Sunday, 9 September 2018

Another Buzzy Bees Year

Well its been another eventful year with the bees at Pentre Bach!

At the end of 2017 we finished the year with three colonies of bees, having collected two swarms earlier in the year. Unfortunately by the end of the winter in 2018 (remember the Beast from the East?!) we'd lost one of our colonies due to the extreme cold.

 However as the year went on and the weather improved , the two remaining colonies expanded and continued to thrive. The bees were able to get out to forage and start to make and store honey. We added a super (a section of frames where the bees can store honey , while the queen is excluded from this part and cannot therefore lay eggs here) to each hive and kept an eye on them. The wonderful weather in early summer was a real boost to the bees.

We did have one incident in early summer when we had a windy spell, which along with a rotting table upon which one hive was standing, caused the hive to lean over quite precariously. The whole hive in fact, was in danger of toppling over and completely collapsing. Unfortunately I was away at the time so Mike had to deal with it by himself. He had to remove each section one at a time from the table, remove the offending table and then carefully restack each section on a new surface. Quite a feat, by himself, dressed in a bee suit , in sweltering hot weather. As far as we know, no bees were lost in this operation!

One evening in late June we were alerted to a possible swarm in Heidi and Sion's garden in Godre'r Gaer. We were unable to go and have a look until the next morning when unfortunately by that time most of the bees had decided to move on and just a few stragglers and a bit of comb were left in the hedge.
So we posted a message on Facebook asking locals to keep a look out for the nomadic bees. Sure enough, the next day , we were informed by Pam and Roy, next to y Ganolfan, that there was a swarm in their Eucalyptus tree. So off we went with our bee suits, smoker and cardboard box. The bees were suspended very conveniently from one branch in an upside-down cone shape. We were then able to easily drop the majority of them into the box then leave them there for an hour or so, so that any stragglers could follow into the box where the queen was more than certain to be. Later that afternoon we sealed up the box and took them back to Pentre Bach where we 'persuaded' them to move into our nice empty hive.
Unfortunately they didn't seem to like the nice new empty hive as I found out a couple of days later when I checked up on them. The hive was empty again! They had scarpered!

So another request was put out on Facebook to look out for our bees with the wanderlust.
A surprisingly long week or so later (where had they been during this time?) we heard from Pam and Roy again that the bees were back in their Eucalyptus tree! So along we went, did the deed yet again and dropped the bees into the cardboard box (along with a bit of Eucalyptus branch for luck) and left the box in the garden to allow the rest to follow at their leisure.
We'd just got back to our house to get ready to watch England play Sweden in the quarter finals of the World Cup when we spotted another message on Facebook about another swarm in the Longworth's garden in Ffordd y Crynwyr. So off we went again, this time with a bit more haste, and found another swarm , again conveniently hanging in a couple of clumps from branches of a rose bush. We dropped them into another cardboard box and left it there , promising to be back later that afternoon (well over two hours later by the time England and Sweden got through their penalty kicks!).

Why do bees swarm?
There are various reasons why bees might swarm. It could be that the colony has just outgrown their present accommodation and decides to look for somewhere roomier to live,
It could also be that the existing queen is getting a bit past-it so the colony decides to raise some new queens. The first queen to emerge will subsequently kill any other queens that emerge as there can only be one queen in a colony. The old queen is then forced to leave but takes a big chunk of the colony with her, and tries to find new accommodation. Sad, isn't it?

Where have the swarms come from?
Well they could have come from one of my hives or they could be wild bees, or even come from further afield.

Are swarms dangerous?
The bees who leave a hive will have prepared themselves by gorging on honey before they leave, as they will not have ready-made stores to use wherever they end up, so they are likely to be sleepy and docile and just looking for somewhere to rest before moving on. They are unlikely to be aggressive if left alone.

Anyway, back to the story ……
We collected both boxes and transferred the first swarm (from the Eucalyptus tree) into the empty hive again. The second swarm (from the rose bush) had to be deposited into a polystyrene Nuc box (a box for small colonies or for transporting bees) and placed near the other hives. The decision as to where they would be housed on a more permanent basis would wait to see if either or both swarms were prepared to stay put.  A couple of weeks later and both swarms had stayed put. The colony in the Nuc box were quickly outgrowing their new home so we had to buy a complete new hive for them. It comes as flat pack so a few days later, after the hive had arrived and been assembled, we were able to transfer the bees into their new home. 

Happily all four colonies have stayed put. They continued to enjoy the great weather and at the end of July we were able to remove a number of frames and extract some honey. Of course we always have to ensure that we leave enough supplies for the bees to use themselves, when the weather isn't so good and they can't get out to forage.
Let's hope we don't have a repeat of The Beast from the East this winter and that all four colonies survive.

