2 humans. 2 dogs. 1 converted T5.
These pictures are from the last weekend in August and marked the end of this year’s season. The week after these pictures were taken, the twins moved in. I gotta admit – not being able to go out in the van while we wait for them to grow into somewhat responsible little doggies is killing me!! Still.
I really have nooooo idea how we’re all going to fit into our van next year either so if you’re a super inventive person and into your VWs and can think of a way how to accommodate 3 fully grown dogs and 2 adults while unable to lift the roof and unwilling to attach an awning then let us know, we need to hear from you!
Llyn y Fan Fach then. Breathtaking place! Remote and shrouded in Welsh legend, it has been named as one of the 1,000 must-see sights across the globe by Lonely Planet. It is the only spot in Wales to make the list and when you’re there it’s easy to understand why. Legend has it that in the 13th century, a farmer grazing cattle on the nearby slopes spotted the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. She was a fairy maiden, who agreed to marry him on one proviso – he must not hit her more than twice. No prizes for guessing that in time, the inevitable did happen – three strikes, and the otherworldly wife disappeared back into the lake, taking her magic cows with her. I haven’t heard an explanation as to why he ended up striking her but maybe that’s part of the enchanting story………some things are best left unsaid I guess.
The valley is rich in medicinal herbs and bog plants now, suggesting that this may be the mistreated fairy maiden’s healing legacy. The lake itself is featured in the top 10 most unusual lakes category. You go up to the lake and climb up the ridge and you can see all the peaks of the Brecon Beacons, it’s simply magical!
We spent the weekend with one of Mr. B’s old army friends and his family camping round the Llandovery rugby pitch and Smudge suggested this walk. I’m so glad he did! The day after we chased some amazing waterfalls. More about that some other day.
We loved Llyn y Fan Fach! In fact – if you’re planning on spending just one weekend in Wales next year make sure it’s somewhere near this lake.
I’ve posted about Minera before (if you’ve missed it, here’s the link). In fact, looking at the pictures from November last year it almost seems like scenes from a different life now. Mainly because Henry is no longer with us and we miss him. I’m sure he’s watching from above shaking his gorgeous head watching the twins’ poor efforts when they play fetch with a ball. He used to be the most ball crazy dog on the planet and even wised up to us referring to it as a *B* in the end ^_^. Henry very much loved getting involved in our little lives and one of his *jobs* was to help get the fire wood in; he then used to get super excited when we lit it and would be dying to run outside to get more wood. Now that log burner season is officially here I miss his excited little face and human-like approach to life x
But I digress. We’re trying to get a bit of variety into our puppy walk routine (and alternate between lead walks starting at our house and fun runs in Erddig) and remembered the old lead mines at Minera. Perfect baby mountains! [If you're reading this from the States or particularly mountainous countries on the Continent - humour us. There are no proper mountains on this island. But we're trying. So give us a break).
There we have it. Baby mountains for baby dogs.
PS: the twins are 4 months old today. How time flies!
PPS: all pictures taken by Mr. B [apart from the Henry ones]
PPPS: in the absence of quality sit down time anything qualifies as a monthly roundup nowadays…!? ^_^
At the beginning of August we went down to Builth Wells for the day to go and meet the twins for the very first time. Perfect opportunity for a little overnighter. After a quick Google search of the area it looked like New House Farm by Rhosgoch in Powys would be a nice little spot to hang out.
And it was. There was nobody other than a gorgeous Henry look-alike Collie at the farm so we left a note by the door to say we had arrived and headed off to the field. We didn’t feel like doing anything. Or seeing anything. We just wanted to hang out. I guess one of the great things about having a dog (or three…) is that when you get somewhere you always feel like walking somewhere. Whether you want to or not.
[Are you kidding, of course I was tempted to smooth out those wrinkles, straighten that nose and get rid of those Dracula teeth. I actually made my husband re-take the same shot 12 times (you can see how fed up he became in the shot below mwahaha) I even tried to eliminate the looming wrinkle/nose/teeth drama at source by adding the biggest insect-eye shaped sunglasses ever...]
I gave up in the end and just enjoyed some beer watching the world go by after a leisurely stroll through some gorgeous countryside to the Roast Ox Inn at Painscastle.
Back on the field/in the van we cooked us some simple dinner and played the Simpsons Monopoly over some wine (I lost. What’s new). It wasn’t exactly the most adrenaline-filled overnighter but it was nice to actually just do not a lot.
The New House Farm camping field was right up my street: no facilities (apart from the obligatory toilet/wash block by the house), no EHU, no crowds, stunning scenery, friendly owners. All that for a fiver. Would happily return tomorrow!
My puppernity leave has come to an end. Today was my first day back doing my little part-time job having devoted the last 2 weeks to settling in the twins.
