Tuesday, 17 April 2018

James Bond, Julie Walters and all that.....

North Wales, a place of stunning coastlines that are comparable to the south of France (when the sun shines!), dramatic, rugged mountain ranges and lush, green valleys. Paradise!
Its no wonder that so many film and TV show producers have chosen to use the beautiful north Wales landscape and unspoiled villages as backdrops to their stories and series.

Penbryn beach in Ceredigion served as a stand-in for a beach in North Korea in the 2010 James Bond Film 'Die Another Day'. I wonder if Kim Jong-in has ever watched it?

Who knew that the dramatic Dinorwic Slate Quarry was used to film parts of the 2010 film 'Clash of the Titans'?

More recently Hinterland on BBC 4 was filmed around the hauntingly beautiful landscape around Aberystwyth.

Even more recently the unspoiled small market town of  Dolgellau was chosen to represent the fictional village of Penllynith in the BBC TV series Requiem.

Everyone of course remembers that Portmeirion , just south of Porthmadog , was the setting for the 1960s cult TV series 'The Prisoner'. The Italianate- style village designed and built by Sir Clough Williams Ellis is now the venue for Festival No 6, so named after the main character in the series.

The final scenes of the 1980 film 'Highlander' were filmed in the Sychnant Pass near Conwy.

It's been common knowledge for years that The Watkin Path on Snowdon played a starring role in the 1968 film 'Carry on up the Khyber' , as it was deemed to look like the real Khyber Pass in Afghanistan. I'm sure the cast were more than happy to stay in Beddgelert rather than Afghanistan!

I wonder if Angelina Jolie enjoyed staying in Beddgelert when she was filming part of 'Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life'? Apparently a mock Chinese village was created at Llyn Gwynant , near Beddgelert in the creation of this film.

And of course we couldn't finish without including the wonderful Julie Walter's Coastal Journeys TV series. In Episode 4 she travelled from Aberystwyth to Liverpool, stopping along the way to enjoy a trip on the Talyllyn Railway and a walk round Llwyngwril to admire the amazing yarnbombing. Not a bad showcase for our village!

Monday, 19 February 2018

Our 10 year anniversary!

February 2018 marks 10 years since we bought and took over the running of Pentre Bach. So looking back over those 10 years what have been the highlights (and low points), and what have we achieved during that period?
The first year was very much spent finding our feet in running a holiday cottage business. The 3 smaller cottages were up and running and came fully furnished and equipped down to the teaspoons (as well as some bookings already made). We were able to start taking guests in these cottages from day one.
That wasn't the case with the main house. We had to turn it from a normal family home (complete with Walmsler range in the kitchen that had to be regularly fed logs to keep the house warm -and only just at that!) into a 6 bedroom house that was fit for self catering guests to live in. That meant installing a fire alarm system and fire door, an alternative cooker and heating system and of course completely furnishing the house. Thanks goodness for ebay! We'll never forget turning up to a warehouse in Acton, West London, to collect a three piece suite that we'd bought on ebay, to be met by Nicky Chapman (of TV fame) and her husband. Her husband had a bad back so Nicky had to help us to lift the sofas into our rental van. 
Outside, walls were knocked down and car parks made , as well as patios created for each property, as up until that year there was really nowhere for guests to sit outside and enjoy the amazing views out across the sea towards the Lleyn Peninsula.
An area in the field was created as a play area so that the lawned area of the garden could remain as just that.
A new website was constructed by our friend Stuart Smith and advertising on various other holiday cottage websites was taken out. Bookings began to trickle in. The first guests arrived in the main house in May 2008. We were very nervous and showed the guests around the whole house, into every room, with up to 17 people in the party all following us round! Needless to say our welcome to guests has become shorter and shorter each year. After all guests are quite capable of finding their own way round a house!
Before we opened for business we thought long and hard about whether we should accept dogs, as the previous owners didn't. In the end we decided to accept one dog per cottage and on the whole we're glad we have, as probably about 30-40% of guests do bring a dog. In most cases there's been no problems. We've just had the odd owner who has neglected to pick up their pet's poo and one party who left their dog indoors to howl away for hours while they went out for the afternoon. Oh and we did have one group who brought their tortoise on holiday with them!
Gradually over the years we've improved each cottage by installing new kitchens, laying new carpets, renewing furniture, curtains and soft furnishings. We've completely modernized the heating system and installed new boilers as well as extended the Wi-Fi system to be accessible by guests. This was never that reliable and so in the last year introduced a completely new system which is much better. You don't need to sit in the upstairs bathroom to get a good signal any more! We've had photovoltaic panels installed on the main house roof to provide us with some electricity as well as contributing to the national grid. We've tried to continue as the previous owners did and grow our own fruit and vegetables. Result - fruit going well but vegetables are still a challenge for us. 

