Another bank holiday weekend, another few days away in the caravan. This time, as Paul had to visit his HQ near Bristol, we decided to leave on Wednesday afternoon and stay in Bristol for two nights, at the brilliant Baltic Wharf Caravan Club site.
We arrived after the reception had closed and found our details, as had been promised, pinned to the notice board. We pitched in the space allotted to us and were soon all set up. As it was a lovely evening, we decided to go out for a quick explore. This culminated in an unplanned trip to the highly acclaimed Clifton Village Fish Bar. It is very popular and there was quite a wait to be served but it was well worth the wait. We took our feast up onto the downs and ate them overlooking the gorge as the sun began to set. Bliss! Marco’s home made tartare sauce was to die for!! Then we drove back to the van and eventually to bed.
The site is quite central and has a ferry stop right outside its back gate and a bus stop for the Bristol Sight Seeing bus right outside its front gate. It is also adjacent to Portsmouth-born Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s great ship, the SS Great Britain, In 1843 she was the largest ship in the world. She was also the first screw-propelled, ocean-going, iron-hulled steam ship. Pictured below
Paul was up and away early to Failand Farm, the HQ of Digital Yacht, which was about a 15 minute drive away. I had a more leisurely start to my day and a plan to meet my cousin Alice, who lives and works in Bristol. I planned to catch the bus and hop off at Cabot Circus, which is closest to her workplace. The route pretty much retraced our steps from last night but being on top of an open top bus in the slightly drizzly day gave it added charm. If you click on the route link I have supplied, you can see that I got on at stop 4 and off at stop 16. Alice and I stayed in contact by text as it was difficult to predict the exact time I would arrive. This worked well and she was waiting for me as I alighted. As you can see from the pics, it was not the brightest of days but I never got more than a little “spritzed”!
We had a nice long, chatty lunch and then Alice had to go back to work. I had a little light retail therapy in mind, and we parted, vowing not to leave it so long until we next meet. I had a mooch round the shops, bought a pair of sandals and then hopped back on the bus to complete the tour. It was very good value for money and I would highly recommend it if you are ever in the vicinity. I learnt a lot abot the City and its history. Loved the fact that the Downs has 32 football pitches and on winter Saturdays, over 600 people can be found playing the beautiful game. They even have their own league and games are played simultaneously. Top facts!
I read for a while and somehow fell asleep and then it was soon time for Paul’s return from work. We were booked into the Pump House for dinner and what a find! 67 varieties of gin and great food. What’s not to like? A hearty recommend. They even have a selection of tonics – such as the one on my picture below. This one – No 6 – and its fellow gin is made locally (in Thornbury) and would make a pleasant non-alcoholic drink on its own or with grapefruit juice.
We had a great stay at the surprisingly peaceful Baltic Wharf site and are aghast at the thought of its closure later this year. I’d urge you to sign the petition if you wouldn’t mind as it would be a great shame yp lose such a great resource. The plan is to build a school and it seems a very odd place to do so but what do I know?
Up smartly the next morning and off by 10 0’clock. Popped in to say goodbye and thank you to the lovely wardens. They actually remembered my name. That is good customer relations right there!
It was not a very pleasant day as we crossed over the bridge into grey and drizzly Wales and that kind of set the tone for the whole weekend – in terms of weather at least. We arrived mid-afternoon and got set up. Lovely site with great views – usually! It is a working sheep farm and we had no neighbours either side – just empty vans and fields of sheep. Fantastic. We decided on a quick trip to Llandrindod Wells for a flip round Tesco (forgotten dog food – not my department of course!). We also had an little explore as we’ve only ever by-passed it on other trips to Wales. It is a nice little town with a station and all services. It has an attractive lake with a very impressive dragon water feature. It is a spa town, as the name suggests, and there are records of people “taking the waters” as early as the 17th century.
There was no TV signal on site so we played a few hands of cards (our current favourite game is called Pitch) and watched a bit of DVD to entertain ourselves before bed once again hollered at us. It was not a peaceful night. The rain hammered o the roof and were glad that we were on a hard-standing rather than grass. Saturday dawned and we could not see the hills any more. It rained and then it rained and so we decided to stay in the warm and dry, reading and idling away the hours. I believe they call it relaxing? Whatever – we enjoyed. Rather than waste the whole day in this manner, though, we eventually ventured out to Built Wells. Builth was full of bikers on a rally – except not actually rallying, just gathering, because of the appalling weather. Fair weather bikers? We had lunch there in a cafe called The Cwtch (Welsh for a cross between a hug and a place of safety). It was somewhat haphazard as I think they were overwhelmed with customers sheltering from the rain and eating to assuage their hangovers! It was too wet to properly explore without getting soaked, sadly, but we did buy a cute keyring made of slate emblazoned with the word “Carafan” (Welsh for – well I expect you’ve guessed!).
We took the scenic route home – armed with our trusty OS map. I always look for roads with at least one < and preferably <<! It was a nice route and we eventually arrived back to greet our neighbours. Who’d be a sheep in that rain?
Sunday had been forecast to be the best day of the weekend so we set off for the Elan Valley – beautiful in any weather but views can be quite spoilt by mist. The day was much better than Saturday had been and we set off in good spirits. We once again resorted to OS maps for pour route rather than GPS, which always imagines you want the fastest route from A to B – which very often you do, but not in this countryside. We saw some lovely sights – especially this bluebell carpet. Wouldn’t want to have missed that, hurtling along on some A road! That said the term A road has a slightly different meaning than it does darn sarf. 🙂
The Elan Valley is very special to me as it was often visited in my childhood and I have made sure that first Paul and then George and as many other friends as possible have all experienced its beauty and yes, its grandeur. We started at this time at Claerwen Dam (there are six) and ended at Craig Goch. See the map here. Since our last visit a few years ago with Sue & Paul Rogers, a new tea room has opened – Penbont House. Very enterprising. They should do a roaring trade – particularly in summer. We lunched there and had the Cheese on a Slate – 3 Welsh cheeses with Damson Cheese. Luscious although a tad dear we thought (£13.75 each!!!). They are dog friendly and have a very tame bantam and a sweet old dog. Wild birds are also very tame and alight on your table if allowed. Reminded me of the Caribbean. We were outdoors by the way! Have posted quite a few pics to give a good flavour of the area. The reservoirs created by the dams serve Birmingham with it’s fresh water and are currently as full as I have ever seen them, I think?
Our trip led us back through Rhayader but by then, the rain had set in again and we did not stop to explore, sadly. We arrived back in the rain but it eventually cleared and I took a picture in roughly the same location as I had on the day we arrived in the murk. What a contrast !
Monday was a beautifully sunny day – typical as we were leaving! We were on the road just after 10. Sad to leave Bryncrach. The owners are lovely and very friendly and seem keen to upgrade the site. I love it as it is, but the addition of a spanking new facilities block would be advantageous. We hope to return some day, as this is an ideal base for exploring all the beauty that mid-Wales has to offer. If only it were closer. The owners have promised us better weather next time. As we drove further and further South, the weather worsened and we arrived home in rain. Next trip is a canal based one, so we hope for better weather. Watch this space.