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March 5th 2022
Published: April 22nd 2022
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My first trip to Wales was in December 2016.

It was to be my first Christmas away from my family home. My grandmother passed away in August and my parents moved to live in a small hamlet called Trisant, which is around 12 miles from Aberystwyth. I had never been to Wales before, except for a Tottenham Hotspur cup final in Cardiff ( they lost!) so I didn't know what to pack. Luckily I had bought a large camping backpack that thankfully fit in 2 weeks worth of clothing plus presents. I have my 2 cats to look after and I tried many catteries to house them but they were just too expensive and they wanted the cats vaccinated which I didn't have time to do so - so I was grateful that my uncle stayed with them over the 2 weeks I was away.

There are two options to get to Wales if you don't drive - train or coach. I have travelled on both and I recommend the coach as you are guaranteed a seat but it is a 9 hour trip with a 20 minute stop in Birmingham. The train is around 5 hours and you need to change at Birmingham for the train to Aberystwyth. Coach is cheaper but there is only 1 coach a day there and back, there are several train services from Euston everyday. Make sure you book in advance to get the best price and get there early to get your seat as there can be a lot of arguments ( I paid extra to book my seat and the train staff place a card on the top of the seat with your name on it) My first trip was by train and I had my tickets printed at my local station the week before and I put them in my jacket. On the day - I made sure that I had everything packed ( which I did the night before) and grabbed a few books to read. I left around 3 hours before the train departure time, I was on the over ground train into London, where I checked my new jacket that I had purchased the day before for my tickets - however - they were not there. I forgot that I had put them in my old jacket that was hanging up on the back of my door. So I quickly got off the train, ran to the other platform and made my way home to get my the important tickets. Thankfully the trains were running on time and I made it back home within 15 minutes.

So - back I go to my starting station and had to wait 30 minutes for my train into London. I am so glad I left 3 hours earlier. There were delays on the underground due to a passenger incident and I made it to Euston with about an hour to go. I grabbed some food and drinks and sat waiting for the departure boards to display my train. As you would expect, Euston was packed full of commuters - both holiday makers, students and business people all waiting for their trains to in the attempt to avoid the rush hour crowds. Eventually, my train arrived and then the race for seats began. I didn't think too much about it as I had pre-booked my seats on both parts of my journey. I booked a window seat ( I have always had a fear of not being able to see where I was going when travelling - both in cars and trains....more recently, planes, when I found it - 1st carriage of the train as it splits up on it's way from London to Scotland so I had to make sure I was on the first 5 sections. There was someone in my seat, I informed them that I had booked this seat to which the person was quite rude about it. I told them that there was a ticket on the top of the seat ( which was still there) with my name and booking number on it. The person swiftly reached for it and ripped it up and threw it at me. I went to stow my luggage in the big luggage section and stood in the doorway. A member of staff asked me to move as I was blocking the route - I explained the situation, showed them my booking information and approached the individual to ask them to move. The passenger refused to move from the seat and started to be verbally aggressive. Security was called and the passenger was removed from the train. Turns out they were drunk and had not purchased a ticket.

With all that excitement - it was time for the train to depart. The first leg of the trip was around and hour long with 2 stops between London and Birmingham. There is a short wait of around 15 minutes for the train to Aberystwyth. The 2nd leg is around three and a half hours with multiple stops. This train is a small train of only 2 carriages, but it is really spacious. It even has a food and drinks service - which came in handy on the long trip. I arrived at Aberystwyth station at around 5pm and I was surprised to see that there is a small steam engine station attached to the main one. This is The Vale of Rheidol Railway that runs from Aberystwyth to Devil's Bridge. The journey takes you through the Welsh Valley of Rheidol, through forests and up mountains to Devil's Bridge. They also provide special events at Christmas and Mother's Day. There was a huge fire in the valley ( which is very close to my parents house), It happened during the peak of Summer of 2018 where the temperature soared to 30C. The cause was the sparks from the firebox of the steam train. As it was so hot and dry, the sparks hit the surrounding gorse and thus started a huge wildfire. Half of the side of the mountain was damaged and luckily the sheep grazing there were moved on by the farmer. It took around a year or more for the grassland to grow back to what it was.

