Sunday, 17 June 2018

Slightly windy Wales then back to Brum

Giant badger at the Welsh wildlife centre
Thursday dawned windy and slightly damp, so heading away from the coast seemed to make sense. We hadn’t been north either, so up to the Welsh wildlife centre in Cardigan we went (Welsh wildlife centre). Lots of interesting walks in a variety of habitats, with the opportunity to see many birds, otters and water buffalo! As it was, we did see lots of birds, some we could identify, some not, but no kingfisher and no otter (but that’s not really a surprise!), except as carved wood. Water buffalo we did see, which was a bit unusual, apparently they had been imported as they will eat pretty much everything, so are not as picky as horses and cows, and they are used to rice paddy fields so don’t get foot rot. It would appear they are doing a grand job of maintaining the plant variety, despite not being ‘local’!
View from the Mallard Hide. Don't look much like ducks
Ron. This was actually in the Heron Hide 

We had a lie in on Friday as we had to ring about the boat trip at 11.00, sadly it was still too windy, so puffins were off, a real shame, but no one really wanted to be out if it was too rough! Newport Beach then, a little more of the coastal path where we saved the life of a toad, it was being writhed about by a snake which slithered off as we tried and failed to get phones out to take pictures! Lunch on the rocks watching surfing/life saving lessons for a class of school kids, P.E. Was never like that when I was at school, before walking on the beach, the tide was finally out enough, but it was still windy, my ears can confirm....
In the Bara Brith cafe for tea and...bara brith

Tea and cake at the cafe/art gallery recommended to us on day one. Very pleasant, and the first proper stop for tea and cake all week, surprisingly! Last night, and I was allowed a night off as the club house at the cottage was open. It was good to pop in and see the locals, have a pint of local beer and an unpretentious dinner! With that it was all over, we’d walked miles with amazing views, eaten well, drunk a few glasses of wine, done a jigsaw, played scrabble and completed a few crosswords. What mores is holidaying about?
Walking on Newport beach

The journey home wasn’t as good as the journey there, apart from anything else it was raining, reminding us how luck we’d been, a week in Wales and only rain on one overnight?!

Today we have spent ‘sorting’! What to take to the mobilehome for the first night, this all has to go in the car, to Abi’s, into her car and down to Warminster. So not too much, but we do want to put the van through its paces, cooking, showering, etc, so testing the quality of the handover, and the quality of our memories! Tomorrow is going to be a very steep learning curve, with general stuff like emptying the toilet to specific stuff about power supplied from the solar panel! That’s not to mention actually driving and manoeuvring it!

We will then drive back to mothers to try to fit everything else we want in on Tuesday, staying locally, before heading up to Scotland on Wednesday.

It’s all very exciting!
The toad we rescued after the attacking snake slithered off. There's a bit of blood by his front right foot
Dinas Head is the rising land to the right, our first walk last Monday. That ominous looking cloud didn't bring any rain, but it looked like it might
That little lump of rock in the sea was marked on the map as 'Cat Rock'. We made a special walk along the coastal path to see it. Doesn't look much like a cat to us, the wind had picked up, is was fairly cold and late afternoon, time for tea and cake!
Art! It was an old slate quarry on one of the walks in the Welsh wildlife park

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Dinas Cross, Pembrokeshire, Wales

Our last week before the start of our new life in a motorhome. Well, I say 'last week', in fact we head up to Scotland next week in it until early August, just to try everything out and get used to life on the road, we'll then be back in our car, having parked the motorhome in its secure storage near Alvechurch and will be housitting in the UK until our final, real departure and life on the road sometime in the autumn. However, the anticipation of collecting our motorhome and heading off in it is very exciting, but we're also apprehensive - will it be too big, will we like it and will eveything work as we hope? It's all new to us (except our trip to New Zealand and Australia in 2012-13 when we rented two small Toyota Hi-Tops for 6 months in NZ and 3 in Australia, see: Trip 1 - NZ and Australia) and we know nothing!

Our cottage in Wales
So just before we do all that, we're having a holiday in Dinas Cross, Pembrokeshire in an old stone cottage with Jackie's mum, Pauline. We drove here on Sunday after saying 'goodbye' to Daisy cat in our last housesit in Edgbaston and collecting Pauline from her house in Alvechurch. With boot crammed with all our stuff we headed off down the M42, M5, M50 and M4 to Swansea and finally Dinas Cross on the north Pembroke coast, arriving at the cottage on the Caravan Park at about 4:00pm (see: 52.01766, -4.8951). The sun was shining, it was warm, Jackie cooked us dinner, we opened the wine and relaxed, we're on holiday! We know every day is a holiday for us, but somehow, being at the seaside really does feel like a holiday.

