A Trip To The Seaside

The seaside beckons us for a sunny day out…

There are few things that I enjoy more than a day spent by the sea. Ant and I make a trip to the brisk North Wales coast and get a taste of the seaside while we’re at it.

One of the reasons why Antony and I wanted to move to Wales was the sheer variety of scenery and terrain that is on offer here, it certainly out matches Guildford by a long shot! We used to spend entire weekends travelling around the country to experience the same kind of change in environment we see within half an hour here, it’s part of the reason why North Wales is such a popular destination for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts like us!

Both Antony and I adore living in the heart of Snowdonia, we love getting amongst the wonderful mountains and keeping our eye out for wild goats, but there’s a whole other side to North Wales that we also adore: the seaside. For those unfamiliar with Wales, it lies on the West side of England, with a coast line that stretches over 1,400 km long. Although the mountains and forests of Wales certainly have their charms, it’s hard not to fall in love with the sheer beauty that the Welsh coastline has to offer. It also helps that these rugged good looks are further complimented by some of the quaintest seaside towns that the UK has to offer.

Tourists have been flocking to the charming coastal towns of Wales since the Victorian era, when the Great British Holiday was truly born. It was the advent of the National Rail system that brought British tourists from all corners of the country to Wales during the Summer seasons, heralding era of investment that saw hundreds of hotels and attractions open their doors. Although many of these seaside towns have fallen into a state of disrepair since their heyday, there are a handful of Welsh towns which have managed to hold onto their regal appearance and also keep attracting visitors to their shores, Llandudno is certainly one of them.

We thought we’d take a break from walking in the wild and head to one of the most beloved of Welsh tourist towns. During the summer Llandudno is still one of a few tourist towns that remains busy, with families coming from all over the country to enjoy the classically Victorian promenade and beach. When we visited during October it was windswept and empty, a far cry from its bustling character during the peak season. Still, regardless of how quiet the town was, the enduring charm of the grand Victorian architecture and wide promenade was quite the sight. Our aims for the day were simple: trek up onto The Great Orme to get a view of the town below, eat some Fish’n’Chips and enjoy a pint in a pub.

The Great Orme is a towering mass of limestone that dominates Llandudno’s skyline. Rising 207m out of the sea, it’s quite the sight and serves as one of the town’s chief tourist attractions. Visitors can choose to either walk up, take a cable car or jump on the historic Great Orme tramway. Fancying the challenge, we fix our eyes on the horizon and storm our way up the hill. The little road that winds its way up to the summit is shared by the tram, which passes us a couple of times as we make our slow ascent. When we make it to the peak we are greeted by a wonderfully clear view of the ocean, with Llandudno far below us in all it’s Victorian kitsch glory. Feeling like we’ve achieved about as much as we can with the day, we hop on the cable car, our minds firmly fixed on a lovely Fish dinner and pint of local ale.

Our Essential Kit for Hiking in North Wales

Regardless of its name, don’t be fooled into thinking that taking a hike in Snowdonia is as easy as taking a walk in the park.

In order to stay safe you’ll need to make sure that you have sturdy basic hiking gear and enough supplies to keep you going.

As I’ve said before, Antony and I like to think of ourselves as ‘outdoorsy’ people. We’ve been hiking for years now and have accumulated plenty of stuff in that time that helps us keep safe whilst we’re out and about. Of course, we haven’t always been this well prepared. Yes, there was a time when we were woefully unprepared and, worst of all, this was when we had our kids in tow! The first time that we decided to visit North Wales we’d assumed that there would be plenty of lovely places to stop at during our walk for drinks and toilet stops, but unfortunately this turned out to not be the case…

Our first trip to North Wales was an unmitigated disaster with the hike through Snowdonia being the rotten cherry on top. We spent 5 hours stumbling through the pouring rain trying to reach the summit of Snowdon before having to admit defeat. That day we weren’t just defeated by the mountain, we were also defeated by our own stupidity. We’d taken our kids out into the wilderness without waterproof, without boots and without enough water to properly sustain them. Suffice to say, that was the last time that happened. That day was the turning point for us as hikers, the next week we went out to the shops.

Waterproof clothes

A hardy set of waterproofs are absolutely essential for any day spent outside. It doesn’t matter what the weather forecast says, you’ll never know for certain whether or not will rain. Although it might be easy to shrug off a small rain shower when you know you’ll be back in the dry, if you end up getting totally soaked whilst in the middle of nowhere your health could be at serious risk.

Hardy walking boots

Trainers will only get you so far when you’re walking in Wales! Not only can the terrain get pretty rough here, but there are plenty of hazards along the way that could lead to you slipping or twisting an ankle. Sturdy walking boots will help prevent you turning your ankle over and will give you much-needed support when walking on uneven terrain.

Plenty of water and toilet roll!

