Have Bag, Will Travel
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Tag Archives: Aberdovey
“Cenedl heb iaith, cenedi heb galon” – Welsh proverb (A nation without language is a nation without heart)
The following morning it was raining. Raining quite hard as it happened and this was much more like the Wales that I remembered from family holidays when I was a boy.
After breakfast it began to ease away and by nine o’clock I was able to leave the caravan and walk again to the seafront and take the cliff top walk once more to the war memorial and look out over the bay where things looked very different today as grey clouds filled the sky in all directions.
On the way back down I spoke to a man who was hoping for better weather because he was preparing to do some repairs and painting of his house and he told me how the properties are under continual assault from the weather and from the salt water and how much work that entails in keeping properties well maintained. Back home I like to paint my house every fifteen years or so, whether it needs it or not, but here he explained it is an annual chore.
By mid morning there was some improvement so we left the caravan and headed north towards the seaside town of Aberdovey on the opposite side of the estuary. I always like to go to Aberdovey because it is one of my favourite places in Wales.
A perfect seaside town with a sandy beach, a busy harbour, brightly painted houses and a small public park. Parents with children entertain themselves in the simple pursuit of crabbing because thankfully there are no amusement arcades, no tacky tourist trains and no furious fast food diners.
As we drove around the north shore of the estuary the weather started to change for the better and by the time we had found a parking spot and wandered off in the direction of the harbour the clouds were rapidly disappearing and the sun was beginning to shine.
After lunch at the Dovey Inn we spent some time in the charming streets away from the seafront and left and carried on to Towyn. Towyn is the terminus of the Talyllyn railway, which is just about my favourite narrow gauge railway in Wales but I didn’t mention this to my travelling companion because I was certain that having turned down the opportunity to take the Vale of Rheidol Light Railway just the previous day he was almost certain not to have had a Saint Paul on the road to Damascus type moment overnight and suddenly been converted into a steam railway enthusiast.
Instead we went to the seafront and sat and in the sunshine were content to sit and watch the sea and the boats before going to a supermarket for some supplies.
We had driven here along the coastal route so we choose now to return via the country so we headed inland towards the foothills of Cader Idris mountain range and Tal-y-lyn lake. If I was choosing to move house and live in Wales then this is where I would select, I prefer it to the north and the south, the countryside is green and gentle, the lakes are blue and serene and it is not nearly so busy.
Place names are hard to pronounce of course because trying to understand the Welsh language is like trying to crawl through a hawthorn bush without getting lacerated and as I called out the names of the villages as we drove through them and each one I got horribly wrong.
Since devolution the Welsh language fanatics have become rather like the French with their opposition to anything Anglo-Saxon and they have gone to a lot of trouble to replace as many words as possible and when they can revert them to Welsh.
When there is no Welsh word they just make one up. For example there is no Welsh word for microwave and (you will probably have to look this up because you won’t believe me) the word they made up is ‘popty-ping’. Almost as funny is the Welsh word for ironing which is smwddio, which is pronounced smoothio. It’s true. UCNMIP, which, as it happens, is not a Welsh word but simply means You Could Not Make It Up! (nad oeddech yn gallu ei wneud yn i fyny).
The weather continued to improve through late afternoon and after pie supper cooked in the popty-ping I made way once more to the sea and the pebble beach to wait patiently for a sunset that was preparing for a show in the west and as the sun dipped slowly down I wasn’t disappointed.
In my earlier posts I mentioned that I had visited Wales several times and this time I returned to an old favourite.
The picture above is Aberdovey in 1985 and this is Aberdovey today…
In 1968 I went on holiday to Aberdovey at Plas Pantiedal Holiday village near Aberdovey and one day we visited Lake Bala…
and almost fifty years later I have taken my grandchildren to the same place (well, almost)…
In 1985 it was my first holiday with my daughter, Sally …
and here we are again…
The beach at Aberdovey in 1976 playing boules with my brother, Richard…
and all of these years later my grandchildren playing on the same beach…
With my daughter, Sally in 1986…
And with my grandchildren, Molly, Patsy and William in 2015…
Finally with the full crew…
“The lake (Bala) has certainly not its name, which signifies ‘Lake of Beauty’, for nothing” – George Borrow, an English nineteenth century travel writer.
As it happened the weather had seemed to settle down into a sort of pattern; it rained at night and in the day it was dry and the sun came out and that was perfectly fine by us.
As with any holiday, this one started slowly and then gathered pace towards the end and almost before we knew it, it was approaching the end of the week and fortunately the weather had one good day left for us.
The children wanted to go back to Aberdovey and try their hand at crabbing and there was no way of negotiating any sort of different day or amusement so we loaded the car and made our way back to the coast.
I had forgotten just what good fun this was, I hadn’t been crabbing for probably fifty years, I didn’t even take my own children when they were young, but we bought nets and lines and bait and made our way to the harbour to find a pitch. The memories were flooding back so thick and so fast that it was like trying to mow the jungle.
We used bacon for bait and it was so successful. Like most people I like a slice of sizzling bacon, usually between two slices of bread, but these crabs like bacon more than anyone or anything I know, either that or they are just plain stupid. Within seconds we had our first catch and then over the next hour they just kept being pulled out of the sea with such regularity that it became monotonous. I have never been deep sea fishing but I imagine a marlin or a swordfish is going to put up much more resistance than these dumb decapod crustaceans.
