4.4.09 Wales – Brecon Beacons National Park

Brecon Travel Blog

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4.4.09 WalesBrecon Beacons National Park


Brecon (short e, hard c) Beacons


Terrific day today!  Last night I read the NP brochure and decided that we’d happened upon one of the best places to enjoy the joys of Wales!  So after listening to the very peaceful rain on Sugar’s roof last night, we awoke to a beautiful day of fun exploration.


First we talked with Nicola Jones, our hostess at the farm, who is very nice.  We filled our water, emptied the tanks, and took the trash while discussed the farm and sheep.


Then we headed to the Arts & Crafts Festival that is held now through next weekend- it is a special event at the main Visitor’s Center, which is just a few miles down the road.  We parked on the road, in front of a horse and wagon closed gate, so that it could still open, but we were out of the way of traffic.  I was later told that there was plenty of room for us in the lower parking lot- we should have walked it yesterday.  I’m still learning.


Anyway, we arrived about noon and enjoyed the approximate dozen stations where the various artists’ crafts were displayed.  We were delighted with the offerings and the fact that they were local specialties and purchased a few items:  a leather change purse, some beautiful necklaces and earrings, a small print of a beautiful horse painting, and a pottery covered butter dish.  I got a picture of the potter, who carefully tallied all of our purchases for us.  We were surprisingly their first purchase of the day apparently and since they’d been open 2 hours, thought that a little sad.  I’m sure their spirits were brightened after we came through (Sorry Ned!).


Then we talked about a bike route with the National Park staff who kindly provided some change for me.  Everywhere you go they have Park & Pay kiosks that require change.  Once I got Sterling from the ATM, I then had to carefully break it without ticking people off.  Now I have plenty of change in my new cute little change purse.


We drove into the nearby town of Becon today and found “Coach Only” parking right by the Cathedral!  It was even free (we high-fived for the parking).  The town driving was a little tight, but the stress of not knowing how small the roads would become is the hardest part.  Once we KNOW that Sugar can physically get through the streets, all is fine.


The Cathedral is 11th Century and the Tea Shop within the grounds Jazy chose for us.  We had a delightful Welsh lunch with Welch beef, Leek & Potato Soup, Bangers and Mash (Sausage and mashed potatoes) and a filled jacket (a baked potato sliced open with slices of ham layered on it and Welch butter.


Then we walked around the lovely cathedral, admiring the 1000 year old baptismal font and visiting the gift shop for some local chocolate and tea.


A walk to the center of this quaint town with old buildings along the Usk River brought us to the local ice cream place. “Is this ice cream locally made,” I inquired.  “Yes, right here in the back!” and she pointed to the glassed in back wall where you could see the large equipment.  Yes, that is indeed local!  It was delicious.


We walked around town and enjoyed many sales for the Easter holiday.  The local kids all got out of school for the next two weeks and the downtown was hopping on this glorious Spring day.  While we all wore jackets, it was not biting cold and the trees are blooming, the flowers are vivid tulips, daffodils by the hundreds, and bluebells.


We found many camping supply stores and got some fleecewear and zip-off, quick dry pants for three of us at significant discounts.  Charles was thrilled to get a rugby ball for 10 L and he and Lia are outside playing with it now. It is like an oversized football.


We also found a local Wales craft store and I bought the leather purse that was made by the maker of my new leather coin purse.  Jazy got a turned piece of wood that holds earrings along the edge and rings on the top.  We also got some felt for the girls to do some felting as demonstrated at the National Park this morning.


We finally found the grocery store and bought some pies for dinner- Scotch eggs, mini eggs, baguettes (of course), and mince pies.  We realized at dinner that they all sort of tasted alike and maybe we shouldn’t have bought so many.  But I think it was 5L for all of it and an experience in the local food too.


Upon returning to this wonderful farm, we stopped in order to find Nicola to pay for the night.  I took my camera as we walked between the barns, snapping pictures of the cows and sheep. 


