Jobs to do

As from April 1st we have been furloughed for the months of April and May. Depending what’s happening in the country after that is anyone’s guess. This means that the government will be paying 80% of our wages, so at least we can still eat and have a beer or wine as long as we can get them in the shops. We can also stay on site and if we wish do some work on site, cutting grass etc. We are not obliged to but if the mood takes me I will be out there, on the nice sunny days sat in the ride on mower cutting the grass. I also have a ever growing list of other things to do on the camper and in our compound etc. So we will not get bored. If I get bored and want to get away for a couple of nights I can start up the camper and drive round the site and have the choice of 90 pitches to stop on. Another thing I suggested to the other wardens was we put a beer and wine on certain pitches and then go to each pitch in turn and drink the beer and wine. That way we have our own pub crawl.

On part of the site is a small area which is called Snowdonia garden. This was started in May 2015 by clearing the area of brambles etc and moving some large stones to form a rockery. They were then in consultation with the north wales wildlife trust to create a topological plan to include the forests of Snowdonia. Trees already in place at the back of the garden, the rocks were to replicate the mountains of Snowdonia. The lighter more open areas to the front were planted with bee and butterfly flowers. The stone walls already there have a long standing history with the area and play an important part in accommodating wildlife and their food. These walls are all over Wales. I love them. The hurdle type fencing to the garden has been constructed from coppiced wood on site demonstrating the ancient craft, historically used to keep the sheep in.

Snowdonia garden

I really like this area and it is now my job to keep it up together and any ideas I have to put them into it. This was my choice and I am very happy about it. Treating as my own little project and doing something for the wildlife in the area and hopefully when the peaple return they will appreciate it. They better do. I spent a whole day clearing it up of all the dead plants etc. I don’t think a lot has been done to it the last Couple of years. I will continue to do bits and pieces throughout the season and watch as it changes over the months.

It’s already starting to look nice.

Some of the plants already coming out and starting to look good.

Another thing I am going to build is a bug house or bug hotel. This will be a wooden construction which will have different sections in to attract different bugs. There is one here already but I want to build another which will be better of course. Mine will be five star. It will include dead wood for wood lice and centipedes, Holes for solitary bees straw and hay for invertebrates to burrow in, loose bark and old slate etc to make other homes. The bottom of it will be an area for hedgehogs to hibernate in. Will post pics when I have built it. I can’t get hold of the planning department at the moment because they’re all working from home. I will probably just go ahead and make it and face them later.

A loverly piece of rotting wood for a home.
More rotting wood and moss covered walls

I will keep you posted on the progress as the season unfolds and let you know who has moved in. My friend the tree peeper keeps watch when I am not there.

How things change.

Towards the end of last season we got the news we were to go to Snowdonia for the season. To say we were excited is a understatement. All through the winter we counted down the days, looking at maps, google earth, websites etc. The excitement grew and grew. Go to Snowdonia Mike they said. Fantastic. I can hike up Snowdon and have a hot chocolate in the cafe at the top, I can go to the mountain bike centre and blast around the tracks and downhills and have another hot chocolate in the cafe afterwards, I can go and surf at surf Snowdonia the wave pool in a lagoon and have yet another hot chocolate after to warm up, I can walk across to the pub from the site and have a beer with the locals or a hot chocolate, I can go on the steam railways and admire the views before returning for a hot chocolate, I can fly down the zip wire at over 100 MPH and then have another hot chocolate, not before.

And now here we are on a campsite with nobody to talk to and all the cafes, pubs, and attractions or playgrounds for me as I like to call them all closed. And now today we learn we can not go anywhere unless essential which is fair enough. Luckily we went shopping yesterday, although Nikki nearly broke down in tears at the checkout. Not at the price of our shopping but she was told she can only buy three bottles of wine instead of the six she had in the basket. My beer was ok as I had multi packs and by law your not allowed to split them. So three multipacks of beer with four beers in each. Don’t call me stupid.

So for now we will be keeping the site tidy, cutting grass etc and biking round an empty site to exercise, although the tracks from here are empty so I will go out on them sometimes because i am allowed to exercise and it’s so remote there is no chance of seeing anybody and even if you do you can avoid them. Stay safe everybody. Here are a couple of pictures. This is what I have to put up with.

