Friday, August 05, 2016

Sir Benfro 3

Wednesday was the day of our wedding anniversary, so we went out to dinner.  My husband had booked the hotel on-line, without looking at it in any detail.  Consulting our "Lonely Planet" guide to Wales from five years ago, we got the impression that the hotel had a casual, surfer vibe and that we might be overdressed. 

We might have known something was adrift when we saw the car-park.  Pembrokeshire has a distinctive style of field boundary made of stone, but topped with turf.  In this spanking-new car-park, field boundaries had been tastefully reconstructed.  We were shown into a dimly-lit dining room, the walls of which were lined with huge paintings.  The whole thing had been reinvented as an "Art Hotel", a term I don't recall hearing before.  Facing me were three pictures showing Audrey Hepburn, Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor in a stylised image, each with a massive tear-drop running down from one eye.  One of these was red, so that it looked for all the world like someone bleeding from the eye.  Nice.  The artist calls himself "Pure Evil"; this makes sense.  As for creating a comfortable ambiance for a relaxed meal, it did not work for me.

I could go on.  Of course, we were then treated to that kind of "Fine Dining" where everything tastes very nice, but there is nowhere near enough of it, and the idea of just serving potatoes with the main course seems to break a rule of some kind.  At least we had plenty to talk about.

The following day we went back to
Porthgain, where there is a restaurant called "The Shed".  Here we ate the most delicious haddock and chips for lunch, sitting outside on their terrace.  We had a side dish of fennel and apple salad - what more could one ask for?

From there we drove on to Fishguard, where there is a delightful, sheltered harbour, ice-creams, places to sit...idyllic.

Up in the town, I walked out of the car-park to find this - a very well-stocked woolshop.

In the centre of town is a fascinating exhibition of a tapestry, memorialising the attempted invasion of Britain by the French in 1812.  They landed at Fishguard and the tapestry shows how it all went from there - local heroes and heroines, including a lady called Jemima who single-handedly rounded up twelve French soldiers.  Later, two local lasses  helped a batch of French prisoners to escape and eloped with them on their ship.  It is a dramatic story, and the tapestry is very well-designed and executed.

Next stop was Melin Tegwynt, another of those working woollen mills, this time famous for bedspreads and throws.  It was a grand day out.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Sir Benfro 2

With the weather continuing uncertain, we decided to risk a boat-trip around Ramsey Island, choosing the most staid of the many options available.  You embark from the lifeboat station. and are soon speeding along.

This is not the time of year for the breeding guillemots and shearwaters, but fulmar chicks were still in evidence on the cliffs.  The guide told us a great deal about how fulmars are oceanic birds which cannot walk easily on land.  The chicks are reared to adulthood on the cliffs, then fly straight out to sea, not returning for several years.

A group o seals on the bachelor beach, awaiting the return of the female seals and the breeding season.

All round the island are rock arches and caves where the breeding females can shelter.

The next day it was walkable weather again, so we drove to Porthgain and caught the little Strumble Shuttle bus to Aber Castle.

Then we walked back to the car along the cliff path. Sections like this certainly give you pause.

From time to time, the path dips down to cross a beach or  stream.  Here, the ruin of an old corn-mill.

Once, these were found wherever there was water power, as all corn was milled locally.  It's a fascinating coastline.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sir Benfro

So, to Pembrokeshire, for a week's holiday, following on from the family gathering to celebrate a Golden Wedding.  Since this coincided with the first weekend of the school holidays, we found ourselves part of a great migration, as convoys of caravans made their way to the beaches of the South-West

The weather followed a familiar coastal pattern of damp, sometimes misty, mornings, clearing to bright sunshine in the afternoons.  Some five years ago we were here before, a bit further south.  This time, we had booked an apartment near Solva.

A visit to St David's confirmed how very small it is for a city, and how very overrun by day-trippers.  We set out on our first walk around the headland from St Justinian's. 

And on that very first walk we came across a group of choughs.  Sadly, against the light, their red legs and beaks are not visible.

Just outside Solva is a working woollen mill.  We had visited this last time, but it has been brought back to life now.

  They specialise in stair carpets woven to order, but also produce that unmistakable double faced Welsh tweed.  Here it is on the loom. 

The chains here are used to set the pattern.

This is part of a Jaquard loom.  One can only marvel at the ingenuity and the patience required.

This is a winder and set of scales used to calculate the heft of a particular yarn.

As for their shop - well, items may have been purchased!

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Two days...

