Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Brother Sun and Sister Moon

Today was one of those days that will live vividly in my memory for a long long time. We set out on a very overcast day to visit Mid Wales. The ground was altogether too wet for Michael to do the Caerwys to Ysgeifiog Walk as there is lots of open fields on hills and stiles to negotiate and it has been raining all night. So we just switched our week's plans around a little.

We headed south through the towns of Mold and Wrexham and then turned off the main roads to a little town of Buckley hoping to find the Horseshoe Reservoir with its water falls. Whilst Buckley was signposted, the falls or reservior were not and following the Tourist Information signs took us miles out of our way and back into Wrexham. So we decided to cut our losses and continue south. By this time, we were happy to be off the main roads - the traffic was surprisingly heavy.

We crept down back roads and lanes, sharing them with tractors and other farm implements on their daily grind. And all the while, we were climbing higher and higher into the landscape. By this time, although there were plenty of clouds dancing across the sky, they were playing chasies with the sun, providing a wonderful texture of light and shade across the hills. And the greens! Well, what can I say? It was as if I had opened my tin of 72 Derwent Pencils and taken out all the greens and shaded a patchwork quilt. It is just so beautiful. There are open fields, heavily timbered woods, large patches of gorse or heather, felled timber on open ground and fodder growing - all which provides fascinating contrasts.

We headed for Welshpool and just outside the town saw the signs for Powis Castle. So, we detoured! This castle is hidden from the main road by a dense planting of trees but as you drive up to the estate road, you get glimpses through the thickets. Unlike many of the buildings in Wales that are made of the dark grey slate that is so plentiful, this castle stands out because of its red colour that is actually in the mortar. The grounds are beautifully manicured around the castle which is then surrounded by open fields, wooded areas and walking tracks. Unfortunately, the Castle is closed today so we can only view it from the outside. We read that it is still the home to the Earls of Powis and that the actual castle is privately owned!

Then it is on to Llanidloes (pronounced believe-it-or-not as Klanidloys). This is an old market town and the old market building now stands in the middle of an intersection creating a very awkward roundabout to negotiate in a tight turn. The town is a mix of old buildings standing proudly in their white plaster and brown beams next to modern buildings. They comfortably complement each other and it lends a sense of new energy set amidst an established and trusted background.

It is lunch time and we were thinking of heading for one of the pubs when Michael spied the National Milk Bar that brought back memories of a Milk Bar of the same name from his childhood in Waterloo in Sydney. As we got nearer, there were lots of older people inside - a good sign of value for money we reckoned! But when we entered and sat at a table it soon became clear we were not locals as we observed later that locals ordered at the counter and carried their own cups of coffee or pots of tea to their tables. The display cabinet just inside the door was filled with wondrous yummy things - fresh double coffee sponge cake as high as two hands, eccels cakes, mars bar slice so thick you could lose your falsies trying to eat it, custard tarts, home made apple and blackberry pie! The staff were seated at the rear having a cuppa and one came over to take our order. I asked her who did all the baking and she quietly replied that she did - and this lady would have been at least 70!

The menu was vaaried enough and the food hearty. I had soup of the day - vegetable based primarily on corn, carrot and potato but with plenty of beans and swedes and celery in it, with a buttered roll. Michael has a Supreme Burger with chips and we shared wedges with melted cheese and a rasher of back bacon - that was so lean and deliciously salty! Michael then topped it all off with a slice of that Apple and Raspberry Pie with Ice Cream that was so rich it was one shade off yellow. Plunger coffee and a hot chocolate warmed us as well.
Now, those cakes looked so good to us who have not had the chance for any home baking since we left Germay. So we stocked up on a selection. Turns out that the lady serving us is the owner - Gwyneth Davies and she was a real Welsh country delight.

Bellies well and truly full we take a walk through town snapping pics as we go. We pass a kitchenware cum hardware store and Michael heads in to buy an all-metal coffee plunger so he can continue to indulge while we travel.

Then it is back to the road and our journey south and east. Further down the road towards we see a sign for Devil's Bridge - and no need to tell you where we went! This is abviously a very popular place in the summer when it would be much cooler than the surrounding country. But now, well it is decidedly chilly measuring just 2°C. The steps are steep, wet, mossy and slippery so Michael takes a walk by himself. The three bridges here are built one on top of the other! Click on the link if you want more information. Here the Mynach River cascades down from the peaks of the Cambrian Mountains in one of Wales tallest waterfalls. The pistures hardly do them or the power they generate any justice. It is 5:40 pm when we leave here.

So we push east to the coast. The sun is low in the sky now and I am trying to get to Aberystwyth in time for sunset. Despite stopping high on the cliffs to get our first sunset shots, we do indeed make it into Aberystwyth in time to watch the sun melt slowly into the water. This is a quaint seaside holiday town with many of its homes painted in different pastel colours. There are some brash newcomers that have been overdone in hard, loud modern colours, but they do not have the class of the older homes! Town is bustling as we leave and head north for home. And just when we thought we had seen some of the best nature could throw our way, we rounded a corner and straight ahead of us pushing heavenward from the hills rose the largest most perfect full moon I have ever seen. What a day!

And believe me - the photos do not do it justice!

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