After the celebrations of Debbie’s 60th birthday party I thought it might be a good idea to have a short break away in Ceredigion in West Wales with Emma and Molly, leaving James and Hamish behind.  As James secured his new job in Morrisons he had to attend new hire training in their Cwmbran store so he couldn’t go with us unfortunately.

To be honest it was an experiment with Molly as she’d never been away with us on holiday, we’d always put her and Hamish into the Royvon kennels together and had done so in the days just before and after the party.  Being brutally honest though we felt the need to have a brief rest from the mad Scotsman and his bark and he’s very close to James anyway so we didn’t feel too bad leaving them both behind.

So last Tuesday we left Llanfoist in the Galaxy with a bemused Molly in the rear in her basket surrounded by suitcases, Emma in the rear seat surrounded by shopping bags and Debbie and I in the front.  We left as late as possible mid afternoon so as to minimise the time Hamish had to spend in his crate awaiting James’ return from Cwmbran.  My sat nav predicted a two hour journey without stopping which proved accurate as we headed past Brecon on the A40 and onto various twisty A & B roads towards our destination.

The cottage I’d chosen was called Cartref Bach which is Welsh for “Small Home” in the small hamlet of Llanrhystud.  It was a little Tardis like downstairs at least as the living room was quite large as was the adjoining kitchen diner and utility room, leading out to large gardens.

When searching for a suitable place to stay I’d looked for an enclosed rear garden for molly so she could wander outside freely to explore and do her ablutions, had a log fire in the living room to snuggle up by, be close to the coastline for walking and a pub for refreshments.  Cartref Bach ticked all those boxes along with off road parking on Church Road and a local small supermarket combined with a sub post office so we were very well served.

We arrived with it still being daylight after an uneventful and uninterrupted journey and for once the sat nav took us straight to where we were going and I pulled the Galaxy into the narrow entrance to the cottage.

Llanrhystud has hills separating the village from the sea as you can see to the rear

The instructions which I had to admit to having not read properly before arriving told us entry was not before 4pm to allow time for handover and cleaning which was fine, although finding the key safe through the wooden doors to the right of the cottage and attached to the door frame of the adjacent tool house was more challenging although the code was very easy to remember!  I won’t mention it here in case they don’t change in regularly…

Keys secured we made our way inside and immediately Emma bagged the front bedroom with the attached bath and shower, something I didn’t realise until we left as our rear facing bedroom overlooking a field full of sheep and a large hill obscuring the sea just had a curtained off toilet/shower area attached!

Still it was very cosy especially when Debbie got the log fire going and I read about there being further supplies in the shed located in the large rear orchard to the rear of the property on the right.  The weather though was pretty wild with strong winds and rain making the outside rather cold but that only contrasted with the snug warmth inside.

Don’t take my photo in my PJ’s!

Settled in we watched TV and some episodes of TV Burp 3 on DVD before eventually retiring for a good night’s sleep with Molly in her basket next to our bed in the rear…

Where’s Hamish and James?

The following days we spent relaxing, popping into the local shop where I was given a ginger cake free of charge that was going out of date the following day which definitely generated goodwill with yours truly as I purloined newspapers, wine, bread, baking potatoes, tomato sauce, yogurts, chicken curry and rice with mango chutney etc. to add to the emergency vegan shop in Waitrose we’d done prior to leaving!

This patio is all mine!

Molly seems to love exploring out the back although very skittish in terms of noises from the local sheep and bird population.

The orchard too!  Extra logs are in here Dad…

With the two human ladies of the party staying behind in comfort Molly and I ventured out twice during our four day stay, both times following the same route to the pebble beach closest to the property.  The first time however Molly turned back just before getting to our intended destination due to the blustery conditions of the strong wind coming off the shoreline.

Turn right outside Cartref Bach and you pass this Church dedicated to Saint Rhystud

With our second attempt though we passed through a deserted caravan park and made it to the bleak shoreline without a trace of human or canine company where Molly looked rather bemused at the expanse of sea water.  Being more of a freshwater River Usk lady, she came, she saw and conquered & returned to the cottage fairly promptly much to my relief.


The cottage was well equipped with DVD’s and games which we all enjoyed and it’s warmth and comfort led to only two short expeditions outside by car during our short break.

The first was a rather brief seven mile journey south towards the picturesque fishing village of Aberaeron which according to our local guide book in the cottage could only be described as a Welsh “Tobermory” however sadly on this occasion it was not to be due to the fact that as soon as I parked up Molly threw up in the rear of the galaxy and started shaking so we beat a hasty retreat back to the cottage.

Having decided that Golden retrievers, like Molly’s predecessor Tom, travel on light stomachs it was decided prudently to dispatch me alone towards Aberystwyth which 40 years previously had been on my UCCA interview list of potential University places to study planetary and space physics!

