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Intro

Jolly Mollie does West Wales

FlowerI join my mother (A.K.A. Jolly Mollie) exploring the West of Wales. These pages cover our week's break that started on 31st March until 7th April 2001.

We survived North Norfolk last year. Will we survive this year? 

The Government's Message "Don't Go!..... Please Go!"

The Foot and Mouth crisis and the Tourist Industry are at odds:

Summed up by a news release a few weeks ago:

The Director of the Garden of Wales, Charles Stirton, said, `We do not want to encourage people to make unnecessary journeys into the countryside at this time of crisis for farmers and for the farming community as a whole. By closing the Garden to the public we hope to discourage travel between and into rural areas.` He added: `We are reviewing our position on a daily basis and will do whatever we are able to do to prevent this situation from escalating.`

`We will lose income through our decision to close the Garden of Wales to the public and we will inconvenience a great many people who have already planned to visit us however it is far more important to us to behave in a responsible manner to the local community and to the country and to do what little we can to prevent the spread of this devastating disease.`

Now we have:

Mr Tim Giles, Chief Executive of the Carmarthenshire Tourist Association said: "With the majority of our key visitor attractions now committed to re-opening before Easter - the news will be welcomed by the many thousands of people who now rely on the tourism industry within Carmarthenshire as their main source on income. What is particularly important is the fact that the move follows-on from the many positive discussions the industry has held with the farming unions in Wales and will abide firmly to a 'Visitors Charter' giving practical advice on how to visit the Carmarthenshire countryside without jeopardising the future of our agricultural industry".

My conclusion

It's a close thing. Do we cancel the holiday? Or risk the luke warm reception of  "English tourists near our fields, clear off!" There is a lot of sense in keeping well away. I've even been putting planned "confluence" trips on hold for the last few months.

The Government now wants its tax revenue earning citizens to to visit the countryside. Mr Blair now asks us to just leave the livestock alone.

We'll go! 

Email to Our Hosts 

Dear Mrs McLoughlin

Just a quick question: How "open" is Carmarthen and district? Which tourist magnets are operating normally? (This question is triggered by the news w.r.t. the government "closing" the countryside, then reopening it again as more tax revenue is generated that way....)

I look forward to staying with you next week. (I'm driver, gopher, companion to Mrs M E Hubbard.)

RegardsNick Hubbard


Dear Mr Hubbard,

Thank you for your e-mail. 

Luckily there is no foot and mouth disease in Carmarthenshire so most tourist attractions have now re-opened. The National Botanic Garden and Aberglasney Gardens will be open for your visit. Farmland and footpaths are still closed but as there are very few public footpaths in this area that is not a problem for us. All tourists are being asked to keep away from animals, not to leave litter and generally to act responsibly. We have had guests throughout the crisis and they have found very few restrictions when visiting the area. If you take a look at www.visit-carmarthenshire.co.uk they have an up-to-date listing of all the attractions that are open. In addition to that list the attractions in Swansea and Cardiff have not been affected.

Looking forward to meeting you on Saturday.

Catherine McLoughlin

The accommodation

http://www.cottageguide.co.uk/llety-mieri/

The Attractions

http://www.gardenofwales.org.uk/direct.htm

Aberglasney Gardens, a garden of past, present and future.

Since I've been instructed to leave the local sheep alone, I hope there are a few more attractions around.

Comments? Email me!

Saturday 31st March

We're off!

Grab cameras and toys still unpacked from Iceland, and load up car. 

Collect Jolly Mollie from Northampton at 10:00am. 

Non politically correct Jolly starts singing "Taffy was a thief...."
I will not complete this rhyme - it is not to be repeated or encouraged - just noted.

We drop in for a surprise visit on my sister Judith at Gloucester. Her cats greet me and Maud asks to be severely stroked. JM is topped up with a sherry and has a good look round - a jolly good nose.

After dinner we chat and leave at 2:00pm. We blindly follow the A40 to Llandeilo. This is a picturesque route but tedious to drive. Note for return journey: use the M4 - it's quicker!

