Puzzle Wood UK

The UK was once covered by ancient natural woodland.Today you can find woods an forests farmed and managed but wild and tangled places are not so easy.Puzzle Wood has a maze of maintained pathways but it still transports you back to the magic and myths of childhood.

 First location , head for Coleford in the Forest of Dean or type in GL 16 8QB and follow directions

Price £6-50 adults £5-30 children aged 3-6 years

Open daily April -Sept 10-00 to 17-00

Now just a taster of this wonderful place.

  

For children it is full of adventure!

  

Trees drip with spooky moss.

  

Pathways narrow and challenging.There is a circuit , but paths branch off at a tangent at every turn…quite a maze.

  

Sadly not suitable for pushchairs , wheelchairs or unsteady feet !

There is a coffee shop for refreshments when you find your way back, a small petting zoo and play park.

Opposite this attraction is the chance to take a ride on a steam train.

We preferred the local Smokery for a fishy treat down by the River Severn but that’s for another blog.

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Pembrokeshire West WALES

Spring puts everywhere in its best finery but in West WALES with its wild flowers it is glorious.

Driving from the East our first stop was for lunch at Narbeth.This is a sweet little Welsh town close to the Bluestone holiday Park.On our last visit protests against this were everywhere but now the new neighbours seem to be getting along well.The holiday park is very Eco aware and blends in well to the local countryside.It must provide much needed employment and the town seems to be flourishing.

We found a well stocked Delicatessen.

  

The olives, sausages and cheese counters were impressive

  

More important was the cantina style restaurant at the back , full of happy diners enjoying a tapas style lunch.We especially enjoyed the batter covered aubergine with fennel and honey.

Our hotel stood on the cliff top at St David’s, Warpool Court Hotel (www.warpoolcourthotel.com)it has been voted in the top ten world hotel room views.

  

Across the garden you can join the National coastal path , the most spectacular walk you can imagine.

  

The house itself is full of character, mainly one named Ada , a Victorian lady who hand painted three thousand tiles to decorate the interior.

  

As with many Victorians she was obsessed with chivalry and lineage.Most tiles show the origin and coats of Arms of her family We were in the nursery where the theme was beautifully detailed images of flower fairies.

  

Having left our bags we donned our hiking boots and set off under blue skies and strong winds…perfect for coastal walking.

  

The flowers along the path were everywhere.

  

We found the site of Nons well, St Non was the mother of St David , not sure if she was already a saint or became one after having David, maybe he was a difficult child! 

 

The views drew us in round the next headland till the light started to fade and dinner beckoned.

  

The restaurant has a good reputation and didn’t disappoint.the varied languages and accents in the dining room proving its international popularity.

Next morning we drove on quiet winding roads to Whitesands bay and walked round St David’s head. 

 

More flowers everywhere.

   

 

The air was heavy with the smell of the gorse bushes.

  

None of our photos could do it justice.We felt we had to visit the Cathedral.

  

Then back to the hotel for another lovely dinner, local caught lobster and crab!

Our final day walking was around Newport Sands.

  

It was as if we had the path to ourselves.

  

It was hard not to just keep walking, just one more bay or outcrop!

  

We have so many photographs which will perhaps live on Dropbox or Flickr.

The little cafe on the beach provided more than the usual fish n chips , much more upmarket Brie and cranberries.R had local crab.

  

Our last call on the way home was at the pre historic burial site at Pentre Ifan.

  

From all angles this is amazing.

  

A miniature Stonehenge and of course the stone from here was somehow shipped across to build Stonehenge.

This is perhaps more remarkable because of its quiet and remote location.

  

An amazingly tranquil atmosphere.

  

To start our trip with wild winds and crashing waves it was the perfect ending.We reluctantly headed home.

North Wales 

We recently traveled north through North Wales and decided to treat ourselves to a stopover thanks to a special deal on Amazon Local. The National Trust are donated houses that may not be of great historical interest.They cannot maintain these beautiful buildings with house tours so have converted them into hotels.

