Family holiday in Wales, where it nearly always rains…
Linked to One Word Sunday at Debbie’s here
Family holiday in Wales, where it nearly always rains…
Linked to One Word Sunday at Debbie’s here
I was nominated by my friend Derrick Knight to post one favourite travel picture a day for ten days without explanation, then to nominate someone else to participate. That’s 10 days, 10 travel pictures, and 10 nominations. I may not make it to the end of ten days, but for now I nominate my friends Phil and Michaela.
Please link to me so I know you have participated. If you are not interested, no problem.
Nowhere in the rules does it say you can’t guess where the photo was taken.
Hint – Little trains of Wales.
Even though travel restrictions are easing I am not yet minded to risk it so I still have no new stories to post so I continue to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.
On 22nd August 2015 I was on a family holiday in Mid Wales…
The first day was a washout but that isn’t unusual in Wales. In 1972 I went to University in Cardiff and spent about 90% of my student grant on raincoats and umbrellas.
We went to bed but sometime about one o’clock Kim woke me to say she could hear something – something fluttering. I told her she was imagining things and that she should go back to sleep but then I heard it too. A gentle quivering high in the beams, probably a moth I reassured myself but then Kim demanded man action so I got out of bed and turned on the light. Oh My God it was a bat. A bat. A bloody bat!
When I was a boy in the 1950s and 1960s family holidays came once a year and were rotated tri-annually between a caravan in Norfolk, a caravan in Cornwall and a caravan in Wales. I’m not being ungrateful because these holidays were great fun and in those days it was all that my parents could afford.
In the 1950s about twenty-five million people went on holiday in England every year as life started to return to normal after the war. Most people went by train but we were lucky because granddad had a car, an Austin 10 four-door saloon, shiny black with bug eye lights, a heavy starting handle, pop out orange indicators and an interior that had the delicious smell of worn out leather upholstery and this meant that we could travel in comfort and style.
Although there were not nearly so many cars on the road in the 1950s this didn’t mean that getting to the seaside was any easier. There were no motorways or bypasses and a journey from Leicester to the north Norfolk coast involved driving through every town and bottleneck on the way which meant sitting around in traffic jams for hours and worrying about the engine overheating or the clutch burning out.
Just getting to the coast could take the whole day and usually involved stopping off along the route at some point for a rest and a picnic. Granddad would find a quiet road to turn off into and then when there was a convenient grass verge or farm gate he would pull up and the adults would spread a blanket on the ground and we would all sit down and eat sandwiches and battenburg cake and they would drink stewed tea from a thermos flask and I would have a bottle of orange juice.
One of the favourite places to go on holiday at that time was Mundesley which is about ten miles south of Cromer where there were good sandy beaches and lots of caravans. I last stayed in a caravan in about 1970 and I have vowed never ever to do it again. I just do not understand caravanning at all or why people subject themselves to the misery of a holiday in a tin box with no running water, chemical toilets and fold away beds, there was no fun in it whatsoever.
In 2000 the National Statistics Office estimated that British families took 4,240,000 towed caravan holidays a year year; how sad is that? To be fair I suppose it was good fun when I was a five-year-old child but I certainly wouldn’t choose to do it now when I am ten times older. Caravans simply had no temperature control, they were hot and stuffy if the sun shone (so that wasn’t too much of a problem, obviously) and they were cold and miserable when it rained, which I seem to remember was most of the time.
Bad weather didn’t stop us going to the beach however and even if it was blowing a howling gale or there was some drizzle in the air we would be off to enjoy the sea. If the weather was really bad we would put up a windbreak and huddle together inside it to try and keep warm. Most of the time it was necessary to keep a woolly jumper on and in extreme cases a hat as well and Wellington boots were quite normal. As soon as the temperature reached about five degrees centigrade or just slightly below we would be stripped off and sent for a dip in the wickedly cold North Sea in a sort of endurance test that I believe is even considered too tough to be included as part of Royal Marine Commando basic training.
After the paddle in the sea we would cover ourselves up in a towel and making sure we didn’t reveal our private parts struggled to remove the sopping wet bathing costume and get back to our more sensible woolly jumpers. Then we would have a picnic consisting of cheese and sand sandwiches and more stewed tea from a thermos flask.
If the sun did ever come out we used to get really badly burnt because when I was a boy sunscreen was for softies and we would regularly compete to see how much damage we could do to our bodies by turning them a vivid scarlet and then waiting for the moment that we would start to shed the damaged skin off. After a day or two completely unprotected on the beach it was a challenge to see just how big a patch of barbequed epidermis could be removed from the shoulders in one piece and the competition between us children was to remove a complete layer of skin in one massive peel, a bit like stripping wallpaper, which would leave you looking like the victim of a nuclear accident.
We didn’t always go to Norfolk and we didn’t always stay in caravans. If we went on holiday with mum’s parents who lived in London we would get a train to Herne Bay or Margate in north Kent and stay at a holiday camp in a chalet which was just about one step up from a caravan.