The Killing Fields (The Silence of the Lambs)

The only evidence of the Foot and Mouth cull we were to see this holiday was at Sennybridge, a small town on the A40 between Brecon and Llandovery. Not that there was much to see - a swarm of police, and farmers' Landrovers. 

A handful of protesters with placards with the above film titles encouraged support from the passing motorists.

Llandeilo

Is this the correct spelling of Llandeilo?

The Base

Our home for a week

Dinefwr

The whole countryside is littered with these yellow flowersOur cottage is near Llandeilo. I'm pleased that I'm not the only one hazy with Welsh spelling.

We're welcomed by Mrs McLoughlin, our landlady. The warning is reiterated - don't go near our livestock!

Where are we? OSGB grid ref: SN 60344 20951

The accommodation is clean and adequate. The place is a converted barn - warm and fine for sleeping. 

The main lounge windows face on to a quiet view of Dinefwr castle. Wheeling black birds dart around the distant turrets.

No light pollution here. At night it is dark, save for the waxing crescent moon, and many stars. At home home I'm lucky if I can make out Orion.

We have an ideal base to explore West Wales.

Evening

I get a "take out" from the Great Wall in Llandeilo and introduce JM to oriental food.

Sunday 1st April

Hotels and Glasshouses

Flower in the National Botanic Garden Of WalesJM orders me out to get vital provisions: 4 of salad! "There's a shop at Llandeilo, be a good boy and off you go!"

The town of Llandeilo is not extensive - more a big village. The centre can be walked around in 1/2 hour. Has 2 Indian and 1 Chinese take outs. (So if worse comes to the worst I'll be OK!)
We're shutNearby is Dinefwr Park. This is closed.

I encourage JM to live it up. I book a table at the Cawdor Arms at Llandeilo for our midday meal. The proprietor is delighted - she had just received a cancellation so we would be most welcome. She goes on...

"Stupid people and their fear of foot and mouth!"

The good lady discusses ineffectual disinfectant soaked carpets, and the stupidity of burning animals. "Kill them and bury them in lime."

This is a "dress up in our Sunday best" sort of middle class place. However, the food's good.

I collect Jolly and she happily gorges her way though Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding. I go notionally vegetarian with a pasta and weird mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes.

Why go Vegetarian? Two reasons - I'm not too happy about the way our animals are ferried about before their slaughter. Kill them quickly. But the main reason - give JM something to worry about! (Her baby's not eating properly!)

She ticks off a hapless waitress for "not speaking clearly and loudly." The waitress and I smile.

Before JM can misbehave further I whisk her off to the car and towards the National Botanic Garden Of Wales. "Ohhh! That looks like hard work!" and directs me to return to base for her afternoon snooze. Her habits must not be disrupted.

The main drag through Llandeilo

Bridge over the river Tywi

River Tywi

National Botanic Garden Of Wales

Glasshouse

3D art

Glasshouse

 

I return to the National Botanic Garden Of Wales. The largest single span glasshouse in the world.

There is no "hard work" as JM imagined. There's a cheerful man with a cheerful covered carriage electric cart that could ferry JM wherever she wants.

I decide to pay for a year's membership. I know I'll be returning during the week. More opportunities as the light, and my photographic mood, changes. 

A grey drizzle descends from the mountains, masking Paxton's tower. It starts to rain. I head towards the main attraction, the glasshouse.

FlowerThe glasshouse is open. A very calm place. And it's warm and dry. The climate emulates a Mediterranean environment. Four world regions are displayed: Mediterranean, California, Chile, and South Australia.

Not hot and humid as a tropical butterfly house, but it did make me think: "Why Wales for a holiday when I could go to warm places like America or India?" The quiet rustling of the ventilation mimics crickets and "putchees" adding to the illusion.

The place is not exactly crowded! I saw 2 other visitors. The structure concrete, girders glass are very effective. Curves - blends with nature.

