Sunday, 29 December 2013

Christmas Visit...

Loaded down with gifts and enough clothes for ten days or so away we headed down the icy paths to New Street station. The evening before we had prepared the boat, semi drained down, pumps off, just the power to isolate first thing in the morning. 

We had had a disturbed night on Cambrian Wharf. At 3am I heard a very noisy generator fire up. I suspected that it was a boater but before too long it had died out. A few minutes later it started up again. I leaned out the side hatch into the frosty night to try and see who it was before I launched my assault plan. I went back to bed thinking it wouldn't last much longer, it did. Boots on, jogging bottoms over pyjamas, coat and hat, I left the boat ready for action. It was none of the boats in the wharf but there were a couple more to check just outside. Rounding the last of the live aboard boats I finally found the culprits. It was the fire brigade pumping out a sinking little push tug (I think it was the one pushing that stupid bloody bucket of trees around the canal last year - I will have to investigate). 

At was about 4.15am and I lay back in bed trying to doze. What seemed like a very short while later (actually about 5.30) there was an almighty crash right outside the bedroom window. It was obvious a cyclist had fallen off their bike and hit the deck with some force. I thought 'please be OK' I didn't mind going out with the first aid kit but we had to leave for the train in about an hour and a half. I was very pleased when I looked out through the lounge window and she was picking herself and her slightly bent bike up off the brick path, she waved that she was fine and limped off. Oh well I was firmly up now so finished getting ready for our journey.

I tried to sleep on the way, completely neglecting my duties as a carer  until we arrived at Aberystwyth where dad was waiting. It was great to be chauffeured all the way, in what was to be the first of many 'taxi' runs over the week. We arrived at their place to find it full of festive cheer, Christmas tunes playing in every room, each surface had its bowls of nibbles, trees decorated and fridges straining with festive fayre. Christmas had arrived, all we needed was for Jess to arrive from the other side of the country, but we would have to wait for Christmas Eve before Dad would have to make another journey to pick up Jess from Carmarthen. All told dad covered 140 miles of driving just to get us all there - they live a long way from train stations.

Mum is a great cook and had prepared big pot of beef bourguignon for our first night. With Debs help and the odd drink or three, mum had made a massive pan of meatballs and tagliatelle another night and we were well and truly treated to dad's paella one evening too, one of his best. The plan of action for Christmas Eve was to eat out at Abdul's curry house. It very nearly didn't happen.

Yes that pan of pasta and meatballs really is for four
Jess was probably covering about 300 miles by train on one of the busiest days of the year, and one with severe storms. Trains were delayed, some cancelled and some routes changed. Deb kept online and updated everyone with the progress of not only Jess's train but also her connecting ones. It was touch and go at Reading as the due-in times varied between 6 minutes for Jess to get to the connecting train and -7 minutes. Jess made it to the restaurant in time to join us.

Great company, fantastic food and unlicensed so cheap bar
Abdul's could probably get away with being merely average as they are one of the only restaurants in a decent sized town but the meal and service was in fact very good indeed and would put many of Birmingham's curry houses to shame.

Although it looks that way, we didn't spend the whole week eating. We had a couple of very nice trips out, one to the lovely small town of Narbeth with an excellent craft fair with some fantastic original local items. We also joined mum and dad at the boating club the other side of the estuary for a pre-Christmas  catch up with some of their friends.

The steward even came came around with free cupcakes and chocolate truffles

Prior to the main event we had all mucked in preparing for Christmas day. Mum was very organised, Deb and I were on veg duty and dad was following closely behind putting rubbish in the various recycling bins. What a team. It was looking like Christmas lunch was going to be quite a feast, we were up to nine veg and three types of stuffing already! 

We had a nice slow start to Christmas day with smoked salmon, boiled hams toasted French bread and kir royale cocktails. After opening a couple of presents we made out for the pub for a pre Christmas lunch drink. I wrote a bit about the village in a previous blog here so I'll not be too repetitive. The closest pub was closed for Christmas day and boxing day, bit of a shock really, it would never have happened in Allan's day. Next pub was not due to open for fifteen minutes so we walked to the last one, the White Hart where I really enjoyed my pint of 'Butty Bach' and even managed to catch up with an old school friend.

