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LIFE POST: Getting away from it all in Wales

The hubzster and I decided to go on a last minute trip to Wales a couple of weeks ago. Frankly, we’d had enough of the daily humdrum and since Phil had already booked a week off work we thought, let’s go for it. Otherwise, our thinking was – if we stay at home we’ll end up doing all those things we’ve been meaning to do for an age (like sorting ‘the man draw’ – don’t ask…) or waxing the door handles or mopping the ceiling. I genuinely wouldn’t put it past the neat freak in me to do those things whilst on a stay at home holiday, so we felt it best for both my and Phil’s sanity (mainly Phil’s) to get away. It meant putting our furry babies in the cattery for a while, which always breaks my heart, but as we don’t do it that often I didn’t feel too guilty (ok, I did, but sue me, I wanted a holiday.)

We chose to stay on the outskirts of Wales in a wonderful Air B&B property in Merbach near Bredwardine and Hay, that was quite literally, a hut on a hill. When we go on holiday we like to go to secluded spots surrounded by nature and get away from people. Anti-social yes, but boy is it GREAT not to have to talk to anyone but each other. The hut was owned by a lovely lady called Hannah and the views over the English/Welsh countryside were out of this world. It was a bit like going glamping as we had a compost toilet and a shower that were partly outside. Our washing up and cooking facilities were also outside. Personally I love this sort of thing and planning meals that could be cooked on a BBQ or hob ring was right up my street. As part of our chillaxy holiday we read books and listened to a lot of classic FM. We also played bananagrams, which, for anyone who likes scrabble, is immense fun and involves shouts of SPLIT, PEEL and my personal favourite: DUMP. Phil made lots of rude words (he says they were the only words he could make… a likely story). I think I won in the end but as I’m not a competitive soul I didn’t rub it in too much (liar liar pants on fire – I hooted with joy.)

Digs aside, I want to share some great discoveries with you, from walks, to wild swimming spots to awesome book shops. First up….

Hay-on-Wye

Affectionately known as Hay and Town of books this is a must visit place if like me you love reading. My favourite bookshop was ‘The Poetry Bookshop’. AN ENTIRE BOOKSHOP DEDICATED TO POETRY. I felt that needed capitals because, I mean, a whole bookshop with poetry in. None of this two shelves nonsense, a WHOLE shop. I still can’t get over it. I was like a child in a sweetshop with ten years’ worth of pocket money to spend. Poor Phil clutched our wallets to his chest and broke out in a nervous sweat as soon as we entered but I was well behaved and came away with only three new collections. Absolute crackers – Everyone Knows I am a Haunting by Shivanee Ramlochan, The Peace of Wild Things by Wendall Berry and Now the Green Blade Rises by Elizabeth Spires.

The owner was a helpful, jolly gentleman who clearly loved poetry and we spoke about what a diverse genre it was. He mentioned that his shop is the only poetry bookshop in the UK which made me feel very lucky to have been there. The shop contained a wealth of collections and biographies. What was lovely too was that none of the books were ordered into sections. I know this may seem a trifle annoying if you’re looking for something specific, although I’m sure the owner would know his stock like the back of his hand if you asked, but I loved perusing all the shelves and seeing what took my fancy. I’d pick up a collection, look at the cover and flick through. I adore discovering new poets and this was the perfect way to do it.

This brilliant little market town was bustling without being overbearing. Folk music buskers performed on the streets and well stocked street stalls with food, jewellery and homewares were set up on certain days. Plus there were plenty of places to go for ice cream and even an old fashioned sweet shop with fudge to die for inside. I would recommend the welsh cake inspired fudge full of spice and currents. There was also a multitude of second hand bookshops which were quaint and well stocked with a variety of classics and oh the smell…the smell of old books – is there anything quite like it?! I urge you to visit!!

Walks

Our first walk was on the doorstep of where we were staying and we set off from the main house. The reason I mention this walk is not because I would recommend going, but because I have never in my life gone on a walk and felt like I’d never make it home. I just have to share the ordeal.