When I arrived, we went straight to the chip shop to get a proper fish and chip dinner and to watch the Starling murmuration over the Pier - I have never seen so many starlings in one place. It is such a crowd puller now that the BBC have installed a camera under the pier to watch them roost. The best time for the starlings is between November and March. We got home and it was already dark, the 2 things that stood out and hit me the most were how dark it was and how quiet it was - the saying " silence is deafening" - here it really is. However, the darkness is amazing, I saw more stars than I ever had before, and as an amateur astronomer it was breath-taking. The house is a late 18th century farmhouse which used to be the "Home Farm" of the area. My Dad found records showing that the original owners owned all of the town and surrounding farmland. Now we have the house and quiet a large garden that surrounds the house. There are 2 large fields behind the house where the farmer puts the sheep in to lamb and another large one at the front of the house. There is also and old chapel - named the old chapel on the maps - which still has the burial ground. The cemetery is still used and visited today - I have yet to venture there yet.

The following day, once I had unpacked, explored the house and had breakfast, we got ready to go shopping. There are no local shops, so we had to travel into Aberystwyth. There are a range of stores, a few well know supermarkets as well as a huge country-ware store that sells everything you would need when you live in the middle of nowhere. Since it was the Christmas week, everywhere was packed and there was very little on the shelves....even though we got to the stores in the early morning. All we needed was fruit, vegetables and other perishable items such as milk and bread. Having recently being diagnosed with lactose intolerance and IBS - it was hard for me to enjoy most of the food my Dad had already bought - and since there wasn't much in the way of dairy free items in the stores, I just made do. We got home and unpacked the shopping - by this time is was around lunchtime so we had something to eat and I wanted to go walk around the town.

It isn't much of a town but it is beautiful. Directly opposite the house there is the mountain Plynlimon. It is said that a giant sleeps in the mountain. This mountain is the source of 3 rivers, the Wye, Rheidol and Severn - which is the longest river in Britain. The name Plynlimon means five tops or five beacons. There are grazing fields and a lake nearby. there are also a few holiday rental cottages in the immediate area. There are not many people living in the village - as of writing this I think there are only 12 people living in the village, so everyone knows everyone and everything. Most of the villagers speak Welsh and their accents are so deep that it is really hard to understand them. My favourite neighbours are Aled - who calls me the little princess and Ian ( pronounced Yan - in fact this isn't even his real name but he prefers to be called Yan) he owns a huge farm where he stables horses for people and breaks them in when they are too wild for the owners. I love to go there as much as I possibly can as I love being around horses and Yan - he is the funniest and kindest man I've met. He always tells me off for not wearing a hat when it's cold ( even though I hate wearing hats).

There is an amazing place 2 miles down the road called Devils Bridge. The legend is that a woman wanted to cross the river here and the devil appeared. He offered to build her a bridge across the river - in return he wanted the first soul that crossed the bridge. The next morning, the woman returned to find a newly built bridge. She threw some bread to the other side and her dog went to over to eat it - thus becoming the first soul to cross the bridge. There are now 3 bridges spanning the gorge. You can pay a small fee to walk down either side of the bridge - but it can be really slippery in places. Devils Bridge was featured in the first episode of the crime series Hinterland. In fact, parents neighbour Yan's tool shed also features in this episode as a murder scene. The Aberystwyth area features heavily in this show - sad to say I have yet to watch it fully.

Christmas Eve - we got up early and it was freezing! The old house does have modern heating but my Dad prefers to use the old fashioned wood and coal burning fire. He has had this replaced by a wood burning stove which is really efficient in warming the place up - so much so that we checked the temperature gauge and it read around 30 degrees. It was so hot we had to open the door. That morning, we visited Devil's Bridge, the town centre and Borth. Borth has a beach where you can explore the ancient petrified forest that once covered the land. It is reported that there are also preserved human footprints in the peat that is all over the beach. Further down from Borth is Ynyslas, which is a national nature reserve. There are many areas for various water birds who visit the area to feed and roost on the mudflat, sand dunes and salt marshes. Somewhere on the beach are several shipwreck that were preserved by the salt water and marshlands. I have only seen one of these wrecks - the only bit left is a rusted cog and drive shaft of a long forgotten machine.

The next few days were mostly spent at home, eating, reading one of the new books I received and watching re-runs of old TV shows.

I have visited Wales many times now, both in Winter and Spring so that I can see lambs being born and to visit the Dyfi Osprey Project Centre that is between Aberystwyth and Borth. I have not returned since December 2019 - before the Covid pandemic hit the world. Unfortunalty, Wales have a much more stricter Covid policy than England and so I cannot go visit my parents, they have yet to meet by Fiancé.

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