Testing the panorama mode on my new phone - The girls prepping lunch

Christmas lunch was a beautiful feast and we had hardly made a dent in the pots of veg lining the centre of the table. I was really glad that my 96 year old grandad was able to join us and that he was still in good working order, he even made quick work of his three quarters of a pint of martini and lemonade in the morning. By the time my sister had arrived late evening we had only just finished our Christmas pud and all its necessary trimmings (including the very popular homemade lemon and coriander icecream). As mum said, and her mum used to, 'that's your lot, more tomorrow'.

Starters ready - pear and blue cheese salad with mums homemade fresh pear chutney

All ready to start
Grandad psyching him self up for the feast with a pint of martini and lemonade
Time to digest, it will be a while before pudding time
The weather was beautiful boxing day, clear sunny and wind free. I needed a walk, Deb had had a cold for a few days and I had a touch of man flu. Poppit sands is just over a mile away so that's where mum, Jess, Deb and I headed off to. I was asked to take my sisters dog along but sadly he is not used to being walked on a lead which made it quite difficult for both of us, he is very clever though and with a bag of chopped ham as reward he was starting to learn after only twenty minutes. A couple of weeks and maybe a head collar and he could be fine, luckily he cadged a lift home. Dad also joined us down the beach having cycled on his new Christmas bike, very proud of it he is too, and for mid seventies he really is making light work of the Pembrokeshire hills. 

Here comes dad on his new bike

Another panorama test

More dogs than people on the beach - what happened to the old boxing day rugby tradition, so much has changed over the last few decades

The estuary is taking back the marshes

Deb and I went into town to meet up with an old school friend of mine and his fiancee later in the afternoon on boxing day and the couple of hours we spent together were just not enough. Sadly I wasn't able to make the mini school reunion that was organised for Friday evening as we had to cut our trip short for reasons that are too personal to go into on an open blog, but if I am reading this blog back to myself in my dotage I'll know what I mean. I will not let it taint my memories of the wonderful Christmas that we had looked forward to all year.

On the morning of the 27th Deb, Jess and I got the local bus to visit my grandad. We stopped at the Priory cafe for tea and a slice of toast before making our way over to his flat, Deb commented that we must have looked like the losing contestants from the Apprentice - you're fired! Nuff said. Grandad had been a bit overwhelmed on Christmas day and it was lovely to have a bit of one on one time together. We all watched a commemorative DVD of a memorial service held where he was stationed in Carew during WW2, we would have loved to have been part of it but we didn't know about all the festivities until a day or so before they were due to happen. We had quite a chat about his old days and he still has fond memories of my old nan even though they had separated by the time I was about three years old. There had been a few fellow vets at the memorial day but only grandad had been there the day the hospital was bombed. Not wanting to suffer the inevitable concussion in the relative safety of the bomb shelter he thought the strongest and safest place was the gun tower where he let rip with the twin Lewis guns into the night sky. Can't say that I can totally follow his reasoning regarding the safest place in a bombing raid but he's here to tell the tales seventy years later.

Looking very dapper on film - not looking 96 either

Grandad and the girls - they are very proud of him

An hour or so later dad made one last 'taxi' trip for us taking all three of us to the closest train station, he must have driven close to three hundred miles over the week. The journey wasn't an easy one and we kept in touch with Jess for over eight hours as each of us had trains delayed or cancelled due to the return of the storms. We got back to LJ by about 10.20 dumped our bags and headed into town. The boat was 4°C inside and I desperately needed beer. No doubt Jess's reunion with her partner was an emotional one after the stresses of the day and journey.

A much needed XL beer after the stresses of the day

We're safely back aboard LJ now with the fire roaring and the fridge and cupboards full, chilling out, looking forward to tomorrow.

