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13 Nutters in Wales

Group of 12Our party consists of the following:

Gavin, his partner Louise, and her brother Simon.
Jennifer, Jenny, and son Jack.
Bernie, Jon and Rick.
Phil, and son Matt.
Matthew and Nick, your webmaster.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Milton Keynes

Welsh DragonThe break kicks off for some of us on Saturday. Matthew makes his way over to Milton Keynes on the afternoon coach from Cambridge.

Laura and Andrew invite us over for a fine dinner. Roast lamb! This holiday will probably be veggie, so we savour our last real meal with dead flesh. There’s lots of red wine flowing, and Laura and Andrew’s cats enjoy the fuss.

Sunday, October 24, 2004


We make a leisurely start, leaving Milton Keynes around 10:30. Within an hour we meet a contingent of Nutters at the M6 services near Coventry

I have the pleasure of acquainting myself with Gavin’s most favoured person Louise and her younger brother Simon. I realise that going on holiday with a bunch of Nutters would be daunting for such nice normal people.

We head off in a convoy of 4 cars. We’ve all got licence free radios to keep in contact. (446MHz using Channel 7 (446.08125MHz) with CTCSS tone 77Hz.)

Here’s the route we take: M6 M54 Shrewsbury Welshpool Dolgellau Llanelltyd.

We stop at a garage just before we get to Dolgellau – we meet our first real Welsh person. She has remarkable teeth that are clearly her own. She sells us some citrus flavoured Kit-Kat chocolate biscuits. They taste of toilet cleaner.

By 15:00 we’re at the rectory. We’re early and the cleaner tells us to kindly come back later. “We’ll be ready in a couple of hours!”


(pronounced Dow geth lee)

We find a comfortable bar in The Royal Ship Hotel at Dolgellau, a mile or so from the rectory. Our nerdy conversations (Tetra radio, 2 dimensional barcodes, RFID) is excellent material for tormenting the teenage boys!

We stock up at a local grocer’s, a Spar in a Converted chapel.

Matthew’s cap gets blown into the river. ”I couldn't do anything because of the beer! [that I was carrying.]”

Retrieving the cap is an excuse for Matthew and Jack to get their feet wet.

It's only a few inches!


Decent Pressure VesselWe gain access. Yep, it’s a big old rectory! I’m blasé, having lived in a couple when a child. Built 1904. 5 bedrooms - servant quarters being used! It's been recently refurbished with a decent oil fired central heating system.

Jenny and I collect Phil and his son Matt from Barmouth Station at 19:30. We now have our full compliment. The Tom Tom Go, a vocalising, GPS based map proves useful: I program it with "Barmouth Station", and it tells us where to go. (I'd love to program it with an abusive voice!)

Louise has prepared two curries for our evening meal. One has dead flesh, the other is veggie compatible.

We watch a DVD. New York gets a dusting of snow in The Day After Tomorrow.

View from the Rectory

Monday, October 25, 2004


Simon is unfazed by the bunch of weird adults he's been obliged to be with for the week. He soon puts me in my place.

He tells me that I must be old as I’m having toast with marmalade, and muesli for breakfast. “That’s old man’s food. Young people choose cereals that turn the milk brown!”

Settling down with his cereal he adds: “…and stop saying ‘dude’: it’s so un-cool coming from an old person!”


We leave Louise with the three boys and walk to the local town, Dolgellau. A 3 mile round trip. Yes there's rain but the walk is very pleasant. (The weather steady improves during the next few days, and is very mild for late October.)

The river is in spate.

We have coffee in a busy tea room.

Phil, Jenny and I explore the track behind the rectory. (Time for her to play with low gear 4WD up a steep incline.)


Gavin inspects the river flow



Sand and Stones
Jack having fun

The afternoon sees us in the small town of Barmouth on the coast. Barmouth has sun, sand and a supermarket.

The chip shop opposite the railway station is recommended.

We tempt Jenny with a £199 Electric Scooter on display in a toy shop. Will she buy it before we leave for home?


Jack enjoying a sandblast
Wind blowing sand on Barmouth shore
Barmouth Barmouth Walkers


Jack slaysThe boys are prepared: there’s a bar billiards table and dart board. A Playstation 2 and GameCube are plumbed in.

The board game Civilisation Bernie had brought is deemed too incomprehensible.

Munchkin and Risk 2100 AD rules the day. We all know when it’s Rick’s turn… he takes his time... a very long time.


Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Cymer Abbey

Snowdonia National Park
Rick and I head off to the nearby Abbey in Llanelltyd. We can’t actually go inside the grounds.

