137: you’re making me climb mountains, Aunty Tan

Well, here I am again after a very relaxing week away with London sister (aka Aunty Tan, to the kids) and Things 2 and 3. Thing 1 declined the invitation as she was going to a drum & bass (drum’n’bass? I don’t know) thing at the Scala in King’s Cross midweek.

So, we drove down via the M40, as the M4 was in its traditional chaotic weekend state of delays and roadworks – there’s the most amazing view as the Chilterns open up in front of you at one point. This area was one of the reintroduction points for the birds, so there’s always quite a few about. Having dosed both kids with travel sickness stuff before we left (Thing 2 has form in this area – takes after her aunt) they alternated arguing with sleeping while we sang along with the traditional road trip playlist of classic rock, surf music, country and western and other songs we felt the kids needed to know. We hit Monmouth for lunchtime, couldn’t find a single space in any of the car parks and headed instead to the Red Door Deli & Diner at Millbrook Garden Centre. They do an excellent omelette, if you’re passing!

We then headed up through Abergavenny (much to the satnav’s disgust, as it was angling for the M4), through Llandovery and Lampeter and finally arrived in Llangrannog around five. Tan had booked Gerlan, over the road from the beach. The flat was lovely, with views over the beach to the caves – both kids had their own rooms, but after two nights Thing 2 decided my bed was more comfortable. I think she secretly missed her sister. The car had to be parked in the free car park up the hill, as despite advertising two spaces there weren’t any at all. ‘Up the hill’ is an understatement – Llangrannog is in the V of a very steep valley!

Thing 2 captured in pensive mode while I was swimming

The chippy was closed, so we ate pizza from Tafell a Tan, who make the best garlic bread, all sea salt and good cheese. Tan took the Things for a walk on the beach, where Thing 3 got water in his wellies and we discovered that our definition of paddling was somewhat different to theirs. Thing 2 thinks paddling means full immersion…

Sunday

I started the day with a solo dip, watched by Tan and Thing 2 from the window (always have a swimming buddy!). Three widths of the 100 metre bay was enough for me, and as I was getting out there were some other mad hardy souls getting in. The water temperature hovered around 14 degrees through the week.

What the hell am I doing?

After a quick trip to Tesco in Cardigan to get supplies (including a Curly the Caterpillar cake for Thing 2, as she hadn’t had a birthday cake the day before) we dragged the kids out on a circular walk via some woodland paths, the Urdd camp and the Wales Coastal Path. There was much whinging about being forced to ‘climb mountains’ until we hit the view after which they were practically skipping up the next slope. We had a family swim when we got back to cool off, and then I acted as sous chef while Tan made a roast dinner. I proved myself competent at cutting carrot batons and selecting potatoes, which was good as I have never managed to roast them properly!

Monday

We were so lucky with the weather all week – apart from a bit of drizzle and wind, we were able to get out and about every day. On Monday we headed up the coast to Aberystwyth, where I was allowed (briefly) to reminisce about my student days there. After lunch in Y Caban and a trip to Trespass to get Thing 3 some adventure pants we took the Cliff Railway up Constitution Hill to see the camera obscura. Thing 2 was sulking as we weren’t budging on our insistence that she would wear both long sleeves and a coat when we headed up Snowdon the following day. Afternoon snacks were indulged in at Ridiculously Rich By Alana, where they make some of the best brownies on the planet – they are available by post, and I promise you won’t regret it.

We took the kids wave jumping in the afternoon, and in the evening we stargazed at the Milky Way, saw a shooting star, and watched the tide come in.

Tuesday

It was three hours to Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) and we were booked on the 10am train so we were up and on our way by 6am – as the dawn broke we were treated to some spectacular views coming through the mountain passes. It was Thing 3’s day to be stroppy, it turned out, especially when we realised he’d forgotten his coat (my fault apparently). Luckily we are Wales veterans so we were able to locate some layers in the car, and I bought him a new waterproof in the shop (in my size, and it’s very nice) to keep him dry. The wind was gusting at 54mph at Clogwyn, where the train was stopping, and there was some doubt whether it would run but it dropped to 48mph and we were able to go up. We shared our compartment with a French family, so poor Tan’s language skills were tested as as soon as they realised she spoke French they started a conversation about Brexit, politics, the monarchy and the difficulty they were having with the north Walian accent. Tan translated the driver’s commentary, but her brain was fried by the time we got to the bottom. The kids were suitably impressed.

