Friday morning, after a light breakfast at the Black Lion, we were off with our guide. Leaving with our destination in his hands, our trip of a lifetime, was about to become a Welsh Safari!
So, why are we here? It started with a story from Wendy's mom about her mom, Wendy's grandmother, remembering a visit to Strata Florida. With the help of the internet we located, not only, this 12th century Cistercian Abby, but a driving tour, a BnB, and the Vale of Rheidol Steam Railway.
Thursday, after arriving by the Vale of Rheidol, we walked over the three bridges,
to get to the falls at Devils Bridge,
and we climbed the 680+ steps to reach the valley floor & back.
Our guide, Richard from Cambria Safari, https://www.cambriansafaris.co.uk picked us up at the falls to give us a lift to our BnB, The Black Lion, located in Pontrhydfendigaid. ( I'm not even going to try...;).
Built around 1750, its one of two BnB's in the village. We've been told this is one of the larger villages within miles. Here, the Post Office is the local grocery, which is also a cafe', one stop shopping. But this is Middle Wales.
After a light breakfast we were off in Richard's diesel powered Land Rover Discovery. Seeing the Discovery model, on the road you might think they are some kind of "fru-fru"' Jeep wanta-be type thing. Wrong! It might have leather seats and A/C but it climbed a 25% grade, over rocks, like it was standing still.
From our first of many hilltops, perched 2000' above sea level, we could see the Irish Sea and Aberystwyth, 12 miles away even thru the sea fog!
Leaving the day in Richard's hands was the right decision. He knows this area well, especially after 15 years with the Welsh equivalent of the US Park Service. Four years ago he started this business, to show off the beauty, that lies "around every turn", in Middle Wales.
From hilltop views,
and waterfalls in this area of Britain.
Middle Wales isn't just beautiful scenery and small villages. Devil's Bridge is the backdrop for the Netflix Series, "Hinterland". This region also supplies water to millions.
A "scheme" or system, of several dams & reservoirs funnel millions of gallons of water to Birmingham and its suburbs.
As Britain is changing, BREXIT and all, so must Wales. Many of the farm subsidies throughout Britain are forecast to disappear in three years. As many see it, the "monoculture" of sheepherding, in Wales, needs to change. A concept call re-wilding is catching on.
Farmers, with some experimentation are starting to create new herding techniques, and grow new feeds and grasses. They also turn poor grazing land back over to native plants providing new wildlife habitat especially for once native animals being reintroduced.
The Red Kite is a raptor now seen all over. But, for us it has been impossible to photograph. This bronze statue at a visitor center is the best we could do.
Other woodland creatures returning are the Red Squirrel and Pine Marten. Red Squirrels were "run off" by the more aggressive Gray Squirrels after they were introduced in the Victorian Era. They were bigger & less timid making them ideal for the "proper" English Garden.
The Reds are now making a comeback but only with the help of the Pine Marten. This small carnivore, which looks like a weasel and feeds on rats, mice, and Gray Squirrels, all without harming the Red Squirrel. Richard has worked with the Pine Marten Recovery Project, http://www.pine-marten-recovery-project.org.uk to help monitor the 40 or so now living in this area.
Our tour was great! Since arriving in the UK, the first week in April, this is our second time in Wales. The people, wildlife, & terrain of this region differs dramatically from that around Llanelli & Cardiff. We came here to trace family roots, but what we found is much more than ancestry. We found that Middle Wales is growing, changing, and adapting while remaining, something special. This has been a wonderful day of discovery, in a Discovery!
Fair Winds and Quiet Anchorages,
Wendy & Jeff