Friday, May 25, 2007

Wales - Day 1

I've been MIA for the last 8 days as I popped down to mid Wales to visit with my brother and his wife. Last year they both retired from teaching in Yorkshire and have spent the last few months turning their new property into a B&B with a self contained flat for those wanting longer visits.

The Old Coach House Cottage

Last week the Welsh Tourist Board representative came and inspected the self contained flat and gave it the maximum rating that the property could attain.......a full 4 stars.

So this seemed to be as good a time for me to visit and explore a part of the UK that I knew little about and also to give the flat it's first 'guest' since the rating was awarded. Although I took my laptop and my brother already had internet access, I wasn't able to create new blogs for some reason - so I'll catch up now.

It was a good 3 hour drive from North Leeds to their place near the Powys village of Aberangell, about 8 miles NE of Machynlleth on the A470. After leaving the motorway system and hitting the Welsh countryside, the drive itself became a pleasure as the scenery all the way to Aberangell was stunning. Once I'd pulled to the side of the A470 and opened and closed the roadside gate leading to the farm track to the house, it was obvious that they had given up town life for pure unadulterated country life.......and then some.

This is the initial view with the roadside farm gate closed behind me. For once there were no sheep or cows on the track which I realise now was VERY unusual as mostly I had to drive slowly shepherding sheep, lambs and cows off the track and into the unfenced fields on both sides of it.

As always, remember that all my photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Their house is the one on the right with it's white side facing the camera. You can see some cows on the left but usually there was a herd of about 10 and very inquisitive they were too - often hard to shift off the track. The sheep/lambs are up feeding near the house...................... can be seen in this close up photo.
The main reason for including these views is to set the show how the house is nestled in the beautiful countryside with hills all around it.

At the end of the short track you come to another gate, their gate, the gate that comes with the to speak.

And suddenly there was the house in all it's glory and showing itself off in the mid afternoon sunshine. This, in fact, set the weather pattern for my whole 8 days there as it never rained once (well a little overnight on my last night but it was dry when I woke up so that doesn't count) and for the most part, I enjoyed lovely sunshine. Sometimes a little too much sunshine but that's another story.

The self contained flat is the part on the left of the house and it has it's own porch covered entrance.

In the middle are the patio doors of the large private family living room and to the right is the main house entrance.

The large cobbled courtyard in front leads to a huge garden which will be shown in later photos.

With the hills behind and a river running past the right side of the house as we see it here, it was truly a picturesque scene of peace and tranquility and a million miles from the city I had come from. Ok more like 153 miles but lets not get picky.

I realise this is becoming an unashamed plug for the flat but fair enough, they are just starting out in this business and ANY publicity has to be good publicity and who knows who reads this blog ! I'll be giving their web site and email addresses at the end.

So in more detail, here is the porch belonging to the flat. You can clearly see it's proximity to the fields and in fact when you look through the side windows (of the kitchen and living room), you see the sheep and cows happily keeping the grass down.

And not a car in sight. Or a street light.

That was brought home to me when I left the main house that first night and made my way to this porch and the door to 'my' flat. With no street lights or light of any sort for miles, the night was as black as any I've ever experienced and I had to feel my way along the house wall to make sure I didn't hit anything vital on the short trip. Vital to me I mean.

After that, I made sure the porch light was turned on in true Motel 6 fashion.

So back to the flat. You enter to the living room which is simply and tastefully furnished. Oh damn, now I'm sounding like an estate agent !! Hey, the living room is comfy and welcoming, right.

I took this pic from the staircase which ends at the front door. Which is just as well otherwise you'd end up out on the cobbles !

I'll just string these 2 views of the room together as they show it better than any words I can use.

As I wasn't a typical guest, being family an' all, I didn't spend any time in this living room but would join my brother (Paddy) and 'the wife' (Sue) in their delightful living room which is private so I won't include any photos of it.

This view from the foot of the stairs shows the doors leading to the kitchen (left) and bathroom (right).

There is a small wooden dining table and chairs on the extreme left and there are 2 modern and very comfortable chairs next to this table.

A large soft settee completes the seating furniture.

The kitchen is modern and very well equipped.

As with the rest of the flat, it has been recently updated and decorated.

Again I didn't have to use any of it's amenities as I ate in the main house.

I've mentioned the views out the window already but here you can see what I meant. If guests have to spend any time cooking in this kitchen, they'll at least have wonderful views to help pass the time. Might not be appropriate to cook lamb or beef though !!