Eventually the children tired of easy fishing and I was glad about that because to be honest I was scared stiff about one of them getting over excited and falling thirty feet or so into the water and then me having to go and try and rescue them so I was pleased when they poured the poor things back into the sea (presumably to be caught again ten seconds later) and we made our way to a nearby pub for lunch. I had a beer to calm my nerves.
Sally drove us back to Bala where the weekend excitement had started early (this being Friday) with a steam gala so she dropped us off at the station at Llanuwchllyn and swiftly left us to go into the town for some retail therapy. Kim, by the way was so stressed by day six that she had taken the opportunity to stay at the cottage for some quality ‘me’ time.
The steam gala was a predictably amateurish affair with a few old cars and lorries and some rail enthusiasts selling books and running their model railways but the children enjoyed a second ride on the Lake Bala steam engine and if I am entirely truthful so did I as the engine called Maid Marion pulled the coaches alongside the blue waters of Lake Bala, at four miles long the largest natural body of water in Wales.
At the Bala terminus there were more memories for me because here was an old Routemaster London bus , the type my granddad worked on as a conductor out of the Catford garage in south London. I am not sure what it was doing here in rural mid Wales but the children liked riding on the top deck and Patsy declared it to be exciting because it was ‘my first ever time on a double decker bus!”
I enjoyed Lake Bala and Wales, it was a simple holiday, the sort that I remember from my own childhood and from taking my own children away when they were young. I am convinced that youngsters don’t need water parks and amusement arcades when there is a wide open beach and the sea, the countryside, a stream to fish in a thrilling steam engine ride.
Kim enjoyed it so much that she has decided that we are going to live there!
What simple pleasures make a holiday for you?
In the morning it was raining again but I am a great believer in that old saying – rain before seven, clear by eleven” and sure enough the clouds cleared away shortly after breakfast so we loaded the cars with beach games and a picnic and made for the coast.
I was taking everyone to the seaside town of Aberdovey and I was looking for a beach that I used to go to several years ago. I found it straight away and led everyone along a precarious footpath that crossed a railway line and then two fairways on a golf course until we reached the shelter of undulating sand dunes overlooking a wide sweeping bay of perfect caramel sand and placid blue sea. As soon as I was back I remembered that this is one of my favourite beaches of all.
The children loved it here of course, running on the sand, paddling in the sea, optimistically fishing with nets, building sand castles and knocking them over again and then eating cheese and grit sandwiches for lunch.
Suddenly the weather changed. Inland was a flotilla of white sails skipping across the sky as though taking part in a regatta but approaching us from the west there was a fleet of steel grey battleships and they were coming directly towards us, torpedo tubes armed and guns blazing.
We packed our bags as quickly as we could and ran back to the cars across the golf course and the railway line and back to shelter but as soon as we arrived at the car park the sharp rain stopped and the clouds passed by so we laughed about that and drove into the town for an ice cream.
Despite the weather improvement no one really wanted to go back to the beach so we stayed a while and then drove back to the holiday cottage stopping off for a while in the town of Bala.
This reminded me of the story of Mary Jones’ Bible…
This is the story of Mary Jones from my Bible Studies exercise book when I was about six years old.
Mary Jones was from a poor family who lived near the Cader Idris mountains in the village of Llanfihangel-y-Pennant near Abergynolwyn . She was born on 16th December 1784 into a family of devout Methodists and she herself professed the Christian faith at eight years of age.
Having learned to read in the circulating schools organised by a man called Thomas Charles it became her ambition to possess a Bible but there was no copy on sale nearer than Bala – twenty-five miles away. Having saved for six years until she had enough money to pay for a copy she started out one morning in 1800 and walked all the way to obtain a copy from the Reverend Thomas Charles, the only man with Bibles for sale in the entire area.
According to one version of the story Thomas gave her the bad news that all of the copies which he had were sold or already spoken for and Mary was so distraught that Charles spared her one of the copies already promised to another, that is rather like click and collect purchases on line, click, go to collect and its not there! In another version, she had to wait two days for a supply of more Bibles to arrive, and was able to purchase a copy for herself and two other copies for members of her family.
According to tradition, it was the impression that this visit by Mary Jones left upon him that inspired Thomas Charles to propose to the Council of the Religious Tract Society the formation of a Society to supply Wales with Bibles.
Mary’s Bible is now kept at the British and Foreign Bible Society’s Archives in Cambridge University Library. It is a copy of the 1799 edition of the Welsh Bible, ten thousand copies of which were printed at Oxford for the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge.
How much of the story is true will probably never be known. However, Thomas Charles undoubtedly used the story to persuade the Religious Tract Society to establish a new organisation, the British and Foreign Bible Society. This came into existence in 1804 and over the next two hundred years distributed thousands of Bibles to people all across the world.
The society – often known simply as The Bible Society – still distributes Bibles to places like India and Africa. It is an ecumenical and non-sectarian organisation and the story of Mary Jones and her determination to own a Bible is central to its creation, its continuing ethos and to its work.
In the town the two girls spotted a ‘Paint a Pot’ studio and pestered like mad to go inside. Kim and Sally abandoned me and although I wasn’t too enthusiastic I took them inside, paid the price, selected our pots and started to paint. I became so engrossed that two hours later Sally came back to find us wondering why it was taking us so long.
It had been a good day, but after we had cleared away the saucepans and dinner plates it predictably started to rain again!