Is Wales The Most Beautiful Place On Earth?

It may not be THE most beautiful place on earth, but it’s up there with the best definitely, we’ve just had four days here, staying at Devils Bridge, a few miles from Aberystwyth, Mid Wales. The scenery is stunning, we came into Wales on the A44, and got to a lovely little town called Rhayader, from here after looking at the map, no sat navs here, I saw a road that would take us straight to Devils bridge, I’m not sure what the road starts off as but it becomes the B4574, so straight on at the junction in Rhayader, and within a mile we’re turning right. That’s got to be it ‘Mountain road to Aberystwyth’ sounds ominous but I’m sure our little Kia Picanto can handle it. It’s not quite a single track road but it’s not far off, but I do like these little roads, it was always a lot of fun in an artic with a forty foot trailer behind you, delivering bricks and blocks, you went down these sorts of roads every now and then and I loved them, proper driving, that’s when I worked for Canute’s for three years, 12-15 years ago. Working for Abbey you had a few factories or farms you’d deliver to down roads like this, I got stuck once on the drive way into the farm, I couldn’t go forwards, too steep, and I couldn’t go backwards as I was now heading into a steep field as the road was so narrow, the farmer had to get his tractor out to pull me up the slope, and it pulled the unit and tanker, fully loaded, 44 tons as though it was nothing, very impressive.

We travelled along this road, just a normal windy road at first, then it went up and up, over a cattle grid, and then up some more, sheep everywhere, all quite content grazing by the edge of the road, only a few seemed put out by the cars going by, these were the ones looking for the next bit of grass to feed on, the ones munching away didn’t bat an eye lid. A river is to the left of us, with a couple of cars parked and you can see a few people by the beautiful river dropping 100 feet or so over rocks, not straight down in one go, but a steady slope. There’s just something about water I absolutely love, rivers, lakes or the sea I could sit and just watch it all day. The sound of it, the smell, the feel of it, I’ll always go for a swim if I can, I love the water. As we get to the top of the mountain the views are stunning in every direction, then it’s up and down for a while every turn producing a new stunning landscape. We go past the Crag Goch Resivoir, with a junction, left or straight on, these are the times you wish you had a sat nav, but it’s two-ish in the afternoon, the sun is to our left, and we want to be heading west, so straight on it is, we’re in no rush and with plenty of fuel in the tank if we do get lost. Straight on if your heading to Devils bridge, or Aberystwyth. You can look down here and see a parking place just past the junction, with several cars there, and can see some people in the river splashing about, my heaven, I wish we did stop but wanted to get to our hotel, hoping to get back here another day while we’re here.

We’ve come down from the top now and we have a huge mountain to our left, so beautiful, with it’s green slopes, a river between us and the mountain, the we see a small campsite, only a couple of hardy campers there, one was setting up, but what an amazing spot to camp at, and if you have all the right gear for the rain, which you’ll need here as it does like a bit of rain, you’ll have an amazing time here. We’ll need a bigger car than our Picanto if we’re to start camping, we could get the gear in the car but there’d be no room for anyone else, including the driver. We’ve been laughed at a few times at Ikea or The Range when we’ve tried to get the big boxes of flat pack furniture in the car, at least we tried, then got a van to take them home, much easier.

We go through a village called Cwmystwth, how nice would it be to live here? The Mountains all around, so far from the town, a completely different life, I’m probably not tough enough to cope with their winters, or life here throughout the year, but I would love to try. We come to another junction, straight on for Devils Bridge, I hope, Hafod estate is the left turn here, and we’re staying at the Hafod Hotel, so a bit of confusion and pick straight on, luckily it’s the correct decision, and Devils Bridge soon appears in front of us, the car park for the hotel is on the left, park up and get our bags and walk the hundred yards or so to the hotel. More stunning scenery all around so beautiful here. We book in and go to our room, so relieved to be here. It’s a long trek from Basildon to Devils Bridge, so we broke it up with a stay at Gloucester, which was nice having a wander around there on Sunday evening, then meeting the take away guy at the door, and taking our food up to our room to eat and relax.

This trip is all about family, my brother Gareth lives nearby in Pont-Rhyd-y-Groes, and has done for ten years, so this is only our third meeting in those ten years, luckily his kids will be there too, which is really nice to see them all. Also my Dad is coming down, with my oldest brother Morien and one of his sons Timmy. We had the trip to the Peak District at the end of July, and had most of our family in one place, just Gareth and my Dad not there so this is so nice now we’ve seen everyone within a month. The last time everyone was together was at our wedding thirty one years ago. There were no children at our wedding from our family, now we have fourteen children between us, and my wife and me now have five grandchildren, how things change. We have a little walk around Devils Bridge, and go down to see the ‘Punch Bowl’ and waterfall, this is really nice, and only £1 to get through the turnstile, only about a hundred or so steps here, but you get down below the three bridges that are here, each one built on top of the other, at the bottom you have the river, and as it has swirled around for thousands of years, it has carved out a half circle in the rock, amazing to see, the power of water is unbelievable.

