To Hay (on Wye) and back again

Angela Hay on Wye 11 Oct 2018
Market place, Hay on Wye

Today, I took a little jaunt to Hay on Wye.

I wanted to drive through the Brecon Beacons as summer turns to autumn. I needed to visit Bartrum’s, the stationers in Hay on Wye and to have a bit of a walk around.

Typically, after a couple of days of gloriously sunny autumn days, I decide to go on a wander on a day where the skies were leaden and rain was threatening.

However, the sullen grey backdrop of the sky helped the autumnal colours to shine against it, especially on the way home. The colours of nature had changed with the rain. Reds were clearly apparent in the brown reeds at the foot of the mountains. Water darkened the bark on the trees so the glorious colours of autumn seemed more vibrant. Wet foliage always seems brighter in colour.

I cursed myself for not being able to take photos as I drive, and there was nowhere to stop safely so I could take quick snaps of the glories of autumn.

I travelled the A470 between Merthyr and Pontypridd on Tuesday, and the change in colours of the trees and the land was noticeable indeed.

More trees seemed to be crowned with their autumn gold. There are more fiery flashes of trees resplendent in their autumn finery. The brown bracken and reeds on the hills had more red, magenta and purple tinges to it than just a few days before.

I felt quite sad that some trees have already lost their leaves, missing out on joining in the great, colourful celebration of the turning of the seasons and another productive year.

There’s more changes to come and I hope I’ll find the courage to visit Westonbirt Arboretum this year to wander through the woods in their autumn beauty.

I also enjoyed seeing the clouds forming mantles around the heads of the mountains of the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains. There’s something mystical, secretive about it, and a lot of power in the strong winds today and the eddying and swirling in the low clouds was particularly visible today.

One particular highlight of the day was when a red kite swooped in front of my car, turned and returned in the direction it had come from. Seeing them close up always takes my breath away!

When I got to Hay, I popped quickly into Satori to have a look at their pretties (crystals, jewellery) and did pick up a piece of hypersthene to add to my collection.

Angela Porter Lunch Hay on Wye 11 Oct 2018
Oscar’s Bistro, Hay on Wye

My next stop was Bartrum’s for a look around. I do have a bit of a thing for stationery. I did restrain myself from visiting the downstairs area of the shop where they have soooooooooo many beautiful fountain pens. I did have a good look around the upstairs section where there are pens and pencils, notebooks and sketchbooks. They have a huge selection of Moleskine and Leuchturrm notebooks, as well as other brands, along with all kinds of other stationery supplies. They do have a small selection of sketchbooks and I picked up a 25cm x 25cm Blue Acorn sketchbook (I’d forgotten to pack a sketchbook to take with me).

After that, it was time for lunch and I thought I’d revisit Oscar’s Bistro.

Liz and I went there before our trip oop t’Dales and we had a pleasant lunch in nice surroundings.

Today, I had a big pot of tea all to myself and for lunch I ordered a veggie burger with cheese and some chips. I forgot to ask them to leave out the bread bun, which I left anyways (my preference, I’m sometimes not in the mood for bread). The veggie burger was delicious. They make them themselves and I could detect mashed swede, parsnip, leek, onions carrots in my burger. They were beautifully seasoned and not at all bland, unlike so many commercial vegetable burgers.

The chips were lovely; hand-cut, still had the skin on (which I like), and golden and crisp, freshly cooked.

I did say that I would’ve been more than happy with two veggie burgers (no bun) a scattering of chips and some salad.

The time I was there with Liz, I had a vegetable curry and it was delicious too. A little spicy heat but not so much that you couldn’t taste the other spices or the veggies.

It really is a lovely little place!

I sat there and made some notes about my thoughts on my drive there and started drawing my illustration for Inktober 2018 day 12 (the prompt is ‘whale’) in the sketchbook I’d bought in Bartrum’s. Well, I mean, you just gotta try out a new sketchbook!

Once I’d finished my pot of tea (which was also lovely and much needed), I planned on a wander around Hay, but as I took the quick pic of Oscar’s it started to rain, and the heaven’s opened as I took a pic of the market.

On my way back to the car I stumbled upon a little shop called The Thoughtful Gardener and I just had to have a wander.

