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.....

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Panorama Walk and a lot more!

Today we decided to explore the hills above Barmouth and extend one of our favourite walks (to the Panorama view point). We set off from  Morfa Mawddach Station car park and walked over Barmouth Bridge and down the hill towards Barmouth , then veered off to the right and up a steep set of stone steps which eventually levelled off to an undulating path but gave us amazing views over the harbour, bridge and south towards Fairbourne and Llwyngwril in the distance.

The path went past a house with large garden on the right and shortly afterwards we turned left and uphill to where we could see posts with yellow markers on the hill above. We followed this path , going past a bunkhouse until we reached a narrow road, on which we turned left and headed on up hill again.

We continued on up this road which became a track winding around the contours of the hill , going past an isolated but habited cottage and found that we were now on the Ardudwy Trail. Before long we were able to look out northwards  and westwards over Cardigan Bay and the beaches north of Barmouth and beyond to the Llyn Peninsula.
Eventually we reached a T Junction of paths where we turned right and followed a rather boggy path in places until we reached the crown of a hill overlooking a lovely looking valley to the north of Bontddu. We continued on down towards a rather ugly mast and emerged out on a quiet road , where we turned right and carried on downhill for about a mile until we came to the path going towards the Panorama Viewpoint. Of course we couldn't get this close without going up to the viewpoint, despite the rather ominous dark clouds that were gathering in the hills over the estuary. We managed to have coffee and a snack at the viewpoint before deciding that the clouds were heading our way so we headed back to the road, down through Orielton Woods and back across the bridge to the car park.
In all the walk was about 6 and a half miles long, and with a couple of stops for coffee and nourishment, took about 3 hours in all.

The route took in all sorts of terrain, woodland, moorland , stone steps and of course flat wooden bridge, with fantastic views in all directions. If inclined there's  always the opportunity to make a detour into Barmouth for a swift pint or more on the way back.

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for 11 more walks not far from Llwyngwril.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The Trials and Tribulations of Beekeeping

