Snapshots of a country

Hello and welcome to the latest blog from The Olivia Rose Diaries on October 14th 2022.

We have spent the last two weeks travelling around England and Wales, visiting friends and family after we finished our house-sit in North Wales, and what has struck me, as someone who no longer lives in the country and can now look at it with a different eye, is the beauty and the diversity of the landscape, whether it be natural or man-made. I’ve always known that this tiny island is something of a wonder but this trip has yet again reinforced that understanding. The best way to share our journey, from the mountains to the coast, from isolated farmhouses to narrow boats to urban dwellings, from hiking among sheep and cattle on the hills to strolling through elegant galleries and sumptuous gardens, is to show you what we have seen through our photos.

The selection of pictures that follow are a snapshot, capturing a moment in time, and each one telling their own story. As I began to put this blog together I realised that there were rather a lot of them so I’ve split it into two parts. The second half will come out next week, but we’ll begin on the wild side and leave the cultural experience for the next instalment.

We have lived in various areas of Wales for twelve years before we moved to France and have always associated it with an abundance of rain, but this summer things have been very different. Many rural properties in the Brecon Beacons draw their water supply from natural springs but this year those springs have run dry. We spent several days staying with friends in the village where we used to live and were given a sobering lesson on how the world feels when water becomes a scarce commodity. Toilets were flushed with buckets of water bought up from the river, which in itself was at its lowest ebb, washing up was done once a day, taps weren’t turned on for more than a few seconds to clean your teeth, clothes were washed at a launderette and showers were taken at a different property belonging to a family member in another village that was on the mains water supply. Drinking water was also taken from the river and run through a portable filter system bought specially for the purpose.

A dry river bed.

They have been living like this for months and even now the rain is sporadic which means the spring is still little more than a trickle and the storage tanks are filling up painfully slowly. We heard of farmers struggling to provide water for their animals, and some of them have had no option but to pay to sink expensive boreholes or connect to the mains water supply in a bid to have a consistent and reliable water source. Perhaps to city dwellers it seems strange to think that anyone still takes their water from natural sources but there are many properties like this in rural Wales, ourselves included when we lived here and had our smallholding.

Notwithstanding the lack of water, the hills and woodlands of Wales were just beginning to take on their autumn mantle and, whilst the sunny weather didn’t help the water situation, it provided us with excellent walking conditions.

At the top of Table Mountain near Crickhowell
Climbing up to the summit
Woodland walk
Up close and personal with a herd of painfully thin young calves, who had escaped from their field and followed us on the footpath for a while.

For the next section of our journey we left the Welsh hills behind and headed into England, beginning with a very different boating experience for us with friends who had a narrow boat on the Shropshire Union Canal near Chester.

The boats are thinner, the canals are smaller but it’s still great fun.

Next stop was the south coast, and a taste of urban living in a flat with lovely views over Poole harbour. There was a marina close by and we fell asleep to the sound of the halyards clinking in the rigging of the sailing boats.

Poole harbour
Just before sunset.

Next week we’ll shed our muddy walking boots and try to dig out some more respectable clothing as we visit inspirational galleries and gardens.

Wishing you all a good week and I’ll leave you with a copy of the Amazon entry for my second book ‘A Simple Life’ which has gained a little orange flag informing all and sundry that it is a bestseller in travel writing. No-one is more surprised at this than me, but it is very exciting, and absolute proof that it is worth having a go at things in life – you never know where they might lead.

All the best.


9 thoughts on “Snapshots of a country

  1. Despite what’s going on in the UK at the moment, the natural diversity of the island is indeed still a wonder. Thank you for your photos reminding us of this. The water situation is very concerning, and it remains so here in France. Congrats on the coveted orange flag!


  2. Another confirmation of the extra dry summer most of the northern hemisphere experienced this summer. This has definitely been our driest summer since moving here 32 years ago. I have friends on springs and you describe their days similarly. I particularly feel for the farmers, worried sick they must be. Hopefully, autumn will bring drenching rains to fill the watershed.


  3. Love your photos, as usual. I know that some people have been very unlucky concerning their water supplies, but thankfully, we have ‘never’ lost ours. After some 38 years of living here, and sharing the supply with our closest neighbour, we have never run out, in fact we find it extraordinary how it continually runs. There are thirteen residences on our road, most of whom rely upon springs, and I know they have experienced problems in the dry weather, with one neighbour losing it altogether and having to daily go down to the bottom of the road to collect in a water bowser. You don’t realise how much you depend upon it until you lose it. Congratulations on your ‘orange flag’. Bet you were elated….


  4. Fabulous news re your book. Love your recent observations about the UK countryside. It’s not until you get to spend some time living abroad that you truly appreciate what a fabulous and diverse Island we live on. Looking forward to the 2nd part of your blog.


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