It already feels like only 2 minutes ago that we effectively kidnapped those cute lil boys from their mum, separated them from their siblings and took them away from everything they knew. They repaid us by being sick (as a dog) in the car on the drive home. We had to abandon the safe kennel option and I ended up having to comfort them on my lap. I didn’t mind ^_^
As soon as we returned home they perked up a little and after a cuddle with their new human dad things didn’t seem that bad at all for our little boys.
After that I just couldn’t stop taking puppy pics.
Maisie is not the twins’ biggest fan. Yet. If she had her way they’d be roaming the streets instead of taking up residency in her gaff. Every now and then we force her to join in (ha!) and she comes into the puppy pen to stand around awkwardly trying her hardest not to look at them. But she seems to be coming round and once all jabbed up next week they will have to learn how to live with one another. My money’s on Maisie teaching them some manners. And pretty pronto I reckon ^_^
AJ & Cai(zers) are now 10 weeks old. They can sit, lie down, kinda give paw, come here and *sit high*. They are incredibly cute and incredibly naughty!
I tried really hard to make 2 vans in the dark on a concrete car park look good. Epic fail.
Still. I took about 50 gazillion pictures (all pretty much the same, most of them even blurrier) then gave up and sat down for the barbie cooked by somebody wearing a head torch.
We’d arrived at the Corwen Walking Festival on the Friday evening to help the guys from Cotswold (clothing/gear/sponsor) set up their tents and ended up mingling in Paul’s van over, ahem, *a few* bevvies. Some of the guys took up the offer of a free overnight stay in the tents they had set up for Cotswold [to go on sale the following day] while others – like us – chose to spend the night on the car park of the Corwen Sports Pavilion. Which was a first for us.
We had a right laugh though and woke up with a bit of a sore head early the following morning to set up the NEWSAR stand. Mr B even cooked bacon sarnies for everyone.
Here’s Paul and his super cute search dog Mist(y) dancing the Fandango. I had hoped that Mist(y) [below] and Maisie [above] would become bezzies but after a *handbags at dawn* incident during a game of fetch it became pretty obvious that wasn’t gonna happen so after their little spat they were watching each other like little hawks but managed to hold it together for the rest of the day.
It made sense for the Mountain Search & Rescue guys to be out and about in the hills during the walking festival so after a few hours spent manning the stand to generate some cash we hooked up with Paul, Chris & Mist(y) and went on a little hike around the area. For anyone interested in coming along next year, you can see details of all the routes etc. on their web site (here).
After a bit of a hike and a bite to eat Paul suggested a quick & easy training session for Mist(y) involving Mr. B as the body and me trying to keep up with the dog while not disturbing her too much as I’m trying to run through heavy going heather. Urg!
So Mr. B ran off to play hide’n seek with a dog.
Once in position Paul put the harness on Mist(y) to make her aware that it was *game on*. She became very excited; she knows that if she finds the body she gets to play with her favourite toy. For anyone interested in finding out more about Search & Rescue dogs [something we hope to get into with these two] take a look at Paul’s blog or head on over to the SARDA web site.
The lady of this manor came out and asked me in no uncertain terms why I was taking a picture of her house. As we were on a public footpath (that runs through her immaculately kept grounds) I can only assume she’s not too happy about strangers being allowed to roam free and snap away [I did reply that her house is very pretty...]. At the end of the day, if she doesn’t like ramblers I guess she should have bought another one.
We had hoped to be able to find a pub to relax in at the end of the walk but unfortunately the only one we came across was closed. So we headed back to base, spent some more time on the stand then said our goodbyes and carried on to Anglesey where Mr. B was to take part in a helicopter search & rescue training session the following day.
I’m not totally sure which campsite this was – I have a feeling we thought it was the closest one to the airfield and Rhosneigr rings a bell [and so does the price, £16 for the questionable pleasure of looking at a load of static tourers......]. Still. We literally turned up to park, sleep then go to the airfield first thing Sunday morning and so paid for convenience rather than scenery.
I drove us to the carpark by the airfield and we waited for the other teams to turn up. Some of them came from as far afield as Staffordshire for the day. Once everybody had arrived Maisie & I made our way to a nearby beach to spend the day walking and lazying about. I had never been in the van with the dog on my own so that was kinda strange.
I could see the helicopters from where I parked the van and played about with my zoom lens for a while. As it happened the helicopter earmarked for winch training that day was called out to an incident and so they never got to do their stuff. And just in case you wondered – we think Kate’n Wills attended the opening ceremony for an early bike race that morning but he wasn’t actually on duty that day so Mr. B never got to see him. Got to see his name on the rota though #lameclaimtofame.
And finally: pics from inside the compound. Courtesy of another Paul. And Mr. B’s iPhone. And maybe a teeny weeny bit of editing by me.
