Monthly Archives

August 2016


My adventure on the farm

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I work as a CSAS marshal for Welsh Cycling and one of my colleague’s lives on a small holding not far from where I am staying in North Wales so we arranged for me to visit when I came up here.  I rang him as soon as I arrived to explain whereabouts I was and it turned out I was only a twenty minute drive away.


We agreed for me to visit on the Thursday and Peter would meet me in Ruthin carpark so that I could follow him home, because he lived in quite remote part of the area.  I followed him through an area of “outstanding natural beauty” and we arrived shortly at his lovely small holding nestled in a lovely dell in the middle of the surrounding mountains.  I parked the car and was greeted by Peter’s lovely wife Alison, after offering me a drink we quickly went to meet the animals who are pets to Alison and Peter, they keep them for love not for food and of course for the wool from the sheep.



First I met Dylan the sheep who had been with them for about 4 years after having adopted him from a local farmer who had found him abandoned in a field up the road.  He quickly became part of the family until he started eating everything at which point he was moved outside, during his upbringing Alison and Peter bought another three lambs but this time they chose Ryland sheep because they particularly wanted to use their softer fleeces to spin their own wool, well Alison did, and they had done some research and it seemed that Ryland’s were friendly and easy to keep.  They named them Rhiannon, Bethan and Megan, they were lying in the shade while I was there as it was quite hot for them, they hadn’t long been sheared and Alison was going to teach me how a fleece becomes a ball of wool.



After meeting both their horses, Rupert and Chas, we went inside the barn to see the fleeces that had just come off the sheep, they felt quite coarse and very oily, Alison explained that this is the Lanolin in the wool that makes the sheep waterproof.  She said some people wash the fleece before spinning into wool but it wasn’t always necessary and some preferred to use it raw, anyway we went back in the house for Alison to show me the spinning wheel and the process.

I have to say it is a very long process and when you think about the way the Welsh women used to do this years ago, it must have been a full time job.  It isn’t as easy as it looks, working the spinning wheel either.  Alison first showed me the carding, which is where you take a pinch of the rough wool from the fleece and place it on one of the cards  which are made of wood with very fine steel prongs protruding from the flat board, a bit like a flat hairbrush, you use two of these and brush one against the other to try and get the fibres all running the same way, you do this twice then form a roll which you place in the basket ready for spinning.



The spinning wheel has a treadle which is what spins the wheel so trying to treadle while feeding the fleece into the spinner was difficult and would take a lot of practice if you are to become proficient.  Alison has been on a few courses, she bought the spinning wheel in an antique shop and it comes from New Zealand and is one of the best makes, she has made some things with the wool she has spun but the wool is grey in colour and if it needs to be dyed Alison would use natural dyes like blackcurrants, boiling the wool in a pot of blackcurrants is another long process.  After the wool has been spun you then have to place the bobbin on a gadget called a lazy Kate with another bobbin and you feed both threads into the spinning wheel to produce two ply wool.


I managed to do the whole process while I was there for the day but very shabbily, obviously this is a skilled craft and there is no way you could learn to do it in a day but I was happy with the wool I produced, being very thick in parts, very thin in other parts and overly twisted in other parts but I crocheted with it, making a hanging thing for my car which I will decorate at a later stage, I didn’t do the dying process so have a nice light grey coloured wool.  All in all I really enjoyed learning about the process and found it really interesting, I learned stuff about lambs that I didn’t know before and found the whole day fascinating.







As well as teaching me the process of spinning Alison and Peter made a luscious two course lunch for me, I was thoroughly spoiled; we had home-made Spanish Omelette with roasted peppers, home-made bread and salad with a home-made fruit salad to follow and a lovely glass of wine.

IMG_2952My adventure on the farm is definitely one of the highlights of my trip and I am especially grateful to Peter and Alison for their hospitality, it was such a wonderful day.

clywdian hills

Benefits of walking and Offa’s Dyke path

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I am going to do some walking on the Offa’s Dyke path which passes just outside the place where I am staying, so I thought I might do a blog post on the benefits of walking and new discoveries made about how beneficial it is to your health, especially walking in nature in the great outdoors.