Although it’s closed for maintenance, the ruin is easily visible from the neighbouring farm.

I Am Not A Number

Black Sheep

The afternoon sees the Nutters heading off to Portmeirion, where the 1960s cult TV series The Prisoner was filmed.

Matthew and I head over early: we intend to do some exploring. We work well as a team: Matthew navigates; I drive the vehicle responding to the instructions he barks out.

Matthew does not approve of my Tom Tom Go. "Yet another piece of modern periphery that removes a basic skill. Everybody should be able to read a map!”

We take a detour through Blaenau Ffestiniog. Lots of mountains around here. Excellent scenery!


Where to cross?

We're soon at Portmeirion. Painted buildings and specimen trees are not within Jack's gamut of interest. Muddy streams are. I goad Jack into jumping across a muddy stream on the sands at the foot of the village. Jumping onto the sands was successful. Jack happily explores the sands. But jumping back – no: he slips.

I'm requested to take a muddy teenager back in my car.

“What do you think to the holiday so far, Jack?”
“It sucks big time.”
“So you’ll be doing a web write up. Shall I get you the domain www.walessucksbigtime.co.uk?”
“It’s probably already taken!”

Matthew, the then not quite so muddy Jack, and I head back, taking a scenic route over mountains. There are steep narrow lanes to drive up. The view is clear enough to see the mountains in Ireland. I'm greeted by several sheep at the summit.


Return jump
Harlech Castle We stop off at Harlech Castle. Harlech Castle




Phil shows us a card game Trader - pit bull. It involves lots of shouting. I win a round!

Then it’s time for Risk, Rick’s favourite game. Rick teaches Si and Matt the rules. I observe, making the odd considered comment. The boys pick up the rules rapidly.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


Cliff Railway at CAT (Centre For Alternative Technology)
When the wind blows
We head of to the Centre for Alternative Technology at Machynlleth. (Jenny and Jack remaining at the rectory.)

I like to see what C.A.T. are up to: I usually pay them a visit every few years. 1999 2001

It's not really the best weather to make a visit. There’s no sun and no wind. You can’t really expect the demonstrations to be doing anything.

The restaurant is up to standard.


Says it all really
Bernie and BT phone box

King Arthur's Labyrinth

Brother and Sister
In the caverns
The Nutters visit King Arthur's Labyrinth, some caverns in a mountainside.

You get:

  • a boat ride there
  • to see several tableaux
  • to witness an animated sword and dragon
  • to see a waterfall
  • a boat ride back
  • led by a sneezing escort in a hooded cloak. “It's the damp you know. It gets to you.”

All well worth the £5 entrance fee.

Passage lighting


Rainbow Matthew and I return to the rectory, choosing an indirect route via Abergynolwyn. (I recall a long weekend spent here in Feb 1984 with college friends. Time flies.)

By the time we reach the coast at Fairbourne there’s a strong easterly gale. We walk down the banked stony shore…progress is difficult.
Several trees are blown down partially blocking the road back …and to think there was no wind blowing a few hours earlier back at C.A.T.

Matthew prepares a veggie split pea meal. It tastes fine when plastered in hot chutney.
Lighting up

Barmouth at Night

  Jenny, Phil, Jon, Bernie and I drive to Barmouth. Fishing boats are tied up close to shore. Gale, spray, lights. Quite dramatic weather. Spray
Barmouth at night

Thursday, October 28, 2004


Happy Herding Nutters is slow and hard work. Get them all ready then one Nutter will insist on having another cup of tea. Eventually, by midday the convoy is on its way to Snowdon.

We stop of on the way to Snowdon by Llyn Gwynant. There are excellent views - sunny and clear.

We get to the railway station at Llanberis where you can get a train up to the peak. But the trains are booked up! You need to pre-book train tickets.

Tickets may be purchased in advance by phone using a Credit/Debit card, telephone 0870 458 0033.
We do not accept telephone bookings on the day of travel.

Next time we’ll know! We weren’t all kitted for walking, so Snowdon will wait for another day.

We have lunch at the Electric Mountain Visitors’ Centre, a few yards up the road from the railway station.

Llyn Gwynant
Group of Nutters
Snowdon Railway


Train We take a Ffestiniog train from Tan-y-bwth to Porthmadog. The track is within the Snowdonia National Park with some very rugged and beautiful mountain scenery.

We have a mammoth Tesco’s shopping session in Porthmadog. (15 year old single malt is purchased. Jennifer demands the best.)

The Nutters head back down the coast,  Matthew and I divert for pint and wander around Barmouth.

Si and I watch a DVD, Shaun of the Dead.