Sadly visiting on my own seemed even less attractive than back in 1978 so when I spied Morrisons on the outskirts I gratefully pulled in to do some emergency shopping of tofu stir fry for Emma and I along with some requested treats for Debbie back at Cartef Bach.

Before we knew it the days passed and it was time to leave our cottage and head home, fingers crossed with no further stomach troubles from Molly, although we minimised the risks by refusing her breakfast until we were safely back home…


Mind you as I napped in our bedroom after a two hour journey back to Llanfoist I suddenly awoke to a rumble where the bed and whole room shook for about five seconds as magnitude 4.4 earthquake shook Wales as a true welcome home surprise! 🙂


You’ll Never Walk Alone

Not the inspirational song title by Gerry and the Pacemakers but a phrase unlikely to spring from my daughter’s mouth in future after today’s escapade!

Many months ago now I managed to persuade Emma to accompany me in a “short” walk down from the Storey Arms along the footpath back down to Brecon.

“Downhill all the way, relatively straight, easy terrain impossible to get lost and will take an hour and a half max” translated into a near four hour up and down hike, crisscrossing the Brecon Beacons, exhausting and taking more like four hours.  I got a huge blister too and Emma got wise to my map reading skills or rather lack of them…

Roll forward several months and I can only think she’d forgotten the past when I innocently asked her to join me on a walk while Debbie was attacking a rather impenetrable backlog of ironing.

Molly was joining us on this walk to lull her into a false sense of security and I’d hidden Chris Barber’s book “40 Walks In The Brecon Beacons National Park” in a Tesco carrier bag.  The page was open for a 3.5 mile circular walk starting from Crickhowell fire engine car park up to Table Mountain and back.

What could go wrong I thought as we arrived and I shovelled £1.30 into the pay and display machine, as despite it being a Sunday Crickhowell is richer than Abergavenny, so still charges on a Sunday.  “Ninety minutes should be enough” I though as we departed with innocent enthusiasm together into town, past the Bear Hotel.

Then a turn right at a primary school and we followed a path threading its way up through a housing estate until a stile came into view.  The two humans climbed over with no problem however our canine companion had to walk under the adjoining iron gate, through a muddy farm track populated by two young and inquisitive donkeys.

A Victor Meldrew moment was had later as the donkeys started to follow me!

Fortunately the donkeys either decided I wasn’t Victor or abandoned their chase after realised we had no food, nor water in our possession.  More on that later.  Shortly we came across a second stile where I realised that there was a vertical post to the left for dogs that you could lift up to allow Molly to pass.  Great idea, sadly not replicated as nearly all the future stiles required Molly to be coaxed to slide through gaps on all fours…

“Don’t drop it on me Emma!”

As we got higher in the path there was a wooded valley containing Cwmbeth Brook to our left with a footbridge to cross and many fallen trees but we kept to the path across two small streams up to a stone walled sheep pen.


The pen morphed into a dry stone walled enclosed path on both sides and I remember telling Emma that we’d be turning right avoiding the steep slopes ahead to contour to the top of Table Mountain.  This helpful information duly (of course) proved false!


About this time Emma’s confidence in my time management and location skills had taken a bit of a knock (again) and so we asked some passing hikers if we were on the right track.  They looked well kitted out and even better had the following map which made Chris Barber’s route ten in the book look rather inadequate.

To be fair to Chris he does have a section at the beginning of the book that lists the following mountain safety advice which I have to say I’d largely skipped over…

  • Check local weather forecasts
  • Plan walks with a generous time allowance including refreshment and rest stops
  • Always carry a map, reserve food, torch, spare bulb, batteries whistle and first aid kit, emergency rations


With their help and encouragement we carried on and eventually reached a place where we could contour across to the summit and we both began to feel quite cheerful and excited.  Molly just loved the outdoors and in fact quite a few dogs appeared to be accompanying their owners and looked similarly entertained!


I asked the couple at the top when we reached them to take the following photo of Emma and I and as I received the iPhone back I couldn’t help but notice them tucking into lovely sandwiches and a hot thermos of tea.  I think they saw my look of admiration and kindly offered me a dog chew for Molly…  Feeling tired and ravenous we decided to cut short the sight seeing and march off back to the car with the promise of a visit to McDonalds for some vegetarian fast food back in Llanfoist!


With this vision to spur us on we headed South along the slope of the summit rather than backtrack down the ascent path to the main footpath back to Crickhowell.  Mistake number two it transpired as the three of us had to scramble down a rather steep, rock stream scree slope on all fours.