In the first 6 years we still continued working at our old jobs and living in our house over in Cheshire, so were travelling back and forward every weekend to do each changeover. Thank goodness for Gerald who manned the fort for us here, looked after the place, kept guests happy, sorted any problems that arose, etc., etc. Without Gerald we couldn't have done it!
Happily in 2014 we were able to move permanently to Wales and now live in one of the cottages, Pen Y Lon. Life is now considerably easier without all the travelling that we used to do. We're here all the time to look after the cottages and the grounds , as well as be here to look after (and keep an eye on!) the guests. We've started keeping our own bees and had mixed success over the last few years. However we did catch 2 swarms last year!

Down the side of the large field we've established a wild flower meadow from what used to be another vegetable area. This provides foraging for the bees as well as something pretty for the guests to look at in the summer. Now that we have a permanent base we've finally been able to get a dog so Nellie is very much part of the Pentre Bach family.

We've also been able to become more involved in village events and activities. Mike is now a fully fledged First Responder and runs the local Oil Cooperative. I've been learning Welsh for the last 4 years (but don't ask me to have a conversation in Welsh!), attend the local Art Group and contribute a tiny bit to the local Yarnbombing displays in the summer.

Low points? Well when we were travelling backwards and forwards every weekend, and all 4 properties were available to let, we would stay in whichever cottage was available. If all were booked then we stayed in the caravan. Nothing wrong with that. However one weekend we had a large group of 20 somethings from London, who had booked all 4 properties and for some reason they'd decided to lift the huge patio table for the main house, in through the dining room window!!! Not only that but a few of them thought that playing bongo drums on the patio until the early hours of the morning was a good idea.
We've also arrived early on a Friday morning (during our travelling days) to find a flood from a pipe in the attic, coming through two floors, down to the entrance hall. Two beautiful Asian rugs were saturated and one had to be replaced, as well as lots of redecoration of walls.  There was also the storm that caused huge slabs from the chimney to crash down onto the roof, destroying 2 solar panels.  

However we're delighted to be able to say that the number of bookings that we take, has been steadily rising each year and that we are seeing an increasing number of guests returning again and again. We must be doing something right!
Most of our large groups tend to be extended families who come to celebrate significant birthdays and anniversaries. We also get many groups who perhaps went to university together and now get together for an annual reunion, along with their growing families. The group who came over New Year had been meeting annually for the last 40 years! Other reasons for coming to Pentre Bach have included weddings, walking holidays, various courses, viewing aeroplanes in the Mach Loop and to scatter ashes of recently passed away relatives.
Oh and last year we had a completely new website constructed. Its also now mobile and tablet responsive! Do have a look at http://www.pentrebach.com

Will we still be here in 10 years time? Who knows?

Saturday, 18 November 2017

It's a dog's life!

Well its been another busy year here at Pentre Bach.
We've had lots of visitors staying in the cottages and sometimes they've come with humans!
I always have to behave myself though when they're staying and go everywhere on a lead or stay in our garden. It's really tempting when I hear lots of little humans playing games in the field. I want to jump over the gate and go and run around and play with them but I have to stay in the garden and just watch through the gate.
One day when there was nobody staying here and  Big Wilma was hanging out the washing, I sneaked out to the fruit garden and brought back a present of a pheasant for her. I was ever so chuffed with myself and laid it carefully down on the lawn for her. However .............she didn't seem very grateful for the special present that I brought her and all she did was wrap it up in newspaper and put it in the bin! Bloomin' cheek!!!