Train Window
Nick with noncompliant subject

Friday, October 29, 2004

Pooh Sticks

Steam ideal for Pooh Sticks Jennifer, Bernie, Mathew and I walk up the rising land behind of rectory. There’s a stream flowing down – we play pooh sticks on a bridge.

Quad Bikes, Machynlleth

Biker Gavin is keen to go quad biking. The Nutters, visit Beiciau Madian Quads for an hour's trek.

Good fun.  I soon get the hang of it after the first couple of laps. 5 Speed gears, automatic clutch.

There’s several circuits to take. Some are simple for the novices. The best circuit is one that runs along a stream through a wood.




Rick at home in Offy We descend on poor old Dolgellau.

We enjoy and evening pint, and raid the local off-licence.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Nutters Dispersal - Phase 1

Matthew demonstrates map reading Our party is now splitting up and making tracks for home. Phil and his son Matt are leaving: Matt has booked a concert this evening in London. Some combo called HIM, an acronym for His Imperial Majesty, referring to the late Rastafarian-worshipped king Haile Selassie.

I accompany Phil into Dolgellau to fill his wagon with Petrol, taking the opportunity for a chin-wag before he goes.

At 11:00 Jenny, with Jack drive Phil and Matt to Machynlleth station. This gives Jenny a chance to look around C.A.T. (Jack – well he liked the chickens.)
Phil viewing mountains

Convoy to Machynlleth.

Simon Our reduced 3 car convoy travels to Maclinith. The view of Mynydd Moel is spectacular.

Matthew and I honoured to have Si as passenger; he clearly wants to bask in the erudite wit that surrounds our car.

We have lunch at some tea rooms in Machynlleth. I get more verbal from Si: "Liver and 2 boiled veg is for old people!"

14:15 Jenny joins us… only for us to disappear heading off for the Quad bikes.

Beiciau Madian Quads

All Terrain Vehicles

We liked the bikes so much yesterday, we did it again. Beiciau Madian Quads are delighted to have our custom once more!

Louise and I decline. For me today was a chance to play with a camera. What lenses should I use? A wide angle would be good for the trial with bikes speeding through the stream - a telephoto lens for the rest of the course. I compromise. Telephoto. Manual exposure – set on grass – slow shutter 1/125th (ISO 800, F/9.5) Yes, a dull overcast day. (Around 12dB cloud attenuation over a bright sunny day.) That last bit was extra nerdy!

There are 2 teams, each with a leader and tail bike from the farm:

  • Si, Bernie, Jon
  • Jenny, Jack, Jennifer, Rick, Matthew, Gavin.
Jon, Si, Bernie
Jack BernieSimon Jack
Jenny Bernie JonJenny Matthew Jenny
Rick JackJennifer Bernie
  RickGav Gavin Jennifer
  MatthewJenny Bernie

Nutters Dispersal - Phase 2

  Jenny, Jennifer and Jack leave for Cambridge. (A vital meeting to prepare for.)
We return to the rectory.

Nutters Dispersal - Phase 3

  No more Grand Theft Auto. Si, his sister Louise and her man, Gavin, are leaving. They have a long journey back to Cambridge: they’re dropping off Si in Chorleywood.

The house is quiet with all the boys gone. Only a core of Nutters remain (Jon, Rick, Matthew, Bernie and I.)

We pack into Bernie’s car and head for Dolgellau for some fish and chips.
We’ve found all the counter staff in the town friendly: the hotel pub; the Spar, the Threshers offy; the tea room; and now the Chippy.

We startle some locals.
The Locals


  After making a start on tiding up the place, we relax and play cards.

A game of Munchkin followed by poker. We play for pennies, Estonian sents and Risk tokens. (15 year old whisky and digestives - very pleasant and enjoyable!)

Sunday, October 31, 2004



  I enjoy a good night’s sleep, having taken over a vacated double bed. Daylight saving time has ended: we’re back on GMT – we get an extra hour.

I descend for breakfast. Bernie is cleaning up – he’s keen to get a move on. I help. The others appear: Jon last of all… he’s somewhat delicate this morning.

We lock up and head off at 10:30.

By 12:00 we’re in England, at a road side café near Ford, Shrewsbury. A mug of tea later and we say goodbye to Bernie and his car full of Nutters.


Ironbridge Matthew and I detour via Ironbridge. A fine structure.

By 16:00 we’re back in Cambridge.


Another fine Nutters holiday!


Jenny organised the holiday. The rectory cost us £620 for the week, and has room for 15 guests.

Book your own holiday at the rectory!

All images © N G Hubbard October 2004