Thanks again to Deb, Jess, Mum, Dad and of course Grandand for a great Christmas. And I hope all of our blog readers, where ever you are around the world had a very..........

Have a great New Year everyone

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Final Birmingham catchup for Christmas...

Strolling down towards the main line BCN to blow out the cobwebs Deb recognised the name of a fellow  cruiser and blogger but I wasn't sure, their roof was far too clear for a start. We popped for a closer look and she was right, Yvonne was just getting off Fizzical Attraction taking (Yvonne and Rogers blog) hers and Rogers border terrier, Chico for a walk. It was lovely to meet and put a face to the names so we invited then over for a coffee in the afternoon to carry on the chin wag.

Deb, Yvonne and Roger
It was great to spend a couple of hours chatting to Roger and Yvonne, but we were a little spooked out when Roger said that they hadn't been on LJ for the best part of a dozen years, had they known the previous owners then? No, but they had seen  Lois Jane back on Birmingham centre in 2000 when she was on display at the IWA festival. It was nice to hear from the professionals that they thought that LJ was still looking good after nearly fourteen years.

It's fantastic being right in the centre of the city and a couple of hours after we'd cleared away the dinner bits and pieces and went off for a nose around the market and a little gander from Birmingham's library garden. Saves a bit of battery power on the boat as well. On the way back to LJ there was a couple of 'characters' loitering outside the boat. Even from a few hundred yards away I tend to be suspicious of just about everyone outside the boat. 

'Are you James?'  Of course my brain was saying 'might be, who's asking?' But mouth volunteered an instant 'yes'. We weren't expecting anyone but were really surprised when they introduced themselves as Geoff and Lois Jane. Amazing! I've been in touch with Geoff a few times since buying LJ but to finally meet them (and THE Lois Jane) was fantastic we had a great chat aboard LJ before Jane dragged Geoff away as I they had an early start at their clinic in the city center the next day. No photo unfortunately this time but Jane promised that they would be back for a longer evening of 'refreshments' in the new year.

How exciting to have two new pairs of visitors with a bit of a connection. Now, no more visitors until... tomorrow. 

Mum and dad arrived for their first stay on LJ after a long old cross country trip from west Wales. We had a great few days revisiting the library and festive markets as well as popping back to the ICC to see a jazz band and enjoying a pleasant evening at Strada. We managed to pack quite a lot in on the couple of days they were with us and even found time to get to the balti triangle for a genuine Brummie curry.

Managed to fit four of us around the breakfast bar again

A little drink in the market

Jazz in the ICC

HRH popped in with his over due books to the library

Visitors depart

The few days after mum and dad had left for their big cosy house on the west coast were spent getting ready for Christmas. We've been making a few of our Christmas pressies this year which we've both enjoyed but it's meant long hours studying Photoshop in the library for me (I'll post some results in the next blog) and Deb knitting so furiously that if her needless were wooden we would have both gone up in flames. Well worth the effort though and I hope everyone likes the results.

We were able to get some bargain train tickets now that Deb is officially disabled, and had a 30% discount with her new card - less than £10 each to get from Birmingham to Aberystwyth. To qualify for my bit of discount I am officially Debs carer. I thought the best way to carry out my duties was to be a calming influence so once she was comfy I set about listening to some music and dozing under my cap :-) 

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Has anybody seen it?... pt2

Jess arrived after a busy weeks work (hers not mine) on the 20th November into New Street Station. She arrived bearing gifts - Gingerbread persons (politically correct I believe) and gold coloured Christmasy star cookies. Surprisingly they arrived in very good condition after her train journey.

Biiiiggg plate of biccies

Tradition aboard would be to sit in with Deb's home cooked dinner on Jess's first night (can you guess what it would have been Jess?) But we had decided to hike the few hundred yards into the city centre for a bite to eat. This would involve walking through the Frankfurt xmas market with blinkers on because we would be coming back for a proper look the next day.Before we left we had a trawl through the available options of restaurant who were part of the Tesco voucher scheme and settled on Bella Italia. There are quite a few new participants in and around Birmingham, although a few of the smaller independent ones were either too far away or poorly rated.