The address was given as Llandudno so first we went to see this quaint Victorian seaside town.

There are three historic houses that earn there keep as beautiful spa hotels.Hartwell House in the Vale of Aylesbury, Middlethorpe hall in York , and our destination Bodygallen Hall outside Llandudno.

  

On a deal ours was probably the cheapest room but was absolutely beautiful in pale lemon.

  

The view across the gardens was impressive, and the short flight of stairs to the en suite quaint, if a little risky in the night!

 

The house is full of snug communal areas of historic interest , each with its own roaring fire.

  

It had a homely and welcoming atmosphere, easy to sit and relax.

  

Even in early spring the gardens were fabulous.

   

   

From the woodland walk we could see Conwy castle.

  

After  making good use of the spa facilities and a delicious dinner we retired to our enormous bed.

Next morning another lovely walk in the gardens then on reluctantly to Conwy.

   

 

We were blessed with beautiful weather.

  

Conwy Castle gave us the chance to climb several spiral staircases.

  

Again the weather gave us the best views.

   

 

The walled town is geared up for tourists with tea shops and river cruises.

   

 

Sadly this was just a stopover and we both regretted we did not have time to stay longer. I would love to see the gardens at the hall in full bloom and use it as a base to tour Snowdownia , ah well put it on the list!

Spring Day in Wales

 

 

We had snow on the hills but by morning there was bright sunshine.We decided to head North and have a day out in the Brecon Beacons.It wasn’t an early start but a beautiful drive up through Abergavenny and on to Brecon itself.By the time we got to the town we were ready for coffee.First job to find a local cafe that served good coffee.

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This is CARIAD CUPCAKES  in the High St.

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The decor is pink and pretty, with lots of traditional china on display.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is an impressive range of cakes large and small on offer.This is not the place to come if you are on a diet.

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The coffee was great but what was even better was the feeling you had just dropped in to see some old friends for a cuppa.No doubt this place will get really busy in the summer, I hope the owners still find time to chat to their customers.

Feeling we needed to walk off that cake and blow away a few cobwebs we headed  for the mountain centre.The views were spectacular so will include a few of my favourite photos .Sadly cannot include the smell of the moor with fresh sheep droppings and early gorse.

imagePenyfan looking  spectacular!

 

 

 

 

It is such a wild open space with views all around .

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The melting snow left plenty of boggy patches.

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But flowers were peeimageping out in the sunnier spots.

 

 

 

 

This high up there were sheep but as yet no lambs.

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there began a competition to get the best photo.

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The wind was quite icy and despite the cake I felt ready for lunch.I was very impressed with their catering facilities, despite producing 30  plus hot chocolates for a school party  from Southampton ,they served us up a delicious Lamb CAWL.

As we drove out of the car park I had to scream at R to stop.Above us a magnificent Red Kite swooped and soared in an aerial ballet, I grabbed my camera.All four shots were of clear blue sky, but thanks to the RSPB this is what he looked `like ….honest!

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So exciting that this almost extinct bird is now colonising the Brecon Beacons.

We headed out on the road towards MERTHYR.

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The edge of the mountains which cuts across the top of the Welsh valleys no longer marks the contrast it once did.Without the mines and heavy industry to the south all the valleys are greening up.

imageThe road still clings to the edge of the hillside and is a dangerous one to drive.

 

 

Past reservoirs and forests we came to our next destination.

imageThe only WELSH whisky distillery at PENDERYN.

 

 

 

 

 

I loved the bus stop here.

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The sighting here gives a good source of fresh water.

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The tour was technical, more machinery  than humans.

 

 

 

 

 

Not just whisky produced but GIN and VODKA.

imageTen ingredients added to give flavour to the gin.

 

 

 

 

The whiskey flavoured  by storage in Madeira, Sherry,or Peat smoked   barrels.