Despite Wales being the tourist hot-spot that it is, this is not a land drowning in amenities. If you’re planning on spending a few hours out in the countryside then you need to take enough water with you to keep properly hydrated. 2 litres will keep you going for half a day, bring purification tablets if you’re planning on staying out for longer. Public toilets are also in short supply, so toilet paper and a little trowel are also worth bringing…

More food than you need

Your body needs food to keep you active, it needs even more food when you are hiking so it’s important to pack more than you need. Pack plenty of sandwiches and fruit, but don’t forget to bring trail mix, cereal bars and emergency chocolate. Getting stuck out in the middle of nowhere without food is not good, especially when you have kids in tow!

Map, compass, torch and batteries

Lastly, even if you’re following a prescribed route or track, it’s really important to have the tools that you need to find your self in the eventuality that you stray from the path and lose your way. You can’t rely on phone networks to get you back to civilisation, so make sure that you have the essential kit for survival should the worse come to the worst.

Settling In: A Few Months On…

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been 6 months since we’ve moved to Wales!

We’re celebrating six months living in Wales and can’t quite deal with how fast it’s all gone…

They say life feels like it goes faster and faster once you reach a certain age, I’m not sure whether Antony and I have passed that age yet, but it certainly feels like it to us! Every now and again we sit together during the evening to figure out how far we’ve come and celebrate our successes, large and small. We never really had much of a game plan when it came to doing this ‘life’ thing, but somehow things seem to have turned out better than we could ever have expected.

We had always worried that our lives would get somewhat stale after our kids left home, so I’m grateful that we could at least subvert out own expectations – although we’re pretty sure that they still think we’re stale enough! This has been a really great year for us and one that we’re proud to be ending in our newly refurbished (and populated) home here in Wales:

The kids loved Wales

After years of eye-rolling and unconvinced groans, we finally got the whole family back together in Wales and it ended up being much more successful than the first time we tried it. We spent an action packed weekend driving between some of North Wales’ best attractions and even got the pleasure of whizzing through a disused quarry at over a hundred miles per hour. Best of all, we were able to get all of us round our new dinner table and eat a good old fashioned roast dinner.

Getting the animals in

Our land had felt a little empty for the first few months, so we were really happy when we received our first shipment of kids in November. No – we don’t mean actual children. We spent months preparing our land for the arrival of the goats, so that they had everything that they needed to thrive in their new home and thrive they had! We’re so happy to have some creatures to keep us company here.

Making some structural changes

We’d always considered the cottage to be something of a fixer-upper, we just needed some time to get settled in before making our plans. After commissioning a series of monitoring surveys to assess the structural nature of the building, we were able to move ahead with our regeneration and reconstruction plans. Our first task is to extend the back end of the house to make room for our brand new home cinema!

Planning for New Year

Celebrating New Years in our new home is going to be a particular treat, we can’t wait to get involved with whatever the community has in store with us!

Taking Responsibility For Our Environment

We’ve discovered a whole world of new responsibilities!

Beyond putting our recycling in the right bins, we never had much call to think about our environment when we were living in Guildford, but now that we’re surrounded by such stunning natural beauty we feel a lot more inclined to protect it.

Our land management responsibilities grew somewhat when we moved here. Our home in Guildford was lovely, but the small space that encompassed our back garden hardly took much looking after, let alone having any real connection to the environment. When we moved out to Wales, we were gifted with a good 5 acres of land along with our humble little cottage. Antony made a joke about cutting the lawn being a little more of a challenge, he certainly wasn’t wrong!

Since moving here we’ve had to adapt our lifestyles in response to the new responsibilities that we have, as a result I certainly feel like I’m much closer to the environment than we used to be:

Preparing for livestock

Now that we have a few acres of land to look after we feel like we’ve got a much greater connection with the great outdoors. At the moment our land is sitting pretty as a piece of fallow land, but we have plans to keep a few sheep and goats to keep the grass down in the summer months, so for the time being we need to ensure that the land is in a healthy state, ready for animals to feed off it. We’ll be investing in organic feed and sweeping the land for any foreign objects that might be dangerous for our new friends.

Protecting against invasive weeds and plants

We were dimly aware of how troublesome weeds could be before moving here, we’ve had friends talk about the potential of invasive plants damaging their land but luckily we’ve not had to seek any Japanese knotweed legal advice just yet! Still, it never hurts to be careful, so we’re going to be making sure that our land is free of any nasty weeds or invasive plants by keeping in contact with our neighbours and generally staying vigilant.

Becoming a part of the community

Slowly, but surely, we’re becoming more ingratiated into the community here. We’ve been building trust with the locals here for the last few months, reaching out to them during the week for some basic food stuffs and lending a hand wherever we can. Many of the landowners here have been living here for decades, so they were no doubt a little nervous to hear that some newcomers were arriving from the other side of the country. We know that in order to stay connected with our environment we need to be a part of the community.

Keeping fences and walls in check

Part of our jobs as responsible landowners is to keep our borders in check. Although that might sound like a very American way of putting things, it turns out the more land you own, the more conscious you are of your borders! Keeping our fences and walls in a good state of repair is a responsibility that we must keep, not only to ourselves but to our neighbours too. We might not have any animals on our land yet, but it’s important that when we do, we can keep them within our borders.

