Earlier in the season, we spent a day travelling to Rhayader through the Elan Valley. Well worth taking the longer route through the mountains passing the haunting Cwmystwyth Mines (stopping to explore and take some photos).
The scenery in the valley is out of this world, changing at every turn and really quite dramatic. The dams are huge and a feat of engineering, and whilst we didn’t stop this time we hear the Visitors’ Centre is full of information and history of the area and the dams.
We then headed on into Rhayader, a lovely little town with a few gift shops and cafes (and pubs too!). After a yummy lunch at The Old Swans Tea Rooms, we decided to visit the nearby Red Kite feeding centre.
Having already been to Nant Yr Arian, we were curious to see how it compared. Gigrin Farm is in fact a Rehabilitation Centre in conjunction with The Welsh Kite Trust which allows kites that have fallen ill or been injured to recuperate after having any required veterinary care. So whilst the entry fee is a little higher than you might expect compared to Nant Yr Arian, it all goes to a very worthwhile cause and is worth it for the super close up views of the Red Kites whilst they feed. There are several hides which are top notch, with separate levels for professional photographers to hire out, and are extremely close to the action! There are usually around 300 – 400 birds that drop by for afternoon tea (3pm BST, 2 pm in Winter or GMT) and it is incredibly spectacular. A couple of buzzards try to join in, making for interesting viewing. Although the star of the show turned out to be a male peacock who was intent on stealing the limelight and paraded up and down in front of the cameras demanding to be seen over the kites!
It was a great day, jam packed, and we definitely want to go back through the Elan Valley to see it at different times of the year but also to explore further!
Upon recommendation from a trusty source at Woodlands, we hopped up to the Dyfi Osprey Project (on the road to Machynlleth) to see the chicks before they take to the skies and begin their long flight to warmer climates.
About 30 – 40 minutes drive away from the caravan park, the project is set amongst some of the most beautiful land in a nature reserve brimming with wildlife, insects, plants and water buffalo. Yes that’s right, water buffalo! 2 of them!
There is a small hide by some bird feeders, and a larger one further up the boardwalk, but the highlight is of course the observatory set just 200m away from the osprey’s nest. There you can see the birds easily with the naked eye, but they have some telescopes set up for closer viewing and a live cam feed from the nest itself. Combined with a wealth of information on boards and leaflets, the staff are very welcoming and knowledgeable whilst enthusiastic to tell you more about the birds and the chicks’ development.
These special birds are really quite spectacular and their story is remarkable. With just a suggested donation of £3 upon entry, it is worth a visit but make sure you go soon, as the chicks will soon be flying (in about a week or so) and after some practice they will be heading off on their long journey abroad! If you can’t get there this time, check out their Facebook page for updates and live videos to check in on the chicks and their progress.
When we first arrived at Woodlands we attended a World Host training day in Aberystwyth, (training in customer service and local area tourism), and we heard a few people mention “Sculpture Heaven” as a place to go. Finally the other day we made it down to Rhydlewis just off the coastal road near Llangranog and a few miles away from Cardigan to seek out this hidden gem. We were rewarded with a fantastic discovery of what feels like a secret garden full of fairies, sculptures, myths, spiritual tales and inspiration.
We were greeted by the sculptor himself and taken on a tour of his workshop before beginning our exploration of the garden of wonder. We found hidden doors, and messages, poems and musical instruments, zen gardens, a barefoot maze and meditation spots. Plants a plenty, a vegetable and herb garden, impressive statues and sculptures are all woven around the land with lots of unexpected finds along the way. Once we’d seen all we could see, we ended up at the tranquil Starfish tearoom to be given soothing herbal tea (fresh from the garden) and homemade cakes (ingredients from the garden too) and a photo book detailing the history of the garden and its creation.
Entry is free, although a donation is suggested in the tearoom for the tea and cakes (with all profits going to a worthy charity – this year its the Halo Trust).
We would highly recommend visiting this place if you are down the coast (its worth making the trip just for Sculpture Heaven alone really), especially as it seems not too many people know about it. It’s a place you could go time and time again, to see how it changes and enjoy the peace and relaxation as well as the yummy cakes!
Whilst you’re there, pop up the road to the Curlew Weavers Woollen Mills which is open to visitors and really quite interesting. Free tours are available, although these must be booked in advance, you can pop in to the shop and chat to the owner to learn more about the process and their speciality work weaving rare breeds wool.
This week we discovered an absolute hidden gem of a place to visit, and one we don’t think many people know about. So if you can keep a secret, read on 🙂
About 30 minutes away from Woodlands, Bwlch Y Geuffordd Gardens is situated 1/2 way along a small road, one end of which comes off the A485 near Lledrod, and the other end of which also comes off the A485, in Bronant. Your sat nav will tell you that you have arrived when you are 1/2 a mile away towards the Bronant end, but keep going and look out for the National Garden signs. The road is a little bumpy and perhaps not so suitable for large campervans, so ideally visit in a car (our transit van made it fine) or of course on bike or foot!
Why is it so special? well Bwlch Y Geuffordd is part of the National Garden Scheme but its certainly not your average manicured garden! Its a magical wonderland full of surprises, quirky additions and adventure. It made us feel like big kids exploring a secret garden full of fairies, beasts and stories. Not only that, there are plenty of hidden spots for relaxing or even having a picnic. What makes it even more unbelievable that this charming “world” exists here is when you learn that the whole piece of land was once just a giant bog!