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Marketing cleverly boxing bottles in commemorative packaging.

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Did you know twelve  of the signatories of the American Declaration of Independence were of WELSH origin?

After the tour there was a generous tasting session,after all in each couple one was driving and so handed their share to their partner!

There were plenty of choices to purchase in the shop though R of Scottish stock still prefers his SCOTCH.

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BOOKING a tour in advance is advisable so contact on http://www.penderyn-distillery.co.uk  , or phone 01685 810651

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go Indian Go Cardiff

 

There was a time when Indian Restaurants serve predictable meals , “British Curry” style .

Holidays in India and popular TV cookery programmes have encouraged interest in real Indian food and the regional variety it offers.

So if you are in Cardiff opportunities await.Why not try authentic Indian Street food? 

This is CHAI STREET (153 Cowbridge road East ,Canton Cardiff)opened at its new premises since January 2015.

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There are no reservations it is open from midday to 11pm serving snacks and light food.There is a children’s menu.The decor is simple and fun with funky lighting.

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The music is Bollywood and the menu short and reasonably priced.

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We ordered one of their gourmet treats each, fish for R and Paneer for me.R was taken with a waft of nostalgia to the canteen at his Dehli factory where all meals were served on these metal trays.

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The food was fabulous, and I couldn’t resist a dessert made mainly from grated carrot and nuts.

The waiter kindly explained the recipe and was eager that we enjoyed every mouthful.

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R decided to end with a traditional Indian Tea

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I couldn’t leave without a trip to the loo, passing the house rules on the way.

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Even the toilet facilities try to create an interesting ambiance.

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It is a really fun place to eat , with a delicious menu.I can imagine in the evenings full of students there is a lively atmosphere.

More information on www.chaistreet.com

If you want a more sophisticated evening why not try the critically acclaimed Mint and Mustard at 134 Whitchurch Road.

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The decor here is comfortable and chic.

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The menu is more sophisticated and elaborate.  Booking ahead is definitely advised.The seasons are reflected in the fresh , healthy choices offered. It holds the prestigious Michelin Bib Gourmand rating and the only Cardiff restaurant in the Sunday Times Good Food List.

Check the latest menus on www.mintandmustard.com

If you really enjoy Indian Food , particularly the flavours of Kerala ,why not come here for a cookery course run by their Master Chef.

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At the rear of the restaurant is the cookery school , each student given their own cooking base and hot plate.

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Like many of my fellow cooks we had been given a gift voucher for the event as a Christmas Present. To start we were given our own apron and chefs hat.

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We watched the chef as he demonstrated step by step a Lamb Coconut Fry.We were then let loose on our lamb and spices to replicate it.The chef patrolled , turning up heat , giving tips adding spices and tasting.The atmosphere was relaxed and helpful.

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Although the smells were tempting the dishes were boxed ready to take home.Much appreciated by R that evening.

The chef demonstrated his skills in bread making.

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Then it was our turn to knead dough for chapattis.

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While we cooked, nibbles appeared by magic from the kitchen next door,savouries like bhajiis and refreshing palate cleansers .

We learnt to make a basic saag with suggestions for all the tasty varieties we could try at home.

Finally after questions , hints , and practical demonstrations we were invited into the restaurant to sample their taster menu.An array of dishes to tempt us back for the full restaurant menu

We ended with a yummy chocolate filled samosa balanced on banana.

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Both venues offer delicious food in their own distinctive style and give two wonderful alternatives for eating out in Cardiff when you decide to  go Indian.

Abergavenny Christmas Food Fayre

Today we went to visit Abergavenny a small market town in South Wales.
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In the past this town had a lively livestock market each week.Though the animals have gone ,the town now has a selection of markets on offer, a craft market,an antique market, a farmers market and this week a Christmas food market.

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There were a few grumbles about the £5 entrance fee, but we took it as a donation to keep these lively markets going.
There was a programme of music to keep us entertained.