In the past several months, a bevy of studies have added to a growing literature on the mental and physical benefits of walking outdoors. That includes recent research showing that short micro-breaks spent looking at a nature scene have a rejuvenating effect on the brain — boosting levels of attention — and also that kids who attend schools featuring more greenery fare better on cognitive tests.


Senior couple on country walk


The studies have been done on walking in general and walking in nature and were published recently by Gregory Bratman of Stanford and his colleagues from the USA and Sweden.  The paper looked at 38 individuals who lived in urban areas, they had half of them walk in an area of nature and the other half walked on a busy street in the city.

Before the walk the participants were asked to fill in a questionnaire designed to determine the tendency toward depressive illness.  Before and after the walk they also had their brains scanned, in particular the area called subgenual prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain shown to be most active with people are in depressive states.

The questionnaire was filled in after the walk in which case some of the questions were answered differently and the conclusion was that with the questionnaire results and the brain scan results which also were different after the walk, there was clear evidence that there was reduced activity in the area of the brain related to depressive tendency.



“This provides robust results for us that nature experience, even of a short duration, can decrease this pattern of thinking that is associated with the onset, in some cases, of mental illnesses like depression,” says Gregory Bratman, the lead author of the study.

Lots of studies have been done on walking and the benefits but this goes to show that walking in nature is even more beneficial.

Other diseases which might benefit from walking in nature include, helping to prevent dementia and osteoporosis, it’s good exercise for everyone, it helps tone the muscles, helps the cardiovascular system.  It gives you energy, boosts our vitamin D levels and it boosts your mood adding to your general happiness.


The Offa’s Dyke path runs the whole length of Wales and now that the coastal path also covers all of Wales’s beautiful coastline, you could literally walk around the whole of Wales on one path.

The 177 miles Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail was opened in the summer of 1971, linking Sedbury Cliffs near Chepstow on the banks of the Severn estuary with the North Wales coastal town of Prestatyn. The Trail is named after, and often follows, the spectacular Offa’s Dyke, a great frontier earthwork, which Offa the King of Mercia from 757 to 796 A.D. ordered to be constructed.

The Trail passes through no less than eight different counties and crosses the border between England and Wales over 20 times. The Trail explores the tranquil Marches (as the border region is known) and passes through the Brecon Beacons National Park on the spectacular Hatterall Ridge, the highest point on the route at 700m/2300ft. In addition it links no less than three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – the Wye Valley, the Shropshire Hills and the Clwydian Hills.

Offa’s Dyke Path is the most attractive and varied of the National Trails. The route crosses high wild moorland, attractive, well cultivated wide river valleys and ancient woodland. It passes through historic towns and isolated hamlets. En route can be seen hill forts, castles, abbeys and surviving remains of the habitations of former occupants of the beautiful corridor of the path. The flora and fauna are as rich and as varied as the scenery.

The above is some information taken from North West Walks.


I found the Offa’s Dyke path running through Afonwen where I am staying and decided to do some of the walk.  I only did a short part of it to get my bearings and to see the lovely view.  I will go back in better weather and when I have more time, but from what I have seen so far, it is beautiful, rolling hills for miles and miles.  From the top of one of the hills near Moel Famau I could see the towns of Denbigh and Ruthin in the immediate vicinity, as far as Blackpool Tower to the right and Snowdon and the Snowdonia range behind me with the continuing Clwydian range to my right.  It is really spectacular up there, the walk is very undulating with some sharp ups and downs and some meandering trails.


I took a look at the map when I got back to see where the path runs and it is definitely one I would like to do more of.  I wonder how long it would take to walk around the coastal path and the Offa’s Dyke path in one go?


Selling my stuff

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It’s tough selling all your stuff, because I have advertised it online and on my Facebook, everyone knows the reason I am selling everything is to go travelling, so they very often offer less because they know I have to get rid of it by a certain time.  This can be quite disheartening, especially when I paid a lot for a certain piece of furniture and I loved it and people want it for nothing, but, having said that, a lot of people have been wonderful and paid me what I was asking for something, in a couple of rare cases people have even paid a little more and wished me well on my journey!