The couple who own the place have spent years of love, dedication and a touch of madness working on the land to make it so special, and its really worth a chat with them to find out more about their story. And their dogs provide a rather special tour guide experience if you’re lucky 🙂
Bwlch Y Geuffordd is perfect for families as children will love it, ideal for those of us who feel like big kids and want to explore, and a good dose of inspiration for avid gardeners. Its easy to walk around, and you are encouraged to take your time. We highly highly highly recommend this secret garden, and the Trip Advisor reviews (which originally inspired us to seek it out in the first place) give you a hint as to why its so unique.
(TOP TIP – if you are making the trip just to go visit, it may be worth calling ahead just to ensure they are home. We arrived with no advance call, and they were home, but we were in the area anyway. They are open every day but since its their private home they very occasionally may not be on site to let you in so maybe worth checking before you visit!)
This week we were very excited to be invited on a Cambrian Safari Tour – an excursion around the local area (on and off road) in a Land Rover Discovery with the amazing Richard who seems to know EVERYTHING about everything in Mid Wales 🙂
Cambrian Safaris offers various tours and can also custom the day to your requirements. For us he took us to all sorts of hidden spots and back lanes, and a few exciting off road paths too whilst giving as an overview of the local area and telling us all about where we were and where we can explore ourselves. And this is one of the main points that Richard likes to emphasise – his tours are about discovering the area and giving you inspiration for further exploration yourself. It not only works by taking you to spots you may never find yourself, but by his incredible enthusiasm and passion for the region which you can’t help but share as you listen to him.
We saw hidden ways into the Hafod Estate, back lanes around Devil’s Bridge village and beautiful scenic viewpoints round the back of Bwlch Nant Yr Arian and beyond. But we also discovered lots of new places that aren’t obvious on the map at all and places we are very keen to get back to ourselves and venture out on foot. Of course its a little tricky to remember exactly where all of these places are… but he’s thought of that and has a clever app on his phone that tracks the whole trip and records it so at a later date you can contact him and ask him more. He can even send you the whole route if you wish.
And the Land Rover is super comfy too – sure it can do some pretty mean off-roading but its a modern comfortable ride and not a crazy bone shaker 🙂
It’s a perfect introduction to Mid Wales, inspiring you to get out there and discover and explore. But it’s also equally perfect for anyone who has been visiting here for a while and wants to find something new – for sure you won’t have discovered all the hidden spots yet! And if you let him know you’re staying at Woodlands then there may be various seasonal offers on prices.
Having been up to C.A.T (see our last blog post), we carried on our journey to Corris so we could check out the King Arthur’s Labyrinth – a “mythical underground adventure” sounded too good to miss!
You get to set sail along the magical waters inside the old mines, walking along winding tunnels and through immense caverns whilst being guided by a rather spooky boatman! There is lots to learn about the legend of King Arthur here as well as other Welsh stories & history, whilst being amazed at the caves themselves. (Although it might be a bit scary for little kids)
We had also been told to visit the Corris Craft centre…thinking it was just a small shop selling crafts next door to the King Arthur attraction. Well it definitely is right next to the attraction but it’s by no means just a small shop! The craft centre is a whole range of various shops and studios, almost all of which give you the opportunity to try out the crafts themselves with hands on experiences. And the crafts themselves are all high quality. We particularly loved the Taran Eco Designs shop full of beautiful wooden furniture, and spent some time chatting away to the lovely lady who owns Spellbound Herbals which is full of natural remedies and oils. Although the gin shop and the chocolate shop should also be mentioned 😉 Kids and adults will love getting stuck in to candle making or pottery painting, or indeed chocolate making, and its well worth making sure you put time aside for this place on your trip to Corris.
We also spied the Corris Mine Explorers experience and will be looking to return and get adventuring on one of their mine tour adventures!
On one of our earlier days off we headed north to C.A.T – the Centre for Alternative Technology.
An inspiring visitors centre with lots of hands-on displays and tonnes of things to learn. This place really does teach you more about sustainable living and what you can do to turn your home and garden into a much more efficient and greener place to be. Not only that, but the place is set in over 7 acres of stunning gardens and scenery, with fantastic walks and view points, as well as a rather tasty cafe full of homemade dishes using ingredients straight from their gardens.
We clearly enjoyed C.A.T. so much that we totally forgot to take any photos whilst there! A sure sign of being too engrossed – which is an endorsement in itself!
We’ve had some lovely weather here recently so we headed down to the coast to get some beach time! We explored from New Quay to Aberporth, including Tresaith and Llangranog and a few coves in-between.
The ideal way to see these is to take the coastal path walk, and we will most certainly be back to do so. We were super impressed at how lovely the beaches are and how they are relatively unspoiled despite attracting many visitors. All of it within easy driving distance from The Woodlands too.
Of course we had a lunch stop in New Quay topped off by some ice cream on the beach (from the rather spectacular gelato shop on the corner) to make it the perfect day.
We have fallen completely in love with the nearby Hafod Estate.
We first visited when we had a couple of hours off one Sunday morning, we nipped up and did the blue trail “The Lady’s Walk” and were absolutely stunned by the place. So when we had another day off we decided to spend the majority of it at the Hafod!
We took various routes, and made sure to include the part of the red trail “The Gentleman’s Walk” up to the Cavern Cascade – a hidden beauty worth making the detour off the main path.
At every turn there are breathtaking views and perfect picnic spots. If you have a dog this is one of the local places where you can let them off lead (bar a few sections that are signposted) for a good walk. Oh and look out for the friendly Highland cattle hanging out near one of the trails 🙂
The little church is worth a visit too, just by the car park, with interesting history of the church, the estate and its owners.
With it only being about 15 minutes drive away from Woodlands we know we will be making this a regular walking spot.
Its the Red Kite Challenge on Saturday 29th April!
Good luck to everyone taking part! We will be cheering you all on!
“If all future sites we visit are as good as Woodlands then life will be perfect thanks for a great time”