It's also been a very active year living with Big Mike and Big Wilma. In July BM and Katie and Maggie did a huge long up and down hike up and down three big mountains in Yorkshire. BM did lots of training for it in the months leading up to doing it and of course he needed somebody to go with him cos BW's not so keen on doing the uphill bits, so I was dragged along. Well it was always great to begin with and I ran ahead exploring in all the bushes and sniffing round all the trees but sometimes BM wasn't so good at reading his map and we would end up doing miles and miles more than he intended. I swear my legs are shorter now than they were a year ago. Anyway we did it! Well they did it. I went up and down the first mountain then at the first checkpoint BM passed me over to BW. Apparently there were too many woolly creatures and I had to stay on a lead so it wasn't much fun anyway.

Then BW agreed to do a Half -marathon , which I'm told is running a long way round the streets, and so she went out doing lots of training for that. She tried taking me round the streets of Llwyngwril but wasn't too impressed when I kept wanting to stop and sniff lampposts or go the other way round a telegraph pole to her! Then when she went along the Mawddach Trail I loved that to begin with. But then she went further and further and to be honest , 3 or 4 miles is more than enough for any Spaniel. You see we always end up doing 3 or 4 times further anyway, zig-zagging across paths, running ahead and doubling back all the time. So when she tried to go on longer runs I decided to go on a sit down strike and refuse to go any further. I put my feet down! I didn't mind the rain and mud but enough is enough so in the end she went without me. I prefer my little walks down to the beach and the occasional ramble up into the hills.

I've had some personal up and downs to cope with this year. In the summer I was feeling a bit off colour and wasn't too keen to go out for walks so BM took me to the vets (brings me out in a cold sweat just mentioning that word!) and she decided that I might have swallowed some pebbles. Moi?!! So I had to stay there all night and have an X-ray. Well that was a waste of time because they didn't find anything but I was put on a special diet of boiled chicken for a week or two , which I must admit I could get quite used to. Maybe I'll try it on again for some boiled chicken when I get fed up of the dried biscuits.
Then I had this little warty thing on my leg that I could've quite easily nibbled off myself but again I had to go to the vet  so they could take it off and then I had to wear one of those really annoying cone of shame things. You never see human beans wearing them!!! How would they like it? Anyway its all gone now and all healed up although it does itch so I keep having a sneaky nibble when they're not looking.
Well winter is well and truly here and I just love having a cosy log burner to lie beside. It really is a dog's life.

Monday, 14 August 2017

'Summer' events coming up around Llwyngwril

If you're lucky enough to be coming to Llwyngwril on holiday in the next few weeks or just visiting for the day, there are lots of treats in store.
Here are a few events to look forward to.

                                             Twywn, Saturday 19th August

Not forgetting Llwyngwril Yarn Bombing - not to be missed!!!

Thursday, 27 July 2017

What's on around here this summer 2017!

You probably just want to chill out and relax when you arrive at your chosen holiday destination but after you've cracked open a bottle or two, or had a cup of tea and slice of Bara Brith, then the first thing you'll probably want to do is have a stroll around the village of Llwyngwril to view all the wonderful woolworks created by the clever ladies (and men) of the village.
There's the Llwyngwril Garden Club Show on Saturday the 12th of August and Llwyngwril Art Club exhibition over the weekend of the 26th and 27th of August. Two events not to be missed! 

Then what to do? Well you can go and laze on one of the many beautiful beaches that are only a short drive away, or if you're feeling more energetic then you can take to the mountains or hire a bike and ride the Mawddach Trail. You can go fishing out of Barmouth or Aberdyfi, try out Stand Up Paddleboarding along the Mawddach Estuary or go further afield to try surfing at Surf Snowdonia.
But for something different here are some events you might like to attend this summer:

Barbeque Special at Bala Lake Railway 3rd August to 17th August 
Booking essential!

Race the Train! 34th Annual Race at Rheilffordd Talyllyn Railway 19th August

Pirates weekend at Corris Steam Railway & Museum 5th August - 6th August

Superheroes Week at Llanberis Lake Railway
Kids come dressed as your favourite hero or cartoon character and travel free!

Dare to meet Dwynwen and the Baby Dragons 
 01 August – 13 August 2017
 Harlech Castle

Silent Discos at Harlech
Something for everyone - Enjoy!