We saw David Jones come out of one barn and he asked if we wanted to see some baby sheep.  Of course we eagerly tromped off behind him to see lambs that were born just one minute earlier!  The mother sheep was still cleaning the twins off when we arrived. 


We also saw two sets of triplets that were a few days old and learned about their sheep business.  They use sonograms to determine the number of lambs that each sheep will have.  The sheep do typically require help with the birthing process.  The Jones spray paint dots on the lambs backs with spray paint to indicate whose lamb is whose.  They immediately put rubber bands halfway up their tails to cut off the blood supply so that the tip falls off within a few weeks to dock them. 


The Jones maintain about 400 sheep on the farm.  Each sheep is banded on their ear - there is a push for microchips with GPS to be used in the future although the expense of such endeavors may render it useless.


Sheep live to about 9 years old when the teeth fall out and they can no longer eat enough – then they become mutton.  They do not name the lambs because from about 12 weeks and older they are sold to be eaten.  Ugh!  And *that* is why I do not eat baby animals.  I thought Jazy was going to be sick.  But we were very grateful for the opportunity to see the adorable little lambs and learn more.


Joan and John from the camper down the way were just walking by and I ran out to talk with them as they chatted with Charles.  They provided excellent advice on area fun since they live only about 70 miles away near Birmingham.  Very nice!  They suggested the Red Kite birds daily feeding in Gagrin, just north of here in Rhayader, and a nice walk to the top of the nearby mountain.  They also suggested a Loch in Scotland, just north of Glasgow, so I need to mark that on our map. 


Jazy walked over to talk with a group of girls who are 17 and part of a Walking Group from London.  I was proud of her for walking over to chat after they set up their tents.  They had a great time talking.


Everyone we’ve met on our trip to Europe has brought up how thrilled they are that Obama is now President.  As someone told me today, “It wasn’t just America who needed him.  The *world* needed Obama.”  We did read big headlines on newspapers yesterday “Protocol suspended, but WHO touched WHO??” with a big picture of Michelle Obama’s arm around the Queen’s shoulders.  <shudder- the horror!>  As camping neighbor Joan shared, “You don’t touch the Queen!”  But Joan also said that the Queen later told the Obamas to “Stay in touch,” which seems both gracious and witty.  Someone today at lunch got up to examine an antique picture above another table- she apologized to that diner, noting that she was “trying to spot some royals” in the picture, but sadly did not recognize any there.  Fascinating British culture.


We tried our new Global Phone Card today that we bought in Ireland, but it didn’t work.  We should have used it up in Ireland.  I meant to call Orla and Kieran just to tell them how much fun we’re having in Sugar and how good she is doing, but I need to buy another phone card.  Hopefully the next card will be good through the UK.  Not having a cell phone to call campgrounds is a real pain, but we’ve had nice people help us along the way.


We just didn’t have time today for our bike ride or a walk through the gorgeous countryside!  There is an “open land” concept here where you are allowed to walk wherever you want, even on private property, to enjoy the countryside.  You do have rules like, leave the gate however you find it (Open or closed).  If a farm animal chases you and your dog, take your dog off the leash and let it run to get away.  A farmer has the right to shoot your dog if it threatens or hurts one of his animals.  Also, there is a road sign that basically says:  If a yellow light 50 yards up the road is blinking, then sheep are crossing right then.  We’re not sure how the farmers activate the light, but it is a fascinating part of the culture.  In some places throughout the park, the sheep and cattle are open range- sometimes walking in the middle of the road!



There are also Welsh pony rides,  boat hires that you can do on the canal and lakes, bike trails, walking paths.  The National Park is really big at 100 miles across and probably 50 miles north to south.  It is a destination vacation type of place for enjoying the beautiful Wales countryside.  We could not have better luck in finding a place that celebrates the countryside and culture of the Welsh people if we’d tried. 


Since it is so delightful here, we’ll stay in the area at least another night or two, although we might start heading south as we aim for a World Heritage Site and then on to the City of Bath, yet another UNESCO site.


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photo by: easyjobrob