Sunday, 5 April 2015

Easter in the National Park and Cemeteries

It's feeling like an awfully long time since we put the van away at the end of October, especially so as I was quite ill over Christmas and our usual trip up to the smoke had to be curtailed.

Still, never mind eh. Spring has entered the building, if only in the guise of putting the clocks forward an hour and not in the form of better weather.  I do like it when the evenings start to get lighter as it means I can watch it raining outside.

Another season of dragging the tin shed around the roads of the UK, so buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday 1 April

I'm awake by 7am and having got bored with all the hilarious April fool hoaxes on Facebook and Twitter I get up and start doing what needs to be done.  Miranda is taken to fill up with juice, inflate her tyres to towing pressures and a quick wash before returning home to inch the caravan out of it's cwtch.

She's in a sorry state, what with a winter's worth of green and a few month's worth of builder's dust coating her, so she gets dragged down to Morrisons where she gets the good news for 20 mins in their jetwash.

With both vehicles sparkly clean we are climbing the slip road at J48 with clenched butt cheeks waiting for the crosswinds to slam us as we cross the Loughor.  Miranda is behaving herself and towing is stress free, until we hit stationary traffic as we approach Glais.

Once cleared we thread our way up the Swansea Valley and start climbing into the Beacons National Park, pausing briefly near the Crai reservoir for a Practical Caravan type photo shoot.  It was howling a gale up there so Herself didn't venture outside the air conditioned and heated seat comfort of Miranda's bosom.

We roll into site, and first impressions are good.  It's well kept and the pitches are flat, there is no facilities block here, but at only £12.50 a night it represents excellent value for money.  However, despite the fact that it is only 1/3 full we are offered a choice of just two pitches!  Me thinks the warden is saving pitches for friends and regulars!  Nevertheless, one of those is where we would have pitched anyway and I site the van in a different way than as he suggested, just to start him twitching and clicking!

We are set up in no time, including the new canopy, and after throwing a few pasties down our necks Herself makes a list of things we have forgotten to bring.  We need pillow cases and we need bath mats, as our met an untimely end in October after I missed during one of my middle of the night excursions!

After exploring the dog walk we pile into Miranda and make our way towards Morrisons in Brecon, and their homewares dept.  Turns out that they don't have one and we leave empty handed.  Well, not exactly, I came over all soft and put a bunch of roses in the trolley together with about £25 of treats that will ensure that no amount of walking this week will reduce my girth.

Herself suggests a spin over the Beacons to Merthyr, where there is a mahoosive Asda.  It's about 18 miles each way so we probably spent more on fuel than the cost of the cheapest set of pillow cases and bath mats they have.

As we approach Merthyr Herself grabs hold of the steering wheel and yanks it to the left saying " I want to pop and see my Nanna and Grandpa. We thread Miranda down and up the steep hills of Cefn Coed cemetery for what seem like ages until we find the spot.  The roses I had got Herself get recycled as we pay our respects before threading our way back out.

Asda is the next port of call, and as we enter the foyer Herself loiters near the floral displays.  I pick up a £2.50 bunch of roses but Herself is taken with the £6.50 bunch next to them. In a moment of extreme bravery I say "Blod had your expensive bunch!" and i throw the cheaper bunch in the trolley as we head to Homeware section.

It's raining, so the trip back over the top is pretty bleak'  Herself drops me at the main road and I walk the dogs the mile or so back to site.

Tea is a chicken casserole and mash, washed down with some Coors before settling down for the night with some Gin and Proscetto.

Thursday 2nd April

I wake after a rough night but am happy to note that the wind has dropped and it has stopped raining for now.  The dogs have their legs crossed so after sorting myself out they are clipped onto their extenders.  First over to the on site dog walk and then out into the lanes that surround the site.

When we get back I note that Herself is still catching some zzzz, so as quietly as I can I go about the task of sorting out the front locker, she wakes up and puts on the kettle.

Breakfast is skipped and with a picnic stuffed into a daysack we make tracks to Llangors Lake.  the plan is to walk the circumference finding somewhere to stop off for food along the way.  We didn't get far.  After just a few hundred yards we are over our ankles in mud with the dogs pulling us all shapes, as those more sensible than us plodded on in their wellies after pausing to laugh at us poor unfortunates.

We turn around and head straight for the slipway where both dogs are hurled into the 3ft deep water.  the RSPCA would be none too happy, but they do not have to clean out the back of Miranda.  We spend some time having a mooch and doing a bit of twitching, before finding a bench to share our picnic with the dogs.

