Monday, 29 July 2019

Forest Escape

A day after my graduation, Chris and I packed up his car (I am still car-less) and we drove west into the Brechfa forest area of West Wales.  I had booked a stay in a cottage on a textile farm, with no Wi-Fi, and only accessible by a very long and very bumpy farm track.  Something different!


This is just an outbuilding, not our accommodation!

We were fortunate to have a clear, sunny day, though not that warm, and so after we'd settled into our home-from-home we decided we would have a campfire in the garden.  We had a roaring blaze as dusk fell, and were treated to bats circling overhead as we enjoyed a beverage. The forest noises certainly were abundant too - an owl hooting across the valley, and much furtive rustling in the bushes behind us.  The highlight though was the partial lunar eclipse that night, just glimpsed through the trees.  A magical evening.

The next morning I was up early as I'd booked a workshop in natural dyeing with the farm owner Pamela Newton, a textile artist.  I spent a very pleasant morning learning about dyeing, starting with a trip to the flower beds to collect dyer's camomile flowers and nettles, amongst other plants.  Dyeing naturally is slow dyeing.  There was a lot of waiting while pots simmered away, which we filled with shibori stitching (a Japanese tie-dye method) and a natter about everything from sustainability, mental health and gardening.  By the end I hadn't created a masterpiece, but came away armed with new knowledge and a collection of sample pieces to refer to in future.  I was also given a little needlelace or "stump work" kit, which I look forward to having a go at one rainy Sunday.

Chris had entertained himself that morning by roaming the forest with his banjo, so we exchanged stories of our mornings over lunch, and then thought we'd head out to one of our favourite towns in the area, Llandeilo.  We spent a pleasant afternoon at the large antiques centre, and visited an old school friend of Chris's who has a very swish new boutique for her jewellery label, and were treated to the full building tour (small business shout-out: do check out Mari Thomas and her contemporary designs on Instagram).  After stocking up on a few edible supplies, we headed back to the cottage.  Despite the rain drizzling on and off that afternoon, it had cleared up beautifully, and we walked to the fields to see the goats, before having supper and settling in front of the woodburner for the evening.

Our start to the next day was leisurely, with a full day out planned.  First stop was another town, Lampeter, with a couple of antiques and charity shops to rummage in.  I had no luck, so on we went to the very, very windy seaside town of Aberaeron.  It's very quaint but there's not really much there.  We had a walk and then treated ourselves to fish and chips, eaten by the harbour, and watched by seagulls.

A very uninviting looking sea at Aberaeron.  It was blowing a gale too!

Our final stop came from the chance spotting of a sign. Cae Hir gardens is a small, privately run garden built into 6 acres of Welsh hillside by one man. The gardens are now run by his daughter and son team.  We had a good chat with the son and were impressed that he now maintains the gardens single-handedly - a full-time job, understandably.  The sun came out again, it was lovely sat in the quiet corners we found, listening to the birdsong and making mental planting notes for our own garden. In fact, we had a lot of the same plants, which was encouraging.  After a pleasant few hours,  we headed back to the cottage for our final night.

Kati Laura Phillips Cae Hir Garden
 The fabulous dress is a Kati for Laura Phillips 1970s' number, picked up in a Barry charity shop some years ago.

On the Friday we woke up to quite a bit of rain.  Hmm.  I hadn't packed any wet weather gear.  An error on any trip to West Wales!  We were off to the Antiques Roadshow for the day, which was filming at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, and so I stuck with my planned outfit of a vintage dress, rather than layering up in odd assortments of clothes - the only alternative I had with my limited holiday wardrobe.  We said farewell to Pamela and her farm, and headed off.  The rain seemed to have set in, and as we arrived at the garden I was already wishing I had packed a good pair of waterproof knee-high boots, or at least some wellies.  The rest of my Antiques Roadshow experience was mainly spent queuing.  A long, long queue for reception, so that they could tell you which other queue to join for a valuation.  Then a much longer, much wetter queue waiting for the appropriate expert.  I had thankfully brought a large umbrella, but I could feel myself getting colder and hungrier as the hours passed and the queue moved painfully slowly.  The rain was very heavy at one point.  A little bit soggy, I finally made it indoors to the room where the jewellery valuations were taking place.  At that point, some bright spark decided that it would be much better for everyone if the queue was mainly indoors, and people were reshuffled until most of the queue snaked up and down the apothecary building.  This stroke of genius came too late for my soggy ballet pumps.  I eventually reached the jewellery expert, for it all to be over in 2 minutes.  I know it's a long day for the experts, but I didn't even get eye contact or a hello, just a cursory look at the brooch I had brought, a vague stab at dating it (which was frankly less accurate and convincing than my own estimate), and a rough valuation.  That was it, and that was the end of my patience!  We left straight away, seeing little point in standing any further in the rain to see any filming taking place.  I got changed in the car park into some dry clothes and it took a strong cup of tea when we called into Chris's mum's on the way home to make me feel anywhere near human again.  What a wash-out!  I was very disappointed with the whole experience.  In future I shall just enjoy staying at home and watching it on TV.

Presenter Fiona Bruce and the guy who does the glass.

So there we go, a rather soggy end to what was a good trip otherwise.  I'm sure I'll be able to laugh about it one day, but right now I'm still sulking and the sound of the Antiques Roadshow theme is enough to make me reach for the 'off' button!


  1. Oh what a disappointment!! I love antique road show! But you had a few good days away. And where to better eat fish & chips then at the sea!

  2. Your cottage looks very inviting, and I love the idea of making a campfire in the garden. I love the moody black and white photo of Chris with his banjo. I've been to both Lampeter and Aberaeron and, although I love picturesque Aberaeron very much, it's true that there is not much there. There's only one charity shop ;-) The 1970s maxi dress is sensational! I'm sorry to hear about your disappointing Antiques Road Show experience. I don't think I would have had the patience. xxx

  3. Oh that's such a shame about the Antiques Roadshow but at least the rest of your break was fun and that garden sounds amazing.


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