Pucka packa’s

Dervla, hubby and me have just returned from Sweden, where I celebrated a ‘special birthday’. I’ll be reporting on our adventures soon.

In the meantime, here’s a picture of a one day old baby alpaca wearing it’s red coat. We arrived at central Sweden’s only alpaca farm – Norrängens Alpaca, on his birthday, and stayed there to celebrate mine.

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Laverbread

Laverbread is a Welsh ‘delicacy’. It’s basically seaweed mush, and despite having tried it many years ago and not enjoyed it, I felt I ought to try it again. This morning we had a tin with bacon for breakfast. And yep, it still tastes awful, but at least it’ll make good compost!

We made today a rest day. Rich was shattered, and I’m supposed to be learning how to take it easy sometimes, so we stayed in the vicinity of the cabin, making the most of the now empty camping area to explore the ‘big pond’.

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On the way back to ‘our pond’ I saw this poor creature – an injured buzzard. We alerted Amy and Dee who then tried contacting local raptor experts to see if someone could come out and help, but unfortunately, what with it being the Easter week, no one was around. We kept a close eye on the bird, and felt quite optimistic once it had managed to drag itself out of the water, but sadly, by the following morning it had passed away.

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To celebrate our final evening at the cabin, Rich lit the campfire as well as the hot tub and wood burning stove. What is it about men and fire? I’m banned from even touching the barbecue. Unfortunately, a certain someone got carried away with his fire making duties and managed to heat the hot tub to 48 degrees C. Given that my limit is 39 degrees, I felt just a tad annoyed that I’d been denied a final dip. Fortunately, as it was still a balmy 36 degrees the following morning I donned the bikini and jumped in at 7am. I could get used to living like this.

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Abercegir

Waking to this glorious view was such a treat. We crave and thrive in wild places, and so the cabin and its surroundings have served us well.

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After a hearty breakfast we drove to Machynlleth to stock up on groceries. Not surprisingly it was heaving with tourists as it’s sited on the main road to the coast, is a very pretty little town, and it the sun was shining. It also houses the Owain Glyndwr Museum. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of Glyndwr, not many people have, but he was basically like a Welsh Robin Hood. Hence the long distance trail being named after him.

On to Abercegir where we parked up and followed some more of the Glyndwr’s Way to just below Cefn Coch, before it descends into Cemmaes Road. We decided against going down in to the village and climbing back up again as Rich’s energy levels had started to flag, not surprising since it’d only been five days since the last chemo session, and my neck had decided to give me grief. Instead we retraced our steps and allowed Dervla (the infamous sat nav) to take us back to the cabin along winding country lanes.

After a few hours of chillaxing on the deck, I then braved a ‘bucket bath’ in the makeshift shower cubicle. Washing outdoors definitely becomes easier with practice, and your skin learns to adapt to cooler temperatures. I’ve always found most people’s houses too warm, especially when they have the central heating on high, and perhaps this explains why.

After dinner we were then finally treated to a visit by one of the farm cats, and she’s very cuddly. As always, even though Rich isn’t a cat man, pooty wanted cuddles regardless, and forced him to oblige. She even stuck around whilst we used the hot tub, but sensibly took her leave before we made a quick exit from the warm water to dry off in the cool evening air. Fortunately the camp site had now emptied, and so no one was around to accuse us of streaking :-)

Cemmaes Road

We really lucked out on the weather for this trip. After a cooked breakfast beneath a clear and sunny sky, we walked along the Glyndwr’s Way in the opposite direction to yesterday – heading for a small village called Cemmaes Road.

As the walking guide promised, this really is one of the most beautiful stretches of the trail, especially in the April sunshine, and yet we had it to ourselves. We’d planned on stopping for a lemonade at the village pub, but unfortunately it was closed. It very conveniently had an outside loo and picnic table though, so we made ourselves at home nonetheless.

Lunch stop

Lunch stop

Whilst enjoying our picnic, a car pulled up and two hilarious Polish guys asked for directions to a place they pronounced as ‘Towin’. After they explained that they lived in Newtown, did not have a map, and had changed their plans for the day once in the car, we established that they were trying to get to the beach, and so pointed them in the direction of Abergele, but not before they’d asked why our map covered such a small geographical area. They found the idea of a small scale map for use when walking, running or cycling etc very funny indeed!

We retraced our steps, enjoying yet more lovely views over the Cambrian Mountains, and arrived back at the cabin a little dehydrated, because a certain person who shall remain nameless, had decided that ‘HE’ didn’t think we’d need the extra nalgene bottle I’d packed, and so had taken it upon himself to unpack it before we’d left. After a few glasses of water, we decided that we felt brave enough for a dunk in the swimming pond without our wetsuits. We each managed three quick dunks before the cold and my swearing sent us running for the hot tub.

Why I then thought it’d be a good idea to wash my hair and rinse it with cold water from the tap, I’ll never know. The ‘ice cream’ headache came on instantly, and sent me running whilst screeching for the warmth of the hot tub again. I can safely say, that the campsite residents now knew for sure that we were a bit quirky. When the came time to help Rich rinse his hair, I treated him to warm water.

Snowdrop the Goat

After a very peaceful night in the Cabin by the Lake, we rose at 7.30am and were greeted by two geese landing on the pond. Dee had mentioned that two had been seen in the area, so this felt like quite a treat.