Still with the hunger incentive paramount in our minds we successfully navigated this impediment without complaint only to find that the route down to the village wasn’t all that clear and we probably would have got lost again if Emma hadn’t spotted the same couple who had overtaken us again turn down a path at an isolated farm that led to a road I recognised driving up on a previous visit.

Eventually we got back to the Galaxy and I noticed that the 30 minute safety net I’d added to what i thought would be a 90 minute walk had been exceeded by a further 44 minutes – whoops!


Still with us both euphoric having survived this latest expedition and with Molly asleep in the rear we headed back home tired but happy with our adventure.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Molly’s “Birthday”

It was a year ago today that myself, Debbie, James, Emma & Hamish drove down to Gatwick in the Galaxy to pick up Molly our rescue golden retriever.  We’d adopted her from the Many Tears rescue centre in Llanelli who’d rescued her from an Irish puppy farm.

Molly had been fostered with Julie who lived near Gatwick awaiting her “forever home” and we found out later that she had been considering adopting her but fortunately for us we were very keen to take her on, hence the rapid deployment down south!

Of course we don’t really know her true birthday, nor how old she really is but officially from now on we will treat today as her third birthday which can’t be far out.  Many people have told us that taking on a rescue dog is very rewarding and all we can say is that we agree wholeheartedly.

Molly is the most affectionate dog we’ve ever had in the family (sorry Tom & Hamish) and I think seeing her transform from a untrusting, terrified and emaciated creature into the happy and contented member of the family we see today is really heartwarming.

So here follows her monthly adventures over the past year as she too has “escaped to Llanfoist”!

May 2016

This is how Molly looked when she first came to Llanelli from Ireland, she was looked after by Chloe one of the volunteers at Many Tears who sent us this photo before she was fostered out…

June 2016

This was us collecting Molly on the 29th June from Julie who lived in Copthorne near Crawley and Gatwick airport.  She had a rather smelly slip lead around her neck for the journey home as we were all terrified she’d escape and we’d not get her back.

July 2016

For the first few weeks we all had to work hard to earn her trust despite inducements such as raw lamb breast and sliced hot dog sausages…

August 2016

Eventually we started to venture out and I had the Freelander fitted with a dog guard supplemented by a rear window guard so that we could lower the window without them escaping.

September 2016

Despite being the larger dog Molly will often curl up and sleep in Hamish’s smaller bed and even worse ours!

October 2016

Eventually we gave up trying to get her to sleep in her cate downstairs and somehow she wheedled her way onto our king sized bed.  Not for long though and we found that she quickly preferred to sleep in her own bed next to us, rather than being disturbed in the night as we tossed and turned!

November 2016

This was her first visit to the seaside at Barry Island and although she only paddled a little in the sea water this must have given her ideas for wallowing in the River Usk later on.

December 2016

Her first Christmas with us dressed as a reindeer, unlike our neighbours Andy and Helen who dressed as Elves…

January 2017

A lady in repose relaxing on our bed while she thought we weren’t looking.

Amazingly I can’t find a photo of her in February 2017, the only missing month!

March 2017

Watching the Rugby with James in her favourite viewing position.

April 2017

A walk up Sugar Loaf mountain licking her lips in anticipation of sheep…

May 2017

A later walk down Sugar Loaf after chasing some sheep hence back on the lead!

June 2017

A classic pose in the River Usk sans tennis ball.  This walk is the highlight of her day and she will nudge my hand and prompt me to where we store the dog leads to try and persuade us to take the Land Rover out and park up at Castle Meadows.

So a year on what does Hamish think of her?  I’m not 100% sure but I do know he gets jealous of affection that we show to Molly but when we try and do the same to him in return his terrier instinct kicks in, but all in all I think he loves his little (or should that be big) sister don’t you Hamish?

Together at Royvon kennels
Molly’s “Birthday”

The Houdini Twins

I’m writing this post in our lounge on Thursday afternoon after being out with Debbie walking the dogs & my legs are aching.  I am exhausted and relieved as believe it or not both dogs decided on following the exploits of Houndini and escaped our clutches separately today…

First we took Molly halfway up Sugar Loaf mountain, then followed up by taking her and her older brother Hamish (who’s eleventh birthday it was) on the long circuit of the Llanfoist canal walk.

The first walk with Molly went smoothly initially and I can remember telling Debs that this was probably my favourite walk and I thought Molly’s too as she was free to run up and down the mountain without getting lost unlike our Deri debacle.

Unfortunately no sooner had I said that she disappeared into some bracken and started chasing a sheep with her not so young lamb.  I immediately sprang to action with her lead and shouted “Molly” at the top of my voice but to no avail as she was hurtling into the distance playing with her quarry which to her eyes must have looked like a pair of Hamish lookalikes.

