Monthly Archives

July 2016


Duke of Lancaster Shipwreck

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Before I came to North Wales I had read on an article on Facebook, a story about this ship called the Duke of Lancaster which had gone aground on the beach at a small town called Mostyn in Flintshire so I really wanted to go and see this.  I’m really not sure why, but I have a weird interest in weird stories and abandoned shipwrecks, buildings, piers or in some cases whole towns, I don’t know why they fascinate me but they just do.


Anyway I asked Nicola, my host about the shipwreck and she said it wasn’t far away so I decided to take a drive and go and find it, I was told that once you are on the right road heading for Mostyn you will just see it.  I drove quite a way on the coast road from Flint and couldn’t see it so I stopped in a carpark and asked a gentleman there who took me to the end of the walkway and pointed further down the coast, around the bend.   I got back in my car and continued my drive and sure enough there it was as large as life, looking like it was in a field,  but as I got nearer it was obvious it was on the beach close to the shore and could be seen the other side of the field.






However it had a huge fence built up around it warning people of danger and with “do not enter” signs all around, but I really wanted to take a closer look, I bumped into another couple with their expensive cameras trying to get a closer look just like me, as we approached the fence a car came towards us and the driver got out and explained that he was on guard and that it was being watched at all times in case of accidents so there was no way we could get closer than behind the perimeter fence.



I decided to try and get around the other side, where you could see there was a path which took you nearer, but there was a stream in the way, which stopped you from getting too close and trying to climb aboard, which would have been pretty difficult anyway as it was so big, it was far too high to climb aboard.  The hull has been decorated with graffiti by some of Europe’s most talented street artists which looked kind of cool.  The artists, from the UK, Russia, Latvia and Hungary, have named themselves the DuDug collective – a play on the Welsh for ‘black duke”.




The ship has sat in dry dock in the Dee Estuary since 1979, she was launched in 1956 by Harland and Wolff who built the Titanic and HMS Belfast, after serving as a Sealink passenger ferry she was renamed the Fun Ship and used as a bar and flea market but was closed to the public in the mid-eighties.  The ship’s owner allow the graffiti artists to decorate the ship as the locals want something done with it, the council have scuppered all plans proposed by the owner and the locals want to turn it into a sort of art gallery with all the art being on the outside or a hotel.  The graffiti art is an ongoing project which is not yet finished, but already looks fab.  I love Graffiti, not the loutish nonsense daubed on the side of buildings but the arty stuff.  I used to work in a bar in Butlins many years ago in Bognor Regis called the Graffiti bar and it was entirely decorated with Graffiti, everyone loved it!



A local group have formed a Duke of Lancaster Appreciation Society, DOLAS and they have a group you can join on Facebook.  I’m going to join the group because I loved the ship and I’m not sure why, but I feel the graffiti adds something to it, it’s definitely a piece of art and most definitely better than some stuff that is actually called art, like that unmade bed by Tracey Emin, Really???????   I think more people would be interested in seeing it if they knew about it.



Definitely one of my most interesting finds while in North Wales.  I sat on the rocks, taking some pics while I marvelled at it, wishing I could get closer, I really wanted to get aboard and explore all the rooms.   I might go back and take a walk along the beach at low tide so I can see it from the stern.


Castles Flint, Denbigh and Ruthin

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Castles, Flint, Denbigh and Ruthin
I love Castles, I have always had an interest in them, coming from Pembrey which is close to magnificent Kidwelly castle, which I have visited on many occasions, first with my parents and then with an old uncle of mine as a child, also I have taken my children there for school castle projects as well as re-enactments. At one time we had family membership of CADW which meant free entry to all Welsh castles, we managed to visit quite a lot during the time of the membership which was probably round the time my eldest daughter had a castle project to do in school, it made the whole project a lot more interesting for her to visit the castles and I started to love them even more, each one for different reasons.


Up until this week I think my favourite had been Conway, my youngest daughter and I spent the day visiting Caernarvon and Conway one day whilst the older two practiced their singing for the annual Eisteddfod which was held on Anglesey that particular year. We took our video recorder and did a running commentary of our visit and had such fun, singing and joking with the camera, unfortunately someone at home taped over the video which I was really disappointed about.


The main reason Conway was one of my favourites was because it was so big and some of the town walls were remaining and we explored them all, spent quite a bit of time there, it was such an enjoyable day, anyway Denbigh Castle is very similar in that there are some of the town walls left and the position of the ruins is amazing, you can see all around a full 360 degrees and with each turn, beautiful views all around. It probably helped that I chose a glorious sunny day to visit; the sunshine always makes things better.