We started keeping bees in 2014 after Wilma completed a beekeeping course run by the local beekeeping association. The first year went really well and we harvested about 60 jars of honey. We thought that beekeeping was a dawdle!
In 2015 we split the colony artificially to provide us with a 2nd colony (and also to prevent swarming). For various reasons (mainly weather related) neither colony managed to produce a lot of honey so we only harvested a small amount and left most of what the bees had produced in the hives for the bees to survive on throughout the winter.
In 2016 we were unfortunate to lose the 2nd colony while we were away on holiday (possibly they left of their own accord but we don't really know) but the original colony fared well and supplied us with about 40 jars of honey.
This year our surviving colony seemed to be doing well and we were thinking about performing another artificial split so we would have a second colony again , and also to prevent swarming if the hive had become too crowded.
However before we could do that we were on our way back from a visit to family in Yorkshire when we were informed that there was a swarm of bees on the roof of a house in the village not too far from Pentre Bach. As soon as we got back home, we went to investigate and found that the bees had settled inside a chimney that was now disused. Not the easiest place to retrieve them from! You watch YouTube videos etc and see beekeepers just shaking a branch and dropping swarms of bees into a box and then taking them away to rehouse them in an empty hive. But no that wasn't going to happen here!  Mike had to suit up, climb up a ladder to the roof, pull up a roof ladder, then come back down to then carry a bait box (complete with frames of honey inside) up onto the roof, below the chimney, in the hope of encouraging the bees to choose our nice dry box with stores of honey to live in, rather than a cold , draughty chimney.
A few days later we could see from the ground that the bees were still coming and going from the chimney so ........ plan B....... again after research on the Internet we discovered that you could buy a substance called swarm lure that imitates the pheromone that the queen exudes , causing her colony to stay with her. We ordered a pack and as soon as the 3 tiny tubes arrived we went back to our neighbours' house where Mike yet again climbed up to the roof and smeared some lure at the entrance to the bait hive as well as remove the cap from the top of the chimney , again to try to discourage the bees from remaining inside the chimney.  We left them to it, convinced that this would do the trick.
1 or 2 days later we had a surprise visit from 2 members of the village community council, who came to find us because a swarm of bees had been spotted in the village play park! So .....suits back on, smoker stoked, we set off like something from Ghostbusters
to the play park to rescue/collect the swarm. Were they hanging handily from a branch ready to pop into a box this time? Oh no, this swarm was right in the middle of a huge wild bramble bush! So ..... we had to cut, slash and shear our way into the centre of the bush, jungle-like, until we were able to get anywhere near the huge ball of bees in the centre of the bush. Meanwhile hundreds of the bees were getting decidedly agitated, unhappy at having their new temporary home disturbed. We managed to manhandle the majority of the bees into a cardboard box, hoping that the queen bee was amongst them and then left it beside the bush for nearly an hour, until the majority of the remaining bees decided to join the queen in the box.
Safely taped up in the cardboard box we returned home with them and deposited them carefully in our empty hive , complete with a few frames of honey 'borrowed' from the other hive along with a number of frames of fresh foundation (wax).
Where had these bees come from? The obvious answer is from our hive but its impossible to tell as we still appeared to have thousands of bees in our existing hive. Interestingly though , when Mike climbed up yet again onto our neighbours' roof, he found out that the bees had indeed left the chimney but had not gone to live in the bait box either. So had the swarm in the chimney moved to the play park in the hope of finding a better home? We will never know.  
But the story didn't finish there. A couple of days later when Wilma was away, Mike got another call about yet another swarm on the edge of the village. Bravely Mike set off by himself in his bee suit to try to collect this latest swarm. Fortunately for him this swarm was conveniently located in a tree and he was able to easily collect them in a cardboard box and bring them back to Pentre Bach. All he could do was deposit them into our polystyrene nucleus/bait box along with some honey on frames, to use as a temporary home until we can get another hive. Did this swarm retrieval all go to plan? Not quite. When Mike later went back to the car, he found that there were hundreds of bees all over the inside of the car. These bees must have made a last bid for freedom and somehow sneaked out of the taped up box while still in the car without Mike noticing. Undeterred Mike donned the bee suit yet again , opened all the doors and left the cardboard box outside. There must still have been the queen's scent inside which eventually enticed most of the bees into the box. From there he took them to be reunited with the main swarm in the bait box located near the other hives in the walled garden.
A few days on and all 3 colonies seem to be quite happy in their present homes but who knows?...........
Oh and if you happen to come across a swarm ....... don't call us!!!!!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Pro or Anti Brexit, Love or Hate Trump, or none of the above!

Well 2016 was quite a year and we're all still reeling from it and trying to come to terms with what's going to happen next. When/if we eventually part company from the EU and if Donald Trump can manage to hold onto his rather precarious grasp of world politics and remain as POTUS, remains to be seen.
However whether you are a passionate Remainer who feels bitter about last year's vote or are an avid supporter of Donald Trump, it doesn't matter a jot to us.
Pentre Bach Holiday Cottages will stay the same whether the UK leaves or remains in the EU or whether Donald Trump pals up with Vladimir Putin. You can still come here to Llwyngwril in southern Snowdonia and get away from it all.
Of course as a large group or extended family you might just enjoy sitting around on our comfy sofas in the lounge , having a sensible debate about whether we should go for a hard boiled Brexit or soft boiled one, or you might  prefer to sit around the huge dining room table creating your own versions of 'Tiny Images of Donald Trump'.

Or perhaps like most you might just want to switch off all your mobile phones, tablets, laptops and TVs and just ignore what's going on in the outside world for a few days. Come and play Scrabble, Countdown or Twister. Read one or two of the hundreds of books on our bookshelves or just sit in the window seats watching the tide change in the hope of catching a glimpse of a Cardigan Bay dolphin. Fly a kite or play Cricket in our field.

So far this year we've hosted a weekend retreat for the Faithlife International Ministries and in a few weeks a group of women will take over all the properties for a creative retreat, led by the writer, psychologist and mythologist Dr Sharon Blackie.
We have at least one hen party booked and many of our guests will be coming to celebrate significant birthdays. Then there are those who will be coming just to enjoy a good old seaside holiday with the added option of spending time in the glorious countryside of southern Snowdonia.
Everyone is welcome at Pentre Bach no matter what your political or religious persuasion is (well apart from Donald Trump!).