Oh and if anyone else finds a swarm in their garden, get in touch with  in Arthog because we don't have any more room!

Sunday, 24 June 2018

More reasons for visiting Pentre Bach

In 2014 we blogged about  Why do people come to Pentre Bach/Llwyngwril? Reasons included military plane spotting, weddings, Stag/Hen parties, the celebration of a civil partnership, Guide Leaders' training weekend, family gatherings and of course the celebration of significant birthdays and anniversaries.

Family gatherings and the celebration of significant birthdays continue to be the most common reasons why guests book Pentre Bach House or one of the smaller cottages. In fact some family gatherings recently have included family members coming from as far away as Germany and even New Zealand!
Last weekend all our properties were booked by a large family celebrating their grandmother's 80th birthday.

However we do get people coming to this beautiful part of the world for very different reasons. Since the Wales Coast Path was launched in 2012, we've experienced an increasing number people who've booked one of our cottages to use as a base to explore some sections of the coastal path north and south of Llwyngwril. The path actually passes the end of our drive and guests can always use the Cambrian Coast rail line to reach further away sections.
This weekend we've hosted a group from Buckinghamshire who have come to climb Snowdon, even though we tried to encourage them to choose our local mountain Cader Idris instead!

Last week we had a couple staying in Y Llaethdy who were participating in a Veterans' Golf tournament at nearby Aberdyfi Golf Course. Another couple enjoyed their honeymoon here and enjoyed many spectacularly romantic sunsets while sitting on the bench overlooking Cardigan Bay. Congratulations to Sinead and Hayley-Jane! This was the photograph taken by the golfing couple.

Last year we had a group who were here to take part in a Writing Course. Hopefully they were inspired by the stunning scenery around here!

Sadly we had one family who came for a weekend in order to scatter their parents' ashes, some up at Cregennan Lakes and some off Barmouth Bridge, where their parents had spent many happy holidays. 

We've got one lady who's booked a week later this year, who used to holiday here with her aunt who lived in Pentre Bach over 40 years ago! No doubt she will see a few changes.

And finally we are getting more and more people who come to Llwyngwril to see the now famous yarnbombing. 

Why did you come to Pentre Bach? We'd love to hear from anyone who's stayed here who had a different reason for choosing to come here.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Lots of events coming up in and around Llwyngwril this summer!

Well possibly the best experience that you can have in north Wales this summer is right here in Llwyngwril. From now until the end of October prepare to be entertained and amazed, just by walking around our village. The ladies (and a few men) have been working hard to create the wonderful knitted and crocheted displays that can be seen all around the village. Gwril is back of course on his perch on the bridge, where he belongs. Make sure that you buy a guide from outside the village shop to ensure that you don't miss out anything. All donations go to raise funds for the local Community Centre.

First event coming up soon , not to be missed is the Three Peaks Yacht Race starting from Barmouth on Saturday the 9th of June. 

This has to be the most extreme way to complete the three peaks challenge - climbing the highest mountains in Wales, England and Scotland.  The start from Barmouth is preceded by a procession of the yachts from the harbour to the start line off shore with events, stalls and music on the quayside. You can always watch the boats leave the harbour from just across the water on Fairbourne beach.

RNLI Dog Show  on the 24th of June 
2pm at the boathouse. Classes for large, medium and small dogs. There will even be awards for the dog with the waggiest tail - and for the dog that looks most like its owner! 

Mawddach Paddlesports Festival
over the weekend of the 30th of June and 1st of July
Join in the fun at the Paddlesports festival. There are two days of canoe, kayak and Celtic longboat events in the dramatic setting of the Mawddach estuary and Barmouth harbour.  There will be races in various boats, demonstrations, development sessions, an opportunity to try Stand-up Paddle Boarding as well as trade stands and entertainment on the harbourside.

Kite Festival
7th & 8th July 2018 A colourful and spectacular display of kites and other wonderful flying creations. On the beach opposite the Lifeboat Station.

Talyllyn Railway, Tywyn
host many events throughout the summer. See their website for lots of information about these events, including a beer festival and Teddy Bear's Picnic.

Fairbourne  Steam Railway

For foodies there is the 

For athletes there is the annual RACE THE TRAIN event  in Tywyn on Saturday the 18th of August.
See the website for more information.

And last but certainly not least is 
Llwyngwril Art Club's
Annual Exhibition
at y Ganolfan, Llwyngwril
over the weekend of the 25th and 26th of August.
Don't miss it!

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

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