On the day I visited it was the most wonderful day, it started late, just before lunch time, with the intention of going to McDonalds to use the Wi-Fi so that I could pay final bills online, email about the CSAS jobs I am signed up for, as well as the emails for the kids etc. but when I went out the sun was shining, so I decided to go to Denbigh to find a McDonalds there (there wasn’t one). I ended up going to Denbigh castle, a magnificent castle which is now in ruins but plenty to see nonetheless, the views from its ramparts were wonderful, and it was so clear to see the countryside and mountains that surround Denbigh.

In Denbigh castle there was an option to go and visit the castle walls which were separate from the main castle and you needed a key to open the gate to the walk, I paid the deposit for the key and went for the walk, it only takes about 20 minutes but well worth it. The main reason you need a key is because the walls overlook the houses’ private gardens so they keep it relatively private by locking it and only allowing people who are interested to pay a deposit for the key and take the walk, rather than leave it open and possibly get youngsters hanging around on the walls and annoying the house owners.


The current Denbigh Castle was built on the site of a former Welsh stronghold held by Dafydd Ap Gruffydd, the brother of Llywelyn Ap Gruffydd. The Welsh castle originally belonged to Llywelyn the Great. In its early days ownership went back and forth between the English and Welsh, Edward 1st conquered the final welsh prince Dafydd Ap Gruffydd in 1282 and had the Welsh castle torn down and Henry de Lacy rebuilt the castle, but it was taken over by the Welsh again in 1294. More fighting ensued and the castle was finally finished in 1304. In the 1600’s the castle was deliberately ruined to prevent its use as a Royalist stronghold and it was left to decay until CADW took responsibility for its upkeep in modern times.


I do believe that all ruins are pretty similar but there is always a special ambience about each place, in Denbigh it’s the best place for a castle to be built because of the amount of surrounding countryside you can see from the turrets. I have visited a lot of castle ruins in Wales and in other countries like Macchu Picchu in Peru and they all have a special peace and tranquillity about them. There is however a huge difference in the way MP was built compared to the castles, the stones used in MP were much bigger and the precision with which they were joined was meticulous, in fact still a bit of a mystery, which is worthy of another blog post at a later date.


Orange Blossom Steam Train

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I wanted to visit an Abbey which the man in Denbigh castle told me about and it was on a route that I wanted to travel anyway; it was through the Horseshoe Pass and on a road just before Llangollen. It was late afternoon as I drove through the Pass and I stopped to eat my late lunch of fresh cherries and admire the beautiful views, the time was about 3.30pm and I thought that maybe the Abbey would close soon so I decided to go to Llangollen anyway as I have been many times before and love the place, it’s a beautiful village where they hold the International Eisteddfod every year which is a huge competition celebrating the arts.


Examples of the yarn bombing which was on display in the main street!

Llangollen satisfies all the senses, it’s a beautiful place to look at, with quaint little village houses and shops all built around the river Dee, with an old Mill serving delicious food, providing wonderful aromas as you walk past and onto the main bridge over the river Dee adorned with flags of all nationalities, which connects the two parts of Llangollen. You can always hear singing as you enter the town, it could be from the Maes up at the Eisteddfod or the choirs singing in the local hostelries after the competition or in this case a band singing on the station. The musical theme is so prevalent there you can almost touch the music in the air; you can definitely feel the vibrations.


I went to investigate what was happening at the station and was told I was just in time for the Orange blossom steam train which was part of the Fringe Festival and there would be music on the platform until the train departed then another band singing on the train with dancing and wine, up to Carrog station where we all got off the train and listened to another duo singing a mixture of English and Welsh folk songs. On the train on the way back I decided to stay in the carriage where the band were playing, a couple of young lads from the local area called Steffan and Matthew, they played guitar and drums and sang country and western songs much to the delight of the passengers who sang along and danced their way back to Llangollen station where there was more music for you to enjoy on the platform, which was more of a typical Country and Western theme with the lead singer even wearing dungarees.


It was the most wonderful train journey I have taken, on an old steam train called Foxcote Manor driven by a young blonde girl with a punky look about her and soot covered face but from her smile looked as if she was loving every minute of her job! The carriages were also very old with plush upholstered seats which all trains used to have years ago, the seats were like sitting in a booth and very snug and comfortable with some carriages having compartments like the Orient Express.   It was a slow meandering trip through the Welsh countryside until we reached our scenic destination and alighted to listen to the music. People of all ages had joined the train at Llangollen, from babies to the elderly all joined together by this wonderful musical celebration of Welsh and American culture.



