castle. It has the added bonus of a canal although it doesn't seem to get much traffic. We bought some provisions and petrol from the supermarket and had a quick look round the town. If anything, we were a bit underwhelmed.
We got back to our pitch an decided to bite the bullet and cut the hole in the tent for the stove chimney. We checked and double checked to get the right position – you don't get a second chance once you've cut it!
Once the stove was fitted we lit it and were very pleased with our handiwork. The Glawning was toasty and just what was wanted to end the day. Well, that, and a few glasses of red wine.
On Wednesday, we headed to the National Trust Gold Mines at Dolaucothi. Two of our fellow contestants from COTY, Anne and David, ran the NT caravan site as volunteers so we thought we might catch up with them as we were in the area. No luck though, as they weren't there this year, but we had a nice chat with the current wardens. The site looks great but has no toilet or shower facilities so it's not one for us.
We parked at the Gold Mines and had a great walk around the area. We didn't go in the mine as we had Boris with us but we enjoyed our visit nonetheless. Afternoon tea helped, of course, as did the portion of rhubarb crumble (with custard AND cream, if you're interested).
There's a small road that heads back to Rhandirmwyn, passing Lynn Brianne reservoir on the way. We stopped for a look and fitted the GoPro to film the drive back.
There's an RSPB reserve close by, where we stopped for another walk, then headed back to the campsite, to light the stove and chill.
Thursday took us to Rhayader for walk around the town before driving to the nearby Gilgin Red Kite visitor centre. After walking the farm trail, we readied ourselves to watch the kite feeding at 3pm and looked in awe at the spectacular sight of hundreds of kites with quite a few buzzards and several crows joining in. The hides are brilliant and get you very close to these magnificent birds. What a success story the reintroduction and protection of red kites has been, although all the birds seen at Gilgrin can be traced back to a single local female.
The forecast was for rain overnight so we took the decision to pack the Glawning away into the trailer whilst it was dry. It also meant we could have a lie in on Friday morning before the drive to Fairbourne where a grouped Brazilian Bay owners were gathering at Daz and Claire’s house for the weekend.
The sun came out as we drove the scenic route along the coast and eventually to Machynlleth, Dolgellau and then Fairbourne. We were the last to arrive and as always it was time to catch up with friends and talk about our summer adventures.
In the evening we walked down to the local bar and grill for a meal and a few beers before decamping into D & C’s house to taste the various home made drinks that everyone had made for the weekend. Some were nice, some were different and some were, er, interesting.
Saturday was a day to get the train to Barmouth but it rained so heavily that Alison and I stayed with the van. We wouldn't be able to take Bozzer into the fish and chip café and didn't really want to drag a drowned rat around town.
We read, chilled (and I wrote most of this Blog) in the van whilst keeping an eye out for Gill’s canopy which was threatening to blow over the top if their T6.
The rain stopped but the wind got up so the evening barbecue was cancelled in favour of eating in the house. The highlight of the evening was provided by the Fancy Dress theme of Arabian Nights.
Everyone’s costumes were great and we partied, chatted (and some danced) until around 1am when us older ones headed to bed.
Sunday was packing up day before heading back home. We stopped at the Rhug Estate shop and restaurant for Sunday lunch and spotted a lovely Danbury parked outside.
Things we’ve learned:
A week in rural Wales is the perfect antidote to the Summertime Blues
Serendipity can lead you to some lovely events
Boz struggles to walk 9 miles
It doesn’t always rain in Wales (but when it does it’s torrential)
Boxes of red wine hold more than you think…
For more Absinthe fuelled adventures check out their dedicated blog here!