Tag Archives: Wales

Our nomadic life begins…

20140201-142007.jpg
The house was sparklingly clean and our belongings pack away. Tearful good byes had been said to our best friends over a quick breakfast at theirs. Orla’s god father gave her a beautiful locket with Cornish quartz in and Hippie Jo came to join the waving off party…

Bodmin moor was glistening this morning with strange frozen hail which was covering the signs and backs of the tough moorland cattle.

Our hire car is comfortable and roomy… Roomy enough for all the mixed emotions filling it up. Mainly we are very excited. But there is a little sadness about the friends we will miss and our dog Ethel. And there are nerves… Naturally.

We are now officially home schooling our children and are basically living nomadic lives with just the few belongings we have with us… Which already includes wee soaked jeans when one of the boys missed the Travel John… Our boys do seem to wee with incredible frequency which doesn’t help with the already tricky car travel element of the adventure… They’ll get the hang of it though, they’ll have to!

As I write this we are going over the Severn Bridge into Wales for our first night away, staying with friends near Swansea. Tomorrow evening we push onto Derby.

Carreg Cennen Castle – Wales

castle1

We went to Wales this weekend to visit friends. Setting off straight from school we made the 3.5hr journey in one go thanks to a well packed picnic and the ingenious TravelJohns
 I recently discovered. They prevented no less than three separate toilet stops and the boys thought it was hilarious!

Our friends live just off the M4 yet on the edge of the Brecon Beacons and Carreg Cennen Castle was a short drive across moorland and through valleys which reminded me of our pre-children hikes in the Peak District – intriguingly alternative to the Cornish hedges and green hills down here.

Built upon a huge limestone crag nearly 90 metres above the river Cennen the Castle has utilised the natural defensive qualities of it’s position. It dominates the skyline from miles around and it’s easy to imagine why people dating as far back as the iron age occupied it as a stronghold.

View from the arrow loops.

View from the arrow loops.

The Castle as seen now was build in stages during the end of the 13th Century and start of the 14th Century and has a bloody history of battles and wars, including the Wars of the Roses (1455-85). However it was deliberately ruined in the Summer of 1462 on behalf of the Yorkist king, Edward IV, who had just won it back from the a Lancastrian supporter, Gruffudd ap Nicholas who was using it as a garrison. They destroyed it so it would not be used by the enemy again. It has laid there in ruin ever since.

Interior at Carreg Cennen Castle

Interior at Carreg Cennen Castle

For me the magic was in the ability to see how people lived there. The domestic quarters are surprisingly in tact so you can make out the kitchen, various private chambers and even toilets – always fascinating to our boys (oh okay, us too). You can see various stair cases twisting up the towers and picture the people using them all those centuries ago. In the inner ward the massive oven is still visible and of the style of modern pizza and bread ovens which are still fashionable and functional today.

Children inside the bread oven

Children inside the bread oven

Most intriguingly is a long dark tunnel which runs under the castle for some way but leads only to a chamber at the end. It’s not sure what the purpose of it was but, considering the effort it would have taken to create, there must have been a good reason for it. The tunnel and cave is covered in graffiti mostly from over 100+ years ago which is fascinating in itself. Not only picturing the medieval knights and princes but the Victorian tourists making their way along the tunnel with candles and ridiculous shoes, scratching their names and dates – claiming their own little victory over the Castle and mortality. I didn’t get a picture down in the cave because I was concentrating hard on getting both me and my kids down it and back out alive – sorry about that. You need to take a torch as it’s pitch black, although you can hire them from the shop.

After exploring the castle as extensively as possible with a gaggle of children in tow we headed down to the shop and café for lunch. Castell Farm surrounds the Castle and is run as a Welsh upland holding with rare breed sheep and cattle. The meats from the animals can be sampled in the café with Longhorn cottage pie and other hearty dishes. The kids were welcome and prices reasonable.

It was a fantastic day out, ideal for families of all ages as the paths are easy and the castle is interesting for all. You could probably do it with an off road buggy but we used an Ergo Carrier for Orla. You wouldn’t be able to do the cave with a pushchair or with a big backpack.

Prices and opening times available on their website

www.carregcennencastle.com

A great place to play knights and dragons!

A great place to play knights and dragons!

A medieval toilet. The waste just headed out of a hole in the outer wall of the castle.

A medieval toilet. The waste just headed out of a hole in the outer wall of the castle.

It's easy to see why they build it here with a defensive view from all angles. Carreg Cennen is an imposing feature on the surrounding landscape.

It’s easy to see why they build it here with a defensive view from all angles. Carreg Cennen is an imposing feature on the surrounding landscape.