Heading to Carmarthenshire… via Powis

Departing from Ruthin, we leave North Wales behind us and head south. Our route took as along the border with England, on the eastern edge of Wales. As we trundled along… we decided to stop at Powis Castle!

The courtyard of Powis Castle

Powis is a very Manor house type of castle. There has been a castle on this sight since the mid 1200’s, when Powis was built by Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn. This was never one of the castles intended to control the wild Welsh hoards – as so many of the castles Edward I built in that era. Rather this was a Welsh prince, changing allegiances and building on land given to him by the Crown. Harumph. The two large drum towers date from 1312, and the majority of the construction was renovated in the 1530’s.

Powis is famous for its tiered gardens – sadly we only overlooked them… as it was a grey and rainy day. I loved the Medusa details on the sculpture. (“Fame”, attributed to the workshop of Dutchman John van Nost )

I apparently snuck a few pictures inside, not knowing it was not allowed.

These fantastical creatures date back to the period 1587-1595 when Lord Edward Herbert had extensive renovations done to the castle. They are in the Long Hall – the only surviving room from that era.

Our second destination was Cwmcrwth Farm, near Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire. Utterly charming, this working farm has down sized its flocks and herds, and converted many of the original stone farm buildings to cottages. It is still a farm, however – and Rob and Fiona are amazing hosts.

Croeso to Cwmcrwth Farm!
Kitchen still life
To the pasture…

One of the highlights for my nephews, I think was feeding the animals. There are Highland cattle, alpaca, goats, sheep, donkeys, pigs, chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs… and Bryn and Meg the working border collies!

 Cwtch Corner (cwtch is Welsh for cuddle) was a big hit. Not pictured are the rabbits – Snowy and Sooty who were fed many handfuls of dandelions…

While we were based at Cwmcrwth Farm, my sisters and I had a simply amazing experience! Billed as a cooking lesson, it was a day of food and camaraderie with Lisa Fearn at The Pumpkin Patch.

Heather and Cristy – making Welsh cakes

Lisa is a chef, author, and television personality – regularly appearing on S4C’s Prynhawn Da program. She teaches cooking classes for all ages, and welcomed us into her home for a day of traditional Welsh recipes. We made bread ( something I have never attempted) Welsh Cawl and Welsh cakes. Oh – Lisa whipped up some Welsh rarebit to go with our bread…

Welsh Cawl – a hearty soup of veg and ham/lamb.

While our dough was proving ( don’t I sound ready for the Bake off? Ha) Lisa showed us her new addition Y Sied. This newly renovated barn now houses the cooking school as well as a coffee shop and cafe! I was excited to see this new space before the unveiling – and am only sad I don’t live closer. I wish Lisa and her staff all the best in this new venture!

The Farm was a lovely respite in the middle of our trip. And we had such delicious offerings from our cooking class to take back to our self-catering cottages! So delicious!

Alpaca walk – post shearing
Sunset from the high pasture.

From our home base near Carmarthen – up next was a day trip to St Davis and the Pembrokeshire coast!

Croeso! Welcome to Wales

Part of my heritage is Welsh. The Davies name/blood on my paternal side held on tenaciously amidst the German and Irish, waving the surname like a flag. I have always been called to this aspect of my diverse Celtic heritage. So last holiday season the family started planning an epic trip. My family has had its fair share of grief and trauma in the last year and a half. So this trip was much needed – to celebrate life, and be together, and get a feel for the country of our ancestry.

To me – and for the writing here – I will treat Wales as its own country. While it is officially part of the UK, it has its own language, and strong independent cultural identity. The fact that the latter has survived amidst great prejudice and pressure to assimilate is remarkable to me. (Wales lost its last prince in 1282 when Edward I defeated Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. Then became part of the UK in 1535, early enough in UK history that you don’t see Wales represented in the UK flag, nor in the coat of arms. * See below )

Our trip started in early July ( the irony of landing in the UK on July 4th was not lost on any of us) and the 7 of us flew in from Delaware, Texas, New Mexico… Landing in Manchester and heading to Ruthin Wales. I was traveling solo – sadly my spouse had to work New job= no real leave time…. But I got to hop of the train in Warrington to have coffee with Caroline!

Me and Caroline! Long distance friends and blog colleagues.