On the way we popped in to show Jess 'our' new super library. It was a great weather day to be out on the hidden (but not particularly well hidden) gardens of the fantastic library in central Birmingham. Chilly but crisp and fairly clear, we were able to pick out a rough route that we would have taken on the previous days trip.

The top level garden and seating area

View westwards and down towards Cambrian Wharf, that's how close we are to the centre

I always try and get Jess chuckling with a family photo, this wasn't the grinniest photo either!
I use the same code words every time and its not 'say cheese'. I wonder how long the effects will work - six years and counting!

After the grand library tour we headed (blinkered) through the markets and waited for a seat in Bella Italia for a pretty good meal at reasonable prices with attentive service. The next day was an important one, we were kicking off with a trip to Birmingham's markets, not the Christmas ones but the proper ones. Today Deb was going to cook what ever Jess wanted and we were going to buy it all fresh in the market. I was pretty certain what it would be and soon we were looking at a massive joint of thick flank, a good all round beef joint. Unfortunately too pricey for me. We would have probably squeezed a good 12 portions out of it (keeping the rest in our little freezer) but I was about to walk away for £20 before I was offered it for £17.50, we settled on £15 well under £5 per kg. 

Deb didn't disappoint, we enjoyed a massive roast with yorkies spilling off the plates and too many veg for any day other than Christmas all washed down with glasses of fairly robust rose (sadly out of supply of Merlot) . It took a while to digest but by 4.30 we were off out again. This time to the Symphony hall, all of two minutes walk away. When I say Symphony hall it was actually the cafe bar for a freebe gig. We saw the excellent Big Tent and The Gypsy Lantern who had just got back from the last of their tour dates on the south coast.

We weren't finished with the day yet, we were off to have an unblinkered look around the German markets which stretched from just outside the library through Chamberlain (below) and Victoria squares and all the way down New Street to the Bullring shopping centre. All told, just under a mile and a half of stalls, beer and half metre hotdogs.  

By Jess's final day we were pleased to have a chill out morning on LJ but no trip to Birmingham would have been complete without a visit to Jimmy Spices. A place we happened upon for a meal out the last tine we were here in September 2012. I had been having some real problems with what turned out a few days later (after a mad rush to A&E) to be problematic gallstones and acute pancreatitis. So when Pip and Jess were up for a visit I looked for a buffet style place so that I could graze over a few different options and eat as much or as little as I wanted. This years visit was just as good and we rolled out back to the boat to watch a DVD (rented from the library). I had planned an evening at one of the many shows in Brum but by the time we had got here nearly everything was booked - it was a shame though, if I was a couple of days earlier we would have been able to get tickets for the Nutcracker at the Hippodrome. 

For Saturday we had arranged a hire car to take Jess part of the way home (to Basingstoke so she could get the train back to Poole) and pick up our new chimney pot from Deb's mums and spend the weekend with her before Deb's checkup appointment at the Audiology department in Reading. Double car upgrade this time, we paid the for the lowest category and managed to get a Peugeot 3008 people carrier.

Next Blog (pt 3) Two sets of boaty visitors... with a connected history, and Mum and Dad arrive for their first stay aboard.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Has Anybody Seen It?...

I've looked down the back of the chairs, in the cupboard under the sink and in the roof lockers, but no sign. Last resort was my wardrobe that houses all manner of curios in its dark corners. 

I seem to have completely mislaid the last three weeks!

Back to the end of November...

Crikey doesn't time fly when you're having fun. We had a lovely few days moored by the Black Country Museum. Right outside is a mooring point for paying visitors but as there was no one around and we were getting towards the end of the day after my little mishap and collecting some coal from the highly recommended Wulfruna coal merchants, we decided we were visitors of sorts so moored up. The next day we went on a little boat trip (as you do when you live on a boat) into the limestone mines and Dudley tunnel which run through Castle Hill. You are still able to book passage through using your own boat but the tunnel is a diesel free area due to the lack of ventilation so it's down to the electric tugs or legging it through.