So then. That was our last weekend before the twins. And what a fabulous time we had!
You would have thought now that I’m at home with the twin pups all day I’d have all the time in the world to give my blog some love. Well. What can I say. Maybe I’m not as efficient as I thought I’d be but there’s absolutely no time to think about a write-up so here’s some pics from North Wales, of the van, a scenic train ride and Maisie [because if you look at my Insta feed right now you'd be forgiven for thinking she'd been kicked out.......].
The site: Bwych yn Uchaf. We paid £16/night without EHU which I think is a little on the high side for what you get. Considering our location though (in a little niche along the river) I did not mind that much. It’s right next to Llanuwchllyn train station from where you can jump onto an open carriage steam train taking you directly to Bala. What a great way to travel, even with dogs. We took the train in then walked back and ended our little adventure with a pint in the local. Perfect!
By the way – are you seeing adverts at the bottom of my post…..? The greedy people at WordPress want me to pay $30 to get rid of them?! Considering I have already paid to register my domain I don’t think that’s good business. Or am I being unreasonable and underestimating how much I’m actually getting for my dosh? What do you think?
August was mainly about waiting for the pups to grow up. DIYing. And van travels.
We kicked off the month with a trip to Lake Bala. Then we went down to Builth Wells to meet our twins for the very first time. After that we spent some time with loved ones and captured some moments in Aberystwyth. Only a couple of weeks ago we caught up with friends from waaaaaaaaaay back in Llandovery. And finally: last weekend we hooked up with the NEWSAR guys and walked round Corwen and (almost!) flew on Anglesey.
On the dog front: Maisie met lots of play mates but wasn’t too keen on any of them. Which is a shame given that come this Sunday (exciting!!!) she will have to learn how to share her humble abode with these hooligans:
At home, *we* finally managed to progress things a little further in the bathroom. This time last year (that’s right. LAST. year) we decided on a whim to rip out the bath. We managed with nothing but a tiny shower cubicle and a toilet (remember, we’re campers) for quite some time (months!) before my gifted plumber husband finally ripped out the whole lot and we were left with no option but to wash hair & brush teeth in the kitchen sink and have showers at my ever so generous parents-in-law across the road. But – hallelujah! – we now have a fully functioning GORGEOUS shower and the end is in sight. Crying shame then that we seem to have run out of cash now…..
We’re still missing a wall. A sink. And the flooring but it’ll do for now.
So. My guess is September will be all about the pups. Exciting!!!
Before Mr. B joined NEWSAR I must admit I did not really know what Search & Rescue was all about. Who are these people who very generously donate their time (and funds) to provide the Police, Ambulance Service and local communities with a highly competent search and rescue capability that can be deployed swiftly, safely and effectively 24 hours a day, 365 days per year [Yes! I blatantly stole that mission statement off of the official NEWSAR website. All in the name of publicity, of course...].
And so one Wednesday evening in July, we made our way to the White Water centre in Llangollen to watch the 13s (2013 trainees) and others do some training. Maisie and I were nosy hanger-onners while Mr. B rocked up with his NEWSAR buddies to learn about basic swift water rescue techniques.
Mr. B positioned himself nicely in the middle of the shot. Well, he is the tallest by far so not easily missed. You might also recognise super nice Paul off of One Pillock’s Hillocks [his words, not mine!]. Not content with *just* doing search’n rescue, Paul & his gorgeous furry lady Misty also do guided walks and dog searches, something the twins will hopefully get into when they’re a little older and have finished trashing my house ^_^.
Anyway. Here they all are, eagerly awaiting their turn to conquer the water.
The canoes were not involved in the training but provided some entertainment for me’n Maisie when the searchers were being briefed up by their trainer. I am also pleased to report that I have learnt soooooooooooooooo much in the last year that I actually forgot to take millions of pictures off my camera before I came out and not only did the camera run out of memory but the battery didn’t make it either. I ended up missing the exciting part when they were doing rope work and stuff and hopefully learnt another valuable lesson….
And remember kids: what not to wear & do when out & about in a canoe…… #commonsense
Homeland. Heimat. Whatever you wanna call it – this is it.
One Saturday we packed up the van and headed 6 miles down the road to Llangollen. Most famous as the town *where England meets Wales* it’s essentially very much neglected by yours truly as a popular holiday/weekend destination and so it was about time we found out more about what camping so close to home would be like.
Well. Let me tell y’all – it’s great!
The Horseshoe Pass is one of our favourite dog walking destinations and umpteen times we made a promise to stay over one night and enjoy a few drinks in one of the colourful pubs along the way. At the end of July it finally happened.
The Abbey Farm campsite is exactly the kind of site we’d normally stay clear off; statics [along the left hand side on the picture above], lodges [at the very back of the site], commercialness & general busyness but I have to say that – as much as I wanted to – I simply couldn’t find fault with it.
