Sunday, 15 September 2013

10 Things I love about Living... In Wales

In October we moved to Mid Wales and a little village on the edge of the Brecon Beacons.  Like many of the other places we have lived we are privileged to live where many people come for holidays.  All through the year - even during heavy snow - we have watched walkers, laden down with heavy backpacks, stride down our lane and I have often wondered what they have thought as they walked passed our house.  I decided, if it was me, I would have been thinking "I wonder what it's like to actually live in such a beautiful place", and that was where the idea for this little series came from.

So what do I love about living in Wales?

1. The Village Community.  I know that Wales in general is a very friendly place, but the village in which we live has got to be one of the most sociable in the country.  Coming from the tight knit community in the Falkland Islands this was a very pleasant surprise.  There is a village hall which is very well used, with film nights, craft club, gardening club and frequent special events.  There is also a book club and a Ladies' Group (like the WI).  We were fortunate to connect with one couple through some Christian friends, but even without that we were welcomed by neighbours as soon as we moved in.  There was, it seems, a fair amount of interest in our arrival within the village, and when we turned up to our first community event we were greeted incredibly warmly.  This weekend there was a party for some of our friends who are moving away from the village.  It was wonderful to see how many people made the effort to come to say goodbye to them - this is in part a tribute to them as people, but also a sign of the nature of the community.

2. Wood stoves and country kitchens.  This is not unique to Wales, but certainly is our first experience of living in a place where almost everyone you visit (including us) has a wood burning stove and a big kitchen with full size range cooker.  There is something very pleasant and hospitable about gathering around a fire or chatting in a country kitchen.  At Christmas the range cooker was fabulously useful, although the rest of the year we use only part of it.  The wood stove, on the other hand, is a real asset.  I grew up with an open fire and I just love the smell of it.  Hubby spends a great deal of time exercising his pyromania and if I put on a jumper or snuggle into a blanket of an evening, the glint will come into his eye and he will offer to put the fire on.  When we have the stove on all day he will boil water on it - for fun really, although he will produce boiled eggs if pressed.

3. The Beautiful Beacons.  As a Londoner, the countryside has always filled me with a certain amount of awe.  I love the wide variety of landscapes through out the British Isles, from the gentle hills and flat lands in the South to the Lakes and Peaks to the North.  The Brecon Beacons are high on my list of favourite places, and I often pause as I walk around the village and just truly thank God that he has brought us to this beautiful place to live.  There is a gentle and yet wild quality to the mountains around about that lifts me.  There is a silence that soothes me.  There is a richness that inspires me.  I think I may just have to take up photography.

4. (a) The Quirky Local Shops.  I love the fact that our local town (12 miles away) has comparatively few high street chain shops.  From butchers to bookshops, clothes to children's shoes there are still many independent retailers that make it a much more interesting place to spend time.  On the other hand there is (b) Tesco & ASDA 16 miles, Co-op & Morrisons 12 miles.  To some this may seem a long way to travel to a supermarket.  For us, it is wonderfully close, compared to the 40 miles we travelled on a gravel road in the Falklands -  to be able to go to supermarkets and choose from a vast array of products is sometimes overwhelming.

5. Singing.  It may seem like a bit of a cliche, but it really is true - the Welsh are an incredibly musical people.  There are so many concerts in our little area we could easily go to one every fortnight.  The children's school concerts and assemblies are filled with so much singing that I wonder when they find the time to learn the songs.  Last Christmas there was Christmas Carol singing in the village hall - in addition to the Carol Service at the Church - and I was amazed by how many people were there and how enthusiastically everyone joined in. 

6. Chickens & Sheep.  Living in Wales has been the beginning of 'Living the Good Life' for us.  We have our little flock of Black Rock Hens - stars of many a Blog Post and photo.  I got a glimpse of my husband's true calling when we first got the chickens, as he was up at the crack of dawn to let them out of their coop, and often sat and talked to them in the evenings.  As the months have passed, the novelty has worn off somewhat, but the 'girls' are still a significant part of our family, more pets than livestock.  However, as I mentioned in my Living the Good Life post, they, along with visits to neighbouring farms to feed lambs and helping a friend with her horses, have created an ambition to become true Small Holders, that may eventually see us firmly settled in this area for good.

7. Dark Skies.  One of the wonderful things about the Brecon Beacons is the lack of light pollution.  In fact, this area has been designated a Dark Skies site, and has some of the best views of stars in the country (on a clear night, of course).  As someone who has always had a passion for Astronomy, I was delighted to live in the Falkland Islands with the glorious skyscapes, and I was very excited to discover that our new home had almost as good views of the more familiar north hemisphere night sky.

8. School bus.  As we live more than two miles from the children's school they are picked up by the school bus.  This is the joy of rural life.  At first I was a bit anxious about this, as I had always disliked the idea of small children travelling to school without their parents - probably influenced by American films.  However, it is both immensely practical (saving on fuel costs for us) and necessary (since until June I couldn't drive).  The children have been quite happy since their first day when they got on the bus to go to school.  It is a small bus that takes about a dozen children from our area to the school, and they enjoy the opportunity to spend a little bit longer with their friends.

9. Our House.  For the first time since we got married almost 9 years ago, we have our own house.  My husband had a house in Wiltshire when we married, but we never lived in it as he was working in London when I met him and we sold it when we moved to Gibraltar.  When we started looking for a house online while still in the Falklands I asked Hubby what did his dream house have.  His answer: a cellar.  My list was slightly longer: a decent sized garden, enough bedrooms for all of us, a good kitchen, large lounge and a room that wasn't our usual living space.  That very day this house appeared within our price range: 5 bedrooms, large kitchen (beautifully designed and spacious until I got my stuff in it) with cellar, lounge / dining, two bathrooms (going to be even more useful as the kids get older), a large rambling garden (with a stream!!).  I was in love.  When the time came to view the house, I thought at first it was too far from town, but even as I took the first steps through the front door, I knew it was our house.  Everything else would just have to be worked out - we were buying this house.

10. Mr M.  Our fifth (and definitely last) child was born here in Wales, completing the cycle of "New Home, New Baby".  We discovered I was pregnant while looking at houses in the area (a fortunate discovery that definitely influenced our choices).  It was a bit of a shock to say the least, but I am so delighted to have my little Welsh baby.  Once again I was unable to have my longed for 'water birth', since he scared us by seeming to have a problem with his kidneys (which was a false alarm) and then again by having a dropping heart rate due to a full knot in his cord (incredibly rare according to the doctor).  I am looking forward to seeing if he develops a Welsh accent, but I suppose that will depend on how long we stay here for.

This post is part of my series on where we have lived.  If you missed the others, click to see posts on The Falkland Islands and London

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