Snowdonia

Hello and welcome to the latest blog from The Olivia Rose Diaries on September 22nd 2022.

This week we find ourselves up in north Wales, looking after a menagerie of dogs, cats, fishes, chickens and a female parrot rather confusingly called Monty. Before we began our nomadic life on Olivia Rose, Wales was the place we called home, despite the fact that neither of us are Welsh. We spent over fifteen years in the mountains of the Brecon Beacons and in southern Snowdonia. This house-sit is in northern Snowdonia, an area we have occasionally visited but don’t know that well.

View from the garden.
Guarding the front door.

The region has its own very specific landscape, one that ranges from sheer forest-clad hills to bleak rolling high moorlands with not a tree in sight, down to a coastline of sandy beaches and big skies.

Looking up to the sky.
A walk through the woods.
The beach at Llandudno.

Water is a defining feature with lakes and reservoirs hidden in the hills and deep ravines and gullies carved out by rivers and streams.

The Fairy Glen.

Whilst the history of this part of Wales might be grounded in slate mines its present day persona is centred on the tourist industry and particularly on extreme sports. If you need an adrenalin rush you can visit the old Penrhyn quarry and take a ride on Velocity 2, reaching speeds of over 100mph on the fastest zip line in the world. The abandoned slate mines have been turned into an underground world where you can climb, abseil and zip line through cavernous chambers and over underground lakes. Each to their own. I am happier above ground and going slowly on my own two feet.

Our new home until the end of September is based just outside Betwy Y Coed, which has long been a hub for serious walkers. However, it is a strange place. Referred to as ‘the village’ by the locals, it consists solely of outdoor clothing and gift shops, cafes and restaurants, guest houses and hotels, with two mini-markets for essential provisions. One of these does have an on-site bakery so you can at least buy bread. If you took these shops away, there would be nothing else. No butchers shop or greengrocer, no pharmacy, no hairdresser and not even the ubiquitous charity shop. To call it a village seems to re-define the word as the community here exists purely to service the tourist trade, but then many small villages and towns across the UK have lost their heart and soul as society has changed so dramatically over the last fifty years.

One of the tea rooms offers over a hundred loose leaf teas and very good food and so, for the short time we are here, we become regular customers. From conversations with the staff we learn that the summer of 2022 has been a bumper year, desperately needed after the pandemic, and yet all is not well despite the busy tables.

Everywhere we go we find evidence of a chronic shortage of staff. Restaurants are closing early, or reducing the numbers of days they are open. A hotel in town will go to a four-day working week from October to give the exhausted staff it still has a break. We heard of people working eleven hour shifts, of the house-keeping staff doubling up as waitresses, the managers helping out with the painting and decorating. We visited the National Trust gardens at Bodnant to find they had closed off the inside tea rooms due to lack of staff and so we joined a long queue at a counter for tea and coffee in cardboard cups. We are lucky with the weather as we can sit outside. We ask them about the causes but nobody has a definitive answer. Brexit and the pandemic have contributed to it and the problem is compounded in that the staff that are on the books often don’t turn up, causing businesses to have to turn customers away with no notice. Customers aren’t always understanding and the staff are growing weary of confrontation.

This isn’t something I have ever been aware of in my lifetime and it is unsettling, as if the taken-for-granted rules of how everything works are crumbling. We experienced the same thing when we came back to the UK for our first visit after the pandemic and I had assumed it was a short-term problem but evidently I was wrong. With the forecast increases in energy costs likely to hit the country hard in winter, things can only get worse. Businesses will close and people will lose their jobs, not just in Wales but across the whole of the UK. It’s very sad.

However, we don’t want to end this blog on a sad note so let me show you some pictures that both Michael and I took of beautiful Bodnant gardens, a pick-me-up if ever there was one. This is a grand garden, one of the best, and I struggled to capture the scope of it in photographs but hopefully you will get the idea. We are in the transitional phase of moving from summer to autumn, a difficult time in the garden when many of the bright colours of summer have faded and the fiery autumn colours are still teasing us with just a hint of what is to come. Despite this there was still plenty to see at these gardens, worth a visit any time of the year.

We have just passed the summer equinox and I hope, like me, that you are relishing the thought of autumn, one of my favourite seasons. See you next week.

MJ

11 thoughts on “Snowdonia

  1. Great photos, lovely gardens.
    if it’s any comfort we have the same labour problems here, especially down the east coast when how/where will it all end? 😘

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  2. I have been to Wales but only on a day trip, beautiful county, the adrenaline rush of the converted slate mines sounds appealing to me, Perhaps I will get there a some point, Best wishes in your new homes. cheers

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  3. To add to the problems in Wales, their government is considering taxing all tourists in the Principality! As ever you paint a realistic picture of Wales – good reading.

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  4. What beautiful country you are visiting, MJ. Troubling news about staffing shortages, same here on this side of the pond. Where did all the workers from before the pandemic go? Perhaps they started email Amazon & Etsy businesses during lockdown?? I wonder where this will lead, it doesn’t bode well.

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  5. Thank you for this apercu of Snowdonia, a part of Wales I don’t know at all. I think I will leave the zip line to more adventurous souls! As you’ll know, the staff shortages are now common in France, too. Restaurants, hotels and other businesses are forced to restrict their opening hours or close altogether. Enjoy the rest of your stay.

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