We follow the lanes for a while and join the A40 at Crickhowell and press on to Abergavenny where we call in on my Uncle Col and Auntie Eve for a cuppa and a catch up.  I suggest to herself that seeing that I'd like to go put some flowers on my Granshi's grave and we pop into Waitrose to pick up a bunch of flowers.

Have you seen how much they charge for stuff in there?  At least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask when he was robbing people.

We found the grave easily enough, and with respects paid (two days on the trot now) we follow the B roads towards Tal u Bont on Usk.  The dogs are in need of a stretch again, so we park up and walk the tow path with them for a few miles before turning back towards the comfort of Miranda.

Back on site, while I potter outside (skive) Herself gets into Nigella mode and prepares a feast for our tea.  carrot and coriander soup is followed by a superb surf and turf, all washed down with a couple of bottles of ice cold Coors.

Friday 3 April

Again we wake to over cast skies, but @DerektheWeather has promised that it is to piss down at 1pm.  I have the utmost respect for our Derek, but sometimes his ramblings are a better work of fiction than those penned by Enid Blyton.

We have a leisurely morning around the van and breakfast on bacon butties before heading off out for the day with not much at all planned.  I'd heard that there was a camping / army surplus shop in Sennybridge so that was the first port of call.

We couldn't find it!

Next we ventured up onto the MOD firing ranges on the hills above.  Herself starts to get twitchy as we enter the ranges with the oh so welcoming signs.

I am enjoying myself. The last time I was up here was many moons ago when I used to come up to see the Epynt Road Rally.  The place is as spooky as I remember.  Epynt is a vast mountain south-west of Builth Wells, ‘dull, treeless and gloomy’ and made even less hospitable by the fact that it’s been an MoD firing range since the thirties.

The public are only allowed to use the main road over the range, other roads that lead to top secret stuff fork off to the left and right all over the place with signs forbidding entry.  I'm not going to argue as these people have guns!

In the distance we can see a mock village, built solely for the purpose of urban warfare training.

We even come across an MOD pub, and old drover's pub.  The inn has been kept spotless by the MoD, but heartless too: empty, with bare concrete floors – and of course locked as tight as a military prison.  A melancholy little relic of the droving age.

The area is also home to the Red Kite, and as we round a corner we see a viewing point and as luck would have it a pair are souring on the air currents and appear to be just a few feet away from us in our elevated position half way up the valley side.

I rush to get out my camera, boot it up, zoom in and click.  Only it does not click as the memory SD card has been write protected.  I fumble with it, change the settings, turn the camera back on, zoom in and ................. Nothing!  They've buggered off out of sight, the inconsiderate gits.

I'm gutted, I am.  Herself however seems to find it amusing and by now is in fits of laughter with tears rolling down her cheeks.  Below is the location, I'll leave it up to your imagination to picture the Red Kites in full flight.

This place is quite bleak and there are thousands of sheep everywhere with new born lambs running around and skipping.  Herself is quite taken with plenty of oohs and ahhs emanating from her gob, together with the statement "I don't really fancy those lamb burgers we have back at the caravan anymore!"

What with all the lambs about, we've not been able to walk the dogs up here.  We head down into Brecon where we park up by the canal basin and join the Taff Trail at its most northern point.  We walk along the canal tow path for a few miles taking in the sights.  There are loads of people about, some hiring day boats, many just people watching, but the vast majority walking or cycling.

Cerys is getting on a bit now and her back legs are failing fast.   We stop for a break before turning back towards Brecon.  On the way we were fortunate enough to happen across some ducks with newly hatched chicks out for a paddle.

We need stuff, so a quick trip to Morrisons is necessary before we find somewhere for a very late lunch.  Brecon has many fine eateries, but Herself says she would prefer to find one out of town.  I know we are going to struggle with this, but will she listen?

I slow down outside a hotel, she dismisses it saying "It's a Marsdens!" Onwards to continue, pulling off the main road at various locations which are either too busy, too quiet, too posh or even one that she dismissed because someone in working clothes was outside having a fag.

I am losing the will to live by the time we get to Talgarth as a cafe and pub are also dismissed.  Beyond hungry now I am no longer in a sociable mood.  herself knows this and deliberately presses all the right buttons.  I explode and in the next 5 mins I pulled off some maneuvers that Gwyndaff Evans would have been proud of.

We are back in Llangors now, and we find the Red Lion.  We park up and I go in to see if they are serving food.  The barmaid says yes, but you've 10 mins as they stop at 4pm.  Not wanting to waste time thanking her, I turned around, smashed my way through the door and ran around the back to the car park where Herself was sat in Miranda playing on her smart phone. I tried beckoning her, but could I catch her attention?