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Witches, wizards and weird and wonderful aliens!

If you go down to the woods around Llwyngwril today , you're sure to see some weird and wonderful things!
The ladies  of the village (and the odd man!) have been wildly working with wool to create some more wow factor wonders.  Enough of the alliteration!
Since the end of May if you dared to walk down to the beach, up to the woods at the top of God'r Gaer or wander round the back streets of the village, you might be surprised to come across a red dragon/loch ness monster, a gingerbread house, a swarm of butterflies being looked after by a pink parrot, an alien driving a tractor or a monk in a fishing boat!

 To find out exactly where to find these bewitching and enchanting works of genius , go buy a map/guide from Riverside Stores, then you won't miss any of these delightful creatures. There are also  boxes around the village where you can donate something (preferably money!) if you have been inspired by what you've seen.
This is the third year of the Llwyngwril Yarnbombing Project in aid of Y Ganolfan Llwyngwril and you mustn't miss visiting the village, if you're in the area. You're sure to be amazed at what these clever ladies (and odd man) have created by knitting or crocheting. This year's theme is Myths. Legends and Beyond.
Passengers on the Cambrian Line are warned to look out for certain woolly characters on Llwyngwril station platform as they pass through and various television companies have been to the village to film the unusual oddities that have appeared in all sorts of places. Look out for Llwyngwril on your tellyboxes later in the year!

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Connections , Complications and Congratulations

When we first took on Pentre Bach in 2008, Wi-Fi was a fairly new phenomenon and holiday makers coming to rural Wales didn't really expect to be able to use this facility in our holiday cottages. After all there was the great outdoors to explore, wasn't there?

In those first few years the main phone line came into the office/store room next to the kitchen of the main house so if guests were lucky they could connect to the router that was in that room. However the walls are very thick (up to 40cms in places) so the best places to get a connection were in the main hallway and in the main bathroom above. Guests in the other two cottages Y Popty and Y Llaethdy had no chance!
Before long we had to add an extra router in the hallway to improve connection.

The first real problem arose when we actually moved into Pen y Lon and had the phone line moved to that property, leaving no line coming into the main house at all. So with advice and practical help from Stuart (our website designer/host and go-to man for any digital help) we managed to run an Ethernet cable from our router in Pen y Lon to the main house. This ran along the top of the nearby stone wall then went underground across the edge of the car park and into the house, where it was connected to two routers in series, one near the front door and another at the far end of the hall to serve the other two cottages.
This worked pretty well for a number of years with limited success in the two cottages. Again the best place to get a decent connection in Y Llaethdy was actually in the bathroom , but not everyone wants to update their Facebook profile sitting on the loo!
The next problem arose last year when Mike accidentally cut the Ethernet cable in half while using a hedge cutter on the bushes along the top of the stone wall one day. Ooops!
However Mike being the enterprising chap that he is, got on Tinternet and found that you could buy a gadget to connect the two severed ends of the cable. It wasn't a straightforward job to connect them but he did it successfully! So after a few days without, our guests were connected once again!

There appeared to be no more problems until this Spring when some guests began to tell us that they were having difficulty connecting to the Internet. They seemed to be able to connect to the routers but not to the Internet. Most adults were quite sanguine about the position and quite happy to be separated from work emails and depressing news from the outside world. However we could tell that teenagers were getting rather agitated and suffering from withdrawal symptoms. One or two took to sitting outside our window in order to connect directly to our router! Some guests suggested that we could actually market ourselves as having Wi-Fi free accommodation which sounds nice in theory but somehow I think our bookings would quickly dwindle.
So .... we had to do something. Thanks to a recommendation from Stuart, we got in touch with HB Digital who agreed to come and upgrade our system. But first Mike had to create a more direct route with a new Ethernet cable from Pen y Lon to the house. Another trench was dug across the car park and the cable was fed through a water pipe directly from Pen y Lon across to the house , without the need to be exposed along the top of the wall. This done, HB came and put two new routers into the house, including one on the first floor, and also one in each cottage. So everyone can now get a decent connection, without having to resort to sitting in the bathroom.
And if any parent should decide that they want a Wi-Fi free zone they just need to say the word.....