As well as pretty flower pots and cards and so on, they had a range of soap, scented candles, room fragrances and skin creams made by themselves.

I had a sniff of some of the soaps and creams and ended up with a pot of Wild Mint balm which is deliciously minty and the tiniest bit softens/smooths the skin. I’ve tried it on the touch of very dry skin I have on my forehead to see if it’ll help. I couldn’t resist some soap ‘flavoured’ with patchouli, and delicately done too.

I’ll certainly be visiting The Thoughtful Gardener again!

I had thought to wend my way towards Hereford, maybe visit Kilpeck before returning home, but the dark, dark glowering clouds suggested I should think otherwise. So, I made my way back home, driving through strong winds, heavy rain and the start of the rush hour traffic!

Oh, strong winds – that reminds me, flurries of autumn leaves were fun to drive through! Far nicer than snow as far as I’m concerned.

A little jaunt to Neath

Approximately once a week I have an appointment in Neath. I enjoy driving, but today I wished there were places on the way there and back I could pull over and snap a few piccies of nature.

The places I could pull over and stop were places where I lost the view I wanted to catpure.

So, instead of pictures, I’ll try to use my words to paint a picture of my journey.

My route was from Pontypridd, up the A470, past Merthyr Tudful to join the A465 which I then followed until I reached Neath.

Along the way I get to see the mountain tops of the Taff valley. They currently look like a rich tapestry of abstract patterns in a rich russet tinged with purple, dull yellow-greens and straw-yellow.

The trees that line much of the road are no longer the uniform green of summer. There’s flashes of yellow, brown, orange, magenta and purple along the way that break that unformity up. Rowans and hawthorn are so bedecked with berries that they already appear bright red-orange and red in colour.

Traces of morning mist lingered about the trees beside the A465 in the Vale of Neath, and low cloud wreathed the moutain tops to the east. Definitely an autumnal view.

I got the sense that nature is trying on her new wardrobe, working out what looks best in different places, what colours work well together.

I feel the anticipation of seeing nature in all her glorious, majestic, blazing autumnal colours in the coming days and weeks. All to celebrate the end of the year’s harvest, the warm, glowing colours clothe the world like a snuggly quilt laid down to help it ease into it’s winter slumber.

The colours also act as a memory to remind us in the cold, dark, bare days of winter the world will wake up once again.

 

Drive Around t’Dales – 25 Sept 2018

Road towards Parceval Hall Gdns 2 for blog

On the road to Parceval Hall

It’s hard to believe it’s only a week since I had the awe-inspiring experience at Coldstones Cut followed by (after some tea at Pately Bridge) the wonderfully majestic Fountains Abbey before returning back to Pately Bridge for a late lunch.

We had a lovely drive around some of the Dales after lunch, Liz eager to show off the natural beauty of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The route we took last Tuesday, the 25th of September, was :

  • Pately Bridge to Greenhowe and then on to Bolton Abbey, passing by Parceval Hall. A quick trip past Embsay followed before dashing on to Skipton. Then, it was up the A65 towards Settle and then onwards to Langcliffe. From here we headed to Malham Tarn Nature Reserve follwed by Arncliffe and passing Kilnsey Crag before going through Threshfield back to Cracoe.

The changes in the landscape as we travelled from one Dale to another was quite remarkable. I absolutely fell in love with the more rugged landscapes where limestone seems to erupt out of the ground like the worn molar teeth of giants discarded by a very big tooth fairy.

I also loved the drystone walling, and how it seemed to rise vertically with the sides of valleys, rising relentlessly upwards to meet the sky. Perfectly straight too; so straight a Roman soldier would be proud of it!

There were sheep just about everywhere, of so many different breeds. And cattle too.

The steepness of some of the ghyls and valleys was quite astounding and breathtaking when you don’t expect to see the land fall away from you as you top a hill.

The photos show how quickly the weather can change over the Dales, from bright sunshine to quite overcast. I’m not a photographer; I use my Huaweii P10+ phone, in most of these from a quickly moving Freelander. There are very few places to pull over and let me get out to do a better job of photography, but I think you will get the idea of the vistas that were on display that day.