Caroline and I are both artists and writers for Art Elements blog. We have known each other for like 8 years? And this was our 2nd in person! She and I share a love of myth and magic, and hours passed in the blink of an eye and a few sips of latte. Then I was on the train – headed to Flint Wales with lunch – thanks to C! Although the windows were dirty, the view still made my heart happy.

Can I just take a second to appreciate al the bilingual signs all over Wales?! This (below) was at the tiny, gritty train station… where I waited for a taxi able to take me the rest of the way, a good jaunt, too Ruthin.

Ruthin Castle, parts dating to the late 1200’s. Served as a research hospital in the 1920’s. Now a hotel, spa and wedding venue.

When I arrived – I had a few hours to myself. I set off to explore the grounds, and walk in to town.

Can I tell you how exciting it is to stay in a castle? Current structures date from 1826 app.
I want to paint this. I want to sculpt this. I want to do a series of prints….

Also on the grounds of Ruthin Castle is a Gorsedd stone circle. These circles are constructed for the ceremonies of the National Eisteddfod. The Ruthin circle was constructed in 1973, commemorating Ruthin hosting the festival. While it is a modern circle – walking amongst standing stones as tall as me, in the morning dew and mist, was a magical experience.

Headed into Ruthin
Window at Nantclwyd y Dre. Wales’ oldest dated timbered house – 1435. Sadly it was closed while I was in town.
Gorgeous patterns and history everywhere. And this one had recently sold!

Now – true to form I am always looking for myth and magic. SO I present Maen Huail – where folklore says King Arthur ( yes, that King Arthur) beheaded the giant Huail. While the stone has been moved in town, from outside the bank to now outside a pub, it remains in the town center, and well marked! ( information here and here.)

Ruthin is a really charming market town. People were exceptionally friendly – and even more so when we told them about our trip. That we ranged in age from Dad at 81 to my nephews at 5 and 9. That we were “Davies” and interested in the land of our heritage, even though we weren’t conducting research. And our attempts and pronunciation and a few Welsh word – patiently well received.

The Ruthin Craft Centre was on my list of “I-hope-I-can-go-there” places. And it did not disappoint! Galleries, local artists work in the shop, artist residency studios, and classrooms – this place was hub of arts and learning. My sister and I went to see the exhibit by Primmy Chorley. ( see the image below for a quote on her work.)

One thing we had planned while based in Ruthin was a day trip to Rhosllanerchrugog. (Rhos – moor. Llanerch – glade. grugog – heathery. “Moor of the Heathery Glade”). We didn’t have a destination in mind specifically, so we did a drive through town. Rhos was a minion town, and seemed to be in a bit of a decline/hard times… We opted to continue on…

The afternoon was spent exploring the defunct Mineral lead mine, and lunch at Llandegla. Llandegla is a trout fishery, with a stunning camping area and a wonderful cafe. The boys fed some trout – and we ate some too. My obsession with elderflower started here…

Diolch! As in – thank you for reading the first installment of this amazing trip. More to come – stay tuned.

Scotland represented by unicorn, red lion rampant, thistles. Ireland represented by harp, shamrocks.

Here be dragons…

Welsh dragon

Happy St David’s Day

St. David is the patron saint of Wales, also known as Dewi Sant. The holiday marks his death – which was in 589. Recognized as a holiday in the 18th century – it seems to me to be more about celebrating Welsh nationalism than the dearly departed Dewi Sant. Especially since the Welsh were subjugated to English rule in what, 1282?  The holiday is often marked by the wearing of the national emblems, or the national costume.

daffodils leeks

And a parade, I love a parade…

St Davids Day in Cardiff

I for one, am wearing my treasured 20+ year old Welsh T-shirt. It is alot more comfortable than the traditional Welsh costume… I did however, purchase my tee from a vendor in the shadow of Caernarfon Castle, in Caernarfon Wales. It was 10 pm, the sun was setting, and I was a 20 year old art student on holiday from London… Looks a little worse for wear, I know…

PC Caernarvon  me

( And just for trivia’s sake… Here be dragons” is a phrase used to denote dangerous or unexplored territories, in imitation of the medieval practice of putting sea serpents and other mythological creatures in blank areas of maps.Thanks Wiki. )