A view of the times

We are lucky to be in North Wales this season, big open spaces, lack of crowds etc. The unlucky part is working on the campsite. It’s been very quiet, a lot of cancellations. And now as from yesterday we are closed until the 30th June. There were only five units on site but all told to leave. We do not know what is going to happen about our job, or pay yet but will hopefully find out more this week.

The country is in a real mess with a lot of peaple panic buying and still ignoring advice not to go out unless they really have to. Ok to go out if your not going to see anybody or keep your distance. I feel sorry for Philip schofield he has only just came out and is now being told to stay in. The closing of pubs is going to cause more panic buying in the supermarkets down the beer and wine aisle. The only thing that will be left on the shelves will be Corona lager. I never really liked that beer anyway. We have never experienced anything like this before so can only listen to advice and all get through it and come out smiling. At least all the talk about Brexit has stopped.

On a positive note yesterday we had a day off, the plan was to go out for a drive to Snowdon to get some pics. We cancelled that plan. A real shame the other hundreds and hundreds of peaple didn’t. I decided to go out on my bike up around lake Trawsfyndd where the power station is. The route was all country lanes and off road. Through woodland and over the dam. I saw two peaple, one sat in his car beside the tarmac piece of track and a dog walker who was at least a hundred metres away from me. The only other living things were sheep and birds. The sun was shining and the scenery was fantastic. The whole bike ride was 12 miles. Some pictures below of the ride.

The dam wall at the end of the lake.

The dam was built in 1992. Because the power station I mentioned in my last post used the water from the reservoir for cooling. The lake water temperature rose and now the power station is closed water temperatures are back to normal.

I never get tired of these views.
Up above the lake.

The scenery is fantastic, reminds me of places we go in Spain. When I stopped pedalling my bike all you could hear were birds singing and me panting from pedalling up the hill of course. The downhill parts were nice though.

Some of the sheep’s winter clothing left behind.

Further around the lake was a very long footbridge which was built for the landowners to cross because when the dam was built and flooded the land they had to go the long way round so the bridge was built to the village of Trawsfynydd. I expect they used to heard their sheep across it also.

The long footbridge.
It’s a long way across.

When I got back to site Nikki told me the news of the site closing. The rest of the day was spent pottering about. We have to go out today to get some shopping. We won’t be panic buying.

Is there anybody out there.

We have been busy getting the site ready for all the members to flood through the gates. The opening day arrived, I opened the gates wide and five units came in on that day. We have had new bookings and we have had cancellations. But we are open and who knows what will happen as the days go on.

There is a small holding opposite the campsite entrance, a few old tractors, trailers and farm machinery. And of course the chickens and ducks. The chickens are proper free range and come across the road into the site and even wander around our compound. I doubt if they will come around when I have the BBQ going.

We love it round here, the narrow roads with the moss covered stone walls built years ago to keep the sheep in. It brings back so many memories of when I was very young and used to visit my gran and grandads farm. The tractors going past the gate instead of cars roaring past. The spring lambs are in the fields now.

The road outside the site.
View On my walk this afternoon

Not far from the site is a huge big building. From a distance it looks like it should be in Russia, I can’t explain why I think that but it just looks like it should. Probably because of what it is. It’s the Trawsfyndd nuclear power station. It was the only one in the UK to be built inland taking water from the Trawsfyndd reservoir for the cooling. It was built in the late fifties early sixties and was operational in 1965 and supplied all the electric for the whole of north wales.

The power station was closed down in 1991. The decommissioning of it started at the beginning of 1993. The highly radioactive spent fuel rods were removed and sent to Sellafield. Other contaminated materials are stored in a specially designed building on site. This will be removed for deep burial in the 2040’s Final clearance of site will begin in 2071. By 2083 the area is expected to be restored to its pre nuclear state. 124 years after construction started and 92 years after it closed. They don’t work fast around here.

Trawsfyndd nuclear power station.

The lake the power station used to get its cooling water from is called the Trawsfyndd lake. It’s 2.73 miles long and at its widest is 1.4 miles wide. I plan to walk all the way around it while we are here. It will be a long day and there is no pub on the walk so a packed lunch will be the order of the day. Nikki has already told me I will be doing it on my own.