I met some lovely people on board, a lovely couple from Boston Lincs who had just celebrated their 50th Wedding anniversary in Llangollen, a couple of friends who lived locally and did this trip every year just because they loved it and a couple of lads who were the entertainment on the return journey, they probably were on the outward journey too but I stayed in my carriage during the first half admiring the views. Steffan, one of the guys in the band told me about a singing village called Rhos which I am going to try and visit as part of my adventures. Apparently it is a very small village with many choirs and you can join in the singing with them, so I will definitely look into this, as I love singing.



Meeting my hosts for Thailand

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As I have decided to travel by using the Helpx website, which is a site for volunteers to exchange work for board and lodge with hosts, the last few weeks since I made my decision has been dominated by reading the profiles of and corresponding with some wonderful potential hosts who are willing to accommodate me from July 15th which will be my first travel adventure.

So far I will be going to Flintshire in North Wales to help a family with an artisan food business on the 15th July for a month then I will be back in Kidwelly which is near my hometown for a couple of weeks to tie up loose ends, see the family etc. before I spend the next couple of months visiting a lovely family in Galway, Ireland and then on to Scotland.


The beautiful church at Curry Rivel where my hosts UK home is.

But the most exciting adventure I have is in Thailand in November, even though I am really looking forward to the other positions it doesn’t feel as exciting because I have been to these countries before but not seen enough hence the return. Anyway to get back to the Thailand job, the lovely Julie contacted me after reading my profile and realised that I might be suitable to work for her and her lovely partner Marcus on their Ultra Marathon in Thailand.


My home while in Thailand.

When I first found Helpx I sent quite a few messages to hosts in the UK just to test the water but when I had the message off Julie about Thailand it sort of made my mind up. I have worked on many similar events in the past and loved every one of them but to do the same in Thailand is a dream for me. So we corresponded and arranged for me to go to Somerset which is where they live to meet them and speak about the job and what it entails. I had pretty much decided that I was definitely going to do it after speaking to Julie on the phone and realising that we had a lot in common and I could really fit in. But when I went to see them it confirmed my thoughts immediately.

I arrived late at their house due to meeting with an old friend prior to our arranged meeting. My friend used to live near me and we were close friends for many years before she moved away, we stayed in touch via phone, Facebook and email but hadn’t seen each other for almost ten years but the years just melted away when we got together and it was as if we had never been apart, consequently we ended up chatting for hours at lunch and the restaurant didn’t have good wifi or phone reception, so I couldn’t contact Julie and Marcus to explain what had happened, anyway I really regretted turning up late although Julie and Marcus were very understanding at least to my face.


When I got there they had two helpx people staying from California in the USA, so I met them too and we all had a wonderful evening meal and chatted until late about travelling, the job I would be doing and our lives in general. I just felt so at home with them talking about all the adventures I was due to have and which they had already had.

The place they lived was called Curry Rivel in Somerset and they were very interesting people who had built a life for themselves around their travelling. Julie and Marcus met in Chiang Mai 23 years ago after both being dumped by previous partners (their words) they spent some time travelling alone and then decided to travel together. They also have a retail business which they take to festivals in the UK and have been doing for 20 years and then they spend their winters in Australia, New Zealand and Thailand. Marcus is an ex runner and has run ultra-marathons himself before knee injuries curbed his athleticism. Julie has a passion for horses and helps people to train their horses especially those who are hard to handle.


Last year for the first time they organised an ultra-marathon in Chiang Mai, Thailand, at a place they stayed when they lived there many years ago, it was a huge success after much worry and stress and this year it will be in its second year I will be in charge of one of the waterstops. There are two events called the Beauty and the Beast, the Beauty is 50KM and the Beast is 100KM and it’s very tough, it’s in a very hilly part of Thailand. It’s not just about the event itself, as a thank you for letting them have the event running through many tribal villages, Julie and Marcus’s company visit local schools prior to the event and hold craft sessions with the children to try and involve them in the event. Part of my role will be to visit these schools and take part in the craft activities with the children which I am really looking forward to. The whole event and volunteer role that I will be taking on will last for about three weeks which will be a fantastic time to spend in Thailand. I am hoping to hire a scooter and spend a few days sightseeing all over the area before moving on to Cambodia or Vietnam and Bali.