This photo was taken late afternoon on my first day there and the cows are at the far end of the field. In the morning, they and the sheep/lambs would be up at the house end and so I'd wake to their smiling faces. Work with me, people.

No early morning commuters starting up their cars and heading off to work. No kids shouting and bickering on the way to school.

Nope. I woke to a silence broken only by birdsong and the occasional bleating of a lamb that got separated from it's mother.
I could get used to that life. Easily.

Finally, completing the descriptions of the downstairs rooms, we have the bathroom. Bright and almost surgically clean, it WAS used by me several times a day. Nuff said I think.

I can't say much about the window view as the glass was frosted of course. Can't go shocking the animals with my naked body after all. NSPCA, Animal Rights and all that.

The flat has two bedrooms and despite my protests (albeit a little muted), I was given the main one with the double bed.

The other bedroom has a bunk bed which can be broken down to make 2 single beds if that is what the quests require.

Soft inviting bed + many hours of driving and walking daily = guaranteed restful sleep.

I don't think I've ever gone to sleep so fast after turning out the lights each night.

Each day I'd usually set off early (well about 9:30am which is VERY early for me) and would spend the day like a typical tourist - exploring the region and stopping to take hundreds of photographs.

After supper, we'd chat or watch some tv and then I'd leave Paddy & Sue and go back to the flat at about 11pm or 11:30pm.

I'd then watch a few episodes of Greys Anatomy in bed (bless my laptop) and by 1am or so, I'd be so tired I'd barely be able to pull the light chord.

Seconds later I'd be fast asleep.

On the one occasion when that didn't happen, I looked out the window, shone a torch on the fields and counted the sheep till I fell asleep.

Only joking. I didn't have a torch.

This is the view out the bedroom window - you can see the path leading to the house gate (as opposed to the roadside gate further along the farm track to the right) and part of the enormous garden area with the hills to the left of it.

The garden is still being moulded to how Sue wants it and at the moment is taking up a lot of her time.

At the far end are tables and seats for relaxing in the evening sunshine with a glass of wine, a pint of beer or having a bbq with family and friends.
It's a wonderful garden with lots of possibilities and compliments the house so well.

As a relief from photos of fields, rooms and buildings, here is a photo of......well, just a bird.

I include it here as it symbolises the ambiance and atmosphere of the house and it's environs. The bird feeder 'ball' is set up on a hook right outside the main house kitchen/dining room window and the great thing is that one can stand by the window only a few feet from the birds (and the occasional squirrel) and watch them feeding. It's as if they know we pose no threat to them with the glass between us and while they enjoy the food, we enjoy watching them.

This particular bird was trying to stare me out and almost won. It only left when a squirrel jumped down from the porch roof and landed on the top of the ball. With the birds scattered, it managed to get through the 'bars' and so had access to the food.

Birds would fly towards the ball and veer off at the last second when they saw the squirrel inside it. They'd land on the ground or sit patiently on the nearby garden wall and wait while the squirrel had it's fill.

Once it left, the word went out and the birds would descend in a frenzy of flapping wings and chirping cries. It was fun to watch from the other side of the window safe in the knowledge that our presence wasn't disturbing them at all.

Finally, to end this post about my first day at The Old Coach House Cottage, I've added a panoramic view of the house and garden. It's not great as I didn't use a tripod or anything but simply swivelled round taking a series of 4 photos which I then 'stitched' together using software.

It'll help if you click on the image and then enlarge it so it fills your screen. Feel free to copy it off and use whatever image viewing program you prefer.

I gave a link to their website above but it's in the very early stages of development right now (hopefully there will be more whenever YOU go there) but please put it in your favourites and keep returning to it.

More shameless plugging : if anyone would like to actually spend time in the self contained flat (or the B&B rooms in the main house when they are ready for guests) , please feel free to email Paddy or Sue at..................

Hey, just email for info in any case and give my blog as a reference. Then I'll feel useful and it'll go some way to thanking them for putting up for me for a week or so.....and indeed putting me up !

And here endeth my first day. I may not create posts of other days right away but this is a start and although there wasn't much apart from descriptions of where I was staying, I think it's given a taste of what's to come............steep hill climbs , deep scenic valleys, small seaside towns, long sandy beaches, a bizarre Italian style village, castles galore and.....oh yes........a cast of thousands. Of sheep I mean.

Be sure to check back !

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