Of course, photos that I take can’t convey the amazement, wonder, awe, pleasure, fascination, intrigue that I experienced even when dashing past them. That’s what my words are for, though I still don’t have the words fully yet.

Road towards Parceval Hall Gdns 1 for blog
A bit further along the road to Parceval Hall
Reservoir on way to Embsay for blog
The reservoir on the way to Embsay
Not far from Victoria Cave which overlooks Langcliffe for blog
Near Victoria Cave which overlooks Langcliffe
Looking towards Keighley for blog
Looking towards Keighley
Ingleborough in distance and Pen-y-Ghent to right for blog
Ingleborough off in the distance with Pen-y-Ghent just creeping into view from the right
Burnsall Road blog
Somewhere along Burnsall Road
Trollers Ghyll for blog
Trollers Ghyl

The Old Barn Tea Rooms, Ponsticill

This photo of The Old Barn Tea Room is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Not all journeys involve a lot of travel. We often forget to visit or mention places of interest that are close to home. We think they’re ordinary, uninteresting, familiar, but to others they may be of great interest.

Today was one of those days where a short trip was taken, around 25 miles in total.

I needed some time with Liz to sort out details of our journeying around the Yorkshire Dales, so we decided to meet up for lunch and went to the Old Barn Tea Rooms at Ponsticill, Merthyr Tydfil.

The drive there was lovely, in bright, golden autumn sunshine along tree-lined country lanes once we left the main roads. Part of the trip was along the edge of the huge Ponsticill Reservoir and we had tantalising glimpses of the water through the trees that lined the road.

A little earlier in our journey, we’d driven over the road that goes along the damn that holds back the water that forms the reservoir; I always feel a little nervy as my mind worries that the dam may fail with me in a car on it. There was a fab view of the water treatment works from this road, however; something that can fascinate a pair of retired science teachers!

The Old Barn Tea Room is, as the name says, in an old converted barn. The decor is simple and charming, in fitting with a tea room in the countryside

We were greeted as we entered the door and given a menu and asked to choose a table and someone would be over soon to take our order.

As a vegetarian I was heartened that there were some interesting choices for me. When our waitress came to take our order I inquired about the fresh, home-made soup and was told it was carrot and parsnip, so I plumped for that along with a hummus and roasted vegetable sandwich along with a pot of Assam tea.

Later on, I indulged in a slice of lemon cake, which was very light and had just enough lemony yummy-ness to make it totally delicious.

Liz went for their lighter afternoon tea and she had half a tuna sandwich, a plain scone with cream and jam and Welsh cake. She had a cafetiere of coffee.

There was a group of three men there, one of whom played the harmonica from time to time and the others sang softly. That was rather nice and atmospheric.

We were not rushed at all during our visit, which was great as I needed Liz to help me name the places I took photographs of as well as mentally retracing the tyre-tracks of our daily journeys around the Dales.

I even managed to do a little knitting as we finished off our second pot of tea or cafetiere.

It really was a lovely setting for a tea room, off the beaten track, set in the countryside and today it was nicely quiet.

My sat nav took us on a slightly different route back home. We had a fantastic view of the face of a quarry, the old limestone streaked with dark grey and flashes of white.

As we made our way back along the A470 we passed Trago Mills opposite the Cyfarthfa Retail Park. Liz said it was on her list to visit out of curiosity. I asked her if she wanted to pop in and had the time to. She said, ‘why not!’. So we did.

We both ended up with more knitting yarn and we had a wander around completely perplexed by it all. However, we can both say we’ve been there.

I will be making more posts about our Yorkshire trip, once I get it all sorted out in my head (and with the photo labeling and editing too).

Stokesay Castle and the drive home

Stokesay 03Yesterday I had to say goodbye to the Dales to make the long journey back home to Wales.

Liz decided that we’d travel back to Stokesay Castle in Shropshire as quickly as we could so that we didn’t get stuck in the crazy traffic on the motorways around the Manchester area.

The skies were clear with puffy clouds floating in them. The sun was warm through the glass of the car, but the wind was still a tad parky.

We made good time as I annoyed Liz a little with an app I’d newly downloaded onto my phone – iGeology 3D. It helped me to answer the questions I had about the underlying geology of the different landscapes we passed as we left the Dales and carried on home.

