Monday, 5 October 2015

Are we there yet?

Back in the 1970's we lived on Anglesey in North Wales. At some stage during the summer we would visit my Mamgu and Tadcu (grandparents on my father's side) in Llandysul in West Wales.

When the time came the four of us would climb aboard the family car, variously through the years a Wolsley Hornet, Austin 1100 or Morris Marina, and set off on the all-day epic that was the drive to Llandysul.

As can be seen from this Google Maps image, today it should take just over 3 hours. Admittedly the road has improved in a couple of areas during the last 40 odd years but not to the extent that would make more than 20 - 25 minutes difference over the whole journey.

During the ensuing 8 plus hours I would be in the back seat of our various cars with my younger sister, sat on British Leyland's finest molten PVC upholstery, being smoked like a pair of Kippers by two chain smoking parents. 

To gage how far we had travelled, and how far was yet to travel, my sister and me had various landmarks that we looked for on the way.

The first, after what seemed an age perched in on the back seat were the "Hairy Trees" on the side of the road as it runs alongside Llyn Cwellyn all of 20 miles from our home.

This odd growth on the trees seems to have become far less common since then, when I went back to photograph these I was able to find only one "Hairy Tree".

The next landmark was Trawsfyndd Nuclear Power Station, around 35 agonising miles from our house. Now decommissioned, the radioactive waste is stored on site and will be here for the next 300 years.

Through Dolgellau, turn right at the Cross Foxes Hotel and towards Corris. High above the A487 on the Tal y Llyn pass is the Devils Pulpit.

Its now four hours into the journey, and as we approach the halfway mark, my sister and me have inhaled the equivalent of 10 cigarettes each, and eaten far too many dusty Smith & Kendon travel sweets than is healthy. The inside of the car is cooled to a slightly more bearable 25 degrees C as we wind our way along the tree shaded road on the approach to Machynlleth, as we pass the impressive clock tower we know that there would be a stop within the next 40 minutes or so.

The road became pretty twisty after Machynlleth and therefore slow. Eventually the next landmark appeared, the waterwheel of Dyfi Furnace at Furnace. This site was once used for iron ore smelting, the waterwheel powering the bellows. Abandoned in the early 1800's it looked in very poor condition when we used to drive past. In 2011 when taking our daughter to university in Aber it was nice to see it had been renovated.

The next 3 miles seemed to take an eternity before the welcome site of the Cletwr Cafe in Tre'r ddol came into view. Here we would at last get out of the car and get some fresh air. 

The inside of the Cletwr was festooned with myriad Bossons chalkware character heads, various grimacing Pirates, Fishermen and Gypsies staring at us as we enjoyed a Fanta and toasted teacake. 
The Cletwr has only recently re-opened as, not just a cafe but also village shop selling local produce as well as newspapers.

After this welcome break we all climbed back into the mobile oven our car had become whilst parked.

The next landmark would be a long way off. We always bypassed Aberystwyth taking a diversion to Llanbadarn Fawr. We continued along the coast road.
When trying to locate these landmarks for this blog, I failed to find the WW2 Pillbox in Ffostrasol. It is in this area that the biggest road improvements have been made and it was just not visible. I have since tried looking on Google maps but can't locate it. As we passed this remnant of Britain's defence against German invasion from Eire (as it was then called) we were told our uncle Gerald did night shifts in it when in the Home Guard.
By now it was only a short distance to our destination, Plygyrhiw, our Mamgu and Tadcu's house in Llandysul. 

It was usually dark when we arrived so after brief greetings and a cup of tea it was off to bed. And that is a whole load of other stories.

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