Debbie although shocked had more presence of mind and shouted “gravy bone” which provoked an immediate response in the mother sheep which immediately started hurtling down a track towards me!  Fortunately there was no collision but as Molly passed me I grabbed her collar and we were reunited!

Lesson learnt she spend the rest of the walk firmly on the lead…

If only you had mint sauce dad…
Clever girl (I mean Debbie)
Trees in blossom on Sugar loaf
Bluebells in the heather

Arriving safely back home albeit a little chastened Debbie extracted Hamish from james who had stayed behind on his day off and proceeded to put him into the back of the Land Rover when his collar slipped!  Like Steve McQueen in “The Great Escape” our Westie scarpered down the road only pausing when SWMBO uttered “gravy bone” again and I managed to grab him and dog handle him into the 4×4.

Shattered we drove the short way to the car park and headed up Blorenge to the canal where I gave Hamish a stern look that didn’t last long, after all it was his birthday! 🙂

Hamish 7 Molly laughing at their “master”
The Houdini Twins

Walk, Avoid, Eat…


I can’t believe it but another beautiful sunny day in our “escape” prompting Debbie and I to repeat our walk up Sugar Loaf with Hamish and Molly.  In fact we even went higher than yesterday but what’s really special about these walks is seeing the two hounds, off lead, really enjoying themselves in a safe environment.

I love her, she loves me!
The hounds of the Baskervilles!
Following my mistress up Sugar Loaf


After about 90 minutes walk we got back into the Freelander and decided to go for Sunday lunch at the Clytha Arms  where we’d had excellent food before and where Debbie’s parents had celebrated their silver wedding anniversary.

Alas, a good experience this time was sadly wanting and for the first time in many, many years after I tried unsuccessfully to get served by the very rude daughter of the owner, I gave up and decided to take my business back to Abergavenny.


We parked up in town in the small car park next to the Baker Street cinema where we hope to see the new Disney film “Beauty and the Beast” before it’s too late.  On this occasion however we made our way to a pub called the Grofield where we’d enjoyed a really good afternoon the previous year with Emma and James and as before the welcome couldn’t have been friendlier.

A study in pink 😄
Such a great experience we booked a dinner for seven when Emma, Josh, Alex & Emily visit
Debs had goat’s cheese salad, while I chomped on roast beef and Yorkshire pudding!

Another really great day and with Emma arriving late tomorrow from Glasgow and James being at home if we can brave the colder weather forecast we may make another ascent of Sugar Loaf before too long!


Walk, Avoid, Eat…

A Welsh Christmas 2016

I can hardly believe a year has gone by in what was, in many ways, a tough Christmas 2015.

All I can say is that this year it seems to have gone really well, last night we did our traditional family “Night Before Christmas” aided by FaceTime for Alex and Emily to join in.  Today we’ve had an invasion of elves as can be seen from the following pictures!

Andy and Helen dressed for lunch….
The Llanfoist Four…
Don’t drop the turkey mum, but of you do, two little Santa’s helpers…
Emma & Josh at the piano singing carols…
Pre-serving Christmas table
James asking Molly if he can have some of her food…

For everyone out there reading this blog I hope you have a merry Christmas 2016 and a very happy New Year in 2017!

Walter Mitty 25.12.16

A Welsh Christmas 2016

Molly and Hamish (in Barry Island)

Remenber Gavin and Stacey the TV comedy about an Englishman who falls in love with a Welsh woman, who both have wacky friends and families?

Well Stacey came from Barry Island which is on the coast not far from Cardiff airport and we decided to take Molly on her first visit to the seaside with Hamish in the Freelander given it was such a sunny day today.

This time I went to Newport via the A4042 and then onto the M4 westwards until the Penarth turnoff.  We were very lucky securing free parking right on the seafront which was very busy with a lot of building improvements going on while the weather held before the winter onslaught.

Heading across the beach towards the sea Molly was constantly running after her ball and picking it up despite all the salty water and sand gumming up her mouth that she look a lit rabid…but happy!  Old man Hamish just looked on slightly amused by her display of unbridled energy.

It looks dark on this photo but the sun was looking straighter into the iPhone camera lens
Molly didn’t hesitate going into the sea
Gavin and Stacey filmed outside this fish & chip shop in 2009

Molly and Hamish drank tap water from an unused food container from the chippie.  They looked on as Debbie and I tucked into our large cods and shared mushy peas and curry sauce.  I was naughty and had chips too!


After we finished we made our way back the short distance to the Freelander and headed off home, this time via Merthyr Vale and the A470, reaching Abergavenny via the Heads of the Valley road.

Realising there was rather a doggie pong emanating from the back of the truck we headed straight for the free car park and a quick dip in the Usk for a quick bath in clean water before heading home for a well deserved rest!


Molly and Hamish (in Barry Island)