Part of my walk today

We have a couple of days off next week so hoping for some nice weather to get out and about exploring. Coast roads and a view of Snowdon are top of the list. All weather depending of course.

The only thing I talked to on my walk today apart from myself.

The Train now standing

Our journey from Chirk to Gellilydan was in sunshine. The week before when we had gone over to see the site the journey was all overcast and the mountains were topped with cloud. Now we could see some of them had snow on. I caught a glimpse of Snowdon in the distance which had a good thick covering of snow on top. The river levels had gone down, they were still high but not overflowing into the fields anymore. The scenery was fantastic. We are going to love being in this area for the season. It was strange not having Nikki in the camper with me because she was following behind in the new car. It all worked out well.

We got to site and parked up on a pitch. The compound we were going in needed some work first. Moving slabs etc and working out the best way to get in. We had a cup of tea with Debbie and Jerry our new wardens and then I just had to set about working on the compound. Got it to the stage where I could get the camper in. It was tight but it’s in there. Once in we still have plenty of room for the car and a large area to sit out in the sun while sipping our cold drinks. We also have a pod in there which is a bathroom with our own toilet and shower in. Nikki is making that all nice. And we also have a garage which has a washing machine and a tumble dryer, fridge freezer and plenty of room for our bikes etc.

Our compound

Today was our last day of freedom before starting work tomorrow getting the site ready to open on Friday 13th, let the fun begin. I had a day off from doing the compound today, I can finish the other jobs in work time as and when.

So we had a day out in Porthmadog. Nikki needed to get some bathroom stuff and I needed to get bird feeders etc. There is also the welsh and highland railway there. Something I wanted to go on at some stage. Today was my lucky day because as we were coming past the station I could see the steam coming from one of the steam engines. We parked up and went back to the station to get some photos. I love the old steam trains.

The train now standing on platform one.
All fired up and ready to roll.

The steam built up and a blow on the whistle and the train started rolling out the station in a cloud of steam which surrounded the carriages, just like in a old movie.

And away it went heading towards the mountains. We will come back and go for a train ride and there are lots of others in the area including one that goes up snowdon.

Heading for the mountains. Full steam ahead.

Some facts and figures from our winter trip. This is for the last four months holiday.

We have travelled 1435 miles. We have put £495 worth of fuel in the camper but it is now topped right up. We put £128 worth of fuel in the little Toyota for getting about. We spent £360 on campsites. Our food bill was £1616. Out and about expenses were £785 this is lunches in cafes and pubs, nights out and site seeing etc. So all in all our winter trip cost us about £3500. That’s if you don’t take into account the new car, bike rack for the car, tow ball for the car etc. But we are working again now ready to spend it all again next winter. Who knows where we will be. U.K. or Europe or some far flung island. Will keep you posted wherever we end up and of course I will keep you updated on our season here in Snowdonia.

Another Aqueduct

Only about Severn miles from Chirk where we are staying is a small town called Pontcysyllte. Try saying that after a few beers or even worse try spelling it. Pontcysyllte has aqueduct and I just had to go and see this one as it’s so close. The name means the bridge that connects. It has eighteen arches and carries the Llangollen canal. It’s used by narrow boats daily. It’s stone and cast iron construction was built and designed by Thomas Telford. The same guy that built the Chirk aqueduct. This one took ten years to design and build. Finished in 1805 and stands 38 metres high. Yes it’s high when your stood on top.

It’s a long way to cross.
A moody shot from below.
Side in the sun.

Just by the start of the aqueduct is a boatyard full of narrow boats ready for hire. I should imagine in the summer most of them are out on hire, but today there were plenty there. I would think if you had never been on a narrow boat before, to get on one here and then go straight across the aqueduct being 38 metres up in the clouds with nothing on one side of you must be quiet daunting.

The yard full of narrow boats ready for hire.

All this walking from end to end and back down the road to get a better photo, up and down the boatyard made me hungry. It just so happens there was a really nice old chapel building that had been converted into a cafe. I love the fact that old building are being reused as such.

Pontcysyllte chapel cafe.