After this little walk it’s off to Pont-Rhyd-y- Groes, the drive from here is only fifteen minutes and it’s so beautiful, over the mountains and amazing views in all directions, this place is so beautiful, you sit in Gareths kitchen or at the front of the house, and it’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of. We’ve been here once before and it’s as good as I remember it, you always think how sad it is to think that maybe people who have lived here all their life, may take this view for granted, it’s so spectacular, and not repeated at many, if any places around the world. Gareth tells me it rains so much here, but we were there for four days, and it did rain but not enough to spoil any of the days, so I don’t believe him when he says it rains most of the time. Gareth cooked us a lovely meal, a welcome bonus, we were wondering what we’d eat tonight, and there’s no mcds or chip shops round here, not like Pitsea, we have at least nine takeaways on our doorstep. As we got here there were these adults or nearly adults at his house, omg they’ve grown so much, but we haven’t seen them much over the years, Jem is eighteen, Jasper is sixteen and Jensen is fourteen, Gareth had to ask each of them their age, as long as they’re ok some info like age isn’t regarded as important by the brain, it’s just a number. Jasmine is out tonight, and she’s twenty four, a year younger than our son Tom and the same birthday. Great seeing everyone, and we make plans to climb the local mountain tomorrow, before my Dad, Morien and Timmy get here.

In the morning Sonia, Leo and me go down to the other little walk you can do at Devils Bridge, this one is £4 to go around, but obviously much longer than the £1 walk, and it’s worth every penny, this is stunningly beautiful, all 654 steps of it, most of them quite steep steps too. I could put hundreds of photos from this walk in here, so I’ll try and keep to just a few. This is a tiring walk and so happy that I can manage it while carrying around some lung cancer, even though it’s dormant, but we let Gareth know that walking up the ‘James Family Mountain’, as they have named it, will be out today, so we just go round to his house and chill in the front garden with amazing views, and being shown photos and told about some of the aircraft that use this valley for training, with the defining roar from the jets, knowing that if you hear it, by the time you look up you know it’s gone. It’s great seeing everyone again and Jasmine this time, but we head back to the hotel for a rest before dinner tonight with everyone at our hotel, they do some vegan food here so I’m looking forward to that. My Dad, Morien and Timmy arrive safely, and in a great big 4 by 4 thing, and we’re told my Dads car is making alot of noise so probably wouldn’t of made it, so they hired a car and this was all they had available, so needs must and they had to make do with it, a bit of a struggle though when your not use to it.

We all had a lovely meal at the hotel and had arranged to go to Fairbourne the next day. This is where we came on a lot of holidays when we were very young, Morien was an only child when he first came as a baby, there are six of us now, we all have so many great memories of Fairbourne, mine was the minature railway, I got a pass for it one year and spent the whole of the last day of our holiday on it, just going back and to, loved it. The beach was a great place for football or cricket, and a swim, then the walk back to our cottage just up the hill through the village. As we got to Fairbourne the weather had eased, the rain had stopped, but still a little windy, first stop the chip shop, chips, curry sauce and a bread roll, then a walk to the beach past the minature railway, and get the swimming and cricket things from the car. As we get to the beach over the sea defences, the tide is in and only the large stones and peebles are visible, so time for a swim first before the cricket, Timmy and me are the only ones going in the sea, and not long after getting in, we see a large jellyfish, hopefully we won’t see many more. I love it in the sea, jumping the waves trying to get beyond the breakers and having a little swim, but just being in the water is enough for me. As the tide is going out a small bit of beach is becoming visible, so it’s nearly cricket time, we had so many games on the beach here, as the sun was going down, then back to our holiday cottage. Hardly seems possible it is over fourty years since we were here, and yet we can remember it like it was yesterday.

Out of the sea and get dried, and the cricket match is under way, just two batting and the rest bowling and fielding, no counting the runs or sides, not enough of us today for that. A lot of fun though, even though I was bowled out first ball by Jasmine, she sent the stumps flying, I saw the ball coming but couldn’t hit it, and bang, OUT! Back to fielding then, even my Dad has joined in, and he’s in his eighties, but he’s not as quick as he used to be, so he’s given a runner to help him. Gareth is a very keen cricketer, and it shows in his children, all four of them, and I like to think I’m a pretty good bowler, and that is from growing up with Gareth. Cricket was a very popular game in our household when we were young, in the garden or on the beach, but I never really took to cricket, and don’t ever remember playing the game at school. I do remeber playing with Gareth one day in the park in Congleton, where we use to live, “I know what your weakness is now, fast bowling, watch this.” And straight in the nuts, OUCH! “Oh come on, arn’t you ready to play again yet?” “No! Not yet!” No wonder I never took to cricket. Luckily no repeat of that today I’m glad to say. But it is a great day playing cricket on this beautiful beach, with the tide going out slowly, it reveals a massive beach at low tide, and a lovely sandy beach, great fun as a kid.

As the cricket comes to an end, before we all head off some of us go on the miniature steam railway, getting the last train of the day, to the end of the line opposite Barmouth, some people getting the ferry to Barmouth, and then back to Fairbourne station, back to the car, but before we head off, my Dad, Morien and me drive up to the holiday cottage we used to stay in, we see the house we use to stay in, but is so overgrown now, then we see the house name, and so many memories come back from just reading the house name, then we see the owners of the house opposite, and ask them about the house we use to stay in, they knew of the owners, not being old enough to know them, and knew the story of the house, that it was bought from Harrods in London, and shipped out here on a lorry and put together on the hill, and being the first house here, there’s about maybe ten houses here, it’s great being back here and hard to think the last time was over fourty years ago. Back to Pont-Rhyd-y-Groes for a lovely meal and great hospitallity from Gareth and his kids, a great end to a great visit to Wales, seeing all my family now in just over a month, beautiful scenery, here and in the Peak District. Back to the hotel and back to Basildon tomorrow, and looking forward to going on the mountain road again. Take care and thanks for reading my blog, always be 100% positive and Don’t be afraid of lung cancer.

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