The little bay at Cwm-yr-Eglwys
Dinas Cross is midway between St Davids cathedral city in the west and Cardigan in the east and our cottage is next to a footpath through woods that leads to the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path heading east and west of us and, ahead Dinas Head or Island, a peninsular rising to 147m with fabulous views out to sea and back looking along the rocky headland of north Pembrokeshire.

Our walk round Dinas Head and our cottage location
That was our target for Monday, our first day and we set of in slightly hazy sunshine along the footpath, bumping into 83 year old granny walking her 'men in black' dog. Wow, she could talk, we had her life story in half an hour, in particular we heard about one of her grandchildren who plays in the Welsh Rugby team, pity we don't follow Rugby, but she told us anyway! Onwards to the little beach at Cwm-yr-Eglwys and the ruined church, destroyed by a huge storm in October 1859 that swept away most of the church and a vast chunk of land, also wrecking the Royal Charter and 113 other ships along the coast.
The ruined church at the beach
Cue second chat of the day with man launching his rib into the bay to collect lobster pots, another 15 minute chat, then another lady walking her dog, another 10 minutes. Will we get this walk done, we haven't even started yet! Anyway, up and over the hill with little complaining from Jackie or Pauline, confronted with ever improving views now in full sunshine ending at a trig point with all round views. We're glad we did it anti-clockwise as the decent down to Pwllgwaelod Beach was pretty steep, but we made it OK, found the Old Sailor pub by the beach 'closed due to unforseen circumstances' so walked back up the steep hill back home (much complaining from Pauline by this time!). Lovely walk, 12.5km and 211m of ascent.

Views of the coast on the way down from Dinas Head
Jackie helping her mum over a rocky bit
Tuesday we went to St Davids, Britains smallest city with a magnificent 12th century cathedral and Wales' holiest site (read about it here: St Davids). Our main motivation being to organise a boat trip to one of the islands (in the end we opted for a trip to Skomer Island on Friday as we want to see Puffins there and that day is the best weather forecast). However we found it a really interesting, lively little place. The cathedral was fabululos (apparently it was built in a dip in the ground so the Vikings couldn't see it), we didn't go round the ruins of the Bishops Palace, but could see it next to the cathedral, but we did visit St Nons Bay where stands St Nons well and St Nons Chapel, believed to be the birthplace of St David (see: St David - history). It was a little further out of St Davids than I thought so I was on the verge of incurring the wrath of Pauline, but it was a sunny day and the views out to the coast were stunning, even if they couldn't be bothered to walk the final 50m to see the well, preferring to wait on a wall while I walked down there myself.

Walking down to Pwllgwaelod beach from Dinas Head
Foxgloves on the coastal path
Today is Wednesday and we spent the day over to the north of Fishguard at Strumble Head and walking along a bit more of the dramatic coast path. There's an impressive lighthouse at the head, still apparently working as its light was flashing even during the day, so we couldn't cross the bridge onto the little island on which it stands as Trinity House, who run all UK lighthouses still operating, forbid entry. So we looked round the headland, visited a shelter where there was a very knowledgeable volunteer with long zoom lens camera who visits every day to monitor and photograph porpoises in the bay. Apparently this bay has Europe's largest quantity of porpoises, he reckons between 800 and 1000, of which he can see as few as 5 in a day up to 100 or more. We saw none, they'd all been there earlier when the receding tide draws fish and nourishment up from the deep for them to feed on. Ah well, we did a 9km circular walk along the cliffs and back catching sights of Razorbills and quite a few grey seals, one of which was lounging on a rock in a bay with two of his mates swimming round trying to get on the rock with it without success.

St Davids cathedral
Another lovely day and home in time for wine, just before a shower of rain. Another walk planned for tomorrow and our boat trip to see puffins planned for Friday, its turning into a good week!

Slightly sad end, we heard little 19 year old Frodo cat who we sat for in Epsom while Richard and Helen went to Peru two weeks ago has had to be put down. She was just too old and frail and had stopped eating and drinking. Very sad!

Inside the cathedral
St Nons well, said to have sprung up during a thunderstorm when St David was born
Solva Woollen Mill, a restored working mill weaving their own range of floor rugs
The very noisy working weaving machine
Strumble Head lighthouse
Grey seals relaxing in Pwlluog Bay
Jackie helping Pauline negotiate a ford
Porthsychan Bay, one of the many deserted bays we passed on our Strumble Head walk
Our Strumble Head walk
Me and Pauline. Couldn't get her to look at the camera though
Nearly forgot to mention this plaque at Fishguard Harbour about the last invasion of Britain on 22nd February 1797 by French troops who surrendered 2 days later at Goodwick Sands
A final picture of little Frodo cat, cuddling up on Jackies lap just two weeks ago. RIP little one