Selling stuff in a car boot sale has been worse; a lot of people want stuff for next to nothing no matter how much you paid for it or how new it is.  I had one person arguing over a book I was charging 50 pence for , he wanted it for 30 pence but I didn’t give in I stuck to my guns and got 50 pence woohoo!!!!  I have to say that sometimes if people are polite about offering me less then I will take it but it’s all about the way it’s done!  I feel that car boot sales are like reverse capitalism, you go with 500 quid’s worth of stuff and come away with 50 quid if you’re lucky!!!


There was one day during the whole getting rid of my stuff thing that has been lovely, both my boys helped me clear out the shed, ready for its new owner to pick it up the following day at 9am, (£700 shed sold for £100, gutted but had to go before the 2 weeks was up) we took lots of stuff  to the tip and after we finished we all had an Indian takeaway then had a bonfire to burn all the old paperwork, school work and Tobi’s school uniform (end of an era).  After the bonfire had burnt everything we lit the brazier and toasted marshmallows.  It was a lovely day, shared by some of my favourite people including Caitlyn Zak’s girlfriend.



That night all my diaries from the last ten years went on the fire along with the other stuff and it felt weird, watching each page burn was like saying goodbye to my past even though I suppose I have already done that, I feel that holding on to the diaries meant that in some way I was holding on to the past.  The past is gone, I can’t bring it back, I have my memories and they are the best but it’s time to let go and move on into a new era in my life a “finding myself era”!!!!

I miss the life I had with my children and I don’t mean my current life with them I mean the time when they were my children, the fun we used to have, going on picnics, the beach, walks, out on the bikes, picking blackberries and taking them home to make a crumble etc. etc.  Nothing prepares you either for the getting rid of their stuff, as you bring it all down from the attic each item holds a special memory, finding the pile of sheet music which was for piano, singing, flute, violin and all the books which they used to learn their skill, the times I spent watching them in concerts, the time I spent taking them to their lessons, it all comes flooding back and I miss it.  They don’t want the detritus of their lives as children any more so if you don’t have a house to keep it in then you can’t keep it.  I don’t need it to remember the good times they are firmly implanted in my memory but getting rid of the stuff just reminds me of the years of joy I had with them.  I have cried so much for what has gone but I’m sure it’s the same for everyone when their kids grow up.


I managed to sell most of the big pieces of furniture but ended up giving some of it away because in the end I just needed to be rid of it, the notice period in my house was creeping up on me.  I had quite a lot of stuff which was supposed to be going to a house clearance company and they were going to give me a price for it all, so I put it ready and they didn’t even turn up and they didn’t let me know either, in the end a friend of a friend took it all and will sell it on.  It has been very liberating but also quite poignant selling all my stuff, most of the furniture was part of our lives when we were all together so it holds special memories but I know the memories will stay with me, I don’t need stuff to remind me. I am at the point where all I own now is my car and the belongings in my mothers’ house which does scare me slightly, but it had to be done.

A lot of people are asking me and family members what I will do when I come back, I do have a bit of a plan which I might reveal in another blog post, depending how the blog is received, but the future is far away and we all need to live more in the now, I will cross that bridge when I come to it, but having said that, I can always rent a room with someone and get a local job, it’s not the end of the world if I don’t have all that stuff!


The main thing I have learned about myself is I am a terrible hoarder and if I had carried on moving all the personal memory stuff from house to house over the years I would have been like one of those old ladies on the tv programme about hoarders. Never again will I a hoarder be!!!

I do feel a kind of freedom now I am not tied to the paying of the bills and all the responsibility of owning a house and owning a business.  I wish I could bring my kids on my travels with me then it would be perfect but I can’t, so I am happy to keep going back to see family and friends because even though you can stay in touch much better now than years ago, there is still nothing like a cwtch from your kids to make you feel alive!!!