We had a picnic lunch at Dolbadarn castle, a brief wander through Llanberis village and a walk along the lake, which I was not allowed to jump into. Dinner was at the Pentre Arms, as although Google told us the chippy was open, it lied…

Wednesday

The Things went on strike and demanded a doing-nothing day. No mountains, no walks, no driving, so that was what we did. I started the day with a dip in the sea and later we went back to the beach with the kids. We had ice cream from Caffi Patio and I sat with my crochet while the kids played in the water. Things 2 and 3 built a sand castle while Tan and I went and explored rock pools round the headland at Cilborth.

Before dinner, Tan and I walked up to the cliff path to watch the sunset with G&Ts which was peaceful and glorious, and was the source for this week’s cover photo. We started binge watching Ghosts again, and just before high tide we dragged the kids outside with their hot chocolates and watched the waves coming up.

Thursday

After another early dip, we headed to Aberaeron – Y Popty for pasties to eat overlooking the harbour followed by honey ice cream from The Hive. After lunch we headed up to Bwlch Nant-yr-Arian to see the red kite feeding. They do this daily throughout the year and it was truly spectacular. I’m not sure how the kites know what the time is but there were what looked like hundreds of them there by 3pm and the aerial display was spectacular.

We walked round the lake afterwards spotting toadstools, and had a sunset swim back in Llangrannog. Still no fish and chips though – thank heavens for pasta!

Friday

We headed to New Quay, and promised the kids they could have the afternoon back on the beach. No longer trusting Google, we had fish and chips on the quayside under the beady eyes of the local gulls, and spotted a seal bobbing about just outside the harbour walls along with a couple of cormorants dipping for their lunch. There were dolphins in the bay, according to the boat people, but we didn’t spot any.

Tan and I have been able to have whole conversations in Welsh in front of the children when we didn’t want them to hear what we were plotting, as well as practising in shops and cafes which we have enjoyed. People are very patient with us, and are happy to help when we struggle which has been very useful.

As promised we spent the afternoon on the beach, exploring rock pools, eating yet more ice cream, and finished with a last dip where Tan and Thing 3 were properly wiped out by a wave. I did some beach crochet, sheltered from the wind by the cliff.

We drive back via Raglan, avoided the M4 closures and appreciated the Chilterns from other direction. It’s always nice to drive back in the rain, it makes the end of the holiday so much easier!

This morning I have been swimming in the rain at the lake – it felt much colder than the sea, though there was apparently no difference!

Back to work tomorrow…see you next week!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

The Magpie Key – Sarah Painter

Bleeding Heart Yard – Elly Griffiths

A Heart Full of Headstones – Ian Rankin

Straight Outta Crawley – Romesh Ranganathan

62: Or, what I did on my holidays

This time last week I was in Criccieth, North Wales with London sister (LS): we were peering out of the window at the torrential rain and howling gale and wondering what to do with our day. Luckily, having spent most of our childhood holidays in Wales, we are waterproof and hardy.

We drove up on Friday, via Abergavenny and mid-Wales: through convoy road works, diversions for road closures (including the old Severn Bridge) and finally up through the Dolgellau pass where the car in front of us burned out their clutch, the clouds were down on the road and there were free range sheep on the roadsides. We were staying at the Lion Hotel in Criccieth, where LS explained she was learning Welsh. She asked if it was OK if she practised on them and they promised to help. The hotel is family-run and so friendly, with hot showers, big breakfasts and comfortable beds. We ate in the restaurant on our first evening: whitebait and a freshly baked steak and ale pie for me, and spring rolls and gammon for her. The gammon steak was HUGE, from a local butcher, and came with egg and pineapple – none of this ‘or’ malarkey! They even had a gin menu, featuring local gins – I tried the Rhubarb and Ginger gin.

We went for a walk before dinner, as the rain had stopped and we needed to stretch our legs after the trek up from London: straight to the beach, where we watched a surfer and I got water in my wellies attempting to cross the stream. I squelched for the rest of the walk, causing LS to snigger a lot.

LS had planned our weekend itinerary, and Saturday saw us heading for Aberdaron to pick up the Wales coastal path on a route that would take us to the most westerly part of North Wales….after breakfast, of course, where we discovered that no one knows the word for ‘hash browns’ in Welsh. Google has it as ‘brown hash’ but LS decided ‘tatws wedi hashio’ was better. Not sure we convinced the waitress though!

The sun was out, and we got to Aberdaron in time to buy freshly-baked pasties from Becws Islyn for a picnic lunch on our walk. After a few false starts (getting on the wrong bit of beach, for example) we picked up the coast path and, using the trusty Ordnance Survey book, we headed up. And up. And down. And up. There are steep steps cut into the cliffs and in some cases the path takes you right down to the beach and back up again – Porth Meudwy, where the boat for Bardsey Island leaves from, is a prime example here. It’s a narrow cove with a slipway and not a lot else. The weather by this point was glorious: breezy and fine, and we even had to remove a layer of fleece.