Beach holidays in the fifties and sixties were gloriously simple. The whole family would spend hours playing beach cricket on the hard sand, investigating rock pools and collecting crabs and small fish in little nets and keeping them for the day in little gaily coloured metal buckets before returning them to the sea at the end of the day.
There were proper metal spades as well with wooden handles that were much better for digging holes and making sand castles than the plastic substitutes that replaced them a few years later. Inflatable beach balls and rubber rings, plastic windmills on sticks and kites that were no more than a piece of cloth (later plastic), two sticks and a length of string that took abnormal amounts of patience to get into the air and then the aeronautical skills of the Wright brothers to keep them up there for any decent length of time.
I remember beach shops before they were replaced by amusement arcades with loads of cheap junk and beach games, cricket sets, lilos, buckets and spades, rubber balls and saucy seaside postcards. I can remember dad and his friend Stan looking through them and laughing and as I got older and more aware trying to appear disinterested but sneaking a look for myself when I thought no one was watching. I knew they were rude but I didn’t really know why.
For a treat there was fish and chips a couple of nights a week but this was in the days before McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken so most of the catering and the eating was done in the caravan or the chalet or if we were really unlucky in the dining room of the holiday camp.
Later, after dad learned to drive, we used to go to Cornwall and Devon and North Wales, to the Nalgo holiday camp at Croyde Bay and the Hoseasons holiday village at Borth, near Aberystwyth. The last time I went on the family holiday like that was in 1971 to Llandudno and by my own confession I was a complete pain in the arse to everybody and I don’t remember being invited ever again.
In 1975 I went to Sorrento in Italy with dad for my first overseas holiday and nothing has ever persuaded me to go back to British holidays in preference to travelling in Europe. Since then I have spent my summer holidays on Mediterranean beaches where the sun is guaranteed and the beer, rather than the weather is always cold.
A couple of years ago I went to Wales for a holiday with my daughter and grandchildren. We stayed in a remote cottage, a mile from the road and without any public lighting.
On the first night I was rather tired and went to bed early but sometime about one o’clock Kim woke me to say she could hear something – something fluttering. I told her she was imagining things and that she should go back to sleep but then I heard it too. A gentle quivering high in the beams, probably a moth I reassured myself but then Kim demanded man action so I got out of bed and turned on the light. Oh My God it was a bat. A bat. A bloody bat!
It was quite happy flying about in the blacked out room but the light send it into a delirious panic and it began to swoop about the room and jump from beam to beam and Kim started to shriek.
From under the shelter of the duvet Kim kept shouting ‘get rid of it, get rid of it!’and I was doing my best but as anyone who has ever had a bat in their bedroom in the middle of the night will know this is much easier said than done. I was still half asleep and although I am in peak physical condition the creature was a whole lot faster than me. There were various suggestions ranging from catching it in a fishing net to throwing a towel over it but it was moving so quickly that all of these suggestions were completely useless.
My one and only idea was to open the window and hope that it would find its own way out and in a huge slice of good fortune that is exactly what happened and it suddenly disappeared into the ink black sky.
There is a lot of folklore and old wives’ tales about bats such as:
I have to say that I like the idea of being invisible!
It is also said that a bat in the house means that it is haunted and the ghost has let it in…
The following night I stayed up a little later but shortly after Kim had gone to bed I said goodnight to Sally and walked along the corridor to the bedrooms. Part way along someone called out “Granddad, Granddad, Granddad” three times and assuming it was one of the three children I went to their bedrooms and asked who was calling me – all three were fast asleep, very fast asleep. I went back to Sally and asked if she was trying to trick me but she denied it. I went back to the children and in the corridor passed a cold spot that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand out like porcupine quills.
This was a “Blair Witch Project” moment. Let me remind you that this cottage was very, very remote, a mile from the nearest road and the night was as black as tar. It was a ghost, believe me it was a ghost. Do you remember my story about the bat and how if they fly into a house it is because they are haunted and the ghost lets them in?
I was scared, Sally was scared but Kim wasn’t scared and told us not to be silly and just go to bed.
All was fine until about one o’clock in the morning when I had a tapping noise that woke me up. I heard footsteps downstairs and thought one of the children must be walking about so I went to investigate. In the corridor I heard soft and measured footsteps in front of me, the voice said “Granddad” and as I followed into the black treacle darkness I said, “who’s there, who’s there?” but when I checked the bedrooms Sally and all of the children were all still fast asleep, very fast asleep. As I turned to leave something cold brushed past me like a floating whisper and touched me on the cheek.
I was scared, very scared! I put all of the downstairs lights on and fled back to bed, closed the children’s bedroom door, closed our bedroom door (as though that would make a difference) and pulled the duvet up under my chin and listened while the footsteps and the bumping noises continued.