Under Castle Hill

These few photos are of the open 'junction' inside the hill

And on our trip inside
The mines and tunnel were very interesting and highly recommended if you are cruising past the area. As we were returning to LJ from our trip we passed the back entrance of the Black Country Living museum, we declined entry as the charge is a not insignificant £15 or so each. We nosed through the gate, there was hardly anyone about, we looked a little further - ohhh the smell of chips lured us in, 'it wasn't our fault, honest guv!'. We headed up to the chippie for a tasty treat, fish and chips for Deb, roe and chips for me - yum. The other paying guests were all wearing bright orange stickers to identify themselves from chip eating, back door sneakers so it looked likely that we would get rumbled. That is until the eagle eyed sneaky chip eater managed to find a sticker blowing around in the wind - and then another! We looked further around the museum. It is probably a great place on busy days when there are displays and interactions but I wasn't really impressed with the costumed staff miserably trying to look the part behind shop windows. Still worth a paying visit but maybe reserved for a highday or holiday. 

The old lime kilns

The turn from the kilns to the cut

Iron graveyard

Chimney pots waiting for a good home 

Deb looking down a kiln chamber

Bridge across the canal to the kilns

The old tool shop needs to be working to justify the entry costs

We made the final trip from the Black Country Museum to Birmingham in chilly but bright and clear weather stopping briefly in Smethwick to top up the very nearly empty cupboards. There are loads of smaller stores on the high street but we still had a couple of hours to go so it was a quick bomb around Tesco's before getting underway again. Deb ducked below to keep out of the chill, do some boat cleaning and cook our Tesco pizza and garlic bread. 

Looking back from where we had just come

Pump house

Steps down to the mainline canal

BCN Mainline from above

Thats a lot of bricks

Hope it's stable!
We arrived, and moored outside the NIA after the sun had dipped down but as the skies were still clear there was plenty of light left. Before settling down for the evening, warming up and flaking out, we walked round to our winter mooring spot on Cambrian Wharf to see just how jam packed it was. Lo and behold, a great mooring spot behind Peter and Heather on Blackberry was free so we decided to move straight away. It was our preferred mooring as it was alongside the old wharf wall as opposed to the short pontoons that are a bit bouncy and let the wind pull the boat about. Peter came out and helped us moor up and then we finally went inside to warm up from the journey and have a well earned cuppa.

We had finished our travels for 2013. I wasn't sure about how I'd feel being in one place for three months or so, and I am still not sometimes. We have rarely had any plans during the year concerning when we arrive, when we leave or even where we were headed and I still sometimes get that instant feeling of 'lets go'. It has been one of the great benefits of cruising the system for the last nine months, we are always ready to go and can be off to the next location within a couple of minutes.

The last time we were in Birmingham was for a couple of weeks (extended by an A&E trip) last September for the excellent ArtsFest. During our time the previous Autumn we had had a enough time to have a good look around the City and sample some of it's delights so we were looking forward to our stay. To make our arrival extra special we were due to be joined by Jess the very next day.

I readied my Mont Blanc pen (part of a sales prize from my previous life, I had decided that I had better start actually using it, no point in leaving it in its leather presentation box for ever) and selected a new leaf in one of my many pads to do a little research for 'whats on in Birmingham'. Museums, BBC tour, Hippodrome, The rebuilt Rep theater, glee club, symphony hall, German market, Jimmy spices, city walks, Christmas markets, bull ring.... wow we wouldn't be short of ideas!

Next Blog... Guest(s) arrive.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Blogvert Alert....

I didn't really know what to call this Blog, it is definitely a blog about where I grew up (well 4-18 anyway, it's still under debate as to when I actually grew up) in West Wales but it is also most definitely an advert.

So what is it advertising? Well it is for my parent's (Pete and Pam's) vacant holiday cottages in the aforementioned West Wales, specifically St. Dogmaels (Llandudoch) on the picturesque Tivy estuary. 