We only have one more week before we start work. This winter has gone by so fast and we seem to have done a fair bit. I will work out all our facts and figures when we get to our next site where we will be for eight months of work. We will stay here at Chirk until Monday and then drive over there to get set up etc. So my next post will be from Snowdonia.

My Hot chocolate in the cafe.

Chirk castle

Chirk castle which is a national trust property sits on the land next to the campsite we are on now. Built in 1295 by Roger Mortimer De Chirk. A real Medieval castle. The castle itself is closed in the winter but I wanted to get some phots of the outside.

We walked from the campsite up the hill through the woods and across fields. As we walked my imagination was running wild thinking of all the invaders marching across these very fields towards the castle to invade it. Now it was just us and a few sheep looking on.

It really is a fantastic building. We will come back another day to look inside. The whole walk from the site, up around the castle and back to site was about three miles.

At the entrance to the grounds is a magnificent set of gates, all painted white with a red hand at the top. We have seen this red hand a lot around Chirk so we had to find out what it was all about. The story goes that the owner of the castle had twin boys, one was a little goodie two shoes and the other one was a bit of a rogue. The father could not decide who would inherit the castle and land so he organised a race. The first to cross the line would inherit the castle and grounds. The race started and the goody two shoes boy was winning which is what the crowd wanted, but as they neared the finish line the bad boy pulled out his sword and chopped of his hand and threw it over the line. We don’t know if he did inherit the castle but it makes a good story.

We drove out to our campsite where we will be working this year. It’s a fifty mile drive each way. We passed a lot of swollen rivers and flooded fields. It was a overcast day and some of the welsh mountains were shrouded in low cloud. I love Wales and the scenery is fantastic and will be even better on a nice sunny day. We passed a couple of big lakes and not a lot of traffic which was nice. The site was loverly with great views. We are both really looking forward to working there for the season and getting out and about in the area.

Last night we decided to treat ourselves to a beer and wine at a pub in the town. We decided to go to the Hand hotel after looking at the website. The hotel sits proudly in the town and as you enter you are almost thrown back in time, the decor pictures etc. The staff were so friendly and the prices very good considering we were in a hotel. A good late afternoon and early evening was had. This welsh dragon guards the bar area.

It was dark by the time we left the bar for our walk home. We crossed the railway bridge over the station and with the big factory in the background with steam belching out from it’s chimneys looked great against the dark sky. Another photo opportunity for my phone on night setting. Really pleased with the result.

Chirk

We are now at Chirk, a small old fashioned town right on the Wales England border between Wrexham and Oswestry. A couple of pubs in the village, butchers, bakers but no candle stick makers. I love this greengrocers with stuff out side just like they used to be until Tesco and Sainsbury’s came along.

Chirk is famous for its aqueduct. It was completed in 1801, designed by Thomas Telford and built by him and some builders. It measures 220 metres long and is 21 metres high. Has ten arches and spans the river Ceiriog. It’s in two parts, one part is for the canal boats which must be quiet a thing to go across in a narrow boat. On one side you have the towpath and one the other side a sheer drop of 21 metres. You have to make sure you get off the boat on the right side.

The other part of the aqueduct is for the railway, and trains pass over to everyday. This part was built higher because at the time to travel by train was so much better so you could look down on the Canal. It amazes me how they built these structures all them years ago and even more that they are still standing and being used every day. If you walk across it, I did, Nikki can’t walk across anything high, her legs go to jelly and it feels like the ground is all moving under her feet. Me, I just love things like this so had to walk across it. The views from it are fantastic and you relies how high up you are and appreciate the builders work even more. When you walk across it you actually cross the border of Wales and England, so yesterday I walked from Wales into England. No wonder I slept well last night.

Another part of the canal is the tunnel which is 241 metres long and very dark. Known to the locals as The Darkie. It starts just by the railway station and exits at the aqueduct. It was one of the first canal tunnels to have a towpath. There is a handrail all along the length of it so you don’t fall in the canal if you choose to walk through it. I asked Nikki if she wanted to walk through it with me and her answer was a big NO. So I said to her I will see her on the other side as I went into the darkness and yes it was dark as I don’t normally carry a torch around with me. But the handrail was there to stop me falling in the canal. In the picture you van just a speck of white just above the handrail. There is light at the end of the tunnel. That was my goal to get there. I made it.