The rest of the gardens were closed - plenty of foot and mouth precautions. The restaurant and shop were also closed.

However, I'm satisfied. The place is interesting and geared up to get kids thinking about their surroundings. 

Carreg Cennen Castle

The castle is well sited on a rock cliff crag. Destroyed in 1462 by 500 men as the place was used as a stronghold by robbers and other villains. 

Tea and flap jacks served too!

Carrag Cennan

Evening

Jolly Molly has prepared an evening meal. A vegetarian salad and dead pig pie. I soundly beat JM at Scrabble. That will teach her for asking to play me!

Monday 2nd April 

A Wet Coast

The weather forecast for today was not for rain and mist. But that's what we had!

Tenby

TenbyTenby look out! 2 hours drive and JM is with you. Coffee and sandwiches are obtained from a cliff top hotel. JM's happy. Her coffee is as requested and has a jolly good stare out of the window overlooking the sands and Caldey Island.

We return via Pembroke. 

JM is content and ready for her nap. There seems to be a pattern establishing itself. 

Speed Museum

Wolsey Police car - the only exhibit visible
Pendine Beach on a wet day

Welcome to the Speed Museum at Pendine Sands, famous for land speed trials. The building is shut! And a sign said it could not be entered "because of COSHE regulations." (Confederation Of Health Service Employees? I'm not sure what the connection is.)

Babs was nowhere to be seen.

TurbinesHowever, nearby there are a fine set of wind turbines with blades turning. These 5 little darlings are set on top of the headland overlooking the sands.

  

Paxton's Tower 

Paxton's TowerMeandering TywiPaxton's tower is open, unlocked and accessible, with nobody about. 

A spiral staircase leads to a room on first floor. 

From this vantage the countryside can be seen around, disappearing into mist and rain. The dome of the glasshouse is visible. The meandering Tywi river is swollen.

I must return when there's some sun!

Evening

I collect JM and choose the Golden Grove Arms public house for an evening meal. 

This is a family run inn offering decent food. Dead chicken for me and dead cod for JM washed down with the local best bitter. For afters: a lemon meringue. This food was prepared in the kitchen by Frank who then joined us in the bar. I could easily spend the evening there - but it's JM's bedtime.

Tuesday 3rd April

Charlie the Cat

Charlie with castle

Carreg Cennen Castle

I return to the castle with JM. She enjoys a jolly good snoop around the tearoom. Charlie the cat says "Hi". She's an old girl too. As Charlie does not have cloven feet, but retractable claws, we feel it's alright to touch the farm animal. 

Mrs farmer's wife / owner chats about The Problems. They had been closed for a month but opened again as they need the business! Their tearoom extends to neighbouring farm buildings - they could easily cater for a 100 but there's just the two of us, Jolly Molly and I.

We drive along the Brecon Beacons National park. High and picturesque - even sunny! Jolly is quite delighted. Driving though a small cluster of cottages named Bethlehem cause much singing from my passenger. This is irritating to say the least!

Dolaucothi Gold Mine

MineMinesI drop off JM and search for gold. Dolaucothi Gold Mine isn't open for visitors but open enough to walk along a trail and look around. The University of Wales has a geology laboratory there. The place first used by the Romans still has human activity today. Noisy cheerful engineers bash away at a small shunting engine and mining wagons. Being Welsh there too much singing! Everyone's getting the place ready to be open on the 6th. Complete with tours that show how the mine last operated commercially in the 1930's

The mine entrances can be explored but there's no entry into the workings.

Llyn Brianne Reservoir

Reservoir wallWaterThe reservoir at Llyn Brianne was inaugurated on the 15th May 1973. I was sitting my last 'O' level on that day! 

Complete with a small hydro electric plant generating 4.35MW. 

The water is spectacular but bleak.

 

Water

WaterfallI return via a small isolated pub at by the River Cothi near Nat-y-Bai. The landlord welcomes my humble custom. He explains how dire things are - he relies on campers sited in the local fields. The fields currently have sheep - but the sheep may not be moved - so no campers.