In case you don't want to read too far this is the rough gist of whats available before I start to waffle on.

KILN BROOK COTTAGE - The usual price for Christmas week is £576, this has been discounted to £461 via their agents web page and is available directly from Pete and Pam for the bargain price of £350. Here is a link to the agents website - Kiln Brook Cottage. If you are interested, please don't book via this link but call them directly (details to follow). Christmas week is from 21st December to 28th December. New years week is also available from 28th December to 4th January for £400, discounted from the original £695. Oh and that's not a per couple price but for the whole place (two good sized doubles)

THE MOORINGS -  The usual price for Christmas week is £495, this has been discounted to £396 via their agents web page and is available directly for the bargain price of £280. No, seriously! a detached one double bed bungalow with private garden and parking over Christmas week! Here is a link to the agents website - The Moorings. Again don't book via this link the discount is direct with Mum and Dad only. The available dates are the same as Kiln Brook Cottage. The Moorings is also available for New years week at £400 discounted from £585.

SMALL PRINT - Dogs (2 max) £10 each; Electric charged as per usage (charged at cost); 20% Deposit, balance due six weeks before holiday start date

Contact details
Home phone -  01239 614308
Email -
Mums (Pam) mobile - 07792 690950
Dads mobile (Pete) - don't bother, I think it has only been switched on twice!
Or email me (James) and I'll pass it on/answer any questions -

So that's some of the facts and figures out of the way now for some of the waffley bloggey bit. The things that the agent wont/can't say and loads more about the places and the locality.

The Cottages

Kiln Brook Cottage

I think that this is a great sharers place for a break away. The layout is very airy and great use has been made of the open plan communal spaces. I've hired discount price holiday cottages only to find that they are very cobbled together and if you are sharing with a couple of friends nothing is worse. I guess the reason that it is so well laid out is that Dad built it with his friend Gordon Bennet (no - I'm being serious) for phase one, and local builder and family friend Jim for phase two. The first floor has two similarly sized, well appointed double rooms separated by the shower room and landing areas. The ground floor flows from living to dining to kitchen space without interruption and is bordered front and rear with private patio dining areas, gardens and parking. This makes the inside space very communal with plenty of room for preparing meals, relaxing in the lounge or, settling on the settle (yes a genuine Welsh settle used by generations of the Ward family) and catch up with the broad-sheets. The view from the rear is rural, looking over the raised garden, towards some of Pembrokeshires beautiful hills and their hidden footpaths. In fact we walked the circular route from the front door up the hills and back down through the village of St Dogmaels last time we visited in Winter. The view from the front of the holiday home however, is breathtaking. Across the road is the river wall. Kiln Brook is smack on the Tivy Estuary. Put on your coat over your jammies and take your early morning cuppa over and sit on the wall watching the tide ebb or flow. It's lovely, I've done it many a time. 

The Front of Kiln Brook

This Photo Makes Me Very Thirsty

Can't Guarantee There Will Be Many Boats Out Over Winter

That Cottage Was Where Nelson Housed One Of His 'Bits On The Side'

You Can Walk A Little Further Around The Estuary To The Left Before It Gets Wet

Raised Rear Garden

Front Bedroom

Rear Bedroom

The Moorings

I am a bit of fan of this perfect little home. You will note the exquisite exterior paintwork (at least it was a couple of years ago) painted by Deb and I on a very sunny morning with two of our worst hangovers in living memory (more about the local in a mo). It has everything you need in a compact, easy to look after space. OK it hasn't got the direct views from the windows of the river but has a great westerly outlook towards the hills. That river wall is still within walking distance though but this time you pass by a grassed picnic area with benches overlooking the mooring pontoon (it was a rickety old thing made by Clive next door when I were a lad - out of scaffold planks too.) It has again been designed and rebuilt by Dad (the cottage... not the pontoon) to give a warm open plan feel and more than enough space for a couple and pooch/s. The garden has a good sized raised patio that gives you enough of an estuary view to remind you where you are. Parking isn't a problem here either but if you have any particular needs, give the folks a call they will be happy to help.