It started with a very steep climb up a hill through dank woodlands which, with a few well-placed stops, wasn’t too bad. As I’ve mentioned before hills aren’t my thing, but heck, I was on holiday – I could do it and collapse in a heap later! However, the hill was child’s play in comparison to what we faced on the way back. We were plagued not only by flies attracted to our heavy levels of CO2 but also by overgrown pathways covered in ferns, brambles and stinging nettles. At one point, I think thirty flies were circling me and amidst sobs of Pick on someone your own size!! Phil and I used giant sticks in an attempt to flatten and move aside the foliage blocking our path back to the house. Yes we could have turned back and yes we should have but where’s the story in that? Phil was wearing shorts and it’s safe to say I’ve never seen anyone’s legs so scratched and stung. Luckily and without any hint of smugness I was wearing jeans so my legs didn’t get the same treatment. Our journey was like something out of a bad action film where the hero and heroine are being chased by the fuzz and ten sniffer dogs for a crime they didn’t commit. It was both epic and horrendous. At one point, we ended up in a field of ferns having totally lost the path. Beyond the field we could see a wall surrounding a house. In my loudest most I ain’t taking no shit off no one or nothing voice I cried out ‘That’s it!! No more of this, I’m getting the hell out of this field.’ I stormed off towards the wall, ferns flying, preparing myself for the biggest vault of my life. Instead I found a bent gate separating two sections of wall. I straddled it and with one foot outstretched in front of me and one behind I attempted to haul myself over it. Only, my shoelace got caught in my thrashing stick and my arms weren’t quite long enough to free myself. I then realised, after collapsing in a fit of giggles, that the owner of said house was in his garden looking at me with a look that was both bemused and horrified. I managed to free my shoe and tumble over the gate with Phil not far behind me. It was then that the owner came up to us. I played my best overtly British and haphazard role exclaiming ‘We’re terribly lost, I’m so sorry to disturb you…’ Happily, he was a swell guy who pointed us in the direction of the path and even let us cut across his garden. After some more thrashing we found the path again and managed to find our way home. I hear the filth are still on the lookout for us…

A walk I can recommend was a lovely stroll starting in Llyswen. We parked up by the local church, walking upstream along the River Wye and past Boughroad. Along the way we came across the most beautiful stretch of sweet chestnut trees. One of them had been cut down, I would hope due to a storm destabilising it, and we counted approximately one hundred and seventy five rings on its stump!!! It’s hard to think about what the world was like ten years ago, never mind one hundred and seventy five. I wonder what ladies of Victorian Britain would have said about the trees. Did they place their hands on the bark of these newly planted saplings and wonder what they would look like in years to come? I get the best kind of shiver when I think about echoes of the past imprinted on landscape.

A way along the Wye we found a great spot for some wild paddling. By the time we got there our feet were really warm, to say the least, so the cool water was a real treat. If we’d had swimming stuff we could have taken a dip but paddling was just as fun. There were lots of tiny little fish in the water that took great interest in our feet and some sections with oozing mud underfoot which felt…interesting between the toes. A bit like if you were to step in some putty slime. Oh the days of watching Funhouse as a child… I secretly always wanted to go on the show but as I have a bit of an aversion to mess I felt torn between the side that wanted to bathe in gunge and the side that wanted to tut loudly at the frightful state of everyone’s clothes. The ‘clean side’ won, although, these days, I’m pretty sure the ‘messy side’ would. Anyway… I digress. A wonderful walk to be sure if you’re not up to mountaineering and want to take in the welsh countryside at a slow, easy pace. Oh and, we saved a tired bumble bee by putting it on a pink thistle flower which it seemed to like. You could always do that too if there happens to be one that needs saving…

 

Wild Swimming Spot

That’s right. We went wild swimming!!

I’ve always wanted to go so we took a trip out to Bodenham and got down to some questionable swimwear in the River Lugg. We parked up in the village, walked to the church and followed the path behind it, crossing the bridge to find the beaches downstream.

To say the water was freezing would be the biggest understatement you’ve ever heard and I’d be lying if I said I did more than five strokes. However, I did a lot of wading and sloshing about which was great fun. The water was clean in a river sort of way and we had a bit of sun to cheer us on which was much appreciated. We even had a picnic on a little bank by the river edge after we wore ourselves out. I’d highly recommend having a bit of a wild swim if you’ve never been. Or, if you’re a seasoned wild swimmer who goes for miles whilst wearing goggles and a cap that makes your head bob like a cork, then this a great spot.

That’s all for now folks – hope you enjoyed reading about our little trip. If anyone wants deets of where we stayed or more specifics of the walks and swimming spots feel free to get in touch!

L x

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