Cymru is the Welsh name for Wales and pronounced (Kamri)
Being an Englishman from the London area, most of my childhood vacation experiences were primarily of the Eastern and South Coastal resorts, those close to London, However in my early teens my parents became more adventurous and began to visit places further afield, like The West Country.
Cornwall for example had more sheep than one could count in one night, The pastoral English country side, woodland hills, picturesque valleys, miles and miles of wild flowers that covered majestic coastal cliffs, winding paths leading down to isolated sandy beaches, and charming fishing villages, were all amazingly breathtaking to me! I was in ore of this natural spectacle, and whats even more remarkable, Is how Man not in any way by design, had unknowingly and unwittingly added to the natural beauty of this magical land with the creation of simple whitewashed dwellings scattered around the hillsides, and along cobblestone lanes and alleyways close to their place of work, “the harbour” all this then is the unique make up of Cornwall and a Cornish fishing village! If you’ve never been, Its a truly remarkable experience,, like being in another time, another world. Little wonder then, why so many poets, authors, and artists of all descriptions, find inspiration here!
Back in the 50’s and 60’s, 300 miles seemed like an eternity to travel, with the road system not much changed from the Twenties and Thirties, It was all of an 8/10 hour drive, quite a journey for those from certain precincts in the London area (affectionately known by me as the Pie & Mash Brigade) who were used to visiting coastal resorts like Clacton, Margate, or Southend on Sea, which were a mere 1/2 hours away!!
One couldn’t help noticing that this county was caught in a time warp if you will! certainly at the time, 30 years behind the pace of London and the South East, Due in part I believe to Cornwall’s remoteness and seemingly inaccessibility.
Wales then presented a similar but totally different feeling or challenge, even though it was geographically part of Britain and connected by land, it was a place with a different language, another country and again a long way to travel.
Like a scene from the famous 5 or Secret 7 novels I enjoyed reading as a boy, Wales then seemed to be that place “Over the hills, through the mist and far away” A land of battles, dragons, legends, and castles ravaged by the sea.
Newsreels however, told a totally different story, Of coal miners being rescued from a disaster 2000 feet down in the pits! Of young children with dirty hands and faces, rows and rows of soot covered terraced houses, with a back drop of slag heaps, and chimney stacks belching out black smoke, not a pretty sight, and became the vivid reality of never wanting to visit Wales any time soon! How wrong of me to judge the whole country on the hardships of people trying to survive and provide for their families! Cymru had so much more to offer as I was later to find out!
My very first visit to Wales was at the age of 9 during Spring Break, my Father had some business to attend to in Barry Island in South Wales, and decided to take me with him, Don’t remember too much about the visit! only that my Father dropped me off at Barry Beach for an hour or so while he took care of business, I do remember the beach was Huge and the Tide seemed miles away, I also remember buying myself an ice cream cone with part of the 2 shillings my father gave me, only to see to my dismay, two scoops of vanilla and lemon sorbet dump disastrously beneath my feet, all I could do was stare at the melting ice cream in the sand, followed by an awful feeling of helplessness (So far, not a good memory of Wales!!)
Fast forward then to my mid twenties, with a lady friend and a long weekend away from the routine of work in London. We had no pre set plans but somehow found myself driving to Barry Island, the scene of that childhood disaster with the ice cream! Of course I told the story to the girl I was with, while having sympathy for the incident, it didn’t stop us from both laughing our asses off about it, “Oh yes, we both had an ice cream cone No incident this time!! Traveling around the Pembrokeshire coast was as I recall stunningly beautiful, very similar to Cornwall in Scenery, with cliffs and firm sandy beaches that one could walk along for miles without ever seeing another person! Rossilli Beach was particularly memorable, picnicking on the beach with a loaf of crusty bread, cheese, wine and pate we had purchased locally, Such simple pleasures are often times the best! (whatever became of her! living happily I hope)
Many years later while researching for my tour business, I drove north and west from London through the Black Hills in Central Wales, and it was as I recall, an eye opener in many ways, First off, I noticed that everything seemed to move at a slower pace, I also remember stopping at a small sub post office in Buith Wells to mail post cards and buy some snacks, It was here for the first time in person I heard the Welsh language being spoken, 3 ladies who seemed to be friends, were chatting away in Welsh, when all at once the conversation stopped, they had suddenly noticed me, “A stranger in their midst” Just as I was leaving, they turned, their heads, nodded, smiled, and wished me a good day in English, They must have instinctively known I was an outworlder! I found the whole episode to be quite fascinating!
Traveling further North I spent the night at a delightful B&B in Dinas Mawddwy in Gwynedd. The Riverside Inn was situated on 3 acres of land on the edge of Snowdonia National Park surrounded by dramatic high grass covered hills, flocks of welsh black face sheep, a pine forest, along with a trout and salmon laden river! It was one of those moments when the silence was deafening! what a calm setting, almost surreal, like being part of a romantic novel, or fairy tale!
I remember having a modest evening meal, followed by coffee and cognac served to me in the reading room, I sat in one of those well worn wing backed leather chairs by a comfy fireplace, You know the scene, like straight out of a Sherlock Holmes novel or movie!
I awoke the following morning to a dawn chorus, an earthy fragrance of the land, and appetizing aromas of bacon and fresh brewed coffee,
As I looked out from my window, mist was hanging over the hilltops, and a couple of Red Necked Pheasants were foraging for food below, the silence and scene were golden!
Shortly after breakfast I continued my drive through Snowdonia and North Wales, passing through and by several dense pine forests, The Norfolk and Blue Spruce were especially magnificent towering hundreds of feet above the road.
Shortly after Dolgellau, I took what would become the coastal route to Harlech, Just before Porthmadog their is an awesome view of the entire Snowdon Mountain Range with the narrow gauge railway of Blaenau Festiniog running along side the road! More spectacular views of the Mountains and the West Coast of Wales were to be enjoyed after leaving Porthmadog. While soaking up this picturesque scenery, I noticed, remarkably very little commercial beach front development, just the occasional vacation trailer park, a few small farms and occasional private home but overall untouched, and unscathed, How refreshing and reassuring it was to enjoy such unspoiled natural beauty, with very little evidence of Mans commercial footprint!
To be continued
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