We made good time and Liz stopped for a bacon butty at a little caff in a layby; I think it was called Lone Johns or Long Johns, but I could be very long. She really enjoyed her butty. I enjoyed my mug of tea and a little piece of ginger cake.

Stokesay 01
Then it was on to Stokesay Castle for a break from driving. We headed to the tea room there for a comfort break and a drink and something light to eat. Liz had a chocolate pudding and I had a rather nice bowl of tomato and basil soup. Once refreshed (and I finished an an angel wrap I’d started knitting on Thursday with yarn I’d bought in Settle) we visited the castle.

We had to go into the gift shop to get our admission, and we had a wander around. Liz spotted a cuddly raven, which of course had to be added to my little collection of things of a ravenly nature. Anyone who knows me knows I have a bit of a passion for corvids, ravens especially. So, to add a second cuddly raven to my little collection was something I was happy to do, as well as contributing a little more to the coffers of English Heritage.

Stokesay 02The castle was nice, a bit modern for my liking, though the textures and patterns in the many carvings caught my attention for sure, as did the lovely flowers and foliage in the gardens.

I baulked at going up a narrow, dark flight of uneven steps to the top of the tower, however. My panic attack in a narrow and short entrance and increasingly narrow corridor/tunnel at Forbidden Corner was still very much with me, so I went and explored the flowers instead.

Liz said, ‘ I couldn’t believe it; we stop at a castle and you’re more interested in taking photos of plants than looking at the castle’.

Stokesay 05I’d looked at the castle. I’d taken lots of reference pictures to use to inspire my kind of art in the fulness of time. But I like plants as well!

Stokesay 04We looked at the church next door to the castle, which was nice too, a lovely arch on the way in.  Well, I think it’s lovely and interesting, but then I do like a nice well rounded arch! I like pointy ones too, and the more ornate tracery filled gothic arches as well, but there’s nowt quite like a sturdy, well-rounded arch.

After a wander around the graveyard (I find them rather interesting too, especially the older they are and the changes in fashions in the style of gravestones and the kind of information people put on them – these say more about the living left behind on the Earth than they do about the dead) it was time to continue our journey along the Welsh Marches then across towards the Brecon Beacons.

We stopped at the Honey Cafe in Bronllys. This is a lovely place for a stop, and it’s somewhere you can get tea and piece of cake until 9pm at night. We didn’t have cake this time, in fact, I didn’t have much cake this week at all! We did have a bowl of thick cut chips and one of curly fries to share between us as well as a big pot of tea.

It was nice to break up the long journey home this way. I think we were both tired from our busy days in the Dales and the journey home felt longer than it really was.

After leaving Honey Cafe, it was down towards Brecon, to Storey Arms, Merthyr Tydfil and finally back to Pontypridd at around 7pm. After dropping me home with my luggage, Liz made her way to her home too.

I really enjoyed my week away. I did miss spending time wielding pens and pencils and having to make do with my poor photography skills to try to capture glimpses of things that caught my attention on our travels. I have a lot more photos than I’ve shared so far. Before I share any more, however, I need help from Liz to help me name the places I’ve taken photos of!

I do want to go back there, maybe in the Spring when the new leaves are just beginning to show. I’d like to go back to Fountains Abbey with my sketchbook in hand and an ample supply of pens and pencils. I’d also like to visit Rievaulx, Ripon Abbey and other places of both man-made and natural beauty and interest.

I know that as our days were so busy as Liz wanted to show me as much as she could of her favourite places and things I’d find interesting, I often felt very much a sense of sensory overload where time was needed to just sit and let my mind digest and organise it all before adding more to it.

I’m an introvert, even if those who think they know me think I’m an extrovert. I have a very well practiced mask of an extrovert nature which developed to allow me to be noticed in a family of rampant extroverts.

Being an introvert a lot goes on internally and it can take a long while before I can make sense of emotions or experiences; writing is a way that I can do this, once I have had that time and space.

Having said that, I laughed a lot and there were a lot of vocalised, enthusiastic expressions of ‘oooh’ and ‘wow! look at that!’ and variations on the theme (sometimes with a sweary word or two in exclamation added in).