My visit to Somerset proved to me that I definitely want to do this, these people are on my wave length and I feel at home in their company, they know so much about travelling and have given me many tips already and have put me in touch with a few people who can possibly employ me for money whilst I am on my travels. Life has a way of making your dreams a reality if you just see the opportunity, it doesn’t always come in the way you might think but when it comes grab it with both hands.


For more information on the Thailand Ultra Marathon go to


St Winefride’s Well, Holywell

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St Winefride’s Well Holywell

On my first day exploring I decided to go to a place very close to where I was staying in Afonwen called Holywell, my host Nicola told me about it and said it is named the Lourdes of Wales.  I have never heard of this before so was very intrigued, once I was told I could have the rest of the day and the next few to myself, I knew I had to go there, I first went to Mold to do what little shopping I needed, then went to Holywell on the way back from Mold.  It wasn’t easily signposted but once I found it, the building struck me first as very beautiful, Gothic, very ornate and obviously well kept.


I found a place to park just opposite the church which houses St Winefrides Well and went across to see how much it was to go in; there was a little gift shop at the entrance with a small museum area telling you the story of St Winefrides Well.  It was only £1 to go in so I decided to take look at the museum room and go for a walk over to the Well, I could see a lot of people milling about across the grass verge and knew that was where the Well must have been, but first I wanted to read a little more about the history of the place.


According to legend St Winefride’s Well first appeared at the spot where her alleged rapist Caradog cut off her head with a sword.  Restored to life at the prayers of her uncle St Bueno, Winefride lived as a nun until her second death 22 years later.  She was a 7th century Welsh woman who had been venerated as a saint ever since the moment of her death, since that time her Well has been a place of pilgrimage and healing; the only such place in Britain with a continuous history of public pilgrimage for over 13 centuries.


It is believed that thousands of people have been cured after bathing in the Well over the centuries and the museum houses many wooden crutches which were discarded after being healed at the Well.


The present Shrine building is a glorious 2 storey Late Perpendicular Gothic building erected in the first year of the 16th century and is unique in the world.  It is a Grade 1 Listed Building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.  The Well precinct also houses an Interpretive Exhibition setting forth the story of the saint and her shrine in detail, and the Victorian former custodians’ house has been converted to house a museum of the Pilgrimage.


The Well is described by some as one of the Seven Wonders of wales.

I looked around the museum and read the literature to get a feel for the history of St Winefride’s and then crossed the grass verge where I could see everyone milling about, I noticed a small room which said changing room on the door and I hadn’t realised on entry that you could actually still bathe in the waters of the Well for healing purposes.  I walked over to the crowd of people who were all changed and taking turns to bathe in the Well and carried on past them into the Shrine, I paid my donation and lit a candle, where (if you are religious) you can then sit and say your hail Marys and Our Fathers or whatever your prayers are depending on your religion.  There were a few people at the Shrine in prayer so I respectfully went back outside to speak with one of the members of the group who were bathing, he told me they were from London although of possibly Taiwanese descent and this was their second time visiting the Well and the people who were bathing were definitely feeling the benefit from their earlier dip, (it is said that you must bathe three times in the Well for you to be completely healed).  There was a young girl with Lupus who had been before and was now off the drugs given to her for the disease initially and she was starting to feel better.  I also spoke to a German lady there who was just observing and she told me that she knew someone who had had cancer and bathed in the Well and was completely cured.  It all seemed very interesting.


The man I spoke to told me how it should be done, he pointed out two crosses etched into the stone around the Well and there was an iron railing running along the inside of the Well which was for holding onto as you bathed, he told me to hold on to the rail between the two crosses and kneel on the stone below, fully immersing your body in the water and to do this three times in quick succession.  I really wasn’t sure what to do as I hadn’t come prepared to go in the water, I came out of interest but it just seemed an opportunity not to be missed, the man I spoke to was very encouraging and told me he had arthritis and it was healing and that I should give it a go even though I was fully clothed.  The more I watched the others the more I felt the need to go in, I wasn’t that far from home and I had a blanket in the car that I could wrap myself in once out of my wet clothes.


While I was making my mind up and talking to other members of the group about their experience another group of Irish people came to the Well and had bought empty bottles from the gift shop which they filled with the holy water, they also all decided they were going in fully clothed so that convinced me to give it a go, I videoed this Irish girl and she took photos of me while I went in, it was absolutely the most freezing water I think I have ever bathed in and I have been in the sea on Boxing day in Wales, but it was very invigorating, I swear when I came out I felt wonderful, could have been because the sun came out as I left the water which made me feel very warm and I definitely felt like something special had just happened. I’m not sure if it had done any healing but I’m definitely going back another twice before I leave North Wales.


