Yey! Work finished for a week and time to set off for some time away at Fforest Fields, just outside Builth Wells.
Herself and I have company for the start of our break in the shape of my mam, AKA Nanna Coupons to her grand children.
The site had asked that we not arrive until early afternoon so that we could have a greater choice of pitches on arrival.
The tow up through Mid Wales is one that I always look forward to. The scenery is stunning, it is all on A and B roads, and is nearly always traffic free. The journey took us a little over 90 mins, but over 15 of those were spent negotiating the bottleneck that is Llandeilo.
We pulled up onto site and note that there is acres of space! The forecast by @DerekTheWeather seems to have put many people off. We head into reception and there’s no one on duty.
A sign tells new arrivals to fill in the arrival sheet, work out your fees off a chart, scribble your details on an envelope and putting your cash inside before depositing the said envelope in the ‘Honesty Box’. The system relies on trust both ways and seems to work. They use the same system for the on site shop, which is really only a few fridges with some bacon, juice, milk and stuff in, you take what you want and put your money in the box! I can really see that working back home in Morrissons!
10 miles later, and herself has some salad cream to go with her tea, which tonight will be a light meal of rump steak, grilled tomatoes, jacket potatoes, mushrooms and a side salad! Tea was cooked on the Weber, and even though I say so myself, the steak was grilled to perfection!
Sunday 1 July
We rise at 9.30am after sleeping like logs, and a peak outside reveals that it’s not raining. A breakfast of bacon and eggs is cooked outside in the rare glimpse of the sun, with a mug of steaming tea for company. Bliss.
Whilst it’s not raining, a look towards the heavens says it’s never going to be far away today. Today’s destination of choice is The ElanValley. Late morning we head off in that direction with some nasty skies overhead.
On the way I get a Facebook notification from friends of ours who live in the Midlands, Mr & Mrs Starbucks. The reservoirs of The Elan Valley were constructed so that the good people of Birmingham could have running water in their homes. Apparently Mrs Starbucks is a little nervous that I’ll be stopping off for a few No 1s during our excursion around the resevoirs!
If you’ve read some of my earlier blogs you will have noted that I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about Welsh communities being wiped out and valleys flooded to provide water to England.
As we approach the first dam there are signs for a visitor’s centre, which I am told is supposed to very good and quite informative. I give it a wide berth, because I know that if I see pictures of Welsh Villages before they were drowned I’ll be straight back out of there to deposit a few No 2s into the water before heading to the nearest corner shop to purchase a box of Swan Vesta and signing up for Meibion Glyndwr!
The sun decides to come out, and the scenery is breath taking. The dams are set off superbly against the lush green of the surrounding hills. All the reservoirs are full and water is cascading down the overflows. A photo opportunity is around every hairpin bend and the place is swarming with sheep, sheep and more sheep.
There was much talk of a drought and hosepipe ban a little earlier in the year, but the resevoirs up here are full to overflowing. Having explained the workings of facebook and twitter to Nana Coupons last night she tries to show how much of it she understood by quipping "Send a tweet to Mrs Starbucks to let her know it's ok for her to water the garden!"
The orange blob passes us in the form of a group of 30 or so chubby men in orange hoodies, all riding MonkeyBikes. They are going like the clappers and overtaking cars on bends with reckless abandon. I resist the urge to move into the centre of the road. Well, that’s quite not true. I get the look from herself that says ‘Don’t be so bloody childish!’ before I slow down and pull over to let the orange blob roar past.
A few miles later I see another bunch of lunatics coming towards us. You know the type, the ones on push bikes that consider riding up a mountain to be fun! Well, these lunatics are also riding four abreast on the narrow road. There is clearly not enough room for a car and four bikes to pass each other, but the one on the outside must have had an adrenalin rush, because he fancied a game of chicken with me!
He lost, but his stupidity wound me up, so I screamed obscenities at him as we passed each other and I then bravely put my foot to the floor to make my escape. I am again in trouble with herself, and get the look, this time for forgetting that Nana Coupons is sat just behind me and is about to ask me what some words mean!
The sun is now shining and we decide to head back to site, picking up some fresh vedge for supper on the way. We have a late lunch sat outside at around 4pm before @DerekTheWeather comes back to haunt us with a brief shower. Refuge is taken in the awning for a power nap. Next thing I know, it’s 6.30pm and I wake up, chin on my chest and a pool of dribble down my tee shirt. Nana Coupons is fast asleep in the other chair and herself is resting her eyes in the caravan.