Back via a waterfall by the road side. I stop. It's time to practice with a tripod and time exposures.

Evening

I take the Tally road back Llandeilo. I happen to be tantalisingly close to confluence 52N 4W. But the sheep regulations and unaccompanied hill walking is silly.. but maybe next time! 

The rain returned ready to take JM out for her evening's nourishment. Tonight it is the turn of the Castle Hotel in Llandeilo, home to the Tomas Watkin Brewery. A good pint of medium strength bitter. Jolly has vegetarian pancake, I have dead cockerel. 

"Only 4 in the bar and 2 in the restaurant: worse than a Sunday." bemoans the landlord.

Wednesday 4th April

Dylan Thomas

Bud

Laugharne

CastleA brighter day - enough sunshine to entice JM to the sea. Spring is in the air!

Laugharne castle with car park adjacent to the estuary. This make mobility very easy for JM. Coffee and tea cakes satisfy the 11:00 snack. And chip shop for 12:00 noon - JM enjoys the simpler arrangements. 

Laugharne is where the poet Dylan Thomas lived and drunk lots. 
Castle

A little game

I now have a little game. How many seconds does it take to get the owner/ proprietor/ landlord to say "Foot and Mouth". The stopwatch is started on entry to the establishment.

The Owl and Pussycat Restaurant 3min 1sec. 
The Castle Chippy 1 min 5 seconds. (Apparently the nearest Foot and Mouth is near Buith Wells)

Yes I know Foot and Mouth is serious, but you'll have to put up with my humour!

Pendine

Kids and sand and cliffsWe explore further down the coast and visit Pendine. JM likes the sands and cliffs. Shame the place is closed up. From the highland behind Pendine we see Lundy and wave.

Camarthen Leisure Centre

Freedom! I'm off to the Camarthen Leisure Centre. During the day it's the sports centre for the local school. The Leisure Centre opens for the public at 17:30pm. Sensible - why not use the place for all, throughout the day.

Llansteffan 

Sheep! Picture taken from the beach at LlansteffanBaaa! Picture taken from the beach at Llansteffan A drive down to the estuary of the Towy, and another fine castle at Llansteffan. 

The weather is fine, settled and calm on the coast: over the mountains it's cloudy and wet.

Excellent sandy beach. A sign says "Access to castle is restricted." The small print implies that stepping one foot beyond this barrier and you'll get a 5000 fine. 

The PM Mr Blair says all footpaths that do not cross farm land should be opened. "We are open for business!" Rubbish! These castles are closed! Dynefwr, Dryslwyn, Llansteffan. All footpaths I've seen are closed. The local government has the authority and has chosen to close all footpaths - so take that central government!

Anyway, there's not that many footpaths here in West Wales - apparently an effect of the Toll Gate Riots here in 1839.

Evening

JM thrashes me at Scrabble. It's a tedious game.

Thursday 5th April

Machynlleth

Today I leave JM at the holiday cottage. She paints watercolours of castles. 

My destination is CAT at Machynlleth.

52N 4W

Nearly there!

On the way I contrive to drive near a confluence. A confluence is an artificial point where a line of latitude crosses a line of longitude. Does this matter? No, unless you're a bit weird. This one is at 52N 4W. I've been to 52N 0W.

I drive along the B 4337. I get within 237 odd feet - do I submit it?  It is a cheat, getting within the qualifying range of 100 metres by car on a minor road. These confluence hunts normally involve preparation and a bit of a hike.

It is raining heavily. I take a photo of the GPS as evidence, get very wet, and drive on.

Onwards...Jones the petrol fuels my car. "Foot and Mouth you see. The Farmers haven't been out driving so I have no repairs, only MOTs.." I forgot to time that one.

Centre for Alternative Technology 

Rain on PV Array

Raining on impressive working demo

Raining on new shop

RainLast visited CAT in June 1999. Then they were running solar water heating course. Then we saw the sun.

