If you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen that I’m currently on holiday in Wales, a place that holds many of my warm, nostalgic memories. I’m spending a week here, specifically in Crickhowell, in a cosy rented cottage surrounded by mountains and the comfort of a small-town demeanour.
I’ve always felt an affinity with Wales, perhaps because my name derives from Welsh, but probably more due to the multitude of muddy, wind-whipped memories that have become woven into the fabric of my youth. I’m very much Southern English, from my accent to my love of the South Downs, coast and London, but I’m pretty sure at least a couple of my bones are built from Brecon mud and that my character’s been whittled into shape by the wild Welsh winds.
Here is a handful of my sepia-toned memories from the mountains:
Bathing in a bucket in the garden
You know those brightly coloured, flexible plastic tubs? It’s hard to believe, but once upon a time I was a little tot that fitted in that kind of space. One Summer, my family and our friends rented a cottage in Crickhowell and the weather was so uncharacteristically hot my friend and I took a spontaneous dip in the garden.
Eating packets of dolly mixtures
On this same holiday we had an abundance of dolly mixture sweets: we ate a lot of them. I’s the only time I’ve ever really eaten them, and so they will forever remind me of Wales.
Building my first ever gingerbread house
On a different holiday, with different friends, but in the same cottage, I made one of my first ever gingerbread houses. I wish I had a photo to compare it to this year’s creation.
Getting awful blisters from a new pair of doodles
I was so proud of my gingham cherry doodles, apparently a little too proud – to the extent I wore them so much my feet got the worst blisters. My socks got stuck to the blood and my feet had to be soaked in warm water to encourage me out of them.
Climbing my first mountain
Skirrid, a mountain with an elevation of 486 metres, is the first height I ever climbed to without help, on my own two tiny feet. Since then, my family and I have scaled many of the high points Wales has to offer.
Learning to ride a bike
Wales is the first place I got going on two wheels – more specifically, the school car park in Crickhowell, followed by a similar spot in neighbouring Abergavenny.
Exploring an ex-mining pit
When I was a little older, we went on a tour of an ex-mining pit, kitted out with head torches and everything, to mix up our usual Welsh itinerary a little.
Staying in a converted barn with acres of private land
This holiday came with a touch of luxury – we had our own tennis court, boating lake and expanse of land to explore. Highlights of this trip included ‘croc throwing’ in the field near the house (it was that era of shoes), eating a lot of caterpillar cake and pretending I was a photographer for the Mini Boden clothing catalogue – perhaps one of the first holidays I’ve taken a real interest in photography.
Taking part in the Mathry Easter egg hunt
My friend and I somehow got roped into the local community egg hunt around the village of Mathry one year – an exciting dash through the quiet streets, on the look out for clues.
Going on a school trip to Snowdonia National Park
When I was 12, I visited this beautiful area of Wales with my school for a week packed full of adventure activities such as cliff traversing. We also spent a considerable amount of the trip learning the cup song (remember that?) and singing Michael Jackson songs.
Getting soaked whilst camping in a valley
Sums up Wales really, it was an incredibly wet week, but we did find a great rope swing.
Camping in the snow
A little more dramatic – I spent a week in a yurt with my mum, battling the elements. It rained, it snowed, there was sun and sleet, hail and clouds. It was an interesting time to say the least.
Getting smoked out of a yurt
On said holiday, we had a tiny wood-burning stove inside the yurt that we never quite worked out how to use; evenings sometimes ended with us filling the space with woodsmoke.
Attending Greenman Festival 2013
One of the most stunning settings for a festival I’ve ever experienced, Greenman’s stage is basically in a bowl of mountains, making the viewing area a natural slope perfect for everyone to have a good view. A highlight was definitely seeing Ben Howard headline the festival, but other notable acts for me were Half Moon Run and Bear’s Den.
My Welsh experiences have been pretty expansive over the years, but they all reveal a common truth: you’re completely helpless to the weather in Wales; it sculpts your experiences like a potter shaping a vase. That’s definitely part of the beauty though. The scenery looks, smells and sounds different in the rain, sun and snow; walking in the wind, wet, stillness or heat gives you a whole new feeling in comparison to the previous time your feet thumped, squelched or rustled up the mountainside.
And as the Welsh weather has carved and continues to carve the landscape, Wales has played a part in constructing me, and will continue to do so into my adult years.
Is there a part of the world you feel this way about?
The photo in this post was taken by @inigomiranda on Instagram. Thank you 🙂
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