"Come on mun!"
"They're only serving for another 10 mins."

She starts to powder her face ............ My next words are unprintable.  I run back to the pub, crashing through the door and almost bowling over a bloke carrying 3 pints.

We get our order in and take a seat by the fire.

The food was superb, and I don't think they needed to wash my plate after I'd finished.  The spin back to site benefited from a far more congenial atmosphere in Miranda.

The evening flew and involved the odd session of dribbling onto my tee shirt in moments of personal contemplation in between switching over from the lager to the gin.

Saturday 4 April

After a great night's kip we don't stir until 9.45am.  Breakfast is hot cross buns with tea, before we head out for the day on a mission.

First stop is Brecon where no doubt Herself and I will have cross words.  You see, I need to replace my walking boots, and as I'm not exactly light on my feet, Herself always insists that I buy an expensive pair, this is where we fall out.  She has a point though, as my current pair have been on my feet for about 4 years.

Brecon is well blessed in the outdoor clothing shops departments, with all the usual chains as well as a few independants.  if I'm away somewhere I always try to shop local, so first stop is Gills.  I'm taken with a pair of Timberlands, but am sucking in large quantities of air through my teeth every time I glance at the price tag with is north of £100 by some distance.

Herself starts tutting, I'm still sucking, and a timid shop assistant gingerly approaches.

"Can I help?"
"Don't think so,"
"Were you looking at the Timberlands?"
"Yes, but I'll leave them thanks."
"You sure?"
"They're reduced by £30 in the stack over there."
"Are they really ...... oh, so they are."

I left Herself pay for them, as £90 for a pair of shoes is still way too far out of my comfort zone.

Now we have to start heading back west.  The sun is out and the spin along the very scenic A40 is very enjoyable.  We pass through Llandovery and Llandeilo before arriving at the metropolis that is Llandybie and their rugby club.  Roids has a game here today, not for Llangennech though, but for Bynea - he is playing for them on permit.

The match is very enjoyable, Bynea came out easily on top, and Roid's darts were superb with him hitting his lineout target 100% of the time. Tali appeared to enjoy the game too.

After a quick pint it's time to make tracks back to Brecon.  There are bikers galore, all riding in packs on the twisting roads of mid Wales, and all riding too fast and taking risks in overtaking.  Really though, if they are not prepared to take any notice of the big yellow signs pleading for them to ride safe maybe they should pay more attention to the shrines that litter the hedgerows in these parts every 10 miles or so!

We pull off into the forestry at Halfway and find a sunny glade to enjoy a drink and bar of chocolate while the dogs run around the slopes and frolic in the mountain stream.  With the sun still high enough to peak over the trees it's idyllic, it really is.

Back on site, after only 5 mins, any ideas of chillaxing are thrown out of the window.  We have nothing in for tea.  Herself gets onto Trip Advisor to locate the highest rated curry house within 10 miles, and we phone up to order food to carry out.  Come in 30 mins they say.

We arrive at the allotted time and the place is rammed. They take my money and I take a seat with all the other starving gits.  I wait, and I wait, and I wait, and I wait, and I wait, and I wait, and I wait, and I wait, and I wait, and I wait, and I wait, and I wait, and I wait, and I wait, and I wait, and I wait, and I wait.

I'm hungry and am losing my patience. Many have come and gone so i ask where my food is at the same time complaining about the length of time I'd been sat there.  In under a min he come scurrying back up the restaurant clutching my food and apologising for the wait. I'm thinking to myself that it's a bit of a coincidence that as soon as I complain the food arrives, but say nothing.

When we get back to site I wished I had.  The food was cold, and it was pretty obvious that my food had been ready for some time, but sat there not being brought out.  Brecon's number 1 rated Indian Restaurant?  My arse!

The rest of teh evening was spent finishing off our alcohol stocks and waiting for this red moon that was supposed to make an appearance.  It didn't.

Sunday 5 April

It's breaking camp day today, as Herself has to be in work by 7am tomorrow.  It feels wierd packing up on a Sunday with a bank holiday tomorrow, but hey ho.

Bloody typical though innit. While the weather could have been a lot worse this week, we've hardly been running for the factor 50, and this morning we wake to clear blue skies for the first time.

We're up by 9am, packed and hitched up by 10.10am and heading for home.

The roads are quiet and the tow is very scenic, but more importantly .... uneventful.

Until next time.

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