It feels like a lifetime ago, but just a few days have passed since we returned from our exhausting, romantic and exhilarating trip to Wales. We were only there three nights but in that time I managed to almost drown in mud, water and sand, fall off a cliff face and feel like I’d got hypothermia through getting soaking wet walking around a stunningly beautiful estate in the pouring rain.
Yes I had a few typically Rachel grumpy moments, stomping my feet, shaking uncontrollably from the cold, and moaning about the lack of dairy-free sticky toffee pudding (because you would expect them to have that in a random pub in the middle of nowhere right?) but we had a fabulous time….in fact I want to go back right now!
The trip was magical as we were staying in a stunning cottage. Well, not really a cottage more like a ruined castle. According to the brochure The Towers at Penrice Castle Estate was built as an “extravagant Gothic folly in the 1790s to have the appearance of a ruined castle”. And, for once, the brochure didn’t lie, in fact I think the owner deliberately undersold the uniqueness of this stunning cottage, with its round bedroom, roaring fire and quirky entrance – let’s not forget the hilarious, if not mean, pastime of watching silly motorists getting stuck in the thick mud outside our window, ducking out of sight every time someone got out of a posh car looking in horror at the mud splattered all over their freshly polished bonnet…..cruel I know!
Even the trip down was an adventure. We inadvertently took the “scenic route” which was completely my fault, but we saw some stunning views of the Brecon Beacons, so it really was worth it. After driving for hours we stopped off at a random pub in the middle of nowhere, and after plonking myself in a comfy well-worn armchair in front of a roaring log fire with a glass of wine and the largest small portion of chips I have ever seen, I seriously considered curling up like a hedgehog and hibernating for the rest of this horrible winter right there and then.
The beauty of Penrice Estate goes beyond words. But as per usual ( I hear you groan) I will try it put it into words. The estate, which we were free to ramble – well squelch – around to our hearts content, has a private wind-swept beach, paths into acres of dense forest, dozens of picturesque cottages, an old-fashioned church with a murder grave for my morbid curiosity, a ruined castle where the bad ass sheep hang out, and beautiful little streams trickling down into acres of farmland and picturesque fields.
Oh, let’s not forget bucket loads of mud. Being a child at heart, at first I adored the mud, jumping and wading through it, all the while singing at the top of my lungs how “glorious” mud is (I also leapt over cow pats – another pastime inherited from the Flints – don’t worry no one was about; I don’t think that would have stopped me anyway), but after getting stuck up to my knees and having a very Vicar of Dibley puddle moment – I jumped in feet first and ended up way past my knees being sucked slowly into a very muddy grave – I undoubtedly came to hate it.
The moment I waded confidently into the mud-laden field, striding towards the stile ahead of Andy to revel in the fact I had my walking boots on not just apparently mountain conditions proof running trainers, is something which makes me smile. Well it makes me smile now, at the time I was humiliated and, as per usual, outraged. My first few confident steps seemed steady and secure, but by the third I realised that I may as well have been treading in quick sand. Panic ensued as I strained to pull my feet out of the mud which appeared to be sucking me further in. I was shouting all kinds of things at Andy, who was stood safely in the drier part of the field, way away from the danger, staring at me and laughing his head off. Eventually, after watching me desperately battle to pull my shoe out of the thick mud he came to my rescue – but not before taking a mental photograph.
The walk continued in this manner. Now that I’d almost met my muddy end I was determined to keep going at any cost. So boots filled with stinky mud, which squelched around my toes as I walked, we plodded on, with an adventure which saw me almost fall in a deep stream as I tried to jump a gap which was far longer than my little legs could manage, while laughing hysterically and refusing to let go of the tree which saved me from falling into the freezing water below.
In the end we plodded over six miles through stunning woodland, coming across ruined buildings, miles of untouched scenery and millions of sheep. When we eventually appeared back into civilisation we realised we were literally just around the corner from where we were staying. Typical! But at least we were a stone’s throw from the beach, oh and a nice hot shower, once I’d waded through knee-deep freezing water which made me feel like I was going to lose my toes.
Every time we stepped outside it always started raining. We got drenched but loved it as warming up in front of the roaring fire was quaint and romantic. But one of the best things about the break was the hearty food. It was always rewarding, in a place where WiFi spots appeared to fail to exist, to find a warm, cozy and popular ‘proper’ pub, with hearty feel-good stodgy food and lovely fine and amazing locals. The first night we ate at the King Arthur Hotel, which appeared to be the centre of the community and might as well have had the whole population of the community in it. The food was warm and yummy. But, it was nothing to compare to the incredible meal with had at the Britannia Inn – the food was unreal. I had a rabbit stew to start and venison for mains…..and shock horror, the kitchen was so good they made me a dairy free brownie with raspberry sorbet, which may have been the best pudding I have ever had!
All in all the holiday was exactly what I needed. There was little to no stress, no deadlines, no pressure, no enforced activities, just good company, good food, good fresh air and plenty of wine. Now we are back and with surgery looming, the pressures of work, preparation for the Mirror placement and preparing for all those months of recovery after my next op, I wish I was back there with no phone reception and a good book and not a care in the world.
But at some point you have to return to reality. It sucks!