This has happened to me before. Once in a remote Posada in Santillana del Mar in Spain we were left alone for the night, there was no one else there and we both heard something walk along the corridor outside our room and stop for a moment outside of our door. Even Kim agrees with that ghost story.
You may not believe me either but in the morning there was another spooky thing when I discovered fish heads and crab claws in a neat pile on the roof of my car and I have absolutely no explanation for that unless it was some form of Druid exorcism.
Let me tell you as well that on every one of the next few nights I woke in the early hours and never once did I hear another noise in that house and I never felt the cold spot again.
Also in the morning the owner of the cottage came to see us and we asked the question about the haunting. Very quickly she denied it and said that we were being silly but we all thought that she was just a little too quick to make the denial.
Have you ever stayed in a haunted house or seen a ghost?
I always say that I will never go to Wales ever again. It always rains in Wales. I always say that I will never go to Wales ever again.
In 1975 I went to University in Wales and over a period of three years spent 90% of my student grant on raincoats, wellington boots and umbrellas.
In 1986 I went to Wales for a holiday to the Hoseason’s Holiday Village in Carnarvon in North Wales and it was so cold and so wet that we gave up on the fourth day, abandoned the holiday and drove all the way back home. I said that I would never go to Wales ever again.
After staying away for a quarter of a century I went to Wales in 2011 and it rained (and I got a disputed speeding ticket in Aberystwyth). I said that I wouldn’t go ever again. In 2015 I went again and it rained and I said that I would never go again.
In March this year a good friend phoned me and invited me to go to Wales with him for a week in a caravan in Wales and I agreed. I had clearly forgotten about the rain.
I might not have agreed to go except for the fact that this was at the mid-Wales beach resort of Borth and I remembered going there on a family holiday when I was about ten years old and even though I knew that it was almost certain that it would rain I was interested in returning and the prospect of seeing what it looked like fifty years or so later!
My pal was already in Wales, he had spent the weekend there with another friend and the plan was to meet him in Llandudno on the north coast where we would exchange him like a secret agent on the Bridge of Spies so on the appointed day I set off from my home town of Grimsby and drove through drizzle towards the almost certain prospect of rain in Wales. If I was a betting man I would have gone to ‘Betfreds’ and put a £ on it!
It was a truly horrendous journey. It rained continuously. It rained relentlessly. Over the Pennines creeping clouds dragged drizzle like a plough over the morose moors. Even the soggy sheep were looking for shelter. On the motorways around murky Manchester visibility was about two inches, possibly less. Progress was slow. Then something strange happened and around about Liverpool I left the black clouds behind and by the time I got to Chester the sun was beginning to show its face.
This sort of meteorological phenomenon occurs only about once in a thousand years because normally you drive to Wales in good weather and it rains when you get there, never the other way around.
This was not what I was expecting at all and my spirits soared as I drove to the place of appointed exchange and took possession of my travelling companion and his luggage in a McDonalds car park, an appropriately shifty sort of place to do business.
My travelling companion lives close by to me in Grimsby which is just about as far away from Wales that it is possible to get in the United Kingdom but he remains a true Dragon fire breathing patriot and on the drive south to our caravan accommodation he was keen to take me to the village of Llanystumdwy near Criccieth because there is the grave of the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George.
He grew up here as a young boy and this is where he chose to be laid to rest. A magnificent spot in a shady glen and overlooking an excitable river with wild water tumbling down over rocks from the soggy mountains inland. A great boulder marks his grave but there is no inscription. A monument designed by the architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis surrounds the grave and there is a simple plaque to inform visitors who may not realise who is buried here.
David Lloyd George is the only Welsh man to ever hold the office of Prime Minister, but wait, hold on a minute, although he had Welsh parents he was actually born in Manchester which must surely make him part English? 50% English I would say. This is like the Wales football team at the European Championships. They did ever so well but a third of the squad were born in England including the three goal scorers in their famous victory over Belgium. That is why that despite the fact that in Wales (including the 30% English squad) they shamefully cheer when England lose we (the English) by contrast always celebrate a Wales victory!
We left and drove around the west of Snowdonia and Cader Idris and then through the towns of Dolgellau and Machynlleth, where we stopped for groceries and then continued directly to Borth which I was pleased to see hadn’t really changed a great deal at all in the last fifty years since I had been there.
It is not an especially exciting place it has to be said. Tripadvisor lists only lists only six things to do, a list which includes the RNLI lifeboat depot the railway station waiting room, the golf course restaurant and an unlikely zoo.
We checked in, found our caravan accommodation, moved in and settled down for the evening, later I walked to the beach to enjoy the unexpected but most welcome end of day sunshine.
It rained in Welshpool, it rained in Newtown, it rained in Llangurig and it rained in Aberystwyth as we reached the coast and the road swung south towards our destination. To our right the sea was grey and uninviting, lashed with spiteful squalls of stinging rain as wave after wave of dark clouds swept in from the Irish Sea and it was about now that I was forced to concede that we probably wouldn’t be having a barbeque this evening.