Dinner tonight was a leg of Lamb roasted on the Weber, served with Jersey potatoes, sweet carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and minted gravy. Superb it was!
Another evening in the van with Perroni and wine for company before calling it a day at 11.30.
Monday 2 July
The forecast for today is awful. We wake at 9am and a peak outside reveals it’s not raining. Stepping out into the awning I note that the zip is open. I immediately blame herself, but then remember that I was last in yesterday and I did zip it closed. I have yet to admit this to herself mind! I put it down to the wind in the night and think no more of it.
By the time we sit down to breakfast it’s pissing down. Proper Welsh hills rain too.
A leaflet that herself has picked up promises a market in Builth Wells today. I’d rather sit it out a bit hoping for the weather to clear, but herself quite rightly points out that the market may close early. We head off into Builth only to find the market closed early – last week – and had not bothered setting up this week because of the rain.
I have that sinking feeling about our day out today (see February’s blogs for more info).
Undeterred we head off in the direction of Hay on Wye. Never been there before, and my only knowledge of the place is that it’s a stock answer on Gwlad for whenever anyone posts a picture for others to guess the location, and there are a few bookshops there.
The drive is not a pleasant one in the heavy rain, but it eases up a little as we approach the town. We take advantage of Nana Coupons’s blue badge and bag some free street parking in the centre. We take a look round, leaving the dogs in the car, but it’s all bookshops and art galleries, not really our scene at all.
My back is in bits so herself kindly offers to walk back up to fetch the car. 20 mins later she drives down the hill, and from a distance I can tell she’s flustered! Oh dear, this could be trouble. The car alarm went off and she could not turn it off, everyone was staring at her as she cruised the streets through the maze of no entries, one ways and diversions (all the time with hazards flashing and alarm screaming)
It’s starting to brighten up a bit so we head over to Llandrindod Wells for a mooch. It didn't really brighten up though because by the time we get there is tipping it down again. We spot a Tesco on the way in so stop of for some sandwiches for lunch and provisions for tonight. I sit in the car with the dogs while herself and Nana Coupons go in.
I am dozing on and off and have a bit of a moment as an old lady dressed in full Victorian gear stroll past the front of the car. I do a double take and then she comes back!
It dawns on me that they have an annual festival up here and she’s collecting in the foyer of Tesco!
There is no let up in the rain so we make for the ornamental lakes set above the town to picnic in the car.
No point being out in this, so it’s back to the van to chill out. The rain clouds lift as we get close to site and herself walks the dogs round the on site lake, before we batten down the hatches for the night.
Yey, wet dogs in the caravan for the evening!
Tea is pork chops served with sauté potatoes and cauliflower cheese washed down with half a box of Perroni.
At around 9pm the clouds disperse and the skies are bright blue. A bit bloody late now!
Tuesday 3 July
We’re awake early today, and I’m up and cooking breakfast outside by 9am. The forecast for today is rubbish (again), and although dry for now loads of wet stuff is promised. I open the van door and note that the awning zip is open again. I’m starting to get a bit freaked about this now, even though there are not many people on site and nothing is missing. My money now is on a vagrant coming in to take shelter overnight.
We have a lazy morning before heading off out at noon. First stop is Knighton for a trek around Harry Tuffins. We only want spuds for tonight and some sandwiches for lunch, but £54 later we exit with a trolley full of bit and bobs. Nana Coupons is in her element, as they sell everything in there!
We decide to head north, and initially it’s a spectacular spin on single-track roads over the mountains, with only sheep for company, before picking up the A483 towards Newtown.
We are miles from anywhere and we come across a toll bridge. I though Dick Turpin had died years ago!
I wonder what all that was about?
Undeterred we push on and find a parking spot right in the centre on the street. Newtown is a lovely little town and we spend a pleasant hour strolling through the arcades window-shopping. The heavens opened (first time today) at around 4pm so we decided to head back south. It soon cleared up though, so we’ve not had a bad day considering the forecast that was given last night.
We settle down in the van for the night with some winter comfort food in the shape of Bangers ‘n’ mash with onion gravy. It’s bloody July mind, I keep repeatedly cursing to myself.