But, there’s a lot more going on inside me than I acknowledge outwardly.

It took me to write a blog about my experience of the Coldstones Cut to recognise what it was that had been internalised.

So, in the coming days or weeks. I’ll be adding blogs about my Yorkshire Dales break – and it’s a lot easier now I have my home superfast fibre internet connection rather than the intermittent, unstable wifi connection at the Devonshire Arms Inn or elsewhere this week.

I’d like to say that my stay at the Devonshire Arms Inn at Cracoe was lovely. The staff were fab, and their triple cooked chips and onion rings were divine! I rather enjoyed my meal there on my last evening, with Liz and Jack for company.

Last, but not least, I’d like to say thank you to Liz for doing the driving, putting up with my ambling pace, my achy joints and my weirdly silly outlooks on life and for indulging me with trips to Fountains Abbey and Settle and Coldstones Cut. I look forward to more shared trips in the future, day or a little longer in length.

Some more travels oop t’Dales today

Ribblesdale 01
Ribblehead viaduct with a very moody sky over the fell in the distance.

Today’s journeys around t’Dales included a trip to Ribblehead Viaduct. It’s amazing piece of construction; the photo doesn’t do it’s immensity justice. As we were there, the cloud descended over the peak in the distance, which I can’t remember the name of now. Very atmospheric. The wind was fiercely blowing along the valley floor and through those arches. Sheep were wisely sheltering from the relentless wind.

Funniest thing of the day was wondering if there should be road signs warning of low flying sheep, with the sheep with resigned expressions on their faces; expressions that suggest the thought is ‘Oh no, here we go again’. Made me giggle at least!

Before Ribblesdale we visited a shop in Skipton known as The Coffee Exchange. Liz stocked up on coffee, I on various teas – South African Rift Breakfast tea, Irish Breakfast tea and a deliciously spicy smelling Winter blend.

After Ribblehead, we stopped at Heather’s tearoom for a light lunch on the way back towards Settle for a wander around and a stop at a yarn shop so we could both pick up some knitting yarn.

Next, was a drive to see Malham Cove and a stop for more tea (coffee for Liz), before going on a journey to see the limestone pavement above Malham Cove. Spectacular scenery and finding a source of geological maps is important to me. We drove past lumpy bumpy drumlin landscape on the way to and from Ribblesdale.

After Settle it was a trip to a Farm Shop to have a look-see and I have a selection of chutneys to enjoy when I get home.

Tonight, Liz, Jack (the farmer who owns the site where her caravan is situated) and I are going to be having dinner at the Devonshire Arms.

It’s been a fantastic couple of days here in the Yorkshire Dales. Tomorrow it’s the long journey back home to South Wales with a lot more stuff than we came up with for sure.

I really want to return at some point; there’s so much to see and experience.

On my return, I will post more information about our trips; I can’t remember the names of places or the routes we took, but Liz has said she’ll help me sort that out.

Forbidden Corner

Forbidden Corner 01Yesterday, before another drive around t’Dales, we spent a fun couple of hours at Forbidden Corner.

I howled and giggled with laughter as we explored the curious, fantastical, humorous creation.

We saw dragons, ravens, boars, bears, mice, cats, Legionnaires, Greek gods, fountains, towers, a creepy mausoleum that was a hoot to travel through, and more!

When we thought we’d seen it all, we went to the cafe for some much needed tea and lunch. I had a delicious felafal burger (no bun, thank you) chips and salad. Liz had fish and chips.

It’s all brilliantly done; there’s a surprise around most corners, some of which can result in a bit of a soaking, but not too much.I had to look up, down, left and right to see everything, and even then we missed a couple of things.

The views from the towers across the landscape are lovely, and, like at the Coldstones Cut, the view you get is managed by the buildings.

I’m not going to post anymore pictures; I’d not want to spoil the experience for you, the surprises. If you’re visiting the Yorkshire Dales, this is a lovely way to spend a few hours.

Should I return, I think I’d try to take a couple more breaks from exploring Forbidden Corner to prevent sensory overload, but then, as I’ve said, the cafe is lovely and perfect for a break, whether it be for a pot of tea, a snack, or a full meal.