Wonderful Wales – part two

Hello and welcome to the latest blog on the Olivia Rose Diaries on September 24th 2021.

We left our friends camping at the coast and are now inland, house-sitting for some friends in the village of Cwmdu in the Brecon Beacons. We lived in this village for eight years, arriving in 2004 and leaving in 2012, and there is no doubt in my mind that it was then, and still is now, a slice of paradise. It was a significant moment when I realised that, wonderful as this place was, I was getting itchy feet yet again, and finally began to accept that I would always get restless and need to be moving on. Luckily for me, Michael was of the same mind, and so began the journey that would eventually lead us to buying our boat in 2017.

However, that hasn’t stopped us coming back on a regular basis, at least until the pandemic struck, and visiting all our friends and favourite old haunts. The time away only makes us appreciate it more.

I have been looking through old photos and remembering the many good times we had here. So, you might as well make yourself a cup of tea, or something stronger, get settled into a comfortable chair and come with me on a trip down memory lane.

Our cottage came with only a small garden but we were lucky enough to be able to rent various bits of land from people in the village and so we became smallholders. We began with two Jacob sheep, and a few hens. The sheep had lambs and our flock slowly grew each year until we reached a total of about 16 and decided that was enough. I became hopelessly addicted to hens, and would visit the auctions, just ‘to have a look’ and invariably return with a cardboard box and a few more birds to add to the collection. Then we added pigs to the menagerie, three young Royal Berkshires that we called Wee George, Middle George and Big George for obvious reasons. Michael had an Icelandic horse called Snari and we took him out of livery stables and he joined the sheep. Then we decided he needed a bit of company so we took on a donkey on loan from a local farmer who didn’t want her. We called her Bella and much to everyone’s surprise she had a foal. And finally, we dug out a huge allotment on the side of the hill to grow our own vegetables, much to the delight of a ravenous population of squirrels, mice, rabbits and anything else that felt like stealing our food.

Let me introduce you to our family.

The two ewes on the right are Ellie and Morag, who we had right at the beginning. The third is one of the lambs from someone, can’t remember who now.
Babies!
This might look rather disturbing, but her nose is not as close to my backside as it seems and she is about to get her feet clipped, which is why I am bent over!
A very loveable pig.
Snari and Bella in the field. Snari got very excited when she first arrived, far more so than a gelding should, but she gave him a couple of hearty thumps with her back legs and he soon resigned himself to the fact that they were only ever going to be friends and nothing more.
Me and Bella
Michael and Snari in conversation.
Chickens.
And more chickens. They outgrew the small chicken house that Michael built, so we bought a small shed and painted it in beach hut colours. Not sure what the local farmers thought.

We had no previous experience of looking after any of these animals, apart from Snari, so it was a huge learning curve, but also an excellent way of meeting people locally, who were so very generous with their advice and help, and who became good friends as a result.

We didn’t run the smallholding to make any money, rather our aim was simply to be able to raise our own livestock and grow our own food so that it was free from pesticides and antibiotics and to know that the animals had a good life. We sold off some of the meat to friends and family just to cover our costs. Sometimes we broke even, sometimes we didn’t. It was hard work, a far cry from the romanticised visions of ‘the good life’, but it was indeed a good life and a wonderful time for us.

It was also a wonderful time for the dogs. In their prime, and in their element, they loved this free-range life.

We ran a B & B from a separate annexe next to the cottage and also had our own business, initially a garden design and landscaping business which then morphed into a carpet cleaning/stone floor restoration business – the history to all that is another story. Our lives were busy, seven days a week, and involved many changes of clothing! First thing in the morning we put on rough clothes to do all the animals, then clean clothes to cook breakfast for our guests, then work clothes for carpet cleaning, and then reverse the whole process when we got back at the end of the day. I look back on that time in our lives and wonder how on earth we fitted it all in, but we did and we relished it.

Moving on to the present day, we have been here for six nights and have tried to see as many of our friends as possible. This seems to have involved a huge amount of alcohol, even though I made the decision to come off the booze for a while after my birthday. After two days I realised my timing was all wrong and I didn’t stand a chance so it can wait until we get back to Le Shack and our social life scales down dramatically again!

So now for some pictures of the present day and yet again the weather has been kind, most of the time. We had one very wet walk but otherwise Wales has been showing off, confirming my opinion that there is nowhere quite like it in the world.

Our old home.
Our old home from a distance, standing by itself above the hedge.
An amusing old sign on the footpath.
And a funny old couple leaning on the gate.
We started our walk in sunshine…
And finished it in the rain.
Typical Welsh lane – you learn to be quick at reversing!
The view through the gate where we are house-sitting

Next week we have a long trip across to the east of England, to visit my brother in Suffolk and then down to Kent for a week in a holiday cottage with Michael’s parents before returning to France. The social whirl continues. I don’t know what state my liver will be in at the end of all this.

Hope you are all ok and see you next week.

MJ

14 thoughts on “Wonderful Wales – part two

  1. A wonderful reflection on your time in Cwydu, a time in your lives we remember so well. I love the photographs taken on your current trip

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  2. Haven’t been to Wales for ages. Enjoy the rest of your trip. We had a lovely time in Provence. Going to St Jean de Losne now before returning home.

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  3. I just finished your two recent memoirs. I laughed and cried and learned and enjoyed your writing. I related to all the universal truths you described about humanity Bravo!

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    1. Hi, you re so near! Have you been to Crickhowell for a spot of yoga? It sounds as if you re having a great time and I’m glad to know you still rate Wales highly! You ll always be welcome here if you take up carpet cleaning again! I’ve read both books so looking forward to the third. Always enjoy your blog, keep it going please. Enjoy the rest of your UK visit. Alison

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  4. Fascinating to read about your former life. Good practice for the Cabin! A friend is also obsessed with hens. As well as having some real ones, her kitchen is full of china hens, hens on plates, mugs, you name it. Enjoy the rest of your trip.

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