To get to Wales from Glastonbury you have to do four things;
Make it to Bristol.
Navigate around Bristol.
Cross the Bristol Channel.
The 1st one was easy. The second one was near impossible. Maybe if you’re local the roadsigns make sense and maybe we were just having a bad experience but for some reason, we could not work it out and getting through Bristol was a pretty frustrating drive. I think where I went wrong was trying to navigate to a specific road so we could see the Clifton Suspension Bridge, but we couldn’t find a signpost to the bridge, the road or anything near it, not even a sign that pointed West.
Anyway, we made it through eventually and that’s the main thing. So we were more than happy to do number 3.
And number 4 was great!
Once we’d crossed the massive Severn Bridge over the Bristol Channel, we were officially in Wales!! Land of Christian Bale, Bonnie Tyler and Catherine Zeta Jones to name but a few. If we thought navigating around Bristol was hard, here we had a different language to contend with and it’s not like the different parts of England where you can understand generally what they’re saying even if you don’t catch every word, in Wales you have no chance. It’s a completely different language. Just one look at the map and you see places such as Llan ym ddyfri, Caerfyrddin or how about;
Thankfully there are English translations, very helpful for roadsigns and such. So I knew that the language was going to be different but I wasn’t expecting the characters to look Roman. So when you see signs like trwm or nywddau you’re more than your share of confused. I know this much. Pwll is pool, Pontypool actually.
So we headed deep into the Black Mountains of Brecon Beacon National Park. As our first campsite had fallen through we drove around the little villages that pepper the valleys keeping our eyes peeled for a good place to pitch our tiny tent, generously lent to us by Hannah and Terry! We had a quick look around Abergavenny before finding a perfect spot in the small village of Cwmdu (pronounced Cumdi) which lies halfway between the towns of Abergavenny and Brecon. It’s a gorgeous area full of lush greenery and misty mountains, very Lord of the Ringsy!
Our campsite was full of Jubilee Weekenders but there was plenty of space in the bottom field, which, I think, provided better views of the surrounding landscape anyway, so we were well happy!
We went to book in but the reception desk was closed until the next morning, so we went ahead and pitched our tent, gathered our food supplies together and had a crackers, cheese, hummus and a pepper picnic dinner. Our tent was juuuuust big enough for two people, we padded it out with as many blankets as we could and prayed it didn’t leak during the night.
A wonderful thing happened as we were walking up to the shower block to get ready for bed, something caught my eye up on the mountain side behind us. A giant bonfire had been lit. Huge amber flames licked the darkening sky and as we watched, toothbrushes in action, another dot of flickering amber appeare on the side of a further mountain. As if they were signalling to each other…
The Jubilee Beacons!! I couldn’t believe it, we were actually watching the Queen’s Beacons being lit in the Welsh mountains! These weren’t like the one we saw at Glastonbury Tor though, these were huge bonfires that could be seen from miles around. It was as magical as it sounds and really cemented the Lord of the Rings comparisons. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6LGJ7evrAg)
The next morning was crisp and fresh, there was evidence of a damp but rainless night that meant our tiny tent had kept us warm and dry, although in no-way comfy. We washed up, packed our stuff and left the campsite before the reception desk had a chance to open! It was a perfect getaway! DRIVE THOM… DRIVE!
To be fair we were prepared to pay for our night’s stay but we couldn’t just hang around and wait for the place to get itself into gear, we had things to do and places to go. Short of leaving cash on the doorstep, I don’t know what they expect.
We were quite sad to leave such a beautiful place but we would be even more sad to have to pay 6 pounds, so we drove like the wind bullseye, but as soon as we got to the gate back to the high way we were greeted by the evil gatekeeper:
Naturally this cath told us in order to cross its path we must do two things:
2) friendly wales flag photo-op
As we made our way back East through the mountains we discussed our plan for the day. We wanted to be back at Meadowcroft by late afternoon as we had plans that night with some friends, but as we were leaving so early it meant we had time to drop in on another town on the Hit List; Oxford. It was a minor detour from the route home so we thought, why not? Why not visit another location on the Harry Potter magical tour of old Englwoodtownshire?