Friday last, it was my turn for visiting the sick.  I left the house at 9am, caught the community bus to the station and the 9.23 to Liverpool Street.  Across London to Paddington, and a longish wait for the train to Cheltenham.  Taxi from the station to the hospital, for a forty-five minute visit with the step-mother.  Then, all the above in reverse, arriving home at 8.45 pm.

How can you tell that someone is on the mend? Well, a resumption of cantankerousness  - (is there such a word?) - probably proves it.  A point to be borne in mind for one's own future, perhaps.

On the journey, time enough to read a whole novel - "Quiet as a Nun" by Antonia Fraser, not a challenging read.  And to knit a pair of mittens, for a Lakota child.

Sunday, we were in a different mode.  In the morning we made a quick trip to a garden centre to pick up the ubiquitous folding chairs.  After lunch we were assigned to the Coffee Shop at Paycocke's  for the whole afternoon, serving up cream teas.  Home and a quick change, before we set off again, this time as visitors, for the Music Evening. 

Sitting in that lovely garden as the sun set, eating a plate of lasagne and drinking chilled white wine, while a string quartet played popular classics - ah, yes!  What it is to be retired and not to have to think of Monday on Sunday evenings.

Saturday, June 25, 2016


Visiting my husband's stepmother, who is in hospital - long story - we found ourselves overnighting in Broadway, a quintessential Cotswold village.  There are worse places to be, although it is overrun with day-trippers on fine days. 

We dined at the Lygon Arms which we had long wanted to visit.  The furniture designer, Gordon Russell, learnt his trade by patching up antique pieces for this hotel where his father was the hotelier.  Now, there is a museum dedicated to his work, in Broadway.

On the knitting front, two cabled hats for the second-graders in Rapid City.

And the progress made on the back of the Porridge cardigan.  The wool was in a pack with a printed label stating that it was Scottish Tweed.  Ravelry shows all the colourways of this discontinued yarn, the nearest of which is called Porridge.  I'm more convinced that it is a Rowan yarn having found the same faults as others describe - occasional sections of loose spinning and thick slubs.  Odder is the presence of quite vivid tweedy flecks, tiny but vivid, in a base yarn which is fawn with a gingery blend to it.  I'm quite pleased by the wooliness of it, which should be just the job in winter.

As we drove back from our visit this afternoon, through a truly scary deluge, I thought how earlier Elizabethans would have seen this weather:  the disturbance of the macrocosm, given recent events.  But we know all about the water cycle, and cannot lose that knowledge.

Friday, June 10, 2016


At last, a bit of knitting! 

First, the hats and mittens I made while on holiday.  These are being shipped out to South Dakota for primary aged pupils this winter.  I am still using up yarn I have had for some time.  The pink are a pairing of Jaeger Merino and Langora.  Lovely yarn and should be warm, but not in colours which appeal to me. 

The lime green are in Drops Nepal, an alpaca/ wool mix.  Lovely handle to this yarn, and a quick knit.

While in Cumbria, I spotted a pack of what was described as Rowan Scottish Tweed in a charity shop.  I just could not leave it there, although I do have some doubts.  There were no ball bands.  Scottish Tweed is a discontinued yarn, but Ravelry suggests that the balls were of a different shape to these.  The colourway is Porridge.

However, it knits up into an authentically rustic fabric.  I found this pattern in a magazine and am planning a shawl collar.  It's a while since I made something to wear myself.  I suppose it can always go to Knit for Peace if it does not work out.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Green Gable

While we were in Cumbria for these two weeks we saw no less than sixty-five species of birds, many more than in May of previous years.  Rarities for us were the ring ousel, heard, but not actually spotted, high on Green Gable, sandpipers on the lake shore and eider ducks out at sea in the Solway.

I am not really  a bird-watcher but poddling about up the coast, or in the little nature reserve, makes a very pleasant change of pace after some fell-bashing.

Next on our list was a walk starting from Honister Slate Quarry, high above Buttermere.  We took the steep path up to Grey Knotts, over the moor to Brandreth, then on to Green Gable.

  Ahead loomed the bulk of Great Gable, with Kirk Fell off to the right.  It looked eminently accessible, but my husband decided to save it for another trip. 

We descended to Windy Gap by a badly eroded path: larger pieces of loose material this time, but just as treacherous.

Later, I read the report of the Mountain Rescue Service for the area.  106 callouts in the year, mostly for leg and ankle injuries.  It certainly gives you pause on paths like these.

Our last walk was to an inconspicuous top called Hen Comb, presumably because it looks like one from some angle.  This is one for those who do not like crowds, or even a proper path.  A rare photo of me, because my husband was now using his camera. 

We finished the walk sitting by this stream, watching a grey wagtail - it's yellow - go about its business.