The site is based on a working farm and around the actual Abbey in a valley only a short walk away from Llangollen itself. It has outstanding 360 degree views and the camping field is off to the right of the site. I don’t know why it wasn’t busy that weekend but luckily for us we managed to set up the van on a raised area looking straight at the abbey, bonus!
After a quick set-up (i.e. park up, pull out the awning), we stuffed Maisie in her corset and headed off for a little stroll. She chased a little cat up a tree at the back of the site. I don’t know why we assumed it was stuck but Mr. B’s highly developed sense of rescue kicked in and he felt obliged to offer the poor thing a hand.
It ended up rejecting our very generous offer of jumping into Mr. B’s arms and eventually managed to get itself down all by itself [we watched it do it. Maisie meanwhile decided to carry on with her wanders and wasn't at all concerned. And why should she. She made it perfectly clear that mountains belong to Border Collies, not cats].
Dinas Bran is another great little spot to include in your Llangollen itinerary, it’s an awesome location to take some very dramatic shots but as we ended up walking along the opposite side of the valley, here’s some far away & zoom shots to (hopefully) whet your North Wales appetite.
The Pavilion hosts many events throughout the year, the most important one of which is, of course, the annual Eisteddfod. Every July thousands of people flock to Llangollen to sing their little hearts out and the town is buzzing with excitement and visitors from all over the world.
We walked along the ridge overlooking our beautiful land for a while then ventured down and headed to the Chainbridge Hotel for a cool beer. The Chainbridge has recently (well, not THAT recently but still recently to me……) changed owners and looks like it’s set to be transformed into a stunning little location that should definitely be on your list should you ever decide to come’n visit. It now features a super sunny & pretty patio overlooking the river Dee and the actual chain bridge which has just been granted some funding and will be accessible to the public from next year. I have no doubt it’ll be absolutely amazing! If you combine horse drawn canal boats with a drink in the Chainbridge Hotel and maybe take a scenic trip on one of these beauties you really can’t go wrong. As for us – we watched some tourists embarrass themselves then carried on walking along the canal through the community of Llantysilio until we hit the Britannia Inn on the Horseshoe Pass.
You might remember seeing Maisie in her little ruffwear outfit and how she doesn’t mind getting a little help from Mr. B when it comes to getting over those little ole stiles that are dotted across the whole of the UK [and come in all different shapes'n sizes: if you're a K9 you can get under some. Over some. Around some. Squeeze through some. Some can require you to be very creative and others - like this one featured here - are pretty much straight forward].
We thoroughly enjoyed our day in our beautiful homeland and the Abbey Farm campsite is definitely worth a visit. If I remember rightly we parted with £15 (without EHU. We also did not use any of the facilities other than the toilets but if you’re that way inclined there’s a fully functioning and pretty café cum bar cum restaurant on site. Full shower & wash block. Farm shop. Butchers. You can bring your own tent, motor home, caravan, hire a static, a pod or a lodge and get involved as little or as much as suits your personal needs).
Well. Technically we are no longer hiring. We’ve hired!
Featuring for the very first time on vanplusfour are AJ [on the left] and Cai [on the right. obviously] (oh, and Mr B. in the middle) The cuteness!!!
We saw the twins, some of their siblings and their gorgeous mum Ellie for the very first time here when they were just 1 week old (I’m hoping the one at the back is not one of our boys as its sense of direction is terrible???!!!)
The story goes: Ellie fell in love with one of the locals and they made 9 beautiful illegitimate (but full) border collie babies. I’m a bit of a sucker for a romantic story and almost as soon as we saw them we knew that we wanted their journey to take them from Builth Wells in Mid Wales to the Northern borders to join us on our travels.
Mary [Ellie's mum]‘s been brilliant and has so far sent us a picture every Sunday. In week 3 we could really see a big change in them and it was goodbye little guinea pigs & helllooooooooooo gorgeous collies:
And then – finally!!! – Saturday just gone (when they were 4 weeks old) we travelled down to Builth Wells to meet our little boys for the very first time ^_^
I’ve gotta admit that I’m a little anxious. It’s been 9 years since I’ve had a proper pup in my life (Maisie, who is 7 now, was 8 months old when we rescued her). I am not particularly looking forward to the whole toilet training drama. I wonder how Maisie will cope with so much boisterousness around her. The twins will be a proper hand full no doubt and looking at their little innocent faces I hope we will live up to the challenge and give them the life they unreservedly deserve. I hope they’ll love us like we’ll love them and that they will turn out to be proper little troopers. Just like Henry x
But I can’t wait to the get camera on them!!! We are picking them up on the 8th of September and excitement is definitely in the air!