Y

We got ourselves a convoy

Our time at Chester flew by. We had so much planned and never did half of it due to the weather. Thanks storm Dennis. We also looked at a car which took up two days, one to view and another to go back and pick it up. We do plan to go back to that site though and do all the things we never did this time.

Our friends David and Elaine were working there while we were there but we managed to walk down the pub with them and have a beer or two and some food. They are now gone off to their new site for the season. Another set of wardens we knew from Dulverton were also there visiting family. You just can’t get away.

Storm Dennis was a bit of nothing really in Chester area, yes it was windy and rained but not as bad as they said it was going to be. I know some places have had really bad flooding around the country and I do feel sorry for them.

At the campsite we are under a flight path to Hawarden airport so you see planes coming overhead. Nothing unusual there but there I was sat gazing out the window when this huge big plane come into view that looked like a flying whale. It looked like a Beluga whale. I jumped out the camper and took a picture. Not a very good one. sorry but it was up high and I had to act fast. Then I looked on google and found out it was actually called a Beluga airbus flying into Hawarden airport. They are used to transport wings for airbus planes and other large loads like Nikki’s wine supply. How did they know her glass needed topping up. They really are a weird looking plane. The picture below of one on the ground is not one I took but gives you a better idea of what they look like.

This was my attempt at getting a photo of it. Don’t laugh, it’s the best I could do in the circumstances.

After seeing the Beluga airbus the excitement never stopped because the next day we went to pick up the new to us car. We have never had such a new car, it’s four and a half years old. It will suit our lifestyle so much better. All went smoothly at the car supermarket and the payment didn’t get rejected, although the credit cards are now smoking in the corner. Nikki drove Timmy Toyota back to site and I drove Patsy Passat. Yes we named her Patsy Passat because she is absolutely fabulous. Remember the TV series. I know we are sad really….but we are happy. Yesterday I sat in Patsy pressing buttons and looking all round and trying to find out what does what while looking through the manual which is like a telephone book. Modern cars have so much in them now and so many electrics. All very nice when it’s working but a pain when it goes wrong.

Today we hitched up Timmy and Nikki got in Patsy and we headed out on the highway in convoy to Chirk. Only an hours drive and as we left the site I sung to myself. We got ourselves a convoy 10 4 good buddy. Chirk is just south of Wrexham. We are now officially in Wales.

I bring you Patsy Passat. For those that want to know she is a 2.0 TDI SE Business VW Passat.

3rd Time lucky

While at Hollywood, or close to it the word was out there was a storm brewing and heading right across the uk. Storm Ciara was coming for us, batten down the hatches, don’t go out your front door, call the cat in, are sure you have enough food and water in the house for at least a month. I sat looking out the camper window at the trees and thought, could that one hit us, what if that branch fell off, shall I move pitch. We had some spindly trees directly behind us but I decided what ever pitch we were on there were trees around so it was going to be a case of hope for the best.

Storm Ciara came and went, yes it was windy and it did rain, a couple of little twigs fell of the tree behind us. No damage to the camper though. I know right across the country there was some damage but we were lucky. All we had was about an inch of flood water on some of our pitch. Well it’s not really flood water, it’s a puddle. It made a nice picture though.

The next day we had arranged to go and see our friends Jo and Tony, meet up for lunch and a catch up. They were are wardens at Cirencester last year. They live about 45 minutes away from the site we were on. So Nikki was doing the organising with Jo. All arranged Nikki said, great said I which pub we going to I will have a look at the menu on line. This is something I always seem to do when I know were going out. We’re meeting them tomorrow at 11am about twenty minutes away in a garden centre. A WHAT……..did you say a garden centre, yes that’s right a garden centre. We don’t even have a garden. A bloody garden centre. Is that so I feel like I am back at work surrounded by trees and bushes, plants and lawn mowers. I am only joking of course. We had a really nice time with them, catching up and a nice lunch. I know Jo follows my blog and knows my sense of humour. Next time we meet up jo, me and Tony decide the location.