That's Mum And Dad's Place In The Background

Lounge With Access To The Garden

Light And Airy

Ohhh, You Can Even Do Your Washing On Your Christmas Hols

Last Time We Were Here Rage Against The Machine Was Christmas No. 1

War Paint Corner

Back Gate In The Corner Is A Shortcut To Kiln Brook Cottage

Satellite TV In Case It's Raining (What In Wales...Never!) 

There Is A Lovely Footpath Across That Hill Up To The Top Of The Village 

One of the great features of both properties that the agency hasn't got the facility to portray is that from the private garden of Kiln Brook, a gate leads to the back of Mum and Dads garden (that they are happy for you to cross) and within no more than a dozen yards is the back gate of the Moorings Cottage and subject to availability both cottages can be hired together giving a two double bedroom semi, and a one double bedroom detached!

So as you can see the cottages are great, but we've hired great cottages before that are in the middle of nowhere and your plans of an idyllic stroll up the local (well, it would be rude not to) are scuppered because it is a drive away. So whats out and about locally, as in within a mile.

Glanteifion, St. Dogmaels (Llandudoch) and Surround

You really don't have to go far for some beautiful countryside. The Teifi estuary (Tivy is the English spelling) slipway is directly opposite mum and dad's garden. Head left and you will arrive at an access gateway to the stony shoreline within a hundred yards. Carry on for another mile up the road and you pass the Webley Hotel and the widest part of the estuary before arriving at Poppit sands. Poppit has a good mile or so of soft sandy beaches, bordered by sand dunes (part of which was planted by the class of 1981 St Dogmaels Primary school - one of my few claims to fame) and rocky outcrops with pools of wildlife. Across Cardigan Bay lies Cardigan Island.

The new pontoon - safer than scaffold boards

The End Of The Estuary And The Start Of Poppit Beach And The Bay

And From Above

Cardigan Island From The End Of Poppit Beach

Heading upstream from Kiln brook cottage you pass the first 'local' the Ferry Inn. It has changed from all recognition since I first worked in the kitchens there in the spring of 1985. The more recent extensions have created large dining areas with outside seating looking over the river and managed to retain a lot of the character of the old 1800's building. Its still a great place to go but not the same as it was when Alan would find me a quiet place to sit and have a pint on my break (I don't think the licensing laws were the same back then)  I haven't eaten there for a number of years, so if you do decide to rent one of mum and dad's places, just check with them for local recommendations - they do have forty years of local knowledge after all.

The facilities of St Dogmaels are within 3/4 mile with a good convenience store (Cecils garage/petrol station years ago) and Bowens (great) chippie. Along the way you pass by The Teifi Netpool Inn (at least you do if you have taken the Greig raised river side path - or its a few hundred yards off the main road) and the last, and I believe oldest of the remaining village pubs, The White Hart (1769) on the way out of the village. There is even a working flour mill.

The village does have some history though, and at the end of Church Lane (Location of our first Welsh home and later Nan's place) is the back gate to St Thomas's Church (the scene of many a family service) which leads in to the 12th Century Tironian Abbey which is of course.... well I don't really know, this isn't a history lesson, try Wiki!

St Thomas's with the Abbey in the foreground

The village is founded on it's maritime heritage and I have been given permission to copy an excerpt from Glen Johnson's web site, a guy I went to school with and now a local historian and a font of all knowledge, in fact he is the Heritage Officer at the Coach House, just inside the Abbey grounds. Glen's site can be found here and has loads of gritty info about local properties not just in St Dogs. but across the area. To illustrate some local history I have chosen Glen's article about a house that my Aunty and cousins lived in when they first moved to Wales in the late '70s. I had thought that it was just another average terrace on the high street until I read some of Glen's work a few months ago and found out that it was named after the 76 ton brigantine Milo.