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The food was not cheap but so yummy , fresh and unusual we were tempted by several of the stalls.
So cheese was prominently featured.

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One stall had a competition between two Stiltons.
Stichelton made to an older recipe with unpasteurised milk, the other. Colston Bassett Stilton made since 1920 with pasteurised milk and vegetable rennet.
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Going against the flow we chose the modern variety and bought a hefty chunk for Christmas.

There were several micro breweries .

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Lots of local brewed beers.

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As well as the Sugar Loaf winery there were wines fro Hay and the Vale of Glamorgan.

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Sadly I still prefer the French wines , especially of course the Provence Rose.
Some ventured into chocolate wine.

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Gin was available in every flavour.

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Apples provided cider and honey offered mead.

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Local farmers offers sausages and game.

IMG_2129.JPGboneless partridge inside a three bird roast.

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Chocolate treats , cakes

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There was a rolling programme of cookery demonstrations.

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Even a traditional French Onion man with his bicycle.

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Well fed , hog roast was very popular we staggered out laden with goodies.
For anyone not familiar with Abergavenny I add a postscript .years ago the town had a traditional industry.

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Wigs may not be in fashion but the town has one of the most impressive hat shops I have ever seen.

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If you have a wedding ,or Ladies Day at Chepstow head for 13 Cross Street, and chat to Alison Tod.

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Hats to match ANY colour outfit. If you have no date in mind go for the top UK venue for afternoon tea.This is an experience that deserves your best hat.

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Children in Need with the BBC 2014

It was announced at our grandsons Primary School that they would be supporting Children in Need , the BBC charity this November.
He decided to rise to the challenge by walking to school.This seems like nothing special but Tal had been told he would never walk at all.He was born with Cerebral Palsy and was expected to be confined to a wheel chair…. That was before we went to St Louis USA and that’s in the blog all about Tals journey.
Post operation three years ago he has worked hard to finally take a few steps independently ….the walk to school is a kilometre and in a Welsh village far from flat terrain.
Soooo…the night before was marked with howling winds and lashing rain.Everyone in the family was having second thoughts, mum was up through the night unable to sleep , we awoke to the smell of baking flapjacks as snacks for the walkers.

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Tal awoke raring to go at 6-00am .a bit like the gunfighter preparing for the show down .First the Lycra suit zipped on to enhance his muscle awareness, then a back support and after the Pudsey costume the ankle support splints , shoes and sticks.

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His dad had to shoot off to fetch Pudsey from BBC Wales to the school so the surprise guest would be awaiting his arrival.Visitors started to arrive , first his Physio and then his coach, then the children from the neighbours.

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We set off from the edge of the village by 7-30 am

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Friends had posted the event en route to the school.

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As we walked more children joined in.

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They had all dressed as their favourite super hero, we even had super zebra ?

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Children handed out flyers to explain what was going on and rattled collection buckets while Tal plodded on at an impressive rate.

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We reached the top of a steep hill and paused for a sit and refreshments.

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Then the tricky bit down the hill ,through the woods and over the stream.Coach Dean urging him on.

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The slippy leaves underfoot didn’t help.

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Then word came that a BBC film crew were coming towards us to do a piece for the news, Tal powered up the hill on the other side.

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The lollipop crossing man was impressed to see Tal walking towards him.

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Tal was now excited to be in sight of the school grounds.

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Brother Gethin was there all the way as official photographer.
At last we saw the school sign.

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Tal could not believe who was waiting for him .

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As he hugged Pudsey there wasn’t a dry eye.

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Jon had set the original fund target at a hundred pounds , Tal had passed two and a half thousand and it was still rising , but that wasn’t the really important thing.
Tal said that it was the best day of his life, he was bursting with pride.His interview on BBC went out on the main Welsh news, the publicity for the SDR operation and its possibilities for children with Tals condition was huge.
We were again inspired by the kindness and support given to him by friends ,family and strangers.for everyone who was there it became a memory to treasure for life.