Today it is absolutely pissing it down.

The new theatre and shop have been completed. During my last visit these were no more than foundations. The theatre uses straw walls, and the shop packed earth. It's actually better than that may sound.

Inside the shop I get talking. 
"50% down turn of visitors attributed to Foot and Mouth." (1 hr 5 minutes). 
A sign says: "Extra donations would be appreciated!"

I consider becoming a life member.

The restaurant menu is splendid as before. Worth visiting on its own - even if you're not into green recycling eco issues!

I buy some technical books on Photo Voltaic Panels, and a wind up toy torch. (May not be a toy...) and a PV panel and fluorescent lamp. Something to tinker with! 

(Abergynolwyn is about 7km from CAT - 1984 existential weekend.)

Coincidence. As I leave, BBC Radio 4 "Changing Places" has an item on CAT.

Then the weather report states that 28mm of rain fell on Capel Cureg - Wales's  second largest mountain - not so far away. 

Yes, it did rain.

Evening 

JM joins me at the Half Way House, a pub on the A40 between Llandeilo and Carmarthan. There's a good menu available - nice food on offer. No, she wants something familiar. She adores faggots with mash and onion gravy.

Friday 6th April

Morning Tour

"Where would you like to go to today?" I shout at JM, who can be a little hard of hearing.

"Revisit pussy and have some more of those nice fish and chips." (There you go Welsh Tourism Inc. Promote domestic cats and chippies and you're on to a winner!)

I change the rules to my private game. I now steer any conversations away from Foot and Mouth and see if its mention can be avoided.

We find Charlie and her owners at Carrag Cennan Castle.
Topic: Where we had been in the last week and where we were staying. Success

We explore south and head to Dylan Thomas' old haunt at Laugharne.
Topic at Chippy: Collecting mugs. Success.
I encourage JM to explore the foreshore - a well laid slate tile path leads by the castle and towards the estuary. 

That's it. Holiday is over now, and Jolly Molly can pack up ready to return home - but it's only early afternoon!

I leave her to pack her things, and I explore the local attractions. 

Gelli Aur Country Park

A couple of minutes drive from our holiday cottage is Gelli Aur "Golden Grove" Country Park. 
The park is closed.

Dinefwr Castle

The castle we overlook at Dinefwr is still closed.

House Aberglasney gardens

The Aberglasney gardens "a garden lost in time " is open. The house is being renovated, and the gardens restored. 

The house has been restored externally, and work has been started on the interior. One wing has been allowed to remain in a delapidated state. This makes an interesting contrast.

Topic: "Seven staff and lots of hard work, And hope things improve at Easter, what with this Foot and Mouth". Failure!

Tea and Scones are offered...

National Botanic Garden Of Wales

Glasshouse
Glasshouse
I revisit the National Botanic Garden Of Wales - now in sunshine. The staff are agitated: some dignitary and photographers have arrived in a convoy of Mercedes cars.

The staff are grateful in having me as the real genuine casual visitor.

Mr Blair reminds me to say that "we're open for business."
Flowers
Flower

Evening

I slaughter JM at Scrabble.

Conclusion

Foot and Mouth

Yes I know this is a serious issue - but there are advantages:

  • Clear roads (No animal transporters, tractors, and few tourists)
  • Proprietors welcome you and are keen to talk to you.

Places we never got to visit but wanted to:

Fanny's vegie in Llandeilo - Open Tuesday to  Saturday.

Criticisms

I've mentioned the number of attractions that weren't open. That inconvenience was resolved by travelling further to find places that were open. (Simple bit of logic that!)

There were no sheep mugs on sale. Most disappointed!

Praise

West Wales is a great place for a quiet holiday. Beer is good. Food is generous and suits all choices.

Sympathies were raised with the suffering traders: I dug deeper in to my pockets more generous than usual. I returned home with several extra stuffed sheep for my flock.

All images N G Hubbard April 2001