Milo - High Street

Captain James James (b 24th April 1825), master of the “Milo” lived here with his father, Captain James, master of the schooner “Margaret”. The building is named after the ship built in 1840 at Bristol, lengthened at Cardigan in 1856 and wrecked in 1882. In 1851 the house may have been occupied by Mary James, 50, a married woman. In 1856 the 76-ton St. Dogmaels brigantine, ‘Milo’, was converted into a schooner at Cardigan. In 1871 the following persons lived here: James James, 57, maltster; Mary James, 77, his mother, widow; Mary Rees, 20, general servant; and Mary Selby, 17, scholar. In 1871-91 Captain James James lived here. In 1876 Captain James James was the owner of the 68-ton ‘Milo’. In May 1876 he owned shares in the Cardigan Mercantile Company. In 1881 the following persons lived here: James James, 55, master mariner; Eliza James, 42, his wife, housekeeping; James Richard James, 10, their son; David G. James, 8, son; Frederick James, 4, son; and Benjamin R. James, 1, son. The ‘Milo’ was wrecked in a collision near Belfast on 12th May 1882. The crew were saved. - From a quick google it looks like Milo is the subject of a painting from 1856 held in a gallery in Nova Scotia 

James was a popular name at the time, and one that I share with dad, Peter James, and his dad Jim.

Slightly Further Afield

Only just though. You are bound to want a few shops, cafes, restaurants, takeaways and maybe even a little bit more culture without going too far out. The closest town is Cardigan, a pretty ancient market town is about half an hour's walk away. The road and modern foot bridge cross the river and town snakes up the hill past the Grosvenor pub (You'll find a pub about every fifth building as you head up the high street) at about 1.5 miles from the cottages. And if you don't want to take the car or walk there is a decent bus service available within 50 yards of your front door. If St Dogmaels has a good dose of historic property Cardigan trumps it big time - Cardigan Castle, possibly (Big P) was the site of King Arthur's Camelot - no seriously, Glen has recently written about it here. 

In the other direction, past Poppit beach there aren't too many inhabitants but the coast here is now firmly part of the Pembrokshire Footpath - 186 miles and over 35,000 ft of ascents and descents (more than enough to burn off the Christmas pud). Even if you have only got a little bit of time to explore this area get the guys to give you directions to Moylegrove, for me the start of the path proper (although it officially starts - you guessed it, right outside the cottages)

Just Around The Corner From Moylegrove Beach 

The coast north of Cardigan is equally impressive. Starting at Gwbert and heading up towards the Cliff Hotel (next to Cardigan Island) is the absolute best vantage point for sunsets - no interruptions until Ireland! Footpaths take you around the headland past Cardigan Island and give you a first glimpse of the conical Mwnt hill. Astute readers will notice that Mwnt is spelt without a vowel. Well it is in English but in the Welsh language 'W' is a vowel! What's that all about? (also F is a V as there is no V in the Welsh alphabet and Ff is F - confused? I was still spelling river with an 'f' until about three years ago!)

Mwnt Hill From the Coast Path

The bays and beaches of Aberporth, Tresaith (excellent foodie pub) and Llangranog are all very different in character and make a great combined day out with Llangranog (where my cousin and his family live) being only about 15 miles from St Dogmaels. Although the area within 15 miles of the cottages should keep you entertained for many visits, the south coast of Wales in particular Tenby and Solva, and the trio of Nolton Haven, Broad Haven and Little Haven can't be ignored, but can all be found within about 30 miles.

So after all that waffle don't forget that the cottages are available for this Christmas and New Year from £280.


News just in... if you have committed yourselves to your Christmas plans discounts are available into the new year. Kiln Brook - £300 per week and The Moorings £220 (offer excl school holidays). And as a special bonus anyone booking the Christmas week as a result of my Blogvert will get a pint in the Ferry Inn (wine or fruit based drink for the ladies) from me and Deb coz we will be down there for the week as well!


If you've enjoyed my ramblings and think that there is a chance that someone in your readership may benefit from a discounted holiday in a beautiful location, please bung a link on your blog - I'd be very grateful.