Wednesday 4 July
We are up early this morning with a 6.45am alarm call. Herself has to be back home for a 9am hospital appointment and Nana Coupons has a birthday bash to attend tomorrow (Mrs Starbucks' dad, who also lives next door to Nana Coupons) so will not be coming back later (that and the fact that she is in desperate need to take some medication she has been laying off while away with us, her breathing is beginning to sound like she’s being ‘Water Boarded’ by the SAS)
Anyway, I step out into the awning and guess what? Our zip is open! I look around and nothing is missing. Tonight I will kip in the car with a baseball bat!
We arrive at the hospital in the nick of time after a horrendous journey. Herself scurries off to have her treatment, I drop off Nana Coupons before doing some messages. After picking up herself we drop in on her parents, Nana Creaky and Grandpa Mumbles, to see how they are doing before heading back to the hills.
Herself, as usual after her treatment, is not too well at all. The rest of the day is spent doing very little. The sun comes out at about 7pm and the colours of the woodland on the hill opposite us are quite superb.
Dinner tonight is a chicken madras. With the sun out the view from the dinner table is breathtaking.
I am a little worried about herself this evening as she's not been on a Confined Space Awareness course, and after eating that lot tonight I'll be rattling the rooflights a lttle later!
We retire to our bed quite early. At around 11.30pm, Tali barks and herself sits up, she hears the zip on the awning opening. Ever the hero, I pretend I’ve not heard anything and herself gives me a couple of digs to make sure I’m awake. Sure enough as she opens the blind and we note the zip is open (being the man of the caravan I am peeking over herself’s shoulder trying to sound brave whilst shitting myself.)
With that herself spots our burgler! He comes back, crawls on his belly through the opening and starts to help himself to dog food from the bag!
A wave of relief sweeps over me realising it’s only a Border collie from a nearby farm out for a midnight feast!
Thursday 5 July
We are woken at 8.30am by one of our dogs wanting to be let out for a pee. Fair play though, they have been banged up with us in the van for nearly 12 hours!
It’s hot, and joy of joys, the sun is out. I consult @DerekTheWeather and it’s set to stay with us for the day.
In between all this it was time to catch some serious rays.
I must be getting on, as I have to admit to 2 senior moments today.
First off, I took some washing over to the laundrette (modern man I am see) for herself. On going to fetch it I noted the machine had not completed it’s cycle (read not started) because some numpty has forgotten to set the programme and turn it on! My return to the caravan empty handed was greeted with much hilarity, oh how we laughed!
My second moment today was when I was trying to sort out the drains in the van. For a few days now the sink and wash basin have been slow to drain, sometimes even backing up into the shower tray. Taking the bull by the horns I decide to sort it out. I’ve decided it’s a blockage of some sort (see, I’m clever me!) and set about trying to clear it with hot water and plungers. I force the water down the shower plug and the sink fills, force it down the sink and the washbasin fills. I deduce that someone has poured fat down the plug which has set and caused the blockage.
I’m now on my back crawling under the van looking for obvious signs when my leg knocks the removable pipe that we use to connect the van drains to the wastemaster. In my wisdom, and downright laziness, I had not put the pipe into the wastemaster and let it dangle. On knocking said pipe free my leg gets the good news with a few gallons of greasy putrid water! I clearly see now that the van had sunk into the soft ground and the end of the pipe was digging into the ground and had sealed itself.
I have to take myself off for a quiet word with myself after that!
As I sit typing this at 9.30pm, the weather is still fine, it’s still light out and all is well with the world. Dinner was eaten with the backdrop of the forested hill opposite lit up by the evening sunshine , and consisited of a king prawn something or other washed down with pink fizzy stuff.
I’m looking forward to seeing the look on the Border Collie’s face later when he realises there is no more awning and no more dog food!
Friday 6 July
It’s moving on day, and guess what kids? That’s right, we rise to the sound of rain drumming on the van roof. This is proper tidy rain, and outside looks decidedly wet!
We have breakfast and speak to Mrs Shag who tells us it’s still dry in Llanelli. The plan originally was to spend the day on site here before moving on, but we decided that there was little point in hiding from the rain here when is was dryer further south west.
Having dropped the awning yesterday we were packed and hitched up in no time at all. Mandy was wheel spinning frantically on the wet, soggy grass trying pulling the van off the pitch before heading for the sun in South West Wales.