Compressed geese

At 9am we headed over to the house for our pre-arranged goat milking session! ‘Snowdrop’ was thankfully on form and didn’t mind a stranger’s cold hands, but isn’t producing much milk at the moment. After cuddles and a few pictures, we then helped feed the chickens. We both love chooks, and can’t wait to have our own when we’ve a bigger garden.

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Back to the cabin for a late breakfast. When living with modern conveniences on tap, you forget how much longer chores take when you don’t have access to electricity and warm running water. We do love going off grid and back to basics though. Everyone should try it at least once, to remind ourselves how much we’ve come to rely on such luxuries, and why it’s important to help conserve resources!

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Making the most of having the Glyndwr’s Way on our doorstep, we then headed up to Ffridd Pentrecelyn. We’d planned a circular walk using smaller footpaths, but as seems to be the norm in large parts of mid-Wales, footpaths and signs are non-existent other than on national trails. So instead we made full use of the wind farm tracks to get up high and enjoy the views across to Moel Eiddew abd Mynydd y Cemmaes.

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Home to the cabin for tea and cake, followed by a quick foot paddle in the pond to cool our tired feet. The geese seem to have decided to stay, so we’ve nicknamed them ‘Trixie’ and ‘Dixie’. They seem quite comfortable sharing the pond with us, and it’s a privilege to be able to watch then up close. Not even changing into our wetsuits and going for a dip scared them off, but then I suppose we do just look like giant frogs. So much so that the frogs themselves kept popping up to take a closer look.

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Cabin by the lake

Whilst we couldn’t avoid traveling on Good Friday, we could stop off wherever we fancied en route, and today we discovered the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre just outside of Church Stretton. Not only does it have free parking, a museum, craft shop, and a cafe, but it also has a fluffy mammoth at the entrance.

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Embracing our inner child, we both decided to have a panna cotta and a coffee for lunch, and then to follow the very pretty ‘Riverside Ramble’ directly from the ‘Roundhouse’. This beats lounging around at a motorway service station any day.

Unfortunately the coffee then necessitated a loo stop at Caersws. As the public toilets and service station toilets were both closed for maintenance, I rushed in to ‘The Red Lion’ pub and offered the proprietor 50p if she would let me use the facilities! I’m not sure if it was my Welsh accent, or the look of desperation, but she refused to take my money, and beckoned me out back.

There then followed a thirty minute drive to Cemmaes and our base for the next 5 nights – Gwalia Farm’s Cabin by the lake. Rich had booked it as a special Christmas pressie, and since then it had been listed in the Guardian’s ‘Places to stay’. Consequently it’s now booked months in advance, and it’s not difficult to see why. The closest we’ve come to staying somewhere like this before was in Quebec, thirty miles down a gravel road. We have our own swimming pond, the cabin is gorgeous, and the Glyndwr’s Way is literally on our doorstep. Oh and did I mention the wood fired hot tub?

After settling in and unpacking, we decided that Rich would be in charge of all things fire, and I’d do the cooking and washing up. Without any cochlears, he finds staying upright hard work sometimes, especially when it’s dark, and we didn’t want to increase his chances of falling off the decking into the pond or stream.

Dee had forewarned us that the hot tub would take 2.5 hours to heat up once the water had been replaced, but thanks to Rich’s hard work, by the time we’d eaten dinner – cooked in the al frescoe kitchen, the water temperature was a very pleasant 38 degrees.

Wearing our swimsuits and wellies we legged it from the warmth of the cabin to that of the tub. After an hour’s immersion we’d psyched ourselves up for the mad dash back to the cabin, but once you’re dry, dressed and drinking hot tea you do feel lovely and warm, and ready for bed.

The Skirrid

It’s not very often that we get offered free accommodation for a night, but that’s just what Lizzie and Stephen did yesterday, as they’ve no new guests coming to The Hayshed for a few days, and they knew how much we were enjoying the barn and its surroundings. We’ve well and truly fallen for this place, not to mention the simple lifestyle – no health or career concerns, just a case of deciding what to eat, where to walk, and when to sleep.

With the day dawning bright and clear again, we decided that we had to head up Skirrid Fawr given that we’ve driven past it so many times on this and previous trips. Conveniently, this hill (known locally as ‘Y Skirrid’ or ‘The Skirrid’) has a National Trust car park just off the main road to Abergavenny. This convenience however, along with the fact that you don’t need a map to get to the top, means that it’s a mecca for tourists, so much so that the main path up – the Beacons Way, had become a mud slick.

There’s no denying that the ridge does provide fantastic views of the Black Mountains and back towards Monmouthshire, but if you want to enjoy it at its best, go up early in the morning, or at dusk, otherwise like Cat Bells in the Lake District, or the tourist path up Snowdon, you’ll never be alone, and will inevitably be asked for directions by less well equipped/experienced walkers.Take a map people!

Desperate to leave the crowded trig point behind, we followed the Beacons Way down the north eastern side of the hill, and then the fence line at the bottom back round to Caer Wood. As expected, we saw no-one else on this stretch, but still got to admire great views of Sugar Loaf and Blorenge in the distance. Neither of us are anti-social, but we do like peace and quiet when out in the wilds, and will always try to avoid the crowds. Serenity is good for the soul.