The Kids Are Coming Back!

We’re about to receive some special guests here in Wales!

Our kids are visiting for us for the first time, so we’re booking a few activities to keep us busy.

My husband and I don’t need much to keep us entertained. We discovered during our thirties that all we really needed to be happy was to be close to some lovely walks and have a decent pub within walking distance of our house. Our kids, however, are a little different. They loved living in Guildford, there was plenty to see and do whilst they were teenagers, and when they got a bit older they were less than an hour away from London – perfect! By the time they’d left home, we were ready to make a move away from urban life and they offered no form of resistance!

Both of our kids are at university in London, we’ve been trying our best to get them out to see us, but for months now they’ve been claiming that they’re simply too busy. We understand, of course, the’re a couple of young kids living in the city with friends and things to do. You can imagine how happy we were then, to find out that they’d made room in their busy schedule to come and see us! Although we were tempted to take them out into the middle of nowhere for a long hike, we knew they’d probably appreciate more variety.

Thankfully, there are no shortage of fantastic attractions here in Wales, so we ended up creating the quite packed itinerary:

Zip World

Our kids still carry the (emotional) scars of a rather disastrously planned family holiday, no doubt they’re still haunted by memories of long drives, pouring rain and endless trudging; things will be a little different this time! Zip World is one of a few modern outdoor attractions that have made North Wales a real holiday destination in the last few years, a number of pulse-racing zip line rides offer thrill-seekers a truly unforgettable ride through a disused quarry.

Surf Snowdonia

The last thing they’ll be expecting to do is jump on a surf board when they visit us, but they’ll be even more surprised when they found out where they’ll be doing it: in the heart of yet another disused quarry. It seems investors have really learned how to make the most of this country’s rich industrial lineage; this is the UK’s only artificial surfing lake and should suitably blow them away!

Conwy Castle

There are a handful of castles to explore throughout Wales, many of them constructed around about the same time by the order of Edward I. Conwy Castle has been kept in the best shape of all them and provides a really fascinating look into the Wales’ Medieval history. Although our kids have never really taken much of an interest in history, we’re pretty sure they’ll find this as interesting as we do!

Trip up the cable cars in Llandudno

Finally, after our wonderful trip to Llandudno, we’ve decided to take our kids back to this iconic seaside town. We’re sure they’ll find the town itself a little cutesy, but they’ll definitely be impressed by the cable car ride up to the Great Orme.

How We Learnt To Be Country Mice

Adapting to our new home took a little time…

When Antony and I first moved to Wales we were initially a bit overwhelmed by our decision.

After spending most of our lives in Guildford, our sudden arrival in rural Snowdonia was a shock to the system to say the least! We’d pined and planned for years, discussing how we were going to escape to the country, but we’d never fully considered the practical issues that it would throw at us initially.

The first challenge that we had to face was living so far away from civilisation. We’d always considered ourselves as ‘outdoorsy’ types, going out into the country every weekend to take hikes and walk the dogs. Regardless of how long we’d spend roaming through wilderness, we’d always drive back through the Guildford town centre, so that we could grab any bits and bobs that we needed to whip up a dinner for the family.

Having so much wilderness right on our doorstep was refreshing and disorienting at the same time. We were so used to having drive 30-45 minutes to get to our favourite walking locations, that to suddenly be dropped amongst all of this beauty was a little unnerving. Finally, we had all we thought we wanted; we could literally walk out our front door and be embraced by the scenic countryside. However, if we wanted to nip out and grab a pint of milk then the round trip would take us an hour. If we wanted to buy our usual week’s shopping then the entire mission would take us closer to 3 hours.

It quickly became apparent that we’d traded one inconvenience for another and that we’d need to drastically adapt our lifestyles if we were going to live in our new home without spending all our time sat in the car.

These are the things we needed to learn in order to become fully fledged country mice:

Plan, plan, plan!

In order to get things done in the countryside it’s really important to plan ahead of schedule. Without supermarkets and Argos shops on your doorstep, you can’t just pull a fancy dinner for two, or family feast out of thin air! We quickly learned that if you wanted to live a life without incessant drives to town then it was crucial to make a concise plan before the week began. We planned our meals two weeks in advance and invested in a chest freezer, so that we’d never run out of the basics.

Buy as locally as possible

Speaking of the basics, we soon found that we could pick up store cupboard essentials from neighbouring farms. After getting chatting to some of our new neighbours we were able to procure regular deliveries of eggs, chickens, vegetables and even cheese, should we wish. This revelation briefly led us to believe that we could live a completely ‘locally sustained’ life, however this dream soon crumbled when we realised that we couldn’t find a farmer selling Ras el Hanout…

Forget about ‘culture’

Both Antony an I used to be huge cinema buffs. It was an interest that we both bonded over early in our relationship and one that we continued to foster throughout the years by popping into our local cinema at least one a week. Considering that our closest cinema in our new home was a good hour away, this was a past time that we quickly had to give up on. Thankfully, our internet is pretty good here, so we at least have the option of catching up with films via streaming!