Mynydd Mawr was our destination point: there’s a coastguard station on the very top and the remains of a wartime radar station. The walk instructions at this point were ‘keep walking upwards’: straight to the point there! After a quick peek at the coastguard station we found a spot on the cliff to eat our still-warm pasties and, as we were facing westwards, we could see Ireland in the distance as the weather was so clear. We waved at Ireland sister but we’re not sure she saw us! We moved round the mountain to drink our coffee, eat Snickers bars (the perfect walking snack) and admire Eryri (Snowdonia) in the distance.

The route back took us through some farmland – we were diverted from part of it due to landslips and erosion, and then we rejoined the coastal path back at Porth Meudwy – sadly at the bottom of the steps, so we still had to climb up again! We admired bluebells, foxgloves, late primroses and lots of gorse, and learned about the National Trust’s activity to replace the gorse with heather to create heathland. The final stretch was a scramble across the rocks at Aberdaron as we couldn’t face the final set of down and up steps: the tide was coming in but we raced the waves and rewarded ourselves with an ice cream on the beach. After nine miles of mostly hills we had earned it!

Back in Criccieth, I decided to go for a swim. LS sat on the beach with her book and a G&T. The sea was calm and the beach shelves very quickly, so you don’t need to go out very far to submerge. The hotel landlady thought I was quite mad, and now we get to say ‘o mam bach!’ instead of OMG…

We had fish and chips on the beach for dinner – quite the best I have had for a very long time – accompanied by prosecco and hovering gulls. We didn’t share.

Sunday’s weather was the complete opposite of the previous day, so we headed to Caernarfon for the family zoom call to wish Ireland sister a happy birthday, and then to Newborough Forest and Traeth Llanddwyn on Anglesey for a walk. The Forest is a red squirrel sanctuary, but we didn’t see any: I suspect they were tucked up in their drays hiding from the weather! We did see a woodpecker, two ravens and a lot of sand dunes, and made the sensible decision not to go to the island to see the chapel as we’d have been blown away. We drove back via Llyn Padarn and Llanberis, being awed by the waterfalls in full spate and the number of idiot drivers, and then in the evening we ate at Dylan’s in Criccieth: a beautiful Art Deco building designed by Clough Williams Ellis in the 1930s. No mussels were available so more whitebait, crab arancini and then crab salads.

On Monday’s homeward journey we called in to see our cousin Myfanwy and her husband in Fairbourne, where sheep roamed the streets and the bakery makes excellent brownies. It was lovely to see them – last time I met them it was in Kings Cross so the scenery was very different!

I think the kids were pleased to see me when I got back, it’s hard to tell…

Reality…

The excitement continued on Wednesday as it was the monthly sunset and full moon swim at Redricks – this month was the flower moon, so there were some mad hats on display. The lake looks so pretty lit up by torches in drybags and glowtubes.

On Thursday I had my last day on site at the museum, as we had to be out on Friday for the building work to start. It looks so empty! We recycled and donated as much as we possibly could: scrap metal and wood, charity shops, the Scrap Project, schools, other museums, churches and charities. It’s going to be an adventure for the next few years to say the least!

Baby cow, do-do-do-do-doooo

A finish this week has been this cow and calf, which is probably one of the weirder things I have made – it was a commission from a friend as a gift for her sister in law, who loves all things cow.

I also frogged half my latest sock (Mulled Wine by Vicki Brown Designs) as I decided I didn’t like the solid colour I was using. I took it back to the toe and redid the foot with a self-striping yarn from West Yorkshire Spinners – Winwick Mum in the Wildflower colourway.

The year of handmade gifts

I had a brainwave a few weeks ago and made a chart of all my work colleagues’ birthdays so I can plan a bit better! I am now ahead of myself, having finished the next one and kitted up two more – one for work and one for a friend who is getting married soon.

I have also picked up the Hobbit Hole pattern again, which has been on hold while I’ve been making gifts – I was stitching in the garden yesterday, and while watching films last night.

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit…

So that’s been my week! A lot of heavy lifting, glorious walks, time with my sister, cross stitch and crochet. And it’s a bank holiday weekend too – hurray!

See you for week 63, which won’t be nearly as exciting as this week I am mostly doing spreadsheets.

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure – Joanne Harris (Audible)

Attention All Shipping – Charlie Connelly

Pel is Puzzled/Pel and the Staghound – Mark Hebden