The Shrine and Well are open throughout the year except Christmas day and Boxing Day.  1 April – 30 September, Sunday to Saturday 9am to 5pm.  1 October – 31 March 10am till 4pm.  If visiting it’s best to check times of museum openings before you go.  There is a daily service at the shrine, following an unbroken tradition first established over 100 years ago which the public can take part in throughout the Pilgrimage season (Pentecost to last Sunday in September).  Bathing is only allowed at certain times so it is best to check before you go; organised pilgrimages take place annually there with many different organisations



Only the Lonely

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As I prepare for my journey, there is a lot of thinking and worrying and wondering going on in my brain. Should I be doing this? Why am I doing this? Do I need to do this? So many thoughts, so much surmising. One of the main questions people ask me is “Are you going on your own?”

There are a lot of lonely people in the world and there are a lot of loners but there is a difference between the two. In my mind a loner is someone who enjoys being alone and is not too bothered about spending time in their own company for long periods, however, a lonely person is not that happy about being alone and just because they enjoy going places on their own doesn’t mean they are the same as loners. In fact I believe lonely people go places on their own because they want to be with other people, they don’t like being on their own and they prefer the company of others.


I believe this is one of the reasons I feel compelled to travel alone, there is nobody within my family and friends circle who can or would want to do what I want to do at the same time as I want to do it, so there are not many options other than to go alone. Many people think I am brave to make the choice to go alone but it is not bravery it’s necessity.
I have brought up five children who are now all strong independent people, admittedly my youngest is still only 16 but from a young age he has wanted to join the army, the application process has already begun and he is going through the interview stages, once he has officially left the family home I will be alone. By alone I don’t mean that everyone is gone forever and I am completely alone, what I mean is I will have to live alone. I don’t want that. For the last 29 years I have had other people living with me which includes my children and my ex-husband, one by one over the years they are all leaving, I don’t say this for sympathy, it is a fact, however, it is a fact that I find hard to take.


Living with my children has been full of joy, laughter, noise, mess, chaos and so much more and I miss all that. Apart from missing the buzz of a full house, I don’t want to be paying so much in utilities, just for me. So I have known for the last few years that things were going to change when my youngest finally left.

I didn’t expect to be travelling the world, even though I had jokingly talked about it on many occasions, I never truly believed it was possible for me because I have severe financial restrictions, but as mentioned in previous blogs I will be volunteering, which is much more financially viable for me at this moment in time.


To get back to the loneliness issue, I truly feel that one of my reasons for doing what I am doing is to alleviate the feelings of loneliness. I will be meeting new people all the time and living with them as part of their family, while working and helping them in any way I can. I think, for me, it’s the fact that I will feel needed again that draws me to this way of existing. I like to be needed. Whenever I have joined anything like clubs or associations in the past I haven’t wanted to just be like a spare part, I like to have a role and fulfill that role to the best of my abilities.

mold_market (1)

Mold Market

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I was told on Saturday morning to take the next few days to explore, but first I needed to get some fresh food in so I decided to go to Mold which was about 15 miles away, Afonwen, the little village where I am staying is in between Denbigh and Mold. I needed a big supermarket but also decided to explore Mold market for something different. The weather wasn’t very good, in fact it was very drizzly, which meant I got drenched just going to Aldi, anyway I took a walk to the market as I needed a couple of things. I don’t really like shopping but I like little markets which have lots of different things for sale made locally.


Mold market is one of the oldest markets in North Wales and still has a livestock market which has been in operation since 1879 which auctions the best of Welsh lamb and beef every Monday and Friday morning. The street markets are every Wednesday and Saturday from 9am to 3.30pm and take place on the High Street and Daniel Owen Square, Farmers markets where you can try a range of freshly produced food and drink, is held in St Mary’s church Hall on king Street and is held on every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month, this would be my favourite market where you get to meet the local farmers who have produced the food and drink and the local craftspeople who are selling their wares. Organic produce is a speciality in Mold and well worth trying. As well as all the individual markets, Mold also has an indoor market which is open throughout the week.


Mold is proud to be the first town in Wales to be accepted into the Cittaslow movement which is an international network of towns where quality of life matters. Cittaslow grew from the Slow Food movement which advocates that our food should taste good, be produced in a clean way which respects the environment, human health and animal welfare, and that food producers are paid a fair wage.

The food and drink festival is a two day event held every September in Mold and is a great place to visit if you like traditionally made food and drink.

I will definitely be coming back on the first Saturday in August to take a look in the Farmers market and try the local produce for myself.