Now we are at Chester after leaving Hollywood. Another motorway drive but it was another nice sunny day, dry roads etc. Got to site and checked in. While we were being checked in the sky went black and it started to rain and even a bit of snow. Got pitched up and checking the internet about the weather there had been a lot of snow in Wales. In fact the road that we will be taking to get to our workplace this year was blocked with snow and abandoned cars. Good job we weren’t going there that day.

Yesterday (Thursday) were due to get our levelling jacks refurbed. The company have to branches, one in Liphook in Hampshire and the other in the Wirral about half an hour from where we are now. We were originally going to get them done at Liphook I November but they messed me about so I rebooked for getting them done while up this way. You know when you get a feeling things are not right. I emailed them three days ago just to make sure we were still ok to come over and got a email back saying yes all ok but if the job runs over can you stay overnight in our yard. The job they are doing can easily be done in a day. I would have been there for 8.30 when they open and they don’t close until 5.30. Nikki never slept on Wednesday evening with worry about it and what’s going on with her mum etc. I was concerned about it so I emailed them back and said forget it. We will now get them done some other time with someone reliable. I will not be recommending that company to anyone.

If you follow this blog you will know we have decided to change the car for something more practical for us. Now when I get a bee in my bonnet I do a lot of research so I know exactly what I want and I go for it. Over the last twenty years Nikki has raised her eyebrows on more than one occasion to this but is glad with the outcome. The choice of car was going to be an estate which would give us plenty of room to put some of the stuff we carry about, could transport my surfboard and when fitted with a tow bar and tow bar mounted bike rack would mean we could get to places to go off cycling. Also a better car for long drives. I was on the internet everyday looking for either, a VW Passat my first choice being a Volkswagen lover. I also looked at Audi, Mercedes, Skoda, and a Volvo X60. I found a Volvo, on budget everything about it was good. Made an enquiry about it, they deliver the car to you but only to your home address. Not much good to us when we are 300 miles away from home. So that was crossed of the list. Second choice, found a VW passat estate, fell in love with it, on budget etc etc, only half hours drive from where we are now in Chester. I looked at that car on line every morning, lunchtime and evening just hoping it would still be there when we got to Chester. We were in Brighton at the time. The price dropped, it was still there. We left Brighton to go to Henley, it was still there. We left Henley to go to Hollywood, it was still there. We left Hollywood to go to Chester two day earlier than we had planned, it was still there. Due to arrive in Chester on the Monday I said to Nikki we will go and look at that car on the Tuesday. Looked on Sunday evening. SOLD I could have cried. I never, well I might have a little bit but I did do a lot of stomping around and shouting to myself. I was gutted. I know this may seem weird to most peaple but I am very passionate about my cars and you must know the feeling when your really excited about something then it just doesn’t happen.

Back on the internet the next morning I find another VW Passat estate. Well I found lots really but most were to high mileage or too far away etc. Only 45 minutes drive away from Chester and a much better specked car. The excitement starts again. Monday evening I have an online chat with a receptionist about the car and she says she will get someone to ring me the following morning. Tuesday morning I keep shaking my phone to make sure it’s still working, no call. Nikki points out it is only 7am. 8am passes, 9 am passes, 10 am passes. I can’t wait anymore I ring them and make an appointment to go and look at the car the nest day at 11am.They also put it it on hold for you for 48 hours so no one else can buy it, giving me first choice. So at least I knew I would have first choice on this one.

The rest of the day I continue to look at it every ten minutes and read all the specifications and show the picture of it to Nikki at least every half an hour. Wednesday morning arrives, I am up at 5am, showered and ready to go. Nikki is not. She is very excited about the car but not in the same way. It’s a man thing. The car was located in what they call a car supermarket in Trafford Manchester. About 1800 cars to choice from but I only wanted to look at one. Into reception, get given the keys and told where to find the car. You can get in it, start it but please don’t move it. If you want a test drive let us know. We went and found it.WOW it was better than expected, even the colour seemed different. Even Nikki said WOW but maybe not as many times as me. So third time lucky we have found our new to us car. Over budget yes, but we are buying it as a keeper so wanted it all to be right. We pick it up on Monday at 11am. Will I sleep Sunday night, properly not but I will have sweet dreams.